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Saturday, March 08, 2008

Abishek for Bhagwan Nityananda

As you view this page, enjoy the chorus of the Arati sung to Bhagawan Nityananda three times a day (you can change the volume and turn it off using the controls here too)...



Bhagawan Nityananda has his Mahasamadhi shrine in the center of town.  This is the burial place for him and there is a beautiful marble tomb in the center of a large Temple.  On top of this tomb is a bronze bigger-than-lifesize murti of him sitting with his arm on his knee.  He is covered with garlands of flowers and people file up to give and receive blessings from him.



Every morning at 4:30 am the monks perform an Abishek, or ritual bathing of the murti of Nityananda.  It's a very sacred and holy event.  Hard Light Center of Awakening, thanks to Shanta, one of our group, was invited to have 5 of us plus Mark participate in this very amazing event.  Mark invited the Pods, Mark Bonnlander, Lauren Freiman and Astrid Cheney-Hutchison to be the ones to perform this very sacred offering.  It meant that we had to dress up in formal Indian style clothing and be at the Temple no later than 4:30 am. 

Lee was gracious enough to lend us two gorgeous saris.  We did a dress rehearsal with help from the ladies who did our cooking.  They had a good laugh at our futile attempt to pleat the sari properly.  After we were successfully dressed in our "dress rehearsal", we sewed the saris together with a needle and dental floss so that we could remember the correct folding of it early the next morning when we would need to dress at 3:30 am.

Here we are trying them on for the first time.



Watch this movie to see how to fold a sari successfully...(you can pause the Nityananda chant at the top of this page so that you can hear the instructions clearly for the next time you might need to wrap 5 meters of silk around yourself.)



It was very magical to walk into town while it was still dark all dressed in our saris.  The sun was 2 hours from coming up and the roosters were beginning to stir.

And here we are with Mark at the entrance of the Temple.  We weren't allowed to take photos inside the temple of this memorable event, so we'll have to carry the memories in our hearts forever.





Once inside the Temple the monks greeted us warmly and we entered into the inner sanctum of the murti (statue) of Nityananda.  The priests tied beautiful red and yellow bracelets around our wrists.  They had taken off Bhagawan Nityananda's outer silk garment and all his garlands and he was dressed in a simple white loin cloth.  They then started pouring special anointments made of rosewater, milk, honey, cardamom, ghee, scented oils and other secret offerings over his head and body.  We were given small pitchers of this to also participate and pour over his feet and hands repeatedly.  Mark Griffin poured massive quantities of this out of a large conch shell directly over Nityananda's head while standing on a raised bench.  We anointed his body while the priests continuously chanted.  Then his body was rinsed off with special water and we helped with this too.  After that, ghee was rubbed into his body along with more aromatic oils.  We were allowed to rub that in too.  Then he was thoroughly dried until he glistened.  A curtain was then drawn so that no one from outside could see what was happening inside except for us.  At this time the priests removed his wet loin cloth and replaced it with a clean and dry one before dressing him in beautiful silks.  Then the curtains were opened and they placed kum kum on his forehead, fingers and toes and a beautiful necklace and magnificent garlands of gorgeous flowers were placed around his neck

Beyond the joy of being able to pay such dear homage to this great being who has shaped our lives and our own destinies, what was most remarkable about this experience was to be able to be so close to the continually-powerful presence of Bhagawan Nityananda himself.  He is actually buried very close to the surface just below the murti.  When a great saint like this leaves his body, he has the choice whether or not to maintain consciousness within that form.  Both Bhagawan Nityananda and Bhagawan Muktananda made the choice to do so (as was also the case with the other Samadhi Shrines we visited earlier: Hazrat Babajan, Meher Baba, Upasni Maharaj and Sai Baba of Shirdi).  So we were feeling the rays of consciousness pouring off him, like standing next to the sun itself.  At one point we had the chance to sit in quiet meditation for about ten minutes, and we all felt like a tsunami of blessings washed over us at one point during that sit.  Wow.

Sidenote: If this concept of consciousness extending beyond the confines of the life of the physical body is new to you or foreign, yet you find yourself intrigued, you may want to read up on this - the best book is The Bardo Thodol - from a series of talks given by Mark Griffin, published by PodPublishing, and available on Amazon as a book or audiobook.



(Back to the morning...) We then sat next to the murti as the devotees filed by for darshan to receive blessings from the priests and from Bhagawan Nityananda himself.  The ceremony lasted close to 2.5 hours and we were ecstatic and felt incredibly blessed, truly so.

Here's Jeanette
and Mindy with a new street friend walking home, holding small murtis after the ceremony...



As we walked back to our ashram in a glorified daze we passed these local women in Nimboli who were collecting water at the communal pump.  They loved seeing us in our festive saris and gave us huge smiles.  Of course, they wear saris with such ease and grace for everything they do - it's one of the most amazing things one sees throughout India.  You'll even see beautiful gold and silk saris on the women cleaning and cooking or working collecting garbage.  They are truly goddesses.



And they can balance amazing things on their heads too!...