Benares - a journey into the soul

  • Sarah Berry | New Delhi

    March 16, 2017 | 01:05 PM

(PHOTO: Subrata Dutta/SNS)

This is a journey to remember, and it all began when pain pushed my life to take a new curve.

Pain, whether physical, emotional or mental, is never easy to manage – for various reasons, one of which being not knowing how to accept and deal with the same. Actually, pain is a journey of the mind, body and soul, attributed to karma – whether past or present.

My experience with pain and its varied forms has been a long journey – one which taught me to retrospect, reflect and introspect. It was during this time of restless meandering that my ‘calling’ came. I never dreamt of ever visiting Benares, not for any specific reason, but just for the fact that it was never on my radar of travel destinations. So, when countless remedies of pain minimization and elimination did not work, including spa and wellness destinations, I suddenly felt the need to travel to this holy city. There was no agenda. There were no contacts. But, as if the universe planned the trip for me, the elements all fell in line.

I stayed at the Krishnamurthi Study Center and Retreat at Rajghat, which, in itself, was an eye opener. Initially, the sharp contrast of the city’s chaos and the quiet and calm of the center was challenging, but then came understanding and acceptance – of the fact that each element was a world in itself and possessed its own unique aspects. The suggestion of visiting the Ghats came up as a mandatory ‘tourist’ attraction – a holy place, one just had to pay a visit to. Little did I anticipate the change it would bring in me. Contemplating if my pain would even allow me to undertake the journey, an actually simple one for any other individual, I decided that I did not have anything to loose. Perhaps, the trip would serve as a ‘distraction’ to the pain. The rains had not made the path to board the rickety boat any easier. I struggled with my pair of unsuitable shoes, soaked in mud by the time I managed to clutter onto the boat, almost hanging onto the sides for dear life. The journey was with two friends, whom though I met only 24 hours ago, seemed to have been somehow connected with me since eternity.

Why does one meet only a certain group of people in this whole wide world? Why is it that some people, you are associated with for almost a lifetime, still seem like strangers?Why is it that a yesterday’s acquaintance feels like a soul, who has journeyed with you through several life times? Our journey oscillated between light-hearted conversation and between sudden solemnness. The sound of the paddles splashing in the water, the distance chants and the countless thoughts were acatalytic combination for an inward journey.

What was even more like an awakening was the passage of our boat parallel to the Ghats. The city seemed in total acceptance of the cycles of birth and rebirth, of life and death. The HarishchandraGhat, which struck a deep chord with me, awakened me from my slumber, my cocoon of pain in which I had embroiled myself, by showing me plainly the brevity of life. The cremations, in their various stages, with the hustle bustle of life encircling the ‘passed away souls’ just goes to prove that life just goes on, waiting for none. And then, as if entering a new world, after a brief pause, our boat parked itself at a little distance from the DashashwamedhGhat, located close to the Vishwanath Temple. My thoughts could, however, not disengage themselves from the earlier view, even though a part of me was already looking forward to the Ganga Aarti. The world is in a flux, as we all are – wanting and thinking something at one point in time and space, with the very same changing the very next moment.

The Aarti was a blessing for the soul, food for the mind and treat for the senses. The synchronization, the chants, the Bhakti and the Aradhana all took me to another level – a level of acceptance of, and adaptation to my being.

When the magic was physically over, and we began to hurriedly move out, I still carried the sounds and sights with me. It was a quiet journey back, as if my fellow travellers and I had relived life all over again. As it began to drizzle, and we huddled under umbrellas, walking through the streets and lanes, the darkness seemed blessed, for it is always followed by light. I realized, for the first time, that pain is a journey too, not matter how intense, how deep and how long a duration – it is a journey, with precious lessons to be learnt. As Rumi said“And you? When will you begin that journey into yourself?”

THE STATESMAN PULSE

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