Dear Jal Rakshaks,
As I saw more and more of Water in my work for its conservation, I started to see that Water is not a mere ‘resource’. All that you need to learn about living a life well lived, you can learn from Water. I see, Water as my Guru. Please read this excerpt from the first draft of a book I’m writing on it. Please share with me stories, ideas, existential questions….anything…. that you think must be a part of a book like this. Also please help me find a title for the book !
The Guru Revealed Himself to me…..
….In Varanasi. Varanasi is a holy city on the banks of the holy river Ganges. The epicentre of the Hindu religion, the city has temples all around and thousands of people immersing themselves in the Ganga’s holy waters.
“This is all about religion, not spirituality“, I thought.
Though there were temples all over, I did not particularly feel closer to God there. The holy river also looked too crowded, too dirty. I was disappointed.
“You cannot see Her now. Come tomorrow morning before dawn to see the Mother” I heard someone say behind me. I turned to see a sadhu standing there smiling at me. Before I could think of something to say, he walked away.
So that’s how it came about that I reached the Ganga Ghat early next morning. It was 5.30 a.m. and the ghat was quiet. The sun was not yet up. The river, in the twilight, looked calm and inviting. I felt an intense desire to go deep into it. I looked around and found a boatman to take me for a boatride in the river……
…And, that boatride transformed my life. As the boatman rowed upto the centre of the river, I felt myself getting enveloped in peace. From being the centre of my own universe I felt myself becoming part of an eternal constant flow. The quiet splashing of the oars and the gurglng of the river became a divine music that took me far beyond myself.
I felt the river talk to me. She was part of me.
I looked back towards the ghat. For the first time,I saw it with the eyes of the River. From birth to death, the entire play of human life was being played out there. There was a new born child being baptised, young children frolicking in the shallow Water. The local stall owners were having their daily bath and others were setting up stalls. I saw an old sadhu sat in yogic meditation oblivious to a woman washing her long tresses right next to him. A family offering the ashes of their loved one to the River while the dobhi ghat nearby was slowly filling up with washermen with their load of washing for the day. An old woman begging, a young running into hordes of pigeons to make them fly. And next to all these vignettes of life – a cremation ghat with a pyre still burning. Stacks of wood piled up waiting for their turn to give salvation. The boatman told me that this cremation ghat was part of ancient history – a folktale about Raja Harishchandra.
From birth to death in one blink of the eye. Not in sequence but all happening at the same time. Different faces in different stages – but on the same journey. And watching it all, a quiet, flowing river.
The wisdom of the ages, the combined life experience of all those who throng the ghats, the birth rites for infinite lives and deliverance for souls of infinite dead….all in that patient, eternal River.
At this very instant, The Sun burst through the horizon in all its radiant glory, as if to bless me in my moment of truth. I sat back to enjoy the naughty flirtation of the oar with the blushing river and the caressing rays. The river became a sprightly, happy, vain young girl playing one suitor against the other. I felt complete – a part of this happy complete picture.
But not for long…… I saw a sewage pipe emptying its black filth into the river. The foam from the washermen’s soaps soon stood on the water like hillocks of cotton. Garbage floated in the river as the flower sellers threw yesterday’s leftovers into the river. Disturbed by these sights, I felt the magic fading.
Suddenly, the boatman stopped rowing. Startled out of my reverie, I saw him then pick up a bamboo from the base of the boat and throw it into the river.
Almost upturning the boat as I lunged to stop the bamboo from falling into the water, I shouted at the boatman “Why did you do this? Isnt there enough muck in the river already?”
The boatman looked surprised” Muck? Where? And the bamboo is to help the birds eat” Sure enough, a pigeon flew down and perched himself on the floating bamboo. From this secure perch, he pecked at the invisible floating stuff. ” The birds drown trying to eat from the Water. All of us put these sticks to help Ganga Maiyya feed them.”
‘Ganga Maiyya’ – Mother of a species that lives so comfortably with its contradictions! Men who think nothing of poisoning a River go all out to save a pesky pigeon from drowning!
“I’ve spent the past hour listening to you talk about Ganga Maiyya . If you revere Her so much, why do you people pollute Her ?”I asked the boatman.
The boatman looked at me increulously and replied “Kaisi baat kar rahin hain aap ! How can we pollute Her? She is purity itself! Her divine purity cleanses our souls – how can she be impure?”
Silence – of frustration on my side and complete conviction on his.
The boatman still looked troubled. He asked ” Have you been to ‘Gaumukh’? “
“No”, I replied.
He nodded knowingly and continued, ” That’s why you don’t understand! Gaumukh is where the Holy Ganga starts her earthly journey. Through millions of cycles of birth and death, Ganga maiyyaa is reborn every year, as pure as always, from the always pristine Gangotri. You know why that is?”
“Of course….glaciers are…?”I tried to explain about glaciers as origins of perennial rivers……
The boatman ignored this interruption, “Pollution, of the mind or body, happens when dirt clings to you. Ganga Maiyyaa, takes her Godly form to discard our black sins before her rebirth at Gangotri. She carries the divine knowledge of healing in herself. Even as she flows, she decimates all that is impure.”
He then rummaged around in a cloth bag he had. He fished out an empty plastic bottle, handed it to me and ordered “Fill it with Ganga Jal.”
I look around and gingerly filled the bottle.
Mollified, he smiled and said, “Keep it. You’ll need it for pujas. And see the proof of her purity – the Water will not go bad, however many years you keep it.”
I still have that bottle. It’s been more than 5 years – the Water looks and smells the same.
Science or faith? Does it really matter? What matters is the wisdom of the River which knows what to keep and how.
When we reached the river bank, I got off the boat, thanked the boatman….and then, just sat at the river bank for a long time. I know, the River knew my tumultous thoughts. She kept caressing my feet, spraying mist over my head and making cooing sounds to soothe my soul. Entranced, I watched Her as she weaved her way gracefully but with determination through obstructions. I traced her cyclical journey from Gaumukh to the sea in my mind.
That day, I understood why the River allows the sacrilege we commit. We invade her space, change her form and sully her, all, in the name of religion or, worse, out of sheer apathy. But, She flows on, unpertubed, because Her wisdom gives Her empathy. She knows, that our desire for control, comes from our frightening knowledge of our mortality. So, She offers comfort in whicheverway we seek.
The River denies us nothing because….She is secure in Her immortality.
Is God not immortal? Unconditonal love, acceptance and support – forever and ever – Is this not what we ask of our Gods?
The simple boatman, had shown me what I had not seen in all my years of working with Water. He showed me Divinity in Water….
…and if 75% of our body is Water…..then….he showed me….Divinity in Me.
Make God your Guru
Let Him tell you what to do
Listen he’s calling, calling you
Take time to listen
Take courage to obey
The inner voice is calling, calling you
There are voices all around me
My enemies and my friends
Do this, dont do that
The chorus never ends
But i shall always listen to that quiet inner voice
It is swift and definite
And I have made my choice
Make Water your Guru….
My God, My Guru had revealed Himself to me- Water.
© – Jyoti Sharma