Two Swamis with a Mission

Two days ago we visit the Kumbhamela camp of Sohambaba. Yesterday we visit Swami Shankaradas again in Rishikesh.   They both have a mission.

Sohambaba has been known to us since we arrived at the Mela.  There are many various  billboards about him, carrying his image and his message.  His verbal message is simple: “take care of the earth by planting trees and picking up garbage.”  When we go to his campground to  meet him we are impressed by the thatch roof mandir under which a huge homa, fire pit is burning.  To one side of the camp beautiful vedic prayers and being chanted by Brahmin priests.  A white clothed yogi sits under the thatched roof chanting scripture. 

  First thing, a naked Nagababa comes out of a very large tented building.  He walks with a procession of folks to the homa and sits down for a  few minutes in a seat of red cushions.  He smiles alot and speaks in Hindi to a couple of people dressed in ocher cloth seated near him.  The people who followed  him out from the tented building also sat down around the fire.    I wondered how many people understood what the Baba was saying, as  most looked to be Westerners.  Rohit translates some for Govindan and I, but I can’t presently recall anything from the conversation.  The talk was about seeking God.

The naked Baba got up after about ten minutes and walked toward a SUV, again with a large entourage.     Swami Sohambaba, who was talking with some other people walked  to the SUV  to give the Nagababa a proper send-off and then  told his people to invite all those who wanted to meet him and have questions,  to come into the large tented building for darshan.  

  As we entered the tent with  three massive rooms, our eyes widen like saucers.   The tent was covered floor to ceiling in red and gold silks.  The only word that describes it accurately is opulent.   This could have been the tent of a rich Maharaja or sheik making his way across the desert.  There were golden thrones and silver chairs and bejeweled furniture and diamond and emerald and saffire umbrellas.   Sohambaba was sitting in a second room on a massive and quite beautifully ornate ‘ivory’ bed.   It looked like real ivory!   Amazing silk covers and pillows adored it.  He  talked abit about himself and what he is accomplishing all over the world.  He  invited us to come often to his comp and to participate in the clean-up of the banks of the Ganges and to support his mission in the various countries in which we live.  We have not yet seen anyone of his disciples actually taking part in a cleanup around Haridwar, although it would certainly be a good way to impress us all immensely.  If that were his goal.

Sohambaba talked about his center in the Netherlands and then turned to his work in South America, when one of our students asks him about it.   He says  in Peru, he is helping to bring attention to the arsenic laden water and implementing some process of bringing fresh drinking water to the peoples there.  “Mass numbers of people have suffered painful deaths from this arsenic contamination,”  he states.  He seems to have many disciples and “friends” in various parts of the world.

His message is a good one, and particularly significant in India where garbage is simply tossed out in a toxic heap in back alleys and street gutters and buildings seem to still serve as public toilets.   Plastic and packaging liters the streets and roads and animals, cows, pigs and dogs eye candy wrappers as eatables.  But unfortunately meeting Sohambaba irresistibly invites disbelief and even irritation.  His “over the top” dress  in red robe and turban makes him look much more like a king from some ancient Asian tale.    Perhaps his opulence  is a façade but it  distorts at least for me, the purity of  his message.   And it creates an atmosphere of suspicion. Moreover Sohambaba has three security guards placed around him, all the time we are with him.  Dressed in black, wearing dark shades, even inside the huge tent, the three speaking into their mouthpieces, presumably with each other; totally in control of the situation.   But what situation, one wonders?

Swami Shankaradas says everything has changed in the sadhu community.  Sadhus are rich these days.   He says sadhus are like  police;  they wear a special color cloth and become personalities. They lives luxurious lives and need guards to protect all their many possessions. Then, also there are the beggars who also adopt the persona, put on orange robes and do nothing but sit and beg.  There are those who are addicted to the drugs they smoke and whose mind is  no longer clear.  He shows no sense of judgment only observation.

All Swamiji says he wants is the cave of his guru’s back, the cave of Tat Walla Baba’s Samadhi. He says he owes it to his Guru to get it back into his possession and that it for His devotees.   We discuss perhaps he needs to create a Trust to help him procure it.   H e says that Trusts are most untrustworthy in general as the moment people are given some authority they take control and often even oust the sadhus!    This he says has happened at the Gita Ashram which is close by.  We know of it.   His face drops a moment in reflection.

 Swamiji tells us some stories of his life with Tatwalla Baba.  So little is known of his Guru’s life. No one even knew his name.  Tatwalla means “jute”… which was the fabric he wore around his loins.  He wore nothing else.    Swami speaks of the importance of asana, pranayama, meditation and of having a mantra. “One mantra is all one needs, but this must create a direct connection between you and your Guru.” Someone asks about the need for a Guru. “It is absolutely required, but ultimately,” Swamiji says,” the guru is your own soul.” God is created emotionally. “You must have a guru to initiate you. And if you leave this guru, you must not leave the teachings. Keep them, practice them always.”

 He says that he did seva for his Guru, whatever was asked of him, he did, without thought, without asking for anything in return.  He never asked directly for anything, not even a mantra or meditation.  He received everything that he required always immediately or the next day after arising from sleep. This includes food, cloth, or practices, samadhi or direct knowledge.

He was asked about the importance of idols and rudrakshas for one’s personal practice. He says idols are not important. But that it is easier to worship God outside oneself, and for beginners it is recommended.  He says rudrakshas are good for mantra japa, and also  for lowering or balancing blood pressure.   He says spiritual relationships are the most important support we can have on our Yogic path.  We require high spiritual vibration in order to progress the body, mind, brain and heart.

Swamiji receives many questions  that he avoids answering with, “Yes, but that is my secret.” I  am hoping that at some point, we will be able to welcome him at our ashram in Canada and he will open up with us and share some of his “secrets” for the benefit of so many in the world who seek sincerely.   It is certain that he has things in his heart, about Yoga to share.  He seems no longer to desire the exclusivity of cave dwelling.   He seems to accept that he will share his Knowledge.

He has been working on a procedure to prolong healthy youth of the body and clarity to the brain.  He wants to offer help to bring innocent purity back to the mind and heart. He speaks about bringing the elements into harmony in the body.   He talks about the importance of cleansing the physical body and says there are ways to cleans the brain waves through Yoga. “Ignore the emotions and what disturbs you and their influence will slowly dissolve. ” Swami says. 

 He  is these days very animated when it comes to speaking about the problems created by the world religions.   He wants a  new religion to rise up in the world, a religion in which the foremost tenant is “Respect Human Life.”   He says he wants to share a meditation to young disenfranchised men and women who willingly sacrifice their life (i.e., suicide bombers) out of ignorance and religious fanaticism. He wants them to have a direct experience of what happens at death so they can know that death and heaven is not anything like, that which they are told. And  that killing will never bring about  martyrdom. 

 I see for the first time the “fire in his belly.”   He has a target other than his cave; a reason d’être, something that justifies his existence still in this body.   His eyes are intense.  It has not yet been revealed how he is to be of service in this regard    “All humanity is one, he say, “ever feeling, thinking the same. 

  “Success,” he says, “I still  need some success.”    He needs something else to happen within himself, something which he has not accomplished to his satisfaction.  Some inner work is not yet complete.   With success he can begin to share what he knows and he seems to want to share it widely.

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