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The Power of Meditation: Visit to the Ashram, India

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December 2007 - Varanasi, India

What I saw on the first night at the ashram was like being in a movie. After a tour of the facilities, I had a nap in my room. By 5 pm it was dark, and a knock on my door announced that it was time to take the boat up the Ganges to see the ghats for the festival of lights. Swarms of insects and mosquitoes followed me - Indians apparently are not tasty. The banks were lined with thousands of candle lamps...wicks of cotton floating in an orange hull filled with oil. All along the banks folk are setting the lamps afloat. I don't know what it all means yet. Everything here means something, and it's all well known to those participating. Hundreds of boats bump into each other as we try to edge closer to the banks to watch the ceremonies and dance. Loudspeakers are blaring prayers and chants, and our host translates on, a prayer for those killed the day before in the three bomb blasts in the city area.

We glide through sulfurous fumes at the place where the city empties its untreated waste into the river, just below the ghats where funeral pyres have been burning from the same flame for 3000 years.

I can see the shape of a body in the orange burn haze, and the air has a strange scent just there.

Back at the ashram, I try to follow what to do; shoes off. Silence. Stand. Sit. There is the guru. But no one is saying a word. He is very gracious to me and addresses me suggesting a light meal and dinner. I told him I didn't want to miss the fire ceremony. I had heard that because of the full moon and auspicious ceremony day that this evening's spiritual practice would be unique.

They were. Again everyone knows what to do. There is a pit, a lingam, another, photos, wood, bowls with stuff in them, mats. I think I inadvertently sat in the wrong spot and next thing I found myself participating in an elaborate fire ceremony involving splashing water in the mouth (hopefully not from the Ganges) and chanting while flinging cedar chips and other stuff into the fire.

Later the Guru explains that the wood in the pit is leftover from funeral pyres as a symbol of embracing that which the world rejects. Just like the ashram welcomes the children.

Dinner was delicious, silent and ceremonial. Following was the evening blessing. I don't think it was expected, but I participated, prostrating before the guru to get my blessing on the head (red dot and all) and cake. Then to blissful sleep.

Well....till at 4 am -- horns are honking, loud voices shouting, tailgates clanking, dogs barking. And if I am not mistaken those are amplified voices chanting. What is going on?  It's time for meditation and yoga.  And the power of meditation is that it makes all of this work together, I would discover.

Next; left wing Hindus, crazy ash covered naked holy men, rickshaws, and Lanka


  1. What a great story. Can't wait to read the next one. India has always called to me but looks like I may get more than I bargained for.

  2. Lovely... you are a natural story teller... makes me feel 'there'- at the same time I realize the experience is many times more than I can even comprehend.

  3. Edward you are very blessed and the gift is that you continue to share yourSelf and your journey with so many. I have admired you from afar for many years. Continued blessings from Karen, Roy's mom ��

    1. Thank you Karen, I appreciate your kind words very much. In incorporated this, and many other stories, in my little book on meditation, The Power of Meditation. Big love, Edward


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