Sri Hira Lal Shah—popularly known as Hubbaji—was the oldest among Babaji's devotees and had the longest association with Baba.
He accompanied Baba in his journeys over the longest period of time and in the largest number of places.
As a result of this, he became for us a repository of knowledge about Babaji and we sought to benefit from this, whenever we got a chance, by making him talk.
He would not volunteer information on his own, mostly talking when Baba asked him something.
Sometimes he favored us when he was at Allahabad by narrating some of his experiences with Babaji.
He belonged to a well-known family in Almora. As a landlord, he had an assured income from the property and did not go for any job or business.
Even during the first stage of his life, he was able to keep his wants within limits and not run after money and a life of pleasure, a valuable asset for the spiritual growth which was to come afterwards.
His sadhana did not follow any routine path or strict rules of discipline but rather took the unconventional form of running away from his house in search of great saints and mahatmas in their caves and ashrams, all over the far-flung mountains. He was married and lived with his family, but he had time enough to search for the sadhus and satisfy his spiritual aspirations. He did not turn away from family life with its responsibilities, but neither was he tied down within its walls.
By the time he met Babaji, he had already spent much time with the celebrated sadhus of those days: Hariakhan Baba, Sombar Giri Baba, Khaki Baba, Gudari Baba and others. He was well aware of the noble and superhuman qualities of great saints, so it was not difficult for him to realize that he was in the presence of a great saint when he first met Babaji. Surrendering himself at Babaji's feet and accepting him as a guide and savior did not take much time to materialize. The result was that much of the time that he used to spend with his family came to be devoted to Babaji—staying with him and accompanying him in his journeys. By then his wife was dead; while the link with his family was maintained, it was mostly as a visitor.
In those very early days when Babaji started spending his winter here, Hubbaji would be with him and would accompany him when he went out for a few days. He would not sit with us in our gatherings because his age, and the respect with which he was looked upon by all made it uncomfortable for him to join our congregations. Sometimes we were actually embarrassed when he took his seat with us. But he was generous with us and when he and I used to sit alone, he would narrate his stories.
Babaji would often make him narrate his experiences with the sadhus he had visited. It was mostly through him that we learned about the two great saints, Hariakhan Baba and Sombar Giri Baba, of whom Babaji used to speak so highly. He would not say anything about Babaji when he was before him, and Babaji would not like him to talk about the many miracles he saw happen around Babaji and the high esteem with which Babaji was held by the sadhus all around. Hubbaji would talk about the eminent saints he had met, and some of us would know that the narrations were equally applicable to Babaji.
While sitting with us one day, Hubbaji said he had seen for himself how Hariakhan Baba used to perform havan (offerings into the sacred fire) with water, not ghee. Sombar Giri Baba did the same miracle. While food was being cooked for his bhandara, the ghee had been exhausted, but so many more puris were to be made for the many persons waiting for food. The cooks and the devotees could not imagine how the calamity of sending away people without feeding them was going to be averted. They rushed to Sombar Giri Baba and told him their problem. He sent a person to go to the market, but everyone knew that the market was far away and it would take a whole day for the man to return with ghee.
Seeing their helpless condition, Sombar Giri asked them to take water in tins from the stream nearby, promising to return the water to her when the man brought the ghee. The way the men took the tins for filling was a clear indication that they were not convinced that it was going to work. But they did it because of the Baba. When the water was about to be poured into the big pans over the fire, they noticed that it had actually turned to ghee. When the man returned from the market in the afternoon with his purchase, the Baba asked them to return to the stream what they had borrowed from her.
Hubbaji said that this miracle was done by those babas, but that our own Baba had also done this on a number of occasions, the most important of which, in his knowledge, was at Hanumanghar. He said it was easy for the other Babas—sannyasis living in caves and hermitages, cut off from social life and meeting only a few people—but how difficult it was for our Babaji, who was always surrounded by hundreds of people. Any display of such miracles would attract a crush of people to him, so he had to avoid it in every possible way. Whenever word of any of his miracles leaked out, whether they were done to save someone or to avoid a calamity, he would leave that place for good, and cease meeting those people.
