We weren’t told much about where we were going, just that we were going somewhere special and that we would find out more as we went along. My Guru built the suspense about where we were going a few days earlier, saying “you are going someplace that is very important to Hatha Yogis and hardly anyone knows the
true significance of this place.”
We woke early the next morning with clear directions of what to wear and to “carry nothing”. We embarked on our Journey, my Guru, fellow disciple Jena, and myself. With little information about where we were going or what was to come, I left it up to my faith in my Guru that where he was taking us would be truly special. With that openness in my heart and mind, I felt truly prepared and excited for what would unfold.
As we headed North of Thane, we started to enter the breathtaking Brahmagiri mountain range (“The Mountains of the Absolute”), which is one of the oldest mountain ranges in existence. To me they resembled the mountains of Arizona, only slightly darker and with more definitive edges and peaks.
We reached our destination, the town of Trimbakeshwar, an important pilgrimage spot known for its Shiva temple being one of the 12 Jyotirlinga’s, the 12 essential worship places of Shiva (divine masculine). For this and many other significant reasons, Trimbakeshwar has been a place of very powerful spiritual energy for thousands of years. This energy was evident as we stepped out of the car and into our first stop, the temple where Nivritti Nath, elder brother and Guru of Saint Jnaneshwar left his body. It was here where we sat and I prayed, “please help me break through all the barriers that hold me back from seeing the truth, help me be strong and strengthen my faith that this path is for me.”
Still unsure of what the real purpose of this trip was, we headed up hill to a set of steps. My Guru took out a big stick with him and told us, don’t bring anything, leave it all in the car. We had many steps to climb, and in the heat (about 35 degrees I’d guess) I started doubting we’d make it all the way. We reached our first plateau and finally we were told where we were going. We learned this is where Guru Gorakhnath (the first propagator of Hatha Yoga in our world and founder of the Nath Monastic order) had been doing his sadhana for 12 years, meditating in one of the caves we could see from below. We also were told; this is the place where Gorakh gave his first teaching of Hatha Yoga over 1000 years ago. With the excitement of finding out this information, and with silent prayers of devotion each step became lighter, easier and filled with the feeling of coming home.
As we walked up the steps we came across a man bleeding from his arm telling us not to go up, there’s too many monkeys. Now I knew the purpose of the stick. Already having been jumped on by a monkey a couple of weeks prior I felt fear creep up but firmly planted it in my mind, I was protected and Gorakhnath would not let any monkeys come near me, I was with my Guru, what more protection could I ask for?
We made it to a certain spot on the trail that had a small footpath that was off the beaten path of where most of the other pilgrims were heading. We took the path less travelled and were taken to a very special rock called, Anupam sheela (the miraculous rock) where Gorakh gave his first teachings of Hatha Yoga to 84,000 monks, during one of the Kumbha Mela’s. The rock it was said, grew larger to accommodate more Monks as they came for the teachings. Out of these 84,000 monks it was said, only 84 monks understood the teachings, and only 8 realized the teachings, creating the original 9 Natha Yogis of the Nath tradition. On this rock was a small, unobvious shrine to Guru Gorakhnath that you could tell not many people knew the significance of. We again said our prayers and respect to Goraknath and took a few pictures with his shrine. At that same moment a few other tourists saw us and without knowing really the significance behind this spot tried to take some pictures. Their camera mysteriously would not work, and they weren’t able to snap any pictures. We laughed at the way Gorakh works in mysterious ways. At this point our Guru called a local man named Narayana who was to help us with the monkey issue. As we continued up the path to the Gufa (cave) of Gorakhnath, we saw that there really was no monkey issue. This mountain, which is known for the aggressive monkeys, suddenly had hardly any. The few we saw were more just hanging around minding their own business. This truly surprised both my Guru and our Guide Narayana.
Narayana, a fellow bhakta (devotional seeker) told us many stories up the mountain about his own Guru and how for the last 34 years he has never sat or laid down, as part of tapas (spiritual penance). He told us to always do our japa (constant remembrance of divine/positive affirmation) and other tips for spiritual seekers. We finally got to the cave of Gorakh. Tears of gratitude rolled down my cheeks as I envisioned myself in the presence of this divine Master. We entered the cave and was welcomed by the caretaker Monk, which sat in front of a small shrine. A little way down into the cave was the main sanctum where Gorakh and other saints had sat and meditated for many years. My Guru entered that space first and paid his respects to Gorakhnath. When we tried to enter we were told by Narayana, “NO, NO women aren’t allowed”. This isn’t due to discrimination, but for energetic reasons. So we sat there with the Caretaker Monk, who said, “These rules are not applicable to these women, these are women of sadhana (spiritual practice) and through the Grace of their Guru they are here. Shiva is yours, Shiva is ours, Shiva is the male, Shiva is the female, so why discriminate between men and women? Gorakhnath never discriminates between men and women. He then quoted Jnaneshwari, “just like the nature creates breast milk in the woman before the delivery of the child, Gorakhnath by his grace has matured these girls before he called them here”. We were permitted entrance into the small sanctum and both received the blessings of Gorakh. We might possibly be the only women who have ever entered that space. Peace fell over me like a wave, and I felt more certain of this path then ever before. I got the answers to my prayers, and all my faith in this path, in myself and my Guru was solidified. As we walked out of the cave, devotion came over me and I fell in gratitude into my Guru’s arms. Choking back tears we continued walking back down.
Coming down the mountain was just as beautiful as going up, we were met by devotees of Saint Jnaneshwar called Valkaris, whose teachings basically follow one principle, that God is in everyone and everywhere. A group of about ten elderly Valkaris stopped us in our tracks and bowed at our feet repeating the words, “Ram, Krishna, Hari”. We all took turns bowing at each others feet and greeting the divinity within all of us. It was such a beautiful and humbling experience. They called us saints and kept telling my Guru, these aren’t just regular girls caught up in the world, these are girls of spiritual nature, they even sweetly named us Ganga and Godvari- the names of the two holy rivers. Seeing their true belief that the Divine is everywhere and within everyone, really made us reflect on all the times we have been so self-critical. How can we call ourselves down when divine lives within us? It was a beautiful reminder of self love.
We stopped at a tea stall a few minutes later and were showered with free tea and gifts, a few malas, some rare rudraksha seeds and a dark stone representing the Shiva energy. Without giving anything in return but heartfelt gratitude we left and continued down the mountain in awe of what we all just experienced.
Since being on this path, I have had many amazing experiences like this and still yet self-doubt has come up again and again. Our conditioned mind is difficult to break, and it’s easy to slip back again and again into our negative mindset. If there is anything readers can take from this experience is to always have faith, to try to continuously put your mind in a positive state, whether that’s by repeating an affirmation, listening to uplifting music, reminding yourself of your blessings or anything else that keeps you “in the zone” of positivity. This life is so beautiful and we have so much to discover. I will always cherish this memory as a reminder of my life’s purpose and how we are always supported, loved and protected, no matter what path we choose to take.