Monthly Archives: February 2015

Rhythm of Ganeshpuri — by Kamala Gross

The pictures of our pilgrimage to India only tell ¼ of the story.  It is the sounds and the smells of India that truly make it a rich and transformational experience.  Start with the sounds of the temple chanting, the drums, cymbals, clapping and overall enthusiasm of every chant.  Back up a little in the day – say 3 am – and the dogs are barking and the sounds of the villagers wading up stream are heard through my bedroom window.

cooling chai in GaneshpuriClanging bells as they prepare the temple, roosters crowing, cats fighting, motorcycles starting, crows and other birds beginning their morning chant.  Morning in Ganeshpuri is filled with the scent of fires starting, incense, sulphur from the local hot springs and chai brewing.  Are you here yet?

As the day goes on, the air is filled until the sounds and smells of life.  Children laughing, racing for a spot at the front of the temple.  Conch shells announce the next round of prayers; bells and drums fill the air!   Beggars motion for food outside the temple, shop keepers raise their metal doors, more fires are lit to cook food, burn garbage and provide a little heat in the morning.

women carrying waterDressed in saree’s, the women carry water in jugs on their heads and flat pans with bricks in the local fields.  The smell of dust and hot earth begin to fill the day.  Just like there is a rhythm to the temple and village life, there is a rhythm to the smells and sounds.  All you have to do is close your eyes and take it in.

Shiva in Ganeshpuri — by Susan Daniel

Wow!  My introduction to Shiva in Ganeshpuri was amazing!!!  During morning abhishek (washing & adorning of Nityananda’s murti) when we “normally” go up for blessings, everyone was leaving the temple.  Why?

Nandi in Ganeshpuri croppedI followed, not knowing what would happen next.  We went back out the front door and around to the right and I see a murti (statue) of a bull, then a Ganesha.  We must be going to the Shiva temple?  I had heard about it by reading Kusuma’s post about all the chanting & bells ringing on a previous day, but I had not yet had a chance to visit.

Wow! It was like going back in time.  The inside is only big enough to hold 15, maybe 20 people if you squished in.  There was Karuna, Kusuma, Swami’s friend from Swami Muktananda’s days (Krishni), Bhavani, Kamala & a few others.  Then the Brahmin came in & began to wash the Shiva Linga, chant & fill the room with incense.  I recognized his voice from temple, such depth for a “young” man.  Then a few Indian ladies dressed in their beautiful sarees & two men dressed in white collared shirts joined us.

Shiva Linga in GaneshpuriWe all joined in the chants to Shiva.  The Brahmin adorned Shiva with flowers; both the bronze linga with the 5-headed cobra coiled 3½ times around the base, as well Bhairava (the Shiva bust) in the niche in the wall.  Wow; they seemed to come to life!

We each received a dot on our forehead from the Brahmin to honor the Guru; Om Namah Shivaya was sounding through my head.  And we all began to chant arati to Shiva, I was so excited that I got to ring the bell!  The ritual ended with Krishni handing out prasad (blessed food).  The temple filled with Indian women in sarees and more men in their very fine white-collared shirts.  Krishni helped us to get out through the small passageway, so we could return for Nityananda’s arati.

As I excited (ah yes, I was), I mean exited the Shiva temple, there, on the ground was the murti of Vishnu in the form of a turtle, Kurma.  Now I know why turtle has been with me.  He provides nurturing, support, sustenance & protection.

You all need to visit Ganeshpuri to see this Shiva Sanctorum for yourselves!

Vishnu’s Nurturing — by Agnes Hetherington

The theme of our retreat is Lord Vishnu and the energies he embodies: support, maintenance and preservation. It is Vishnu who nurtures and sustains all that Brahma created.

If you have ever taken a training with Master Yoga or SVA, you know all about the care that is taken to support you through the openings you receive in that process.  Imagine the kind of openings that can happen to a relatively neophyte yogi coming to the epicenter of Grace for the first time. A contemplation quote this week said: “Grace can be like acid; it can also be like nectar”. This yogi has discovered both. How terrifying it would be to go through these experiences alone, but of course we are not alone. The SVA organization is here to channel the nurturing of Vishnu and support us in so many ways.

In our group there are a good number of individuals that I think of as ” elders,” those whose practices and understandings are so much deeper. They are the discreetly watchful, caring ones who can see a need and address it with a small word or gesture. I have the great blessing of sharing a room with one of these lovely souls, and I can say I have felt the flow of Grace through her lighthearted but profound guidance. There have been tears but there has been much more laughter. Then more tears… tears of gratitude to Vishnu and sweet Nityananda.

The Power of Puja  — by Mukti (Sandra) Carter

I knew it was my time to step into the India experience.  I have been a Svaroopi since 1996 and a Shishya from the beginning and yet… I still experienced resistance to many things – especially puja (worship).

