Friday, January 8, 2010
Tomorrow morning I board a plane for Mother India. The notion of traveling to this exotic country began ten years ago when my Zen master, Shifu, also known as Dr. Kim Han Suk, suggested that India was one of those places I could clear my familial karma. Not just my own lifetime, but those of my ancestors and children, and perhaps even their children. Damn that proclamation. In classic student fashion, I rebelled, argued, dismantled (all inside my own mind,) knowing that I had received wisdom in the form of what my friends, the Dakini Sisters, called The Big Hit. Like the Zen stick that could come down upon our shoulders when we slumped in meditation, The Big Hit was a way Shifu could shred my psychic comfort by making me rethink everything I think I know about who I am.
An eldest child who was invested in being a good student, loving mother and conscious citizen, while underneath simmered that wild girl, I spent the last decade resenting the possibility that I could be responsible for others, all while nursing my husband through a rare cancer, and going to my father’s bedside after his brain tumor, and helping my mother, son and myself through our family disease. All experiences that led me to ask – Who is it that needs healing? I no longer believed that karma had created my family’s fate – karma was one more concept, one more identity that I would cling to. Still, I was afraid. Would I lose my mind in India? And would I want to live in that emptiness?
It wasn’t until one of the Dakini Sisters said, “Well, aside from all that rebelling, what if you went to India to see what was there?” that I allowed the place to lure me. A year later, when we received a financial reward, we thought about the lands we could travel to celebrate: Spain, Italy, Ireland and Wales all captivated. Instead, when my beloved asked me where I wanted to be for my fiftieth birthday, my eyes teared, because I knew I was compelled to go to the mythical land of Kali and Lakshmi and Saraswati. A few Google searches later, we discovered that the world’s largest act of faith, the Kumbha Mela, was happening within two days of my birthday, and then a few moments later, that we couldn’t find any compelling reason to stop ourselves from attending this magnificent event.
The Kumbha Mela will begin this week, in Haridwar, where the river Ganga enters the plains from Himalayas. Organized in the holy cities of Allahabad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nasik, the Kumbh Mela (Festival of the Pot of Nectar) features the largest human gathering in the world. We’ve heard estimates of eighty million people, with half that number present at its pinnacle. The religious festival invites devotees, sadhus, rishiks, yogis and tourists from almost every corner of the world. We will be present for the opening baths or snans, January 14th and 15th, the latter a solar eclipse.
Hindus believe that the waters of the Ganges turn into nectar on the auspicious occasion of Kumbh Mela. And that a holy dip in the divine waters of Ganga eliminates all the evil and past sins from an individual's life. Astrologers believe that bathing at Har ki Pauri ghat during the festival purifies the inner-self of an individual. I don’t know if any of those things are true. Self realization seems possible in any moment. Yet what is compelling for me is the chance to become a pilgrim, to be in the sensation of the heightened moment, to be embodied by the strange journey, to be unafraid of this ‘I’ dissolving, to give up thinking and instead experience being thought. The Big Hit reverberates still.
You can follow our journey to Delhi, Haridwar, Varanasi, and in Rajhasthan -- Jaipur, Shahpura Bagh, Ranthambore, Udaipur – then on to Kovalam beach in Kerala via facebook and http://workingwild.blogspot.com (as long as I can get wireless where we are roaming.)