Chinmaya Inspiration Yatra X


2018-01-09   ·   8 min read


I recently attended the 10th Chinmaya Inspiration Yatra (CIY X). It was my first yatra (a Sanskrit word that translates to "pilgrimage"). On this journey, I visited some holy sites and learned about self development (in the pursuit of eternal happiness).

During the CIY X, I traveled with a group of 34 others including Acharya Vivekji (our guru) to various holy places in Northern India while actively engaging in self development.

In general, this post notes a few details of each day but leaves out things like stopping for bathroom breaks, stopping for chai, and satsang with Vivekji (it can be assumed all of these consistently punctuated the journey). Some stuff has been left out intentionally. Some stuff, inevitably, have been left out unintentionally. This post does not do the yatra justice and is not representative of an attendee's experience.

Day 1

  • Arrived in New Delhi with Gaurav, Sid, and Smaraki
  • Stayed at Acharya Vivekji's parents' place
  • Tried to pull an all nighter with Gaurav and Sid, fell asleep 4:30AM (India time)

Day 2

  • All alarms failed. Gaurav, Sid and I woke up around 7:00AM
  • Had great food including chai, bread pakoda, biscuits, and more (courtesy of Vivekji's grandparents)
  • Left Acharya Vivekji's grandparents' place
  • Arrived at Chinmaya Mission ashram in New Delhi
  • Met other yatris at ashram
  • Visited a huge temple, where I got dehydrated
  • Left for Haridwar
  • Bus drivers made at least 5 U-turns because locations in India aren't documented in Google Maps as well as locations in the USA.
  • Arrived at Haridwar at night, stayed in hotel near 2 temples and Ganga river

Day 3

  • Went to Ganga River in Haridwar
  • Walked around, put some Ganga water on my head

Day 4

  • Witnessed a Ganga puja at the Ganga River in Haridwar

    • Large fires, large gathering (it wasn't even a special day)
  • Left for Rishikesh
  • Visited Tapovan and Sivananda kutis/ashrams by Ganga River in Rishikesh
  • Saw posters advertising classes for learning "C++, Java, .NET, HTML, Android Development" in Rishikesh
  • Left for Uttarkashi where we stayed at an ashram
  • So damn cold and no heating
  • Wore undershirt, thermal, long sleeve, sweater, down jacket, used down blanket, 2 medium thick blankets, and 1 thick-thick blanket (straight up several inches thick and very, very dense) to be warm at night in bed
  • Was in room with Gaurav and Sid, where we laughed a lot and suffered in the cold together
  • Really appreciated Gaurav's and Sid's company

Day 5

  • Spent time in Uttarkashi like satsang with Vivekji, visited temples, visited Ganga River, saw 2 ppl carrying a cumbersome-looking body bag to the river, and saw charred wood by the side of the river on the round rocks.
  • Ate a Cadbury Eclair

Day 6

  • Left for Gangotri
  • Gangotri was even colder than Uttarkashi but went there during the day
  • Gangotri was deserted except for 3-4 ppl I saw (houses were empty, huts were empty, shops were closed, only sound I could hear was the sound of the river flowing and the group of people I was with), probably because of how cold it is during the winter
  • Collected some holy water from the river (tbh I have no interest in collecting "holy" water but I wanted to collect some in a bottle because I know my parents would want it)
  • Gangotri was very peaceful
  • Came back to Uttarkashi for the night

Day 7

  • Left Uttarkashi for Chandrighar
  • Had a great breakfast at Saloniji's family's house
  • Ate lunch at super fancy Punjabi restaurant
  • Walked around in Golden Temple at night
  • Shoes were stolen at the Golden Temple

Golden Temple at night

Day 8

  • Visited Jallianwala Bagh where the British shot at the backs of thousands of innocent individuals

    • ~1400 shot to death
  • Walked around in Golden Temple again
  • Purchased pair of shoes to keep warm

Day 9

  • Arrived at Siddhabari, almost as cold there as Uttarkashi

Mountains at Siddhabari

  • My room had a small heater! (I was pretty happy to be able to warm my feet in front of a heater)
  • Visited the small temple and altar underneath which Swami Chinmayanda rests in peace