Because Babaji was on guard and would not allow anyone to talk of his miracles, Hubbaji had learned not to talk of them. The risk of being thrown away was very great, however much he might consider himself to be dear to Babaji. In such cases there was no one near or dear to him. Babaji was kind to all and helpful to everyone, but so far as obedience is concerned, he was very strict.
Hubbaji used to say that going with Babaji often turned into a journey of discovery. So many persons in different places and different walks of life were known to him. "Most of these places Babaji had visited, or had spent a part of his sadhana in the early days, of which very little is known. All great saints spend a part of their sadhana as paribhramna (itenerant wanderers), but when they settled down at the completion of their sadhana, they would not easily leave that place or go far away for long. But for Babaji it was otherwise. He has been to many places, but he never found a place to settle down in human society. Kaichi was not the place, nor any of his other ashrams. Sometimes there would be clear indications of this when he talked to sadhus that he would meet in his journey. With us, he was a householder, managing his large family with full care. This was his way of doing things."
Hubbaji continued, "Whatever he took up, or whatever caught his interest, could not be done halfheartedly. But in spite of his involvement in the family life of his devotees, he was not caught in the quagmire of family life. He has been an outsider from the beginning, and continues to be in spite of so many temples and ashrams and visits to householders. His root was not where he was living. It was our delusion to believe that he was with us, that he was one of our own. He was actually moving without roots anywhere and everywhere."
Hubbaji was very fond of talking with the mothers about the saints, the various places of pilgrimages visited by him, and how Babaji cared for us. He was affectionate in his nature and had made himself one of the family, very dear to the mothers. He would help them in their work in the kitchen. They got so attached to him that after he would leave with Babaji, they would look forward to his return the next winter. It was strange that one who was trying to stand aloof and was away from his own family would so easily yield to the wishes of the mothers and spend as much time with them as he could spare.
Didi would remember this all the time, especially when we were at Kainchi. Babaji would ask Didi to prepare some prasad every day and sometimes to feed people in her room. And at the temple farm, when people came to visit him there, Babaji would want Didi to prepare prasad and snacks for the people. There might not be anyone else to help her, but Hubbaji would never miss this. Hubbaji came forward to help in every possible way, including the kindling of the fire, fanning it and maintaining it. When she wanted to stop him, he would say it was difficult for her to cook with wood fuel to which she was not accustomed, but it was easy for him. So what was wrong if he tended the fire? It was his inimitable way of overcoming all opposition and doing the work as desired.
Sometimes he would entertain us with some incidents or talks that had taken place when he was on a journey. After returning from Jagannath Puri, Hubbaji said that one day, when they were on the temple premises, they saw people receiving their prasad. Many of them carried it away, but there were others who ate then and there and threw away their leaf plates. Babaji was talking about the sanctity of the prasad, saying, "It is the way the gods show their grace to you; they can do miracles through their prasad. But how can they do it when you do not have any faith in its sanctity? For you, it is just like any other eatable which you are always pouring in your mouth. When you do not accept it as prasad, how can you take the taste of it? You must not refuse when anyone offers prasad to you. You may not eat it, but you can give it away to others. But never refuse—that is an insult to the deity who has sent his prasad to you through someone's hand." While talking like this, Hubbaji noticed that there were some particles of the Jagannathji prasad which had fallen from someone's plate onto the ground. Babaji picked it up, gave him one part of it and put the other in his mouth.
Hubbaji had many such experiences to narrate. They had reached Calcutta one morning and were staying there just for a day. In the noon Babaji took them to the temple at Dakshineshwar. Going through the ashram, they came before the row of Siva temples. Pointing to one of these Siva temples, Babaji said that he had given mantra to me in that very temple. He said, "Your Dada refused to hear me. However much I tried to coax him, he would not accede to it. So I had to force him. Does he talk about it with you now?"
Another incident in which Hubbaji got much interested took place in the winter of 1965. Babaji had been in Allahabad for a long time, but left for a few days after asking Didi to make arrangements for the stay of Larry and Susan, an English couple. They arrived and stayed in the house for several days, but after having some problems there, they were shifted to another devotee's house nearby. Babaji returned while they were staying in that house, and sent for them. They had no money for returning home to England. Babaji got them the money, and they were to be sent away the next day. Larry regretted that they had been harsh and caused pain to Didi, who had treated them so well when they were with her in our house. They were to leave by train the next afternoon for Delhi on their way back home.
