The early morning light cast shimmering shades of turquoise and crystalline blue on the rushing river and floating mists. Even at the usually quiet time of dawn, you could hear the pulsating, all-pervasive roar of AUM as the water’s ceaseless energy moved past us. The Ganges north of Rishikesh is one of the most spectacular and spiritually powerful sights we’ve ever seen.
As we watched it, the river seemed to be telling us many things: of the constant change that is part of life; of the joy that comes when we enter into its flow; of the eternal consciousness that pervades everything. Within the roaring sound of AUM, I began to hear one of Swami Kriyananda’s songs form in my mind:
Life flows on like a river
That homes to the sea:
One hour bounding through mountain vales,
One hour winding through a lea.
The river’s currents were quite varied, like the different times of our lives. Some rushed forward joyfully, tossing white foam into the air. Others looked treacherous as they moved past with unstoppable power and indifference to anything in their way. Then there were the slower currents near the banks that seemed discouraged that they couldn’t escape from the rocks, eddies, and debris blocking them. But all of the currents, each in its own way, were moving forward towards the great ocean of Spirit.
Then this stanza of the song came into my mind:
None may linger on the way:
None may coax time to stay!
Fleeting scenes move by us like a dream.
Cling not: none will be your own.
As I gazed at the river, joyful memories of loving friendships, achievements, and fulfillments passed before my eyes, as well as disappointments, losses, and regrets. Onward they all flowed, insubstantial in themselves, dissolving in the eternal current of consciousness beneath all of life’s experiences.
Finally the last stanza echoed above the river’s roar:
Never grieve to be alone.
Go within you: There’s your home.
One particular spot on the Ganges drew our attention. Amidst the turbulent rush of the river, there was an oval pool of calm water in the middle, untouched by the currents surrounding it. Like our mind when calmed in meditation, the pool remained unruffled no matter what was happening around it. “Go within,” Swami seemed to be saying to us. “There lies your home of peace amidst life’s constant ups and downs.”
Which was more powerful: the Ganges’ restless currents or its calm pool? For each of us, the stillness of our soul, untouched by outward events, is the most powerful force of peace and guidance for navigating the ceaseless challenges and changes of life.
When you read this, we’ll have already left India and ended our travels here for the year. But some things are beyond time and space, and these I’ll carry away within me: the quiet depth of the Ganges’ oval pool, and the breadth of divine love that shines beneath the surface of everyone and everything we experience.
With joy in the great river of life,
P.S. You might enjoy listening to this recording of Swami Kriyananda singing, “Life Flows On like a River” (2:47):