SHIVA RUDRA BALAYOGI

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Climbing Vrishabhadri Mountain, Impermanence of the physical body, and what risks are worth taking? 

In 2016 the Shri Shivabalayogi Maharaj Ashram was inaugurated on approximately two acres, since that time more acreage has been added with a designation for agriculture on the new land bringing the total acreage to nine in 2024. This expansion has allowed for adding a temple complex, a separate eating hall with guest rooms above, an outdoor Hanuman Murti, a cow barn, and countless species of fruit trees, and assorted crops contributing to some sustainable self-sufficiency.

From time to time, it becomes helpful to climb the adjacent mountain called Vrishabhadri to compile a photographic record of the changes, growth and for future planning, especially to the designated agriculture plots. But climbing this mountain does not come without risk as this is the Habitat of wild boars, leopards and cobras. Though sightings are rare, their presence is observed with boar attempts to break onto the grounds through perimeter fencing, and where boars go so do leopards, the boar’s natural predator. ** Leopard paw prints are often seen in the soft earth outside (fortunately) the ashram perimeter walls.

** If boars could talk, reflect and gossip like humans (and they can not) they might be found saying: “We have barely survived for centuries on this dry god forsaken rock. Now a veritable “Garden of Eden” at the base of this mountain with numerous fruits, nuts, and vegetable treats and we’re out. Let us pray for a human birth!”

But rest assured, this ashram is amazingly safe and secure. It’s just evening strolls outside the compound that are not advised, unless one fully subscribes to the futility and impermanence of this physical body. 

Are you kidding? Flirting with leopard’s nocturnal hunting passage is no joke. 

Now the mountain! A substantial portion of the surface is steeply sloping rock faces, hot to touch with the the sun out and very slippery with the least bit of moisture, even without it. The next portion of surface is covered with small, medium and very large boulders. The balance is scrub brush, thorny bushes, assorted crevices, and potentially ankle breaking holes and foot traps. Nary a tree can be found. There is no distinct trail to ascend or descend upon, it’s all bushwhacking. Vigilant ones can even explore abandoned caves where yogis resided and did their austerities in ages past. Everyone (well almost everyone) is expected to trip, slip, slide or fall down hiking up and back this hillock, usually with minor discomfort. 

On this particular day in February 2024, three volunteers had offered to go up and gather the photographs and come down, accompanied by a local guide. So, they set out with Baba’s inferred instruction: “walk softly, but carry a big stick, and just watch (as in WATCH OUT!)” 

One of the three elected to stay within an arms length of the guide taking every imaginable suggestion on where to step and go. The second person, making their third trip up, was always looking for shortcuts and different routes, circumnavigating the largest boulders and traversing the treacherous rock slopes. It was perhaps a bit brash, but where’s the fun following by rote? Intermittently you could see them zigzagging up the mountain the first person and guide and the second person occasionally crisscrossing the other, exploring different routes. The guide and first person spoke the same language, so they entertained themselves, at least we didn’t have to rely on attempts at sign language, like the most important one when the guide demonstrates, cobra sighting. 



Ironically, the first person slipped the most frequently, with the other being a close second tripping up. The third person, clever man that he was, chose to observe the successes or failures of the opposing routes (who crashed and burned the most) and then follow the safer path, this was particularly true on the descent. That person only slipped once, but that individual was 4 + decades younger, so under protest, the older two handicapped the slip, slide, fall, and trip counts. And voila, the outcomes were relatively even. There were some scratches and bruises to attend to, but the adventure was worth the effort, the pictures were captured, fun was had by all. 

And hey, no charging boar encounters, no pouncing leopard cats, and no cobra bites, maybe next time. Mission accomplished. 

Please know this adventure took place after morning, puja, chants, and meditation on a “rest” or “free” day prior to the commencement of the more serious retreat for which we were all gathered. This left the rest of the time available at Devarayasamudra for: Sadhana, sitting at Baba, Shiva Rudra Balayogi’s lotus feet, and listening to beloved gurus’ brilliant discourse at the beautiful, peaceful and continuously evolving Shri Shivabalayogi Maharaj Ashram. 

Om Shivaya Shivabalayogendraya Parabrahamanaya

Written by US devotee Clifford McGuire

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