Who was that?

We visit our good friend Swami Shankaradas living in a Rishikesh hotel. We have known him for some 8 years now.   We first discovered him when he was still living in his cave in the forest around Rishikesh.  He had first arrived at that very cave when he was 17 years old, some 45 years earlier.  He had come from Bombay in search of God.  As a young boy of 7, he had heard that God lived in the Himalayas.  And although he doubted that God would actually be found residing there, he felt he could at least find someone who knew His address.

The boy found himself in Rishikesh and heard that there was a great sage, hundreds of years old, living in the forest nearby, who knew God.   He immediately found his way to the cave. When he reached the cave Tat Walla Baba was standing outside it, hands folded as if waiting for him.  The great sage looked very young.  “How could he be so old?” he questioned silently.  Babaji looked deeply into the eyes of this 17 year old boy, whose spouted out,  only, “what is God address?  Do know God’s address? ”   The corners of the yogi’s mouth registered the glint of a smile and the sage spoke only one word, “yes.”  With no other word, he walked back into his cave and the boy remained outside wondering, who is this man?  Is this God?

A few minutes later a worldly man came to the cave.   He walked straight into the cave to see Tat Walla Baba.   This man was dressed like a business man and carried a black purse under his arm.  Swami Shankaradas tells that  seeing this man, he  doubed  Tat Walla Baba.  “Surely,” he thought,  “such a man could not have such easy access to God.  Still even  he might know His address.”   So the boy remained even though months would pass before Tat Walla Baba would speak again to him.   The fact is the boy never left Tat Walla Baba’s side.

Swami Shankaradas is a great being and has much to share with seekers about his life and experiences with his Guru and the world in which he himself lives.  He is a jnani, he knows the reality of the Universe.  He discovers the truth through prajna, insight, direct experience.  We have spoken for the past years about collaborating on a book.  I would help him to gather his story and wisdom teachings  in the form of a book.  He has asked me to stay in Rishikesh for several months. I have asked him to come to Canada for several months.  I ask if perhaps this is the year to work on his book. He smiles. It is up to me, he says.   He seems to enjoy sharing with students who are sincere and have questions and doubts.  He is a sweet and gentle desireless soul, who says he must create some desire in order to stay in the body.  The only desire i know that he has is to return to his cave.

Several years he was evicted from his cave home of 45 years by the forest officials. We arrived to see the initial notification being served of Swamiji.  We climbed along the narrow path to his cave and found Swamiji speaking with two men in dark brown uniforms. He was visibly disturbed.  When the men left we asked him who they were.  He said that they had come to evict him from the forest and were asking for back taxes, which was equivalent to about $40,000 USD.  A year later we found Swami Shankaradas living in a hotel in town.  Since that time he has brought his case in front of a judge in New Delhi and was actually awarded his cave back. However, due to corruption and a new push by evironmentalists to leave the forest to the animals, his cave is still locked. Swami seems fully accepting of his life in the Rajdeep hotel.   Perhaps a new experience…flying to Canada and staying at the ashram in the late summer and fall,working on a book…might sew at least a seed of interest?

In midmorning of the next day, as we were just beginning hatha yoga practice we were visited by a delightful Nagababa, a bhakti sadhu covered in ash, wearing only a loincloth and carrying a drum. He was chanting Om Nama Shivaya and blessing us all. He tapped us on the head and drummed and danced around more like a spirit than a man. He seems to float off the ground at times. He does not leave us even when we turn back to our practice.  As we continue our asanas he practices with us. He is an overachiever with regard to the asanas and takes off with the poses, deepening into them with kapalabhati breathing.  He seems to be a hatha yogi, easing into them effortlessly. He only grimaces with padmasasana.   He stays with us until we have completed our whole sadhana and continues to chant and dance. His face is ecstatically happy and his eyes show a fierceness.  He is  never to be ignored. He both arrived and disappeared at our camp a bit like Siva and one wonders if we have not just had darshan of Him.  I say to Govindan that if we never see him again at the Mela, I will certainly wonder, “Who was that?”

Today we met Pilot Baba who has a large campground, quite elaborate with geodesic domes and fountains and spaces which appear to be decorated with all the planets in our solar system.  Pilot Baba is an imposing presence. He seems quite occupied with the construction of his campgrounds and directing the many volunteers who surround him.  He has a large dining hall and invites us all for tea and then later a meal.  It is a busy bustling place.  We will return on another time and see how the camp is transformed.  It is sure to be a showcase. Already in the news it is called a 5 star camp.

There are many Russians there.  It seems all the westerners in the camp are Russian.  A woman quickly approaches Govindan seeking an interview.  Apparently his book, Babaji and the 18 Siddhas book is well known in Russia and he is recognized immediately.  About ten people surround him and Govindan requests that I participate with him in the interview.  There is a professional translator with the group and they are very intensely sincere in their questions. The questions are to the point and reflect a strong interest in Mahavtar Babaji.  Everyone wants to personally experience this legendary Immortal, or at least everyone seems to want to believe in his everlasting presence in the world and hear of first hand communications with him. We enjoy the personal exchange and I imagine that we will see them again next time at our campground, which is a nicely appointed tent about 2 kilometers away.

We invite the Russian group to come for morning sadhana and to our all night Mahasivratri chant to take place on the evening of the 11th, early morning of the 12. The night of Siva is the night to seek the self as Siva. It represents the dance of Lord Siva, the “tandava,” the primal dance of creation, preservation and destruction. It is such a significant day, that it is said a devotee of Siva who worships Him sincerely all through the night will be absorbed of karmas and attain liberation. There is high anticipation of this date throughout the Mela. You can feel it in the air.

Soon, a second group of kriyabans will be arriving for the pilgrimage in New Delhi. I will leave to meet them. Govindan will return to New Delhi on Monday with the group who are leaving for home. Our two buses will pass each other on the way.   Quite a few are staying over for a few more days.  Only a few people seem to be ready to leave.     We are still in negotiations with the hotel here in Rishikesh concerning the rooms.  For some reason twin beds are not desirable as double beds and so there are never enough and we have to be fairly demanding and request extra beds for the rooms.  We are still discussing bout a couple of rooms with deficiencies in hot water or showers that directs water upward rather than downward.  The owner of the hotel will be here with his family members, so there is some discussion about which rooms we are being allotted. Ah, the intricacies of being in India. The hotels are packed over the three days surrounding Sivaratri, (10-11-12), which means that Haridwar will also be packed and the streets will be difficult to negotiate.  Another procession of sadhus will take place in the afternoon, about the time I arrive in New Delhi.

  1. No comments yet.

  1. No trackbacks yet.