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A Windy Day In Albuquerque (rambling thoughts on the long airplane ride to Brazil)

Walking to the Pancha Karma house one morning early last month, the winds were
blowing wildly as a sudden, unexpected storm descended upon Albuquerque, New
Mexico. Dry leaves were slapping my face and branches and twigs were crashing
against the doors and walls of the neighboring homes. Already in a reflective state from
the Ayurvedic treatments I’d been receiving, my mind went to the Son of the Wind God,
that great monkey, Hanuman….

A very wise and respected elder once told me “Hanuman is the life force, the vital
energy or Prana. He lives six inches in front of our noses and moves in and out of our
bodies with our breath.” Another great scholar and Tantrika wrote that Hanuman is the
heart chakra of Ram, the manifestation of God’s love. Other explanatory texts say that
Hanuman represents devotion in action, pure service to God.

These esoteric explanations of the divine are fascinating and thought provoking; well
worth exploring and studying. But, for me, the approach is much simpler; perhaps I’m
just a little bit simple minded, or should I say simple-hearted. To me, Hanuman is my
protector and my savior. This big furry beautiful Monkey God is the one who has been
taking care of me life after life, birth after birth. He is none other than my Guru, Baba
Neem Karoli. And as we sing in the ‘Hanuman Chaleesa,’ He stands at the doorway to
Ram and none can enter without His grace. How can we even dream of becoming
‘Bhaktas’ without the blessings of the greatest devotee of all! And how abundant is His
grace, we need only think of Him and He is here!

Well, this sounds kinda crazy, doesn’t it? But think for just a minute. Why not a divine
monkey who can fly, change forms, become a giant and then a teensy, tiny simian
beast? Why wouldn’t the Lord of Destruction, Shiva Mahadeva, manifest as a furry
creature to serve His eternal Lord, Ram? Why set a limit on what we can believe?
Think of the thousands of things in our life that we take for granted: iPhones, televisions,
airplanes, so many amazing inventions….. The normal person of five hundred years ago
would have been locked up for even imagining these things! And just recently, NASA
space photography revealed the existence of the remnants of an ancient stone bridge
connecting the southern tip of India with Sri Lanka, the very same bridge that was built
yugas ago by Hanuman and the monkey army in order to cross the ocean, defeat
Ravana, and rescue Mother Sita!

Ok, I don’t always find myself in a total heart-space of belief and innocence. I can be as
jaded and cynical as the next guy. But I do remind myself and my friends to try and keep
the door of belief open just a tiny crack, to hold on to an iota of possibility, just a slight
molecule of “well, maybe, just maybe.” My experience has shown me that one percent
of belief is vastly stronger than ninety-nine percent of close-minded disbelief; that the
smallest bit of ‘maybe’ is enough to propel us, like children, into the divine mystery.
So, as I was saying, “Hanuman, please take care of me today and forever, and please
take care of my loved ones and please bless me with devotion, faith, love and the desire
to serve.”

Happy holidays everyone!

Lots of love,

Jai

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A Road With No Maps

I consider my Guru, among other things, to have been a great teacher of Bhakti Yoga. I
say ‘among other things’ because he was impossible to pin down. He hardly ever
actually ‘taught,’ he never spoke about himself or his lineage, he never gave lectures or
discourses. Amazing miracles occurred around Maharjji all the time, however when
people would come worship him and bathe him in tears of gratitude he often appeared
rather annoyed and said “I do nothing. God does it all.” But Maharajji lived in a world of
Divine Love. Kirtan was and still is performed in his temples and ashrams 24/7, pujas to
all the deities are constant, and oceans of people are fed daily.

Regarding Bhakti, Maharajji once said “The only thing that’s important is how much you
love God!” The ONLY thing…… Wow. And then when he was asked “What is the best
form to worship God?” his response was simply, “The best form to worship God is
EVERY form!”

