Saints and Devotees Chapter
My first darshan was sudden and unexpected, and came at a time when mentally I was least prepared for it.
I lived a carefree social life with friends, mostly from my college days, whose company and friendship I valued. On holidays we used to get together to enjoy our time.
One Sunday evening in June 1955, we were sitting in the courtyard, joking and laughing. My mother, Maushi Ma (my aunt), and Didi (my wife) said that they were going to an adjoining house to see a baba who had come there. Hearing her, a friend asked, "What kind of baba is he? If the baba wants to eat, I could feed him."
This friend was referring to the deer and hare he hunted. Mother rebuked him, saying it was a sacrilege to talk that way about sadhus. I mention this to emphasize how ignorant and indifferent we were about the religious and spiritual life.
It was not even half an hour later when they returned. Someone asked about the outcome of their visit. They had seen the baba in a small mud house. He had been lying on a small cot covered with a bed sheet. The room was lit by a flickering candle which gave only a glimpse of him. When they reached the door and said that they were from an adjoining house and had come for his darshan, he sat up on his bed. He greeted them with "Jao!" (Go), but they did not move even after repitition of "Jao!" Then he said to Didi, taking her name, "Kamala, go back. Your husband's Bengali friends have come. Serve them with tea. I shall come tomorrow morning."
This was a great surprise for us. How did he know Didi's name, and also that we were sitting here looking for tea? So there must be something with that man. The friends dispersed, saying they would return the next morning to see things for themselves. All of us were excited.
The next morning Didi arranged a room with a spacious bed for him, and we both went to bring him. When we arrived, he was lying on a cot. Seeing us, he almost jumped up and catching hold of my hand, said, "Chalo." (Let's go.) The distance was short, but he was moving fast and Didi had some difficulty in keeping pace with us. Entering the house, the first thing he said was, "Henceforth I shall live with you." I was surprised, I could hardly believe what he said. He was a stranger to us. How easily he imposed his company on us unsolicited! I could not see the 'grace' he was showering on us. Rather, I was intrigued to think that his intentions were not purely benevolent.
This was the reaction of some of my friends who saw Babaji coming and staying with us frequently. They warned me that I must beware of babas whose intentions were anything but altruistic. I could not disbelieve them in the beginning, but as time went on I was caught and could not come out of it. Ultimately, I had to resign myself to the forces working and free myself from all mental conflicts.
Ma, Maushi Ma and Didi greeted him with all joy and excitement. "How very blessed we are," they said, and went to prepare some refreshments. I was left alone with him. The first thing he said was, "You are a devotee of Shiva?"
"I am not a devotee."
"But you visit Shiva's temple?"
"Well, I might have visited sometime."
Then he said, "You have been given mantra also," which I admitted. It was very striking indeed that I failed to recollect the encounter I had in May 1935 at the Shiva temple in Dakshineshwar, Calcutta. A hefty looking person with a small beard had made me accept mantra from him. It was only much afterwards that I realized it had been Babaji who had given me the mantra in the temple, although my mother and aunt had been saying it all along. Many years later, Babaji was visiting Jagannath Puri with some of his devotees and traveled to Dakshineshwar, where showing them the Shiva temple, declared that it was in the temple that he had given mantra to me.
While Babaji was sitting in the room, some devotees came to see him. They had gone to the house where he had previously been staying and had found out that he had shifted to our house. They were enjoying his talks when a person came who had been known to me for a long time. Seeing so many persons there, he wanted to go away, but Babaji challenged him, "You take bribes?" He got frightened and could not reply. The question was repeated and he started trembling and mumbling.
He uttered, "In this service everyone takes..."
Babaji cut him short, saying he was guilty. He was trembling and was about to fall down when he was made to take his seat. Everyone was feeling pity for him, but Babaji was unrelenting. This man was an excise inspector who had been suspended from service for taking bribes. He had confessed his guilt in front of Shri Kehar Singh, the Excise Commissioner, who was also sitting in the room. After everyone including the inspector had left, only Kehar Singh remained with Babaji. It is not know what passed between them, but the inspector was reinstated to his post within a few days—a redemption after a full confession.
