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Only on the Banks of Mother Ganga

By Sacinandana Swami

When I arrived in India this year, I went straight to the banks of Ganga in Haridwar. Through the excellent contacts my host provided, the group I was with was allowed to participate in the main puja, at sunset, where thousand people watch an impressive offering of many blazing ghee lamps, each holding 108 flames. The puja includes Vedic chanting and a massive kirtan. In fact, the puja was offered on our behalf. The main priest - a white-haired brahmana named Purushottama Sharma, the Gandhian, explained to us that at this place, Har-ki-Pauri, Gangadevi leaves Lord Shiva´s long tresses and touches the earth for the first time.

When the puja was over, the priest invited us into what looked to be an ancient room to the side of the river, where he explained that while our senses may see Ganga as a river, she is actually the embodiment of liquid compassion. Out of that compassion she carries everyone who comes to her water across the ocean of material existence. "Just as your mother will embrace you whenever you come to her no matter how badly you may have been behaving, so Mother Ganga will do the same," he said. He then asked me what I had experienced while I helped to perform the puja.

I told him my anxiety was gone, and even my jet lag, and that I could perceive that a door to a new level of Krishna consciousness had been opened. He smiled and said, "Much more is waiting for you, if you stay."

After the puja was over, we sat on Mother Ganga´s bank for a few hours and performed kirtan. People came forward and joined in the singing and dancing, and later we spoke with them about the glories of the Ganga. What a nice entrance into sacred India!

The next morning we were on our way to Vyas Cetti, an idyllic spot on the banks of the Ganga high in the Himalayas. It is here that Vyasadeva performed austerities and met Narada Rishi, Dhruva Maharaja, and the numerous other saintly persons who once lived here. To this day it is still the abode of many yogis and mystics.

Miraculously, Mother Ganga flows here in the shape of the sacred aum. I have never seen a more beautiful place. Flanked by jungle and numerous flowering jasmine shrubs, the Ganga flows through her riverbed here around the rocks in her waters and over the white, pearlescent sand with irresistible strength.

My enthusiastic host, knowing my inclination for solitude and peace, had erected four bamboo poles on a small patch of white sand and draped two blankets over them to shelter me from the sun. I wanted to chant and read there from early morning at least until noon. But I was in for one of the biggest surprises of my life.

I had just finished reading about meditation on the Lord as it is described in the Eleventh Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam. I then completed a prescribed number of breathing cycles, and it was now time to chant aum while fixing the sound in the core of my heart.

Just as I was about to start, my eyes half closed, I heard a sound over the noise of the Ganga that caught my attention. Opening my eyes I saw a huge, silver-haired monkey. His face was black, except for the impressive set of white, pointed teeth he was flashing. When our eyes met he again made his frightening noise. I did not need an expert translator of “monkey speak” to know what he was saying: “Get lost, or else!” And he was not alone.

To be continued in “The Secret of the Monkey” …

(October, 2015)

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