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Thread: Preparing for a Pilgrimage

  1. #11
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    Re: Preparing for a Pilgrimage

    Nayasurya,

    I already had an idea that the left hand is never used to accept anything in the temple, but interesting note about the water. I'm glad to have that corroborated with regular temple goers. I remember also some members posting that vibhuti and other pastes are accepted with the ring finger of the right hand.

    More than likely I will begin just be watching the other devotees and pilgrims closely here at home and abroad. Rather than read about all these observances, the best thing to do is simply observe and follow their lead.

    Thanks again for all the help.

    Om namah Shivaya
    "Watch your thoughts, they become words.
    Watch your words, they become actions.
    Watch your actions, they become habits.
    Watch your habits, they become your character.
    Watch your character, it becomes your destiny."

    ॐ गं गणपतये नमः
    Om Gam Ganapataye namah

    लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु ।
    Lokaah SamastaaH Sukhino Bhavantu

  2. #12
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    Re: Preparing for a Pilgrimage

    Vannakkam: The ring finger is for chandanam and kumkum, and they may give none, both, or either.

    You get vibuthi in two different ways. Sometimes the priest will put it on your forehead, using his thumb. In this case, you cover your mouth, and bend your head slightly forward. If they are giving it into hands, you take it with your right palm, then pass it to your lift palm, then use your right fingers to apply it yourself.

    Your idea of watching others is probably best.


    Aum Namasivaya

  3. #13
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    Re: Preparing for a Pilgrimage

    Namaste,

    Just an update for anyone who would care to read it. It's been about 3 weeks since I returned from my pilgrimage but I still feel spiritually energised from my relatively short stay. I also learned a lot more in those 3 days immersed in hourly pujas, seva and mixing with other Hindus and spiritual seekers than I could ever have done in a whole lifetime reading a book or experiencing Hinduism through a monitor. It really was fantastic and I have promised God and myself to return again.

    Some of the subtler things I picked up on my visit that made me smile, think or re-assess my prior understanding of what I thought I knew well:

    They only uncover Murugan's image once a week. Such are the vibrations from the murti installed that it was only unveiled on Friday mornings, so I was lucky it happened to be one of the days I was staying. To say it is magnificent would be making an understatement. I can see why Lord Shanmukha is described as being akin to electric in nature. I can only imagine what it must be like for Skanda Shasti or festival time when His image is paraded around the grounds. His temple was the largest and most decorated of the 3 temples in the retreat, and also the one I felt was hardest to sit comfortably. I also could just be imagining things as his pujas took place first thing in the morning and last thing at night when I was probably lacking alertness.

    I also have come to experiencing something else first hand. That the idea of vibrations in a holy place is not myth; the air seemed to be humming (I can't think of a better description) but not from noise. I also found I could not sleep right away at bedtime, but I know this was not from restlessness. I also had no dreams at all the time I was there, just deep sleep for a few hours. I was told other pilgrims often mention the same thing, which struck me as a little odd for such a peaceful place (the nearest town must be some 5 or 6 miles away). There is an animal sanctuary there where animals are rescued from abandonment or the slaughterhouse and they live in peace in the community who have acres of wood and farmland. It's remarkable but all the animals I went to visit and observe seem completely calm and seem almost unafraid when people approach. It is almost as if these souls know that they are safe and loved in the valley, once again bringing to mind the nobility of Sanatana Dharma where all life is cherished as sacred and worthy of love.

    Nearly all the Hindus I met at the retreat call Devi/Shakti/Goddess simply by the name "Mother", a term I found so beautiful in its immediacy of the relationship between devotee and God. As Her temple was the smallest, it seemed everyone was queuing up desperately to get a seat inside. Children were given first priority, which I thought very sweet. All are children of God, but how dear in particular are little children to the Divine Mother. Many mothers lay their infants in front of Mother's image at the end of puja to receive blessings.

    My first puja within a temple was in the Mahashakti temple on a high hill dedicated to Mother in the form of benign Goddess Kali. Part of the pilgrimage involves healthy devotees walking 20 minutes up the steep hillside for worship. It was a little tricky receiving prashad correctly; I had remembered using the ring finger for applying ash and kumkum, but when it came to receiving panchamrita I think I must have stood there rather stupidly for half a minute not sure what to do until a monk saw my rather bemused expression and kindly explained that I could eat it from my hand as blessing from God. Somehow Mother's great, lolling red tongue seemed to make me feel more amused at my ignorance than abashed. Other than that, I felt exhilarated. It was hardest to control my emotions when receiving darshan from Mother. I know it is tears of love, but I am also wondering if it is just spiritual weakness I need to eventually overcome. It seems to happen so often now. By the last puja before hometime, I actually felt my heart ache at the thought of not seeing Mother again before I remembered that She is in everything around me, including myself. But before this, I honestly must have had no idea what I was missing to be part of communal bhakti to God in a sacred space just for worship and communion.