Many other devotees came and Babaji was sitting in the room talking, when he suddenly got up and asked Kehar Singh, whose car was parked at the door, to come with him. The hunter friend who had talked of feeding meat to Baba was coming in a rickshaw. Seeing Baba about to leave in the car, he was hurrying to meet him, but Baba's car left when my friend was just a few yards away. It was only after repeated attempts for darshan and Maushi Ma's begging for mercy for her 'son,' as she called him, that Baba gave him darshan—six years later. His wife and daughters, however, had their darshan from the beginning without any disappointment.
When Babaji returned, he took his meal surrounded by me and Maushi Ma. Didi was in the kitchen preparing his chapatis. Fetching his chapatis and being a silent witness was a peculiar experience for me. Babaji acted like a different person. Gone was the wry face and toughness, yelling and shouting, heedless to all requests. Talking in a very pleasant voice, beaming a smile and eating according to the requests of the mothers to eat a little more of this or that, he finished his food, and after chatting with them for some time, sent them back to feed the others. It was very hot and we were all perspiring, but he remained on his bed as if untouched by the heat.
In the afternoon three of my friends came. Two of them were doctors, and one was a government servant. He welcomed the first one cheerfully, asking him to sit near him and telling everyone that he was a saint. He asked the second one, also a doctor, why he had come, and sent him away, saying that he should go and make his money. This was, no doubt, very hard for the doctor, but it was in keeping with his zeal to make money. He took no notice of the third man and the two left, sulking.
Babaji stayed for three days during this visit. It was more or less the same routine he would follow in the years to come: meeting the devotees coming for his darshan; talking to everyone; visiting some devotees in their houses; leaving the house at any time and returning after short or long hours. We had no way of knowing where he had gone or when he would return. When someone inquired about him in his absence, we had to plead ignorance. Sometimes we were accused of concealing his whereabouts. This came to be a regular charge against me, and even now I have to face it.
Many persons had heard that Babaji was a great saint and so were interested and enthusiastic to meet him. There were certain things that were very striking about Babaji and some people were disappointed when they saw him acting like a common householder. He would go on talking with all and sundry about family or work or business—only worldly things—not of God or prayer or worship. They felt that a sadhu who was busy with common man's talk, without the saint's hallmark or saffron clothes, matted locks and all that, could not be a real sadhu. Babaji was fully aware of this and told me several times that many persons came to test him, not out of devotion for a saint. He did this deliberately to keep away curious sightseers.
There was something unique about him which was not displayed like the robe worn by the sadhu. One who came with patience and an open mind—without any set ideas about sadhus or saints—might catch a glimpse of it, but that depended on Babaji. A devotee could not claim this as a right; it was a gift from Babaji. I was a newcomer and an outsider among his old and trusted devotees. Whatever little I came to know of him did not come overnight, in spite of all the grace flowing from him.
In the beginning his visits were frequent—every two or three months—but he never stayed more than three days. He might come or leave at any time, but would never cause any interruption in daily life or cause any inconvenience to the householders. His wants were few, his food was simple and he could squeeze himself onto a small cot or mat, leaving space for others. He needed very little service from us and was overly cautious to see that he did not become a burden on us, or cause any inconvenience by his untimely visits. Many of his devotees were busy all day and not rich enough to honor such a distinguished guest suitably. His talks were almost always about the household affairs: how to avoid troubles in the family, obeying and serving the elders, and being accommodating to all. The eldest had the special responsibility of attending to the needs of everyone in the family. This he was teaching Ma and Maushi Ma all the time when he was here. They sought his advice for all their household affairs and used to say that Baba was the head of the family.
One day, after a couple of visits, he warned us that we would have to leave this house, which belonged to my uncle, in the near future and we must have a house of our own. We had never thought of changing or building a house and were quite confident that we could live in this small one as long as we liked. He said we were mistaken, that we would be made to vacate however much we disliked doing so, and that we must purchase land for a new house. In subsequent visits he talked only of that. At the end of 1956, land was purchased. He was happy and said, "Now build your house." He knew we could not do that, so after giving us some time to get it done ourselves, he got the house built for us. He praised it and called it the Red House. That is how we came to live in this house—one that was spacious enough for his devotees to come and stay without difficulty.
