LEARNING AND BURNING IN VARANASI
I spent an intense 2 days visiting Varanasi in North India recently. It is known as the oldest living city in the world and is a holy place for Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims. Even though I have been to India more than 50 times in my own life, Varanasi was like no other place I have been to in India.
Amidst the extreme chaos of the city where cows, motorcycles and people share the same laneways, there is a deep stillness which is etched into the people. It’s not a transient stillness that comes from seeing a beautiful sunset or from being dazzled by a captivating painting. It is the stillness that has come from thousands of years of spiritual practice. Varanasi is also home to the Benares Hindu University which is one of the oldest educational institutions in the world.
In medicine we ask patients about family history. If there is a family history of heart disease, diabetes, or schizophrenia then it is more likely to be passed on genetically. These are examples where a physical or mental trait is handed down. Taking this theory to another level, is it not feasible that subtler traits of the spiritual realms also being transmitted? I believe it is and does, and that Varanasi is a place that reflects the deep spiritual processes that have happened for thousands of years.
The bathing ghats on the river Ganges are incredible melting pots where birth is welcomed , death is farewelled, and life is celebrated in the evening prayer ceremony called “Ganga aarti”. I have seen this before in Rishikesh and Haridwar and it is indeed a moving ceremony.
Varanasi is not for the faint hearted though. It is absolutely in your face in every way. It’s only because this stillness has become so part of it’s inhabitant’s DNA that they are able to function in this eccentric swirl of energy!
There’s a snapshot of Varanasi. Worth experiencing in person.
In Health and Wellness