Well, that’s saying a lot in a few words, isn’t it? Let’s, for a moment, hold those two
sentences as a possible definition of Bhakti Yoga. Not THE definition. Simply one
description among many of a path without maps or roadsigns that has been
contemplated and practiced for centuries. Thousands upon thousands of pages have
been written attempting to define, or simply convey, what Bhakti Yoga really is. But how
can the mysteries of the heart actually be defined. The world of emotions within each of
us is so different. Our spiritual concepts, our prayers, our longings… we are all so unique
and our journey to the infinite must also be unique. The image of a single devotee
crawling through the dust of Parikrama Road (a footpath that circles the holy town of
Vrindavan) crying “Shyam Shyam Shyam!”, his face covered with dirt and mud and
tears, fills my mind right now and threatens to burst the rain clouds of my heart.

I guess we don’t really need to ‘understand’ Bhakti, just live it. But how? Certainly, as we
sing Kirtan and do Japa, we begin to touch the shores of a great sea of sweetness and
bliss. How awesome that is! But what do we do next? What do we do with that bliss?
Well, we can hold on to it and cultivate it until it grows and grows and grows and we find
ourselves living in a very rarified inner environment. Nothing wrong with that…. But so
often Maharajji said “Love people and feed them!” And in his temples and amongst his
older devotees I experience a selflessness, a constant giving, a caring that goes way
beyond the fleeting waves of bliss. I think he was telling us to give it away, share it. Not
a totally natural way of life for us Westerners, raised in a culture of self-centeredness, is
it? But I think we’re just being asked to try. I’ve often heard it said that if we take one
baby step to God, He flies to us with His arms wide open. And then, through grace, we
can start to truly live a life of Bhakti…..

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WHY DO WE SING KIRTAN; ONE MORE BOTTOM LINE……

Greetings everyone,

I’ve been wanting to write to you about my last trip to India for quite some time. But life and her many streams of busy-ness seems to always intervene. What’s been going on this year? Whew…. My “Down On My Knees” video project; recording and releasing Bhakti Bazaar with Ben Leinbach; recording Queen Of Hearts, my reggae-Kirtan album (to be released on July 26th); working on Kirtan Kids, my upcoming kids Kirtan CD (to be released in the fall); preparing for BhaktiCast (coming out on May 3rd); traveling all over the globe singing; studying Brazilian guitar with Jose Neto; trying my best to be a good husband and daddy; and most of all, getting ready for Ezra Gopal’s sixth birthday!!!!!!! Gosh, I’m out of breath just thinking about all of this. When it’s one day at a time it’s all good. But when I see it all at once, well, my schedule seems truly insane!

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yeah. Last June, Nubia, Ezra and I went to the Himalayan foothills in India to our Guru’s ashram to spend a little time with our Indian mother. it was an amazing trip on many levels, but there’s one aspect that I’d like to write about now. Every afternoon, as the sun began to slip behind the mountains, I was asked to sing, mostly ‘Hanuman Chaleesa’, with a few short Kirtans as well. This was blasted out of loud speakers for the whole valley to hear, and I have to confess I felt quite self-conscious the whole time. Afterwards Ma would always praise me highly, saying how beautiful my singing was. I sat there feeling like a fraud. I was so filled with ego, nervousness, effort….. So finally I said “Ma, so often I’m singing and I don’t feel any love or devotion. It just feels like hard work. What’s wrong with me?”

She smiled her cute, mysterious ‘Goddess’ smile and said: “Jai Gopal. It doesn’t matter at all what you feel! This is your service to Maharajji! You Americans seem to think that service is just eating a ladoo (yummy Indian sweet) and blissing out. For us here in the temple, service is often exhausting and filled with anxiety. But we do it because it absolutely needs to be done.” She continued VERY forcefully: “In this day and age, singing God’s name is urgent! Without God’s name our very limbs won’t stay attached to our bodies!”….. A chill ran through me. What an image! We chant for so many ‘spiritual’ reasons, but then and there, Ma gave me a new bottom line……