Baba began staying here for three or four months in the winter and many of his devotees gathered and stayed with him. Mr. Mehrotra called it his winter camp. There were many thrilling experiences, but what attracted us the most was the feeling that we were a happy family living under the care and indulgence of an affectionate father.
One night Ma and Maushi Ma were sitting with him in his room. He had come two days before, and they were giving him their report of what had gone on in the house during his absence. While talking, Maushi Ma said, "Baba, you are kind to Dada but not so to we old people." He asked why she thought so. She said, "You have built such a beautiful house for Dada."
He sat up in his bed and asked, "How did it become Dada's house? The house is mine!"
She asked, "What about Dada?"
He replied, "Dada is my guest, and he will live here." So it has come to that.
Babaji was known as a great saint—a highly realized soul with all the spiritual powers. Writing about Baba, Swami Vijayananda, a disciple of Anandamayi Ma, called him "a yogi whose name radiates an aura of mystery and miracle." We saw many of his miracles coming one after another; they continue even now. They are exciting, often entertaining, but sometimes disturbing. Once at Kainchi, after what had been for me a very painful experience, I had to tell him that I was not interested in his miracles; he was Baba, and that was enough for me. His acceptance came in the form of one of his ineffable smiles. So far as the mysteries are concerned, not only have I not been able to solve any of them, but they have become more mysterious day-by-day.
One morning Babaji was in his small room in Kainchi. A sadhu with a half-dozen of his disciples came for Baba's darshan. I took them to his room. After they had taken their seat, Babaji said, "This is Mahant Digvijaynath, a great saint. Bow at his feet." When another person came, Babaji made him bow as well. Babaji smiled and asked people to bow low to the saint instead of touching his own feet. But when the third one came and Babaji repeated his words, the Mahant stood up and clasping Babaji's feet, with tears in his eyes, said, "Baba, you are the saint of saints sitting before us, and you are making people touch my feet, taking me to be a saint."
"A saint can be known only by one who himself is a saint." That is what has been said by the wise. So we cannot have—at least speaking for myself—any pretension of knowing Babaji, the great saint. In the Bhagavat Gita we learn that a saint is a person with a dual personality—the divine and the human. Many of us have seen the human person in Babaji, but that doesn't mean that we can claim to have seen the divine person in him.
In a saint, the divine person is encased in the human frame but is not entirely identical. The bottom of the human and the top of the divine stand far apart from each other. There is a co-mingling in the inner space, and in noble human beings, some of the divine qualities merge entirely with their human qualities, destroying all distinction between human and divine. I am saying this about Baba from my own experience of him. I have never seen him wearing his divine crown, but I have always seen his divine qualities of love and compassion. He was always ready and alert to mitigate the sufferings of the helpless by taking their pains upon himself. His body became a honeycomb of diseases. This was the price he had to pay for his compassion and his readiness to help.
Every individual suffers from some kind of physical and mental pain. But with many, hunger and disease of body or mind become acute. One of Babaji's visible methods of helping people was by feeding the hungry, arranging medical treatment for the sick, and giving money and materials to the helpless. The brief interlude of his life in the ashrams was spent in caring for the hungry and curing the sick, like the head of a household busy with his large family. Those who visited his ashrams, especially Kainchi, saw how prasad was being served throughout the day to all and sundry without any discrimination. For some it was prasad, an auspicious token of spiritual elevation, but for many more it was a whole meal for the stomach.
Seeing that food was being given in such large amounts, some persons complained that the food was being wasted. Babaji was unrelenting and continued to ask us to give in plenty. "Give more, give more, Dada." No doubt Babaji would never allow food to be wasted or abused, but his idea of abuse and waste was different from ours, so the bhandara continued, giving food to the needy.
