27th Dec 2011
I woke up at 4:45 am and was pretty excited about my first trip to Chinmaya Tapovan at Sidhabari (Kangra Dist, Himachal Pradesh). My friend Gaurav & Br. Suvirji dropped me at Ludhiana bus stop where I had to get my bus to Dharamshala. I was 30 minutes early at the stop and the temperature was one degree. Tea was like Amrut for me throughout my stay in Punjab since the past two weeks when the temperature was always in a single-digit number. I had a nice hot tea that kept me warm for a few minutes. At 6:30, our bus started. I was well-equipped physically (and mentally too) with an inner thermal wear, a sweater, another thick sweater over it, a pair of gloves, a muffler, woolen cap, double pair of socks and a shawl. While I sat in the bus, I took as much care to keep every part of my body inside the woolens. Despite the windows being closed, the winds managed to squeeze in through all the possible gaps. I had three rounds of my muffler over my ears and also had my woolen cap to cover it. Still, the cold air penetrated inside upto my spine. I felt very uncomfortable due to the freezing climate and struggled really hard to wrap myself up inside the woolen shawl to keep me warm. Finally, I realized that nothing’s going to change and I better divert my attention for the remaining 7 hours of travel.
I dozed off couple of times during the journey. Until we were in Punjab, it was very foggy. By the time we entered Himachal, the climate and scenery were different. Mountains started to appear from a distance. We had four halts of 15 minutes each at the Hoshiarpur, Dehra, Kangra and another stop before finally reaching Dharamshala at 2 pm. The place is more populated by monkeys than by humans. At every 5 feet on the roads of the ghats, we could see monkeys. This continued for many kilometers. They would stare at every vehicle, their eyes hoping for some throw away food. These many number of monkeys on the roads showed how much they must be falling short of food in their natural habitat that they all have to come on the roads.The landscape that we saw through the window cannot be described. The mountains just stood there to show their majestic look. The mountain sides adjoining the roads looked really strange (for me). They were full of round stones and they were protruding from the sides. These stones looked like the round stones that we usually find in streams. At Purana Kangra, we came across a stream (a river probably) that gushed with clear water over the grey stones. Kangra houses were roofed with black coloured slate which is a specialty of Himachal. At some places, we could see green fields bordered by grey stones, and in between there would be some huge trees. The beauty of that scenery was indescribable. Sometimes there would be a lot of trees together which had leaves in different shades of green, orange and brown standing erect with the magnificent mountains at in the background and clear blue skies above them. Mother Nature looked very blissful on all sides.
At Dharamshala, the bus conductor guided me to the bus that would go to Sidhabari where Chinmaya Tapovan ashram is located. I took the bus and got down at Sidhabari which was around 8 kms from Dharamshala. A man at the bus stop ¬¬¬¬guided me half the way to the ashram. I didn’t know that it was 1.5 kms walk from the bus stop. With my luggage and laptop, it was a walk indeed where I sweated (for the first time in this climate).
Finally, at 3:30, I reached the abode where my Gurudev rested (Swami Chinmayananda’s Samadhi). The giant Hanumanji’s statue stood in the ashram as its guard. I was very excited to go to him, meet his Master (Shri Ram’s temple at the ashram) and my beloved Gurudev. But before that, I had to satisfy my stomach so that it can supply enough energy to my mind and senses to enjoy the place. Luckily I got a room in the ‘Hanuman block’ which was just next to Hanumanji’s statue. My balcony faced the east where the deodar trees forested the land.
After lunch and a bath, I visited Gurudev’s Samadhi. As soon as I entered, I could feel Him. In His presence my mind calmed down and it was so easy to contemplate. I had wished for this moment since quite some time. After some time, I came out. Outside was the scene of the setting sun’s golden rays on the mountains that stood beside the Samadhi. As I write this now, I cannot recollect what was going on in my mind at the time. It was as if all thoughts had vanished and my heart was relishing the sight that was in front of me.
As I turned around, I found that Gurudev’s Kutiya (room) was open. When I had come, I realized that they keep it closed except for a few minutes before the evening Aarati at the Samadhi. I was so overjoyed that I even forgot to take off my shoes while I started walking towards His kutiya, until a lady told me. When I entered, I saw Ganesha’s big statue and a small Hanumanji’s statue next to him. I prayed for a minute before I turned to the right to see Gurudev’s photo placed on the chair where he used to sit. The photo was so alive that I could see Him talking to me. The whole room was filled with His presence. The experience was totally indescribable and if I attempt it that would be nowhere near to what I felt. I sat there as if I was sitting in His lap and I knew that He was there, looking at me, talking to me, asking me something…
Very soon Lakshmiji, the incharge of the Kutiya, called my name because it was time for Aarati and to close the Kutiya. I left the room with tears (of joy) in my eyes and went to the Samadhi where the Aarati was about to begin. After the aarati, there was aarati at the Ram Mandir and then Hanuman Chalisa chanting at Hanumanji’s big statue. But I skipped both of them because my back muscles started getting frozen and stiff due to cold. A volini cream came to my rescue and I lied on my bed covered under the blanket reading the Dec 2011 issue of Tapovan Prasad (International Spiritual monthly magazine of Chinmaya Mission). This issue was dedicated to Swami Tapovan Maharaj (Swami Chinmayananda’s teacher) and featured many of his articles and letters. Reading them at this great place had a different impact.
At 8:30pm I went (shivering) to Annakshetra (Dining Hall) for dinner and was back in 20 minutes or so. All the while, I could experience a deep silence as though I’m the only person in the whole ashram. No sounds…no movement of the trees…no winds…it was not a dead silence, rather, a silence of peace.
With Gurudev in my mind, I slept early around 10.