In 1961, Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba had taken a group of chosen devotees to Badrinath on a holy pilgrimage. Even today when one reads the various articles, and sees video clippings, naturally a deep intense yearning and disappointment of not having been part of that diving trip is certain. At that Bhagawan had told the devotees accompanying Him, “You are all very fortunate indeed, for you are proceeding with the Manifested Form to the Unmanifested Form!” And when Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba decided to take His chosen devotees yet again in His subtle form, it was a trip with the very Unmanifested form! A trip to remember, a trip full of learnings, a trip infused with devotion and spiritual bliss!
The next day, June 08, 2018, after the grand inauguration of the “Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Research Centre for Congenital Heart Diseases” at the Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani International Centre for Child Heart Care and Research at Palwal by Sri Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Minister, Government of Haryana, the Lord proceeded with His chosen devotees to Rishikesh. This was a special trip for the devotees of Singapore and few others, as Swami wanted to laud them for all the efforts which they had extended towards the Sri Sathya Sai University for Human Excellence. So this trip to the Himalayas with Swami, was almost a medal, which would be cherished and savored by each person for the rest of their life!
Upon landing at Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradun, everyone proceeded to Parmarth Niketan, where Swami was lovingly welcomed by the Singapore devotees who had reached that morning. Pujya Swamiji Chidanand Saraswati ji and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati ji welcomed Bhagawan, and paid their respects to Him. After a wonderful short Satsang, the devotees had a wonderful opportunity to dine with Bhagawan, Pujya Swamiji Chidanand Saraswati ji and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati ji.
The next morning, June 09 an early take off by choppers to Gangotri was the agenda. But the weather somehow did not cooperate, and everyone were asked to wait until mid-morning for the weather to clear. Only a clear visible sky is all that is required for choppers to operate, rain or otherwise. When the organising team submitted to Swami around noon to seek His guidance on next steps, Swami said, “Yes, all have accompanied Me on this divine Yatra. But this is not enough. To meet Shiva, a deep yearning or desperateness is required, and Shiva should also be keen to meet the devotee!
If not both, at least one of the two conditions must be fulfilled! The yearning is not enough. From this moment, let everyone chant Aum Nama Shivaya!” Swami also advised that Gangotri should be planned after Badrinath, and hence Kedarnath would be the first Dham. Prayers intensified, with meditation sessions led by Nithya Shanti, a former Buddhist monk, who was blessed to accompany Swami on this pilgrimage, and Bhajan sessions, led to a deep intense yearning in every heart. Everyone realised what Swami had said was a big huge lesson indeed! It was also a great opportunity for all the devotees to retrospect and join the glorious Ganga Arati in the evening. The Rishi Kumaras chanting Vedas led Swami, and He was joined by Pujya Swamiji Chidanand Saraswati ji and Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati ji towards the Ganga Ghat. The next hour was soaked in bliss, seated on the lap of Mother Ganga. The sunset Ganga Aarti at Parmarth Niketan draws between hundreds and thousands of visitors each day from all cultures, all languages, all religions and all walks of life. Bhagawan blessed all gathered with His divine message, and thereafter proceeded to Pujya Chidanand Saraswati ji’s meeting area, where a short Satsang unfolded very beautifully. Swami asked him to speak about the various Seva activities undertaken by the Parmarth team, and Pujya Chidanand Swamiji spoke about all the environmental initiatives. Dinner was served, while everyone were intensely praying to Bhagawan to be able to undertake the divine pilgrimage.
The dawn of June 10. Clear skies and wonderful visibility meant choppers would be able to take off! And this was only because of Swami’s mercy. He had given clear instructions about the timing for the choppers to fly, a clear two-hour window, nothing more, nothing less! Within this time frame, He had instructed that all choppers must reach Kedarnath. Swami’s chopper landed at the temple helipad, and He was taken in a buggy to the shrine. The untiring efforts of the volunteers were to be lauded, as they had trekked all the way up two days before, to ensure all the arrangements were made for Swami and His guests!
All the devotees had finished Darshan of the Lingam, and were waiting for the arrival of the Lord. The Chief Priest along with all the Trustees welcomed Swami with the highest honour, and led Him inside the temple. Special Poojas were performed, and later Swami emerged from the temple, and headed straight to the guest room along with the Chief Priest, who understood Swami’s presence in the subtle form very easily, and in fact commented saying that this is the true form of God, and other evolved beings and Sadhus who continue to meditate and live in the harsh snowy mountainous terrains of the Himalayas for over hundreds of years, even today! Bhagawan gave them all precious advise, before heading to Guptkashi for the night. It did start raining as Swami’s chopper took off from the Kedar helipad, but He assured all that as He would fly off in the first chopper, He would take the bad weather away with Him. And so He did, to the excitement and astonishingly stunning moment, a witness to all present. As Swami’s chopper started gaining height and moving ahead, so did the dark clouds and rains. It was simply magical to witness the miracle!