Some persons have suggested that one of the reasons for his choice of Kainchi and Bhumiadhar for ashrams was to be in direct contact with the helpless—particularly the shilpakars, the forsaken ones. They fell easy victim to the allurements of the preachers who approached them with loaves of white bread, biscuits, etc. After several bhandaras at Bhumiadhar, he said one day, "Dada, the preachers do not come anymore because they have seen that their 'double roti' (white bread) and biscuits cannot fight with your puri and halwa."
There were also other methods of mitigating the sufferings and hardships of the people coming to him. They were seldom done in the public gaze, but they were going on every day. Some poor farmer would come and say, "Out of my one pair of bullocks, which is my only source of living, one has died and I have no money to purchase another." An old woman would come and say, "My daughter has reached marriageable age, but I have no money to pay for her marriage." Another comes with his tale, "My brother is suffering from tuberculosis and I have no money for his treatment." Such things would go on all the time. Few would leave disappointed. It was never publicized, but help was always coming from him in some form or other.
Leaving aside physical suffering and mental torture, there was another kind of deeper and more painful suffering which Babaji could not neglect. Many times it was to rescue the helpless that he had to run away like a vagabond. Sometimes unimaginable calamities come to people—someone has died, someone has been thrown out of another's heart, or a severe shock or disappointment from one's near or dear ones has unhinged them totally. Pain of the body or the mind can often be tolerated, but pain of the heart becomes killing. Faced with such a disappointment, they are stranded; there is no one to whom they can look for support.
Very few of us are so devoted to God that we truly believe that the help we need will come from there. We need some tangible response to our cries. Our cries reached Baba and made him rush to us—seen or unseen by others. He came and talked to us, not quoting from scriptures, but in his own sweet way. He consoled us with pats on the head, whispered words of cheer accompanied by his infectious smile, trying to bring a smile to our face. We do not know how many tears of men, women and children he wiped away with his sweet words, compassionate touches, and soothing smiles. Only Baba knows...
His goodness to his devotees also expressed itself in the way he would fulfill their fond expectations, trying to save them from disappointment. This was revealed during the opening ceremony of the temple in Panki, Kanpur. Babaji was at Allahabad for his winter stay. Devotees coming from Kanpur requested him to bless the occasion by his presence, which he did not agree to do. They went back feeling disappointed and sad that all their efforts had failed. On the day of the inauguration, Babaji finished his toilet, and changing his clothes early, went back to his room. It was seven o'clock. He told me that he was not feeling well, covered himself with a blanket and asked me to bolt the doors, not allowing anybody to disturb him or enter his room. Hours passed, and the people waiting outside for darshan started speculating about his trouble. At twelve he opened his eyes, asked me about the time and said, "Oh, it has been five hours that I have been asleep, but such a nice sleep that I feel refreshed." The doors were opened, and people rushed in and had their darshan. Life began again as usual.
The next day, Babaji was sitting in the hall surrounded by his devotees when a person came with a basket of ladoos—prasad from the inauguration ceremony of the Panki temple the day before. Being handed a basket, I was told that Babaji had been there in the morning, but at twelve he suddenly disappeared. "We searched for him, but he was not there, so we brought the prasad for him."
Mr. Jagati, an old devotee, asked, "What are you talking about? Babaji was here lying on his bed feeling unwell, and we were waiting for him outside. The door was opened at twelve and we all saw him. So how could he be at Panki when he was in his room all the time?" While they were all trying to convince each other, Babaji was sitting silently with his smile. This incident reveals so much about his invisible movements to fulfull the wishes and expectations of his devotees.
In September 1961, I had finished my bath and tea early in the morning and came into my room to study. While taking out the book which I had been reading the night before, I was amazed to see Ram Ram written [in Devanagari script] over the whole cover page. I was familiar with Babaji's handwriting so it was clear to me that it had been done by him, but he had not been here for the last three months. I shouted for Didi and others and they all exclaimed that it was Babaji's writing. How had it appeared in the book during the night in the closed room? I told them that the night before I had been reading until twelve and there had been nothing on the book. Didi said that even a half-hour before, when she arranged my table and dusted the books, there was nothing on it; it must have come just within this time. While we were all looking at the cover page, she took the book and, opening it, exclaimed, "Look, how many more are written within!" There were three more pages, all in bold letters, and the ink on the last page showed that the writing had suddenly stopped, as it was not fully dry.
