“so it’s really a process of actually having a realisation of God, which all becomes clear with the expanded state of consciousness that develops when you chant”
— George Harrison
Stirring my cuppa…. Rishikesh and Indian spirituality and bhakti changed the Beatles and the world was gifted George Harrison and ‘Sergeant Peppers’ and ‘Lucy in the sky with diamonds’. Tea or Masala chai? This is what is running through my head after a few too many cups of that sweet delicious nectar. It’s all a giant exchange and flow of ideas like the river Ganga in front of me….and for me right now a whole lot of chanting…
It’s my second time touring with the band Kirtaniyas in Vrindavan the land of Lord Krishna and Rishikesh, the world capital of yoga. The very core of our adventure was to experience the real Bhakti in its birth-place by chanting as much as possible. Chanting in temples, ashrams, orphanages, chanting on the streets, chanting in the tour bus, chanting in the hotel rooms, chanting in coffee shops, chanting in . . . ok, I think you got it. Chanting pretty much everywhere.
Why chanting? Many reasons. Lets keep it sweet and simple like this tea. In chanting it is possible to lose oneself in the sound (the ego dissolves and we can experience unity, oneness to the Higher Self). Put simply, chanting makes you happy. Chanting is fun. Have you ever met anyone who’s singing and is grumpy at the same time? Chanting is medicine for the soul.
On top of the chanting we did yoga, japa (mala) meditation, took a bath in the Holy Ganga river, studied the sacred texts, got on the boat in the Yamuna river, visited many holy and exciting places of interest. Lots of stunningly beautiful Temples, visited the Beatles Ashram, met amazing teachers and holy men (Sadhus), ate heaps of delicious roti & plates of palak paneer (my fave dish of all times : spinach cooked with cottage cheese), had countless rides on rickshas and had lots of laughter with old and new friends from all over the world.
“practise kindness all day to everybody and you’ll realize you’re already in heaven now”
— Jack Kerouac
The sounds, sights, smells, vibrant colours and constant honking of cars and rickshaws. Cows. Everywhere. Cows standing in the middle of the traffic, cows laying down in the middle of the traffic, cows “queuing up” outside of eateries in the hope of for some food. Cows are beautiful. Monkeys. In Vrindavan they were extra cheeky. Always up to no good. Snatching hats for a sweet fizzy drink trade off. Cow dung. Specks of dust. In Vrindavan even the dust is holy as it’s Krishna’s own town.
Here is a little taster of the mood in Vrdavana – from the book: Sri Vrndavana – Mahimamrta, Text 6 :
“All glories to the land of Vrndavana, which is the unique essence of the ocean of bliss. All the inhabitants of this land namely water, hills, lakes, birds, beasts, trees, creepers, and the groves are decorated with unprecedented good fortune. Even the goddess of learning cannot properly describe its glories.”
Already I am looking forward to the next years trip – this has fast become my favourite annual pilgrimage. Before that though, we will dive into the sweet mood of bhakti already this summer in Europe! I’m running my own little ‘summer of love’ retreat with Vijay Krsna on a beautiful island in my homeland Finland and it will be our own intoxicating ‘masala’ of yoga, bhakti spiced with accents of the Finnish archipelago culture. Oh la la
This is an annual retreat now! www.skyogini.com/retreat
There will be yoga classes, kirtan, Finnish sauna, whippings with birch leaves if you misbehave, wonderful Finnish garden to table organic healthy food, refreshing dips in the sea, a kajak, some chanting circles led by Vijay krsna, all in the land where the sun hardly sets. It will feel more like Finland than Rishikesh. The group size will be small and intimate. I promise we won’t be chanting all the time it’s a Finnish/Bhakti masala after all 😉
If you’re potentially interested and want to learn more let’s discuss it on the phone or over a cup of masala chai..or two