Difficult journey in search of camphor trees on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia !

Spiritual experiences of seekers that
‘Guru is constantly with them’ in the difficult journey
in search of camphor trees on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia !

During our tour of South-east Asian countries, we learnt that in the forest on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, there are camphor trees yielding pure Bhimseni camphor. This territory being impassable and mountainous we learnt from some people that it was difficult to reach here. Hence Mr. Snehal Raut and I were asked to visit it to get an idea of the place and also for basic information about it.

From left to right – Mr. Snehal Raut, Mr. Satyakam Kanaglekar, Mr. Barubu, Mr. Rendy Ikarantio and Mr. Malau


The journey to Barus

1 A. Leaving for Barus along with H.H. Rendy Ikarantio and interpreter Mr. Malau

On 18.4.2018 after air travel at night both of us reached the city of Medan in Sumatra. Rendy Ikarantio had made arrangements for our travel here. No sooner did we land there, than Rendydada arrived there accompanied by Mr. Malau an interpreter sent by Mr. Kobalan from Jakarta, as a guide. During our Sumatra journey Mr. Malau would be our interpreter as well coordinator with the locals. We left Medan at 7.30 p.m. by car to see the forest with camphor trees. The journey from Medan to Barus was 10 to 11 hours and since Mr. Malau was the only person who was driving, he suggested that we halt and then proceed on our journey. We reached a lodge-like Dharmashala on the highway after a journey of 6 hours, at 1.30 a.m. and spent the night there. We woke up the next morning at 4.30, ate breakfast and continued our onward journey at 5.30 a.m.

1 B. Since the road was through the mountainous ranges with
sharp turns, the journey was prolonged and despite the climatic
conditions being unfavorable, we could experience the grace of Gurudev

This is a tropical forest and mountainous region. The road journey here is through mountain ranges and has sharp turns. Besides the road is only single lane here and also the condition of the road is very bad due to which the duration of the journey was increasing. To add to our woes there was torrential rain. The rain here is heavy and unpredictable. For us the environment here, circumstances and region were all new. With the grace of Gurudev we were receiving spiritual experiences and becoming aware of His presence and His protective Armour around us at every step. We realized that our journey was going on with the help of all these Divine armors. We reached Barus at 4 p.m.

The camphor tree (encircled) found on island of Sumatra


2. Efforts made with the grace of the Guru to reach
the camphor trees in Barus by overcoming several obstacles

2 A. Halting in the village of Sibolga as
the accommodation in Barus was not good enough

On reaching Barus we realized that the accommodation there was not good because of which we had to travel a distance of two and a half hours to reach a village called Sibolga. The following day H.H. Rendydada had to return to Jakarta for seva.

2 B. As Mr. Malau was not well-versed in English
while asking him any questions we had to use very easy words

Only the two of us had to travel with Mr. Malau. As we did not know the local language our problem was how we would communicate with the locals. Mr. Malau was not well-versed with English so we had to use simple words to ask him questions. The local language of Sumatra is ‘Bataknis’ which is quite different from ‘Bahasa’ language spoken in Jakarta or the rest of Indonesia. So, we had no other alternative but to trust and listen to what Mr. Malau was telling us.

2 C. When we were not satisfied with Mr. Malau’s
answers we would ask him further questions and if satisfied
then thoughts would stop surfacing in our mind spontaneously
which made us aware that we are only a medium in the Guruseva

With the grace of Gurudev Mr. Malau gave us a lot of information and even translated the information given by the locals.

In all these incidents I received tremendous benefit from the teachings of Gurudev. ‘What is the person in front of me saying ? What am I feeling about that ? Is there anything more left to be asked or any more information required ?’ are the various queries I asked God in my mind and based on the answers I received my further actions were decided. If I was not satisfied with the answer then the next thought would appear in my mind and I would ask relevant questions. If satisfied with the answer then thoughts would stop spontaneously. This was an unconscious process which was occurring speedily and which I was experiencing for the very first time. When contemplating on all this my mind was thoroughly convinced fully that ‘We are mere a medium in the seva of the Guru and we have absolutely no existence in the true sense of the term’. With the awareness that I was a chosen one to perform his mission spiritual emotion of gratitude unto the Guru was awakened within me.

