by Aleksander Kalinic, Serbia

What a trip!

I have carried a portion of India with me even here. Indeed a unique trip, especially as a significant part of the time was spent in the presence of Mohanji in power centres, enveloped by his grace. I still feel charged by the energy of Mohanji, which I was basking in throughout the trip. 

My wife Ivana and I started our journey on 17th Feb from Cork with a 3-hour bus ride to Dublin, a 4-hour flight to Istanbul and a 6-hour flight to Mumbai as our first destination in India. Actually, this trip started a long time ago with planning the flights, stops, logistics etc. 

Ivana and I laughed about how different we are in this matter; I like to plan ahead, and she would just go with the flow on her previous travels to India. The whole trip worried me about how I would manage the budget, seeing all the sites I planned, work balance (as I took only five days’ leave), is the internet good etc., you name it. Writing this seems like I managed successfully. It was a blessed trip.

Before it all evaporates, it really feels like we were in India a month ago, and this is probably my last effort to write it all down before I forget it. The funny thing about experiences is how fast they are gone, and life doesn’t wait for one to dwell on that moment but pushes you into new experiences. Alas, I didn’t feel like going, but being a stubborn Taurus, it was very hard to move; it was a miracle that I started this trip in the first place. All praise goes to my wife Ivana for bearing with my moods.  

Mumbai, Ganeshpuri and Shirdi

Day 1, Mumbai – Going from the airport by a cramped taxi to our accommodation downtown with Marjan and Jelena, whom we met in Istanbul, was probably the first impression I got about India, which confirmed my expectations of India that I saw on TV or heard from friends. Huge, crazy traffic, tonnes of people roaming on streets, slums with extremely poor communities, fully developed parts of town, flavours in the air, vast scenery of everything in sort of a mist, one cannot comprehend and process in single view or thought. I was in awe and smiling all the time. We got to see a little bit of Bandra, part of the town where we were residing while searching for a SIM card to get the internet. 

The journey commenced as it should. On the same night, it was Mahashivaratri, a night dedicated to Lord Shiva, so we wanted to experience local ceremonies in one of the temples. Google Maps took us to a slum in one part of the town, with locals welcoming us to participate in their devotional singing and celebration. 

Though it was a little scary initially, it was a unique and original experience. I would recommend a magnificent place for eating, Earth Cafe, which we highly recommend as a pure vegan place with the best food I have ever tried and smiling service. 

Day 2, Ganeshpuri – While leaving Mumbai, one sees the town, suburbs, and vastness of this big human dwelling – how we organise our lives and the places where we live. It reminded me of hive-like behaviour. Ganeshpuri was totally different as it is a holy place, the abode of the great saint Bhagwan Nityananda. We first visited the Muktananda ashram and then the samadhi of Bhagwan Nityananda. 

Marjan from Iran joined us as her flight came a day later, and our group grew slightly. We also met Monika and Nemanja here, and it was nice to see familiar faces on the other side of the globe. We were in time for darshan and received prasad queuing with many others, feeling we belonged with them. One guy from the crowd took us behind the temple on the riverbank to see the place where Bhagwan Nityananda meditated under a banyan tree and where he bathed in hot springs. The whole complex resonated with me, and I felt at peace. Some special moments such as these made us realise the unseen hand of the guru guiding us. 

Day 3, Shirdi –The trip to Shirdi was about 5 hours from Ganeshpuri, through rural parts of India. This powerful centre allowed me to taste real India. I tried coconut water, sugar cane juice, samosa, tea, and coffee. My travel mates were not that enthusiastic, though. 

Various people in colourful clothes were on the side of the road, where all the fuss was happening. Selling fruits and vegetables, making bricks from the earth and drying them in the sun, funny trucks with crazy ornaments on them, cows on the road, people stacked driving on motorcycles, no roads, then highways, then no roads again. All in all, an enjoyable 5 hours trip. Coming closer to Shirdi, I felt different energy as the land was more fertile and flatter than we had passed. In Shirdi, everything spins around the temple complex of Shirdi Sai Baba, the avatar of the Hindu God Dattatreya. 