The next morning, Babaji left for Chitrakut with Hubbaji and a few others. I was to stay at home. He said that I should see Larry and Susan off and get them boarded on the train. In the evening, a short while after our return from the station, Babaji returned from Chitrakut. His return was timed so that the new host of Larry and Susan had just left our house. He had been complaining about his guests in a way that reflected on Baba. Seeing me not taking any more interest in his talk, he had left. Babaji arrived just after the gentleman had left after lodging his protest against Baba with me. Babaji took care that I should be allowed full opportunity to reflect on his talks, but then he also made sure that there was not too much time given to me to get agitated or talk to anyone.
When Baba arrived, I was sitting in a corner of the outside verandah. Entering the gate, he sent everyone inside the house and came alone to extract from me what had passed between the man and me. He heard everything, and did not fail to notice how annoyed I was about the man's complaint against him. I was allowed to say why I thought his complaint was wrong. Babaji goaded me, persuading me in every possible way to come out with my complaint, which I was resisting. But I had to ultimately yield. Hearing me with all attention as if it mattered so much for him, he came out with a big laugh. With his laughter he just wanted me to realize that the whole matter was not to be taken seriously. He patted me on the head saying, "Do you think that everyone is a fool like you?" With this remark he got up and went inside.
It was late at night. Everyone had taken to their beds. I was sitting with Hubba and two others, hearing him talk of their visit to Chitrakut. Hubba said, "About two o'clock in the day, while Babaji had been sitting on his cot at Chitrakut, he got up and said that we were to return to Allahabad. This was a surprise, as it was expected that we were to stay there for the day. Getting into the car he said, 'Let us go and see what is happening there. They are to go now.' We all understood that he was referring to Larry and Susan. Someone commented that they might be leaving annoyed with everyone in Allahabad. After some time Babaji said, 'Dada has explained to Larry why Didi could not give them the food or the comfort that they expected. The food Susan wanted was forbidden for the house. Hearing Dada talking like that—trying to soften their feelings and remove all misunderstandings—Dada actually broke Larry down. Larry started crying bitterly and embraced Dada to the surprise of everyone on the platform.'
"Waiting for a while as if to give them time to realize what actually happened at the station, he stated, 'Dada is a teacher. He teaches thousands of students, explains things to them and makes everyone happy. He has also made Larry satisfied. It was not difficult for him.' Coming nearer to home, Babaji again returned to the subject, saying that they should return early to see that nothing more has happened."
Hubbaji said that those who were sitting with us confirmed everything about Larry that Babaji had told them in the car. They told Hubbaji, "When Dada was coming away, Larry embraced him crying and begged him to forgive them for their rudeness. Dada was so kind and considerate to them." When Hubbaji asked me what Babaji meant when he said that something was to happen, I told him something did happen but could not take any unpleasant turn because of Babaji's arrival.
After the reporting was finished, Hubbaji said, "The whole thing demonstrated clearly that when he asks you to do something, he knows what is to happen and what is to be done to guard against unexpected developments that might rise in the wake of it. Our tasks become easy if we can rely on him and do as he advises us to do. He'll never leave you stranded."
At Kainchi in the summer, Hubbaji would be the first to greet you. His life was simple, his needs were few and he had learned not to run for things or expect anything from anyone. He would take his food along with the others, relishing whatever came to him. His clothes were few, just enough to protect his body and to observe the decency and decorum as enjoined by the social custom. Because of his habit of not changing his clothes, whenever there was any change it would attract the attention of Babaji. One day Babaji exclaimed, "Hubba, you have a new sweater on today. It is a very good one. When did you get it? Who has given this to you?"
Hubbaji would never think of displaying anything about himself, and certainly not his clothes, so when Babaji asked him those question he had to reply, "It was received the day before and was sent by my daughter-in-law. She knitted it herself and wants me to wear it. The one that I was wearing had become old and could not be used anymore. Moreover, this sweater is thick and can protect me from the cold."
