This is a term that some people, even devotees cannot understand. There are many aspects of the activity; going to the Holy Tirtha of Shalagram high in the Himalayas; the challenge of one's faith, to be there and to find one's worshippful Lord; the material elements, and other various hardships - walking many miles/kilometres, high altitude, no food, the weather, the constant wind, wild animals, dacoits and theives, mundane trekkers, so many things.
Something really interesting here; regarding Shaligrams and finding Them looking with the eyes is a small part of the finding. The real looking is done through ardent prayer and heartfelt loving sentiment. We see examples of Advaita Acharya calling for Lord Chaitanya, and even in our present day Bhakti Vidya Purna Swami told me personally that when he was "looking for" the big Nrsimhadev shila for Mayapur he spent ten days going up and down the same area of river bed just south of Jomsom near Tukche. He said that shila was not there. Then at dusk, on the Nrsimha Chaturdasi, neither on the bank of the river nor in the water but right on the edge, there He was. Maharaj insisted, and I have no reason to doubt as we have had similar experiences with the Lord, that He was simply not available to him at that time despite his looking looking looking with the imperfect sensory vehicle the eyes. But when by the bhakta's devotion, and desperation and love was at the right pitch then the Lord appears to fulfill our loving request. Be careful there isn't too much abundance in the appearance as in the avalanche below.........
So there are so many shilas there Who have yet to reveal Themselves, but one needs to look from the heart. I hope this doesn't sound too strange to you.
Anyway, so as I say, if you are absorbed in thinking and praying, asking the Lord to reveal Himself to you that will appeal to you, and Who you can develop a lasting wonderful relationship with, that will take you further on the process of returning home to the Lord's abode where that vaidhi bhakti can come to life in a tangible manner as you humbly serve the Lord through His intimate servitors in Goloka Vrindavan......... Think like that and how He reveals Himself, if He reveals Himself at all and you trip to the Kali Gandaki will be exciting, intense and wonderfully Krishna conscious. But, if as so many do, go there thinking "I'm going to get some shilas" then maybe They will be hard to find. Mother Yashoda had a similar challenge when she was trying of her own strength to bind baby Krishna. But when He saw her desire was strong, and when He showed His mercy upon her, to satisfy her love for Him, then He allowed her to bind Him. It is the same principle............!
Just like in the depicted story of the Lord coming to accept the brahmins offerings. We may think we are big big dik gaj pandits learned in so many things, but what do we know (at least speaking for myself)???.
It is stated that the best way to receive a Shila is to be gifted one by a brahmin, sadhu, sannyasi, guru, etc, in a Holy place at an auspicious time. Next is to go and seek out one's Ishthadev after offering the appropriate prayers, and performing tapah and sankalpa declarations toward the Lord and receiving the blessings of guru and sadhus.
shastra tells us that we are not to attempt to purchase Salagrams in the market places where they unfortunately are becoming very much available. What happens in many of these cases is that local Tibeten peoples know the value of the Salagram to the pilgrims and due to their having accessibility all year round they collect Them and take them to places like Katmandu where They (the Shilas) are then sold for a price in gift shops and in the markets in Darbar Square etc. As well as the fact that who can put a price on what the Lord is worth, and to hussel in the market over the price of the Salagram and to get a good deal by demeaning the worth is totally wrong manner of receiving such a treasured guest.
Worst still is the fact that as in the centre of the Salagram is a small amount of gold, that the Tibetans have become accustomed to stealing by breaking open the Salagram and scraping out the tiny particle, which is the Lord's heart in such a form. If we purchase Salagrams from such people it is to encourage them to continue in their offensive manner in exploiting the Salagram. We hear stories of Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati Thakur Prabhupad condeming the persons who use the Salagram for craking nuts, then how about this......
It is offensive to buy, sell or consider faults in a Salagrama.
salagrama silayam yo mulyam udghatayen narah
vikreta canumanta ca yah pariksam udirayet
sarve te narakam yanti yavad ahuta samplavam
One who puts a price
on a Salagrama, one who sells a Salagrama
and one who agrees to buy a Salagrama for that price,
and the person who inspects a Salagrama for good qualities
or faults, goes to hell until the final devastation.
Worse still is to get a Salagram by deceit, stealing, lying, cheating, etc. Such a way of getting Salagrams brings about the downfall of the entire family that such a person appears in. (Salagram kosh)
How Big is too big, and how small is too small?
The Salagram is known as the mercy incarnation because He can come to us in a size that is easily managable. All the potency of Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead but He can be in the size of a pea or a walnut. And why not, He as the Antayami - paramatma is seated within even the smallest atom or indragopa germ. There are recommended sizes, some for practical reasons, some due to the nature of the shila, that is described in the section on Different Kinds of Shilas.
Here, above, we see the ever humourous Vipramukhya Swami demonstrating
the capabilities of Photoshop to show some possible sizes of Salagrams.
This fellow here seems to be undergoing a few challenges, makes sense why certain sizes are prescribed for temples rather than personal worship doesn't it.
The biggest recorded Shalagram is in the Jagannath Puri temple and is over three meters across.
Different Kinds of Shilas - Shapes and Sizes all listed HERE