Badrinath

From Steps to Yoga & Yoga Initiation Papers, Swami Satyananda Saraswati

12 June 1958, Badrinath Dham We have reached the city. When I saw it from the distant valleys I suddenly pictured the pure image of Sakya Muni. Did these valleys in some distant past hear the Trisharanam and Panchsheel of the Jagriti mantras, resounding from the courts of this temple? Did bhikshus, free from desires, clad in tatters with begging bowl in hand, following the path of the Aryans who spread themselves in all directions, chant the Maha-Buddhavani of Tripitaka from the banks of this Alaknanda?

This is the birthplace of the Aryans who gained victory over the world. The Kailash, Manasarovar and Pindari glaciers in the east, Haridwar in the south, the Yamunotri glacier in the west and Alkapuri and Gandhamadan mountain in the north; it is from these places that the Aryan civilization rose to glory. Those born to this peaceful, cool, white, great, resolute and invincible land became just like the land itself. In the past, against the backdrop of this beautiful land, ‘Vrishvantu Vishwamaryam’ propounded his philosophy which later became the foundation of the civilization, spreading all over the world.

Three miles north of Badrinath, near Mana, lived Parasara, Vyasa and Jaimini on the shores of Saraswati. It is here that Ved Vyasa edited the four Vedas. The Badarayan Sutras were also written here. Panini wrote his treatise on grammar here and Kashyap Muni first established his order here. In the later period, Ramanuja and Madhavacharya lived here, and it is from here that they composed their opuses. While the perpetually snow-capped ranges behind Kedar are insurmountable, the backdrop of Badrinath is becoming the path of the attack and retreat of many civilizations. Thus, proving to be an easy and convenient path, it became the entry point for the military and cultural invasions of foreign tribes.

Badrikashram is the victory monument of Lord Badarayana. The chief sources of our culture, our religious texts, were composed by the revolutionary seer Sri Badari, who was the first historical pride and treasure of this place. On the banks of the Alaknanda, in a land without any grass or trees, in the shade of the high and immaculate peaks, the sentiments, poetry, stories, Vedas and Upanishads of our culture first emerged. Inspired by the brimming holiness of this divine worship, the peace-infused Sama Veda was created. This land was pristine and it nurtured the minds of great holy saints with its purity. There were no clubs here, no beautiful women, no cigarettes, no wine, no easy chairs and no gods of indolence. Due to this, even today, in spite of continual assaults from the storms of time, history and climate, it continues to initiate millions and millions of souls to the platform of purity.

Even the roads here seem to flow with pride and glory. “With great expectations I lie here, bearing the rain and sunshine, waiting for the day when Sita and Ram will again walk down my back.” There is so much peace here, here where the vedic, brahmanic, upanishadic and Bhagavat eras and the culture of the glorious ages of the past are strewn all over. I feel that these mountains, which symbolize Nara-Narayana, have turned to stone watching the pitiful condition of our India, awaiting the arrival of a capable ruler.

The Alaknanda is infused into every river in the world. Its glory is reflected in Kaba, Kashi, mosques and churches. Whether it is the Bible or Koran, the Avesta or the Purana, they all have the strains of the song of the Himalayas in them. Whether a saint or a fakir, a maulavi or a priest, their soul has the holy picture of Badrikashram imprinted on it. It is to convey its message that Mohammad and Jesus came, and to sing its glory that Kabir, Nanak, Namdev and many other great saints walked on earth. The blood of man is not merely white blood corpuscles and red blood corpuscles, but unblemished purity. It has the greenery of the Himalayas, the blue of its loving mantle; its skies beckon the flow of life, the eternal streams of the Alaknanda.

This is its eternal message to us. We should understand it. Millions of Indians have gone to the doorstep of this earthly god looking for a remedy for the darkness of ignorance, narrowness of emotions and the problems of life. This eternally beautiful city has extended a warm invitation to humanity over the ages, just so we may bathe in the Alaknanda, a symbol of the pure love between God and his devotee. However, is there anyone here who has gone to its courtyard with the sole purpose of making his virtuous life a holy pilgrimage by its mere touch? It is difficult to estimate the crowd that goes to the temple of this earthly god. There is a queue outside the whole day long. But its real temple is unpopulated. Who will go into that house and receive the love, affection and blessings of Narayana and who will give us the address of the home of that unmanifest Narayana? Only a rare few have reached there.

There is a bottomless well of wealth that the temple receives in the form of offerings and donations. There is also a number of people counting it, but O great devotees! How stingy you are. You only boasted about your love for your beloved. But you gave him false, artificial, perishable gifts of nickel; and to this world you gave your precious heart, your one and only soul, your everything. Surprising! Highly surprising! Narayana gave you the best life form, the life form of knowledge, and you are so low and dim-witted that instead of offering him the ‘love of your soul’, you give him worldly merchandise, and even then he has accepted you as a devotee.

Today, thousands of pilgrims visit this holy land of Nara-Narayana every year. They bring loads of devotion from their homes. When they reach their destination, totally exhausted by the difficulties faced on the way and still believing that God and his devotees are two opposite poles, with the end purpose of the pilgrimage being to offer these cheap gifts, it seems that the hard work of the saints and rishis through the ages has been in vain. The penance of this hard-clement pilgrim path has been a waste, as instead of helping the devotee close in on the distance between God and himself, it maintains the distance and widens the gap.

Seeing the mountain of Nara-Naryana and recalling the story associated with it, the sadhaka sees the eternal dharma on the stage of his heart, and along with that he also sees one more demon in the form of the ego, which is well protected with a thousand armours, countless bad samskaras, vile lust and attachments. Where can you find peace and happiness in the reign of the ego? Who can liberate this internal demon? God, in the form of Nara-Narayana, gives him the assurance and faith that through penance, following the righteous path, by constantly fighting a war with the enemy which is the ego, with the grace of that Param Purusha, he can destroy its armours one by one and become Narayana.

This land is without a doubt the capital of philosophy, literature, knowledge, action, poetry, celebration and purity. There is also no doubt that in spite of changes in political capitals and the coming and going of kings, this has been the eternal capital (or land of the gods) of India, and the presiding deity of this land has been the constant ruler of millions of Indians.

O brother! Do not forget your God or the land of God. Mothers! Do not abandon faith and belief while on a pilgrimage. Dharmashakti! Continuously spread the good memories of your pilgrimage and the auspicious words of the rishis among the masses. This will be your dakshina to Satyam.

From time to time, forget your power and position and put aside your social, financial, intellectual or spiritual values. Go to ashrams, visit places of pilgrimage, or shrines, and change the pattern of your life completely. Remove all the prefixes and suffixes from your name, you know God didn’t put them there. Just be as you are, a simple person. If you do this, in the course of time, you will become humble.

—Swami Satyananda Saraswati