around world 2: india

Bangkok, thailand

Grand palace

http://www.bangkok.com/attraction-palace/grand-palace.htm

soi 2/ Sukhumvit Rd, we stayed at a place near a church at the end of soi 2

looks like a nice place for about $50 a night

http://www.aspenbangkok.com/index.php

more basic for $25 a night (single)

http://www.theatlantahotelbangkok.com/index.php

we also stayed in an area with a lot of youth hostels, Banglamphu

here are some for $16 a night and up

http://voices.yahoo.com/best-youth-hostels-bangkok-thailand-7489448.html?cat=16

here are some for less than $15 a night

http://www.travelfish.org/accommodation/thailand/bangkok_and_surrounds/bangkok/khao_san_road/all

Dhaka, bangladesh

we also stayed at a Buddhist monastery here

here is an overview of Dhaka

http://www.dhakacity.com.bd/

Travels in india

Calcutta

we stayed at a Buddhist monastery near College and Sudder Streets

there are zillions of books on sale here on the streets and everywhere

here is an overview of Calcutta with places to eat and sleep

http://wikitravel.org/en/Kolkata/Esplanade#b

we visited Mother Theresa’s home of the poor and dying

Kalighat Kali Temple

Location

Kalighat Rd., Kalighat

City

Kalighat

Price

Free admission

Frommer’s Review

Violent, vengeful Kali is the patron goddess of Kolkata, and this temple complex — believed to be the site where the toe of Shiva’s wife fell when her body was scattered across the earth by the gods anxious to stop Lord Shiva’s dance of destruction — is a major pilgrimage center, drawing some 20,000 visitors each day. If you’re a non-Hindu, you cannot enter the inner sanctum, sticky with the rotted remains of fresh flowers offered by devotees every day, but it’s worth your while to explore the courtyards and the various stalls selling flowers, fruit, and religious paraphernalia. If you’re uneasy about the idea of animal sacrifice, avoid the enclosure to the south of the temple where at least one goat is offered to Kali every day (a ritual that allegedly replaced the ancient practice of human sacrifice). Be equally wary of the so-called priests — temple “guides” who usher you into the complex and conduct a whirlwind tour of the facilities, only to present you with a donation book that records the radically generous donations of other foreigners.

http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/asia/india/calcutta/33261/kalighat-kali-temple/attraction-detail.html

Puri

we stayed at a simple house near a beautiful old mansion called Z Hotel and did yoga on the beach every morning at 6 am with Swami Ananda…

also read the Aquarian gospel of Jesus the Christ

http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/spiritual-discussions/436173-jesus-aquarian-gospel.html

walking down the main street of the town, I felt as though Jesus was walking with me and then a few days later reading the book, there was a chapter/a few sentences about Jesus’ time in Puri…

we experienced the Holi festival, stayed indoors mostly, lots of colors splashed onto cows and goats and people

http://www.asiarooms.com/en/travel-guide/india/festivals-and-events-in-india/holi-festival-india.html

Kovalum Beach

has changed a lot since 1988 when we visited… when we stayed there we paid $.50 to $1 a night at some very cheap lodges… now it seems there are luxury places for $100 a night and more… progress?

http://www.coconutbay.com/

http://www.mustseeindia.com/Kovalam/top-10-beaches-india/361343

Madras/Chennai

Broadlands Hotel

http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/06-05/a-personal-goodbye-to-broadlands-lodge-in-chennai-chennai-india.html

INDIA— A COSMIC KALEIDOSCOPE

The sense of the spiritual in India is constantly apparent wherever you go.  You cannot escape from a sense of the Godly here.  The Indian people wear their spirituality as visibly and as proudly as the Indian ladies don their colorful silk Kanchipuram saris or the men wear their homespun lungis or dhotis (loin cloths). The Ramayana and Mahabarashtra (tales of the Hindu gods and their consorts) are seen on television, in books, in the songs, at art museums, in theatres.  Every part of Indian cultural life is spiritual.  The Indian people have a special reverence for God in everything they do.

