Fearless and free in Kailash

By Asja Dupanovic, Bosnia

As soon as I felt that beautiful, clear and strong calling to go to holy Mt. Kailash, my mind stepped in. In the very next second, I thought to myself that I must be crazy, thinking that someone with my physical challenges could even dream of undertaking such a journey, not to mention enjoying it. On second thought, fear stepped in. What if it is too challenging and I just make problems for the organizers and the rest of the group, I thought. Then, back to mind – isn’t 2026 the best time to go? I could wait until then. 

That same afternoon, I had a very sincere conversation with myself and boldly decided to, pardon my French, cut the crap. I admitted to myself that I am healthy enough, strong enough, have the means, and have the time for this journey. What I did not have is any argument to postpone. There shall be no waiting, I told myself decisively, as who knows what will happen until 2026. 

I also decided, then and there, that there was no way for any physical challenge to stand in my way of making such a journey of a lifetime. No way. I am ready. I am ready to face all my fears, ready to fall apart completely in order to pick myself up from the ashes of all my former limiting beliefs and everything that ever held me back. I am ready to let myself off the hook, spread my wings and fly. In my own way, I communicated my intention, determination and bravery to Mohanji and Shirdi Sai Baba, in the depth of my heart, humbly asking for their blessings. 

Among others, I have this cute habit of writing messages to them and leaving them on my altar. This time, that message simply read: “A dip in Mansarovar and a darshan of Kailash. Thank you!” Call it however you want; expressing my wishes and intentions to them in such a way triggers some sort of magic for me. It not only makes me feel held accountable, but I feel their blessing sets a whole flow in motion, making me feel empowered beyond words. 

And so it was, the intention was set, and two months of preparations started. Throughout this period, I was simply happy and excited. There was no panic, no fear or worry. There was enough time to think about everything, to ask about everything, and even to read the Kailash with Mohanji book, The Inner Kora, which contains testimonials of pilgrims who went to Kailash with Mohanji in the years 2014 and 2016. 

As soon as I applied for the pilgrimage, I bought the flight ticket to Kathmandu way ahead and slowly, in peace, collected the other items I lacked (like a proper backpack, thermals, etc.). During this period, I faced some tests, all concerning money. The moment I signed up for the pilgrimage, I had 250 EUR for it. As soon as I would earn some extra money to add to my Kailash envelope, a super strange bill would reach me. 

Like one from the Tax Department, punishing me for something that my accountant did wrong in 2020. It realistically wasn’t even mine to pay but I paid it anyway, no questions asked, just moving on. It was not the time for conflicts, tension, or being upset. I had some sort of really wonderful respect for the sanctity of preparing for such a journey as a pilgrimage to Kailash.

The day came to pay the last instalment for the trip. Just like with the trip I made to India this February on the occasion of my (and Mohanji’s) birthday, the money simply happened, the grace of Mohanji and the Tradition, who else. I put it all in my bank account and waited for the monthly salary, which would also arrive that afternoon. And it did. I had all the money I needed to pay to the organizers. That was exciting! The transaction, however, was strangely unsuccessful, and what followed shocked me and made me laugh my heart out. 

The transaction was intercepted by hackers from a country far, far away, and my whole bank account was emptied. The whole of it. Not a penny was left. I soon snapped out of my initial shock and surrendered the situation to Mohanji and Shirdi Sai Baba with a smile on my face and peace in my heart. I sincerely shared with them that this situation is beyond me and asked them to handle it. Sure enough, you guessed it; I also left them a kind note on the altar, with a small heart drawn on the paper too. 

As I said, I found this period not to be suited for any conflict, and I had none with the bank that decided to pretend like nothing had happened. I paid a visit to a lawyer and, smiling, asked the lady to handle the matter graciously and with a non-violent attitude, telling her that I was off to a super sacred journey and simply said goodbye to her. She must have thought that I was crazy to be fluttering my wings just like a butterfly in such a situation. We were just at the Kriya Intensive retreat with Mohanji in my home town of Sarajevo those days.

I shortly told Mohanji what had happened and only asked if it was okay to ask my brother to pay for the trip instead of me. Mohanji confirmed it, and Filip made the payment the same day. I was going to Kailash, just as I knew I would be. I also knew that, in vertical time, this whole journey had already happened; Kailash yatra had already happened for me; I only needed to go there physically now.

Even with the bank account incident, everything went so smoothly for me the whole time. What I have experienced right from the moment my heart decided to go on this pilgrimage, I can only describe as happy, happier and the happiest of Asja. I was so happy the whole time! Happy, joyful, relaxed, at peace, fully surrendered at Mohanji’s feet and in sheer acceptance of everything that presented itself on the way, my arms fully open to embrace everything and anything.

