The “Soonya” state of Mind at Ganges

1 April 2014.  I was at theof River Ganges, at Rishikesh, Vaan Prastha Ghat.

People from various philosophies visit this place.  Rush of believers flood for Ganga Snaan (a dip in the Holy Ganges). After my Yoga class in the morning from 6.30 to 8.00am, I had my breakfast and came down to the ghat for a dip.

Nice, clean water.   Chilling, cold, freshly diluted ice. The current was strong.  It was difficult to stand even on the bank as you feel that you would drown with the strong flow. Heavy iron chains are provided at this bank so that one can hold the chain tight and take a dip in the river.  Still you are afraid that you will drown.

Normally, I dip myself 3 or 5 times in the Ganges.  But I recollected an interesting experience my niece Nirmala (Naru) narrated.  She went for her bath at Rishikesh, Geeta Bhavan #1 ghat.  Close to her was a lady from Eastern Europe taking her dips too.  As is her habit, Naru started talking to the European lady in English.  The lady replied in Hindi and told Naru ‘Dubki poora lena.  Shir aur shir ke hairs bhi bhigana”  (Take the dip properly, your head and hair should go in too). Naru was surprised with her reply in Hindi and said: “Kaan meh problem.” (I have a problem in my ears).  The lady said ‘haan kaan meh paani jata.’ (Yes, the water does go in the ears.)

After 5 dips Naru stopped.  The lady said, “Nahin Nahin, gyarah dubki lena.’  (No-no, you should dip yourself 11 times). When Naru said it was enough for her, the lady insisted, “nahin, nahin 11 lena.  Mai count karegi .”  (no-no, 11 times. I will count.) She forced Naru to continue and started counting dips “six raam raam, “seven raam raam” and continued till 11 dips were completed.

Today, I was afraid that I had come alone. I double checked to see that I am  safe.  I held the chain with as strong a grip as possible.  I had my first dip, second and third.  Normally I feel satisfied, rather I feel tired and complete at 3 dips. But then I recollected the instance Naru had narrated. I took 11 dips!

I do not know whether there is any logic behind this count of 11, but the last 5-6 dips gave me a thrill and pleasure which I have never experienced before. I didn’t know if there was anything surviving or existing in this universe. It was absolute “Soonya” (zero) state of mind.  Nothing but energy flowed in.

It is amazing how devoted foreigners are to learn, understand our traditions and implement them.  Some of them study our traditions and philosophy deep enough, that they are qualified to teach us our own traditions and learning from our scriptures.

Thereafter every time I was in for river bath, after The Float, I took 11 dips and enjoyed getting  in “Soonya” state of mind.

Author: Badri Baldawa

Edited: Meeta Kabra

Define Contentment


A day at Ganges Ghat at Rishikesh in April 2014.

Just as I was about to enter the river for my bath, I saw one of the sadhu pandits (priest) wearing a white handloom dhoti, just finishing his bath.  I knew he was going to chant Hanuman Chalisa (a prayer for Lord Hanuman).  I went to him to say “Please wait for me to complete my bath, we will sing Hanuman Chalisa together”.  He did not speak.  I took my 11 dips and sat next to him.  We recited Hanuman Chalisa together.

He was the same sant (saint) who I saw two days ago at the river side.  That day, I obseved him as he had his bath while chanting all type of Mantras. He then, sat on the steps and chanted the Hanuman Chalisa with a lovely tune.  I was at peace of mind and unknowingly joined him. I thoroughly enjoyed the vibrations. I waited till he completed his jaaps (chants) and was inquisitive to know more about him.

He was about 60 years old and from a village in Bihar.  He lost his parents long ago.  He did not marry and had no relatives, except for a brother and a nephew, who he had no contact with. He stayed in a temple in his village and was the caretaker.  He traveled a lot.  He reached Haridwar by train and expected to stay in Rishikesh for 4-5 days before moving to other places.  He was planning on reaching Badrinath by foot and expected to reach there by mid-May 2014.  On his way, if he feels like it, if he finds it interesting, he’d stay at any place for 4-5 days.

