Is there a place on earth which God would call his home? If yes, there would be no better place to start the search than in India. A country where people from different religions live in peace together; a morning prayer represents a part of everyday life and the Gods have been integrated into all daily activities, both at work and at home. Being a monk is a recognised position rather than an act of craziness and around every corner, there is a temple devoted to a certain Deity. Yet is it truly possible to find God in India? And if not, where?
When racing to the top takes away the enchantment of the present moment
It was a lovely early morning and I found myself at the height of 3300 metres, where my first spiritual hike was about to begin. The natural beauty was overwhelming; so pure and silent. It didn’t feel like I was in India but reminded me of home. With waterfalls so magic, that one started crying just by looking at them, their sound so loud that the mind stopped instantly. There was a cave in which an elderly monk lived. He invited me in for tea, but I did not have time. I had to go up higher to the main temple but promised I would visit him on the way back down. There was something special about him. He was a worshipper of God Shiva – the God of all Gods.
The sun rose. I was walking for hours and observed that most other hikers were rushing past me and some even running up and down the mountain as if it were a joke. Not to mention the Indians running in flip-flops! Everyone greeted me with Jai Mata Di, (Sanskrit words meaning: "I wish all the best to the almighty mother and also herewith praising her glory”), as if they were saying hello to mother nature herself. I felt like a goddess, receiving so many smiles and being in the presence of this beautiful nature. I was so grateful for having the opportunity to be there.
Ancient temples used as a stage for a divine masquerade
Eventually, I reached the source of one of the holy rivers of the Himalayas and its temple. The priest took me by my hand and led me to the altar. Being a foreigner, all of them wanted to make a Puja – a prayer with me, so that I would pay them some money. Visiting a temple for a spiritual purpose had lost its meaning, even in India. I was told later that people from all over the country flew over by helicopter, (which even I as a foreigner could not afford), quickly run into the temple, pay for a Puja, ask for forgiveness and wealth and then return back to their business.
After a few minutes of carrying out a ritual, I felt abused. It was as if there was a war going on and we had to finish it fast! Then, they pushed me away, not even letting me stay and meditate for a moment. I went into another room, sat down, closed my eyes and tried to calm down. Priests were looking at me as if I was mad. I could hear them talking about me and laughing. I could not understand the world any longer. If they truly were priests, how come they would rather spend their time chatting and laughing than praying, meditating and guiding people!
A great spiritual business was not only growing in Europe but also in its cradle, where it all began. The manipulation and corruption were present in every corner. Brainwashing and making people feel guilty, giving them hope, that if they pay, their sins will be washed off quickly and if they don’t pay the Gods will punish them.
Entering the sanctuary of mother nature
Sadness and loneliness entered my body as I was walking over the bridge into the sanctuary of mother nature. As I was climbing up the steep slope to get closer to the real source of the river, hidden in the high rocks, just to my left there was a beautiful tree. I was standing in front of this precious tree, growing out of the snow in high the Himalayan mountains and it was blossoming. It was the only one I had seen the whole day so I smelled the flowers. I was still holding the rice I boiled in the hot springs at the temple as a part of a prayer and a divine gift from the Gods to me. I did not want to eat it but give it to someone. I opened it up and spread it wide under the tree. Then I sat down and felt the presence of the divine mother. Tears were streaming down my cheeks as I realised I had received the divine blessing without the help of a priest. It all felt so true and pure, reminding me that a true divine force is always fully present in nature.
Things only happen when we can see them clearly
With gratitude in my heart, I continued my way up to the river source as I truly wished to get some holy water from the waterfalls. It was easy to cross the river at the first crossing, but then, in order to get closer to the waterfalls, I had to cross the river one more time. The river was too wide to jump over but there was a tree trunk in the river, covered by water halfway through. I was pacing about like a puppy on the spot, imagining how it would be so simple to cross if I jumped like a fairy across the tree trunk. In my imagination, it all seemed so easy and I was already on the other side! But in reality, I hadn’t moved and did not trust myself or my imagination. Then something strong moved in me.
