Sadhguru on Kashi and their rituals

Sadhguru : Mysticism means exploring dimensions that are not

yet in your understanding or perception. To explore

those dimensions together, there are various types

of rituals, which are beautiful, but if not conducted

with absolute integrity, they can easily become

exploitative. Ritual means not just doing pooja. This

used to be a land with complex and phenomenal

rituals, but due to lack of integrity and misuse, these

rituals largely got wiped out.

For example, Kashi is the oldest living city on the

planet. Mark Twain said, “Benares is older than

history, older than tradition, older even than legend,

and looks twice as old as all of them put together.”

Even Shiva, the Adiyogi, got so enamored with this

city that he did not want to leave it anymore. Earlier,

he used to live at Kailash and the surrounding region,

but then he married a princess. She needed better

accommodation. So he came down to Badrinath,

and built a small home there. But after some time,

he was dispossessed of his home.

Shiva and Parvati had settled in Badrinath because

of its hot spring. Their small dwelling was at about

10,800 feet above mean sea level, so the climate was

cold. One day, they went to have bath in the hot

spring. When they came back, there was a beautiful

looking infant outside their doorstep. Parvati always

had a problem with the fact that she could not have

children because Shiva did not have human seeds,

and she being human could not contain his seed. Out

of her desperation, she created Ganapati, and from

what was left of six children, she made Karthikeya.

When she saw this wonderful baby at their doorstep,

her maternal instincts took over and she went to

pick up the child. Shiva said, ‘”Wait. Don’t touch

this baby. An infant that lands up at nearly 11,000

feet MSL all by himself is not a good infant. There is

nobody around; no footprints of the parents in the

snow. Why does this fellow land up at our doorstep

by himself? Just throw him away.” Parvati said,

“How can you say this? This is the most beautiful

baby I have ever seen!” And she took the baby into

the house. The next day, after coming back from

their bath, the baby had bolted the door from inside

and did not let these two people in. Parvati said,

“How can the baby bolt the door?” If a baby can land

up at 11,000 feet, the damn baby can do anything.

Shiva said, “Well, we will have to vacate the place.

Let’s move on.” Parvati said, “But this is our house.”

“It may have been our house, but since we let the

wrong people in, it is not ours anymore. Let’s go.”

They moved to Kantisarovar, which is at 12,700 feet.

This baby who locked himself inside and

dispossessed Shiva of his home was Vishnu, who

thought, “What does it matter for an ascetic yogi if

he is here or there? It is all the same for Shiva, but

for me it matters. I want to be here.” Shiva knew

that, and that is why they moved to Kantisarovar,

close to Kedar. Later on, one winter got bad, even at

Kantisarovar. From Kailash, he had come down to

Manasarovar, then moved to Badrinath, and later on

to Kedarnath – still the princess complained of the

cold and the desolation of the place.

Shiva decided that in winter, they would move to

Kashi. Who would have thought someone could

plan such a fabulous city 12,000–15,000 years ago.

It was a most fantastic plan – layers and layers of

urban development. The highest level of talent

in spirituality, science, mathematics, music, and

astronomy all gathered in one place. It became

the city of learning and of dispensing knowledge.

Shiva enjoyed the intellectual vigor, the music,

the company of people, and the way the city was

designed. He fell in love with Kashi and did not

want to leave anymore.

There is a story of how, when Shiva was about to

come to Kashi, king Diyo Dutta did not want him to

enter the city because he knew if Shiva was there,

he would not be the single point of focus anymore.

He said, “A king can rule the city only if everyone

looks up to him only. If you want me to rule the city,

Shiva should not come. If he comes, I will leave.”

Shiva sent two ganasto the city to see how to get

rid of this king. However, they fell so much in love

with Kashi that they established themselves just

outside the city and never went back. They did

not have the guts to go to Shiva and say, “We love

the city too much.” Shiva sent two more – they

never came back either. Today, at the four corners

of Kashi, there are four gana sthanas, where these

four guys settled. Then he sent Ganapati – he never

came back either. Afterwards, he sent Kubera – he

never came back. Finally, he decided to go himself,

and he did not want to go back either. All this is

being said to tell you how beautiful this city was.