    • During my stay at Siddhabari, we would pray here every morning

Day 10

  • Learned about CORD (Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development)
  • Visited a village that benefitted from CORD, listened to a discussion/meeting among women farmers and observed microfinancing
  • CORD doesn't give money to the poor; they use donations to build self-sustaining systems of development for the poor to grow out of poverty and sustain themselves

    • They said they don't need money, they need people with smart ideas and time

Day 11

  • Visited another village helped by CORD

This day I spoke with Vivekji in person. The gist of what I said is that I'm pursuing the comforts of life to be happy but those comforts won't save me from a tragedy. And I'll be greatly dependent upon those comforts for happiness, putting me at risk for sorrow. But even the comforts of life can't gurantee me happiness. And I don't want to attempt to follow the life of one who leaves the material world in pursuit of eternal happiness, because that would be incredibly uncomfortable (freezing cold, no heating, bland food, little to no technology, etc.). Vivekji said the two paths are not mutually exclusive and gave 3 points of advice for self development:

  1. Continue engaging computer engineering as a career if it helps me grow
  2. Read Self Unfoldment for 20 min every morning
  3. Attend the Atma Bodha study group at University of Maryland, College Park

Day 12

  • Others went to another CORD village. I chose to stay in fear of shitting my pants due to the unknown availability of restrooms and my ability to hold was greatly diminished at this point
  • CORD served delicious Maggi noodles with homegrown vegetables, and a freshly prepared gulab jamun for lunch
  • Watched performances
  • Ankur and Gaurav were hilarious
  • Formal conclusion to this yatra

Day 13

  • Left Siddhabari
  • Ate lunch at McDonald's where I ate a really good McSpicy Paneer burger
  • Stayed at Cosy Grand Hotel for the night

Day 14

  • Left Cosy Grand for Vivekji's parents' house
  • Vivekji left for Mumbai
  • Ate at Social (a hipster, dim-lit, fancy restaurant) somewhere in South Delhi with Sid, Gaurav, Kanchan, Sheethal, and Surya
  • Went to Delhi airport and left India with Sid, Smaraki, and Gaurav

Overall Experience

Hardships Endured

  • Freezing cold: woke up shivering and feet went numb a couple times each

    • Had a bad cold (runny nose + cough)
    • Had to take a freezing, cold shower once (my fault for being dumb and not knowing how to turn on the hot water haha)
  • Nausea and general tiredness from sequential several-hours-long bus rides (~86 total hours on a bus! In just 2 weeks!)
  • Hips and back hurt from the long bus rides and I tend to hunch a little when I'm cold
  • Constipation and loose stools (at different times)
  • Dehydrated at one point (dizzy, legs cramped, fading in and out, unable to properly run to the water fountain but made it without fainting)
  • Fear of dying because the driver was hitting 40mph on tight turns on a mountain side where there was often nothing to protect us from falling off the edge except for 0.5-4 feet of space (space varied but in general the lane was so small that when two vehicles wanted to move in opposite directions, usually either one of them had to reverse a long way back or park dangerously close to the edge and wait for the other to pass)

Positive Things

  • Bless my Mama and Papa for packing thermals for me
  • Visited developing, agricultural communities where a great importance was placed on empowering women
  • Whatever little food I had was consistently so damn good
  • The chai in all the places we stopped was consistently amazing and soothing
  • Visited several places for the first time
  • Surreal, serene views of mountain ranges, valleys, and hills
  • Spent time with like-minded ppl (everyone wanted to improve themselves and be happier)
  • Spent time with a couple of friends I hadn't spend much time with recently before the trip
  • Realized how dependent I am on comforts I take for granted in the USA (e.g. heating)
  • Direction and valuable advice from Vivekji

What I Learned

  • "Let go of the illusion of control"
  • "To worry is to suffer twice"
  • Building positive, meaningful relationships with people is a valuable (and perhaps vital) asset in the pursuit of eternal happiness

Conclusion

Will probably not go on another yatra for a while.

I can keep going on more yatras but in the end, it's ultimately up to I and what I do after this yatra that determines how much and how quickly self development occurs. My plan to grow in 2018 is to read Self Unfoldment each day and attend the Atma Bodha study group at UMD.


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