2 D. As there was no path to reach the camphor tree we had to
climb the mountain clinging onto roots of trees and with the help of rocks

On the afternoon of 20.4.2018 when we obtained information on the camphor tree from a villager, Mr. Barubu, he told us about a tree. We walked to the path leading to it, but this tree was young and would not be yielding camphor. When Mr. Barubu showed us the way we realized that the path was extremely difficult and that we would have to crawl over the mountain to reach it.

2 E. My dizziness stopped after praying to the Deity
of the place (sthanadevata) and Deity of the premises (vastudevata)

As I climbed the mountain to reach our destination I suddenly felt dizzy as if I would fall. So I sat down there. This had never happened to me before, then why do I feel the distress today ? is what I thought. Then I realized that I had not prayed to the Deities of the place and premises. God had pointed out my mistake to me. I immediately asked the Deities for forgiveness and prayed that the next seva occur without any obstacles. Then my dizziness stopped and I felt better.

– Mr. Snehal Raut, Sanatan ashram, Ramnathi, Goa

2 F. When climbing the mountain the soil beneath was friable
and I experienced that the further climb was possible only due to chanting

There was no pathway at all to walk over there. Using the roots of forest trees and rocks of the mountains we climbed the place. When clinging onto the forest trees there were chances of our hand unconsciously going into the burrow of an animal. Only two of us were accompanying Mr. Barubu. We wanted to click photographs and take a video recording of it but It was only after climbing halfway that we became aware of our physical limitations. I experienced that the further climb occurred only due to chanting the Name of the God. In this climb I realized that the soil where I placed my foot was friable and I could have slipped any moment. If the soil would have slipped, then the mountain rock above us could slide onto us causing an accident. I realized that only the grace of God and Gurudev’s resolve (sankalp) got this seva done from me without any obstacles.

Mr. Barubu removing pieces of bark of a camphor tree at Barus on the Sumatra island of Indonesia

2 G. We became overjoyed after Mr. Barubu gave us pieces
of bark of the camphor tree and a branch of the tree. As descending
down with a camera and the branch was tedious we took help from Mr. Barubu

On reaching the tree Mr. Barubu chopped pieces of its bark and broke a branch and gave them to us. Though I was elated at first my happiness was short-lived, because it was far more difficult to climb down with both the camera equipment and the branches of the tree in the hands than climbing up. All we had for support and to hold on while climbing down were trees and their branches. We had no option but to keep the foot wherever space was available and crawl down. As Mr. Barubu was skilled in this he climbed down easily. I could climb down only up to a certain stage but could no longer carry on with the recording equipment and the branch. Hence, I requested Mr. Barubu to help me. He climbed up and down again with everything with the same agility, which was indeed amazing. I then climbed down clutching onto the available branches of a tree.

2 H. While descending the mountain, when balancing myself there was pressure
on the wrist due to which it was swollen and the swelling disappeared the next day

At one point as I struggled to balance myself there was pressure on my wrist and it was swollen. However, the next day only due to blessings and grace of Gurudev, after completion of this seva, the swelling subsided and pain too decreased. This incident showed how God Himself saves when performing seva.

2 I. Others accompanying us were bitten by leeches
but we seekers were spared with the grace of the God

In the part of the forest that we were trekking leech bites are common. Mr. Malau and H.H. Rendydada who were had not climbed the mountain and were waiting down too were bitten by leeches. Even Mr. Barubu had leech bites, but neither of us were bitten by leeches. There is nothing more miraculous than this. When we returned back to this place on 22.4.2018 Mr. Barubu was bitten by 4 leeches but neither of us was affected. As this incidence happened not just once, but twice, I was completely filled with gratitude unto The God. I then realized that neither leeches were able to attack us nor did any other untoward incident occurred with us due to a protective Armour created around our bodies by performing spiritual practice as advised by Yogatadnya Dadaji Vaishampayan, agnihotra performed along with Sadguru (Mrs.) Anjali Gadgil, sankalp (resolve) of Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale and grace of God.