We were all left guessing and speculating on how and why this could happen. Many devotees gave their own interpretations, but they were not convincing and we remained agitated. I wrote to Tularam, a great devotee who was very close to us and was then with Babaji at Agra. He narrated the whole thing to Babaji as was written in the letter and told him that I was very anxious to know how it all came about. Babaji's reply, as Tularam wrote, was, "Dada was remembering me, so I had to go." Tularam added that Babaji's purpose was to demonstrate that he had heard my call and responded to it. This was good so far as it went, but the mystery remained unsolved—the invisible movement in response to a call which to my knowledge I had not sent.
Many things happened after that, and have continued to happen all these years. One night I was reading in my room after everybody had gone to sleep. Suddenly the gate was forced open and Babaji began abusing me. "You are such a nasty chap that you trouble me so much. You made me come from a distance of four hundred miles. You were remembering me." Everyone in the house woke up and came to his room. The next morning he was like a different person and said, "Whenever you remember me, I come."
This same assurance has been echoed from the beginning of time through the mouths of the saints to their devotees and disciples. It is an echo of what Ram said to Hanuman when they parted, "Hanuman, you will not be separate from me, and whenever you remember me, I shall come to you." God may be in heaven or in Vaikuntha, but he is never beyond the reach of his people's call. His grace flows to them in the various forms of divine incarnation. There may be times when he comes in full incarnation, but partial incarnations are always here carrying his message.
What Babaji said in 1961 was also said by Guru Maharaj (Yogananda's 'Babaji') to Shyama Charan Lahiri (Lahiri Mahasaya) in January 1869, at Dronagiri. Shyama Charan had his initiation and he wanted to stay with his guru and serve him. But his guru wanted him to return to his family and carry out the mission that awaited him. "Shyama Charan, you will meet me again, and whenever you remember me, I shall come to you."
Saints are seldom hard on their devotees, but sometimes they have to reprimand them and deny darshan to them. Shyama Charan prayed for his guru's darshan one evening in Moradabad to show others how great saints can move invisibly. The guruji came but he rebuked Shyama Charan for indiscreetly using the boon he had given to him, saying that it was not given for such displays. He said that he would not come again when Shyama Charan called him, but only when he himself thought darshan was to be given. This indiscreet use of the boon given by the guru was, of course, by the newly initiated disciple and not by the Yogiraj—the saint of saints—of the later years.
The saints, or the realized souls, are free spirits and remain as such, but many are reborn of their own choice to fulfill some divine mission. Working for the world, they are the channels through which divine grace flows. A giant electric generating plant caters to the needs of a vast region or country, but the amount and strength of the current passing through different lines varies. Even the most powerful line transmits only a small fraction of what is generated. The distribution to individuals or units is selective—given according to capacity and ability to pay.
The grace of the Lord flows not to one country or region but over the entire universe, whose vastness we cannot know. Nor do we know when or how it is generated. But those who know tell us that it is always in full supply and the transmission is never interrupted. The channels through which it flows may not be known to us, but its work goes on until the needs of everyone are attended to. No one is denied or given less because of an inability to pay. In this way, the distribution of grace is different than the distribution of electricity. One saint has described the working of these divine channels: "Saints in their work squander their love and grace, even on the undeserving and ungrateful ones."
A bhakta (devotee) is one who is never separated from his master. Hanuman, as a real bhakta, is always in union with his master. The case of Hanuman is different from other devotees because Hanuman himself is a divine incarnation with all the siddhis at his fingertips, with no need for anything either in this world or in heaven. He chose to remain in the world as the eternal sentinel to sing the glory of Ram Nam, and to give the darshan of Ram to his ardent devotees. He has been working as the divine channel all through the ages.
