Vinosh the Sadhu
I arrived into Udaipur on foot. This is how I felt to do it. Carts, rickshaws and horses went by calling out offers for a ride but I said no. I wanted to walk. Somehow I felt that if I accepted some transport I would be distracted by the driver. As though the obligatory small talk might make me miss some detail of the landscape that my soul needed to see. Or that to sit upon even a donkey might change my perspective of the scenery and also result in an oversight of what was around me.
That’s what I thought I felt. In truth it was about being alone and at my own pace. It was about not being reliant upon the service of another or the speed at which an animal would travel with my weight. I slowed down to admire a tree, I stopped for some rest in the shade, I walked faster to reach a large rock to climb on to see further than my six foot frame would allow from the roadside.
It was upon one of these rocks that I first saw the waters of Lake Picholo. It is quite mesmerising to see a large body of water inland in India and to see one after the monsoon season is even more beautiful. Picholo was as full as she could be. She glistened in the autumn sun and I could see boats dotted here and there.
A breeze picked up and cooled me down and it seemed so natural to close my eyes and just feel its sensation. I also knew that surrendering to its pure caress opened up my inner communication. I took a deep breath and had conversation with my soul that would take pages to transcribe to you, yet I cannot tell you one word.
Those were the moments with soul that I cherished above all others. Yes I loved when she gave me a gentle ‘yes’ or ‘no’, or helped me find the perfect food; but these moments, when words were just so small and feelings became so grand were like the greatest reminder of my truth.
In these moments, I remembered I was not just the simple human. I remembered that I was grand and infinite. I remembered because I allowed Soul to remind me.
I opened my eyes and looked back to the lake. It was still glistening and the boats had moved to new locations. I now looked down the road and saw the city waiting for me.
I climbed down the rock and began to walk. I knew Udaipur was going to be another great adventure. I knew, because I chose it to be so.
What I loved most about Udaipur was her lakes. They are the heart and soul of this place as is any body of water upon which a community is dependant. Udaipur has not just one, but several lakes that weave through the land creating sanctuaries and havens for bathing, laundry, swimming, fishing, ceremony, praying or to simply sit and be still.
Some days I would sit across from the huge city palace and imagine the kings who had planned its rambling architecture. Each one adding to it to make it even more impressive and with the desire to leave their mark upon the building. I would also walk to the more secluded Tiger Lake and enjoy the peace, where most days the rustle of the trees was the only noise.
It was at Tiger Lake that I came across Vinosh. Vinosh liked to call himself a hermit and holy man yet there was a part of him that was fighting the actual criteria for him to be either. He would spend most days within a small cave he found in the nearby mountain, but then something inside him would call him back into the open.
When I found him he was sitting cross legged at the lake edge. It was the traditional position; legs folded beneath him, his arms stretched out with his hands resting upon his knees. He wore the simple cloths of the sadhu; orange and yellow, wrapped around his waist and between his legs. A simple white turban held his hair.
I sat down nearby to watch him. I had a deep respect for this willingness to dive in so deep to connect with whatever they thought they needed to connect with. As I watched him I created a story for him. He was from a simple family who were honoured that he chose the path of seeking enlightenment in order to teach others. He had been upon this path for twenty or more years and had opened up immense wisdom that he was distilling in order to share and guide others.
My fairytale continued on; my sadhu was now so in love with peace and quiet, as well as his inner communication, that he may never speak again. His search now was to find the true path he should follow and how to serve it.
I could not have been further from the truth in any regard.
I had just finished my story when he turned his head to look at me. A huge grin opened on his face and he waved his hand to beckon me to him. I lifted myself and dusted my thighs, returning his smile, which grew even wider when he realised I was accepting his invitation.
As I got closer he began to laugh. It was almost like a giggle. He put his hands with the palms together and bought them to his heart.
“Namaste, my friend! Namaste!” he didn’t so much speak it as he did sing it.
“Namaste,” I returned the greeting, quickly pulling my hands into the same gesture.
He tilted his head, as his hands lowered to his knees once more.
