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June 7th, 2014
07:31 AM ET

Finding wholeness in a holy place

By Jessica Ravitz, CNN

(CNN) - Earlier this year, thanks to a global religion reporting fellowship, I had the opportunity to explore the spiritual landscape that is Rishikesh, India.

It’s a magical little city nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas that’s holy to Hindus and a mystical playground for Westerners.

The journey was something I lightly anticipated as “Eat, Pray, Love … minus the pizza and sex.” It turned out to be so much more.

Maybe you followed the two-week experience, as it unfolded, at #RoamingRavitz. Or perhaps you’re hearing about this adventure for the first time. Either way, I hope you’ll be curious to learn more.

My time in Rishikesh was full. What I learned from the swamis, gurus, astrologers, yogis, healers and seekers I met there left my head and heart spinning.

Months later, I have finally made sense of it all. I invite you to check out the full story of my odyssey at "Indian Awakenings."

Also be sure to read "Lost and found: Missing in Rishikesh, India, the 'Land of Gods,'" where I delve into the mysteries surrounding the disappearance in Rishikesh of two Western men. Some have theorized that they fell victim to "India Syndrome," an unusual condition in which young Western travelers become delusional and, in extreme cases, disappear - often during quests for enlightenment.

I went into both reporting ventures not knowing what to expect. They brought me places I never saw coming.

If a spiritual destination left you transformed, I'd love to know where you went and what you learned. Please feel free to share in the comments section.

- CNN Writer/Producer

Filed under: Hinduism • India • Journeys

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. lookatuniverse

    Quran says (Islamic Scripture)

    “Do you say that Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs were Jewish or Christian? Say, "Do you know better than God? Who is more evil than one who conceals a testimony he has learned from God? God is never unaware of anything you do." [2:140]

    “The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]

    “It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.” [19:35]

    “No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]

    “They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]

    “Recall that your Lord said to the angels, "I am placing a representative on Earth." They said, "Will You place therein one who will spread evil therein and shed blood, while we sing Your praises, glorify You, and uphold Your absolute authority?" He said, "I know what you do not know." [2:30]

    “They say , "We live only this life; we will not be resurrected. If you could only see them when they stand before their Lord! He would say, "Is this not the truth?" They would say, "Yes, by our Lord." He would say, "You have incurred the retribution by your disbelief." [6:30]

    “We have honored the children of Adam, and provided them with rides on land and in the sea. We provided for them good provisions, and we gave them greater advantages than many of our creatures.” Quran [17:70]

    “O children of Adam, when messengers come to you from among you, and recite My revelations to you, those who take heed and lead a righteous life, will have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.” Quran [7:35]

    “O children of Adam, do not let the devil dupe you as he did when he caused the eviction of your parents from Paradise, and the removal of their garments to expose their bodies. He and his tribe see you, while you do not see them. We appoint the devils as companions of those who do not believe.” Quran [7:27]

    “Losers indeed are those who disbelieve in meeting God, until the Hour comes to them suddenly, then say, "We deeply regret wasting our lives in this world." They will carry loads of their sins on their backs; what a miserable load! [6:31]

    ‘Say, "We believe in God, and in what was sent down to us, and in what was sent down to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Patriarchs; and in what was given to Moses and Jesus, and all the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction among any of them. To Him alone we are submitters." [2:136]

    Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to visit whyIslam org website.

    June 12, 2014 at 1:19 pm |
  2. plilak

    Namaste Jessica,

    Perfect timing and a wonderful story that captured my heart at the perfect time. I just got back from two months in Rishikesh and Dharmasala. All you wrote about, I also lived it. From the Aarti to my dear friend Prateek, the astrologer. I spent a lot of time with him and would love to share more with you. I did yoga teacher training while in India and Rishikesh is a Shiva town, they say. Huge transformations going on whether one likes it or not. If I had a lesson to learn, Rishikiesh threw it in my face...all in a good way. Thanks for the Ganga, anything needing releasing was just a short walk away. I also took a dip and ended up with a cold. And as the Ganga took my tears of release, she also took my shoes one day. It is all good and I smile as I sit here. Swamiji and the 105 year old yoga teacher. Wow. "My dear, the swami would say...while you are here find your anchor. Peace is on the inside and you don't have to travel the world to find it." I knew this logically, but now I know it inside. Thanks for sharing your story. It is helping me as I transition back into life in the States. Pam

    June 9, 2014 at 10:57 am |
    • Alien Orifice

      "Prateek, the astrologer"

      LOL

      June 9, 2014 at 12:01 pm |
  3. joeyy1

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeedE8vH1FQ&w=640&h=390]

    June 9, 2014 at 3:07 am |
  4. realbuckyball

    Nice article Jessica.
    I had just read Mark Shaw's "Beneath the Mask of Holiness", (the real story behind Thomas Merton, the famous Catholic author of the mid 20th Century). I stopped by the Abbey of Gethsemane to see where he lived. Nice place, but it reminded me of the Bud dist (or whatever) "Wherever you go, there you are". If you need to "go" somewhere to find yourself, I doubt you know what you're looking for.

