How to Prepare

Pre-Trip Sadhanas (Disciplines)

Introductory Quote from Gurudeva

Iraivan Temple is a grand hand-carved white granite temple seated upon a black lava rock plinth, golden tower shining in a rainbowed sky, God Śiva’s most traditional sanctuary in the West, with its stone bell and “God is All and in all” motto etched in a multitude of languages. It is a magnificent shrine for fellowship members and devout pilgrims intent on worshiping the immanent and transcendent Lord. Being a moksha temple in the center of a cloistered monastery, Iraivan is by no means a tourist attraction. It is a punya tirtha, a sacred destination for devout pilgrims who come with this one goal in mind, having received permission early on and begun preparing themselves far in advance through fasting, meditation and prayer in anticipation of receiving the darshana of Iraivan and performing daily sadhana on San Marga. They are granted temporary access cards by the Pitham for the duration of their stay.

Sadhana Practice

As is common in any traditional pilgrimage, the preparation is as important as the pilgrimage itself. Devotees pilgrimaging to Kerala’s Sabarimala Lord Ayappan Temple, for example, prepare for 41 days in advance through fasting, celibacy and self-denial. In the days or weeks before your journey to Kauai, perform additional daily study and spiritual disciplines to prepare yourself. Join with your family to intensify and renew your spiritual life. On the appointed day, fly straight to Kauai with only God on your mind, and God will be waiting to see you! Some specific suggestions for preparation are: decrease heavier foods, increase lighter foods; fast one day a week; read scripture each night immediately before bedtime; on weekends double the amount of time you usually spend in religious practices. You can also choose from the many sadhanas in this book—select the ones you plan to perform on your pilgrimage. Then learn more about them by reading their descriptions and the additional resource material as well. There are copies of the Master Course Trilogy available to use during your pilgrimage to their monastery, so there is no need bring your own copies unless you prefer to do so.

Quote from Gurudeva

The Nandinatha Sampradaya is a mystical lineage that places great stress on direct and personal experience of God, on seeing God everywhere and in everyone, on knowing God within oneself. This is achieved through nonintellectual spiritual disciplines called sadhana—a term which in its fullest sense embodies kundalini yoga, profound esoteric practices, intense introspective meditation, and worship.— through purificatory effort, mind-transforming austerities, egoless service and, most importantly, through the bountiful grace of the living satguru. Following such a path, called sadhana marga, Nathas have come to know God, in ancient days and modern.

Supplementary Reading

Living with Śiva, Lesson 249: The Joy of Pilgrimage In our religious life, one of the most fulfilling aspects is
pilgrimage. We have a joy in looking forward to a spiritual journey, and we experience a contentment while on our pilgrimage and later bask in the glowing aftermath of the pujas. It is like going to see a great friend, a devotee’s most loved friend—the Ishta Devata. We travel to the far-off temple where this great friend is eminently present. At that particular temple, this personal God performs a certain function, offers a specific type of blessing to pilgrims who make the pilgrimage to that home. In this way, different temples become famous for answering certain types of prayers, such as requests for financial help, or prayers for the right mate in marriage, prayers to be entrusted with the raising of high-souled children, or help in matters of yoga, or help in inspiring bhakti and love.

The Hindu does not have the feeling of having to take a vacation to “get away from it all.” We don’t lead a life of mental confusions, religious contradictions and the frustrations that result from modern hurried living. We lead a moderate life, a religious life. In living a moderate life, we then look at our pilgrimage as a special moment, a herished time of setting ordinary concerns aside and giving full stage to our religious longings. It is a time to take problems and prayers to our personal God.

Unlike the proud “free thinkers” who deem themselves emancipated, above the religious life, we Hindus feel that receiving the darshana from the Gods and the help that comes therein invigorates our being and inspires us to be even more diligent in our spiritual life. Unlike the rationalists who feel confident that within themselves lie all the resources to meet all needs, and that praying to Gods for help is a pathetic exercise in futility, the Hindu wisely submits to the Divine and thus avoids the abyss of disbelief. All in life that one would want to “get away from” the Hindu takes with him on a pilgrimage to the temple, to the feet of his personal God, to the inner-plane being or Mahadeva, who needs no physical body with which to communicate with people—to the God who has a nerve system so sensitive and well developed that as it hovers over the stone image, which looks similar to how the Deity would look on the inner planes, this being of light can communicate with the pilgrims who visit the temple. This being of light, this Mahadeva, can and does absorb all of the dross the devotees have to offer, and gives back blessings which bring happiness and release to them.

Thus, the pilgrimage is not travel in the ordinary sense of travel, but rather going to see a personal friend, one who is nearest and dearest, but does not live in a physical body. The Hindu has another great joy—the certainty of liberation. Even in difficult times, we are solaced in the knowledge of our religion which tells us that no soul that ever existed or ever will exist in future extrapolations of time and space will ever fail to attain liberation. The Hindu knows that all souls will one day merge into God; and he knows that God, who created all souls, slowly guides our maturing into His likeness, brings us back to Himself, which is not separate from ourselves.

The Hindu, through striving and personal development in this life on this planet, knows that liberation into God is the final goal. This knowing and this belief release us from any ego, from any superiority by which one person considers himself or herself as especially meriting God’s grace while others are lost. For the Hindu, there is an assurance that all souls will eventually enjoy liberation, and that includes ourselves and all of our friends and family. We need never fear otherwise.

Additional Resources

Dancing with Śiva, Śloka 32: Is There Good Karma and Bad Karma (specifically the reference to pilgrimage)

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