There is a dirt road that follows the banks of the Ganga lined with cactus and blooming bushes. Cows and dogs play cuteness games to compete for scraps from the humans that pass with warm butter cookies in their hands. There are small shacks with large yards full of flowers, wood piles and cows that are surrounded by gates all along this road. They are homes given to sadhus by the ashram that owns them for them to live in until they die, when possession will be passed along to another sadhu. You can hear the roar of the Ganga and see her rocky shoreline from this road about fifty feet above her. It is the place of legends, where Sivananda held his unbroken meditation for years and was not the first, nor the last master to do so. I walked by one gate and was attracted by the white cows walking into the yard. I went to check to see if one was my favorite cow Beatrice to pass her a butter cookie I had saved in my pocket. It wasn’t her, but instead I attracted the attention of an old man inside the yard wearing all white robes and with three lines of yellow sandalwood paste on his forehead.
I suspect that in my all white robes with matching white turban and chuni (which looks like the white bridal veils worn in western weddings), I was enough of a curiosity to rouse him from his normal routine of privacy. My friend Ramprakash, who speaks fluent Hindi, was walking along with me and the sadhu called out to him and gestured to me. A conversation which I didn’t understand ensued, but I caught enough to get that he was explaining that I was a Kundalini yoga teacher at Parmarth Niketan and that it was a yoga of the Sikhs (thus explaining the Adi Shakti symbol I had on the pin that fastened my chuni). My name was Ramdesh, he explained, and his was Ramprakash. The sadhu responded for awhile and then my friend turned to translate. “He says that wherever you see Ramdesh (God’s Land) there is Ramprakash (God’s Light). He wants to tell you that you should keep teaching and keep learning. You will shine a lot of light in the world.” The old sadhu talked about many things, including about how when the cows in town are sick, they are brought to him and he takes care of them, so to let him know if I see a cow that needs help. My heart melted. Anyone who takes care of the sweet natured cows here gets an A in my book. It was time for aarti by the river, time for our evening prayers of chanting the Hanuman Chalisa, so we said our goodbyes.
It occurs to me that his message had nothing to do with what I am doing here in Rishikesh in so far as it being me personally or teaching yoga at an ashram. He was not trying to build up my ego, nor should I allow his message to do so. We can all say to anyone that we meet, “You should keep teaching and keep learning.” We should all be able to see the truth in each other and say with confidence, “You will shine a lot of light in the world.” If we all live up to the potential that lies within our hearts, our lives would effortlessly unfold in cycles of being a student, a teacher and always a light. It is our truth. We can turn off the switch if we want to, but it still is our potential as light bulbs to shine when the switch is turned on.
Look around you…can you see a budding flower, a strong tree, the blue sky, a white cloud? Is there a crack in the sidewalk where a little green blade of grass bravely peeks through? Even in the wreckage of a war, there is life. There is the wind. There is the moon and a sunset and a dawn. God’s Land is everywhere. And when you can see God’s Land, then you will see God’s Light. And then you see the light.