The Nectar of Gods: Peruvian Ayahuasca
An ancient Amazonian plant-based healing called the Ayahuasca may hold the secrets to the purpose of human life. We got chatty with Nikhil Jaykar, the founder of Spirit Travels — a curated travel company, which is all set to take Indians through Peru to discover this 5,000-years-old Shamanic practice for the very first time. Here are excerpts from a very revealing conversation
“Mother came calling.” A friend who had gone on an ayahuasca trip to South America a few years ago had announced as he referred recalling the revered “plant”. His experience with the strange occult practice of brewing endemic medicinal plants by traditional South-American shamans (witch-doctors for the uninitiated) was life-changing. As promised, he was delivered to an elevated state of consciousness, and he vehemently left believing his life had a deeper purpose. Curious, but relegated to faint memories, the topic would surface once more, when I came across Nikhil Jaykar and Tida, two homegrown travel curators who were planning on taking searching Indians on this life-changing journey through Peru.
SHAMANIC HEALING 101
The origin of the shamanic use of ayahuasca is lost in the mists of history, but there are many different stories among the indigenous tribes of the Amazon. In an indigenous context, ayahuasca was used by shamans of the Amazon region for healing and divinatory purposes. Complex rituals surround the preparation and the ayahuasca use has been passed down through generations of healers.
“My first experience with the medicine showed me the path. It took me another two years before I undertook my second ceremony. Today, I run my own travel company — Spirit Travels— crafting unique travel experiences, focusing on reintegration,” starts Nikhil.
THE WITCH DOCTORS & THE MAGIC PLANT
Ayahuasca is an Amazonian plant medicine that has been used for possibly thousands of years by indigenous and more recently mestizo ayahuasca shaman across the upper Amazon throughout Peru, Columbia, Ecuador and Brazil. The term “Ayahuasca” is derived from the Quechua words ‘aya’ meaning soul and ‘huasca’ meaning rope. Roughly translated, Ayahuasca is the vine of the soul. A blend of two plants — the ayahuasca vine (Banisteriopsis caapi) and the leaves of a shrub called chacruna (Psychotria viridis) — the mix contains the spirit molecule — DMT (dimethyltryptamine), found in all living beings. Shamans believe that chacruna is in charge of ‘painting the visions,’ whereas the Ayahuasca ‘teaches beyond those visions.’
These plants which have been culturally appropriated over the years, have possibly become one of the most distinct Peruvian experiences the world over today.
DESTINED: A MEETING OF MINDS
Describing how Nikhil met Tida, his partner, he says, “After having done two ceremonies and a complete retreat, it is now clear that the medicine came to me. I had done a ceremony with the Yawanawa tribe from Brazil. Then I came back to Bangalore where I did some reintegration work for myself. I went to a wellness centre called the 1000 Petals, and they connected me with Tida. This is when I had the privilege of working with Maestro Chakaruna — a musician and shaman.” The plant had materialised this meeting of minds.
RITUALS AND REVELATIONS
Working with the Ayahuasca is an intense, profound and transformative experience that can facilitate deep healing on all levels of being — physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Participants from all over the world attest to their spiritual awakening with the ‘purge’ releasing unhealthy mental and emotional energies. For many, it is the first step to finding their ‘way back home’ to themselves. The psychoactive effects induce a modified state of consciousness. The plant is a sacred plant, and when consumed in a controlled environment under the expert shamanic guidance, shows no side-effects.
Nikhil explains, “Shamanic society doesn’t discriminate on labels unlike conventional medicines do. We screen the participants based on their energy levels, and look into their medical history, to ensure only the safest experience under expert guidance. We pick a shaman only if we have worked with them on a personal basis.”
BEYOND TEA LEAVES
The Ayahuasca tea, which is brewed by the shamans for hours, sometimes days, is a potent mix, and there are strict rules before consuming it. Participants have to be comfortably seated, or standing, and have to maintain silence. Since the process of the ceremony is individual and internalised, it must not conflict with the experience of others. Purging and crying are common during the ceremony. Importantly, for the most invigorating experience, people are advised to abstain from consuming meats and sex a week before and after the ceremony as the body detoxifies, before the purge. Reveals Nikhil, “I help by facilitating the meeting, but where I am really helping… is in the integration once people come back from the ceremony. I provide the space, community, and facilitate. I am at my best while helping people with post-experience.”
THROUGH THIS WORLD AND NEXT
As the interview comes to its last legs, one question remains: Is this a dying culture or is there an attempt to revive it? As Nikhil explains, “Today we are poised to revive it. I’m helping spread the work by taking people in Peru. As a result, there is a component that is reinvested with the indigenous people, supporting ethical travel and sustaining traditional Peruvian cultures. Today, we have an opportunity to spread the awareness with the ancient tribal ways meeting the modern civilisation.” This resurgence points to wider consciousness and a more hopeful future for a world grappling with increasing mental health disparities. We for one are curious and motivated.
Special thanks to Somaa.org and Katari Center (Peru).
Photos/ Videos Attribution: Somaa & Katari Center.
DISCLAIMER: This article isn’t an endorsement and readers are advised to conduct their independent research before enrolling in an ayahuasca treatment. For details, reach out on www.spirittravels.in and somaa.org (emails on firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com)
© 2020 Gut & Flow Media Pvt. Ltd.
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