– Mr. Satyakam Kanaglekar, Sanatan ashram, Ramnathi, Goa

The tropical forests in the Barus village on the Sumatra island of Indonesia has camphor trees on huge scale and it is from here that the camphor is imported all over the world. Here The camphor is famously know as ‘Kapur Barus’. Though every resident here is well-worsed about camphor there are very few who know how to procure it from the forest. Till some years ago this forest had plenty of camphor trees but due to their being felled to fulfill the increasing global demand for camphor and due to scanty re plantation of new trees now the supply of camphor from Barus has decreased markedly.

Those who are acquainted about the camphor trees say that finding camphor tress has become very difficult now. With the grace of the Guru we could travel for four days in the villages of Sumatra island in search of camphor trees and manage to get information on them. This is a small attempt to express the experiences, spiritual experiences and points we got to learn in this journey. We had not even dream that we would get an opportunity to render this seva. We are extremely grateful at the Holy feet of the Guru for having granted us this opportunity to render this seva.

– Mr. Snehal Raut, Mr. Satyakam Kanaglekar, Sanatan ashram, Ramnathi, Goa

2 J. When speaking to Mr. Vinayak Shanbag seeker said,
‘Nothing is difficult for Gurudev. He is taking care of everything and
will do so in the future too’ and at that time his spiritual emotion was awakened.

After H.H. Rendydada left for Jakarta we were not ridden with fear or doubt of any kind. On the way from Sibolga to Barus wherever there was mobile network and internet facility, I was able to communicate with Mr. Vinayak Shanbag. At that time, I gave him an idea of the circumstances here to convey to Sadguru (Mrs.) Anjali Gadgil. Mr. Vinayak said in response, “You are en route on Gurudev’s most difficult mission”. From within I got the answer, ‘Nothing is difficult for Gurudev. He alone is taking care of everything and will continue to do so in the future too. Hence, I am absolutely not worried about anything’. This answer which came from within awakened the spiritual emotion in me. In my mind I prostrated before Gurudev who was taking care of us at every step. The tears flowing from my eyes just would not stop. When I came out of this state after a while, I realized that we had almost reached Barus village.

2 K. One well-versed person explained us the process of formation of camphor

In Barus Mr. Malau took us to a man well-versed about the process of camphor formation and its extraction. Through his talk it appeared that he indeed was very knowledgeable about the camphor trees.. When we showed Sanatan’s sattvik camphor to him he commented that it was pure and the best quality camphor. He added that the camphor extracted from camphor trees in Barus is also similar. He had been speaking to Mr. Malau in Bataknis language. Mr Malau explained, “Camphor is formed in the cavity of the trunk of camphor tree and it takes a tree about 50 to 150 years to produce it. The amount of camphor produced depends upon the holistic growth of the tree. To produce camphor the tree has to give up its very existence. When the tree is felled the white colored camphor is found in the cavity of the tree trunk. This is basically referred to as ‘chandrabhasma – powder from the moon’.”


The process of extraction of camphor from the camphor tree !

Camphor is obtained from the cavity of the tree trunk of a 50 to 150 year old camphor . Mr. Malau chopping the bark of a tree. To be able to extract camphor from a tree the tree has to give up its existence.
The chopped tree trunk is given a horizontal slit. There is a cavity inside the trunk of the tree as above and yields camphor. (The cavity of the trunk which yields camphor is encircled.)

2 L. Had to walk for three hours to reach the camphor tree forest !

After getting the basic information on the camphor tree we left for the camphor tree forest. We were now going to enter the depth dense tropical forest where it can rain any moment. As at that time the weather was clear we thought we would first enter the forest and click pictures and do video-recording of the camphor trees and then return back and accordingly we commenced our journey towards the forest. We would have to walk for three hours. As it was our first trip to this kind of forest we were absolutely unaware about the circumstances there and what was to follow and the obstacles we would have to face. Mr. Malau had requested three more of his acquaintances to accompany us to fell the tree for which they were carrying the required equipment too.