Babaji was listening with all his attention, and Hubba had just finished talking when he said, "How much she loves you. You do not visit or ask them for anything, but they remember and care so much for you. This is a very valuable lesson. When you do not want a thing, it comes to you. But when you ask for it, it runs away."
This gives us some idea of the spiritual life of Hubbaji. However much he might try to conceal it from those who had known him for long or had come in close contact with him, the detachment and dispassion that guarded him all the time could not be missed. He would avoid the crowd either by staying in his room or by going round the ashram trying to help someone in their work, the way he helped Didi in the kitchen.
One day Babaji referred to this habit of Hubbaji. A governor was coming to the ashram, accompanied by high officials. Several persons had gotten ready in advance, and went as far as the road outside to wait for them. After the governor left, Hubbaji came to Babaji's room. Babaji asked him where he had been—so many people had been waiting fo the distinguished visitor, but Hubbaji was not there. When Hubbaji said that he had stayed in his room, Babaji drew the attention of others and said, "Do you hear him? So many persons get busy to meet the celebrities coming here, but he stays behind."
When no one made any reply, Babaji said that many persons came there with the aim of meeting people and expanding their contacts, but Hubba had nothing to do with that. For him there were no more contacts to be made. He had actually withdrawn himself fom his old relationships and there was no need for any new ones. When Babaji pressed him to say if he was wrong, Hubbaji replied that he had not left all his relationships—one cannot live without some contact. "There must be some contact for everyone. People leave one and take another. There is no question of leaving all." But Baba said it was not so for Hubba. He had left his family when he began to meet the saints, but now he had left that also.
Then Hubba said, in an agitated way, that this was not true—rather, he has got more. By coming to Babaji and being at his feet, he had got back everything, even all of them whom he had known before and had lost contact with. We were wondering and wanted to hear more of this, but Babaji kept quiet. Hubba was satisfied; his task was accomplished. Babaji agreed with him. Babaji's silence was, for Hubba, actually his approval, and there was nothing more to say.
When Babaji went to the farm or for a stroll outside, Hubba would be the first one to join him. He had no preparations to make, and being thin and light in his body, he could move very quickly. Sometimes I would be taken with them. The whole journey would be in the nature of a dialogue between Babaji and Hubba. One day, while going toward the farm, Babaji asked him, "Hubba, you often left your home and went away with the sadhus, spending money of them. Were the members of your family happy with you for this? Did they approve of your actions?" The questions were pointed in such a way as to provoke him to talk—to extract something from him which was not easily forthcoming. This was a technique which Babaji had perfected and used often.
Hubba knew this, but still he was not willing to talk because it was not of interest or useful to anyone else. Talking about it would create unnecessary agitation in the mind without helping anyone. This was actually in line with Babaji's teaching: "One should not talk of things which were not of any benefit to anyone and, if it is difficult to believe, it sould not be said at all." This was always remembered by Hubba, who had become very reticent and non-communicative. We often felt that we had to pay dearly because of his reticence in talking about Baba and what he had heard from the mouths of saints when they had talked about Baba.
This time, Babaji was serious in getting out some of the secrets of Hubbaji's search for the saints and his time with them. This was not out of any curiosity that Babaji posed those questions, but for the benefit and edification of those who came to him for advice in such matters. This was his method of teaching—his own teachings relayed through the mouths of others. We had already moved some distance when Babaji took his seat on the roadside parapets; we stood around him.
Hubba said that family members did not approve when the one who should work and support the family went away without attending to his responsibilities. His family members tried to dissuade him from running away, but the temptation was too great. In the beginning, it was more out of curiosity than real interest in spiritual matters. There were many sadhus passing through the town, and not very far from there some sadhus used to live in caves or ashrams. Talking with some of them and seeing how they lived and managed with so very few things, made him curious to see and know more.
Hubbaji continued, "In the beginning I had no intention of staying away for long or living in an ashram. There was no question of leaving my family and becoming a mendicant. Mostly in those days I took long journeys, visiting the distant areas in the mountains and the caves or ashrams that came along the way. This did not continue for long as I felt that there were not many places to visit or new things to know about sadhus. Thinking like this was not very useful for me, and rather it worked to my disadvantage, as it brought some sort of spiritual pride. I started boasting in my mind that I knew the sadhus—what they were, how they lived, and all such things about them.
