Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

Pilgrimage to Sikkim

by Lori Beron

A pilgrimage is merely an external projection of an inward journey.

– Swami Veda Bharati.

After 2 weeks of profoundly relaxing subtle body practices at the shavasana/yoga nidra retreat; enjoying the exquisite celebrations of Navaratri and Easter; and blessed with meditations and individual practices from Swami Veda, seven other pilgrims and myself departed from Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) in Rishikesh for Delhi. Good thing we were immersed in peaceful states of consciousness for 2 weeks, as we now proceeded to begin our somewhat challenging journey to Sikkim. As it was a holiday weekend, traffic was heavier than usual, and what should have been a 6 hour drive turned into a 10 hour drive due to heavy traffic and a 1 hour traffic jam at a complete standstill. Amidst the obvious impatience with the situation, amazing people just got out of their cars and tried to help unclog the situation. Luckily my companions are humorous, witty, good natured, and kept the situation light! Everyone on this trip contributed to, and was concerned about the comfort and wellbeing of the other travelers and maintained a positive helpful attitude. One challenge for me was the wrong name on my airline ticket (who am I really? ;-) and of course some stomach issues, a story for another time.

The nearest airport to Sikkim is in Bagdogra, near Siliguri in North Bengal, a drive of approximately 5 hours. Traffic was thick and the air was heavy with exhaust fumes but as we got closer in the mountains the traffic and air cleared, the roads narrowed up, down and around the mountains along steep tiers. Ginger chews were shared gingerly for the occasional nauseating steep and sharp hairpin turns as the wheels of our Tempo bus inched next to the crumbling mountain side.

Gangtok, our first destination, is located in the eastern Himalayan range, at an elevation of 1,650 m /5,410 ft. The itinerary included Enchery Monastery, Tibetology Museum, Cottage industries, and Rumtek Monastery. We were very fortunate to meet up with Ani Pema, a Tibetan Buddhist nun (she lived in Minneapolis years ago and speaks great English) who gave us an extra special tour of Rumtek Monastery, home to a community of monks of the Kagyu lineage. A golden stupa contains the relics of the 16th Karmapa, a beautiful powerful place. I was especially drawn to the feminine Tara room which held 183 statues of the goddess. While in Gangtok, we were graciously treated to the absolutely lovely Sikkim hospitality at Ani Pema’s brother’s home (after changes in itineraries, and missed communications).  The churji (cheese) and the salty tea were memorable, as well as chapattis, and a delicious potato dish cooked by Ani’s sister in law.

Fortunate we were to have two feminine spiritual guides, Ani Pema and Swami Ma Radha guiding evening meditations and discussions at our hotel before retiring and generally contributing to the good energy of the trip.

Onward to Pelling, we drove through layers of gorgeous landscapes ascending and descending through tropical to alpine forests. Pelling is famous for its jaw-dropping view of Khangchendzonga at dawn, the third highest mountain in the world. Our hotel in Pelling has the most incredible view of Mount Khangchendzonga, not to mention blooming wisteria and magnolia and many other gorgeous plants! Most of us awoke before dawn to catch a glimpse of the peaks in the morning light. This area has a strong energy for meditating; we could actually sit on our beds and see the mountain peaks early in the morning.

Some of the most enjoyable times were randomly stopping the bus and walking around the mountains and lakes, smelling the air, and admiring the flowers and views. One of the lakes we visited, the sacred Khechipalri Lake, is said to be the footprint of the goddess Tara (it also has many Buddhist and Hindu legends). In Living with the Himalayan Masters, (page 3), Swami Rama describes the yogic wisdom and spirituality of the Himalayas …. “This ancient and rich tradition still exists there today as these unique mountains continue to whisper their spiritual glory to all who have an ear to hear”.

On a pilgrimage, Sadhakas enjoy basking in the energy of a spiritual place; but a pilgrimage is certainly not all bliss. Enduring a bit of friction and struggles paired with an inner observation and intentional sattvic disposition polishes and refines our journey both outwardly and within.

Go with the resolve: ‘After the pilgrimage, I shall be a higher self, purer, brighter, more stilled, more akin to my own interior divinity.’ –Swami Veda Bharati.

Written with love and gratitude for the Himalayan Tradition, all those at SRSG who quietly work to make visitors comfortable, Silvia at Sacred Site Seeing, and with love and respect for the mighty Himalayas sending prayers to all the countless people who are struggling with the effects of the Nepal earthquake and avalanches nearby ………..

Lori Beron



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