I could see myself clearly walking along this trunk to get to the other side of the river. It was such a strong vision that I started believing it was real. I took off my shoes and stood up. I was carrying my backpack, filled with documents, money and all my other belongings but I did not care. Like I imagined I put one foot in the middle of the tree trunk. Frozen water washed over me and the stream was strong. As soon as I found my balance I stepped my other foot over and leapt lightly like a fairy to the other side of the river! I never believed it could be so simple. It was only my fear that made it all so complicated!
Listening to the thundering sound of water I experienced silence
I walked up towards the waterfalls. Behind me, there were huge rocks on both sides. The more I walked in through these rocks, the less visible the valley behind me became. It was as if a door closed behind me as I entered this sacred space. There was no one else there, the sound of the waterfalls was so strong that I could not hear anything. The entire area was shaking from the force of the water falling down, touching the stones. My body started to shake and tears fell from my eyes spontaneously.
People had started to follow me but no one dared to walk over the trunk to the other side. They were just looking at me. This made me realise there are many types of temples in the world offering what the seekers were looking for. This day I was the lucky one and I could not tell you how long I stayed there.
Everyone stands alone on their path
Then a huge stone fell down just behind me and I understood it was now time to leave. People were still there on the other side of the river, however, instead of helping me cross, they just stood there and watched. I could not believe it! This was the moment when I realised that everyone stands alone on their path. With one step to the middle of the trunk and a jump over to the other side, there I was on my own. As I was jumping over I felt like a white feather, so light and pure, that the wind could carry me over the river. It was all like a dream.
We become what we think
A boy came over to me. His look was filled with admiration: “How did you do this! We could not imagine walking over it as we could clearly see the tree trunk turning. I think I am too scared to do something like you did.”
With a smile on my face, I replied: “But you are Indian! And a boy. You guys do things we Europeans never even think about! It is so beautiful over there. Go and see it. Get over your fears. It is just an emotion. It is worth it.”
I then said goodbye and made my way down to the valley. So many things had happened already that my mind stopped and I felt as if I was on drugs. The most natural drug called love. I was floating in the air, singing, dancing, feeling this joy and surrendering. All just by visiting this wonderful river and spending time in nature.
When hearts speak, there is no need for words
On my way back I stopped at the cave of the old monk. He invited me in once again. I found it strange but decided to take up his offer. At first, we were just sitting and looking at each other as he did not speak English. He offered me a tea, however, I said I was OK. I could see that this made him feel uncomfortable because he did not know, what else he should offer me. There was something special about this man. It was so natural to sit there with him. He was holding a pearl necklace also known as Mala in his hands, moving the pearls around all the time. I could not stop myself from asking him if he meditated?
He looked at me with a smile and then started to look for something in one of the bags. He gave me two huge albums, filled with pictures. Most of the pictures were from his youth, painted with white powder, showing ceremonies or initiations. From this, I understood that he had been a priest since a young age. I was just sitting there, observing him. He was a simple man, living in a cave he had made himself out of the rock. People brought him water and food, he was doing prayers all day long and spreading blessings to people who passed by. He was not pushy and did not ask for money. It was as if he did not need anything. He had totally surrendered to his work and life purpose. He was so different from the priests in the temple and there was nothing but peace and serenity in his cave.
Everyone wants to be where there is joy
Then, one of his helpers who had just woke up started to move behind me. He boiled some water and then we all drank tea. I offered them cookies, which they did not like, probably because they were vegan, but the priest was polite and ate it. The boy took my sunglasses and put them on. I had to take some pictures as he was so filled with joy. I felt so relaxed in this simple cave with the old monk and his young helper. We were laughing like small kids, so innocent and pure. It was one of those moments that one wishes to remember forever. It was as if I was laughing with my little brother, while the fire was burning and the Shiva priest was looking at us seriously from below his huge eyebrows. It was one of the most natural moments of my life. Happiness filled the cave and I felt like a child again.
Two police officers then came and sat down on a bench to observe what was happening. This was when I realised that I had to leave. I wished to stay longer but as someone once said – the sweet moments are so sweet because they are short.