A Journey to India – Part 4 – Kakrighat

From Nainital we started the journey towards Kakrighat to visit the ashram where Sombari Baba spent his time during the winter. Getting to this ashram was a bit more problematic as the road was in worse condition than the roads to the previous ashrams we had visited. It took an hour before we reached our destination because there was a lot of construction work at this time. Even though it took a long time for us to get there, it felt positive that they were working on improving the accessibility to this particular place.

Eventually we arrived at our destination. While outside we became very unsure if it was open to visitors since the gate was closed. Fortunately, we noticed that there was a small door on the gate that could be opened. We stepped into the area and were greeted by a smaller garden. Shortly thereafter we came to the temple area. We stepped in and met two temple caretakers who seemed incredibly happy to see us. They explained that this was the place where Sombari Baba and Neem Karoli Baba spent their time when they were alive.

We felt a huge calm inside of us when we visited this place. The time stopped and an inner peace emerged. We walked around and were met by the huge tree found in the middle of this temple. Under this tree, Sombari Baba used to sit while he was at this location. It felt unreal to sit in the same place as this incredible saint had sat.

I sat down to meditate. This particular day I felt sick and had a fever so it was very hard to for me to go into my meditation. Suddenly it was as if a voice came to me saying that I should go down to the river and wash myself. Sombari Baba always asked his visitors to wash themselves in the river before they stepped into the area. I was ashamed that I forgot to do this and immediately went down to the river. I cleaned my face, arms and legs. As I stepped out of the river, all feelings of fever disappeared and I did not feel sick anymore. I felt as if it was Sombari Baba who had made me recover and I felt incredible grateful.

We spent a few of hours in the area and we bathed in the feelings of well being that this place gave us. It was so soothing to be in this place and my faith to Sombari Baba became even stronger.

Within this temple there was also a section dedicated to Neem Karoli Baba. When he was alive he wished that a temple would be built at this spot because Sombari Baba had stayed here. It is the Kainichi Dham ashram who is responsible for preserving this place, demonstrating the incredible reverence that Neem Karoli Baba felt for Sombari Baba.

Inside the temple there was a statue of Neem Karoli Baba and pictures from when he was alive. Being able to feel the presence of these two amazing saints in one place was powerful. This location has left a memory for life and we long for the next time we will get the opportunity to visit this temple again.

Nearby there is also a temple dedicated to Swami Vivekananda so we decided to visit this place as well. Unfortunately, it was in very bad condition, but they were working hard to restore it. At this place Swami Vivekananda had one of the most important experiences of his life. He saw how the whole inner and outer world is one and that God exists in everything. It was while meditating under a tree that he gained this strong experience, and around this tree they have built this ashram. Unfortunately, the tree is no longer there since it died but they took a sapling from it and it’s slowly growing tall again. Hopefully, the new tree will be a place where more people will experience the same amazing experienced that Swami Vivekananda had.

A Journey to India – Part 2 – Hanuman Gadh

When we planned our trip to India, that is, we who run this site, Tobias and Magnus Ahlberg, we both wanted to visit Kainchi Dham. It is the ashram that is most associated with the Indian guru Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Maharaj-ji. The guru that Richard Alpert, or Ram Dass, made famous for the western world. It was there Ram Dass and other Westerners such as Krishna Das spent a lot of their time when they visited Neem Karoli Baba back in the 60s and 70s, and it was the first location we went to when we arrived at the small city of Nainital up in the Himalayan mountains. Kainchi Dham is just a few miles away from the city and you can read about our visit there in this article: A Trip To India – Part 1 – Kainchi Dham

We have both been drawn to Maharaj-ji for quite some time, especially the unconditional love he showed humanity. He had no big complex teachings but kept it simple. Love people, serve people and remember God. This was his small, but yet great teaching. Often he answered questions with “Sub ek,” all is one. You do not need to know much more than that in order to reach God.