The rest of our time there I saw ashram life and ‘Bhakti life’ quite differently. Everyone was super busy, either doing work around the temple or singing and chanting prayers. Such an incredible wave of devotional activities and it really seemed that no one was doing it for their own selves, no one was doing it to get high or to feel ecstasy. It was all for the ‘other’, be it God, Guru, or, more often than not, for all of the people around them, the visitors, the ashram residents, the villagers, the whole world…. This really really really woke me up and began to transform my whole concept of Bhakti. Who and what is it for? A good party? An amazing euphoric feeling? A more beautiful sense of one’s self? No, I don’t think so, although none of those reasons are inherently bad or wrong. But I’m beginning to feel that in these rather desperate times my Bhakti practice is to somehow or another help the world keep it’s limbs attached to it’s body, and, in doing so, help to bring healing and happiness to all of us, including myself. (What would I do without my limbs? I couldn’t even play with my boy!) And, as if that weren’t enough, to attempt to serve my Guru. And as if THAT weren’t enough, to try and simply be a good and kind person…. Kind of pretentious? Well, maybe…. But it’s the best I can do right now. And I honestly feel that I’m just barely touching my little toe in the great ocean of divine love that we call Bhakti.

What do you guys think? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this……

OK. While I have your attention (do I?) there are a few things I’d like to share. The first is that this summer will be our last non-residential Summer Kirtan Camp for a while. Certainly we’ll do them again, but we feel that a break is needed. Maybe only a year, maybe longer. So if you’ve been considering coming for a while, perhaps now is the time…. Truly the camps have been getting better and better as we sink deeper into the practice. Please come! And as a special incentive, we’re offering our ‘Early Bird’ discount through the end of April!

Monday, August 1 – Sunday, August 7, 2011

9th ANNUAL NON-RESIDENTIAL SUMMER BHAKTI KIRTAN CAMP!

Jai Uttal, Daniel Paul and Nubia Teixeira

This training is for those who aspire to lead Kirtan; those who wish to enhance their Yoga teaching with chanting; and those who simply wish to immerse themselves in the vast ocean of Bhakti.

In this workshop we will share some of the many tools that we use in our Bhakti practices. Our hope is that everyone will leave this retreat with the inner experience and knowledge that we are all able to dive into this world of devotion and sing and share our hearts with others.

Where: San Francisco Theological Seminary
San Anselmo, Northern California
Website: http://sfts.edu
Price: Early Bhakti Bird – $1008.00 full payment by April 30.
Bhakti Bird – $1250.00 after April 30.
Deposit of $600 (non-refundable). Remainder due by July 1. Register here.

Now here’s another big one: Next winter we’ll be hosting our residential Winter Bhakti Camp in Bahia, in Northeast Brazil. And there’s some amazing treats added. Check out the website…. www.bhaktiblissadventures.com.

Have you heard about BhaktiCast? On May 3rd I’ll be sending out a night of Kirtan to the whole universe! (I wonder if Martians enjoy Kirtan). I’ll be singing in Tampa, Florida with Daniel Paul and Bali & Dhanya Rico (of the Mayapuris), and a very experienced and committed camera crew will be filming for a live (and archived) broadcast….

And you Californians! Are you coming to Bhaktifest? I’m going to give a sneak preview of my Reggae Kirtan band! COME ONE COME ALL!!!!!!!!

Well, I think that’s enough gabbing for now. Time for me to eat some breakfast before the coffee eats me!

Lots of love and blessings to you all,


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Cookies and Tea – A Slight Shift in Perception

Bhakti Yoga brings us into the world of mystery, a realm where the dissecting, discerning qualities of the intellect are powerless next to the vast ocean of feelings. For most practitioners, the goal of Yoga is union, oneness with the Supreme. But in Bhakti Yoga we don’t think about the goal, we only weep, laugh, cry, sing and dance with our Beloved. Bhakti is about relationship; our stormy love affair with God. And Bhakti is about surrender; surrendering our personal heart into the Great Heart, offering our self will and all our efforts and actions to that vast Consciousness, to God. “Not my will but Thy will be done.”