The task of the saints is extremely difficult. The devotees they have to deal with are more or less lost in their lives and in the world. Many of them do not know that there can be anything better than samsara (the world of illusion and suffering)—not to speak of seeking a way out of it. What the majority of them seek from the saints or gurus are things for their daily needs—some relief from pressing pain and suffering so that life can become pleasant and more comfortable again. The cry for darshan is only to get some trinkets, some palliatives, or some material relief against unseen misfortunes. The saints know this fully well, but do not force precious things upon their devotees or deny them their requests.
Once Babaji was surrounded by a large number of persons asking for things they desired. As a result, he was detained for a long time from his bath and food. When I finally closed the door and made him get up, he patted me on the head and said, "Dada, do not get angry—this is samsara, this is samsara. You are worried about my food, but they do not bother about it. Nobody comes to me for my own needs. Everyone is busy with himself."
Gurus generally do not have any special favorite among their disciples or make any real discrimination among them. To us they may appear to be partial or indifferent, but actually that is not so. It is because, as Ramakrishna used to say, "Mother is giving more attention to the sick child." Many of the children who come before the guru are very sick and get special care.
One morning while taking our tea, two cars came and stood at the gate. The old mother of the Maharaj of Vizianagram had come from Benares along with her staff. She inquired about Baba, and when I said that he had left a couple of days back, the lady broke down and cried. She said, "I need him very urgently. I have been awake for the whole night and have been driving since two. I have an appointment with the Finance Minister, Morarji Desai, in Delhi at four o'clock for talks about my estate, and I need Baba's help for that. What shall I do now?"
I said, "When your needs are so urgent who knows but that he may not return!"
She agreed to wait. A cot was spread for her outside of Baba's room and taking her seat, she said, "So many lilas of Babaji have taken place in this house, tell me something about them." It was about six when we started and she was fully engrossed in that. When Didi appeared with a glass of milk, she indicated with a gesture that this was not the right time for that. More than two hours passed in this way when the gate was pushed open and Babaji walked in, smiling. She fell at his feet, and said, "Oh, you have come. Baba, I need you very much."
He said, "All right, come to my room." When he was in the room with her, he asked me to bolt the door and not allow anyone to enter as long as he was talking to her. At ten, the door was opened and Babaji asked Didi to feed her and the men with her. They had already been fed. When she was leaving, Babaji said, "Do not worry. You will reach Benares before two, and your son will easily take you to Delhi in his plane."
The striking thing about the whole episode was how her cries for help reached Baba and how he responded to them. He came in a big car, a station wagon, driving the whole night from Nainital to reach her in time. The devotees accompanying him said, "Babaji reached Nainital yesterday at noon. He had come after many months, and we were hoping that he would stay for a few days. We had been sitting around him in the evening and listening to him for some time, when he suddenly got up and said, 'Get me a car. I have to go to Allahabad.'"
In this case, darshan was given to a celebrity. Many persons used to speak of his favor toward the rich. He used to enjoy the joke and say, "I am a Baba of the rich. I don't care for the poor."
Shri Prabhudutt Brahmachari, a great saint who was close to Baba, once narrated the following incident. He was with Anandamayi Ma in her ashram at Almora once summer. One afternoon he was sitting in the garden with some ashramites when a man came very excitedly and inquired whether Babaji was there. When someone asked, "Which Baba?" he said he wanted Neem Karoli Baba. He was told that Babaji was not there. He felt very helpless and began asking where he could see him—he needed them urgently. Brahmachari ji, a saint himself, knew the ways of the saints and said, "If your needs are so urgent, go and shout for him. He will come."
The man went a few steps ahead and, in full view of everyone sitting there, began shouting, "Baba, Baba..."
Only a few minutes had passed and everyone was busy talking among themselves when somebody came from behind and touched Brahmachari ji on the shoulder. "Oh you are here. When did you come?" No reply was needed. The unknown visitor shouting nearby came rushing and fell at Babaji's feet. Babaji took him aside, talked to him and then sent him away. He was a poor householder, not a rich or important person for whom Babaji had to rush. Narrating this incident, Brahmachari ji said that Babaji can never ignore the call of his devotees in their utter distress.
