Sunday, October 11, 2009



We climbed to the top of Mount Mondagni. These words inadequately describe the power and beauty of this experience, but please allow me to embellish a bit. We started at around 8 AM and walked through two villages on the way to the mountain. The local villagers live in brick and mud and stick houses with yards frequented by chickens, cows, water buffalo, and bicycles, sometimes a motorcycle, and occasionally a satellite television. Cows are so venerated that they sometimes live inside with the family. They get electricity by hoisting little wires with hooked ends up onto the high voltage overhead lines at night with bamboo poles. They wait till night to avoid being caught by the electric company. They are curious about us and ask our guides about us - - we wave and say namaskar or hello, or how are you (tu me kah sai ahay), and they most often immediately change from wary suspicion to big ear to ear smiles.

Jeanetta and i both had back packs with way too much stuff for such a climb (which our guides carried for us), however some of it came in very useful, especially the flashlight after dark, as we wadded through the rice paddies and jungle outgrowth in the dark to get back to Fire Mountain Retreat Center. The trip, presented as a 4 hour excursion by our guides, actually took 11 hours. They could have done 2 – 3 trips probably in this amount of time, but with western slow poke softies and their desire to show us all the high points it took double the time. Our guides and playmates were four young local men, three of which work for us - - Rhoidas, who is brainy, lithe, sings and chatters like a tropical bird, and who is nearly fluent in English and Ananda, who is the salt of the earth and who works tirelessly to serve his family and anyone in sight with strength and pure fiery heart and independence of spirit that keeps him pure of stain. Ananda virtually at times pulled us up the mountain in difficult places with the same determination and vocal calling as he uses when he relentlessly urges the oxen onward during the ploughing of his rice fields - - come, come Jeanetta, -- come, come, Dewa! Up over rocks and shale and slippery grass and mud from the rains, they, young men that they are, scampered up the mountain side, greatly delayed by our western lack of experience and conditioning, but having great patience, - - they sang and laughed and joked and carried on a lively animated chatter like jungle birds and animals.

We walked through thick jungle forest and encountered native peoples cutting wood with large self made saws, women gathering jungle plants, large bundles of firewood, and sacks of the ubiquitous land crabs that scurry around as you walk. We saw no large animals, only a monkey and the birds, but listened to the story of the tiger that came down to eat a villager’s goat last week. We were told that if there is only one person in the jungle the tiger may come close, too close, but with two or three people making noise, the tiger stays away. A quick mental tally showed we were safe.

At the start of the climb they took us to a small earthen, tribal temple at the base of the mountain. Kalpa Devi Temple has an earthen floor slightly elevated from the surrounding stream bank, with earth and rock architecture and thatched roof. At the focus is a Shiva Lingam and a vertical wood slab with pointed apex inscribed with white and red painted symbols and language which, since we can’t fully read yet, we assumed was Marathi language. We paid our respects to the Goddess of the Mountain and received her darshan before the assent. She in so many ways epitomizes the Consciousness of the local people in her earthy groundedness and obvious earth-magic capacities/siddhis. With her presence and support we began the climb with confidence and happiness.

Although the men originally told us it would take 1 ½ hours to gain the summit, guess what - - 5 hours to reach the third and highest apex. Many stories could be told of the climb and how we were mothered and fathered along the way by these men of 19 to 27 years (they are called boys here - - i wonder how old you have to be to be called a man?). Boys or not, they were so patient and loving in their understanding and assistance of the “uncle and auntie” (the terms they use when you are old, but not yet ancient in their eyes) “foreigners” they accepted responsibility for.

Listening to the rapid beating of my heart, i prayed for the strength to complete the climb - - i implored and happily accepted the assistance of Shakti and Shiva to fashion the strength necessary to make the climb. The natural forces so available here responded with a grace and power harmonious with the eco-system we were immersed in. At a particularly comfortable meadow with small stream issuing from a spring, we stopped and sat by the stream spreading out a variety of foods we brought for jewaila (lunch or dinner). We had grabbed fruit and nuts and granola, and they brought rice chapattis, wheat chapattis, an egg curry, cucumber, and a potato vegetable combo. Whoever has taken an arduous hike knows how delicious a simple meal by bubbling brook can be. My tired feet placed in the little stream signed with relief as the grounding forces of Nature/water drew the vexation out. I took a short little nap as they made a little covered bed for me and awoke with cries of chelo, chelo (let’s go, let’s go). On the way we were tutored in which plants were edible, which ones tasted terrible, and which were owshudt (ayurvedic medicine).

I can only hint at how beautiful this mountain is at the end of Monsoon with the jungle plants in mature development and the joyful song of plants, after months of arid suffering, having abundant water to jump out of dormancy into full bloom. But of particular amazement is the energy-spirit presence of the Divine structure of this mountain. Oh of course, everywhere in India, the spirit has saturated every rock and nook and cranny, but this mountain is none the less special above other locals in that it grounds the pillar of the Siddha Lineage, - - and for me especially the presence of Lord Parashuram, whose very heart, and love of beauty and the Divinity of the Earth Voyage, pervades Mt. Mondagni. Gaining the summit i chanted a Parashuram mantra and keep Guru Mark with/in/as me and am blessed beyond description by the transit of this brief period. My eyes water with happiness and gratitude for this darshan, and i awoke with this morning with happily exercised legs and a song in my heart bigger than the sky.

