Ganges. One of the most sacred rivers in the world. Its waters have remained alive over long periods of time and have been proven to show very strong positive effects on the human body. A sacred river, the mother of all rivers and people. It can form miracles by healing worries and disease. Ten years ago, I visited its delta, where it joins the ocean and the time had now come for me to experience its source!
There is no coincidence, every person enters our life for a reason
Stepping back on the bus after a short break at the mid-point of our 12-hour bus journey, something changed. It was now filled with monks dressed in white, orange and red. As we continued driving, I felt something urging me to look over my shoulder. As I turned, I looked straight into a naked chest with a coin on it, with a figure of what I believed was my Guru or spiritual master on it. Only wrapped in a white cotton cloth, with his long hair covering his face he seemed to be in a deep sleep. Then I noticed another monk looking at me, whilst I was staring at this man with my mouth wide open. I could not stop laughing to myself so I turned back to face the front and tried to forget what had just happened; yet I could not stop thinking about him.
The bus pulled up at the side of the road and everyone got off to see what was happening. Whilst staring at the river, daydreaming, the man appeared in front of me. I could not stop myself. I pointed at the coin, opened my mouth and asked: “Who is this?”
He looked at me: “It is my Guru – Baba Gorakh Nath.”
I had never heard of this Guru so I just smiled: “Ah, ok, I thought it was Babaji – my Guru.”
The words coming from my mouth sounded so alien to me, so I stopped talking for a while. As I was standing there, I wished I could travel with him. I did not know where this wish came from but I felt so great in his company. I broke the silence and asked: “Where are you going?”
He looked at me: “I am going to Gangotri. You?”
“Me too.” Then, to my surprise, I asked: “Would you take me with you? I need a guide.”
He smiled. Then he looked into my eyes: “You see, Ganga is my mother, Sky is my father.” He then looked at me: “Are you my daughter?”
This was a great moment when something happened and moved within me. I was standing there totally paralysed with an empty mind. I felt a total surrender, like a blank piece of paper. I even forgot my perfect English: “Yes, me your daughter.”
In order to receive, one has to ask first
As we reached Gangotri, I did not think he would stay with me. I did not want to be pushy, so I waited for him to join me. He did and then asked me if I wanted a nice room. I just stood there, thinking that I had never felt so much love before: "No, I just want to go where you are going. I want to live like a monk." Once again he only smiled.
He told me to wait for the Japanese boy, his friend from his Ashram (monastery), since he promised to take care of him; however, the boy just coldly pushed him away and told him that he did not need his help and he was not interested to go to the source of the river any more. Babaji (this is what I called the monk) only looked down as if he was blessing the boy and let him go without saying a word.
Reaching 3400m it was slowly getting cold and he was still wearing a white cloth and sandals as if it was a hot summer night.
“Babaji, how come you are not cold?”
He looked at me and smiled: “It is a gift from God. I am his servant. Whatever he asks me to do, I listen and do it. Similarly, he listens to me and offers me what I need. Did you ever ask for it?”
I was standing there and have never felt more stupid, as actually, I never even thought of asking!
“I will ask tonight,” I promised.
Most of our perceptions are only an illusion
The room was the cleanest one I had ever had in India. However, there were no walls in this room, only wooden boards with holes in. This was the moment when I realised it was a very cold night and decided to ask for a gift from God.
As we were walking back home after dinner, some Indian tourists I had met before approached us. After a nice chat, they looked at me and asked if I had a guide. I smiled and introduced Babaji. I could see their judgemental looks, making silent jokes about him and telling me he was a madman. I just stood there, with no thoughts, only feeling love and smiling as if I did not hear what they were saying. They looked at me as if I was crazy and left.
This was the coldest night of my life. I had 4 blankets filled with sheep wool covering me and I kept all of my clothes on. The whole night felt as if I was in a conscious awakened state. Sleeping but at the same time totally aware of everything. My body was very hot during the night, whereas at the same time my mind was sending me the message that it was cold, although I was literally sweating! Then my body started to shiver and suddenly, I realised that my body never was cold. My body was warm the whole time and it was just the wrong information being sent to my brain. All I had to do was to change the message that was being sent to my mind. Ever since this night, I have never felt cold like I used to in the past. It was definitely a gift from God.