Baba used to talk about the saints and how they move about. One day he said, "Ram Thakur was a great saint, a very great saint." I had not heard about him as I also had not heard about many others. Afterwards I read and heard about him from some of his devotees. He took his samadhi in 1949. He was a great saint, and many of his devotees both high and low remember him, not as a saint, but actually Bhagwan—God. There was so much in common between him and Babaji. They had the same methods of working, unseen and unknown by others.
I do not know why Babaji talked so much about Ram Thakur. Babaji would not disclose anything about himself to satisfy my curiosity, but I could seek some help, some light, from the lives of other saints. Perhaps Ram Thakur was chosen for me for that purpose. Their ways of working were very similar in many things, and the similarity of their behavior in identical situations was very striking.
Professor Chakravarty was a great devotee of Thakur. One day he was sitting with his friends in a room on the ground floor when they saw Thakur suddenly go up the stairs. They went up and saw that the Professor's wife was very agitated. She asked where Thakur had gone. She had been feeling totally helpless in alleviating the suffering of her three children who were sick from smallpox. She had been appealing to Thakur, so Thakur had to come. Seeing him at the door, she went to get a seat for him, but when she returned, he was gone. They had all seen him come, but he was not there anymore. In three days all the children recovered, with no trace or mark of the disease on their bodies. They learned afterwards that when they had seen Thakur in their Calcutta house, he was actually sitting in Hardwar, surrounded by his devotees.
Neither Ram Thakur nor Babaji would talk about themselves, or allow others to talk about them. If you had questions, you had to work them out for yourself. There were no ready-made answers to your queries, no capsule to swallow, no open book to glance at. It was only after his samadhi in 1949 that Thakur's devotees were able to write about their guru.
Dr. Das Gupta was a well-known doctor in Calcutta and known by Thakur's devotees as 'Doctor Dada.' He never missed an opportunity to be with Thakur when he was nearby. One day, while driving his car, he saw Thakur on the road. He stopped and asked when he had arrived in Calcutta and where he was staying. Thakur did not reply to the questions. Instead he said, "Everyone knows that Duryodhan was a very wicked person. He had one hundred brothers. You may read the whole of the Mahabharata but you will not find anywhere that he had any quarrel with his brothers or that he did not love them."
His words had their effect. The Doctor thrust his hand into the car, picked up a file of papers, tore them up and threw them away. When he looked up, Thakur was gone. The Doctor had been on his way to the High Court, where he was fighting a case against his brothers about his share in the family property. Inquiring later, he learned that Thakur had been in Simla for the whole week and had not gone anywhere.
There was a very heavy flood, and the water of both the Ganges and Jamuna had risen to a high level in Allahabad. The currents were very strong. Some stones of the adjoining fort were washed away, and water was getting into the fort. All the adjoining areas, including the famous Hanuman temple, were submerged under water, facing the fury of this flood. Dr. Katju, then Defense Minister, accompanied by his staff, came to see the situation for himself. Seeing Dr. Katju, who was a highly religious person, some priests of the Hanuman temple prayed to him to save the temple. They said every year during the rainy season Hanumanji goes down under water and comes out when the water subsides. But this time the threat was very serious; some of the old pipal and banyan trees that had stood firm through the ages had been washed away. The same threat held for Hanumanji also. Dr. Katju sympathized with them but said it was beyond his power, rather beyond all human power, to save the murti of Hanumanji. Only Hanumanji himself could do that. He said they should seek the help of Neem Karoli Baba, who was considered to be an incarnation of Hanumanji. Their need was very great and they would try anything. Since this advice came from such a wise and respected person, many of them actually started shouting for Baba.
After some time they stopped, and not having much hope for the success of their venture, many of them left. A jeep came, but few took notice of it, as the vehicles of many sightseers were coming and going. Someone got down from the jeep and started coming their way. Several persons shouted, "Here comes Babaji! He is Neem Karoli Baba!" They all rushed to him and narrated to him their tales of woe. Everyone was pressing him to save Hanumanji.