I went to India to explore the vast multi-layered spiritual diversity to be discovered there. I found this great land of Gandhi to be overwhelming to my senses upon first impact. Smells of cow dung, hot, spicy foods, incense mingle and assault the nose. Sounds of bicycle rickshaw drivers, small children yelling “Baksheesh” (please give me money) and Namaste, (peace), car horns and boom boxes of Indian music blaring out of each and every shop overwhelm your ears.

We arrived in Calcutta after being jostled on trains, buses and other forms of transportation. India is immense. For that reason, we decided to stay in the southern geographical area. In eight months, I visited the states of Bengal, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Mahareshtra.

Hindu temples abound on the streets. One of my first experiences walking down the street in Calcutta was to hear the sound of a loud bell being rung. It was time for public worship evidently. A man rang the bell over and over and we walked into another world. There was a huge Hindu god, flowers at his feet, and the man with the bell. I closed my eyes and the bell kept ringing until my thoughts just faded blissfully away and my mind became peaceful and calm. I stayed lost in this reverie of sound for a few minutes. Then the experience was finished and we moved on down the road.

Visiting the Dakshineswar and Calighat temples, Mother Theresa’s home for the poor and dying were memorable experiences. Calighat is named after the Goddess of Calcutta, Kali.  She is a fierce Destroyer goddess portrayed all black-faced, red-tongued and very scary-looking. The Hindus vision of God is multiple gods who each portray each of God’s attributes as Creator,Preserver of Life and Destroyer (of evil). At Calighat, each morning they sacrifice goats to Cali. This was an unforgettable experience. They also prepare food here for thousands of local poor people. The people who cook in the kitchen must fast while cooking and keep their shoes off while there as well as think only holy thoughts.

Moving on down south, we stayed at the beach town of Puri famous for its Hindu places of worship. The first day I walked down the middle of town (there is only one road), I was listening to some praising music of the Christian variety. Suddenly I had a sense of immense joy, peace and love and I felt Jesus walk beside me.

At the Yoga ashram in Puri, Swami Ananda led us through yoga for 2 hours every morning starting at 6 a.m. Each session was unique and the kundalini energy flowed freely. One day Swami lent me a book called the Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ. I opened the book randomly and it fell open to a page that talked about Jesus being in Puri! This was confirmation of what I had felt the first day.

Also while in Puri, we participated in Holi, the Indian holiday where people paint each other and the animals with wildly colored paints. People celebrate the Holi with pranks such as throwing water-filled balloons on bystanders. Purple, green and orange hair and clothes were the norm during this time.

Indian dancing is quite unique and can be seen at theatres

around town.  It is different in each part of India.  Dancers use

hand movements and animated body expressions to convey a story.

Indian fables spin tales full of romance, action, drama and comedy.

St. Thomas, one of the Apostles, died in Madras.

Also, Kottayam in the state of Kerala is home to the largest

Christian community in south India, that’s 30% of the population.

Housed in Kottayam is the largest seminary that educates hundreds

of would be priests a year. There are also several other seminaries

and convents for nuns.

walk up the hill, you can look out over Madras and it’s a very

beautiful scenic view.  There is a small chapel where information

can be gotten about the Apostle and his death.  An alleged piece

of his actual bone is on display as well as the heavy stone cross

that he was carrying when they found him.  There is also a convent

with an orphanage.

In Kottayam as well as other parts of south India, the people

are extremely friendly. The people invited me to stay with

them in their homes, unexpectedly asked me to speak at various

groups and shared their lifestyles. People not only talk about

God and prayer and their experiences but they live their

spirituality open heartedly.

Jewish people might be interested to find out about the

primarily Sephardic Jewish community (from Baghdad) who make Cochin

in the state of Kerala and Bombay their home.   There are a few

synagogues in south India, most notably the one in Mattancherry in

Cochin but also many synagogues all over Bombay.  The people

consider themselves Orthodox and keep kosher.  They live in small

communities on streets named Jew Street or Jew Town Road. The older

generations are left, most of the children have made aliyah or gone

to live in Europe or America seeking greener pastures and better

educational and work opportunities.