In the holy places of India, towns and villages permeated with devotion, magic is a daily occurrence. Perception shifts like clouds moving across the sun. When the aroma of God’s name wafts down a village street we can suddenly find ourselves walking in the ancient footsteps of Ram and Sita, or Hanuman, or Radha and Krishna…..Throughout the day, we hear bells ringing, mantras being uttered from every doorway, kirtans bursting from the primitive loudspeakers. We smell incense and flower offerings. We catch glimpses of Gods and Goddesses around every corner. Doing pilgrimage to the sacred shrines is an invitation to the mystical breath of Bhakti.

The ancient village of Vrindavan, the town that was home to the young Lord Krishna and His beloved Radha, is one of these great sanctuaries, imbued with worship. The lines between the past and the present, the astral and the concrete, are very thin, and pilgrims come from all over India to partake of the nectar of Rasa, or divine emotion, that colors the town. When I first visited Vrindavan in 1971, I was absolutely stunned by the sheer quantity of living temples. It seemed that literally every other building was a holy shrine, and the sound of God’s names reverberated from wall to wall, street to street, crumbling alley to archaic temple.

One day I was walking along Parikrama Road, a path that circumambulates the village. Devotees walk this dusty path (approx. 5 miles) as an act of worship, feeling that they are Radha, circling the body of Her lover, Krishna. Walking around Parikrama you see ancient India, priests chanting the Vedas, pilgrims weeping, sadhus gathered around their “dhunis” swaying to the driving rhythms of a kirtan chant, peacocks, cows, on and on….. I used to take this walk every morning before dawn, timing it so I could have my first chai of the day watching the blood red sun rise over the Yamuna river. As the sun climbed into the sky my heart never failed to melt at the passionate cries of “Radhe” or “Hare Krishna” that echoed through the misty morning air.

On this particular day, as I was walking away from the river I heard a horrific racket. A young sadhu, covered with white paste, and wearing a simple cloth around his waist was sitting on a small stone wall, banging cymbals together and screaming “Radhe Shyam Radhe Shyam Radhe Shyam” at the top of his lungs. Instantly my “shanti” was shattered. The cymbals seemed louder than the rock concerts I’d left back home in the States. And his raspy voice was like sandpaper to the inside of my brain. Where was the blissful India that I loved?

I hurried my steps and tried to get past him without being noticed. But just then, an old old man in orange robes, bent with age, sporting long dreadlocks, stepped out of the little hut adjacent to the path. The young sadhu became stunningly silent as his ancient guru offered me tea and cookies. We sat and sipped the steaming chai, watching the brilliant emerald parrots fly from tree to tree, sinking into a deep, heavenly meditation, listening to the distant strains of kirtan floating on the gentle wind. What peace……

But, as all things must pass, the chai was finished, the cookies were gone, and the old man dismissed me with a soft smile. I pranamed, touched his ancient, cracked feet and continued my walk. At that moment the racket began anew. CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG!!! The horrible cymbals!!! The hoarse, screaming voice!!!

Oh God, how quickly my inner peace disappeared…

But as I turned around for a last pained look, the magic descended. This old man, who seemed barely able to walk, was dancing in the doorway of his hut. Suddenly his crooked body was filled with the grace and beauty of a young maiden. His delicate swaying hips, his beatific smile, his long flowing hair; the old sadhu had transformed into Radha, the Goddess of Love! And to complete the mysterious change in awareness, the young sadhu’s kirtan was now the sound of angels singing. His terrible cymbals had transformed into a divine orchestra of tinkling bells and chimes. My heart stopped beating, tears sprung from my eyes. Here was Radha Rani, dancing her love for Krishna, amidst the gardens of Vrindavan….

When it seemed the world would end in an ecstasy of love, the old man simply stepped inside, leaving me to the heat and dust, and the sadhu’s cacophonous song. But my mind was quiet and my heart was full as I continued down the path. I had been given yet another reminder to see beyond the surface reality into what is hidden; to trust the perceptions of the heart before those of the judging mind. I had been given a few drops of grace from the vast ocean of Bhakti.