Kainchi Dham was one of the biggest reasons we traveled to India in the first place. However, we also wanted to visit some other places in the area that we felt drawn to as well, but the place we will describe now was actually added to our list of visits mostly because it was close to Nainital and we had some time left in our schedule. None of us knew much about the place or felt any special attraction towards it.

Just outside of Nainital is the first temple that Neem Karoli Baba established located, called Hanuman Gadh. We knew there were more temples than Kainchi Dham where Maharaj-ji and his followers used to stay at and felt that this place could be fun to visit when it was quite close to our hotel. We had no idea what it looked like since we had not seen any pictures of it or read much about it.

The temple does not look like much from the outside. You mostly see some walls and an entrance, but inside the temple you are met by an mesmerizing and beautiful environment. The first thing you encounter when you enter is a large majestic statue of Hanuman, the Indian monkey god that Maharaj-ji is closely associated to, a statue that instantly leads you a connection to the divine.

The temple was also much larger than we expected and is located beautifully up in the mountains overlooking the valley. As we walked around, we quickly fell into a quiet harmonious peace. The temple was a place far more beautiful than expected. It was love at first sight. We strolled around while our smiles grew by the minute. It was a place where Maharaj-ji’s presence was strong. A place we want to return to again. Hanuman Gadh surpassed all the expectations we had before the visit.

The most beautiful room in the temple is where Maharaj-ji’s image stands. A beautifully decorated room with pictures on Maharaj-ji along the walls and a statue of him at the front. The gate in to the room was closed, but one of the temple workers let us in and said that if we liked, we could sing some kirtan. We stepped in, showed our reverence for Maharaj-ji, and then sat down in front of the murti, the statue of Maharaj-ji. We meditated for a while and then sang Krishna Das’s prayer to his guru, the beautiful song “Om Namo Gurudev.” Time slowed down, love flowed into us, but most of all the feeling of gratefulness. After a while we bowed again for this big man and started our walk back to the hotel.

That same evening when we returned to the hotel we saw a beautiful display of fireworks over at Hanuman Gadh. It turned out they were celebrating Ram Dass’s birthday that just happened to meet the day of our visit. Suddenly it became very clear to us how important Ram Dass have been for the temples in the area and how revered he is by the people there. We felt a deep gratitude for Ram Dass for inderectly bringis us to this place. For him showing the way for so many of us. To Maharaj-ji, to God.

We also talk about Hanuman Gadh in Episode 15 of our podcast.

Episode 15 – Journey to India – Kainchi Dham & Hanuman Ghari

In the beginning of 2017 we visited India for three weeks. Our first destination was the famous Neem Karoli Baba ashram called Kainchi Dham. It was a very special moment for the both of us and it showed us that Maharaj-ji is very much alive in spirit.

We also made our way to Hanuman Ghari and we’re presently surprised how beautiful this ashram was.

A Journey to India – Part 1 – Kainchi Dham

We traveled to India in 2017, and in this article series we will share what we experienced in a variety of places. Prior to this journey we had read a lot about Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Maharaj-ji, so we had a big attraction towards visiting the various ashrams he stayed at. Above all, we felt a very strong pull towards Kainchi Dham where he lived in the later part of his life. If you do not know about Maharaj-ji then you can read our previous post “Neem Karoli Baba”  which explains who he was.

We took a taxi from Nainital and drove on the twirly road that take you towards Kainchi. When we arrived, it felt a bit unreal that we were really there. I looked at the temple from a distance for a few minutes just to let it sink in. When we took our first steps in the temple a sense of peace came over me. It was as if time stopped and any worries no longer existed.

As I sat in front of the statue of Maharaj-ji, I got a strange feeling that it was alive. To some extent, it felt like I was sitting in front of him even though he had left the physical body. As I looked around and saw nature around me, I got a strong feeling that he’s in everything. I could feel him in the mountains, in the water and in the air. Even though he is not in the physical body, he still felt present.

