oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥsvaḥ
dhiyo yo naḥprachodayāt
– Rigveda 3.62.
An ancient prayer to the Earth, space and heavens from the Rigveda, a collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns. My mornings start with this mantra, traditionally chanted at dawn as a meditation on the brilliant splendor of divine light, the Sun. We pray with the words;
‘May there be peace on mortal, immortal and divine planes.
May we be uplifted by the light of the radiant source;
May she inspire our hearts and thoughts’
The sun symbolizes the light of creation and that same inner light that glows in our own hearts. Each morning millions of voices intone the deep rhythms of the Gāyatrī Mantra. She feels particularly close here in the ancient holy city of Varanasi.
It’s the final morning in Varanasi on our North India retreat as we gather for our dawn boat trip on the Ganges. I’ve been longing for this experience. We walk from our hotel in darkness down to Ma Ganga(Mother Ganges). The most sacred river in India, she is revered and worshiped as a deity.
I have not long left my teacher’s side, receiving his knowledge through lectures describing with beautiful symbolism the nature of our inner development. I’m feeling even more connected and honored to be here. Of course his approach is that “here” is really inside, and always available to us. However, coming to auspicious places like Ma Ganga helps me when my mind is still so wild, my heart still cracking open with connection to the divine.
Energetically, Varanasi represents Viśuddhi Cakra (chakra). Visuddhi translates as a special type of cleaning, meaning we’ve done the work to cleanse our systems of the fog, residue and samskaras (imprints). Ma Ganga is also symbolic of the Sushumna Nadi (central energetic passageway)in the prana system of our bodies. For most people, the nadis are obstructed, yet awaiting the forces of prana to remove kundalini, thereby allowing us to become fully realised.
At the riverside, we clamber onto the wooden rowboat. We leave the safety of the banks and experience a different view of the ghats (stone steps leading to the water used for bathing and puja). We are looking toward the steps that many tens of millions of pilgrims have walked before us. Behind, ancient buildings rise above like a painting, it’s truly a magnificent experience. We watch a crowd gather, drawn to the clanging of bells from small stone temples dotted along the ghats. From the boat, we spy men and women washing bodies and clothes in the holy waters; their daily ritual. I’m envious of their relationship with Ma Ganga. Was I once doing as they do, in my past life? I have an affinity to Varanasi.
My dream to chant to Ma Ganga at dawn is realised with dear friends by my side. We chantOm namah Sivāyaas one. I feel the bhav, my heart pulsates with love, sweet tears flow down my face. I’m home. After so much longing, yearning, I’m home.
I’ve experienced the inherent power of mantras. They are like putting the key in the lock and something is revealed. They unlock our innate potential, my heart and soul are lifted; my small mundane mind transcended… the love experienced.. the bliss.