“You say the word. Do you know what it means?”
I was actually taken aback and my expression let him know it. Of course I knew its meaning. Could he not see that I was Indian like him? I was not some bohemian here to experience some new culture. I nodded my head.
“Of course I do. I have lived my whole life knowing the word and now I am living it. I am a soul as are you. I see the creator in you as you do in me.”
Vinosh threw his hands in the air and let out a raucous laugh that echoed across the water.
“Oh wonderful! I always love to ask just to see the response. It shows so much about the person,” he said. “So tell me, when you sat there watching me for so long, where you seeing me as a soul, or a human with a story?”
I was stunned and I really should not have been, but I was. Now it was my turn to laugh and Vinosh joined me. Then he nodded his head and resumed his position to meditate once more. As he closed his eyes I did not see any of this as a way to close off his time with me. Instead I knew it was an invitation to join him.
As I closed my eyes I could feel a smile spread across my face. It just felt so nice to be with someone who was so connected to soul and who seemed to be so comfortable in who they were, regardless of the fact that he was a sadhu and teacher.
We sat in silence for some time. I savoured every breath. Then I heard Vinosh speak ever so gently.
“There has been nothing more satisfying than to realise that my solitude is a true gift from spirit,” he turned his head to me and tilted it as though to lean a little closer. “There is so much freedom in knowing you need nothing outside of yourself.”
I nodded in agreement and he straightened his head and continued.
“When I first chose to be alone, to dive into the wisdoms and to allow myself to reach enlightenment, it was such a struggle,” he paused and gently laughed. “Struggle can make it all more worthwhile, can’t it?”
I remembered lying in my bed in England and nodded once more as I sighed.
“The release of the struggle is momentous and liberating, is it not?” he asked me.
“It is the grandest thing I have ever done,” I replied.
Vinosh smiled and clapped his hands together. “Oh my friend! Yes it is! For if you had not, then you would not have met me!”
We laughed together so hard that I actually fell to my side, catching myself before I ended up completely sideways on the grass beneath me. We gathered ourselves and Vinosh spoke once more.
“The freedom from suffering allows so many gifts from soul. When I gave up the fight, I saw and knew life in a whole new way. I knew I could no longer be around others and the solitude became my saviour. The time alone nurtured parts of me that would have been lost, and allowed other parts of me to flourish.
Then something inside began to ache. What was the use of having this new wisdom and insight if I could not share it or inspire others. So from time to time I would come down from the mountainside and I would sit here patiently. I did not intend to just randomly connect with another though. Oh no! Not after all I had opened up. I chose from the very deepest parts of me that I would only connect with those who were truly committed to their own awakening and connection to their inner wisdom.
So many days I would sit and no one would come to the lake. Then other days someone would come but it was as though I was invisible. Others might see me but they would simply see a holy man enacting his discipline and not want to disturb me. Thus I would continue to wait for another who held the same commitment.”
He finished and looked out over the water.
“So how many of those have you met?” I could not help but to ask who he had subconsciously called to his side to interact with.
“Just the one,” he answered simply.
“Oh so I hope I have the honour of being considered the second?” I laughed.
Vinosh put his hand upon his heart. “Oh my friend, you are the one!”
He then lifted himself off the ground and waved his hand to gesture I do likewise.
“Come, let’s go for a walk.”
With that he made way to the nearby mountainside with me close behind. We were soon making way up the rocky slope. Vinosh moved ahead of me with some speed that seemed to defy his advanced years and mocked my much younger frame.
Aside from the speed Vinosh was as sure footed as a goat. He never slipped or faltered, while below him I sent rocks scurrying as my feet failed to grip upon the dusty ground and I grabbed at bushes to steady myself.
Vinosh could hear the rocks falling and began to laugh again. He stopped and turned around to look down at me.
“Sorry I am just not as familiar as you are with the terrain,” I offered.
“Stop following me!” he said.
“What?” I snapped back.
“Stop trying to follow my path. I invited you to join me not to follow me. Do not watch where I walk. Watch your own feet. Create your own path at your pace. This is not a test or a race.”