I have heard so much about Shirdi Baba. He is staying in my home, right when one opens the front door and in a few other places around the house. Seeing in-person how big and respected his temple is, I understood why he is so popular among believers and spiritual seekers. It takes a lot of queuing and scheduling with tickets to enter the shrine, but once inside, it’s worth it. Seeing all these people and devotees from 7 to 77 years kneeling and lying on the floor in front of his statue makes you wonder how big his demeanour actually is. In the Mohanji family, most people connect to Sai Baba, and he has a special temple space in all the Mohanji Centers of Benevolence. 

Then you realise it is not about human characteristics or what you see in him, but you can understand if you need to put it in the context of Hindu tradition and God. Aside from the “official” part of visiting Sai Baba, we experienced many other lovely little moments with people wanting to take a picture with us, kids hanging on our arms begging for money, and people looking at us and smiling – a warm feeling of acceptance. 

Ivana finally took four little girls, following us around for lunch; we have a picture of them being the happiest kids in the world. So, rewarding. We also visited another smaller and much calmer temple of Sakori, which I liked because there was not much crowd and fuss around. The place is dedicated to Shri Upasani Maharaj, the main disciple of Sai Baba. He locked himself once inside a small bamboo cage, even though he was tall and cramped inside. He said he suffered for the release of his disciples and was standing as a surety in the divine court for their release. He confined himself in that small cage for over thirteen months, practically fulfilling all his daily needs from there. The disciples performed his aarati and listened to his discourses from within the cage. At last, on 31st Jan 1924, Maharaj released himself from the cage and stepped out of it to greet a small child named Godavari, who would later become his inheritor and the keeper of the spiritual wealth of the Sakori Ashram.

Puri retreat, 22-28 Feb

This retreat with Mohanji was the main reason for our trip. From day one, the ambience and satisfactory feeling of being welcomed by the program and events that one could not do on his own without outside help were enough for me to feel warm and safe and willing to give back. I went with the flow and let myself emerge with experiences this retreat allowed me to avail of. All praise goes to the Mohanji India organisation team for holding such a humongous event for so many people, and thank you for that.

The retreat is another world in itself. As everyone knows, who attended previous ones, or first timers, there is almost electricity in the air, filled with enthusiasm and curiosity in people’s eyes, raising expectations of what blissfulness we are headed towards this time. And heading we were. For me, it was a special treat of great fun, enlightenment, understanding and completion, and easiness of existing. 

I met Mohanji for the first time in Istanbul when I visited Ivana after one of the retreats. I had never attended one, and we met outside in some restaurant with a few others from the Mohanji Family. When addressing me in the first introduction, I was asked to pay attention to what he told me. He told me a story about the lion, which I interpreted as that attitude greatly matters in people’s lives. If you don’t have one, you are making your existence harder because you open yourself to a vulnerable position of defending your beliefs, thoughts or any feelings and conclusions you might have, but usually not sharing with a wider audience. 

It’s like playing video games and choosing a character to represent the best you strive to be. I lacked a lion attitude. 

When I wrote this today, I understood I could learn much from this unassuming man (Mohanji). This is not just a hoax or sect (as a typical label would immediately follow) but practical selflessness by one man trying to share the truth with the world.

Later on, I realised it’s much more than that, and I am happy that in this journey of learning about myself and the world around me, I have taken my first baby steps. Puri was my second retreat, as I visited Divcibare retreat for the short two days program. I dive into the depths each time, learning and connecting with Mohanji.

Puri was the first full retreat that I attended. I notice the people’s happiness at seeing each other again over the last year. It’s like an annual gathering of similarly minded individuals coming back from missionaries to share their experiences and new conclusions of knowing the self and reinforcing their beliefs in the pure presence of Mohanji with his positive attitude and smile; you just feel that you belong there.  

