The other day, I was talking to a close friend. He was on his pilgrimage to Kashi a few days back. If there’s a place as close to my heart as my Guru’s abode is, it’s undoubtedly Kashi.

I have been into Shiva Upasana for years now. Although, I am not sure if I should even use the term ‘Upasana’ for my idiosyncrasies. I loved Shiva. I still do. But, like all relationships, love matures over time. My relationship with Shiva is way more stable than it was back then. During the initial stages, I was desperate for Shiva. He was (and will always be) ‘Mera Pehla Pehla Pyaar’ and I, more or less, behaved like a teenager drunk with emotions upon hitting puberty for the first time.

Thankfully, it wasn’t mere attraction toward His form even at the beginning. I was essentially in love with what He stood for. To me, He wasn’t a knight in shining armour but a man who stood by His principles; and a man who, by the sheer power of His substance, commanded absolute respect. Years later, I found all of that (and exponentially much more) in my Guru. About that, some other time may be.

One of my typical stupidities was that I used to survive only on Bilva leaves and water the entire month of Shravan. In Sanatan Dharma, we believe that this particular Deity, Shiva, is all head over heels for – 1) The holy month of Shravan and 2) Bilva leaves. And I was head over heels for Him. Obviously, I couldn’t eat Him, right? So during His Love number 1, I decided to eat his Love number 2.

I surely did my bit of idiotic stuff in the name of Sadhana but Shiva, after all, is Shiva. He still overflowed my life with His immense grace. Tagore has beautifully captured this decades ago in his poem, 

“At the immortal touch of thy hands

my little heart loses its limits in joy

and gives birth to utterance ineffable.

Thy infinite gifts come to me

only on these very small hands of mine.

Ages pass, and still thou pourest,

and still there is room to fill.”

A few years later, I found my Guru or, more aptly, my Guru found me. It was under His divine shade that I learnt what I was doing and what I should have done. Kindly allow me to share the key teachings that my guru expounded over the years that followed.

  1. Torturing the body is NOT equal to spiritual penance. It’s the most non-spiritual act one can ever commit.
  2. Starving the body doesn’t lead to anything even remotely spiritual. It is the mind that needs to be taken care of. Discipline is the way out.
  3. The body isn’t sick. Accumulating beliefs and karmas birth after birth, it’s the mind that’s actually sick. The intellect or Vivek is the one that has got clouded. Discipline, consistency, patience, continuous efforts in purifying the conduct, and truthfulness is how the mind is to be tamed. Only when we can go beyond our limited self can we actually attain the Highest Self, the Brahman.
  4. If we truly are a devotee, our Deity becomes our father or mother or a friend or a Beloved, in whatever sentiment we are calling Him. Then, do you think He will go all gaga about it that severe hunger is making us frail and pale? Or, will He like it more if His babies (us! :)) are at the pink of our health and actively engaged in purifying ourselves more? Sochiye-Sochiye!
  5. If hunger meant attaining God, all the beggars would have been seers by now.
  6. Any kind of sadhana or fasting that is not in accordance with the established tradition and scriptures is not even a spiritual practice. It will just end up fuelling the ego more and more.
  7. The way to attain the Divine is by developing and nurturing qualities like the Divine. Mud cannot dissolve into the milk.
  8. Devotion is nothing if not drenched in surrender. Surrender is nothing if not coupled with action. Day in and day out, live by the principles that your Deity stands for. Merely raising our hands isn’t surrender. It’s just a gesture that we are not going to let out mind and desires interfere anymore and live our every moment in constant remembrance of our Lord and act strictly by His philosophy.

I wonder what the state of my body would be, by now, if my Guru didn’t show up when He did! Moreover, I wonder what the condition of my Soul would be if He hadn’t engulfed my entire identity into His. 

Kashi is my Shiva’s Kashi. Kashi is my Mahamaai’s Kashi. Kashi is my Guru, Paramguru, and Parmeshthi Guru’s Kashi. The holy stairs of Dashashvamedh Ghat were the first to kiss the lotus-feet of my beloved Guru when He arrived at Kashi. My Paramgurudev used to say, “I am the son of Lalitaambika!” The ceaselessly burning pyres of Manikarnika had been the witness to His fierce Aghor Sadhana under the guidance of my Parmeshthi Gurudev, Shri Harinamdas Aghori Ji. And the same Manikarnika witnessed His ultimate merging into His mother, Lalita Tripur Sundari, on Dec 1, 2022. Kashi will always hold a very special place in my heart.

My friend sent me a photo of himself that he got clicked in front of Keenaram Baba’s ashram. The giant skulls at the entry gate perfectly add to the ambiance. This is the dwelling place of one of the most ancient and authentic Aghor Sampradaays in the world. For a regular person, it will surely look like those Horror Houses we have in malls. The person who designed the place that way might have been an absolute creative genius. Have a look!


Suddenly, I felt this strong urge to go back to Kashi. The crowd is a mighty veil. There lives a secret ‘Kashi’ behind that veil of super congested and dirty ‘Varanasi’.  I desperately wanted to be one with the spirit of that hidden Kashi. But the moment I was crossing the threshold of equanimity and entering the stormy sea of restlessness, my Guru’s voice reverberated inside my tiny head,

“Saadhak ka aasan hi uska sabse badaa shaktipeeth hai.” (For a sincere Sadhaka, his Aasan, the prayer mat on which he invokes his Deity, is the most powerful Shaktipeethas).

Taking a deep breath, I rested my head on the top rail of my chair and started singing,

“Ambe Hare, Jagdambe Hare, Jai Jai Jagjanani, Ambe Hare…”


Jai Shri Hari! 🙂 

PCs –

Cover pic –

Shiva and Devi’s sketch – By yours truly.

Manikarnika Ghat –

Keenaram Baba’s Ashram Entry Gate –