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Listening to “Bhakti Bazaar”

A rainy day in Porto da Lua, Bahia, Brasil. Listening to the wind, the ocean, and my soon to be released CD, Bhakti Bazaar, recorded with Ben Leinbach last year. Getting a massage for my tired achey muscles, dreaming of ‘love forever’….

I don’t usually listen to my own music and when I do, well, I’m too busy finding the faults to really enjoy it. But today I’m hearing with a full heart and a happy/sad river of gratitude. Hmmmm, maybe it’s the rain.

Anyway, in this atmosphere I guess anything would sound good, but I’m really enjoying Bhakti Bazaar and finding it quite moving. The absolute genius of our grand friend, Manose; the pristine voices of Tina Malia and Prajna Viera; the drumming of Bubai and the many colors of ‘sonic surgeon’ and co-everything, Ben. And I even like hearing myself for a change….

But most of all, what a joy to create a totally new musical environment for the glorification of the Divine Names, an all new journey into the ancient world of Bhakti prayer, another offering to the great Beloved of all……

And I sure do hope you all enjoy it…..

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FROM MYTH TO MIRACLE

“Ok, Jai…. Sit down and write something!”

“But I’m not a writer, I’m a singer and a musician….”

“Well, you’re not playing music or singing right now and you’re bored of reading your mystery novel and too awake for a nap……”

“But I have nothing to write about….”

“Just sit down and see what happens…..”

The inner dialog of a Gemini!!!!

Ok, then……

I’m sitting in my room at Shivananda Ashram in the Bahamas just chilling until we start the Kirtan weekend tomorrow night. It’s beautiful here and very peaceful but I find it kind of hard to relax. Where are the sounds of kids, particularly my own sweet little guy? And where’s my snuggly beloved, Nubia?

The attachment I feel to my family is huge, and it’s an attachment I cherish and consider a gift from God. The problem is that when life and work take me away from them, I have a hard time being in the present and focusing on other things. These are the times when I could really concentrate on my music, my japa, resting, reading and (oh no!!!!) writing….

Listening to the ocean, I’m reminded of a time spent very far away, on the shores of another ocean and another continent in another century. It was about fifteen years ago, I think, when I visited my guru’s Hanuman Temple in South India to have darshan of my spiritual mother, who I’ll simply refer to as ‘Ma.’ (She has asked many times that we don’t speak about her in public, and that her photos not be published or distributed.) As was often the case, I arrived at the ashram gates pretty worn out from my life in the West. In retrospect, I certainly realize that much of what I was blaming on western culture was really just the product of my own internal madness. But still, our lifestyle in the United States can get pretty hectic. And I find that when I start to function more out of stress than spirit my heart connection to God and Guru becomes a little contracted and harder to feel. I ‘know’ that he’s always there, but the moment-to-moment awareness of his presence can begin to fade.

Anyway, shortly after arriving, Ma said to me and a few others: “Pack a small bag. We’re going to Rameshwaram!” I didn’t realize that this meant a bus ride, a sixteen hour overnight third class train ride, and another bus ride, so, without delay I happily joined the caravan. Soon, however, as I was getting jostled right and left and trying to fit my body into a much-less-than-tiny spot, I realized we were indeed on a pilgrimage!

But much to my surprise, as the night wore on and the train rumbled and rolled ever southward, my spirits lifted. Being in the presence of a saint changed everything. The mood was one of continuously joyous remembrance. Why this should have surprised me, I don’t really know. I guess I’m just a very slow learner!