"Soon I realized how very mistaken I had been to think that I knew how to measure the stature of a sadhu. The reason was that I had found nothing attractive or captivating enough about them to keep me tied down to any one of them. Here also my judgment was wrong. I had not really had actual contact with them; I had only seen their outward life, which was, in many cases, offensive to my senses. This had to be so because I was always in a hurry to see as many as I could find. I learned that sheer curiosity was not enough; I needed patience—infinite patience—before anything could come to me. But it was only much afterwards that I learned that patience was valuable, but it was not enough in itself.
"I stopped running everywhere in search of sadhus. I started spending more time at home meeting the old people who had met many great sadhus and whose memories were fresh and alive. These old ones began talking of some sadhus who were no longer there, but they also spoke of others equally great who were still with us. The names of Khaki Baba, Gudari Baba, Hariakhan Baba and Sombari Baba were on the tongues of every one of them. They were very excited when they took the names of the last two, emphasising that they were the greatest ones among all the saints whom they had met or heard of. Nobody knew their ages—people had always seen them—and there were thick curtains of legends around them, which were all true. These great saints were actually avatars—gods themselves—so what could they not do?
"Hearing the reminiscences of the many old people I knew and respected came to be my new nasha (intoxication), and I spent much of my time in their company. But when I learned that the great sadhus were still in their bodies and were in this area, I searched out every bit of information about them that I could find. Fortunately, my searches were rewarded with their darshan, and I started visiting these sadhus and spending as much time with them as I could. In the beginning, I would return home after small intervals, but then I started staying away from home for longer periods of time. They used to say tauntingly that I had left my family, and that when I returned home, I came as a visitor and not a family member. This was not all true—I did return sometimes, but I didn't take any interest in family affairs anymore."
Babaji asked him, "Your people must have been sad to see you living your life in the shadow and shelter of those saints." He would not reply, but then he was made to do so after Babaji asked him repeatedly, "Tell me, tell me."
Then Hubbaji said, "Does any relation actually feel happy in such cases? They tried to hold me back, but when their efforts failed they took me to be lost, saying that I had lost my mind."
Babaji wanted him to continue his talk: "So when your people thought you were not in your senses and should not leave the house, why did you not obey them? They were your well wishers, and knew better than you whether or not you were in your right mind."
Hubbaji was provoked and said, "Baba, you know very well why I left the house, but simply because you want me to talk you are asking these questions. One has to leave something before one can go for something else. It is a question of leaving something which we have held as valuable, and this becomes a painful process. Often we fail to remember that in order to get something useful, we have to make a sacrifice—pay the price for getting the desired thing—and it becomes very difficult, almost impossible, to decide between what you want to get and that which you have to surrender. Sometimes it becomes more complicated when we are not simply facing a choice of giving away one and taking another. It comes to this: I want to have the other one, but I'm not ready to part with anything for it. But I ignored this. That which was to be left was precious—the family—and it was to be left for something about which not much was known. It was foolish to stake something so valuable for something doubtful, both in its value and also in the chances of getting it. I was faced with this choice. I had to leave the household life in order to be in the shadow of those saints."
Babaji was ready with his comment: "They were right. The saints make others crazy, and when you ran after such great saints, then you had to get crazy and leave your family and household."
Hubba said, "You are right, the saints make people crazy. Those who come to them and stay near them cannot remain what they had been before. This is proof of their grace to the people. The same is happening to those who come to you or stay near you, but they return home as they were doing before. You are also a great saint and you are showering your grace to your devotees."
Hubbaji had just finished when Babaji stood up, and catching hold of my hand said, "You all get interested in hearing talk and do not bother about the time at all. You do not care to know how very late you are. Now, let us go."
Hubbaji's life, in spite of his old age, kept him active. He could walk very fast, run easily and climb the high hills that others traveling with Babaji would not attempt. One day we were with Babaji near the farm. Babaji was sitting on the parapet and, as usual, others stood before him and a few sat down on the road. Seeing Babaji there, several persons came before him and started talking. Babaji was hearing everyone and replying to them. When some reference came to places in the hills, Babaji asked Hubba if he knew of those places. Hariakhan Baba as well as Sombar Giri Baba used to stay in those areas, and Hubba used to visit them there.