Time in Kathmandu

I absolutely loved the five days that we spent in Kathmandu with Mohnaji in satsang, chanting, meditating, detailing the trip, sharing meals and becoming a family. Mohanji gave us his undivided attention and embraced us all with so much love and care. He inquired about my eating all the time. In his super sweet way, He would walk into the room asking, “Is Asja eating?” 

Kailash with Mohnaji group 2023, with Mohanji in Kathmandu

I sure was eating plenty! And laughing all the time! Laughter was to permeate all the days this group had spent together, only adding to my daily joy and happiness. I do not remember ever having such good laughs and being so perpetually happy like the three weeks of this journey. My endless gratitude goes to the other 26 Yatris for their part in the feel-good atmosphere that we shared those days. We were a small and sweet group glued together by a silent pledge to succeed in our desire to make this a trip of our lifetimes, to be there for each other, take care of each other, carry, empower, and support each other in all ways possible (laughing all the way whilst at it).

Kathmandu was special for me in more ways than one. I was there once before, in 2009, in the midst of a super challenging period of my life. Here I was, 14 years later, in front of those same prayer wheels in Swayambhunath Stupa, in a position to express nothing but gratitude. This time, I was healthy and happy in Kathmandu, not to mention on my way to Kailash with the most amazing group of people, guided and supported by none other than Mohanji, sprinkling his golden dust all over me non-stop. What a life!

In Kathmandu’s Swayambhunath Stupa

All the grace at Kailash Yatra

Happiness continued as we drove from Kathmandu to and through China. The first darshan of Kailash, just before we reached Lake Mansarovar, still takes my breath away when I think of it. Had that been the end of our journey, it would have been enough. My heart was full. 

The group’s first darshan (view) of holy Mt. Kailash

The day at Lake Mansarovar deserves a book on its own, I feel. Overwhelming are those instances when you simply cannot believe your fortune and wish for each moment to last forever. Such was the experience with the group on the shores of Mansarovar, whose sacred waters are fed by Kailash glaciers and are said to have celestial beings bathe in them during the night. 

Again, had that been the end of our journey, that would have been totally enough. When I thought that things could not get any better than they already were, we gathered around the fire for Homa, the sacred fire ceremony, most graciously led by our fellow pilgrim Kannaiah from the Netherlands. Each of us offered to the fire a stick of wood dipped in ghee, along with a deep intention. 

Homa, the sacred fire ceremony graciously led by Kanniah

I have no idea how long the ceremony lasted, but every moment of it was super special and super powerful. I was mind-blowingly happy to be there, grateful beyond words to share those moments with the group. We were all one, and the grace was felt as if it was pouring over us from everywhere. After the Homa, someone looked above, and we saw this scene in the sky. Indeed, it was no ordinary moment on the shores of Mansarovar! 

Above us, during Homa

The next morning, we started the three-day circumambulation (parikrama) of Mount Kailash. I bowed down after going through the Yam Dwar gates (The gateway of the God of Death), the starting point of parikrama), surrendering everything that used to hold me back – all my roles, identities, limiting beliefs, fears, all the baggage I did not even need to carry on my shoulders. I left it all behind to enter the world in which a new life was possible.

Yam Dwar, “The gateway of the God of Death”, the starting point of Kailash parikrama

Those three days were full of joy. Everything went easy and smooth for me. Until that point, nor later, did I feel any sign of altitude sickness. As if all the gifts thus far were not enough, I did not feel sick even for a moment. I experienced no lack of oxygen, felt no headache, nothing. Laugh if you wish, but my only trouble was with Mr. Pony! The first day, I was literally trying to survive it. I had no idea what I was doing wrong, but whenever I looked at my fellow pilgrims, they all seemed to me to be enjoying their ride and fully in control. 

I laugh now, but it was really not easy for me to stay on that horse. I patted it and thanked it many times, very grateful to its owner, who proved to be a very nice guy, always smiling, helping others, and expressing kindness to the horse and everyone we met on the road. Having heard all kinds of stories about ponies and porters, I was mostly asking myself if I was grateful enough for this kind of grace showering on me without stopping.

I struggle on the pony (yellow backpack), with Moushumi fully in control (behind me)

The second, most challenging day of the parikrama passed away, mostly in awe. Everything that unveiled itself before my eyes was simply stunning. From the most incredible landscapes, the absolutely unbelievable deep blue colour of the skies, the whitest clouds one can imagine, the way that the pony managed to climb Dolma La Pass (the highest point of Kailash Mansarovar Yatra at 5630m), the magnificent Gauri Kund (believed to be the lake in which Goddess Parvati bathed), all the way to the hundreds of meditation caves on the hills on both sides of the last stretch of the road. 

