A small group of us just returned from a glorious trip to Varanasi, Kolkata, and Serampore—all places known for their holiness, and filled with events sacred to our line of gurus. Everywhere we saw and experienced the joyful celebration of God in many things that is characteristic of life in India, a celebration not somber and serious, but filled with exuberance.
The evening we arrived in Varanasi, we visited the ashram of Ananda Moyi Ma, the great woman saint about whom Yoganandaji writes in Autobiography of a Yogi. We meditated there on the balcony overlooking the Ganges next to the room where Ma did puja to her beloved image of Krishna, and in her small bedroom. As we sat quietly, a small boy appeared and began doing cartwheels, laughing all the while. How pleased Ma must have been, I thought, to have so much joy expressed before her.
Early the next morning we visited the home of Lahiri Mahasaya, where he lived, initiated people into Kriya, and left his body. Though the building is locked, there is a large stone bench across the narrow lane on which we sat to meditate. Despite the steady stream of people walking to work, children on their way to school, and noisy motorcycles, we felt a deep inner stillness.
At a certain point, I opened my eyes to see that many of those passing by stopped at Lahiri’s door and touched it to take his blessings. A motorcycle driven by a father with his three children on their way to school also stopped, and each one took blessings. What a wonderful way to start the school day!
Our time in Kolkata was one long celebration with Yoganandaji and his disciples. Our wonderful center leaders there, Dithi and Alok, along with a team of devotees, have renovated the house of Master’s boyhood friend, Tulsi Bose. It’s quite near to Master’s family home, and it is at the Bose house that Guruji spent most of his days as a teenager.
Made holy by visits from great saints like Sri Yukteswar, Ananda Moyi Ma, and Vivekananda, and by the many holy relics from Babaji and our line of gurus, the house is beautifully kept now, with all the relics carefully placed in glass cases. Here we all chanted and meditated with the Kolkata devotees, and felt awash with joy.
Next we stopped at the Ghosh family home at 4 Gurpar Road, and were lovingly hosted by Master’s great-nephew, Somnath, and his wife Sarita. After meditating in the little attic room where Yoganandaji tells us he “first found God,” we were served a delicious homemade lunch. One of our group said, “It felt like a family reunion.”
After a few more days of public events in Kolkata, we took a beautiful boat ride on the Ganges at twilight to Serampore. It is here, on the riverbank, that the banyan tree still stands where Babaji appeared to Sri Yukteswar and where Sri Yukteswar’s ashram is located. As we walked to our hotel, we stopped to pray at the holy tree.
At this time of year, it is customary to celebrate Durga Puja, a ten-day holiday in honor of Durga, the goddess of strength, determination, victory, and wisdom. As part of the festival, large images of Durga are fashioned out of clay, beautifully painted and decorated, and then immersed in the Ganges to let her dissolve back into the Infinite.
As we prayed at the banyan tree, many groups of people carrying their images of Durga released her into the river lovingly, laughingly, joyfully. What a beautiful moment it was!
So many blessings have come thus far on our trip, but the main insight I want to share with you is this: The path to God can be a celebration, a joyful release of all that we are into the infinite arms of God. Yes, we need determination to continue, but don’t forget to celebrate God’s presence every step of the way. This is what draws us closer to Him.
With joy and blessings to you,
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