With that he turned and continued to climb.
I looked down at my feet and then to the ground before and above me. I did not watch Vinosh anymore. Instead I watched where my feet would be placed next. Not one more rock slipped. Not one more bush endured my grasp.
I was soon sitting by Vinosh’s side at the top of the mountain looking back down at the lake.
“Isn’t she glorious from up here?” he said it barely above a whisper.
“Yes,” I replied just as gently.
We sat once again in silence. Vinosh once more with his legs crossed while I let mine stretch out before me. We both closed our eyes, which to me felt almost criminal given the view before us, but I knew it would remain in place until I opened them again.
This time we were silent for so much longer. So much longer. It was the sort of time span that invites the mind to wander and mine began to do this with great aplomb.
“ You should make sure you find out as much as possible about this man?”
“I wonder how long he has been here?”
“What will you have for dinner?”
“Maybe you should stay and be like Vinosh here at the lake…”
And on the voices came in. Sometimes I would simply come back to my breath. I knew these voices well. They were always there in some way, as they are with everyone. Since I had stepped into my enlightenment, they did not retreat fully. Their calibre and demeanour had changed though.
No longer did they question or judge me. No longer did they measure me or make small of anything I had done or was doing. Now they seemed to be full of curiosity and anticipation. They still felt distracting though in this moment when I wanted to be still and quiet with my new friend.
I felt Vinosh’s energy beside me shift and looked to him. He had turned his head slightly to me and was squinting so that he looked at me through one barely opened eye while the other was squeezed closed.
“Might I be able to join in your conversation?” he said through a smile.
“How could you tell?” I asked not because I doubted what he could sense about me but because I wanted to understand how he allowed that sense.
“Because, my friend, we all do it. We all have those voices with their questions and stories within our minds that love to speak to us, and especially so when we are wanting to be quiet. It is like a child resisting a parent’s request.”
“Surely you no longer have such voices within your mind after all this time?”
Vinosh grinned so widely it was as though his mouth doubled in size.
He then answered, “If I did not allow the voices then when would I know my own voice speaking my own truth.”
Vinosh paused to see my response. I pondered this and looked back down the mountain.
“How many voices did you reject in your search to know your truth?” he asked.
“Not one,” I replied. “I listened to them all because I did not want to miss any wisdom they might hold.”
Vinosh nodded and though he was no longer smiling he was far from solemn either.
“Did they all offer you something? Even the ones who wanted you to stay the small frightened human.”
I took a deep breath.
Yes they had. I had allowed each one to speak when they arrived within my mind. I listened to each one as though they were witnesses at a trial. They spoke their story and I listened. I explained this to Vinosh. He nodded and a smile returned to his face.
“Yes, but who listened to them?”
I faltered to answer him as I pictured myself within my sick bed struggling to survive, grasping onto anything to get me through. I recalled all the stories that came into my mind and how I grabbed at what knowledge I had gathered so far. Something from my past would be recalled and my mind would search it for an answer. I would recall a past life and call out to it to show me what I was missing.
Vinosh waited patiently as he felt me remembering what had happened.
“It was my truth. It was my soul…” I paused because I knew this was the answer I wanted to give and what I thought Vinosh wanted to hear. I smiled and closed my eyes. “You know I am lying don’t you?”
“ Yes, but that is okay because we both know it is not truly a lie. It is what your mind wants you to believe because that is a great story to hold on to. Is it not?” he offered.
I nodded in agreement. “From where I am now I can say it was the part of me that was enjoying the struggle to gain enlightenment. We have done it the hard way for so long that I believed there was no other way. That part of me that listened was just honouring that.”
Vinosh nodded, closed his eyes and took a deep breath that made his whole torso expand and push his shoulders upwards. He breathed out just as strongly and let his shoulders slump into a relaxed posture.
“So once you gave up the struggle, then what changed in who was speaking and who was listening?” he asked.
I smiled gently. “There was no more exchange as such. The conversations fell away. It became more of a…. a….” I faltered as I simply could not find the word.