A few of those standing before us belonged to those areas, and after hearing the babas' names, someone started saying that Hariakhan Baba was a great saint of a very high rank and spent most of his time in puja and havan. He said that he used to eat very little—many said that he did not eat any food at all—and sometimes he used to drink the milk of the old mothers while sitting on their laps. At those times he would become an infant on the lap of the mother and not the old man whom everyone knew. He used to visit the houses of his devotees and do havan there. He would arrange everything himself and not trouble anyone. Those who had seen him in his havan say that he used water in place of ghee. There would be all kinds of chamatkar (miracles) coming from the Baba. He used to help the people in many ways by curing their diseases and saving those who were going to die.
Babaji interrupted him and asked Hubba if what they were saying was true. Hubba said that he had seen the things that they were talking about; these were the miracles that sometimes come with every great saint. Then Babaji asked Hubba in a very naive way why and how these miracles were done; he could not understand. Hubbaji was ready with his retort: "Babaji, you are asking me this quewstion, but what do I know of it? I have seen a few of them and I have been amazed, but I could not understand how they happened and have not cared to know. I believe that everything is possible for the great saints—that these were very trifling things for them to do, and that they do this for the good of the people and not for any name or popularity for themselves. You are asking these questions when you yourself are known as Chamatkari Baba, the Baba of Miracles."
Babaji intervened to say that he had never done the miracles that they were talking about. Hubbaji was unrelenting and said, "You might not have done your miracles just like that, but you cannot say that you do not do any miracles at all. It was just half a dozen years back when you escaped from the closed room. The doors were locked from outside, the windows were all bolted, and people were surrounding the room waiting for you to come out and give them darshan. I do not know why you did it, but you cannot deny that you did it." Pointing to me he said, "I have Dada as my witness. You ask him about it." But Babaji would not venture any more questions or comments, as if he could not continue to argue with Hubbaji when he had already mustered his witness. The talks ended there and we returned to the ashram.
Afterwards, I was alone with Hubbaji and we discussed the problems that were raised by Babaji regarding the miracles of Hariakhan Baba. Hubbaji said that people did not understand why Babaji encouraged such kinds of questions. He said very few people knew it was one of Babaji's favorite methods of imparting his teachings. People were often disappointed when they found that Babaji gave no sermons or lengthy discourses on religious and spiritual topics that would inpsire awe and admiration. Coming with such expectations, they returned disappointed. They felt that Babaji was not teachig anyone.
I replied that every day people used to ask me when he would be giving his teachings, and whether they would be allowed to attend. In the absence of impressive rituals, many of them lost interest in his talks. Little did they know how very mistaken they were in thinking that he did not teach at all, as actually, the teaching was going on all the time you were with him. His method of teaching was his unconventional and informal way of guiding and directing the discussions among the people sitting with him, setting it on the right track, and finishing it in his own way. When we forgot this and focused all our attention on the speakers around us, thinking Babaji was not in it, it cost us heavily.
Hubba agreed with this verdict, saying this was actually the case with all the great saints he had met. They never indulged in useless talks or discussions. For them, teaching was something like raising a plant. The wise farmers sow their seeds in season according to the nature and capacity of the soil. There are others who scatter their seeds without bothering about the soil or the season. The great saints are great farmers with regard to their devotees. They sow in human soil after considering their capability for blossoming and fructifying. These were Hubbaji's words of wisdom, gathered over long periods of time while being with the great masters.
It was also in the course of our journey down the road that another discourse started. Babaji said that Hubba had traveled in these areas over the years. Facilities for journeys were not available, and moreover, he used to visit places where there were no roads to guide you. It was very difficult to go round these areas. Babaji said that he had also visited those areas, but not like Hubba. Hubba had visited the interiors of these areas, whereas Babaji traveled by the main roads. Moreover, Babaji had several persons with him on many occasions, and they would look after everything that he might need, but Hubbaji traveled alone; it would be interesting to know how he managed. Hubbaji was being warmed up before Babaji took his seat on the roadside parapet.