At the top we could see everywhere around - - all the villages we had heard of and visited - - the lakes and streams, the other mountains, the lush green valleys with rice paddies and wooded hillsides - - the Fire Mountain dome in the very far distance - - steamy vapour fogs rising from the wet earth - - the inner symphony of India, land of complexity and diversity of spirit drenching the earth and stretching far beyond vision into the past with determined bloom yet to come. My energy structure thrills as i write this about India’s future gifts to come - - i bow with respect and love to a land which i must have called home many times before.

Coming down a mountain side is always worse than the climb in terms of stress and bodily danger. We carefully picked step after step in many places along tiny ravines carved by tumbling monsoon water - - wet and muddy and providing just enough grip to control descent, assisted also by our young companions graciously helping, from their point of view, the elder westerners who undoubtedly seem so lacking in jungle-smarts. Back at Fire Mountain, they are our workers - - here on the mountain, they are our Gurus. Our very lives have been in their loving hands.

Speaking of that, on the way down, we were taken unbeknownst to us at the time, to the cave in which the local hero woman called Mataji sat for 45 days and still frequents this cave of great horizontal run and low head height. To get there we had to negotiate two huge wet, slippery, slimy nearly vertical black obsidian like rocks surfaces with scant purchase to support our weight. We with big shoes, little skill, and considerable deserved terror, and they with bare feet or flip flops, little feet, and cat like comfort managed to get safely across. i vowed i would never do that again, only to find out after the cave visit that we had to return the same way. They did hold our feet as we went across, but my judgement is that they were probably no match for our body weights.

We arrived at the cave and deep into the interior we peered failing the attempt to find an end. The cave, obviously man made running deep into the mountain with little head room and apparently having some larger spaces in the distance will remain a mystery at least at this time. Wading through the nearly knee deep water for a short distance, as the ceiling lowered we quickly lost desire to explore the depths of the cave on this trip - - maybe later, maybe. I pondered what a 45 day meditation would be like in a cave like this. Hmmmm. Attention turned to a low outcropping on the left completed by rock and cement construction upon which is a murti of Bhagwan Nityananda, incense and other articles of Spirit communion. Jeanetta lit the incense, we took darshan as we left. As we exited the cave which must have been a mine of some sort, the men scampered up a ledge over the opening to have their pictures taken. They cajoled us to climb up also - - we demurred, as we had had enough of climbing along smooth, slippery, wet rocks tempting the wheel of time which we have traversed much more than them.

Once we had cleared the return trip over the wet obsidian slide to death patch, i vowed again with greater fervour to never make this journey again. Hmmm. I would like to explore the cave more fully. Perhaps there is an easier access. Hmmm.

After the cave and a last look from the top plateaus, we began the descent which was at times again very steep and uneven. We were given carved poles with pointed ends to project ahead of us to brace against gravity, and many helping hands in tricky places. “Our” Ananda, diminutive in size, was amazingly rock solid on the slopes and carried the weight of my slips and wobbles with aplomb. At times if felt overly grandfathered and mostly felt grateful and full of admiration for such ability on his part. If i was Bilbo, i would certainly choose Ananda to help me deliver the ring.

Occasionally we stopped our descent of the mountain to view the beautiful expanses of lush green countryside. This same terrain is dry and arid much of the year, so it was double delight to see it at the end of monsoon. In another month or two they say it will be dry and brown again, and later they will burn the mountain day after day to clear it of vegetation which used to bother me as i thought it must damage it greatly. However, one would never guess that the whole mountain had been burned six months ago. My legs were so tired at this point that i would hazily wonder if on the next step they would crumble beneath me - - my feet ached, my toes hurt from being jammed against the tip of my shoes as we descended the slopes. I dreamed of home and hearth and slumber and finally we reached the jungle floor, after which it took a long time to reach the clearings near Nimboli. Jeanetta, to our surprise and delight, produced some chocolate bars as we sat for a rest along a beautiful little stream in the rice paddies (dark chocolate sent from the California Sangha). We devoured the chocolate with gusto and made kwips about chocolate and desire and desirelessness and licked the plastic wrappers till the last speck of melted chocolate was gone. Jeanetta admonished the “boys” for throwing the wrappers on the ground - - they had little understanding of why they should pick them up again and at least one refused at first to do so, but succumbed to Jeanetta’s insistent demand that they should not pollute the environment. I am quite sure they did not understand, and probably had thoughts of crazy westerners carrying home useless candy wrappers. India has a long way to go to achieve eco friendly plastic/trash behaviours.

Passing the tall landmark coconut trees near FM, i had such gratitude for this haven and the safe return from an epoch physical, energetic, mental, spiritual journey, and all the intelligence that shepherded us throughout. We collapsed on the porch at FM and drank water, orange juice, and ate water melon and groaned a lot and recounted details of the trip. Collapsing into bed i am awake again full of happiness and love for the Siddha Lineage that has brought us here and nurtured us with every breath. Sadguru Maharaj Ki Jay!! We have visited and been blessed by the fountainhead of the Lineage Spirit which we have enjoyed since we arrived at FM.

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