I hope this email finds you well and in good health. Today I wanted to share an experience with you which I had a few years ago, it was whilst travelling with my wife and son in Mathura District, India.
This is the place where Lord Krishna was born and the area is steeped in history and is visited by millions of pilgrims wishing to learn and take darshan of the holy sites where he conducted his pastimes. One such place is Govardhan Hill which literally means the hill which brings nourishment to cows.
Devout pilgrims often perform a parikrama, travelling around the hill. This is a common type of religious worship with some walking the entire 13 miles bare foot and lying flat on the floor with arms and legs fully extended at each step! This is a spiritual half marathon in the scorching heat and is a prodigious act of devotion.
We prayed together at the Govardhan temple and then returned to the comfort of our car. Rather than walk around the Parikrama path (which I hope to do some day), we decided to cheat and drive around the thirteen miles of the hill. As we were driving around a sadhu caught my eye and I asked the driver to stop.
He was bowing down, full stretch along the floor, similar to the Surya Namaskar people perform in Yoga, each time passing a rock from the holy hill forward one step. Intrigued, I approached him and asked him what he was doing. He said, ‘I am bowing down performing 108 Dandavats, each day I move forward one step and cover the entire parikrama which takes months to complete.
Raised in the west we are always keen to hoard and collect things, often that we really do not need, the simplicity of this sadhu amazed me. I had collected water from the Ganges and Yamuna, Tulsi beads, sacred images, clothing and gifts from Vrindavan and now I had my eyes on taking a small stone from Goverdhan Hill. I asked the Sadhu, where he would advise I take one from and he replied, ‘you should take nothing from here, you can come and build a grand temple in Goverdhan, you can stay here and pray as much as you want, but nobody should ever take rocks or stones away from this Holy location. In fact they will suffer if they do.’
He went on to tell me a story about a King who went mad and lost everything after taking a rock from the holy mount to build a temple in his City. Shocked at hearing this I decided definitely not to take anything. It instantly made me reflect about how we hoard and collect things, even spiritual things. The beauty of my Sadhu friend was in his simplicity, it is what we really should aspire for. Ever since that meeting I always reflect before purchasing something new for myself, asking do I really need this, being slightly more careful about accumulating things that are unessential. Indeed many of the things I have collected on my travels are gathering dust in draws, but these living encounters I am certain will stay with me forever.
Dharma is a great gift to the world and I hope you enjoy reading this blog, if you have any thoughts I would love to hear from you. You can email me on firstname.lastname@example.org