(You can read Part 3 of my pilgrimage here. In fact, I wholeheartedly recommend you do so. Otherwise, the below might not make much sense to you 🙏🏻)
Day 3 (11km)
Like the night before, around 4am people started getting up. I opened my eyes, touched my forehead- no more fever. I sat up on my bed. My body felt so unrecognizably light. No more signs of any physical ailments in my body whatsoever. Hard to believe. No more nausea, either. As if some rebirth had taken place. I stepped outside, looked at the abyss of darkness all around, light flurry was gently caressing my cheeks. The air seemed so fresh, not the slightest breeze. It, indeed, felt like the stillness after the storm.
The final ‘Day 3’ is known to be as the easiest one on the kora. It was a pretty straight walk through the Zhuthulpuk valley, with no more big ups or downs. It seemed like a different ‘instrument’, with renewed vigour, was carrying me back to Darchen. My body felt healthy, my energy was almost back to normal. What was this whole thing yesterday all about?
My beingness had, no doubt, undergone an intense testing and purification process. Shiva had put me through quite a few hardships during this parikrama, as if expediting, as if clearing some of my karmas. His destructive energy was felt all along. Sure, somebody inside had to ‘die’, if I was to be reborn again.
I. Got. The. Message.
No birth, no new beginnings are possible without death and (painful) closures. Our entire premise of existence is based on death. Without death there is no birth. Even on a micro level, true ‘living’ can only be experienced, when a journey of life rides the waves of the ocean of ‘death’. Without our capacity to die continuously, we end up living at the so-called ‘safe shores’, which begin to stink after some time. There is no chance for our souls to evolve in this type of self-enclosed aquarium. Only through perpetually dying can our lives carry an ever fresh, ever evolving fragrance.
Oh yes, endings can be excruciatingly painful at times. But without embracing these ‘mini-deaths’, we just cannot write new chapters in our lives. We continue ‘fighting’ these closures, we carry on putting Botox injections into a frame that holds a movie of our life. We want to freeze long-gone scenes, old chapters; we prefer things to stay as they are, even when they don’t seem right at times. We hold on to material objects, people, events, lifestyles without ever allowing fresh breeze to pass through. Yuck, it stinks! But we’d rather put up with a foul odor than go through pain. Oh boy, how many times I’ve failed in this department!
For the Buddhists, too, this kora around Kailash is symbolic of going through a cycle of life and rebirth. This sacred place gives each sojourner an opportunity to shed off old clothes, to discard the muck, accumulated over many years/lifetimes, to LET GO. The in-between moments of releasing the ‘old’ and welcoming the ‘unknown’ (or ‘bardo’ states, as Vajrayana Buddhists would call it) oftentimes can feel agonizing. But these ‘gaps’ are the most opportune moments for our souls to advance. The space between an old chapter, that we cling on to, and a potential next, like a natural kumbhak between two breaths, is the most felicitous moment for us to make a conscious choice to either progress or regress on our journey back Home.
Not easy. It, indeed, takes time to master a relationship with these ‘mini-deaths’, to embrace them, to make friends with them and serve them tea. Especially, when these guests show up at our door abruptly, uninvited. Intellectually, it all seems to make perfect sense, but why do we keep on failing in practice? Why do we keep on reacting and not (consciously) responding to spontaneously present adverse circumstances? Why is this inner switch from a ‘reactive’ to ‘responsive’ mode ‘out of service’ most of the time? Why do we have such a tough time discarding the many identities we’ve labeled ourselves as? Why is this journey from role to soul so challenging?
I still have a long way to go, but my journey of ‘dissolution’ has already begun… Not only as a preparation for the Big Exit, but also as a fulfillment of my deep yearning to ‘die’ before I die. So that one day, hopefully, my life chapters will be written on water, where each moment will hold no trace of the past, thus giving rise to my True Nature – Sat-Chit-Ananda- to shine forth in full recognition.
As I continued to tread along, my deep contemplations transformed into rhetorical questions addressed to Lina. How intense has your existence been? How many chapters does your Book of Life hold? How many times in your life, have you tried to build a cocoon around yourself to have never experienced life in its totality? How many more kisses of ‘death’ are you willing to carpe diem in full embrace? For how many more lifetimes are you willing to keep on going in circles, turning this wheel of samsara? How about finishing it all off in this very lifetime? (I wished…)
Completely lost in my thoughts, I was suddenly taken over by a few Jains, for whom Mount Kailash is also of utmost importance. According to Jain scriptures, Ashtapada, the mountain next to Mt. Kailash, is the place, where their first Jain Tirthankara, Rishabhadeva, attained liberation. It seemed like this sacred site had been pulling people of all faiths and religions together. Everyone was going through one’s own pilgrimage- the outer, but above all, the inner! The outer pilgrimage had brought them here, but the inner one would ultimately take them ‘home’, their true Home.
At that particular moment, a very sweet sensation engulfed me. A feeling of comfort, assurance and gratitude permeated my essence. I am not alone. I have a Master of the highest caliber, the purest living source on Earth, Om Swamiji, to whom I have entrusted my Journey. I have no doubt, He will do the needful to help me remove the veil…which He has already started doing, ever so graciously. So selflessly. Like for so many other of His devotees, as well. (I had to circumambulate quite a few ‘kailash parvats’ to discover the blazing rays of Light & Protection of His ever-compassionate Self. All roads lead to Sri Hari’s valley, eventually😊).
As the day unfolded, the sky continued to open up. Crystal clear blue patches were welcoming me back, exactly the same way, as when I was entering this place three days back. Darchen village (from where I had commenced the kora) slowly began resurfacing in the distance. My eyes started welling up. Almost back at the same spot, yet a different Lina was returning. She had been put through a lot of spinning, tossing, twisting and churning. She literally died… to be reborn again.
Only three days. Yet so much had happened! But, to be honest, even my journey paled, as I was witnessing local Tibetans prostrating back to Darchen. For them, it had been three full weeks of prostrations around Mount Kailash! They were my heroes!!! What purification process they must had been undergoing during the entire sacred mandala! They were definitely re-writing their Story. I was moved beyond words by their devotion. It was paramount! Only bhakti (devotion) of the highest order could have made them complete this arduous kora in full prostrations. Their faith, sincerity, stamina, determination was beyond my mind’s comprehension. As I was stepping back into Darchen, I could not hold back my tears, witnessing their re-union with their families. They certainly set a new benchmark for me.
The following day my group and I visited Lake Manasarover, from where we got another good glimpse of the Kailash Parvat. That day, He was shining in all His glory, without the slightest blemish masking His face, completely naked, soaking in those late September sunbeams. What an intense ride it had been, on all levels! No wonder, this place is considered to be a navel of all the physical, metaphysical and spiritual universes.
No, I did not take a dip in the Lake. Call me a wimp, but this time, I decided not to take my chances. I simply washed my face, lit some agarbatti, bowed down in Gratitude to the Divine for calling me to this sacred space, and my cup was full &… overflowing. Until He calls me again… Har Har Mahadev!
P.S. I’ve put a short reel to give a ‘picture’ to my 4-part story here, for those who might be interested. Though I am not sure, if this video will do justice to what was actually happening during the yatra.