A big part of why I love traveling to other countries is that it makes it effortless for me to suspend my judgements and presuppositions. There is no sizing people up when you haven't a clue about cultural norms. There is no clinging to what should be once you've committed to opening up to what simply is. So despite the constant stimulation and the packed schedule I've been keeping since arriving here, I feel relaxed in a way I seldom experience back at home. . . a particular mental relaxation that comes from letting go.
I've relaxed into the mood of Krsna, this particular pilgrimage very much focused on deepening my connection to this Beloved form of the Divine. Years ago, I began my spiritual journey on a different branch of the path, an impersonal one stemming from a Shaivist tradition. But the further along I've come, the more I've been exposed to, Bhakti has taken over and an impersonal relationship with the Divine simply doesn't resonate with my heart. When I chant and pray, I am calling out to my Beloved or to my Mother, not to abstract representations of the Universal Consciousness. I am yearning for union, connection. I am calling out to Krsna, reaching out for the Divine Mataji, and my call has been answered by bringing me here.
I began in Puri, sacred home of the Jagannath temple where Krsna is worshipped in a state of explosive, expansive love. And now I am in Mayapur at the ISCKON Kirtan Mela, which is basically like being at the Vatican of Krsna Consciousness for a massive sacred music festival. I also happen to be on the banks of the river Ganga, Holy Mother, so both of my heart's deepest understandings of the Divine are embodied here. I'm immersed in a sea of devotion, and in that sea there is no place and time. There is only Love.
If you disconnect from that Love, the noise, crowds, dirt, etc. can overwhelm you and you might find yourself very much in a place and time that feels unpleasant, even confrontational. It's a lot to be somewhere that seems so radically different from the comfortable Western world we know. But when you see and feel the Love in all, when you understand that everyone and everything are representations of the same divinity, the world becomes impossibly beautiful. The sea of devotion is infinite and letting go into its currents propels you forward toward bliss.
For me, bliss is being so merged with the vibration of a kirtan that no one voice or instrument is separate from all the rest and every sound melds together into the purest harmony. It's feeling embraced by that collective vibration, plugged into the sweetest emotion, knowing that the Divine hears your call. Yesterday, despite having gotten sick and feeling quite weak and tired, I sat for hours in the temple soaking in that very energy. I knew there was nowhere better I could possibly be. And I felt like my strongest, healthiest self when we moved into the center of the kirtan hall and I was so totally lost, yet so totally held, by the ecstatic expression of thousands of devotees calling out to Krsna. There is no remedy like bliss.
This journey has been a revelation for me. I realize that I was holding onto guilt about straying from the original branch of the spiritual path I'd been walking. When I started in the Sivananda yoga lineage some 7 years ago, I clung to it like a life raft because I needed something bigger than myself to hold onto and it was there. Aside from a yoga asana practice, Sivananda introduced me to mantra, japa, pujas, arati, all the ritualistic aspects that I so love. I was first exposed to kirtan through Sivananda and Sivaratri in 2009 was my first experience of staying up all night chanting to the Divine, experiencing for myself the magnificence of being immersed by the energy of hundreds of souls calling out in a space of Love.
As I've continued forward on my path, evolved as an individual, softened and healed pieces of me along the way, I found myself less aligned with other aspects of the Sivananda lineage, while simultaneously feeling so at home among the Krsna family. Reconciling this took time. It almost felt like cheating on my partner. Just as fidelity and loyalty are things I prize in my intimate relationships, I value them in this aspect too. So it has taken a long time for me to make peace with the fact that this isn't a case of infidelity. This is a case of me having progressed to a place where I know my heart far better than I ever could have when it was shrouded under layers of pain and suffering. My heart wants nothing more than to Love. That is my True nature. There is no other way. And to me, calling out to Krsna is the ultimate manifestation.
So here I sit, early morning, surrounded by nature, morning prayers carried over loudspeakers, Ganga at my back, ISKCON in front of me, Divine Love all around me. In losing my sense of place and time, I've found that I am in EXACTLY the right place and this is EXACTLY the right time. No guilt. No regret. No shame. Only Love. Only Krsna. And by seeing him in all, loving and serving him in all, I know deep in my heart that I cannot help but walk the path of my Truth.
Jai Sri Krsna!!!