May 21, 2018
Satsang (spiritual discourse) by Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati
Location: Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Tehri Garhwal (district), Rishikesh (city), Uttarakhand (state), India
Satsang by Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati
After the Ganga aarti, a separate event happens in the ashram. A satsang and question/answer discourse is presided over by Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswatiji. She has many titles to her name, but she is best referred to as the American Jewish lady who is extremely knowledgeable and dispenses words of wisdom. It's odd enough for me that an American is tasked to handle this when there are so many learned Indian gurus, sadhus and religious leaders who can competently do the job as well. I was curious about all the hype so it was another imperative for me for coming to the satsang.
Despite the fact that this is a daily practice, it was full house in the small room where we were gathered. With the air-conditioner down, the heat and humidity became a challenge - but nobody left. When she finally walked-in, I noticed the devotees giving her utmost reverence. Hmmmm...there must really be something special about this lady.
Encyclopedia of Hinduism
She cited her role as editor in developing a comprehensive encyclopedia for one of the world's most complex religion - Hinduism. It is an ambitious 25-year project drafted by over 1000 experts with the endorsement of India and the UK's prime ministers. In the process, she had read every single one of over 7000 articles submitted for the project. No wonder she is knowledgeable!
She answered about 3 questions which essentially took up the entire 1 hour or so. The first question was, "if there is no temple of my faith in a new place I'm in, is it proper to enter another temple of a different faith or simply not attend at all?". Her answer was simple - absolutely! And her explanation was equally simple as well but made a lot of sense from the analogies she pointed out. She explained that all faiths lead to the same goal even if the journey takes you on a different course. That devotion should always be there to nourish the spirit in the same way the body needs food to survive. Unlike some gurus who give an incomprehensible answer from 50,000 ft above sea level (perhaps to further confuse the issue), her discourse was universally understandable and all-embracing.
The other question was about animal sacrifices - how could animals be killed in the name of religion? Again, she gave a brilliant answer. In synthesizing all that information from her vast knowledge base, her explanation was that the animal sacrifices were a mis-interpretation of the scriptures. The animal sacrifice that was needed was the animal nature in man - not real animals! The answer was not only sensible, it was brilliant.
I've attended satsangs by self-proclaimed gurus who pontificate pseudo profundities which I found garbage and an utter waste of time. These are gurus who play God with heaven on their minds but have nothing noteworthy to say. Sorry for the irreverence, but I question God, so I can question everything and everyone. Sadhvi is a refreshing departure from all that spiritual mumbo-jumbo by God-wannabes.
With Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati's gentle charisma, her vast knowledge, her disarming demeanor, her non-alienating all-inclusive sensible explanations, she could easily package herself as a guru worthy of a deitification. However, I didn't get a sense of such ambition (or veiled arrogance). If it wasn't too far a walk from my hostel, I would make it a nightly activity for me to be there. The brilliance and simplicity of her explanation is definitely worth the trip.
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Natasha The Moon
(May 25, 2018) She's pure grace, I loved her presence during my visit to Rishikesh.
Next stop: White Water Rafting on Ganga River, Rishikesh
Rishikesh (city), India
- RAAHI The Travellers Nest - backpacker-friendly, dorm rooms, central location, tours & rafting, motorbike rental, great place to meet people
Paidal Marg, Laxman Jhula, 249192 Rishikesh
Travel Tips for Rishikesh
- climate-wise, best time to visit Rishikesh is from October to February when temperature is cool. This is also the high season for foreign travelers.
- May to June (my time of visit, before the monsoon rains) is HOT and DRY. Temperatures can reach beyond 40° and your skin/lips dry up. Great to go rafting or a dip in the Ganga River for respite. There are mostly Indian devotees and Indian tourists flocking to Rishikesh. Westerns tourists are few, but Rishikesh gets crowded specially while crossing the 2 bridges, Ram Jhula and Laxman Jhula. Lodging prices can be negotiated down to INR 300/night for a bunk bed in a dorm room as this is low season.
- During the cooler season when any of the hugely popular gurus or babas visit to give a satsang, eg. Prem Baba, Mooji Baba, all rooms are fully booked from Rishikesh to Hardiwar!