After a light sleep and a delicious cup of chai, I sat gazing out the window, half awake and half still in dreamland. As we crossed the rickety old bridge and entered the ancient holy town of Rameshwaram, a blazing red sun burst through the hazy sky announcing the arrival of dawn. It was here in this small island that Lord Ramachandra prayed to Shiva after the great war in Lanka to ask for his blessings in cleansing the Earth of the karma accrued from so much violence and bloodshed. The battles to free Sita and destroy the demon king, Ravana, were indeed fierce and many great warriors fell. In order to do the proper rituals invoking Mahadeva, Rama needed a symbolic representation, known as a Shiva Lingam. So he sent Hanuman up to Mount Kailash, Shiva’s mountain residence, to ask the destroyer himself for a lingam to worship. Of course the great monkey had no problem whatsoever leaping to the Himalayas. After all, he’d already done it several times. But days passed and then weeks passed and he still hadn’t returned. What happened? Could Hanuman have gotten distracted? Sita became restless, yearning for her homeland, ready to sit upon her throne, by the side of her beloved Rama, back in Ayodhya. After all, it had been 14 years of exile, and several months of harsh imprisonment in Ravana’s kingdom. Where was that impulsive monkey?

So Mother Sita took things into her own hands and created a lingam out of the soft sandy beach. But, oh no!!! Just as the worship was about to begin, Hanuman came flying through the sky singing “Jaya Ram Jaya Rama” at the top of his simian lungs. Shiva had been deep in meditation and Hanuman just hadn’t felt that he could disturb him. Thus the delay. What to do? Neither Sita’s lingam nor Lord Shiva’s lingam could be cast away or shown any disrespect. Rama, ever the diplomat, immediately had the answer. He created a temple with TWO lingams facing each other. And this temple still stands to this very day, millions of years later!

(“Millions of years later??? Oh, come on, Jai. Sure, we enjoy these fairy tales as much as the next guy, but, please…”)

And that brings me to the point of this story.

Arriving in Rameshwaram, I was prepared to pay respects to the pilgrimage spots, pray a bit, sing a bit, and enjoy the wonderful association of some very special and holy people. The Ramayana was an amazing story of archetypes and teachings. Certainly we all agreed that it wasn’t historical, right?

Well, after settling in to the ashram that was to become out temporary home (the resident guru rolled out a red carpet of loving tears when Ma came to his door. We were treated like absolute royalty!) Ma gathered us all together and we climbed into a bunch of auto rickshaws. The weather was balmy, with ocean breezes cooling down the intense heat of the deep tropics. Rameshwaram is an island at the very tip of South India, covered with palm trees, tamarind flowers, monkeys, and temples. Buzzing around on the scooters, I saw so many happy faces and laughing children. This certainly wasn’t the same India that I experienced in the northern plains, where hardship and poverty had been etched into the faces of villagers and had bent the backs of the elderly. This place seemed to resonate with joy. And everywhere I looked I saw men and women having their heads shaved in preparation for their ritual ocean baths.

Suddenly the rickshaws stopped. We were standing in front of an old, crumbling stone palace, with faded relief pictures of Ramayana episodes barely visible on the walls. Several old men were sitting in the dirt, softly chanting, accompanied by a wheezy harmonium and tinkling water bowls, their voices trembling with age and emotion as the sounds echoed from corner to corner. What is this place, I wondered as I followed Ma inside. We sat down, and turned to her. “This is Bhibhishan’s palace,” Ma quietly explained, and at that moment a vibration passed through my body bringing tears to my eyes. Bhibhishan was Ravana’s brother, born a demon, but eternally devoted to the feet of Hari. Hanuman recognized him as a kindred spirit and brought him to Rama, who made him the king of Lanka. One of the great characters of the Ramayana, I had always loved him and the fact that even his demon incarnation didn’t stop him from being a pure devotee. And here we were sitting on the same spot where he had sat and sang and prayed. Mythology? Well, something short-circuited in my mind at that moment and the eyes of my heart began to crack open, shedding the rust of perhaps hundreds of lifetimes.