When we truly believe in someone, nothing can change that
The next morning, I woke up, filled with energy, as if I had slept 12 hours in a row in the best bed ever! I was filled with enthusiasm, had no pains and did not feel cold or tired. We went to the temple. Babaji prohibited me to give any money. “You are going to bow down to the Divine, so you must not pay for something that is natural!” For me, this was the confirmation of what I believed in was true. My understanding of God was right.
Then our journey to the source of the Ganges began. “We will eat when we come up,” he said and I did not dare say anything in return. I was still overwhelmed by what just happened. First, we had to go through the checkpoint. The officer looked at me with a suspicious look, checking my insurance and asking: “Where is your guide?” As if it was not obvious, I looked at him, smiling: “Here we go again.” Just another person with this ironic facial expression, looking at me like I have gone mad. I did not say anything but just pointed proudly at Babaji.
“Baba? This is your guide?!”
I could not stop myself from laughing, as by now I was used to these looks. Yet, what could he say? Indians are very religious, so they would never dare to oppose or question a monk. With his mouth wide open and a short approval by a head gesture, he let us go.
To feel constant happiness one has to allow it to awaken within
I was walking behind him in silence and with a smile on my face. My mind was void of thoughts. The air was pure and the mountain peaks were basking in the golden morning sun. We hardly talked on our journey up the mountain. Every now and then we stopped and chilled, enjoyed the wind and the sun, and occasionally I took some photos. I did not need anything else in this moment. It was enough that he was standing there next to me, and my heart was beating a different rhythm. No one ever managed to awaken such instant happiness in me. It was truly divine and impossible to describe what was going on within me. I was happy. The happiness I was looking for throughout my entire life was there with me.
A few times he turned back, looking straight into my eyes and asked: “You OK?”
It was as if a huge ball of happiness had been sent straight into my heart! All I could do was jump up in the air, whilst receiving this energy ball and with a sparkle in my eye and love in my heart, shout: “Yes!”
Some gifts are unexpected, yet they are very special
Many people passed us and were looking at us with curiosity. Some looked surprised, others carried that ironic expression on their face. As soon as we reached the camp at 3800 meters, the first snow started to fall. However, snow had not been forecast during the past few weeks. We were in the month of June. He looked at me smiling: “You like snow? It is mother nature making a gift for you!”
I looked at him, not yet realising what he was trying to say. I never told him that I liked the snow! Then I got it, last night when I saw some pictures of the Himalayas covered in snow in a shop. I had commented on how incredible it would be to see these mountains covered in snow. Despite the fact that we had to stay inside and could only continue the next day I felt super happy.
The best lesson is the one we learn ourselves
The coldness increased towards the evening. I remembered a breathing technique, with which one could warm up the body in a couple of seconds, only with a few breaths. I offered to show it to Babaji as the cold wind started to blow through the openings in the wooden window. He looked at me telling me he had never meditated before. I could not believe he could be so humble, especially as he was completely ready to follow my guidance. As I started with a demonstration, he repeated the technique couple of times, engaging his stomach actively but then he stopped and looked at me with his loving big brown eyes: “But my dear, we just ate.”
It was just one single sentence and yet it spoke more than a thousand words. How could I even think to teach! He did not put me down by telling me he knew about all those things. No, he compassionately played a game with me until I realised my own delusion. I smiled. What else could I do at this point. It was the most beautiful way to teach me a lesson.
When we trust we can never get lost
The next morning, we woke at 4am. It was still dark and the sky did not look very bright. Everyone else stayed in the valley and the guides did not let people leave. It was only two of us going up the mountain. After half an hour the snow started to fall again. At first, we were both excited but then it turned very cold and misty. At one point we found ourselves in the big valley, where there were thousands of different directions to go in. Left, right, straight... This was the moment when both of us stopped and this was the moment when it occurred how silly it was of me, not to have an official guide with me. Maybe, I should have listened to everyone who warned me! At the same moment, Babaji, as if he was reading my mind started walking straight through the snow and mist. There was no path, yet he knew where to go. This was yet another moment when I reminded myself of my foolishness for not believing in what I had surrendered to.