Most precious moments were those in which I was completely alone, coming down from Dolma La Pass. I was taking my time as if trying to make each moment last longer so that I could engrave it deep in my memory and soul. I walked for a long time above Gauri Kund, chanting Om Hrim Namah Shivaya (the Sanskrit mantra invoking the spirit of both Shiva and Shakti), with Lord Shiva & Goddess Parvati next to Mohanji in my heart. The sheer experience of those moments was mesmerizing and overwhelmingly beautiful. I experienced myself as fearless and completely free (no mind). 

Climbing Dolma La Pass (1)

Dolma La Pass (2)

Gauri Kund

At some point, the porter lady caught up with me and rushed me down the hill, completely spoiling the beauty of the moment. I don’t know why I didn’t tell her to go down without me, as I was fully immersed in the experience, which perhaps did not mean as much to her. 

I reached the guest house before my friends Ivana and Sanda. I took a room for the three of us and decided to have a rest before they came. They were among the five from our group who walked the whole 52km of the Kailash parikrama (without using the horse), and I thought it would be nice to do some reflexology on their feet as they finally reached the bed. Eventually, they joined me in our room, smiling and super happy. We were all thrilled about the day behind us. 

In the middle of our joy, I realized how badly they smelt of sweat, and we all burst into laughter as I told them to please have a shower first before I touched their feet. There were no shower facilities anywhere near, and we could hardly stop laughing. It was day seven since we had our last proper shower in Kathmandu. It was an amazing feeling to welcome everyone who came afterwards, have tea, chats about our day, perform Mohanji’s aarati and sing bhajans (our daily evening practice). 

Day three started while it was still dark outside, and it was going to be a short and easy horseback ride. I continued with my fascination and daydreaming over the meditation caves, which were everywhere to be seen. At one point, we reached a cliff, and the gentlemen walking the pony told me to get off the horse. I almost uttered inwardly: “No, you know that I can’t walk much; don’t spoil my day!” (I was a successful skier in my youth and in 2007, something inexplicable happened with my legs. Ever since, I get very tired when walking, cannot run even if my life depends on it, and feel quite unstable on my feet.) 

I caught myself in this negative thought and immediately decided that, at that moment, in that most amazing place on the planet, nothing would spoil my day. I will walk as slowly as an ant if necessary, but I am going to be happy taking each and every step along the way. In one instance, I realized that I was feeling super light in the body and having no trouble walking at all. In fact, I was walking quite fast, which was unreal. It’s so incredibly unreal that I added even more speed. I was going faster and faster and faster, out of this world thrilled with this body which resembled my ‘once upon a time body’ – strong, fast and able to withstand any physical effort. 

Let’s say that felt like nothing short of a state of bliss for me. I could not believe what was happening. Having reached a small hill, I was simply gliding over it, as if having some engine in my legs. Checking in with this incredible new/old body, I realized that I was walking fast uphill, and my pulse didn’t change at all, nor was I experiencing any shortness of breath. Simply put, that was just surreal. I wished to go on like that for long, as far as those amazing legs could take me. Unfortunately, in about a kilometre, the parikrama ended. It was finished, and I had to stop. At least to say that that was the last thing I wanted to do!

Life after Kailash

The days we spent on the bus returning back slowly to Kathmandu were spent in beautiful contemplation. For all those eleven days, I had no phone with me. I left it behind in Kathmandu. I needed that time off, and my deep desire was to feel the place and experience it fully. I saw my phone as just a distraction. Driving back through those incredible landscapes, bathed by beautiful sunshine, I spent hours on the bus in deep clarity about what I love and want to do in my life. The sheer satisfaction of these insights filled my heart with incredible joy. I was so happy. 

Happy on the road back from Tibet

Being back home, I did not experience the heaviness and grossness of energies. I did not feel bad or sad about returning. Life after Kailash only seems better than what it was before. Equipped with what I came back with, it most certainly is better and easier.

Ivana and I sending love to the group from back in Sarajevo

Final remarks

This testimonial would not be complete without mentioning the most incredible sherpas who travelled with us and took care of us. Six incredible beings, which I named ‘Mohanji’s army,’ made all the difference in the success and feel-good atmosphere of this trip. They made us feel safe, made us laugh, prepared the most amazing food for us in the most incredible conditions, and the list could go on and on. 

Sunil, Tashi and Nigma sherpas serving us lunch on the road when one of our buses broke

Lastly, there is an endless list of gratitude for me to express to Mohanji. Only he knows what he had to go through for this whole experience to go just the way it did. I remain forever grateful and surrender fully at his lotus feet.

Mohanji’s heartfelt blessings at bidding farewell to the group in Kathmandu


Edited & Published by – Testimonials Team, 30th November 2023


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