2 M. Dangerous journey through dense
forests, valleys and rivulets to reach the camphor trees

1.Mr. Snehal Raut followed by Mr. Malau making way through the forest y crossing over the rivulets, canals and uphills and slopes with the help of narrow trunk of a tree.
2. Mr. Snehal Raut crossing a rivulet in knee-deep water, completely drenched due to the continuous rain

 2 N. While entering in the forest we had to cross the many rivulets.
Also, due to incessant rain the water level of the rivulets had risen and
as we proceeded further inside the forest, it went on being denser inside.

As we started our journey into the forest it started raining. The forest was dense. As we went deeper into the forest, intensity of the rain too increased. Due to the surrounding thick dense forest as well as the accompanying heavy rains, the condition there was frightening. Within the first twenty minutes of our entering the forest, we had to wade through ankle deep water and twice we had to cross deep pits by balancing over a narrow tree trunks. As we went further inside the forest it became denser and the rain too was heavy. We realized that our experience of going to the forest would be unique. We were carrying our video-recording and photography equipment with us but due to the rain we could not use the camera. We had walked for one and half hour and had reached into the deep forest. We had to cross 7 to 8 rivulets. We had to cross rivulets after about every 7 to 8 minutes. We were completely drenched due the incessant rain. We then took shelter in a refuge area created there.

2 O. While crossing the forest we perceived the
presence of a unique energy within us due to our spiritual practice

As Sadguru (Mrs.) Anjali Gadgilkaku would get agnihotra done from us everyday and also, as we were performing the spiritual practice as advised by Yogatadnya Dadaji Vaishampayan; while entering the forest, the environment there did not have any effect on my mind. While walking through the forest we had to cross a rivulet after every 5 to 7 minutes.. During this time, due to the ongoing chanting in my mind, I perceived the presence of a unique energy within myself.’

2 P. We came across a stranger person while walking
through the forest who advised us that, ‘going further into the
forest would be risky’. Accordingly we decided to return back from there itself

Four villagers were accompanying us to the forest. One stranger person who was returning back to the village inquired about us when we had halted at a refuge area for some rest. A small hut had been built at a height at 7 foot near by the area where we were waiting for rest. Also, there was a rivulet adjoining it. The villagers accompanying us were discussing among st themselves about going further into the forest. Mr. Malau told us that the stranger person whom we met in the forest has told us, t “it would be risky to go deeper into the forest. If incessant rain continues then rain water flowing down from the mountain would eventually flow into the rivulet and would raise its level. Even if by chance you would reach a safe spot in the forest, it would not be possible for you to return back in the next 24 hours. By then the rivulets would be flooded and the return route would be blocked. You would have to spend the whole night in this thick dense forest without food and water and getting drenched in the rain”. In such a situation we would have to take refuge in the huts built at different spots in the forest.

We were just 2 kilometers away from the camphor trees in the forest. Despite that, considering the overall condition we had no option but to return back. At that juncture I thought ‘In other circumstances if we were to get so close to the target and had to retreat then we would have felt dejected. But observing this incident as God’s wish, instead of feeling dejected we were feeling blissful out of gratitude.

– Mr. Satyakam Kanaglekar and Mr. Snehal Raut

2 Q. We felt that God had come to protect us through the medium
of the person whom we met in the middle of the forest.While returning
back from the forest we did not have any doubt in the mind;instead we had
a spiritual emotion within us that, ‘what ever is happening is as per God’s wish’.

At that time, I realized that God was protecting us at every step. I realized that God had come to protect us through the medium of the person we met in the forest. When returning from the forest too without any doubt in our mind, we felt that everything that was occurring was as per God’s wish. Our minds were steady and filled with gratitude. While crossing back the rivulet ,we realized that the water in the rivulet which was ankle deep when going inside the forest had now risen to our knee length and the force of the flow too had increased. So, God Himself had influenced our intellect to return and that He himself was getting appropriate actions performed from us. We expressed immense gratitude unto Him.