    June 8, 2014 at 12:20 am |
  5. Vic

    I wonder how the Bermuda Triangle fits in this, I heard a lot of people went missing in there.

    From the link to "Lost and found: Missing in Rishikesh, India, the 'Land of Gods,'" above:
    [
    "They become delusional and, in extreme cases, disappear - often during quests for enlightenment."

    "There's Jerusalem Syndrome, in which visitors to that holy city become so overwhelmed, they have a break from reality and believe they're the messiah or any number of biblical figures."
    ]

    Just like in the Bermuda Triangle mystery case, I wonder what people really mean by disappear, is it like in perishing disappear or inter-dimensional disappear.

    Also, Jerusalem was the first to come to mind when I read the title. It seems like humans are naturally spiritual anyway you spin it. I read a while back that many scientists postulate that humans have a universal impulse for God.

    June 7, 2014 at 11:19 am |
    • Science Works

      Hey Vic the elements of life – all natural !

      Vanderbilt University Medical Center. "Chemical element bromine is essential to life in humans and other animals, researchers discover." ScienceDaily. 5 June 2014.
      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140605140007.htm

      June 7, 2014 at 11:57 am |
      • realbuckyball

        Every experience described by religionists is explainable, and many have been observed to light up certain portions of brains when in a PET scan or MRI scan. It's all just brain chemistry.

        June 7, 2014 at 9:17 pm |
        • Science Works

          Maybe soemday vic will learn that – the 28th element might help vic understand the gray matter between his ears .

          "Without bromine, there are no animals. That's the discovery," said Billy Hudson, Ph.D., the paper's senior author and Elliott V. Newman Professor of Medicine.

          June 9, 2014 at 6:58 pm |
    • bostontola

      Demi Lovato Says She Believes in Mermaids and Now So Do You
      Read more at http://www.hitfix.com/comedy/demi-lovato-says-she-believes-in-mermaids-and-now-so-do-you#cVGOEX6bjBorUi8t.99

      Alien abductions, Atlantis, Bermuda Triangle.

      Can a mind be too open?

      June 7, 2014 at 12:15 pm |
      • Akira

        O.o

        June 7, 2014 at 12:36 pm |
    • MidwestKen

      I think there are several hypotheses for a natural origin of religion/spirituality, but none seem to lead to a god.

      June 7, 2014 at 6:27 pm |
  6. Reality

    Just another tourist trap and Disney World is a lot closer and much more entertaining and without all the religious hype. Might want to read Putting the Kibosh on Religion in Less Than 10 Seconds as previously noted. Google will get you there in less than 2 seconds.

    June 7, 2014 at 9:54 am |
  7. bostontola

    If a spiritual destination left you transformed, I'd love to know where you went and what you learned.

    I just returned from the LACMA exhibit on Impressionism – Van Gogh to Kandinsky. I was amazed by how differently others can view the world, and how many ways they can communicate those differences with stunning clarity.

    June 7, 2014 at 8:54 am |
  8. Casper

    When you have a platform the experiences become richer and fuller!

    Why is nobody reporting on the Muslim man who was beaten to death this past week by hindus?

    June 7, 2014 at 8:44 am |
    • TruthPrevails1

      Seems that a lot has been reported on that...a quick google search shows 2,110,000 results.

      June 7, 2014 at 9:19 am |
      • Reality

        Might want to refine your search a bit. Google regular search is much too broad with only the first couple pages relevant to your search. See their Advanced Search engine.

        June 7, 2014 at 9:50 am |
    • Hitchens

      "Why is nobody reporting on the Muslim man who was beaten to death this past week by hindus?"

      Huh? Because this incident did not happen, if it happened this blog would have covered it.

      Hindus are very peaceful people, they promote hole-ness, yoga and peace. Why do you think Beatles went to Hindus – to find peace. While the Beatles went to Hindus in search of peace, yogi left India to find peace amidst the tranquil mountains of Switzerland.

      You can hardly hear a Hindi on this blog waxing eloquent about their opinion on other religions. That is because they are extremely quiet and peaceful. Even a book written by Wendy Doniger, could not rankle a Hindu, that book went on to be published successfully without any kind of opposition. That is why this blog did not cover the Wendy Doniger book publishing fiasco,either.

      June 7, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
      • MidwestKen

        @Hitchens,
        I'm not sure why @Casper thinks it's relevant, but it apparently did happen:

        "India arrests after Muslim man beaten to death by hardline Hindus"

        http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-27712790

        June 7, 2014 at 6:30 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.