When Agastya Muni was asked to leave Kashi and

go south, he cried and wrote a heartrending poem,

running into hundreds of stanzas, about the beauty

of the city and the pain of leaving.

There is a whole lot of science behind how they

established certain aspects of the city. But Kashi is

not what it used to be anymore. It has become quite

a decadent place – filthy as can be. And above all,

the superstructure of the city has been broken. The

center of Kashi was a powerful energy form, which

created a tower of light. So many sages and saints

have talked about the tower of light, and about the

actual Kashi being an energy form above the city.

Even today, that part is intact, but the base and the

main temple have been broken.

Even if you don’t go to Kashi yourself, just take

a look at its old plan. It was such a complex and

geometrically perfect design. Today all that is

broken. There are no words to describe what a

bad state the temple is in and how it is managed.

One thing is, there is a lot of armed police around

who are screening and searching everyone because

half or three-fourth of the temple have become a

mosque, and there is constant tension. Once you

have gone through that and you enter the temple,

the priests will get you. Whether you sit or stand

there, they will be shouting for money like in the

old stock markets. Everything that can be wrong

about a temple is wrong there. But one aspect, you

must witness if you have the opportunity – in the

evening around 7:30, there is one particular ritual,

which is called Sapta Rishi Aarti.

After Shiva had transmitted yoga to the Sapta Rishis

and they all had become fully enlightened, he sent

them to different parts of the world to spread this

knowledge. Before they left, they expressed their

anguish, “Now if we go away, probably we will

never get to set our eyes upon you again, physically.

How can we have you with us when we want you?”

Shiva taught them a simple process, which lives on

to this day as Sapta Rishi Aarti, conducted by these

priests who may not know the science behind it, but

they stick to the process. I witnessed how they built

stacks and stacks of energy, just like that.

We could do this here, but this takes a different

kind of skill. These priests neither have the skill

nor the energy, but they have a method – that is

what a ritual is. Even if it is conducted by someone

who is absolutely ignorant, if it is done right, it will

work, because it is a technology. For priests who

have no sadhana and no such energies of their own,

what they build up in this temple in this one hour is

phenomenal. There are yogis who do such things –

that is a different matter – but I have never seen

anything like that anywhere conducted by priests.

After this visit to Kashi, I have some respect for

priests – at least they maintained the process. They

did not keep themselves well, but they kept well

what is of some sanctity to them, and it still works

fantastically. And at night, there is the Shayan Aarti,

which is cute. If you get to witness it, you will know

how loudly you have to put Shiva to sleep.

This is the power of the ritual – you can conduct

it for any number of people, even if they are

ignorant of it. In contrast, doing anything spiritual,

meditative, is in a way safer and cleaner, but you

have to prepare the person. A ritual does not need

preparation – you can do it for the whole town.

It may be a million ignorant people – still, if they

just sit there, we can make them benefit. But unless

the person who performs the ritual has a certain

integrity, rituals become a tool for exploitation.

The best way to approach dimensions of the beyond

is through internal methods and processes, but it

needs a lot of preparation. If you want a quicker

dissemination, there are external technologies and

processes – I would rather call them processes than

rituals. We can make this happen to large groups

of people. But it needs absolute integrity. Only in

the last three years, we brought in rituals at the Isha

Yoga Center, because we have created people of

such integrity that no matter what is given to them,

the focus of their lives will not change.

Whatever external activity you do in your life, it

is meaningful only if it touches people’s lives. If

you can maintain integrity no matter what, we can

offer you wonderful tools through which you can

touch people’s lives in a way that you have never

imagined possible. Once you have such access to

another human being, your hands must be super

clean. If you are sweeping outside, no one will ask

you, “Did you wash your hands?” It is okay if your

hands are not so clean. Suppose you are serving

food, people would like to know if you washed your

hands. Suppose you are inside the temple, we would

like to know if you had a shower. Suppose you have

to conduct a surgery, we definitely want to know if

your hands are cleaned and disinfected.

The more access you have to another human being,

the cleaner you have to be. If “What about me?” is

the biggest question in your mind, you should not

have access to anyone. If this one question does

not arise in your mind, you are free to touch any

being, and you should. Millions of people need this,

because nothing has truly touched them. Without

being touched, the being will not be a being – the

being will just be a body.


from Life after joining Isha Yoga