Have you been to Varanasi? It is a place where people visit to have a Darshan of Kashi Vishwanath. He is worshipped in the formed of a Shiva linga. Then there are the ghats such as the Marnikarnika Ghat and Harishchandra Ghat where the dead bodies are burnt. Varanasi is the real place to visit for anyone who wants to have an experience of Shiva – The great void. Who is Shiva? Where can you find Shiva? What will happen when you feel His presence? You’ll get all the answers here in Varanasi.
I have just returned from Varanasi. On the day I landed in Varanasi, I had a list of places to visit. My first desire was to visit the Manikarnika Ghat. Then, I wanted to visit Kashi Vishwanath Temple. I was also told of the Kala Bhaireshwar temple. But time did not permit us to visit all of them.
The Manikarnika Ghat at Varanasi
The boat is the shortest way to get to Manikarnika Ghat. So, we set off in a large motorised boat. The boat took us in the evening when the Sun was setting. We passed several ghats until we reached Manikarnika Ghat. It is self evident. Manikarnika Ghat is just like any other Ghat. The only difference is that in Manikarnika Ghat, all people don’t bathe. It is meant only to burn dead bodies. It is similar to Harishchandra Ghat. There, we saw three burning pyres. The boat stalled there briefly for us to have a glimpse of the ghat.
Varanasi – The place to Experience Shiva
When we were watching the pyres burning, a deep void set in me. The void is unexplainable. It was so deep. I felt a sinking feeling inside. It seemed like, the void is the place where everything ends. Shiva is where everything dissolves. I was there to witness and experience Shiva. The whole experience would have lasted several minutes. Our boat turned around and reached the main ghat where Ganga Aarti was to begin. The void was still persistent. We watched the Aarti and our boat proceeded to the starting point from where we were to alight.
We alighted from the boat and walked towards our accommodation at Yoga Mandir. On our way was a dance bar kind of shack where people were singing and dancing. We stopped by to watch with the void still intact and present. A thought occurred to me; If you still enjoy pleasures of this world, you will not want to leave this place. The world is a mirage where we come to learn. When you miss the point and begin to celebrate your existence, you bring upon yourself a great misery.
Shiva is Consciousness
Shiva Consciousness really separates you from the world. Once you have experienced Shiva, you cannot celebrate life. You will only want to be unattached to the experience of life. It is said in the Puranas that Shiva can be found in the graveyard. Raja Harishchandra found Shiva in the Harishchandra Ghat at Varanasi where he worked burning the dead.
If you want to experience the void, Manikarnika Ghat at Varanasi is the place to visit. But, be careful. Not everyone can handle the heaviness of the void. It’s a very different feeling. A feeling so un-comforting and unsettling that many people on the boat felt fear and instructed the boat rider to not go any closer to the Ghat. People dread the void. They want to live and celebrate life. They want to accumulate wealth and have the pleasures of attachment.
Why is it important to feel the Void?
People get attached to their possessions and their family and friends so much. The pleasure of attachment brings only pain, sorrow and misery. You get depressed and feel lonely. When you visit a temple, you seldom seek God. Instead, you seek more and more of what you don’t have. What kind of misery will it lead to! Have you even thought about it? When your desires don’t manifest at the speed which you wanted it to, you begin to compromise and take short cuts. Then, you want to make people happy. It leads to a loneliness, frustration and depression. Loneliness causes diseases and your end comes from multi-organ failure. You get sucked into the void.
Every disease is a step closer to the void. Taking medicines will not keep you away from it. It just fakes the journey. It\’s like turning the AC on full blast while you\’re journeying towards the Sun. You will eventually burn. That\’s the truth Don\’t try to escape your illness. Befriend it so that you can know and realise the truth. The great void is all that there is. Ayurveda shows the way.
Get into the Void – Don\’t get sucked into it
Getting into the void is different from getting sucked into the void. When you believe that your body discards you, you get sucked into the great void from the physical world. At that time, you won’t want to leave this world. The mind will cheat you to believe that your body is discarding you. There is nothing you can do about it. You feel hopeless and helpless, and above all, you feel unimaginable fear because, for the first time, you don’t have any control over what is happening to you.
