More than two people and one cow cannot walk side by side on the streets of Varanasi. The walls of buildings rise up on either side of you, small shops line the way and traffic is pumped through the narrow alleys like blood through your arteries. Within these streets, you can breathe in the truths of the universe. They integrate into your cells like oxygen does to keep you alive. That is why this city responds to the arrival of Mahadeva, the one true source of these secrets.
Three weeks ago, upon his arrival, Swamiji declared that the Ganga’s water levels would rise. That day marked the beginning of my work with Swamiji’s autobiography. Now, we have confirmed that Ganga is rising 16 centimeters every day. The mud beneath us has constantly been damp because of the heavy rain that has been showering. We live the reality that Swamiji’s words created. Today, we all went to have darshan of the Kashi Viswanath temple where miracles continued to happen.
As he entered the crowded walkways, you can hear the people say, “It’s Nithyananda Swami” in raised whispers as if they are trying to confirm that the guru they have all heard of is here. The whole street knew who was coming behind them in a matter of seconds.
He wore the color of Earth. Rudraksh shelled in a gold coat wrapped around his wrists and biceps. A thick rudraksh necklace decorates his torso complemented by another gold mala. Jattas were wrapped in a braided knot out top of his head while others descended down his back. If people did not know before, now they know that Shiva himself walks the Earth as Paramahamsa Nithyananda.
The Kashi Vishwanath temple is one of the most famous Shiva temples universally. It has survived attack after attack from Muslim and British invasions. Today, it is Hinduism’s most visited temple. Swamiji sat in front of the Linga that was installed there once again. No matter how many times he has been here, the joy on his face never ceases, never fades. We, devotees of Swamiji, stood around him and watched as he touched the linga with his right hand as if we were watching two intimate souls unite. I took a moment to look around, around the mandir and outside at the tall structures. I wondered, briefly yet lovingly, about the times that Swamiji has been here before. How many times has he walked the same narrow corridors and touched the same sculpted pillars in this body and others? What was it like for him to come here during his wandering years?
The beginning of the abhishekam snapped me back to the present. Swamiji poured vessel after vessel of milk onto the linga as he was handed them from the pujaris of the temple. Then, he offered yogurt, ghee and honey. Each of them slid down the smooth linga stone, as if they celebrated behind used to bathe Shiva. All this time, participants of the Inner Awakening program had darshan of Swamiji as he conducted the abhishekam. Pujaris chanted mantras of Shiva, brightening the vibrations that hummed in our ears. They bent down touched the linga and paid their deepest respects to both the achala murthy, stone deity, and the sachala murthy, living deity. Swamiji offered overflowing handfuls of vibhuti that piled on top of the linga. At last, the deity was cleaned with kalashas (pots) of water. Swamiji dressed the linga traditionally and offered chandan and kumkum. Then, he layered the deity with garland after garland of blue and red flowers and then bilva leaf garlands. The whole ritual celebrated abundance and the overflowing bliss that follows it. The linga itself is called Nithyananda, eternal bliss, by the pujaris when they chant mantras for Shiva.
After Swamiji offered food for the deity, the pujaris revealed the linga once more by removing the layers of dressing around it. Once more, he poured milk over the linga until the top was covered completely. In conclusion, Swamiji lifted himself and reached for the linga. He smiled gently, completely and utterly full of grace.
The smile remained on his face as he bowed down one last time and left the mandir for the Annapurneshwari Temple. He sat down in front her too and clasped his hands together in front of his chest. As we stood around him, it was impossible to be unaffected by the pure devotion he felt for the deities. It permeated in all of us,until we all mirrored Swamiji- with our eyes closed and hands clasped in front of our chests.
On the way to the Sri Yantreshwara Linga, The Mahant of the Annapurani temple welcomed Swamiji by wrapping an orange cloth around his shoulders. Swamiji spoke with himwith humble friendliness and invited him to satsang. His smiled widened and charm bloomed~ he could win anyone’s heart.
Finally, Swamiji sat in front of the Sri Yantreshwara Linga this time. All of us could not fit in the small mandir so we waited outside as Swamiji had a private moment with the linga, the mula vigraha for all our atma lingas. We all remembered how this morning during satsang Swamiji declared that we live by three things: guru, linga and sangha. Here, we celebrated all three.
The temple darshan was coming to a conclusion. We followed Swamiji closely as he led us out. Near the exit, a light colored bull stood on all four of its legs. It waited diligently as Swamiji approached. Its tail did not move side to side like other bulls. Its skin was not stained by the dust of the street. The bull was not at all earthly. It was as if it arrived here from the celestial realm of Shiva loka itself. Swamiji reached out as he walked past this divine taurus and placed his hand firmly behind the bull’s horns, on the crown of its head. The minute he did that, the bull’s identity was confirmed. I touched him lightly as I walked past and held it to the top of my forehead in deep devotion.
Later on that night, Swamiji confirmed that Nandi came for Mahadeva’s darshan. I recalled touching him and relished the blessing that we were all given. Walking through the ancient city of Varanasi pushes you to realize the grandiosity of Hinduism. You cannot accept any notion that Hinduism is a dying religion. Even in the most estranged corner of this city, our faith lives and breathes. The whole evening felt as if it was a dream but not in the sense that it was lower than reality but in the sense that it transcended reality. Two universes, the ethereal and the reality, converged and rejoiced together and I was witness to it.