"Travel is glamorous only in retrospect." ~ Paul Theroux


A Lifelong Tryst

Han Veenings spent time in India on three prolonged visits and shares his experiences and expresses his deep profound love and connection to India.

It was in 1972 that I became interested in spirituality and began to study philosophical and spiritual literature. By 1973 it had become my sole preoccupation and I wanted to consecrate my life to my spiritual quest. Having read the Upanishads and other books on India I felt the desire to see for myself the holy places in India, another way of life, places connected with the lives of Sri Ramakrisna and Holy Mother. Accordingly, in March 1973, I left my home country Holland in March 1973.

Arriving in Delhi a great adventure was beginning. It was an introduction to the life I began to love. From there I moved to Haridwar, which was a wonderful time. Landing there I stayed on a little island in a hut with a sadhu. After a few days a swami from the Sapt Sarovar guided me to an ashram there. Adapting myself completely I lived like a sadhaka and even made my daily round of the different ashrams to beg for food. This went on for a few weeks. Those were intense days. Finally the swami suggested that I move on and gave me an address in Naini Tal. Somehow I didn't find the person he had referred me to, so I remained on my own.

More on Uttaranchal

Kumaon Remembered

Sacred Space
Pilgrim Trails
Masters & Sages

Almora, near Rama Krishna Kutir Visiting different places I continued towards Almora where I stayed for almost 3 months. I felt accepted by the local population and felt at home there. I met Mrs Boshi Sen, wife of the well-known scientist, Boshi Sen, who had passed away some time before. It was great to spend several afternoons at their home, Kundan House. I also became a faithful visitor of the Ramakrishna Kutir at the end of town. From time to time I felt the desire to visit places around. I visited Kausani with a wonderful view of the Himalayas from the terrace of the State Bungalow next to the Anasakti Ashram. Other places I enjoyed visiting were Baijnath, Bhim Tal, Bageshwar, Kapkot and Mirtola Ashram where I met Ashish Maharaj.

Somehow there was the desire to move on to Bengal in order to visit the holy places associated with the lives of Ramakrishna and Holy Mother. I stopped en route at Benares, Gaya and Bodh Gaya, finally ending at Belur Math Calcutta, the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission and Order. That was yet another chapter of my spiritual life.

By then I had made up my mind that I wanted to join the Order. The President suggested that I return to Europe and join the Vedanta Centre in France, where lived a venerable monk of the Order. So in October of that year, my real sadhana began under my guru's supervision: meditation, study of holy scriptures, learning Sanskrit and other Indian languages, and of course the work of the ashram. In 1980 I was sent to Belur Math in order to take the vows of Brahmacharya, as is the tradition in this Order. At that time I had again the good fortune to travel and visit holy places, have darshan at all the temples. Way back in 1973, it was possible to enter any temple, even the Vishwanath Temple at Benares, which was no longer permissible in 1984. I met many great souls. I spent six months in South India, besides spending time in Delhi, Benares and West Bengal.

Kedarnath temple complexI returned again to France and continued on my path of sadhana. This was a very intense period of my life. Finally, in 1984, during my third visit to India I took the vows of Sannyas. At Belur Math on Thakur's birthday in February I became a swami of the Order under the name of Ambananda. I had the good fortune to travel more in India, to Almora and elsewhere in Kumaon, Hardwar, Rishikesh and a week on pilgrimage to Kedarnath and Badrinath, yet another wonderful experience.

Such a wonderful time and so many memories as souvenirs of my adopted home. I always felt at home in India, as though I was an inhabitant of the country. I spoke Hindi, Bengali and could read a little Tamil at that time. Even today I know many devotional and Sanskrit chants.

Again I returned to Europe and I continued on this path till 1991 when I had to be honest and admit that monastic life was extremely hard. In fact it was too hard for me: those were 3 difficult years of doubting and reflecting about the future. I value honesty, humility and integrity above anything else in spiritual life. So, with the permission of my guru, I left in January 1992.

Another chapter of my life began. My spiritual life continues as also my visits to my old home, the Vedanta Centre, about 50 kms from where I now live. Of course life changed. I met a woman with similar spiritual feelings with whom I could share the essence of life. We married in 1995 and have a daughter called Sara, or Sarada who is 8 years old.

I do hope to return to India in the near future but I have no current concrete plan. If it is my karma, it will come to pass! In the meantime, thank you for all the articles on India Travelogue!

Home | Back | Top | Feedback

Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.