The great void is the place where everything ends or dissolves. This life you are living will also enter the great void when you drop the body. None of us can escape this void. When you enter the great void from knowing, your life-cycle of birth-death and rebirth ends. You merge with the Void. You experience the great Void. You experience Shiva. This realisation that you are a part of the Great Void will free you from the cycle of life and death.
How to prepare to enter the Great Void?
Spend time away from every body you know and from all gadgets you use. Spend time with yourself. This private time you spend with yourself must be used to introspect on your thoughts, feelings and actions. When you see a past event in which you are blaming others for what you have gone through, forgive them. See what you ought to have done so that you can become a better person. Find your faults within and correct them. Use everyone as a mirror to introspect. This practice of introspection will lead to surrender. This is not a one time practice. It is a lifetime of practice. Bring every experience in your life to your awareness and end it in love.
A word of caution: You must have a mentor before you get into this practice. If you take a wrong step, you could step into depression. Without help, it will not be possible for you to rescue yourself out of the depths of depression. When you have the right guidance, your life will be a liberating experience.
Meditation is introspection and reflecting. As your inner space clears the clutter of attachment, pain and suffering, your Higher Consciousness will reveal itself. Befriending the Higher Consciousness is a must for you to enter the great void. Your Higher Consciousness is itself, the Great Void. When your journey ends, the great Void will come. It will be an overwhelming experience. Unless you practice experiencing meditation, the great void will be a frightening experience. When you feel fear from the great void, you will not attain freedom. You will not attain moksha. There will be another cycle of life and death for you to experience. There is nothing more painful than that.
Be happy without any attachments
Have you seen infants? They are happy without a reason. They have no sense of right or wrong. Because they are not attached to the world. What they do does not harm them or others. They don’t care. They’re just happy for no reason. You need to relearn to be happy without a reason just like the infants. When you have no attachments, you have less problems.
Don’t get into spirituality with pain and suffering from attachment. Spirituality is a choice. It’s not an escape.
The practice of being happy
Your life will have challenges. Giving into the challenges will cause frustration in you. People often compromise when they face challenges. They find shortcuts. Why do you want to follow the crowd? Be a leader instead. Be happy despite the challenges. Here’s how you do it.
Firstly, think of all the happy experience you had at the end of the day. Most people draw a blank. So, let me simply this practice for you. Did you shower today? What did it feel like? Did you have your morning tea or coffee? What did that feel like? Did you have your breakfast? How did that feel? Identify all the small experiences that you have been having from this morning.
Ok! This is a practice you can do at bedtime. Create a mental list of all the good experiences that you have had since morning. Next, rethink and then relive each of these experiences in your memory one at a time.
Let us take the showering experience for instance. Relive the experience until you feel the water splash on your face or body. How does it make you feel? Keep reliving the experience until you feel light and fresh. When you do feel light and fresh, write in a book; “I am feeling happy now.” Depending on what feelings you experience, write; I am feeling fresh, satisfied, grateful, happy, beautiful, lovely or whatever comes to you. Make sure you write every night. Don’t do this experience in your mind. It won’t have the same effect. In 3 days, you will see your attitude towards life and the experiences you have day to day will change for the better.
My experience of the great Void at Varanasi has left me humbled. It is too deep a realm. It brings to me the realisation that I am but a part of it. I came from there. I am to go there. Here, is a reflection I am living. Not knowing that the light will fade one day and I will return to the eternal void, never to return. You too will experience the same when you go to Varanasi. It’s not a place where you attain moksha. It is a place where you introduce yourself to what Moksha will be like. Then, you’ll have to prepare for it to happen. This, is the beginning of the eternal journey. Let us make the best out of this opportunity. Come, wake up before it’s too late. Prepare to walk into the void.
— Mahesh Krishnamurthy