After he had posed a few more problems regarding journey across the mountains and how he had tackled them, Babaji asked Hubba to narrate, saying that everyone would benefit from his experiences. Hubbaji was drawn in. He had to break his silence, finding a topic so very dear to his heart. He said that in the beginning, his journey was difficult because he used to have no definite idea of what places he would visit, the things that might be needed and how to procure them. The problems of what he was to carry, what might be needed in the journey, and how to get them occupied his attention. He forgot to think about the persons he was going to visit and of the things he was to seek from them.
Hubbaji said, "I ran away from my house in search of sadhus, but the first problem with me was not only of running away from the house, but also of running away being obsessed with the multifarious needs of the journey. Through long periods of trial and error, I learned a precious lesson: if you are going to an unknown place in search of the unknown, the journey will be full of risks and hazards so you have to prepare yourself for the eventualities. The most important thing is your inner preparation. You must be convinced in your mind that the search is for a very valuable thing and that you are ready to pay the full price for it in personal risks and harships, or what we call tapas, or penance.
"A strong mind filled with determination is the first requirement of such journeys, and then come the outward preparations. You have to cut down your wants mercilesly. You are going to the all-merciful, so why should you worry about carrying a few chips of this or that with you? This is what we call austerity. Nobody wants it, but this is the price that you have to pay to reach the goal of our journey. One must take only as much as is essential and not any excess. But how difficult it is to practice—to cut down your needs and manage with a few things. You tend to carry so much with you—the richer ones on the backs of the hired donkeys, but eventually you become your own donkey and carry your own load. These are the very hard lessons to learn."
While Hubbaji was talking excitedly, in a high pitch, recalling his rich and varied experiences, he forgot that there was anyone nearby. At that point Babaji intervened. He said, "Hubba, those who do not carry anything on their journey are like the poor and the saints. In this they are one. There is no difference between them."
Hubba caught the hint and came out with a remarkable judgment. He said that this was true to a certain extent, but not entirely. The poor and the saints were alike because of the few things they carried with them, but there was a very vital difference: the poor traveled light because they had only a few things, however much they might hanker for more; with the sadhus, the great saints, it was their own choice, not forced on them due to poverty. It was like a blind man and the man with eyesight not going to see pictures. At this point Hubbaji stopped, having made his point clear. We waited with high expectation thinking that Babaji would intervene and allow the talk to continue, but that did not happen and silence continued.
We were on the road with Babaji sitting on the parapet. The hill opposite was very steep, and pointing to it, he asked Hubbaji if he could climb it now in the same way that he must have climbed many such hills, like the mountain goat. Hubbaji admitted that he had climbed many such hills in his journeys, but then confessed his inability to do it now, saying that he had become old, with no energy or enthusiasm left for such tasks. He became silent, brooding over his old age and what it meant for him.
Babaji, who was looking at him said, "Hubba, you have left everything—your money a property, the family with all its comforts and your own relations also." Then pointing to the watch that Hubbaji had on his wrist, Babaji asked how it was that he was attached to this trifling thing? What had he to do with time? Hubbaji said his grandson had been to Germany and had bought it for him. Babaji said, "You should not keep any attachment with such external things anymore. These are all external things. They are not your own. They all go away. You should keep only that which is within you. You know this. Now throw away this watch on your wrist." Hearing Babaji talk like that, he took off the watch from his hand. Babaji said, "Put an end to it. Destroy it so that you don't remember it anymore. Strike it against the hill before you."
Hubbaji did not lose any time in obeying Babaji. He struck it against the hill as instructed. It was smashed and lay scattered by the roadside. Everyone was gazing and wondering in the minds how easily all this seemed to happen. Then it was time for us to return. We were late, but unlike other days, Babaji did not reprimand me for keeping him there so long—his popular abuse for Dada.
