The weather in Uttarkashi was still a little warm for the long sadhana we were trying to perform, so we decided to return to Gangotri for cooler weather.
During our first visit to Gangotri, we stayed at the Ishvashyam Ashram which is located on the side of the Ganges where the sannyasis live and where the ashrams are located.
This first visit was a spectacular success as Swamiji and I made friendship with several sadhus. We were very well received and fit in seamlessly. We always felt welcomed, but most importantly, we took advantage of numerous teaching opportunities as we shared our iPad Apps and presented our sanskrit texts and translations to the sadhus of Gangotri.
Last visit, we performed our sadhana at the Ishvashyam Ashram, which was secluded and well out of public view.
In contrast, on this second trip to Gangotri we stayed on the opposite side of the river. This side of the Ganges is the commercial district and houses the main Gangotri Mandir. The tourists flock here and so it is not as peaceful and secluded as the ashram side.
Uttam helped us locate a guesthouse adjacent to the main Gangotri Mandir, which was easy walking distance to a previously seen wonderful spot near the Ganges to perform sadhana.
The location Swamiji scoped out for sadhana is actually where they perform the evening Arati to the Ganga, but from morning through the early evening, it is unused and no one enters the small protected area.
Swamiji knew we would not be disturbed here, and it afforded us the opportunity to chant right next to the river.
We arrived in Gangotri in the evening, rested for the night, and awoke early morning. After showering, we walked a short distance to Arati area and performed our morning sadhana.
We were so close to the Ganga that even though Swamiji had a mic, I still had to listen very closely to follow along with him.
When we began, there was hardly a person in sight. Every now and then, one of the pujaris would quietly walk by.
The waters flow so rapidly here, that we could hear no other sound other than our chanting and the river. It is naturally a place for sadhana — all worldly talk is drowned by the song of the Ganga.
We were sitting for Pancha Ratna Gita and the full Chandi, which is about a five hour asana. As time went on, more and more pilgrims came to the bank of the Ganga.
Though we were in plain sight chanting on a loud speaker, we met with little disturbance. The sound of the Ganga is so loud, and people so engaged in what they are doing, that only once in a while did someone notice us sitting there and chanting.
When we had finished the Pancha Ratna Gita and the Chandi, Swamiji decided to expand our recitation to include the Shiva Puja and Shiva Sahashranam.
I have found that once you get into the rhythm of chanting so many hours a day, day in, day out, it is hard to stop! There is just no better way you can think to spend your time than in the bliss of worship.
By the time we finished, a little over seven hours of our life had been offered in worship. We slowly strolled back to our room when we were met by some of the pujaris from the Gangotri Temple. They had come to express their extreme appreciation of our Sadhana.
One of the main temple pujaris said to Swamiji, “We are brahmins, and though we may be considered the highest in Santana Dharma (eternal dharma, ideal of perfection), sannyasis are above even us. So, you are our Guru, we bow to you. You have shown us what Santana Dharma really is. Thank you for your sadhana. Thank you from all of the translations and the books you have contributed to this Dharma. I am not just thanking you myself, I am offering you thanks from the Santana Dharma itself, please, please, continue with what you are doing.”
My jaw dropped as I heard this expression of respect. I can think of no words which could better describe Swamiji’s contribution to humanity and to the fulfillment of Sanatana Dharma than the words from this priest.
Of course, Swamiji accepted this praise in the most humblest of ways.
There are many sannyasis in Gangotri, and I can assure you that the brahmins rarely show such reverence and say such things to them. Even more rare is the fact that it was said to a foreign sadhu.
They were simply in awe of the example of sincere worship Swamiji had given them. Swamiji made an offering of dakshina to them for our stay at the guest house. The pujari looked at him and replied, “You are our Guru! I will never spend this dakshina; I will always keep it as a reminder of you.”
Thus began our first day back in Gangotri. It became apparent that we were as equally welcomed on this side of the river as we had been on the other side, by both the temple pujaris and sannyasis.
Gangotri is a sacred space where Mother India opens her arms to all of us who come to worship. The people of Gangotri honor and respect those who have made tremendous contributions toward uplifting humanity through their example of Sanatana Dharma. No doubt, Swamiji’s contribution was worthy of this respect.