Category Archives: India

The Amazon Jungle


At the dock, we catch our speedboat to head down the Amazon River; a freighter like tanker was also transporting people traveling to various villages… a very different kind of transportation, hammocks appeared to be the visible option for lying down, looped up and tied in the main foyer, perhaps enough hammocks for 30 passengers. I was as fascinated by the boat, the sleeping quarters and the passengers, as they are of me.The Amazon River is muddy brown coloured, the strong smell of petrol and fish overpower my olfactory senses yet surprisingly, florescent bright pink dolphins also live in these waters and periodically show their bright colors framed against the grey backdrop.


At the edge of the jungle, the lush green of the foliage, heat and out-of-control humidity introduce me to ‘just the beginning’ of the rich jungle life…butterflies, crazy looking bugs, papaya trees, huge mounds of bananas, monkeys, roosters, chickens and foreign insects sporting florescent red, black, bright yellow and indian red colours (with intricate ancient designs on their wings) whiz by. Anthills and ant crossings, with some serious traffic congestion crossour path and huge brown mud-caked-like termite nests are spotted in the lush green tropical trees..

My translator and guide explains that termites are known by the villagers to have insect repellent properties and individuals that reside in the jungle often gather the termites on their arms and rub the insects right in to their skin (apparently, I am told, the termites do not bite humans!). The locals also believe that eating termites is a good treatment for a sore throat. That is a traditional remedy that I will not be trying!

Lunch at the jungle lodge is simple yet delicious…cerviche, camu camu juice (a subtle pink juice, refreshing like our lemonade, but naturally sweet) fried plantains (maduro), steamed yucca, heart of palm (or palmito), rice and beans… a guitarist plays Spanish ballads and traditional Andean tunes…

The jungle is alive with sounds…nature’s orchestra…completely alive and pulsating to its own rhythm… I stop to think, if man believes he has dominance over nature, has mastered and can exert controlover mother earth, then he should spenda night in the jungle!

The Life Force here is awesome, trees are known to slowly move their roots in the direction of moisture and shift their towering tree trunks towards the light and some particularly sensitive jungle plants actually recoil at the contact of a foreign human hand. Then there are the jungle sounds…chirping, cawing, trilling, cooing, a low pitched growling…an endless chatter of community. WOW! Man is but a tiny force (and small voice) compared to the majestic, pulsating life force and strength of voice found in the jungle.

We visit an animal reserve: anacondas, toucans, monkeys, rattlesnakes and alligators. I pick up a tiny alligator, about 2 feet long in length from head to toe…what a nice pet. : )

 I fall in love with a sloth (perhaps one of the slowest animal species in existence), a relatively uninspired-looking koala bear type, with huge friendly eyes and a permanent half grin on its face. Being a vegetarian, it becomes all too evident that the sloths only focus is on eating leaves, which it inhales with great speed compared to all other slow, plodding movements.

After picking one up and petting her wiry, wig-like pelt, I set the sloth back down on the ground; taking advantage of her getaway moment, she begins to move in very slow-motion, arms and legs branched out like a spiders….her half crawling motion is slower than a turtle.

Contemplations on Faith in India

In India the spirit and the intellect are considered separate; here it is believed that our thoughts areshadu small2 simply the stairs to reach the terrace of truth, but instead we stop on the stairs and say “this is truth”. We can start searching for right things by knowing right things in our heart. In the pure heart there is no attachment to thought, thus it is impossible to know hurt. It is the egos attachment to our thoughts (to having things Be a certain way) that creates hurt. Yet we think low thoughts, believethem as truth and live in the reality which is self-created through these low frequency mental thoughts.

Words spoken by Swamiji, to know truth of the Great One, silence the mind and open to truth residing within the heart. “The existence of God is beyond reasoning and logic. Reasoning can get you to the edge of the mind, but reason will not make you experience God. Intelligence can select the path one will take on their spiritual journey, yet to see TRUTH, one needs to simply accept in FAITH beyond logic and reason.”