You have heard many beautiful descriptions of Ganeshpuri and the full and varied, yet singly themed events that happen daily. Everything here is about devotion; devotion to Nityananda, to the Guru, Shiva, Ganesha, Vishnu and more, and to the Self.  Ganeshpuri is infused with Grace and devotion.

My first true personal experience of this Grace and the power of Puja was my fourth early morning abhishek.  I was sitting, listening to the Brahmins chanting, watching them lovingly bathing Nityananda before they dressed and adorned him for the day. I closed my eyes hearing their rhythmic chants and picturing what they were doing when suddenly it felt as though water was being poured over my head with love, devotion, great care and respect.  Nityananda was sharing his abhishek with me. He was immersing me in my own Self showing me I too am Divine, that whatever unworthiness I felt was maya.  My true Self was worthy of such devotion.  The whole thing lasted only a moment but felt like eternity.  As the day progressed I wondered, questioned, even doubted the experience.  There’s that resistance again.

But the Grace of Ganeshpuri does not give up! A few days later I held a personal puja. You can choose whatever you wish as your focus for your puja; yourself, family, friends, a problem or obstacle, you decide. My puja was held at the sweet little Shiva Temple next to the Nityananda Temple (where Nityananda’s abhishek is held each morning).  My Brahmin, Balakrishna, directed me to the Vishnu statue set in an arched alcove at about chest level.  I was about to experience abhishek on a small and very personal scale.

Vishnu puja with BrahminMy priest chanted and began to carefully direct me through the steps of bathing, adorning and honoring Vishnu with great respect and love. As I was pouring water over Vishnu and gently rubbing him clean, feeling the cool marble under my hands I began to feel an immense sense of love, devotion and gratitude for Vishnu.  He was listening to my prayers as I listened to the Brahmin chanting.  And suddenly, again, as I was performing abhishek on Vishnu, I began experiencing it on the inside.  I was being cleansed with love and devotion, Vishnu showing me my Self, that Divinity worthy of puja.

And it (finally) dawned on me that these rituals that I am so resistant to, these care-full processes and steps, that seemed rote and even tedious before now, are so precious.  Yes, you are focusing love and devotion and intention on the murti AND the murti is giving that experience right back to you.

As Swamiji says, it’s all about me, all about the Divinity that is me. These ancient processes are there to show you how to adore and devote yourself to Consciousness.  As you experience this on the outside suddenly the experience appears on the inside. Through the process of puja you are honoring and devoting yourself to your own Divinity.

Come to Ganeshpuri and find your Self.

In Gratitude — by Monika Schulz

Ganeshpuri.  I have returned after my first visit in December 2010.  Walking down the main road on my first day back, it feels as though time has folded back on itself, that I had only been away for 4 weeks rather than a full 4 years.

Kids-waving-GaneshpuriI must confess that my initial visit was rife with hard-core resistance.  Perhaps the resistance was related to the unfamiliarity of life in this rural village, or to feeling overwhelmed by the energy that abides here or to just plain not being ready for the experience.  Still I came away from Ganeshpuri feeling happy about the connections I had made with the friendly and gracious people who live here and with my fellow Svaroopis.

During the first Satsang of this retreat, Swamiji commented that you can’t ever truly leave Ganeshpuri, and that Grace etches away patterns that no longer serve you, if you allow it.  That makes sense to me.  The etching that has occurred these past few years has given me a go-with-the-flow attitude as I continue to move through the process.  I encounter resistance daily, multiple times daily, but it melts away fairly quickly.  Some long-standing resistances are also beginning to crumble.  So here I am again immersed in Grace and filled with gratitude.

The yoga of quietude — Karuna (Carolyn) Beaver

I was going to call this blog the yoga of quarantine, but that’s a pretty jarring title for a day that has proved quite blissful.  I’m running a temperature from a flu bug and feeling like a truck hit me, so I’ve spared my fellow travelers from my germs. You might think, ‘oh, that’s too bad,’ a day of missed opportunities in this trip that is chock full of them.

Instead, it’s been a day of sweet surrender. There’s the yoga of letting other people take care of you, and the yoga of gratitude for their compassion. There’s the yoga of bed Ujjayi, asana, japa and meditation. There’s the yoga of opening my heart to the sounds early today from the nearby temple, as well as from our group chanting the Guru Gita in the meditation hall next to me this morning.  And right now I can hear from our afternoon satsang, where students and teachers from the Ashram’s Ganeshpuri Music School are playing drums, harmonium and singing. What a full day I’ve had!

Even with this full day, because I have limited my physical activity and my interaction with others, it has been a contemplative day. It has been a chance to slow down and let the Grace of Ganeshpuri wash over me. It has felt like a retreat.

As I re-enter the group and activities, I hope tomorrow, I will hold dear this experience and see if I can stay centered in awareness without chasing my senses and my mind.

Om Namah Shivaya

Dinner with Swamiji — by Shuchi Cilley

DSC_0095This evening the group from our guest house is sitting around the dinner table with Swamiji on the wide veranda of the “big house.” The heat of the day is dissipating.