    Visiting Hindus who are only staying for the day seem to think nothing of a 5 or 6 hour drive across the country to worship God. Something my conscience then gently reproached me for when I considered how close my local temple is back at home, a short 20 minute drive. The majority of visitors in the whole retreat come with their entire family, mothers, fathers, children, grandparents, often in several cars together. In my solitary spiritual seeking I had almost forgotten how important family was to the Hindu religion, the tradition of worship within the home.

    Time seems irrelevant in such a place, although in retrospect my sojourn of 3 days went by rather too quickly for my liking. In another sense this has encouraged me to re-visit and stay longer next time. I normally am not the type to enjoy travelling by myself, but after this pilgrimage and immersing myself in bhakti and karma yoga, my attitude towards being by myself has changed considerably. I no longer feel so self-conscious about it; rather I have seen my stay as a way of silencing that voice that babbles on in the background constantly worrying and nitpicking over trivialities.

    I feel so happy to have gone - even nearly a month later I still feel a kind of elation that I hope will stay with me for a long time. I intend now on visiting my local temple regularly, starting tomorrow for evening puja. I am so grateful to Sri Ganesha for guiding me all this time and watching over my spiritual path so that despite the kinks, it is unravelling in His direction in this lifetime.

    Incidentally, much in personal life has suddenly taken a very positive turn and the future looks bright for me right now. Even though this is perhaps just karma unwinding in ways beyond human comprehension, I really do like to think of it as blessings from Murugan, Ganesha and Mother.

    Sorry for rambling, I just had to share my joy in the path of bhakti! I now can attest first-hand why it is extolled by everyone on the spiritual path. For those who are still considering, I really recommend just going. So long as the bhakti of the community there is sincere, it is an experience that must be undergone to understand.

    Om namah Shivaya
    "Watch your thoughts, they become words.
    Watch your words, they become actions.
    Watch your actions, they become habits.
    Watch your habits, they become your character.
    Watch your character, it becomes your destiny."

    ॐ गं गणपतये नमः
    Om Gam Ganapataye namah

    लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु ।
    Lokaah SamastaaH Sukhino Bhavantu

  4. #14
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    Re: Preparing for a Pilgrimage

    Namaste,

    Nothing is sweeter than listening to the song of the spirit that has found joy.
    Thanks for the details, even though you felt that you were rambling.

    Pranam.

  5. #15
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    Re: Preparing for a Pilgrimage

    Vannakkam Sunyata

    Very beautiful, and thank you so much for the write-up.

    Aum Namasivaya

  6. #16
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    Re: Preparing for a Pilgrimage

    Namaste Sunyata,

    Wow, the picture you paint is so lovely! Thank you so much for 'rambling' and sharing, experiences and descriptions like this are so wonderful to read. I didn't know such a place existed in Wales. This is getting added to my list of places I would like to go.

    So glad this has strengthened your resolve to visit your local Temple regularly. I don't think I have met or read of a single Western adoptee of SD that doesn't feel the very same anxieties you did. You're right in that the only thing for it is to just go. And it is SO important to go for so many reasons.

    You may feel some of that anxiety return a bit sometimes. Don't let this bother you or get in your way, if you do run into it.

    ~Pranam
    ~~~~~
    What has Learning profited a man, if it has not led him to worship the good feet of Him who is pure knowledge itself?
    They alone dispel the mind's distress, who take refuge at the feet of the incomparable one.
    ~~Tirukural 2, 7

    Anbe Sivamayam, Satyame Parasivam

  7. #17
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    Re: Preparing for a Pilgrimage

    Namaste Aanandinii,

    Thanks for your post and advice about the returning anxiety. I know it may re-surface again in the future for whatever reason but this time I have knwon first-hand that it is really not worth the worry. The fruits of bhakti far outweight any momentary discomfort or confusion. I could not recommend Skanda Vale more to both newcomers and seasoned, long-ranging pilgrims. My only suggestion if you are planning on going is if you do not like the idea of queuing up for a place inside the temple or large crowds making noise, it is better to go during the colder months (which is, happily in the UK, anytime outside May-August months ) when there will be less families travelling together for groups. Only exception to this is Navaratri, Christmas and Mahashivaratri celebrations. Not that I am averse to crowds - If I want to pilgrimage to India someday I had best get used to queuing and large groups congegrating! - but I really did feel the sattvic beauty of the community more intensely when I was allowed a few moments to myself with nothing to distract me.

    Om namah Shivaya
    "Watch your thoughts, they become words.
    Watch your words, they become actions.
    Watch your actions, they become habits.
    Watch your habits, they become your character.
    Watch your character, it becomes your destiny."

    ॐ गं गणपतये नमः
    Om Gam Ganapataye namah

    लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवन्तु ।
    Lokaah SamastaaH Sukhino Bhavantu

  8. #18
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    Re: Preparing for a Pilgrimage

    How wonderful! Thank you for posting this lil treasure.

    May this be the beginning of many such experiences <3

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