July 20, 2013

Western Yoga in India: Are Sacred Places Selling Out? ~ Sarah Walsh

Photo courtesy Sarah Walsh

Was it the sheer power of all the pure energy generated at Rishikesh throughout time, or just nostalgia for the Beatles’ pilgrimage there that made this abandoned spiritual place so special?

A letter to Rishikesh:

In my daydreams you were a river flowing from the source into my heart, a mystical yoga town hiding in the Valley of the Himalayas. Just as you pour yourself into the faithful towns along your riverbed and direct your current downstream, I myself came to you for some inspiration and direction. I came looking for some answers but, alas, came up short.

Your mecca of Yoga ashrams left me feeling withdrawn from the fact that you parade your sacredness like the street vendors hawk their shawls and jewels in Goan tourist towns.

Did the West do this to you? Has yoga become a money-making opportunity here in India like it has back home?

Maharishi’s abandoned Ashram told the story of what Rishikesh once was: a village of meditation caves built into the mountain providing a sanctuary for real inner reflection. My soul shook with excitement as I chanted the Gayatri mantra in the chakra mural dome. The blue painted walls reflected back those powerful vibrations to give me a taste of what Ashram life would have been here back then.

Was it the sheer power of all the pure energy generated at Rishikesh throughout time or just nostalgia for the Beatles’ pilgrimage here that made this abandoned spiritual place so special? Perhaps that was a rhetorical question which filled my imagination with a picture of what I envisioned this ancient spiritual town to be like.

As I sat in a juice bar along the Ganga after the Ashram visit, I heard foreigners around me buzzing about their Yoga teachers and what they knew of this style and of that tradition. It felt like an outward display of people proving how much they were involved in this Yoga trend. Rishikesh seemed to me to have become a place you had to visit to check of your “Tour of Yoga in India trip” to gain street cred back home.

I came looking for answers to help me along my spiritual quest and was quickly reminded that no place or external environment can do the work.

The journey to the self and a higher consciousness may not depend on where you do it. Ideally we can tap into the same peace while meditating in the middle of Times Square as in the middle of a blessed Ashram. While I may not totally be there yet, I am reminded by experiences like these to trust that what I already have is enough to stay the course on my spiritual journey. I also trust that the specific meditation technique I have been practicing will take me to deeper levels if I stay constant and steady.

Perhaps this is the lesson you gave me after all, Rishikesh: no matter where we are in the world, Sadhana (spiritual practice) is the key to enlightenment.

Like elephant yoga on Facebook.


Assistant Ed: Renee Picard/Ed: Bryonie Wise


Read 3 Comments and Reply

Read 3 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Sarah Walsh