Gangotri has been a perfect place for us to perform sadhana. The Ganga flows by constantly singing with us as we chant…
… while the Himalayas stand strong in the background demonstrating the perfect stillness of how to sit in an asana.
Yet there is something even more important for our sadhana than the surrounding beauty, and that is the support of the local community and visiting pilgrims.
Swamiji has said that the location is much less important than the people who are around us when we do sadhana. I would venture to say that it is true for life in general as well!
Any place, no matter how beautiful, is enhanced or degraded by the people who reside there or are visiting. There have been times when we had visited some temples that were in the most beautiful and inspiring locations, but the high-volume blast of Bollywood music over the loud speakers ruined the spiritual mood. Other times we may have been chanting, and the people could visibly see we were chanting, yet they began talking loudly to each other, disturbing the bhava created by the mantras.
A beautiful location may be nice, and a good climate is always helpful for sadhana especially if you are outdoors, but without the key ingredient of a supporting respectful community, they do little good.
The pilgrims, pujaris, and sadhus of Gangotri have been a complete blessing to us. Not once did they disturb our sadhana. On the contrary, they have empowered us and have shown the greatest respect for what we are doing.
The pujaris have allowed us to sit everyday in their evening Arati Shala, a place which is shaded (very important when reading from an iPad), close to the Ganga and enclosed so that we don’t have to worry about people walking by and knocking over our music stands (it has happened in other places).
This prime spot for sadhana was such a blessing, especially when bus loads of pilgrims arrive all at once to take darshan and bathe in the Ganga. We were always safe in our spot, remaining undisturbed.
The pilgrims that visited Gangotri showed great respect and support for our sadhana. Even though Swamiji and I are two foreign sadhus, chanting from iPads with a mic, speaker, and a laptop, they still offered us dakshina. They appreciated our performing sadhana at this sacred site enough to try to make some offering to support our activities.
It’s easy to imagine a devout pilgrim seeing a poor sadhu, one who has little or nothing with him, and offering him dakshina. But it is a little more difficult to imagine that they would be so generous with sadhus who are obviously a little more well-to-do. There we were chanting while surrounded by fancy electronic equipment, yet they offered what they could out of respect for what we were doing, and not because they made a judgment on if we were wealthy or not, or whether we were in need, but they needed to make their offering in support. That was their dharma!
Many of them bowed down as they passed by or folded their hands together in namaskar. Even sadhu walking by would bow down to Swamiji! They too were inspired to see this worship.
After we had finished chanting one day, a man from the temple came and thanked Swamiji for his wonderful worship and expression of devotion. The manager of the temple came with the man, and they requested Swamiji to perform the evening Arati to the Ganga! What a sign of respect!
I am quite sure a foreigner has never done, nor has ever been invited to do the Gangotri Arati for the Ganga. Yet, such is their respect and appreciation for what we are doing.
They also requested Swamiji to perform the Samasti Upasana (Cosmic Puja) at the Gangotri Temple. Swamiji took a rain check on both the Ganga Arati and the Cosmic Puja, preferring that Shree Maa be with him when he performs these sacred offerings.
Gangotri is no doubt a beautiful and inspiring place on its own, but the love, respect, and support of the people here is what makes it an ideal place for sadhana.