Upon our arrival in Rishikesh – the most laid-back, unassuming place I’ve visited so far in India – we spent an entire afternoon exploring the since-disbanded Maharishi Maresh Yogi Ashram, where the Beatles are said to have set up camp for a few months and where they wrote much of what would become the famed White Album. Sean: you would have loved it here!
(Fun fact: the song “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road” was inspired after the boys witnessed some manic monkey sex along the ashram’s winding roads. To this day, monkeys run – and probably romp – rampant here.)
Although the temple has been shut down since 1997 and there is a guarded gate with “NO ENTRY” in bolded lettering, you can still sneak in by weaving through the surrounding brush and jumping through man-made gaps in the brick wall that runs the ashram’s perimeter. We and two others were eventually caught and ordered to cough up 50 Rupees, but $1CAD pp is a small price to pay for the experience. Anyway – more on this when I sit down and write out a proper post on Rishikesh.
As you wander through crumbling meditation halls, temples singed by fire, and dormitories destroyed and defaced, you find graffiti from all over the world. Some of it is beautiful: intricate drawings; poetic expressions of love, unity, and togetherness; Beatles quotes painted in acrylic across an entire peeling wall. Others are lude and say little more than “Look at me – I was here and I thought drawing a penis on a holy place would be funny!” Most are from the recent past (yes, people are dumb enough to sign and date these pictures…) and point to our generation’s obsession with legacy and an inflated sense of self-importance.
This one quote stopped me dead in my tracks. The print was so small that had I not been looking up at a massive cobweb, I would have missed it. I’m glad I was looking up.
I confess there have been sad days in these last two weeks. I’ve felt heartbreak, devastation, homesickness, and missing. Those emotions, however, have no meaning if they are not attached to something tangible.
I thought this was a nice reminder that we can expend a lot of energy finding people, memories, places, or objects at which to direct our sadness. Spend your time working towards happiness instead. In the end, that’s the most productive thing you can do.
I’m loving this place and how much it has already done for my soul. I wish I could fly you all out here to experience it for yourselves. This country is such a beautiful, messy place.