No plans, no itinerary, no reservations for accommodation, no worry about food, no expense budget.  He appeared a fully content soul.  He would stay in any Ashram which wouldn’t mind giving him some space to sleep, even if it means open space in very cold weather.  He’d eat at any of the Ashrams which had complimentary meal arrangements for Sadhus. In case he didn’t get food, he said, he wouldn’t feel hungry; he felt hungry only when he saw food and not otherwise.  He had just a dhoti and a spare langot for clothing, which he would wash every day and use.

We, on the other hand, would not bother making travel plans unless we have confirmed reservations, comfortable place to stay, planned arrangements to eat and a load of warm and fancy clothes.  Here was a soul who had full mental satisfaction even though he did not have any financial for expenses, accommodation, food arrangements or in fact any materialistic possessions!

Now look at this.  Just on the way to Rishikesh, I lost my iphone.  It was pinched by someone at Delhi station when it was kept for charging from right under our nose.  All my information, contact details, data was lost with the phone.  I was very upset.  I felt very sad.  Losing that phone was almost as if I had lost one of my beloved ones. Is such an attachment necessary?  It is bad that we have become so dependant. How did we manage when cell phones did not exist?  We probably had better mental peace and less dependency on an external non-living tool? Just compare that to the Sadhu who wasn’t even dependent on living beings and was still happy and content.

Later, I went for a trek from Rishikesh to the Neelkanth mountain.  This is located in the centre of a valley, surrounded by mountains all around. It was a circuit trek of about 25 km including a steep climb of about 3000 feet over a distance of 12-13 km.

This is said to be the place where Lord Shiva took his salvation after he consumed the poison, during the Samudra Manthan – to save the universe from destruction, Shiva retained the poison and did not allow it to go down his throat.  It created such heat that he had to rest in a cool place.  That place was Neelkanth.

(Neelkanth is the same place where it is whispered that Mrs. Jasodaben, the wife of the BJP nominee Mr. Narendra Modi is presently stationed  in an Ashram.)

This place could be visited by a vehicle.  But we preferred to trek. No doubt it was a hard trek.  Since I lost my cell phone, I carried my wife’s phone.  It was for the loved ones at home to know our whereabouts.  But every time there was a call, it disturbed the peace and trek thrills. When I had such a wonderful time with nature in wonderful company of two daughter-like grand nieces, Archana and Krishna, any call was a disturbance.  We gain a lot from modern gadgets, but we lose a lot too!

I wondered if it was really necessary that I buy a new cell phone to live? Since I lost my phone, was this an opportunity to stay without it?  I am wondering whether I should buy a phone at all?  Can’t I get on without depending on it?  Will I not be happier without a cell phone?  Why not try at least for a few months to see what difference it makes?

Author: Badri Baldawa                                                      Editor: Meeta Kabra

North Pole

Visit to North Pole Where Purest of Water and Environment still exists

I had trekked to Mt. Everest Base Camp last year ie in May 2008.  After my successful completion of this trip, I was told by some friends and associates that I should have told them in advance so that they could have partly or fully sponsored the expedition.  In return, they wanted a picture of their corporate flag flying at Mt. Everest, which they could have used in their advertising and sales promotion campaigns.

Starting 7 July 2009,  I am now heading, with my wife, for The North Pole, dot 90 deg North, This is the “Top of the World” rather “Top of the Globe” from where there is nothing North to it.  Everything in the world is South to this point.

We travelled to Antarctica, South Pole, over two years back.  It is a land covered with age old ice and surrounded by water.  However at North Pole there is no land at all, rather it is full of frozen water surrounded by land.  While the longest day to watch midnight Sun at Antarctic South Pole is on Dec 22, it is June 22 at Arctic North Pole.

This is a unique expedition to a remote and very little explored part of the globe with all its virgin beauty and weather uncertainties.   The voyage would ultimately by cruising on a powerful nuclear powered ice breaker ship, only one of its type in the world,  which passes through to North Pole by cutting age old ice.   This makes the expedition quite exciting.  How the compass needles reacts at a place where there is nothing North to it, how pure is the purest of weather, how is the vegetation etc are all the points worth observing.