Swami along with His entourage reached Guptkashi at their accommodation by 6 p.m., and everyone continued to revel in the spiritual ecstasy of the morning at Kedarnath. An early dinner was served, as all the devotees prepared for an early morning take off yet again to Badrinath the next day.
There was activity from 4 a.m. on the morning of June 11, 2018 as the drive from Guptkashi to the Sersi Helipad is almost 90 minutes, and choppers were scheduled to take off from 7 a.m. onwards. Clear skies and bright sunshine overlooking the peaks of Kedar was a welcome sign, and devotees started departing in batches to Badrinath. Swami arrived at Badrinath, and proceeded to the temple, while all the devotees had reached a little before and waited for their Sai Narayana to arrive. The guest room inside the temple premises was converted into a Satsang venue, and Swami arrived a little past 11 a.m. amidst Bhajans. He then proceeded with all the devotees to the main Sanctum Sanctorum, and then returned to Satsang room. A casual chat with all the devotees followed, and Swami shared nuggets of spiritual wisdom with everyone. Devotees asked many questions, and Swami answered them all in the most simplest, yet profound way. One of the questions was, “Swami, we say that God is everywhere, how do we make use of our time during a pilgrimage?”
Swami said, “The main reason why this place has more power is because it is out of the penance of devotees. So, when lot of devotees come together, all their faith and devotion gets focused, and the place develops more power. How? You know sunlight? Sunlight is everywhere. But by itself it cannot do much. Put it through a lens, and all the sunlight gets concentrated. When it gets focused, it can burn a piece of paper. Left to its own, the scattered sunlight cannot burn it. But focussed sunlight can burn it. Likewise, God is everywhere, but He gets far more focused and concentrated through the minds of the devotees. Mind of devotees is like a lens. All the focused devotion creates that power in the place. So certain places carry that power in them. That is what is called, Sthalamahima or Sthalacharithram – the power or the story or the Charitra of that place. Because of the devotees’, who come and think of God constantly, the place develops this kind of concentrated power of devotees! So, all your mind, all your thoughts gets focused on God. And if you continue thinking of God after leaving from here, you will continue to have that power. But if you forget after some time then again you get disoriented, then back to the iron, then rust and dust is the fate!”
Swami then returned to the Hotel where He was staying with His entourage, and lunch was served to Him. Post lunch He urged everyone to visit the Ganesha Gufa and Vyasa Gufa, at Mana village, the last village of India. Ganesha Gufa, the cave where Lord Ganesha wrote the Mahabharata as dictated by Rishi Vyasa. Vyasa Gufa, located on the banks of Saraswati River is the place where Sage Vyasa composed the Mahabharata epic with the help of Lord Ganesha, and also wrote the 18 Puranas, Brahma Sutras and the 4 Vedas! It was a wonderful trek up the mountain, and everyone had a blissful time at both the Caves.
In the evening, Swami proceeded to the Temple once again, as a special session was arranged inside the temple during Vishnu Sahasranamam. As everyone were waiting to proceed inside the temple, yet another Satsang unfolded with devotees asking more questions. After almost 20-minutes, the time arrived for Swami and His entourage to proceed inside the temple. It was indeed a special moment for all, and everyone were completely blissed out! Swami once again returned to the Satsang room, and spoke to everyone at length about the significance of the Badri temple. Many questions were asked once again, and the merciful One answered them, much to the joy of all. Arati was offered to Swami, and everyone returned to the Hotel.
Another bright and sunny morning welcomed Swami and His entourage, as they took off from Badrinath to Harsil. After landing at the Harsil Helipad and a 45-minutes drive, Swami reached the Gangotri temple, where all the devotees were eagerly waiting to receive their Lord. A special Pooja was organised at the banks of Mother Ganga, and thereafter everyone proceeded to the shrine. A Satsang room was arranged within the temple premises, and Swami spoke to the temple priests, and shared precious advise about how to consider themselves fortunate as they were living and serving at Gangotri. Just like Ganga which flows selflessly, Swami urged the priests to serve all the devotees who come to Gangotri selflessly. Swami then departed back to Rishikesh, well in time to attend Ganga Arati. After the wonderful evening, Pujya Chidanand Saraswati ji showed a few videos about the environmental initiatives undertaken by Parmarth after dinner. Swami beckoned a few youth to assist the Parmarth team in their initiatives and endeavours. After blessing all, Swami retired for the night.
The next morning, June 13 saw all the devotees packing, ready to leave Rishikesh after a blissful Yatra with God Himself! After breakfast, Swami blessed His entourage with interview and group photographs. The spiritual ecstasy was still palpable, the blissful energy was still infectious, as all the devotees with hearts filled with gratitude to the Lord, for having blessed them with this unique opportunity, returned to their respective destinations.