Visistha’s Cave

Today is our off day. Some of us are venturing up to a Visistha’s Cave, about an hour from Rishikesh. In the same area but different cave, it is said Jesus camped out during the lost years (between his childhood and the beginning of his ministry). The distance from here to Jerusalem is about 2,500 miles and goes through areas that are now known as Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. One of the Seven Great Sages (Saptarishis), Vasistha meditated in this cave and, more importantly, was cool enough to get a yoga posture named after him—Vasisthasana or side plank. Yesterday, I demonstrated side plank during our Vinyasa class. One of our instructors, Vikas, corrected my posture and put me into the finale of the posture, which I held for a millisecond and collapsed like the 1929 stock market, crashing down to Mother Earth, who put in her two cents worth (which equivalent to how many rupees—I don’t know) by saying in front of the whole class “told you so.”

After walking down several flights of steps from the mountain road, we entered the cave. Except for faint light thrown by a dying candle, the cave is dark with smooth walls and probably some carpeting on the floor. I’m not overly claustrophobic, but I didn’t get good vibes in there. Caves and birth canals freak me out. On the other hand, after my cave experience, I found the huge rocks by the Ganges a calming environment.

During my time at the yoga retreat, I am rereading Mircea Eliade’s Yoga: Freedom and Immortality, my favorite book on yoga. Eliade says that for yoga, the world is real but exists because of human ignorance. Don’t think so. It is through knowledge that we understand reality. It is through ignorance that we remain trapped in illusion. In the state of ignorance, we mistakenly believe that the world exists apart from us. In the state of knowledge, we correctly assert all is one. What is illusion—the world—appears because of human ignorance. The world was, is, and never will be real! Well, maybe the cave helped me more than I thought! Unpleasantness is the spur to liberation, as yoga says.

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