I closed my eyes to meditate on his presence. After a while it was like he grabbed me and said, “Let go.” I had had similar experiences a few times earlier, and once again I felt how my identification with Tobias Ahlberg started to leave me. Unfortunately, I made the same mistake as I had before, not daring to let go fully. After a while I opened my eyes and began to walk around in the temple trying to get a picture of how it was when Maharaj-ji still was in his body. It was great to be there and get an idea of he place where he had received so many seekers.

I felt I wanted to sit down somewhere undisturbed so I sat by the wall at the very end of the temple and then I closed my eyes. I went into myself and just gave up all expectations. Instead, I allowed myself to just be. Perhaps Maharaj-ji’s energy was still in the walls of Kainchi Dham, or I just created an excuse to find myself in the now, but the next moment I opened my eyes, I felt a great peace within me. I needed nothing more than my existence to feel happiness. Once in this state, I saw how others met my eyes differently. They could see the peace that was within me and I could see it within them too.

We stayed until the closing ceremony and took part in the tribute to Maharaj-ji. It was a very nice ending to the stay at the temple before we went back to Nainital. On my way home, I felt very harmonious and grateful because I had come to know the place where Maharaj-ji had lived.

Magnus Experience:

We visited Kainchi Dham on two occasions during the week we were in Nainital. During the first day, I let myself be absorbed by the energy the place had to offer. It did not take long for me to feel an inner peace within me after walking for a while at the place where Maharaj-ji spent so much time. The beautiful statue of Maharaj-ji made the biggest impression on me. It felt almost alive, like he was sitting there before me and in any second would begin to move.

The second occasion we visited Kainchi Dham would be a memory for life. Even before we went there I had a strong intuitive feeling that I should go back there once more. It had been a few days since we were there the first time and we had visited several places in between, places we will describe in the coming parts of this article series. When we arrived at the temple there were a lot more people there than the last time. The first time we were almost alone, but now it was a lot of visitors meditating or wandering around. After I had meditated for a while inside Maharaj-ji’s room, I sat with down with a group of people and meditated with them in front of the statue of Maharaj-ji. For some reason, I did not feel peaceful enough to sit with closed eyes and meditate, so I opened my eyes a fixed them on Maharaj-ji’s picture in front of me, and began to sing. I sang Krishna Das prayer to his guru, “Om Namo Gurudev.” It’s a beautiful song dedicated to Neem Karoli Baba. In some way it felt like the right thing to sing it directly to him.

After a while when I sang, something started to happen within me. Tears began to flow from my eyes, the voice burst while I sang and the feelings of his love flowing into me overwhelmed me. After a while, the tears exchanged for a giggle I could not hold back. I felt how my level of consciousness was raised at a rapid pace. I no longer felt a need to sit down so I walked around feeling high and feeling completely free. I could feel how the energies in my body and the surroundings flowed. Everything I looked at was so beautiful, so divine. I felt drunk on God. It was a state completely different from my normal state of mind, but still everything was alike. I went to our friend Niklas who was with us on the trip and he immediately saw what state of being I was in, because he was there too. We shared the joy together for what we experienced.

When I entered this state of being, I suddenly realized why I had felt a need to go back here again, it was to trigger this experience. After this realization I had no need to stay any longer. Niklas was also ready to go and Tobias had already left the temple and was talking to some people at the entrance. On my way out of the temple, I suddenly met an Indian mans gaze. When our eyes met, we looked at each other with big smiles and nodded silently to each other. I saw that he saw what state of being I was in, and I knew intuitively that he was in it too. I understood the true meaning of namaste, “I bow down to the divine in you.” This state of being lasted for about an hour before I landed in my normal self again, but nothing was alike. Something had happened within me. Something big.

We also talk about Kainichi Dham in Episode 15 of our podcast.