- short power outages frequently happen during the day
How to get to Rishikesh from New Delhi by bus
- Bus - take the Metro Yellow Line and get off at Kashmiri Gate. Exit the station from Gate 7 and enter the ISBT building - this is the bus terminal. Go down one flight and go to Platform 14. This is where you buy the bus ticket and board the bus. A/C bus, INR 454, 6 hours. You can take the 10:30pm bus and arrive 5am in Rishikesh.
scam alert! - over the ticket counter, the guy may verbally charge you INR 765 - this is usually the online price of the bus ticket. But I looked closely at the printed ticket, and found the price at INR 454. I demanded more change! The guy knew he's been discovered and gave me back the rest of the change.
You will arrive in Rishikesh at Adarsh Gram. To get to your hotel, travelers usually share a tuk-tuk (called Vikrams) for INR 10-20/passenger if shared. Since I arrived 5am, there was no one to share so I ended up paying a negotiated INR 150.
Travel Tips for India
- e-VISA - visa on arrival is no longer done. Tourists should apply online for an e-VISA. Tourist e-VISA for 60 days = US$51.25 (including surcharges, non-refundable). NOTE: e-VISA is only honored in 25 designated airports and 5 designated seaports (Cochin, Goa, Mangalore,Mumbai,Chennai). You CANNOT do a land crossing using an e-VISA.
- US$1 = Indian Rupee (INR) 67.18
- nearly every food served is spicy...there is no escaping it
- other travel destinations in India
- always good to have an Indian SIM. It's handy to get wifi in some cafes
General Travel Tips
- arrive early - in case there is a snag (visa snag, documentation snag, transport ticket snag, etc.), you will have ample time to troubleshoot the problem if you arrive early (to the airport, to the bus terminal, etc.)
- put detailed itinerary on the Calendar apps of your smart-phone according to timelines - this is where you do all your thinking and planning. Once written down, you don't have to think anymore while you are on the journey...you just follow the steps. This frees your mind for something else that might happen while you are already en route
- avoiding scams - as a general rule, I ignore the touts or anyone I don't know who call out to me. The calling comes in many forms - "Hi! Where are you from?", "Excuse me! Excuse me!", "Where are you going?". I don't look them in the eye and I remain non-verbal with them. If you reply to them, you just gave them an 'in' to hound you. In order not to look rude, I smile and wave the 'not interested' hand to them, without looking at them.
- power bank - hand-carry your power bank. Do not check it in. You can be called in when you are already inside the plane to go all the way to the loading dock so you can personally remove the power bank...and chances are, you'll have to surrender it to them. And you might delay the plane departure!
India Blogs by TheLoneRider
- 16 Days in McLeod Ganj, Dharamshala: Goodbye India June 23-July 8, 2018
- Peoplescape of Dharamshala, India June 14 - July 8, 2018
- Visiting the Tibet Museum June 27, 2018
- In Search of a Tibetan Yantra Yoga Teacher June 25, 2018
- Conducting Yoga Classes at Pema Thang Guest House, Dharamshala, India June 24 - July 8, 2018
- Life in Upper Bhagsu, Dharamshala June 16-23, 2018
- Trekking to Naddi from Upper Bhagsu, Dharamshala June 19, 2018
- Matters of the Heart Jun 17, 2018
- A First Timer in Dharamshala Jun 14, 2018
- 29 Hours in New Delhi Airport July 9-10, 2018
- Meditation with Shirly Pnina at Lodi Garden, New Delhi May 15, 2018
- A First-Timer in New Delhi, India May 12-17, 2018
- A 26-Day Mini-Life in Rishikesh May 18 - June 13, 2018
- Peoplescape of Rishikesh May 18 - June 13, 2018
- Rafting the Ganga River with Greg Goldstein June 1, 2018
- White Water Rafting on Ganga River, Rishikesh May 25, 2018
- Satsang (spiritual discourse) by Sadhvi Bhagawati Saraswati May 21, 2018
- Ganga Aarti (devotional fire ritual) at Parmarth Niketan Ashram May 21, 2018
- Bouncing Back into Yoga in Rishikesh May 21, 2018
- Exploring Rishikesh, India May 18, 2018
- India e-VISA snag May 9, 2018
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