It is difficult to understand today’s Rishikesh without some historical perspecitve. The name Rishikesh means: Place of Saints. But how did this come about? Rishikesh and Haridwar have been spiritual places since time immemorial, and have been immortalized in the great Indian epic The Mahabarata. There it is related that Lord Rama did pennance in Rishikesh for killing Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. Lord Rama’s younger brother Lakshmana crossed the Ganga on a jute robe bridge at the place where Laxman Jhula stands today. The robe bridge was replaced in 1889 by one of iron chord. It was washed away in the flood of 1924, and was replaced by the current one, still known as “Laxman Bridge” for the ancient one who crossed there so long ago.
Haridwar’s various names tell us that it is an old Shiva and Vishnu place. It is considered one of the main holy centres of India, and is one of the four places that hosts the Khumba Mela. It is also the gateway to the main pilgrimage sites further up the Himalayas towards the source of the Ganga.
Rishikesh, being just up the river, was the undeveloped wild where yogis could practice near the Ganga in peace and solitude, often inhabiting the caves that dot the mountains on both sides.
And so it is at present that the many established ashrams and yoga centres attract practioners from around the world who come to study, or just to soak up the harmonious vibes that still exist here.
How long will you puzzle
Over this idea or that?
When the truth is so simple:
It's simply where you're at.
Drop the thoughts
That never cease,
Nor quit their games
With Nature's peace.
They are a train
Without an end-
Of its own accord
As it is what it is
Not so long ago, the Beatles put Rishikesh "on the map". The year was 1968, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his TM movement- transcendental meditation - was all the rage. Meditation of all kinds was the "in thing" to be doing. The Beatles famously spent a couple of weeks with him at his place. Abandoned in 1997, it is now back under the control of the state forestry department, but the shells of many buildings, meditation cells and lecture halls still stand, including Maharishi's own house and the guesthouse where the Beatles stayed. This historical ashram is now monitored by security guards and officially no one is allowed to enter the premises.
The Maharishi died at age 90 in the Netherlands. The Beatles Cathedral Gallery was a community art project dedicated to the artistic re-activation of the Satsang Hall in the abandoned ashram. The project launched in April of 2012, only to be shut down two weeks later. See Gallery
Rishikesh is not the road through, nor the town nor its people.
It lies beyond the Ganga a little way upstream of Laxmanjoola a little way beyond Ramjoola and along a well worn sandy path in between, that is where you see the place you came to find, but still that is not it.
What most people come to Rishikesh to discover isn't in the Ashrams, or in the company of Babas or Yoga instructors or in the encyclopaedic tomes in the bookshops or along the folds of the ever-smooth white beaches clothing the Ganga’s sides.
It cannot be found in the occupied gufas, or behind the broad canopy of the summer waterfall in the jungle above Phool Chatti or amidst the company of unseen elephants, or hidden in the whispered stories about the occasional visits of a nocturnal tiger.
It is not to be found in the gasping rush of the Ganga herself, nor on the blue rafts amongst the shouts of frozen Delhi-ites on her surface.
The rising smell of a thousand goats filling the street in the moonlight doesn't contain it and endlessly barking dogs in the darkness leave it entirely undisturbed.
Myriad trees blanketing the slopes of the foothills don’t begin to ensnare it and the various paraphernalia in glass cabinets can’t extract it.
The macaques can’t steal it and the langurs….well, the langurs get very close but even they can’t embody it.
A tidal wave of pilgrims en route to Neelkanth can’t move it and the amulets and gems in all the government shops can’t control it.
What is sought and what is surely there to be found, beyond and yet surrounding and permeating all these facets, is a subtle but unmistakable sense of ease, a gentleness, a calm like that felt in a mother’s embrace that lends itself to introspection, solitude, quiet, contemplation ….that lends itself to silence and potential.
It is not the only place like this, there are others, hard to find and even harder to notice.
Matthew, June 2013
by Eric Fitt
Confidence is a game, and so it has rules, and can even be won if it is approached in the right way. The motto among jazz musicians has been "fake it until you make it." Strange as it might sound, this motto seems to ring true. Imagine the scene: a young upstart getting up on stage to improvise in front of a sophisticated crowd of jazz-heads, many of them jazz musicians themselves. The pressure couldn't be higher. I imagine that they must search for a feeling, or an essence, and then relax the mind in order to reach out for it. This is high intuitive thinking, and is in keeping with the spirit of going with things.