Next Ma took us to a small lake where our guru, Neem Karoli Baba, used to bathe. This was a bit easier to assimilate as he had left his body only a few years earlier. But still it was quite an emotional moment as Ma recounted stories of her times with Maharajji. Walking up the path, she then showed us the pool where Lakshman had bathed. Rama’s brother!! Then we saw the pond where Sita bathed!!! And the altar where she prayed to the snake Goddess for the safety of her beloved husband. Things were getting pretty trippy, to say the least. What was ancient history? What was current other-plane reality? What was myth? What was fact? Ma’s complete acceptance of the absolute reality of all these occurrences was beginning to permeate my own consciousness as I was sightseeing the stages of this very ancient play. Could it be possible that the Ramayana was still being enacted on some mystical plane even to this very day?

We stopped for tea. A few of the older women unwrapped some packets of puris and potatoes and we had our lunch in the shade of an old banyan tree. The chai wallah was quietly chanting: “Rama Rama Rama Rama Rama Rama”, and Ma told us how Maharajji used to see that name written upon every leaf and every stone. The events of the morning began to seep in and I could feel some very strong and strange changes percolating in my cells.

After resting for a spell it was time again to move on, with Ma urging us to pay very close attention to what came next. Walking up the hill, we stopped at a small Hanuman Temple, really just a roadside shrine. The priest was bent at the waist, unable to fully stand up, with a club foot and a strange misshapen torso. His eyes were crossed and his face seemed to express a mixture of bliss and pain. “He’s very special,” whispered my Indian mother. Immediately stopping what he was doing, the priest rushed to prepare us tea and crackers. Ma was extremely respectful of this strange guy and seemed to be suggesting that there was much more here then what might first have met our eyes. (In fact, that may have been the theme of our entire journey!)

Next stop, the top of the mountain. Wow, I was huffing and puffing my way to the summit, trying my best to keep up with these elderly Indian ladies in their thin white saris and old flip flops. How did they have such strength, such stamina. To this day that’s a mystery to me… Arriving at the top, we found a lookout point with a view of the vast rolling ocean in the direction of distant Lanka. Chanting and pujas were being performed to a small shrine but there was no real structure or temple. “What is this?” I asked. “This is the spot where Rama drew up his battle strategies; where the armies of the monkeys and bears gathered to pray before crossing the sea; where the monkey engineers, Nala and Nila, explained to Rama and Sugriva their ‘impossible’ plan of constructing a bridge out of floating rocks and stones.” “How will you keep them from sinking?” asked Shri Rama. “Simply by writing your name on every rock, every boulder and every pebble, oh Lord, the impossible will become possible and your armies can cross the ocean to Lanka!”

Ma’s eyes were shining. “Just one more place to see!” We walked down a dirt path a little bit further toward the cliffs and found a great depression in the ground, with a marble footprint set in the middle. “It was here that Hanuman took his heroic leap across the ocean with Rama’s ring in his mouth proving to all the three worlds the power of true devotion.” By this time our small group of pilgrims were all in tears. The magnitude of these historical events; the greatness of these divine heroes; the unbearable expressions of unconditional, unending love; the Ramayana, alive and true!!! I never questioned it again. No matter how much my mind tells me these things couldn’t really have happened, my heart replies in the affirmative: They DID happen…..

Several years later, I was browsing through the internet and came across a headline from an Indian newspaper stating “NASA proves the historical accuracy of the Ramayana. Remnants of an ancient stone bridge have been discovered connecting the southern tip of India with Sri Lanka.” Well, of course, the worldwide Hindu community went wild about this. Finally, some authentication… Geologists and archeologists are still investigating this amazing find, but some of us don’t need to hear their results. We know already…

Oh boy, talk about rambling, Jai… Will anyone have the patience to read this through to the end? Perhaps I’d better get back to my mystery novel. Or napping. Or a walk on the beach. Or maybe even singing. Anything but writing. Typing gives me a stiff neck and a bad case of the munchies.

Sending lots of love to you all,

Jai

P.S. I almost forgot! This video project for “Down On My Knees” has once again restored my faith in humanity. Actually, I hadn’t really lost it, but it sounded good to say that. We very quickly reached our goal, money-wise, for making my first music video. So much gratitude goes out to all of my friends, known and unknown, for showing your support for this new chapter. Now we just have to start filming………

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