The presumption that God (or Source Energy)is NOT here, is simply an assumption based on logic. It is our convictions that accept the logic of our mind as our truth, and therefore it is the only truth which we see in our lives.

As we become full with our own thoughts, the ego transcends- it is then that one looses hearing of universal truth. Once full, our head stops the inward flow of other possibilities. Keep an open mind. It is important to be flexible through the ability to change our thoughts and decisions. Thought is a neutral tool, simply an instrument.

The swamis last words were spoken of unity within the world “In a global sense, human beings cannot be united at the ‘thought’ level as every head has different thoughts. It is through the voice of the heart that connection truly occurs.”

Humbly, Swamiji closed his modest talk. Gratitude for sharing his teachings was met with “I am only an instrument of thy Truth. You deserve this.

sun smallAnd with a meeting of his palms in the common greeting of Namaste: translated  – I honor the spirit in you. I honor the same spirit residing in me also. We are but one. The divine in me greats the divine in you.

For more musings on my India experiences, please check out the Spring 2007 issue of the online magazine Mirth and Reverence

For a colleagues experiences in both Tibet and India, please visit the following blog.

Night Time Rituals in Varanasi

Ganga Aarti Rituals: Each night along the Ghats, closing prayer rituals gather crowds of thousands. Sacred ways of ancient times are practiced still today. Priests are trained for years in the ancient ceremony of fire rituals, chanting powerful Vedic mantras; they create sacred offerings over camphor lit fires. The chanting fills my ears. I am transfixed, drawn into the mystical vibrations of the meditation. The ceremony of smoke and fire light up the darkness, seen from our row boat view of the docks.

varanasi night smallOur own ritual begins “Leave your burdens of life at the river. The ganga can absorb all sorrow. Carry a lighter load on your shoulders- the river will lighten your spirit.” We offer our own prayers to the ganga through intentions placed on marigold petals and a candle housed in a leaf-cup, which we set aflame, left free to drift away on the ganga, lighting up the dark river and lightening our shoulders.sadhu small

Through ritual offerings and chanting of mantras to the gods, it is then that God is awakened and asks Å“WHO is remembering me?” The greatest prayer is not on small superficial things like more money or a new car, but higher attainments, “Lord give me the power to do good. Give me the right brain to do good, to be enlightened.” THIS is the prayer…

offerings smallRituals are meant to generate the energy from within, a focusing of the mind. A purification of the body, the personality, the environment; creating the means for a pure life. Ceremonial practices evoke the soul to open into universal truth and love. Elevating man to the very divinity we recognize in GOD. Through meditation, prayer and ritual we remember that the divinity, that which we seek outside of ourselves, that which we seek in God, actually resides within -within our own hearts.

A contemplation by Swamiji on Karma Kanda…Even here, the power of intention is spoken of.“To KNOW why one is doing all things, one must have faith in the self, without faith, without the reason, all things are dead. All that is visible in the world is an expression of God. Have faith. Why turn our back towards God and our face towards the world? Turn around. See with right eyes. God is everywhere.”

View some photos of Vanarasi click here.

Sacred Musings from a Time in India

On the surface, my mind says, the ways of this country are not for the faint of heart, yet there is a deeper truth and a depth of FAITH that pervades life in India. It is in this truth that my spirit surrenders and all experiences are opened to, through this innate trust that all is well.

I am moved to preserve my impressions of this mystical place known as Varanasi, an ancient midevil city; in fact, one of the oldest cities in the world with a population of over 3 million. The description of this holy city, also referred to as Benares, made by Mark Twain in 1897 could not have said it better: “Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together.” ancient city small

Reminiscent of times past, wandering side streets where shrines appear in unexpected places; anointed with flowers, incense and offerings made to the great one. Temples at every turn indicate just how much spirituality is woven into the threads of daily life. Ritual offerings of pindas (rice and doughy sweets made from flour and milk) blessed by priests are fed to my mouth. One cannot help but be changed, molded by the ways of this divine space.

