Posted by Carol Johnson
I traveled to Guatemala at the end of March of this year, hoping to improve on my beginner’s level Spanish, a goal I’ve had for a while now. After 4 weeks of intensive study of the Spanish language in the city of Antigua, I was lucky to travel around the country for another 2 weeks.
Before I departed California for Guatemala, a friend at SAT, who’d recently visited Guatemala, told me of a place where there was a shrine to Ramana Maharshi. In Guatemala! So I just had to visit and see for myself.
The beautiful Lake Atitlan is surrounded by small villages and towns, as well as volcanoes.
Below are some maps that locate Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.
Guatemala is south of Mexico. Florida, in the USA, is in the upper right of the map.
The beautiful colonial city of Antigua, with lots of charm and many language schools, is west and a little south of Guatemala City, the capital.
On my first visit to the lake I saw three of the surrounding towns, but didn’t make it to San Marcos La Laguna, where the Ramana shrine was located.
On the first trip, from the boat, we passed several villages that could be seen across the water. I think the one below might be San Marcos.
Frustrated that San Marcos wasn’t on the itinerary of my first Lake Atitlan journey, I took a return trip—a pilgrimage, really—to see Bhagavan for myself.
I was still in language school, so my Spanish “maestra” and I took the 4-hour shuttle ride to Panajachel. We were supposed to be studying, but the van was so crowded that we couldn’t sit together. Blissful! Four hours in a row where I didn’t have to speak Spanish!
Arriving in Panajachel, we hired a private boat to take us to San Marcos.
Just off the boat at the San Marcos dock, we found our way to the local church. Many of the churches in Guatemala were decorated with fabric, the colors of which depended on the season. This was just after Easter, so there was lots of “Resurrection white.”
We found a rickshaw (“tuk-tuk” here) and asked to be taken to the Kaivalya Yoga Hostel. We were quoted a remarkably cheap price.
The photo below was a rickshaw I saw in San Pedro, another of the towns in Lake Atitlan. I thought our driver Rajan would find its decoration amusing.
We got in and rode up the hill for about forty seconds (!) and were dropped us off at the gate shown below.
The center’s name, Kaivalya, is partially obscured by building blocks in the photo below.
Kaivalya Yoga Hostel is a small center dedicated to yoga and the teaching of meditation. Their website is yogaretreatguatemala.com. I had written and told them we were coming. As it turned out, we arrived about 15 minutes before the founders had to depart to travel back to their home countries in Europe. They are pictured below: Arpi and Arjuna.
While Arpi and Arjuna are away, Maria will be in charge of Kaivalya. She is pictured below on the left, next to my teacher Paulina.
Arpi walked us down to the “shrine.” It was set up in a corner of the open-air yoga studio.
After I greeted Bhagavan with pranams, I approached the shrine and offered a donation: A symbolic carving of Arunachala that was made by one of the carvers on the path to Skandashram.
On the wall of the meditation center was this blackboard with the familiar lyrics to the Gayatri Mantra.
After our brief visit, Paulina and I walked back down the hill to the small town center.
We passed a wall on which were painted the symbols from the ancient Mayan calendar. You see these images everywhere in Guatemala.
I was impressed by the attempt to make a sculptural addition to the wall by the artful use of recycled trash.
San Marcos La Laguna is the village on the lake that is known for “new age” retreats—yoga studios, healing spas, etc. It is a sweet little town full of narrow alleyways that lead to one or another of the healing businesses.
Below are two photos of the resort Las Piramides del Ka. Before we found the Kaivalya Center, everyone thought we were looking for Las Piramides. On the way back to the boat dock, we caught a glimpse of it. We were afraid we were intruding, so we didn’t get very close.
On their website, here, they say that Las Piramides is a center for spiritual study with meditation centers and pyramid-shaped cabins, offering herbal remedies and vegetarian foods.
After nosing around Las Piramides, we boarded our return boat, back to Panajachel, then the long van ride back to Antigua. It was a 12-hour trip for a 15 minute visit with Ramana. Worth every bit of the effort. How wonderful to encounter my Sadguru in such an unexpected part of the world. How blissful to know that the teachings of The Maharshi are finding their way around the globe.