“It became more of nothing.” Vinosh did not offer this as a possible finish to my sentence but as what he knew it was from his own experience.
“Yes,” I replied. “No longer did they turn up with their stories, and no longer was I their audience. It was like they now came to hear me.”
Vinosh gently laughed. “That is the best explanation I will ever hear. Of anything.”
We fell into silence once more and I realised the sun was beginning to sink in the late afternoon sky. Vinosh broke the silence.
“And who did they come to listen to now?”” he asked.
“My truth. My soul,” I answered and we both knew this was not a lie.
“What did your soul speak of to them?”
“It did not speak so much in words as it did simply radiate love and honour for all that is. Firstly for me as the being it was part of, then to all that is,” I answered but was not satisfied that it could explain something that was beyond any description my words could form.
Vinosh nodded. “It is hard to put into words when it is essentially just a sensation and a feeling.”
“Yes, and it feels like I dishonour it and make it small in doing so.”
“Indeed!” responded Vinosh. “But then how can we share and teach others?”
“If they are ready then they will go beyond the words,” I smiled and turned to him. “Just as we have been doing these past hours.”
Vinosh laughed loudly and deeply. “Oh my friend, please never leave me,” He joked.
“Maybe I won’t,” I said through my own laughter.
“The joy for me now is that when the voices and their stories and their questions come I know them to not be of my essence. That which is not of my essence is not truly mine,” he continued on now, no longer laughing but still smiling.
“That takes some time to know truly does it not?” I asked earnestly for this was something I believed that I was still learning.
“Yes it does, but more importantly than time is the willingness to know yourself. The more I am willing to know myself then the more my true self will show itself to me.”
I took a deep breath and listened beyond the words Vinosh spoke to me.
“There is nothing grander than knowing what is your core energy, what is your own inner Godself. We want a grand reveal but it is more than that. It is like a love affair. We fall in love, but the grandeur, the true connection comes when we nurture and allow the other to reveal all of themselves. It is the same with soul. We fall into its joy and wonder, but as we invite more of its love then we allow the gifts and the grandeur.
My friend, I feel that you have had your doubts about what you are doing?”
I gently nodded and a tear fell from one eye and made its way down my cheek.
“That is the old slowly leaving your energy. Each day though the doubts are smaller are they not?”
I nodded once more.
“And this is so as you have made the commitment to knowing yourself and what you can become. There is no end to the journey. Releasing the struggle just takes you down a different path. While we remain in this life then we have opportunity after opportunity to explore this new path even more, and we can do so with the joy of being so connected to self.
The voices and their stories, they may never leave, but in turn we can know their agenda and value their place in our psyche. I can still hear the one who wants me to go back to temple. ‘Oh stop wasting your time upon the mountain’ it comes to taunt me with. ‘Go see your family’ it will say and that one makes me laugh as any family who would want to know me are long gone.
In the past the voices would be like ghosts haunting me and I would see them as a test to overcome. If only I could quiet them then I would be enlightened. But if they did go completely quiet then I would no longer be human and that did not appeal either. I like being human. That is why I am here!
So I continued to meditate on this and allow my wisdom to show the way. I heard the word ‘observe’. When the next voice spoke I ‘observed’ it. Much like they were actors upon a stage. Then I had a revelation! If I can stand back from them like that then they are not truly of me.”
I sat up and furrowed my brow at this. Vinosh saw this and smiled, lifting his hand to gesture that I should not speak yet.
“Be patient with me, my friend,” he said. “Yes these are from past experiences in this life and beyond and so in a sense they are part of us, but they are not from the core that begins our existence. They are layers upon it. Like clothing upon a child or carving upon stone. They are not the foundation or the essence.
That foundation is my truth. The voices are just the stories created to make my experience have meaning. These layers, these embellishments, well I can stand back from them, at my foundation, and look upon them with this awareness.
If I can observe them with awareness, then they are not truly mine. For what is truly mine is so inherent and so solid that I cannot step away. It is constant. It is deep and it is of a sensation that flows through me. That cannot be observed, that can only be felt and experienced.”