The trunk of a camphor tree which is found in the Barus forest


As felling of camphor trees is more than growing
new ones there is scarcity of camphor, and also experts
knowing the process of its extraction from the tree are very few

At Barus we learnt from locals that the process of procuring camphor from the tree as in ancient times has stopped. To fulfill the demand of camphor from around the world there is more felling and less growing of these trees and hence there is scarcity of camphor procured from trees. The technique of procuring camphor from the tree in this village is now only namesake. People explaining how to process it are also few. There is no one to teach the new generation about this process. An old man there gave us information on how to procure camphor from the tree, the different kinds of camphor and how to identify them. I realized how the new generation is being deprived of this heritage of benevolent and Divine knowledge due to modernity.

– Mr. Snehal Raut, Sanatan ashram, Ramnathi, Goa


3. Obstacles faced by us while going to see a camphor tree
in a private property and the grace of the Guru experienced by us.

Parts of a pure Bhimseni camphor tree found in Barus

A twig of the camphor tree
Parts of the bark of a camphor tree

3 A. Our Spiritual emotion had awakened after looking at a camphor tree

After we returned from the forest the intensity of the rainfall had decreased. A local from there then told us that there is a camphor tree in the private property of a person about one and half kilometers from here. He also told us that Though the camphor has already been extracted by him from several trees, you would at least be able to see the felled tree. So, we immediately left for that place. We spotted a camphor tree from far away itself. Seeing the camphor tree awakened our Spiritual emotion and we were overwhelmed.

The shirt of Mr. Satyakam Kanaglekar caught in the thorns of a tree in the dense forest of Barus. (The thorns are enlarged in the circle)

3 B. We had to find way through the walkways which had become
slippery due to the rain and through the thorns on trees like the bamboo

When looking at that tree from a distance of 400 meters we were experiencing a unique radiance. We immediately headed for the tree. There was no walkway to walk up to there; due to the rains it was all slimy. We had to descend 500 meters to reach our destination. If we slipped, we would land straight into the valley below. Both here and the forest we went to earlier there were trees resembling the bamboo with sharp thorns. These trees were tall and their thorns were about 1.5 to 2 inches long. If trapped in these thorns one could get injured severely. These thorns which are at the back of the bamboo and not easily noticeable can get caught in an individual’s clothes and can pull him back. When one who is trapped in these thorns tries to free himself he gets injured with the thorns. So, those accompanying him will have to free him from them.

3 C. The man accompanying us showed us ‘how camphor is extracted from a tree’

When we climbed down, I saw that three to four camphor trees had already been felled. The person accompanying us explained through signs that camphor had already been extracted from those trees. He pointed out to the cavity in one of the trunk of the felled camphor tree and told us that camphor is found here. He demonstrated us how camphor is extracted from the tree and how a trunk had been slit vertically to do so.

3 D.There was slim and parts of broken trees all over.There were several
insects everywhere but with the grace of the Guru not a single insect came
near us and we could procure one twig and some parts of the bark of a camphor tree

There was no ground to keep our feet among the broken trees. There was slime or remnants of broken trees all over. This is where forest insects thrive. To make matters worse it was difficult to identify whether these insects are poisonous or non-poisonous. I spotted 8 to 9 inch centipede here. Within fraction of second a black centipede got camouflaged in the leaves. Seeing these insects sent shivers down our spine but we were not frightened. No insect here came close to us. All this was only because of Gurudev’s protective Armour around us. We could procure a twig of the camphor tree and parts of the bark of a felled camphor tree here. we proceeded on our return journey after procuring them.

3 E. We got drenched in the heavy rain thrice
in a day and did seva in that state. Our spiritual emotion
awakened with the realization that God got the seva done in that state

On the way back, in the village of Doloksangol we got sambranni frankincense and processed camphor from Barus and then proceeded towards village Samosir. In a day we got wet thrice in an attempt to procure material or to see trees. Till the time we reached the room at night we had been rendering seva with wet clothing. At this time a thought appeared in my mind that it is a custom to perform ritualistic worship with wet clothes. This awakened spiritual emotion in me. We reached the room at 12.30 a.m.

