It is quite a different experience, in some ways, every time we go to India. In this case, the biggest thing about India, ultimately, is really well expressed in one of the Sutras, which loosely says “In order to really become a balanced human being, you need to embrace both the ten thousand horrible visions and the ten thousand beautiful visions,” and basically that’s what India is. It’s out of control, complete chaos, anarchy. A friend who was with us for the first time, Rachael, who is part of LSRF said, “How can this garbage be thrown everywhere in the middle of these beautiful mountains, I don’t understand it!” Well no one can understand it. There’s no facility whatsoever to handle the garbage, there’s nothing to do but just back up to the side of the road with a truck and shovel it down a hillside right down the mountain. So there are a lot of horrible visions in India, and there are a lot of beautiful ones, and when walking through the terrain, not just the physical terrain, you encounter this stuff all the time- the way you have to deal with it is to find that delicate balance of non-reactivity and surrendering into the moment.
Anyhow, I will say one more thing about this being a different kind of trip during which I had a pretty nice realization. I’m in this Ashram that I’ve been going to, with Neem Karoli Baba, Maharaj-ji for the past four decades, and going back there is really the core of the retreat, because you’re not distracted by devices or work or your past, everything is kind of gone and you’re just sitting there, and it’s very internal. So it’s a beautiful retreat that way. There’s lots of chanting and there are people doing different prayers to different deities at different times of the day, and there’s a resident saint there that you get to sit and have Darshan with whose name is Siddhi Ma, our Indian Mother, so it’s just a wonderful break from the fast pace of the West.
There’s one particular little ritual that we join. In India they all circumambulate the different temples with their deities and in this one particular instance they were circumambulating the temple that surrounds Neem Karoli Baba’s statue that they put up after he left his body. I’ve never really been into that sort of thing, and it still bugs me; I can’t really relate with it although we’ve been told that it isn’t for people who saw His body, it’s for the people who didn’t so they have something to focus on.
So every time I’m going around this building in circumambulation, my mind just really starts to freak. I’m thinking, “What am I doing? This is some Hindu deal right? Why are you walking around this building? This is nuts!” But I’m now considered one of the elders, so there’s all these people, and I have to set a good example or so I think, and all of this self talk continues, which led to, “Geez I’m going to be leaving the ashram soon and I need to leave some money for the workers here, I mean, these are beautiful people, there are about 25 of them, hauling our luggage around and getting us buckets of water. This and that….” And I’m thinking about that and I’m thinking about what the donation would be, then it flips into this other thing where I think maybe it’s not going to be enough of a donation, because it’s a few thousand rupees, but it’s 60 rupees per dollar so it doesn’t seem like a lot.” Then I hear my wife in my head, “What is it with you and this scarcity mentality! Just give the friggin rupees, ok?”, which she’s done more than once in our daily life back home.
So this is what’s going on with me, and suddenly, I have this whole cathartic witness thing happen to me as I’m walking around this temple… where I see the viciousness upon which I had heaped judgments on myself, it was terrible, it was like, violent, I could feel it in my body, and the next thing that happened was that I glanced over at Maharaji’s tucket where I first met him and this wave of love came over me and that entire self-judging, guilt ridden dark identification I had been experiencing evaporated. I realized in a profound way the power of the grace that Maharaji had given us- the gift of unconditional love and the ability to shine it back on ourselves, merging with it– and it’s like a beautiful acid experience when you become one with everything and everything is love. If you could just identify with that and shine it back on yourself, as I was able to do in that moment, and when I did that I found compassion for myself which released the dark thoughts. So I really had a deep experience of the reality of what can happen when you identify with that pure loving awareness entity called Neem Karoli Baba. And that reality is an effective path for everybody, because everyone can do it, completely identifying with love without cause.
– Raghu Markus