Four of the authors of our book "What the Future of Humanity could be" were present at the “East meets West” gathering held in India from Oct. 7-14 at the Maha Avtaar Babaji Meditation Centre in Palampur in the Himalayas: Christiane and Mikhaël van Aken (the organizers of the West side), France Gilbert and myself.
What a memorable trip we had! The West was represented by followers of the Teaching of Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov who had come from Africa, Australia, Canada and mostly Europe. The East was represented by Swamiji Yogiraj Amarjyotiji and his devotees who were totally devoted to make everything as perfect as possible. They truly were brothers and sisters of the light!
We were able to share several practices of the Teaching including songs at every meal, sunrise meditation and the paneurythmy dance where as many devotees as westerners participated towards the end of the journey!
After a good storm on the 2nd night of our arrival, the sky cleared and stayed immaculately clear during our entire traveling experience which was an incredible blessing.
We were honored by some of the top musicians of the country on several concerts: on the first evening, it was Pundit's Bhajan and Abhay Sopori of international fame and the best Santoor players in the world with 3 tabla drum players.
Then, two days later, at the full moon of October, we were given a flute recital at moonlight high the mountains at Prashar lake at 2730 m (8,957 ft) with the international renown Mujtaba Hussain and his tabla drum virtuoso. The next day, as we were in Naggar, we had the opportunity to be treated to yet another court yard concert of chants by a choir of young people, a classic sitar player, renowned doctor of music and his tabla player.
We travelled as a convoy of 32 cars with 130 people with Swamiji at the head (sometimes leaving last and finding him waiting for some distance ahead!!) An incredible organization of taxis drivers who stayed with us the entire week, hotel planning, delicious food and several stops along the way. A sheer delight of togetherness.
One of the first visit we made was to Prashar lake where a beautiful antique wood temple stands by the lake. This sage Prashar meditated for many many years by this lake and he is said to be the father of Vyasa. A whole camp ground was set up for us (over 50 tents equipped with mattresses and sleeping bags), a huge tent for the concert and one for dining. In the early evening we sang around the campfire alternating between songs of the Brotherhood and mantras.
Later, with the full moon shining, we were treated to the flute & tabla recital. Sunrise was absolutely sublime at this altitude and later in the morning we danced the paneurythmy by the lake. Incredibly
powerful experience. We then travelled for several hours to reach Naggar where luxurious hotels were waiting for us. We had breakfast on the roof terrace overlooking the surrounding snow peak summits of the Himalayas, a real feast for the eyes!
From there, part of the group went by foot to the Biji Mahadev (Temple of Lightning), a 3 hour trek straight up while the rest of the group went by jeep through incredible rough terrain between cliffs, river beds, etc. with a 3 hour drive to reach the summit yet absolutely worth it, with an extraordinary crown of high Himalayan summits and plunging views of the Kullu Valley down below. At one point, Swamiji sat under a tree and invited us to join around him, to feel relaxed and to keep a slight distance between us. After a few songs, he lead us through profound moments of meditation. See the Himalayan summits surrounding Prashar Lake at 2,460 metres (app. 9,000 ft).
From there, we rode back to Naggar to head to Manikaran in the Parvati Valley. A warm welcome and most delicious dinner was awaiting us at the Himalayan Resort owned by devotees and designed by Swamiji. Truly a 5 star resort! We were spread at different hotels locally for the night and an early start for the hot springs the next morning at Manikaran village. Although appreciated by most Hindus as therapeutic baths, the hot springs were not as inviting to the westerners…. no towels or showers and not so clear water to bath in!!!
From Manikaran, we went back to the Himalayan Resort for a brunch and paneurythmy on a perfect grass circle terrace surrounded by close by mountains. Then we drove over 6 hours to return to the Ashram. Only to leave again the next morning for the long journey to the Jammu-Kashmir state to reach the caves of Shivkori (dedicated to Shiva).
More devotees were warmly waiting our arrival in the city of Jammu with an honorable feast for lunch. We were amazed at the number of devotees that were everywhere along the way, humbly welcoming Swamiji, other devotees on the journey and all of us, Westerners. By night fall, we had finally reached close to the Shivkori cave and took refuge in a large local hotel.
Up at 5 in the morning we headed in the dark on the path to the cave. Thanks to the moon and flashlights, we climbed steadily the 2 km trek and found ourselves in a cave beyond words. Again, Swamiji invited us to relax and breath, and relax some more (Of course, he knew what was ahead…) Finally, we started, one by one, through the camel's eye, on our knees, then standing thin to fit between rocks and even twisting to follow the contour of huge boulders (it felt like an initiation of shedding old skins moving forward) to finally emerge in this large dome opening in the cave where we sat, sang and meditated with Swamiji. All lights were turned off except for the candle at the Shiva altar so the magic and magnitude would sink in drawing tears on many of us! An incredible experience well worth the ten hours of traveling.
We drove another ten hours back to the ashram with another nice afternoon lunch at the Jammu devotees' restaurant. This was to be our last day on the road as far as the gathering was concerned. One must say that traveling as such a large convoy implies different stops to stretch, eat, watch and wait for late comers so every leg of the journey took longer than usual. Yet we felt safe in the aura of Swamiji and all went superbly well. He is so simple, loving and welcoming to all that it was a real delight to watch him and appreciate his presence.
The next morning, several of the devotees were returning home to Delhi, Rajastan or wherever they live and most of the westerners were leaving to go to Shimla and Rishikesh, Swamiji was present to give his farewell, his blessings. Some of us decided to stay peacefully at the ashram instead of going to Shimla as we had planned originally for the 1 1/2 day left before returning home. All the traveling had taken a toll on us and it was a good decision.
Swamiji spent some time with us, just sitting and meditating or walking about. It was a day of delight, rest and appreciation. One worth many thousands of kilometers. All in all, this gathering of East meet West was an incredible experience of love, generosity and brotherhood where we definitely felt like brothers and sisters of the same desire: to lift our consciousness to the beauty of nature, the inner beauty dwelling in each and everyone and mostly, the desire to reach the divine.
With the love and light
Carmen Froment for The Aquarian Team