Kirtan with Krishna Das

One of my dreams has always been to attend a kirtan with Krishna Das. I don’t know how many hours I have spent listening to his music. It always fills me with a sense of joy and understanding that everything is alright. Krishna Das music has also been the main factor behind many of my spiritual experiences. As I sit and listen to the music I tend to float away and where I end up is always different. Due to this I was eager to experience his kirtan in person. I looked at his website and noticed that he had schedule his yearly heart of devotion kirtan & workshop in New York. I knew I had to take this opportunity. I could no longer wait until he might cross the sea to play in Europe. I booked my flight ticket and headed to New York. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t want to get my expectations up so I’d end up disappointed.

Finally the day was here. I was about to see Krishna Das live for the very first time. I arrived at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew well in advance to get good seats. Luckily I was able to get seats on the front row, sitting just a few meters away from him. The concert started with the special guest Baird Hersey and Prana singing a few songs. It was really beautiful and I was glad I got to experience their music as well. But as they said themselves, we were all waiting for the King of Kirtan. He finally took the stage and sang the wonderful song My Foolish Heart. I could instantly feel the vibration in Krishna Das voice. It touched my very being. After the song he sat down at his harmonium and begun with the Hanuman Prayer. Directly at the first Ohm I felt something. A space was created within me. A space where only the kirtan and my awareness existed. Time and space ceased to exist and I was floating in infinity.

As the kirtan began I started singing along. In this moment I could feel Maharaj-jis presence. Everything else ceased to exist and I could feel only his presence. There was no thoughts that would interrupt. I just kept my eyes closed since I felt that it enhanced the experience. I was in my own cocoon where I took in the experience of God chanting and God responding. But the cocoon I was in was not only mine. It was the space of everyone in the room. With the chanting everything merged into one. There was no separation in the space. It was a hundred times stronger than what I experienced listening to Krishna Das on my stereo. My state of awareness was something beyond that.

The kirtan practice give you an opportunity to forget everything else and enter into your divinity. But it also create an opportunity for practice. As the evening progressed I noticed I couldn’t stay there indefinitely. Sometimes my thoughts came in the way and sometimes my body ached which made me come out of it. The same goes for life. There’s always something trying to take away from your true self. The more we can find ourselves within our divine space, which become so apparent during kirtan, the more joy and happiness we can find in our lives.

The strongest experience during the whole evening was when the band performed one of Krishna Das newer songs called Om Namo Gurudev. As the chants to Maharaj-ji kept repeating I just felt how my heart opened up. Finally I could not hold it back anymore. The tears just started bursting out of me. But it was not tears of sadness, it was tears of joy. I just felt how my life, my existence, the whole universe was a product of the grace of Maharaj-ji. Being able to experience life was all due to his grace. Every precious moment I owe to him. I owe to God. Even though there were so many people in the room I could not hold back my tears, nor did I want to. These were tears of gratitude and I did not want to hide them from anyone.

As the evening progressed I experienced such genuine joy. People were singing, dancing and there was a smile on every person around me. I remember thinking to myself, I wish I could do this every day of my life. If people would know the feeling that Krishna Das create with his music there would be much less sorrow in the world. I felt so thankful and happy that I would experience it again the next day.

During the workshop there were less people which created a closer feeling. People were asking questions to him and with his answers you could sense the authenticity within him. He was doing all of this from his heart. Krishna Das was very honest with his answers, which I really appreciated. He gave you an answers that made you think instead of giving you what you only want to hear.

I especially enjoyed his stories of Maharaj-ji. He was able to create a glimpse of who this wonderful saint was. Throughout these two days what was amazing was that you could actually feel Maharaj-ji. In the voice and the music Maharaj-ji was dancing. With every answer during the workshop you could sense a lot of it came from the wisdow Krishna Das gather during his time with Maharaj-ji.

I left New York with such great experiences and I had learned so much. Whenever I think back of these two days it brings a smile to my face and I can feel Maharaj-ji within my heart.

Thank you Krishna Das!

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