3 F. Though the skin of both the soles had
become soggy by getting wet, the skin did not wrinkle

After reaching the room when we removed our socks and shoes, we realized that the skin of our the soles had become white and soggy yet not wrinkled as occurs when it gets wet otherwise. Packing all procured material well in Samosir we set off for Medan.

– Mr. Satyakam Kanaglekar
1.It is in this dense forest on the island of Sumatra in Barus village that camphor trees are found


4. The return trip

4 A. We saw bats placed in a cage near Medan city
and learnt that their meat is used for treating joint pain and asthma

The journey to Medan from Mosir is of eight hours. We encountered rain during this journey as well. As we reached Medan the rainfall decreased. Close to Medan city we spotted a cage with several bats. We took photographs and video-recordings of the same. When we asked the owner the purpose of this, he said that if those suffering from joint pains and asthma eat bat meat then the intensity of their illness decreases. We were surprised to hear this. In our earlier tours we had seen people devouring meat of different animals and insects but had never met anyone eating meat of the bat.

2. Bats kept in a cage in Medan city. Their meat is beneficial in treatment of joint pain and asthma according to locals. (Bats have been enlarged in the circle.)

4 B. Repacking all material

At night we reached our room in Medan. We were to leave for Bharat on the next day. We woke up in the morning and packed all material procured for the museum. As we were travelling by air the permitted baggage was 50 kilograms in all. After packing we weighed it again and found it to be 51 kilograms. We were carrying other material as hand baggage.

4 C. Baggage checked at the airport and spiritual experiences in that regard

4 C 1. All baggage was checked by airport officials and we told them that It was being taken for the museum of Maharshi Adhyatma Vishwavidyalay in Goa, Bharat

At the entrance to the airport baggage has to be checked in the Xray machine. After this checking, airport officers stopped us and asked us to open our bags. We opened our bags and displayed all material stating that it would be preserved in the Maharshi Adhyatma Vishwavidyalay in Goa and explained everything about the university to them.

4C 2. The officers asked us to seek permission from the airline officials, seeker took out an information pamphlet of Maharshi Adhyatma Vishwavidyalay and showed it to the officers who granted permission to carry the material. We experienced that their was a change in the thoughts of the officers after seeing the picture of Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale on the information pamphlet 

The officers asked us to seek permission from the airline officials. When Mr. Snehal and Mr. Malau went to procure permission, I kept the pamphlet of Maharshi Adhyatma Vishwavidyalay and my identity card ready for display. Seeing this the officers raised no objections about our material and told us that we could proceed. The change in the thoughts of the officers occurred only after seeing the picture of Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale on the pamphlet. I was convinced that all actions were occurring without any obstacles only because of His picture. We experienced that the name, touch, form, taste and fragramce co-exist with His energy. This occurred only due to His form, that is His presence. Then we proceeded to handover the material and the weight was just right. Even the extra kilogram of baggage was accepted by the airplane officials without any extra payment.


5. Points learnt in the tour – making efforts to
remember God by forgetting oneself itself is true spiritual practice

During every moment of this four-day tour we experienced the God Principle. One point which was impressed firmly upon my mind was that everything occurs as per God’s wish, every moment is pre-planned. In the flow of time forgetting oneself and trying to remember God is true spiritual practice. In reality we have no separate existence, we chant the Name of God and our target is realizing Him. The tool is chanting and the target God-realization. Both are God. Then where does the question of one’s individual existence arise ? The doer and the one who gets everything done is God Himself. Then why thoughts about the self, me, mine, for me etc ?


6. Gratitude and prayer

When guiding seekers during a camp in 2007 Paratpar Guru (Dr.) Athavale had said that in spiritual practice you have to reach a state where you have forgotten yourself. He gave me experiences in this regard during our four-day tour. This is His grace. For this grace showered upon us seekers I offer gratitude a million times at His Holy feet. May His grace continue to be showered upon us in this way and may we attain further states of spiritual progress through it is my sincere prayer unto Him.

– Mr. Satyakam Kanaglekar, Sanatan ashram, Ramnathi, Goa
Source : Sanatan Prabhat

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