A Spiritual Journey Into a Sacred River
Many countries have sacred rivers. However, in Mexico, the sacred rivers are situated underground, because the locals believe the soul goes to the underworld after death, before being re-born. I had the rare privilege of seeing parts of this underworld during my spiritual journey to the Secret River near Cancún.
Any spiritual journey requires a spiritual guide . Without the guide, you are lost before you even begin and you will not get very far. During our spiritual journey in Mexico, we were lucky to have not one, but three spiritual guides.
The first guide was our tour bus operator who simply dropped us at the gateway to the site. His job was done and he went away. We meet many such people in our lives who point out aspirituall direction and then disappear for ever.
The second guide picked us up from the gateway and drove us across ten kilometres of unpaved, bumpy roads in the Mayan rainforest. The ride was bone-shattering and chakra-awakening, symbolic of the Tapasya we have to do before any kind of spiritual success. Again, without spiritual guidance for your tapasya , you just wander aimlessly without getting anywhere.
These were only the preliminaries; the real spiritual journey began after we encountered the third guide, our true spiritual guru. He asked us to get rid of most of our worldly attire, take a ritual bath, and put on special clothing suited for the arduous journey ahead. My wife is not a swimmer, and she also has an elbow injury but our compassionate guru said not to worry, he would take care of her problems.
Before entering the sacred river, a priest appeared and performed a special prayer for us in Mayan language, seeking forgiveness for trespassing on Mother Nature and asking for divine protection for our journey. Our guru explained this prayer was very important, because a trip into the depths of Mother Nature was very dangerous and anything could happen.
Armed with divine protection, we started our rocky descent to the mouth of a cave. Within minutes, we were plunged into darkness and into knee deep water. The only illumination was from the tiny headlights fixed to our helmets - part of the special equipment issued to us. The rest of the cave was completely dark. In truth, we have to carry our inner light with us, otherwise the spiritual journey is much more difficult.
The water kept getting deeper, and soon it was waist high. It was also very treacherous, as the cave floor was rocky; also there was very little head room. As the waters got deeper, my wife became more nervous, our guide said there was a small area where we would have to swim across to another cavern, using life jackets.
At this point, my wife was ready to turn back but then magic happened. There was a photographer with us who stayed a little far away as her job was only to take pictures. She came over and said she had discovered another, slightly longer path where no swimming was required. My wife and I took this path, while the rest of the family swam across to the cavern.
Even so, the going was very tough. We stumbled and fell in the water a couple of times and I scraped my leg against some underground rocks. It hurt quite a bit but we kept on going, at this point there was no turning back.
We were a group of nine people, including my children, their spouses and our grandchildren. The youngest was seven years old and for her, the journey was effortless as she had no fear. For grown ups it was a little harder as we have more anxieties to cope with. For me it was more of an inward journey, walking through the water in near darkness surrounded by natural rock formations. There was deep silence all around, and if you stood still for a moment, the silence would seep inside. At one point, the guide asked us to turn off all the lights, so we could experience total darkness. It was a life-changing moment in time and the experience cannot be described in human words.
A little later we entered the cave of the knives. Waist deep in water, all we could see around were hundreds of dagger-like rock formations, created by the action of water dripping on lime stone. There were knife like formations coming down from the roof and rising up from the waters - an experience totally out of this world.
We were soon in the deepest part of our exploration, a huge cavern that looked like something out of a science fiction movie. No human hand could carve this fearful symmetry, only mother nature could do this.
Mother Nature was like a benign presence all around us, holding us in a warm, loving embrace. Without this love, we could not have survived even for a moment in this journey, surrounded by dangers all around. If you looked up, you saw the dagger like formations and if you peered a little further up, there were bats hanging from the roof, as these creatures love the darkness. The floor of the cave was uneven, and were always just one step away from falling into the water.
Our guide was very protective about the caves and the underground river flowing through them. We were not allowed to touch the walls, or to bring back any pieces of rock with us. We had to shower before entering the cave system, to make sure we did not pollute the water with our body fluids.
When we came out of the cave, we had to undergo another ceremony. We were required take a small shot of a special drink that tasted like nectar. It was a concoction of honey and tequila that was very uplifting.
Our spiritual guide explained that sometimes, the gods of the cave demanded a blood sacrifice. This turned out to be true, as I hit an underwater stone during the journey, drawing a little blood. The guide said not to worry, it was a sign of luck as the gods were pleased with me.
We are unlikely to see these spiritual guides ever again. They did their job, gave us a rare spiritual experience and have moved on to help other souls on their spiritual journey.
When we came back we were told that there are several entrances to the cave system and different tour guides choose different paths. However, they all lead to the same underground river, just like all the different spiritual paths of the world lead to the same truth. If you keep changing paths, or go without a guide, you could be lost in darkness forever.
By Niraj Chandra
Niraj is a professional Engineer working for the government of Canada. He loves to travel, and he loves finding spirituality in whatever he sees. He also writes for The Speaking Tree, A spiritual site run by the Times of India.