The Cochin synagogue was built in 1568 in Mattancherry.  It

was built to last for all time to come.  It is made of pure

granite.  Also, it is built at the end of the street to ensure that

it’s an abode of purity.

In Mr. S. Koder’s (of Koder and Company’s, one of the prominent

Jewish families) small pamphlet about the synagogue, there is

the story about the beautiful blue and white Chinese inlaid tiles

that make up the floor of the temple.  Each tile is different.

According to legend, the tiles were supposedly made from cow dung

and blood and since Hindus revere cows as being sacred, a Hindu

raja gave the tiles to the Jews since they could not be used in a

Hindu temple.

The love story of Luchi and Chang told on the tiles is sad

and sweet.  Luchi and Chang were in love but Luchi’s father wanted

her to marry someone else.  They decided to elope because her

father was going to have someone kill Chang.  They fled, the father

found out about it and was going to have someone do away with both

of them.  Luchi and Chang were changed by a genii just in the nick

of time to two turtle doves who flew away.

A family we met at Kovalum Beach took us to see the pooja (worship) a few miles from Kovalum at a Hindu temple that honors Sri Narayana Guru, a deceased spiritual leader.We took a bus and walked up a hill overlooking a lake with majestic scenery.  The atmosphere was heavenly. Leaving our shoes quietly outside, we were initiated with fragrant sandalwood paste applied to our third eye area.

Immediately, my third eye opened and I was shown another plane of existence. People were praying, offering flowers, coconuts, fruits, and lighting incense as sacrifices to the statues of Hanuman (the elephant god) and to Sri Naryana Guru.

Kanchipuram, one of the seven sacred cities of India.

Kanchipuram is famous for its Hindu temples.  There are also silk

factories where the exquisite Kanchi silk saris are hand loomed

from raw silk and pure gold into the unique finished product.  The

saris here take about 30 days to complete (if several people are

working on them) and cost from 3,000 rupees (about $200) upward.

Kanchipuram is also known as the home of a 96©year©old guru,

Sri Shankaracharya and his protegees.  They live in the Shankara

Mutt, a holy place behind one of the city’s post offices.

His Holiness observes a vow of silence in recent years.  Yet

visitors are still allowed special, individual audiences with him.

At certain, seemingly unpredictable times of the day, there is a

mad rush to view him.  I was to be given an audience with him and

then not.  It was on again, off again.  Finally, I met the middle

man of this holy trio (the 96 year old Acharya, his successor and

the successor’s successor, a young man of about 13 years old).  One brief viewing of the 96 year old Master convinced me that he’

is a specially enlightened man.  He seemed to exude an aura of

heavenly peace all around him.

From Kovalum Beach, we visited Sai Baba, a famous internationally-known guru. He has two ashrams, Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh and Whitefield near Bangalore in the state of Karnataka. We visited Puttaparthi which houses thousands of visitors.  There are no western-style hotels in this small village.  It’s a very bumpy long 3-5-hour bus ride from Bangalore.  Most foreigners share taxis to get there.

Darshans (viewing of the guru) happen several times a day. Bhajans (singing of holy songs) precede darshan.

I had mystical experiences while at Sai Baba’s ashram that I still cannot explain. I saw him produce holy ash (vibuthi) in his hand out of nowhere.  Being a skeptical New Yorker at heart, the night before I left, I asked for a sign that he was holy or who he claims to be.   I was staying in a dormitory and awoke in the morning surrounded by a huge puddle of water.  My cot (lawn chair) was surrounded with water.  And it made sense that all my belongings would be soaked. But looking around, I saw that unbelievably my suitcases were all safe. However, my Birkenstock-like sandals sat in the middle of this river. But when I picked them up out of the puddle, they were completely dry with no trace of ever having been floating in a pool of water. Talk about walking on water! How did he do that?

Note:  He has since died and there were rumors of abuse and of his molesting female followers.

I have barely scratched the surface of the spiritual opportunities  encountered during our visit. For more info, contact me. I also visited with the Jewish people in Cochin and Bombay, met a 96-year-old guru in Kanchipuram, and had other mystical adventures.

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