For the program itself, if I must choose, I was touched by Tota Gopinath Temple, where I experienced the outer body realm during the chanting. I was transported somewhere else. Preeti Duggal later told me that when she saw me, she could see that I was smiling and blissful, which made her also happy. It’s nice to have such confirmations. Later Ivana explained to me that even before, I used to react to the path of Krishna and that it explains some of my features. That is another confirmation I wouldn’t know by myself.

The Homa/fire ceremony for purification was very powerful, especially with Rajesh maintaining the fire and Lenart, Dejan, and Graham chanting the Veda. Sun setting in the beautiful tent with a fine wind blowing over the wavy cloth ceiling again transported me into my childhood. As a kid, we visited my grandparents to help with countryside errands over the summer. One of them was picking up dry grass into hay kind of cones and later driving them into a hay barn with a tractor where we would all sit on this huge pile of hay after a long day of work, sweaty, red in the face but happy, smiling and contented – breeze in the face, straw in the mouth, surrounded by my family. I could swear that I was not just remembering, but I was really there at that time and moment. This feeling started there and was with me throughout my trip to India.   

Pitru puja/ceremony for the lineage – It was a magical scenery next to the water tank of Pancha Tirta. Aditya explained to us what to do. People were bathing. It all made this sacred ceremony even more profound.

Even though, as foreigners, we could not enter the magnificent and huge Jagannath temple, we were blessed with the beautiful presence of Patajoshi, the chief priest of the Jagannath Temple. I felt when I first saw him as if he knew me, and I knew him. His gentle smile appealed to me, and I wanted to spend time in his presence. I felt he was much more than a chief priest, a powerful holy presence.  

Tota Puri ashram, Sri Yukteshwar samadhi, Konark Temple, Dhauli Stupa, Satsangs with Mohanji – I can’t even remember how much of “golden nuggets” of experiences this event portrayed in front of us. My gratitude once again goes to Mohanji and the organisers. To explain all of it smother the narrative here, but in a nutshell, I felt like I described above – out of the body, blissful and transported to another realm.

On our final day of the retreat, we visited KISS in Bhubaneswar, an education institute that does inclusive education, women empowerment, tribal uplift and sustainable development for over 30000 tribal children. Without me spoiling all of their successes and achievements by describing them, I am attaching a link, as there is so much to learn and appreciate in the enormity of this institution—about – Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, Bhubaneswar (kiss.ac.in).

I was surprised when we entered the room filled with thousands of little children sitting on the floor and doing OM chanting. They gathered there to welcome Mohanji and hear him speak. I was not prepared for that. Tears started watching this sight, and one can’t describe it with words. This was our last event before we flew to Delhi that afternoon. 

After finishing the event, as everyone was returning to their own ways, one suggestion was to keep that feeling and experience from the retreat and head straight home with elevation inside you. 

Cherish what you have been given. Travelling elsewhere as we did to Delhi is another level of experience that can’t be combined with a spiritual event like this. Yes, the Taj Mahal was beautiful and Delhi, even if we didn’t have time to really see its beauty, the retreat makes you travel inwards, and the whole idea of such events holds inner travel more important than what you see by your own eyes (which can be delusional as we know from the crow story of Mohanji).   

We came home to Ireland on the 4th thinking about where we were, who we were, and where we are now – like coming back in the body after an afternoon sleep.  

My takeaway from this trip would be that life is short. Of the many diamonds of truth by Mohanji, one is being present, knowing your purpose in life, and what you can do now between A and B. What one remembers as the most crucial experience in life is not what you see through your eyes but the inner feeling you carry – like my resemblances of India and childhood. I will take from India trip a few such memories, and the feelings will stay with me for life.  

India is a place of liberation and peace that leaves us without ignorance, where we unbind from ourselves and our programs in the mind. We should flow and feel life more. The preconceived point of view is blocking our liberation.

Thank you to all who have crossed my path in India, the new and old friends, acquaintances and people I don’t know. We were all there for a purpose, and our short existence there, next to each other, helped with some karmic growth and liberation.

Special gratitude to Mohanji, without whom this all wouldn’t be possible, my new/old friend that I openly welcome in my heart from now on.


Edited & Published by – Testimonials Team, 1st June 2023


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