As we reached a Shiva temple, 10 minutes before the source of the Ganges, the snowfall got heavier. It turned bitterly cold and even Babaji was shivering this time. We went into the temple to shelter from the heavy snow and to dry off. I asked him if he would like to go back but he insisted we continue as we were so close. As we started to climb over some rocks to get to the source, the path had become very slippery as the snow was covering the rocks. Several times, his shoes slipped and he almost sprained his ankles. I did not find this situation funny any more. I had so much respect for this man, only dressed in a scarf, cotton shoes (without socks), which were now totally wet, walking through snow, only to greet and bow down to the divine mother and be my guide. Then he turned to me: "We have to go back. We will go to the source next time you visit."
Everything becomes possible when we learn to let go
I felt like a child who was just told that Father Christmas was not coming this year! This could not be true. I will never get another opportunity like this! As I looked into his eyes I realised he was not joking. I swallowed my ego before saying a word, surrendered, bowed my head and turned back. I took my bottle and filled it with water from the Ganges. Then I put my hand over the river to express my gratitude to her, for giving me this wonderful guide for providing me with this amazing experience. I could feel my love and gratitude running through my veins. Babaji was standing there next to me. I stood up to look at him, ready to go. The storm was over. The sun came out and the entire valley was shimmering in the beautiful sunlight!
I was standing there with my mouth wide open, staring at him: “It is over! The snow has stopped!” He was standing there, in silence, only observing me and my happiness. He smiled. I could not believe it as never before in my life had I seen such an instant change in nature and the weather. It was within less than a minute that the scenery changed completely. This could only be the force of mother nature herself.
It seemed as if Babaji wanted to stay a bit longer. He started to undress and change his clothes. He enjoyed the sun. Then he sat down. I decided to go to the top of one of the hills to take some pictures. There was this strange force calling me; I stood up and started walking towards the source. The stones were still covered in snow so I could not see the path. There were times when I had to climb up the mountain and then jump from one slippery rock to the other with only a big gap in between. Just before reaching the source, I had to step on a huge rock which was in the middle of the river and then from there jump to the other side. Finally, there it was. The source!
The Divine can only be experienced, not explained in words
I sat down on one of the rocks, whilst the snow was sparkling in the morning sun, the snowmelt was coming out on the surface and the sun was gently caressing my skin. Everything was changing. It was as if I was losing my consciousness. My body became so heavy. I started talking to myself: "No, I cannot sleep." Then I realised I was there at the source of this sacred river and entirely alone. Something that was not possible without a guide and somewhere that masses of tourists visit every day! Time stood still and I do not remember how long I was sat there for. It was eternal. I felt so blessed, tears were streaming down my face once again, yet I surrendered all my blessings back to nature. I Filled the bottle with water again, which was full of sand due to the snow and rain but it didn’t matter. This was the tastiest and miraculous water I had ever drunk. The sacred water, that could heal anything. I knew I would never experience a moment like this again. It was a moment that could not be documented in any picture or words. Words that are written here are only a mere description of what actually happened 4000 meters high in the Himalayas.
Everything is constantly changing – and so are we
As we started our descent, the first tourists arrived, the snow slowly disappeared and the tourists we met the previous day looked at us with respect, bowed down and almost kissed our feet. I could feel them changing their opinion about my guide. Babaji looked at me as if he was trying to tell me something. Yet there was nothing but silence. We smiled at each other, we had a mutual understanding and there was no need for words. When one believes and trusts, everything becomes possible.
Then we passed the Japanese boy guided by an official guide. All I could feel was Babaji's love. He wished so badly to take the boy with us. As the boy saw us, he probably realised what he had missed out on. As he was walking up the hill, I could see Babaji walking after him, blessing him and I could feel how much he loved him, no matter what happened.
What I learnt from a simple monk that had never meditated once in his life was beyond words. Humbleness, love and compassion were three simple words that could describe him. As we approached the village, I realised this experience had changed me. I will never be the same again!