Confidence is really a quest for one's self, the natural self. Only natural and spontaneous action can be called truly confident. The typical books written on the subject tend to be simple tricks that the ego can play on itself to sustain, for a time, the illusion of confidence, which is why they don't really work, in keeping with the spirit of pop Psychology and Self-Help.
There is no substitute for knowing one's self, and the roles we find ourselves playing throughout our lives needn't take us away from our true nature. We all know Shakespeare's saying that all the world's a stage. A slightly detached perspective can demonstrate to ourselves that we are not the role we have found ourselves in, that we are really more like an actor playing a part. Even if we are a high-powered executive or a celebrity with enormous influence, that is not, of course, who we really are. Realizing this could create a crisis in confidence for an established person. But it could also be the first step towards their "getting over themselves" to become a more balanced individual. Remember: the word persona means 'mask' in Latin.
As we journey through life, we interpret and assimilate many different incoming social and cultural signals which contribute to our sense of who we are. These signals are almost entirely ego-based, and necessary in their own way, but ultimately false. The ego is the mechanism which interprets the incoming signals, to be rejected or incorporated into one's sense of "I am," the individual's sense of self. If we misinterpret the role of our own ego in making sense of our surroundings, as always happens to some extent, we get a false sense of ourselves, and even feel the need to project it. For the ego is also our in-built self-advertising agency, constantly needing to project messages intended to prove to the world that we are worthy. Our own personal ego will usually focus on a few key features that we believe we need to feel good about ourselves- I'm pretty, I'm smart, I'm rich and therefore successful, I'm cool, confident, independent, strong, talented, or whatever. What happens behind this show is the real action- our interpretation of how we well feel we are pulling it all off. Yes, it's just for show, is just a show, and is therefore empty and false if we are to be honest with ourselves: we are playing a game.
So how to win this game? There is no way to win this game. The thing is to realize that it's the wrong game, which cannot be won in any positive sense and only leads to sorrow, and that an altogether different approach is needed.
When we set out in earnest on the path to know ourselves, we soon discover that a small gap forms, a little space in which "we" can play. This play is a kind of freedom which allows action without our own reaction- we can passively and attentively watch the responses of others which our actions bring without getting personally involved. We can also watch our own reactions from a s slightly removed viewpoint, which is the real trick. This is a very different kind of game, that can be "won" in the sense that winning is realizing that ego-identification is all a game being played around us all the time, but that we don't have to participate. Don't self-identify with the role you happen to be in at any given moment and see what you can learn about yourself. This is not easy, since the ego won't readily give up its grip on it's "territory," because it will feel that some essential part of itself is being lost. It has many fears and distractions in its arsenal to throw back at you, and the more personally they wound to you, the better from its standpoint, since its instinct is for self-preservation. In fact, it has the entire subconscious at its disposal, which is where fears (and dreams) originate. But it is actually The Self which is being explored here, which your individual self only corresponds to in an indirect way, such as the way the moon can reflect itself in a puddle on the street: the resulting image is both true and an illusion, which the proper perspective makes obvious.
All human expressions are aspects of the Self, and are in some way part of ourselves. In a certain sense we are all of it and none. This is the way of no way. It is the ancient path of wizards and warriors, since both paths require going boldly beyond fear and self-identification, beyond all comparisons and the subtle interplay of opposites. Getting hooked on this game brings an end to all other games, and therefore it is sometimes called the Royal Road.
Nisargadatta has said:
To know itself the self must be faced with its opposite- the not self. Desire leads to experience. Experience leads to discrimination, detachment, self-knowledge- liberation. And what is liberation after all? To know that you are beyond birth and death. By forgetting who you are and imagining you are a mortal creature, you created so much trouble for yourself that you have to wake up, like from a bad dream.
Enquery also wakes you up. You need not wait for suffering; enquery into happiness is better, for the mind is in harmony and peace.
You can read more of Eric's writings on his blog: NeoNomadZ.blogspot.com