That night we had a short sitting with Hubba before he went to bed. I referred to how easily he had sacrificed the watch that had been given with so much love by his grandson. I said that however devoted and obedient I might consider myself to be, I could not have done that—at least not without resistance. Hubbaji said that this was all possible because of the grace of the guru. The grace is always there for the devotees, but sometimes we do not see it and so we complain of not having it. But when the moment comes that it is necessary to do something difficult, the grace comes out in the open. He said that his moha (attachment) to the watch had already been gnawing at his conscience, but he alone had not been bold enough to cut it off. It is just like the surgeon, who, in order to save the patient's life, cuts off a tumor.
In a very reflective mood he said, "Everything, like every person, has its own journey to complete, its own life to live, then the end comes, for which the time and place is fixed. Collecting things and sticking to themn is like accompanying someone in his journey: you know for certain that this togetherness will be over when you reach the end. But we become attached and very fond of our travel companion, forgetting that it must end. If we could remember that, there would be no pain in parting. When we forget this, the gracious guru comes forward to save us from our so-called calamity. The watch had come all the way from Germany to me. I received it lovingly and attended to it with care and safety, but then its time came—the time for it to part company with me. I was not aware of it, nor would I have parted with it willingly had I known in advance. So Babaji intervened, snapping my link with the watch. Sticking to it was not in my best interests." I left Hubba then to make it easier for him to take sleep.
One day Babaji was sitting on the cot of an old devotee, Kali Babu, in his room in Kainchi. Among many others, a young man in his early thirties was taking his food. He was well known and was important among the people of Nainital who came to Babaji. Hubbaji entered the room and took his stand by the cot near the door. Seeing Hubbaji enter, the young man greeted him by uttering namaskar. Babaji was talking but did not miss the way that Hubbaji had been greeted by the young man. He asked Hubba if he knew him, Hubba said that he was the son of his niece. Then Babaji said, "Hubba, if you had enough money, he would have greeted you by touching your feet as is the custom. See what money can do? Because you are not with money, therefore you have lost status with your relations."
The young man denied in every way that he had meant any insult to Hubba. He was not from a rich family himself, but with his marriage to the only daughter of a rich family, he had suddenly become very rich. The marriage had brought him money and a rise in status, but also pride. Hubbaji came to the help of the young man who was feeling uneasy and assured him that he was quite satisfied. The young man said that he did not forget to greet Hubba, even when he was taking his food. Then Hubba said to Babaji, to try and spare the young man from any calumny, that he could not have bowed at his grandfather's feet because he was having his food. Perhaps the main aim of Babaji was to show the people there how much Hubba was immune to all praise and abuse.
One summer when we reached Kainchi, Hubbaji was not there. We learned that he was not well and was living with his son at Almora. One day I had to go to Almora for some work, and I visited him in the noon hour. He was lying on his bed. Knowing that he was not well, I prevented him from sitting up pushed my chair near the bed.
As he spoke, he saw the whole picture of his life before his eyes. He had been born and brought up in Almora, but after many years he had become a stranger to it. Even when he was here, his mind used to roam. His life had been hard—no comforts or caring from the near ones in his family. He had gone after the things which the blessings of family life could not reach. He had learned, step by step on his journey, that he could manage with fewer things than he possessed. Discipline and detachment allowed him to deal with the vasanas (the desire for possessions), and as time went on he was able to cut and trim the excess from his life. He had been blessed by so many saints that his task had not proven impossible.
Then he inquired about Didi at Kainchi and Ma and Maushi Ma at Allahabad, saying that they were so very affectionate to everyone who came with Babaji. When I asked him if he would like to visit them, as they remembered him so much, with a twinkle in his eye he said, "Can anyone make any promise or commitment at this stage of life?" This was not very reassuring about his state of health and the working of his mind. He emphasized that his life had been very blissful since he had come to know Baba, who had taken charge of everything. He was very cheerful and there was no trace of pain or suffering on his face. He had no complaint about anything or anyone. He was allowed to rest by fixing his attention on Babaji's feet. Not much afterwards we learned that he had left his body.
I can recall what tapas and penance meant for him. The only thing that he preserved with all care was his energy, so that he could be ready for all kinds of work and able to run all kinds of races. He had not missed any of them. Thinking of him, I am reminded of a story: A disciple once narrated a dream to her master, a dream in which she had seen a mirror before her. Looking at it, she noticed that she was growing thin. The master said it was a very good dream—thinner and thinner, until nothing remains.