The journey includes flying to Scandinavia and then to Russia to sail on the Cruise from Russian Port thereafter.  As per my information, only about 400 civilians have visited this spot from all over the world.  We could be the first or the first few Indians to visit the spot.

If you have any queries and questions which you think I should observe on this journey, please do email me.  The journey would be more  interesting with these additional questions in mind.  I am also just wondering whether this could also be beneficial for commercial publicity, for a consideration.  Views and proposals from the readers would be much appreciated.

My Experience at Vipassana at Igatpuri:

My Experience at Vipassana at Igatpuri:


12 days for Vipashyana at Igatpuri from 13 to 24 Aug 2008 was a different experience in Meditation compared to any other meditation course I had ever attended earlier.  For 10 days, arya mouna (no talking, no signs of communication) no newspapers, no tv, no cells or phones, no music, no praying etc etc. The list of don’t include not to exercise, not to perform yogasanas, no any other type of meditation except what is taught at that place.   Ofcourse,  all these restrictions are clarified to all the candidates repeatedly before joining the course.


You also have to give an undertaking that you would not leave the course in the mid- process.  In fact you will not be allowed to, as they believe that leaving half way through may create serious health problems.


The life starts at 4am and completes by 9.30pm and includes 12.30 hrs of meditation every day in sitting posture.  These are divided in 4 sessions, 2 hrs early morning, 3 hours before noon, 4 hours after noon and 3 hrs in the night session which includes the DVD discourse.  


You keep on asking yourself is it possible that a beginner can concentrate well continuously for 4 hours.  Is it not worth compressing to shorter sessions for better concentration?   In my interaction with the management there, I was told that these are being practiced after studying the impact over lakhs of persons in last 25 years.


It is a place where your opinion about the course changes 3 times every day, depressed feeling in the morning, dejected in the afternoon, delighted in the evening and ends with frightful nights.


Tea breakfast at 6.30am, 11am is the lunch and 5pm is the time for snacks and tea/milk. No dinner.  That is it.  Wait for next day breakfast time to taste any thing further.  Efficiently managed dining job completes lunch to 300 persons just in 40 minutes max.


Ladies and gents are completely separated and are not even supposed to see each other as seeing would mean distraction in meditation. That generates the only entertainment activity of “peep and trace the spouse” (chori chori se) while walking in fast moving dining queue. 


The spiritual discourses are claimed to be non-religious, but is surely influenced by Budhist principles.  The main motto is  “understand yourself, you will be able to understand others”.    This understanding is based through controlling your breadth and observing what is happening in every small part of your body.   No importance is to be given to any good or bad development in the body as it is believed that every creation in this universe is temporary and has to come to an end.  This principle therefore also applies to human body and the pain therein. 


Amongst the many “Don’t do”, one of the most unpopular restriction is not to pray or chant the deities of any religious belief.  As per my personally understanding, they believe that other religions create Mote Mote Lep (thick layers) of Andh viswas (blind faith).


Teaching and instructions are played by audio cassettes.  The fundamentals behind the instructions are explained by way of DVD filmed discourses of  teacher Mr. Satyanarayan Goenka (more affectionately called as Guruji),  every day for about 100 minutes, the ones which no would like to miss. 


Audio cassette instructions would mean limited direct communication with the assistant teachers present in the meditation hall, who clarify the questions, if any, of the students.  Therefore those who are shy of asking question may continue to follow wrong notions or postures etc.  


All said and done, the most important thing is, by the time you reach 10th day of the course you really feel fresh and rejuvenated, a miracle short of feeling. 


All the assistant teachers and the help you get from about 200 of the volunteers, they all work  honorary and mostly the past students.  All the boarding and lodging is free of cost.  No donations are accepted except at the end of the course.  You donate whatever you want only if you feel you got benefit out of the course.   These donations helps covering the cost of the next batch of students.


All is well that ends well.  Most of the persons normally leave satisfied.  This course surely merit 4star plus grading.  Certainly minimum one course is recommended.  If suits to your liking, continue repetitions and advance courses.


Badri Baldawa