India - Delhi, the starting point of our pilgrimage to India with a living saint
Our "big trip" this year was taking us to India again, to be more precise, to a small northern part of India. But it was unlike any other trip we have made so far. Both of us have been on a pilgrimage with our living spiritual master Paramahamsa Vishwanandain the last years. We had made these trips independent as one of us always had to take care of our company. But this time, there was a chance of going together. As on such a pilgrimage, you cannot just join a group and book it. We had to apply for the pilgrimage and Paramahamsa Vishwananda decided personally who could join. And we were both so very lucky to be able to come with him. But that was not enough. I was even asked to be one of the fotographers on this trip. This meant, always to be in front and close to him for the whole trip. That was a huge blessing and a great opportunity to be close to him. But it was also a great respnosibility. As a woman in India it is very important to follow certain rules especially when you represent your own spiritual master. And all devotees travelling with Paramahamsa Vishwananda are definitely respresenting him. So I was quite nervous, to be honest. And it did not really help that I broke my little toe just 1 week before the trip.
OK, I could not change the situation. I put lots of tape into my luggage, prepared the camera as well as the video camera and finally with 3 other friends from Switzerland we flew to Delhi. We went with Finnair via Helsinki. We like to fly Finnair, nice service and Helsinki airport is pleasant enough to kill a few hours. But our flights were far away from being pleasant (it was not the fault of Finnair!!!). During the flight from Zurich to Helsinki, a lady next to was feeling terrible sick, she went unconscious. So there was a lot of actions around us till she finally started vomiting right through the aisle. Well, I do not want to talk about the smells..... But that was not enough. We somehow attracted sick people. The next flight from Helsinki to Delhi was packed. There was no single seat available. And the poor man behind us was sick for the full 7 hours. Thankfully, this time no bad smells. But lots of unpleasant noise. We could not change places and had to stand it finally feeling slightly sick ourselves as well. The poor man had to be taken out of the plance with a wheelchair and lots of spare bags. We were so extremely lucky when we landed. A nightflight without sleep and a pilgrimage in front of us with a broken toe! What a start!
At Delhi airport, the visa was an easy and for indian circumstances quick affair. Early morning we stepped out of the airport into the fog and dirt of Delhi. With a bit of a struggle, finally the taxi from the hotel picked us up (we "only" had to wait for 45 minutes) and we were on our way to the hotel. It took us another hour to reach the hotel although it was close to the airport. But Delhi traffic in the morning is extremely insane. Arriving at the hotel, some of the other pilgrims already were welcoming us. But most of them was about to arrive the following night. We were 1 day earlier to be able to settle down first a bit before starting the pilgrimage.
The hotel was really nice - much better as the places we normally stay in India. That was good to relax. We had a late breakfast (actually it was lunch), went to get some cash (which is very easy now again in India compared to last year - most of the ATMs are working without problems) and walked around the surrounding areas of the hotel. During the day, many more people of the group arrived including many friends from all over the world. So we were busy greeting everyone which was great!
In the evening we all had dinner together. About half of the group was already there. Dinner was really great indian food - but we were still feeling slightly sick after the flight. At night, Markus slept perfectly and could recover fully. But I was really having troubles with my stomach and stayed awake for nearly all night. A great start into the pilgrimage: 2 nights without sleep. But I was not the only one. Also others felt even worse - well, I only felt sick, others really were sick. So some of us had only rice for breakfast ;-).
But, after a group meeting (in the meantime all 70 participants had arrived) in the morning we were all super exited to welcome Paramahamsa Vishwananda at the airport. We all dressed up in Sari and jumped on the bus. We did not have to wait for too long till he finally arrived. We welcomed him with rose petals on the floor and many malas (flower garlands) like it is custom in India. Afterwards we were invited to a devotees home in one of the upper part of Delhi. Here, you enter private streets through control posts before you enter the villas garden through control posts. Wow, here the rich and famous live in Delhi. It was very interesting to see and so different to the other parts of Delhi we know. But still, also here, it was day time but the smog made it impossible to even see the sun. Anyway, there were many beautiful trees around and we could hear the parrots and other birds singing. We made a welcoming abishekam to the feet of our spiritual master. An abishekam is conducted by priests, by pouring libations on the image of the deity being worshipped, amidst the chanting of mantras. We poured the elements over Paramahamsa Vishwananda's feet, a common ceremony to welcome him. It was so sweet and beautiful to be there with him. He even allowed each one of us to come in front and pour water over his feet. In the meantime, I had completely forgotten my broken toe and the pain as well as my tiredness and the funky stomach. I was completely focused on taking pictures and enjoying the start of the pilgrimage. The presence of our spiritual master gave me an energy boost. :-)
When the ceremony had finished, we jumped on the bus again and went back to the hotel. I quickly got the chance to load the camera, get an hour of sleep till it was time to get ready for the evening. Paramahamsa Vishwananda was about to give - officially and opened to everybody - satsang in Delhi. It took place in a beautiful event hall in the hotel. In a satsang with Paramahamsa Vishwananda, he answers questions of the people. And in Delhi he took great time for this. For nearly 2 hours he answered patiently many, many questions and finally sang with us bhajans (spiritual music).
For dinner afterwards with him, I was deadly tired but happy to feel much better. So I could eat a little bit and finally went to bed. We both slept like babies. Our first pilgrimage had started. It was a rough start, but we were happy to be with our spiritual master and I felt so blessed to get the opportunity to take picures.
Next morning we had to pack again. Our next destination was calling. Our time in Delhi was over. Still, we have not seen the major sights of Delhi. Maybe next time. But we are always happy to leave the capital of India. Maybe one day we change our mind - but so far Delhi is not on the list of our favourite places in India. Our next stop, Haridwar.....We follow the footsteps of our master to one of the scred sites in India....!
We know, western people have great prejudices about spiritual masters and gurus. We also had that in the beginning. But our own journey with Paramahamsa Vishwananda is simply incredable and we are very thankful that he is part of our lives. Some of you might not like the upcoming blogs, some of you might be curious, some of you might like them. These blogs will be about our travels with him through India and also about an inner travel (don't worry, the most personal thing we will keep to ourselves ;-)).
If you want to find out more about Paramahamsa Vishwananda, you are welcome to visit www.bhaktimarga.org .