Just as the sound of Om permeates the universe, the fame of the city of Varanasi spreads across the globe as the home of Lord Shiva. Blessed are they who visit the sacred city of Kashi, blessed are they who bath in the Mother Ganga and even more blessed are those who shed their mortal coil in the city where people travel to die. It is said that if you die in Varanasi, or even if your ashes are spread there, that your souls journey will come to an end.
Traveling to Varanasi this year was a great treat for me, I had just turned 40 and it was the first time in many years that I was coming by myself and the best part of all was that I was coming as a pilgrim. I was not coming just to visit old family friends in the house where I spent my childhood, while my parents studied music and the art of survival. I came because I had been sent by my supreme teacher, Bhagavan Sri Satya Sai Baba and I was feeling at a crossroads in my own spiritual progress and path. I needed change.
In Varanasi, in the neighborhood of Ravindrapuri not far from Assi, lies the Kinaram Baba temple. Kinaram Baba was a 16th century Aghori who helped many people and his lineage has ben passed down over the centuries. Instead of thousands of pilgrims pushing each other to get to the front of the line like in other temples, this place is quiet and serene. One can feel the vibrations of the 400 year old fire that has been kept burning and the connection to the cremation grounds nearbye is kept flowing by the distribution of ash that comes from the leftovers of the funeral pyre. Sitting in this sacred place slowed down mind and thought, giving me respite from all of the following I had been doing.
Growing up on the banks of the Ganges river, playing with children amongst the sounds of classical indian music floating into the summer nights in the form of rhythmic ragas as we chased floating kites and ran past ash smeared babas blessing's into the laughing arms of our parents. I was raised in the ever expansive presence of Mahadeva, Lord Shiva. He was always with us, in our air, our food, our love, our speech and our devotion. People would start a conversation with Namaste, saluting the god within one and then end with Om Namah Shivaya to say good bye. Music, dance, theatre, painting, skits, comedy, imitation, these were the things I grew up with. Going to different temples, meeting mystics and pulling their beards was a normal thing for me.. Varanasi has always been warm,welcoming and deeply spiritual for me. Its were I learned to touch the frame of the temple door when I walked in, where I observed my fellow worshippers and followed their lead. We would go through muslim areas, visit sikh friends and wish merry christmas to the christian neighbors.
And then there was the side of Varanasi that I saw as a young adult. The constant ganja smoking, the gossiping, the envy,lying and cheating. The cocky walk of rising stars and the falling slide of old ones trying to hold on to past glory. Loud aggressive behavior, make people wrong first, so you ca be right. This was the city of Shiva, everything is prefect, take what you need, opium, hash, whisky? You can even go to the temple of Kal Bhairav and offer it to him first.. Bom Bom Bolenath!