Varanasi- Shiva city

I have arrived in Pune after 4-5 days in Varanasi, a city I had always wanted to see. It is an intense place as are  many sacred, pilgrimage places in India. It’s also in the north which is considerably more intense than the south. Honestly, I’ll have to spend more time integrating my expreiences to write more. In short, I’m fortunate to have had friends of friends show me around and see places off the tourist map I ran into some deaf folks and that while a short encounter it became a highlight. I was standing in one of the tiny streets- imagine small alleys of venice  but with more people, cows, motrocycles, cow dung, spitting pan addicts- I was looking for my friend’s shop. I was literally lost even though I had been on those alleys many times I was still lost. I went to ask a gentleman if he could locate the picture of the sign I had in my phone of my friend’s shop. Just as he said no, out of the blue Jay shows up. He had seen me. Deaf eyes! They can find and see everything! We had a chai, visited their house .What a treat. Indian sign language is not the same as american but Jay knew some, fingerspelled a bit, and I don’t know, we just understood one another. When you see pure sign language, it just makes sense. when it’s not as pure, muddled by hearing people and bad education, it’s just harder to understand. I feel very blessed to be able to enter this world where there is an immediate connection and trust.

It’s hard to trust in a place like Varanasi. You are approac hed by everyone as everyone has to make a living. It’s very safe as it is a conservative city so I could walk around even at night but still it’s a maze of streets and I don’t like feeling lost. There are many sadhus and priests and babas sitting offering prayers and such. Who is real? Who is fake? Are they realized beings covered in white ash sitting in lotus position or are they posed for a photo opportunity and money in the pot. I don’t argue at all with chasing after tourists with their big cameras who take photos and leave nothing. But as my rickshaw driver, Manoj said, it’s all a big drama and even they have trouble knowing who is real and who is fake.  The prescence of fakes doesn’t temper faith and belief it just makes you have to look harder. For me, it makes it harder to believe. You have to really listen deeply to yourself.

I enjoyed a special moment in the Lehiri Mayahasa temple (teacher of teacher of Yogananada) – a quiet peaceful place with a humble priest . Varanasi is home to two of the 12 important shiva lingas in India. Every morning the street near my hotel was jampacked with folks lining up to enter pushing, shoving and i even got i the middle of a fight. My friends who have lived there for 16 years took me to the Kedar temple where there is  another shiva linga. I went through the motions of gesture and acknowledgement and had the opportunity to enter the heart of the temple. A woman explained to me that I had to clap loudly in front of image of Shiva as he is in samadhi and I have to awaken him or let him know of my presence before offering flowers.  With my new friend Peter who has moved there to learn Hindi ( a beautiful language!)  we visited the Hanuman temple, full of monkeys and it was a special day so the lines were long but the energy was high.  We sat and I listened to the man beside me chanting. Following this, we went to a Durga temple, red and powerful, bells ringing as each person entered. Sitting there, young school kids came to greet us. It ws nice to be out of the tourist trap part of the city and meet these friendly faces. We ended the day with masala lattees, tikka paneer sandwhiches and fudgy chocolate cake. On my own the next day I visited Sarath where Buddha gave his first teachings. Need I say more.

I left Varanasi with a terrible cold. the traffic, pollution and dust took it’s toll.  I’m sure I will have more to say about the place the more time i have to process it. I am now settled in a very nice apt with a wonderfully kind and sweet Italian guy , Daniel and a great woman , Eileen from South Africa. I love meeting people from around the world. We have a very nice energy in our apartment.  And unlike the tourists in Varanasi, no one smokes!
Everyone who is everyone is here for the big meeting and the convention  All the big names are here. And even a red carpet on the entrance to the Insitute. I understand the meeting was itense and moving. Apparently, Geeta and Prashant held space for everyone to speak and air their differences as well as a chance to seek union and understanding. And they were extended gratitude for their service to the associations and their devotion to the work of Guruji. 

I registered for the course and it was  a piece of cake. A younger lot of students with amazing skills with technology  have made the registration process smooth as butter. I’ve basically attended to my cold for the last few days not wanting to push it at all. No adventures. Ive had many cups of chai, had a few dosas and lots of conversations. Some of you might know Gayatri who visited u s in Mexico. she will be opneing up her own retaurant so I went to look at tiles with her trying to find something that had a little taste of Mexico. The adventure begins on Sunday. IN the meantime, i’m going to have a thali today, take a class with Devki and tomorrow go out shopping with my frends from Mexico.

more to come……

can’t seem to post photos with this internet connection…..I’m posting  some on my facebook page.

 ps. i’m writing on an ipad with an app for the blog hence there are many features missing   such as spellcheck and it’s just an awkward way to work plus the internet is super slow…..all to say please excuse typos and formatting mistakes.