India offers travellers its ancient culture, beautiful scenery, endless temples and ashrams – but there is something even more profound that is bound to cause a shift within the intrepid traveler. The sheer density of India’s population embodies both the best and worst of humanity; it is able to invoke our highest inspiration and call forth our deepest compassion, while imploring us to address sustainability issues that will soon be facing the whole planet.
This month, UPLIFT sponsored a special group of diverse individuals from around the world to leave their busy lives and converge in India. These individuals include poet Prince Ea and biologist Bruce Lipton, along with an international cast of writers and media-makers from the UPLIFT Team. Upon arrival in India, our group had the honor of attending the International Yoga Festival at Parmarth Niketan Ashram on the Ganges River in Rishikesh.
The journey of awakening had started even before I left home, as I researched the immunisation shots I needed to ensure that I stayed healthy. This alone was an eye-opener for me, as a westerner, to consider how much we take for granted regarding health, sanitation, and the spread of disease.
The full embrace of One Source
If I had the choice to meet with Obama, Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson or Mooji, I would pick Mooji.
– Prince Ea
The mystical dimension of spirituality is love and truth; the practical side of this is understanding that we are ultimately not separate from that which surrounds us. This reflection is itself divine when we take in the beautiful architecture, the clothing, the country-side. When we have the honor to meet a sadhu, a swami, or enjoy satsang in an ancient temple with an enlightened master… yet this reflection is incomplete. There is another reflection that is harder to look at: the poverty, illness, pollution, and over-population; the subsequent suffering these things create. The full embrace of all these things is love, where the joy and sorrow of truth is fused with the universal solvent: compassion.
The option to “look away” is getting harder for all of us. Even if we don’t travel abroad we will see the imminent issues facing humanity in the news or on social media. The acceleration of all things, divine and appalling are calling us to be present; to up our game; to become spiritual warriors in the knowing that our liberation is entwined with everything and everyone around us. Bharat Mitra, Visionary Founder of Organic India, and UPLIFT calls this phenomena One Source Waking Up.
Outside the comfort-zone
Crowded, narrow streets with markets, fruit stands, clothing, and slow-moving cows are contrasted by people zipping through on motor-scooters. Monkeys scamper on ledges above merchants, waiting for an opportunity to cause trouble, while tourists snap pictures and beggars respectfully hold out their hand. The sounds of chanting, honking horns, and the smell of incense in the air overwhelms one with a chaos that gently invites a surrender to the flow. Travel always challenges our sense of control and reminds us that life exists outside the walls of our comfort-zone. This is central to spiritual growth.
India, like the Ganges herself, is a flowing river of ancient wisdom to quench the whole world. This culture is the birthplace of yoga, and the source of so many practices that benefit people everywhere in their quest for spiritual evolution. A short walk from Parmarth Niketan Ashram down the river is the Maharishi Mahesh Ashram where The Beatles first experienced and brought eastern philosophy to the world through their music.
Into the real-world
With it’s booming population and growing economy, India has a powerful role on the world stage. These modern forces are needing to interface with spiritual values to address issues of health, hygiene, and sustainability. Parmarth Niketan spiritual leader, Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswati is leading the charge with his active engagement in the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance, alongside other spiritual leaders like the Dalai Lama. This hands-on initiative is educating people about the importance of hygiene, working to clean the watershed, building toilets, and employing sustainable solutions to address impending crises. Spirituality is more than meditation and prayer, it is built on a foundation of real-world work.
An estimated 5 billion people across the world are members of religious communities, underscoring the critical role religious leaders can play in addressing seemingly intractable problems – such as access to safe water and sanitation. The Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA) is world’s first initiative that is engaging the planet’s many faiths as allies in efforts to create a world where every human being has access to safe drinking water, improved sanitation and proper hygiene.
Even tourists have the capacity to roll up their sleeves and participate in a cross-cultural effort to make a meaningful difference. Spirituality is enriched when we stare problems in the face and show up with a desire to serve. Our small travelling group is here for adventure, personal growth, to make friends, and develop our working relationships; to spread the word through media about the immense opportunities that await us all as we work together to tackle these local and global issues. India has shared it’s treasures with the world and now we have the chance to give something back and create something beautiful in the process.
A journey to India will certainly inspire tremendous spiritual growth but it can also become much more. Gone are the days that we pass through places as though watching a movie, it is time to tune in to what these places have to offer and generously reflect on what we have to offer in return. The problems facing India will be facing the whole world before long if we do not make the effort to create solutions now. We can hop on a plane and fly around the world, we can communicate at the speed of light through the internet and so too we can employ the ancient sacred teachings to creatively integrate them with our best technology. We stand at a potent and exciting time in history, what role will you play in the unfolding?