March 4th

We are up at 4:30 meditating. We leave at 5:30am on rickshaws for a sacred dip into the Ganga (Ganges) at Manikarnika Ghat. I thought, “Is this for real?” I was both excited and a little scared but I knew this was the best thing I could do -- “ . . . its now or never.”

We arrive at the ghat, get in our rented boat (about 30' long) and row (a nice young boy – father owns the boat) about a hundred yards. What a glorious, golden sunrise on the Ganges we experienced.

Verna's light and flower ceremony for her daughter, from the boat, -- Porpoise swimming, jumping – just what Shelly wished for.

Then we row to shore and (Oh! there were two young flower girls our guide hired to make little flower boats that you place in the water. We dip in the Ganges – wow what a feeling – so pure and cool and perfect. Then I go up the steps to a dais and sit to meditate – just like the yogis. Wow! I look upon the Ganges with half-closed eyes and I understood why they say that all sins are washed away when looking upon its surface. Even with my face tilted toward the morning sun and without any sun block, there was no burning sensation that I usually start to feel within seconds. I could sit here for ever it seems. Ten minutes later we go up the steps to a king's/swami's seaside palace/ashram.

We row back to the ghat and are off (up the street) to the Golden Palace – a Hindi temple covered with 400 tons of gold (donated hundreds of years ago by a Raja/King/Maharaja. Incredibly, it was opened to westerners for the first time only a week before (that's Master). So we are essentially the first westerners to experience this treasure of India. People moving toward priest for blessings, then bells to ring – so fluid despite the small areas and corridors.

Then Chai Masala at a shop right outside. We buy some oils, get blessed by another priest who ties a protection string around our wrists – takes a donation though. Lots of soldiers to protect the temple.

We head back to the Clarke and have a nice breakfast even at 10:30am – Master again. Then it’s on to visit Lahiri Mahashaya's home. The original house is locked but a we go to a another home of Lahir's donated by a wealthy Raja years ago located up the street towards the Ganges. In the courtyard there is a mandir dedicated to Lahiri.

We meditate 45 minutes in front of the Mandir. A caretaker came up and asked if we would like to see Lahiri's rooms and pictures – what a blessing. He even took us to the rooftop where one can see the Ganges from up high. What a site to behold.

We then go back to the ghat in the late in afternoon, hop in a boat for the evening Aarti – a fire ceremony, chanting and music – everyone participates.

Very serene, transporting. We rowed up and saw the crematories – in service too. It takes lots of wood to cremate a body. The Government built electric or gas ovens, but nobody uses them. What a glorious day!