FOR over 12,000 years, there has been an unbroken record of people from the Indian subcontinent making the pilgrimage to Mount Kailash. This was often considered their last journey because it meant walking all the way through formidable terrain with little protection against the elements. Every year, in the month of August, we at Isha make the same journey.
What is the significance of this pilgrimage? Does climbing 17,000 feet bring you a little closer to heaven? No, it does not. But definitely, Kailash is far more significant than the many stories and legends that surround it. It is very difficult for me to verbalise what I see there. I can only try.
For most yogis and mystics, the problem has been that they could never share what they realised with people around them. To find another person capable of receiving what you know is not easy. If you find even one such person, you are fortunate. There are social restrictions, to start with, and individual problems-psychological and physiological limitations as well as karmic bondages.
Knowledge can be stored in different ways. The most efficient way to store it is in the form of energy. When you want to do this, you need some kind of scaffolding. So, most spiritual masters downloaded their knowing in remote but not entirely inaccessible places. They often chose mountain peaks as their scaffolding because there is less human traffic and disturbance in such places. Another reason is that they needed a substance of a certain density for the download to be effective.
There are many wonderful sites of high vibration all over India, particularly in the Himalaya, where mystics have bequeathed the fruits of their spiritual practice. Of all these, Kailash in Western Tibet is regarded as the most sacred, because the maximum amount of knowledge has been stored here in energy form. From Adiyogi or Shiva to Rishabha, the first of the Jain tirthankaras, from some of the great figures in Buddhism (the Buddha Chakrasamvara, Padmasambhava and Milarepa) to the saints of the Tibetan Bon religion-all these great beings have preserved their knowing here, making this a repository of immeasurable volume and variety, power and antiquity.
Adiyogi, the world’s first yogi and guru, divided his incredible volume of knowing into seven categories. Each of his seven disciples-the Saptarishis-grasped one strand of what he knew. When he could not find any other human being to whom he could transmit this legacy, he decided to preserve it in Kailash. So, all the seven dimensions of yoga, the very mechanics of life, are preserved in one single place. This makes Kailash the greatest mystical library on the planet. Not just a passive storehouse of information, but a living archive.
This is why it is known as the abode of Shiva. Not because you will find him there, but because everything that he knew has been deposited there. In a way, he does live there, because what is Adiyogi without his work? It is because of his contribution that we value him. In that sense, he is still very much alive.
This invariably makes some overimaginative pilgrims claim that they can see Shiva and Parvati floating around in the clouds above the mountain! Instead of turning receptive, they allow their imaginations to work overtime. That is why I tell pilgrims year after year: don’t go as a believer or as a disbeliever. Just go as a seeker.
Experience your own smallness against the magnitude of this mountain. If a man thinks that he is big, he becomes small. But once he knows he is nothing, he becomes unlimited. That is the purpose of every pilgrimage: to awaken you to the realization that although you are minuscule, you carry the universe within you.
Sadhguru, a yogi, is a visionary, humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader (www.ishafoundation.org)