Spirit of the Earth: Episode 1 – Sadhus of India

Rishikesh India Resting in the mountainous Northeastern state of Uttarakhand This city is known as the gateway to the Himalayas and the yoga and meditation capitol of the world For thousands of years, men and women from all over India and the Himalayas have made the pilgrimage to Rishikesh in pursuit of the holy Ganges river The Ganges is the most notable and holy river in all of India Not only is it a lifeline for the millions that live along its banks, but it is considered the embodiment of all sacred waters in Hindu mythology You can still find many from both east and bathing in its waters in baptismal fashion With the intention to wash away what is no longer needed and begin anew Rishikesh gained notoriety in the west when the beetles notoriously traveled there to study transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh in 1968 Since then it has developed significantly and become a hotspot for spirit seeking nomads from all over the world I was initially taken back by this ancient cities vibrancy and welcoming nature Abundant with open-hearted locals and river-dwelling holy men who took the pilgrimage to this land decades ago And never left My first stop here was a local hostel, where I met a young and inspiring man named Arjun Even though Arjun was only 21, him and his brothers leased a building in the tourist hotspot in the city He also ran every part of the hostels business When I told Arjun that I planned to make a film here, he was very excited to share his passion project with me So I am workin on this website with a team from my college They are my classmates from different colleges they are also interested in social help and social change And they are helping me with this So it’s our platform I’m making a website for my social work and what I am doing I found that many people want to helo But they are busy in their lives and they are working in their offices They said that they are ready to help the slums and the needy people, but they don’t have enough time to help And they don’t have a way to help So they said take some money from us and you can go help, but we don’t have enough time So I’m making a website for who wants to donate and help the children, they can donate from very far And they don’t have to be here in the present to help the children So that’s why I’m making the website so more people can help us and contribute what they want to contribute to the children And we will directly collect from them and go to distribute to the slum children We have done so many programs to help the slum children like we made some notebooks to distribute To the children From the unused pages left behind in used notebooks And we have also done a program in which we collected used clothes from the people’s houses Which they are not using in their present life But they have in their house, so we collect it from the people and go to a place with the needy people And we go to distribute to the people who are in need of clothes It was a blessing to instantly meet such an an entrepreneurial and selfless spirit that was willing to help me out while in Rishikesh I was also very interested in his social work, as I too wanted to do something here for the locals So I jumped at the chance to join him and his brother Ardvind on a 10K trek close by Rishikesh We would get to connect with the local villagers and watch the sunrise over the foothills of the Himalayas Kunjapuri temple Our trek into the remote mountain villages would begin here A sacred place where people traveled from all over the world to be blessed by the local priest and observe the magnificent wildlife and nature in the breathtaking part of India How are you feeling Ben? Feeling blessed Want some rice crispies? The energy here was unreal And as vibrant colors filled the sky, the mountain air became our breath And we embraced every bit of it as we gazed in wonder of what the day’s journey would entail Within an hour, we had reached some of the local villages The trail we were on was less common for tourist, so they were surprised to see us, but lovingly welcoming The night before, we collected coloring books, colors, candy and toothbrushes for all of the village children Ben, what are you doing today? Man we have some goodies for these villagers, up here in the mountains Got some coloring pads for some creative expression And what do you have in your magical bag? Man we’ve got colors, pencils, sharpeners, Everything you need to become an artist The kids will be so happy today And although they didn’t have much, their hearts and spirit were full, filled with the essence of the natural setting around them My favorite chocolate The ambition to go within and deepen my meditation practice is what initially brought me to Rishikesh But as I began connecting with the locals and with the land, the ancient and powerful energy of this part of the earth began to inspire me deeply I began to see something very special within the people here Although they lived in a third world environment and often had what seemed as very little, they also carried a deep sense of gratitude and passion within them While in the west, society was typically driven by external gain and pride rooted in accomplishment Here it seemed that connection to each other, nature and the divine is what drove them forward and brought them a sense of peace and contentment This fascinated me, and I became inspired to connect more with the culture with the intention to shine a light and bring simplicity to the deeper questions about human nature I became determined to seek out the wise men of northeast India in hoped that they would share their wisdom with the world through my lens These wise men are known as babas or Sadhus, In Sanskrit, sadhu translates to leading straight to the goal There are roughly 5 million sadhus in India today and you can find dozens of them and their impersonators in the streets or on the banks of the Ganges in this part of India Easily discovered by their brightly colored attire and their painted faces Becoming a sadhu is considered to be the 4th faze in Hindu life After studies, fatherhood, and pilgrimage The process of their initiation is determined by a guru who tests the initiate, When the guru decides that the disciple is ready he bestows them with a new name as well as a mantra which is strictly secretive between the guru and the initiate The path of the sadhu requires removing oneself from all familial, societal and earthly attachments, becoming fully committed to the spiritual path So we set out for the city of Hardware, only 20 KM from Rishikesh and recognized as a spiritual epicenter of the world, It appeared to be the perfect place to find our guru. Haridwar, India Much less popular to the those in the west when compared to Rishikesh This magical city hosts nightly ceremonies on the river called Artes. Indians come from all over the country to experience and embody the Ganges In its most sacred location We began our search for the babas by immersing ourselves in the cities festivities And what I found was as much character and culture as any place Id ever been. So far, our search for answers from the holy men of Haridwar was going well But we simply hadn’t found the guru we had been looking for, so for the rest of our stay in Haridwar, we committed to seeking our a notorious sadhu by the name baba Lal Bharti Without the slightest idea of where he may be or how to find him, we began our search Arjune, what are we doing right now? We are looking for the real babas, the master of here in Haridwar, the naked babas (Chanting in Hindi) An akhara is a place where sadhus congregate. Live, and immerse themselves in spiritual practice This particular akhara is called June akhara and is one of the most notable in all of India And after hours of searching, the singing bells and drums of ceremony gave us hope that we had finally found the home of Baba Lal Bharti We initially assumed that this head priest of the Akhran was Baba Lal Bharti, but to but to our disappointment, he was not. Although it wasn’t long after that we realized that bab Lal Bhakti had been in our presence the entire time. Baba Lal Bharti’s words carried both wisdom and love His energy was strong yet graceful And we were more than satisfied by the answers from this true guru He even invited us to take ash from the sacred fire that had been burning in this akhara for decades The ash brought the career good luck and wellbeing throughout their journey We even had one more chai tea, made by the babas themselves before leaving Haridwar And as my journey in India was coming to an end, I was flooded with emotions of both gratitude and appreciation. For the hospitality that the people here shared with me, and for the ancient wisdom that I was able to receive. I would never forget this amazing country, the journey it provided, and the incredible souls who inhabit it.


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