India’s ancient teachings once again float on the evening air as our Guru asks each one of us in turn “What did you hear?” from the afternoon satsang.

Story after story unfolds for each of us as we connect the cosmic forces she has been describing (in her teachings on Vishnu) with the present time and events in our lives. We’ve just heard an intricate story of Vishnu’s incarnation as Narasimha, a man-lion, in order to kill a devotee, helping him fulfill the terms of a curse.

Each of us has picked out a different theme and Swamiji draws out the details revealing more layers and nuances to the story. She meets each of us where we are at — as Devaraja says, “There are no wrong answers”.  It’s a joy to see how we are each individualized forms of Shiva reflecting back a specific facet of the teachings, and in turn the Guru is reflecting back personalized responses. The blaze of Consciousness grows brighter and brighter around the table, blazing into the still India evening.

How fortunate am I to be here in this place and this time at the feet of my Guru….

SHIVARATRI — by SheynaPurna Peace

Shakti fever or some unknown ailment laid me low for a day.  I wondered if this was my small-s self trying to keep me small and pondered this as I walked alone in the dark early morning to abhishek at the Nityananda temple.  A maha maha (big BIG) abhishek happened today as a devoted (and most probably wealthy) family lovingly bathed Nityananda with the ‘full monty’ of milk, yogurt, honey, ghee, oils and water.   As the milk poured down Nityananda’s face tears streamed down mine.  It was rapture.

The gates to the Sanctum Sanctorum are open today with the darshan line very long, but a few of us chose to stay.  We were rewarded with the Grace of being stopped directly in front of the larger than life Nityananda.  We stood, waited, immersed in His gaze.

DSC_0102As we passed out of the temple, Kusuma and I wandered to the small Shiva temple adjacent.  Peering down the stairs into the temple we saw another one of our group doing an arati, so we came inside. As it ended, we moved around to the rear of the Shiva Lingam.  The brass cover of the lingham was removed, granite stone revealed in the spaces that were not covered in flowers and greens.

A local family was beginning an abhishek ceremony to the lingam; they asked us to stay and participate in the ceremony.  We poured water, milk, grains, flowers and tulsi leaves, waved candles, chanted and stood up to turn in circles.  Bliss poured through the room, filling each of my cells with the power of love, the power of creation and destruction, the Shakti.

Ganeshpuri flower vendorsWhen the abhishek ended, after thanking our incredibly generous hosts, we returned to Nityananda in the main hall.  We were able to go inside and even touch Him again.  We went across the plaza for flowers to offer both to Nityananda and to Shiva (in the lingam).  Full, so full, I sit with pen and pad to journal about Ganeshpuri’s Grace.

How Has India Changed You? – Betsy Bommer

India map toptourguid-comSwamiji asked us, “How has India changed you?”

My answer came from a memory of landing at the airport and being embraced by a swirl of warm air that brought tears to my eyes. My heart opened into an experience of limitlessness with the recognition “I am home.”

How has being home changed me? My hard edges have softened. Judgments come less often and stay briefly. Compassion expands and I feel I am a part of the flow and activity of living. Others are living their lives and there is a dance among and between us. The dancing offers and allows me to continually change.

In Nityananda’s morning abhishek I became aware once again that I am the silence in the midst of activity of my senses. I am the silence out of which comes the activity. India has deepened, expanded, enlivened my living. My heart and mind are open to the more of living. I am graced beyond words.

I Thought I Could Never Go  — By Rama (Ruth) Brooke

When Swamiji first began offering trips to India, I thought I’d never be brave enough to go. On the 14 plus hour plane ride over I could taste the “avidya” (the not-knowing who I am) as I left behind my family, work, pristine environment and all that I know well.  Gradually my attachment to these identities began to melt with each mile, as we approached the Maha Devi, the mother land of yoga.

DSC_0891Several days later, after soaking up the powerful shakti from the abhishek in Nityananda’s temple, from the yaj~na (Vedic fire ceremony), day two of Shivratri (a 3-day Shiva celebration) and our daily Guru Gita, meditation and asana practices, I feel my “container” expanding.

Earlier I had not able to sustain the openings.  The bliss would come and go, come and go; one minute ecstatic, seeing Consciousness in myself and everything around me, the next contracted and experiencing limitations. Now, increasingly, there is a spacious calm in the ecstasy.  With a few mantra repetitions, I can settle into the bliss.

It is always there; the undercurrent of Grace. Nityananda’s Grace pervades everything and everyone in Ganeshpuri: the beautiful, the ugly; the clean, the dirty.  Everywhere you turn in Ganeshpuri there is Nityananda. You cannot escape him. As stated in Shree Guru Gita, verse 63:


The Guru knows: I am unborn,

undecaying, no start or end,

unchanging, consciousness and bliss,

smaller than small, greater than great.*

*Translated by Swami Nirmalananda