The Guru experience
It’s every yogi’s dream to travel through the motherland of yoga and tap into the wealth of ancient wisdom that underpins the fundamental foundation of yoga. Rich culture, tradition and primordial yogic principles are still very much alive and well in India, allowing the Western yogi a special opportunity to connect to the roots of yoga and truly live and breathe its essence. Despite the unfamiliar hustle and bustle of India, many of our group expressed a feeling of returning home here. Identifying with the lineage of our teachings perhaps, or simply recognising the undercurrent of philosophic truth that lies beneath the chaotic surface. Making India the vibrant, topsy-turvy, contradictory yet consistent, wise though humble, beautifully raw place it is.
Of course, no yoga retreat to India would be complete without staying at a local ashram, and The Yoga Travel Company was fortunate enough to have received a blessing to stay at Sripuram in Vellore. Sripuram is a spiritual place devoted to Sri Sakti Amma, the human incarnation of the divine goddess Narayani. At the heart of the ashram there is the grand and glorious Golden Temple of Lakshmi, alongside a dining hall that feeds thousands of hungry pilgrims everyday, a hospital and research centre, recycling plant and nursery, orphanage, school, and several temples of worship, all of which Amma provides to the community at no cost. It is said that “it is Sri Sakti Amma’s purpose to bring happiness and prosperity on Earth. Amma’s mission is to bring back righteousness and truthfulness in humankind. This will ensure that humans become more loving and tolerant towards their environment and other people.”
During our stay here we would partake in the daily life of a devotee. This entailed a variety of different devotional activities for the community, oneself or Amma, with the collective intention of connecting back to the divine essence of everything in existence whether that be Mother Earth, Narayani, Christ, Jehovah, Buddha, the universe itself, or something simply greater than ourselves. Some days we found ourselves serving lunch at the dining hall, feeding bananas to cows at the sacred Gho shala, or walking the devotional star path that surrounds the Golden Temple. But the pinnacle of each day was Amma’s Pooja ceremony at the holy temple Peedam. It was here that we had the privilege to be in the presence of the divine, whatever that meant for each individual, and the honor of meeting the guru herself. While at first the concept was a little difficult to wrap our logical minds around, the experience proved to be a profound and powerfully spiritual one. The entire ceremony was a very symbolic ritual in which Amma was the medium to connect people to the intangible spirit of the divine.
Immersing ourselves in the culture of Sripuram shed light on the some of the traditions and customs that are at the core of yoga philosophy. While full understanding of the rituals is difficult to comprehend in only four days, it seemed that every individual took something different from the experience that resonated with them. And it was said that if one was to remember just one message from the whole experience that it is well worth the journey. So here are some of Amma’s insightful words of wisdom to remember and reminisce…
Om Namo Narayani
Surrender to the divine…
“The purpose of this birth is to serve others and to make them happy. Through service you can experience joy and can reach salvation.” Amma
“Reality should mean permanence. Power and wealth are temporary. Only the divine qualities of the soul are permanent and real. And only the good deeds you do for others will always remain with you in the form of eternal joy.” Amma
“One may ask why spend the money to build a golden temple, why not a hospital or school? The wisdom gained from those who visit Sripuram will result in thousands of schools, hospitals and humanitarian service for the world.” Amma
“There is no success without efforts, no achievement without failures and no love without devotion.” Amma
Blog post & photography by Georgia Brownlee
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