Life in Varanasi is active 24 hours a day. The air, thick with smoke, incense, woody scent of sandalwood, the sweet bouquet of jasmine; and heavy, tainted with the singe of burnt flesh… but an ashen memory from the cremation sites along the Ghats. Everywhere there is sound, layers of sound the dull roar of foreign voices, -enticing, selling, sharing, chanting the endless beeping of horns (some horns yodel the continual vocal melodic trill of never ending chords) then deeper sounds of this sacred city. Chants of mantras fill my ears, sung with intention to evoke ancestral beings, the beating rhythm of drums, haunting melodies of flutes and the high pitched tinkling of Tibetan prayer bells.

herbs smallSalesmen beckon, through endless touch, forever persistent -an intense in-your-face hard sell attempting to close a sale of small statues, ivory, perfumes, or glass bangles. Others present their wares draped on their bodies, colorful prayer beads in layers round the neck, tulsi beads layering an arm.

Small shops line the narrow dusty streets. A unique doorway catches my eye -a miniature door, 3 feet tall! The door is ajar. I peer in. Electrical stuff from floor to ceiling, the salesman, hand on my arm, tells me“A mechanical shop!”

Do I look up or down?? Crowds everywhere. Weaving through cow dung Watch Your Step! And I am still holding my breath! Yet draped above me, textiles, fine silk, muslin, pashmina, and woolen scarves, the colours of silk, all hues of the rainbow, their softness entice and draw me in, an esthetic experience, senses overload.

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water smallLife occurs along the river. Bathing ghats, religious ghats, cremation ghats, separated for Brahmans, sadhus, the poor. Here burns a fire, its flame faithfully tended too, kept burning for thousands of years. The same fire burning for centuries! The fire of Shiva at the burning Ghats. The energy of this place is ancient, sacred secrets in every wall, each turn, every sound. Varanasi, known as the City of Shiva, the cosmic lord, the pure one, the creator and sustainer of life and death, lord of ash. It is believed that Shiva is a deity who purifies through hearing the simple utterance of His name. His spirit wanders in the cremation sites along the ghats. He exists in every happiness, each pure thought, every sorrow, each breath of life and the last breath before death. After every fire, only ash will remain. So is posed the question, where is the need for pain, sorrow, anger and greed, if all things eventually return to dust?varanasi small

It is the obligation here, for the wealthy to pay respect too and financially cover the cremation expenses of the poor. From far and wide, the poor travel with intent to die in Varanasi, as the ganga is considered the ultimate place to be purified, the soul instantly liberated, and released to heaven. At death, it is a great wish and honor be cremated in Varanasi and have ones ashes and body thrown into the Ganga River.

To read other blogs and view some photos of Vanarasi click here.

Cows: Sacred Pets in India!

In India, cows are considered to be sacred be-ings and intelligent pets.

taj sm2In the city of Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, cows are left to wander free, adding to the population of over 3 million… Casually meandering through the streets in pairs of 2 or 3, (reminding me of window shoppers!) or laying down in the road -calmly observing the chaos of traffic flowing around them. Are these communal cows I pondered? No, I was told! Cows are pets, they know their homes and return home at night where they are fed.

There is a cow in Varanasi that lives in a shop, he goes outside to pee, our guide proudly cited this example as another reason that cows are intelligent.cow small

While in the narrow streets, a bull meandered up to our group and wanted to pass; with its horns it caringly and gently nudged a member of our group out of the way, so he could pass by….

What IF cows were intelligent?? I certainly have seen other ways of viewing reality, seen a side of things here that leaves me to wonder. When allowed to be beings, they ARE intelligent be-ings, as we permit, so they are. If we treat them like animals, so be it. Animals are saints, if we see this side in their nature. However it is the animal nature we most often choose to see.