Babaji told them that he could not do that—only Hanumanji himself could do that, and they should pray to him. Babaji just took a little water from the flooded rivers in his palm, sipped a few drops, and went away in his jeep. Most of the others left after the jeep had gone. Those who remained were not sure that much would come out of that august visit, and they were left disheartened. But that very night the water started receding and, within two days, the threat to the temple was over. Many felt afterwards that Babaji had done his miracle, but many more thought it happened of its own and Babaji had nothing to do with it. This made no difference to Baba. People remembered him in their distress and so he came. The work was done; that was enough for Baba. It was not for him to wait to see the success of his work and collect laurels from the seekers who cried for help.
These stories can sometimes help us to see the work of his unseen hands in the many critical situations facing his devotees. Some of them had their faith strengthened by him. When they came out safe from their misfortunes, they took it to be all Babaji's doing. He would deny flatly that he had anything to do with it. This is the Babaji we know.
There are so many more stories of how restless the saints become at the sufferings of others. Although as highly realized souls they are free from attachments, they cannot stand as mere spectators when the cries from the helpless reach their ears.
From the winter of 1959-60, after we had shifted to the new house and Babaji started spending his winter months in what came to be called 'winter camp,' large numbers of devotees came and the house became like a hive swarming with bees. This was Baba's precious gift for his devotees. There had not been any place where he would stay long enough to enable them to have his darshan and continued satsang. There was not Kainchi nor Vrindavan at that time to provide this opportunity.
The devotees were new to us, but they were well known to each other and close to Baba—devotees who were fully soaked and saturated in their love of Baba. There was no question of their being closed or miserly with me and I took full advantage of their generosity and open-heartedness. Their devotion and dedication to their master gave me my first lessons and I gathered my love and devotion for Baba from them.
Many such batches of devotees continued coming as long as Babaji spent time here in his body. The visits of his Indian devotees, especially the curio hunters, ceased more or less after his samadhi, but the visits from his western devotees, which started in his lifetime, continued unabated. The first batch of westerners came in the company of Bhai Ram Dass in 1971, and in 1972, when the number rose to 76, the darshan and satsang continued for more than a month. Such congregations ended long back, but the visits in groups or individually have continued.
There are second and third generations who also come now. They are different, but I always get something from them that I did not possess before. There are many who have an intense love for Baba, kindled in their hearts by meeting Baba inside or from satsang with his old devotees. They want to know more about him. There are many, very sincere in heart, active and venturesome in their search, visiting his ashrams and meeting with his old devotees.
All these visits of devotees, Indian or western, are always helpful to me. Visitors remind us that we are not forgotten or left high and dry. They are valuable as satsang, but they are different from what I had before. Those first visits were the most precious for me. They exposed me to the tested, undiluted devotees, who had collected their knowledge of Babaji over a long time. The present ones are just like stoking the fire, getting back the glow and warmth buried under the accumulated ashes. But the earlier ones actually added the fuel, twigs and ghee to make my fire strong and alive, so that I not only had light and heat, but could also bake myself in it.
Saints are one in their work as divine channels. They link us up with the source from which all bliss flows: love. They bake the unbaked pots and make them fit to receive the divine bliss. They illuminate the path by removing all the darkness that holds us back. Their work does not end with the energising or enlightening of some select few here and there. They also serve as the unflickering flame helping to light other candles. What bliss and joy Hanuman brought to his devotee Tulsidas! And what bliss and joy Tulsidas himself has scattered to millions of other devotees, helping to rekindle their lamps, although he himself parted with his body long, long ago. This has been the case with many great saints and their disciples, from Guru Maharaj to Shyama Charan, from Ramakrishna to Vivekananda. Through them and their own disciples they live in the memory of many old people. The work of the saints goes on, whether we know it or not.
As I have said before, almost all my education came from those old devotees. They came as if sitting on the bare floor of the tavern or standing in the alleys. In the 'tavern,' everybody behaved as if intoxicated, opening the doors of their minds and hearts, giving everything to everyone. There was nothing to measure or fear.
Now the venue has changed from the floor of the tavern to the chairs of a furnished drawing room. While no doubt for the benefit of all, I derive the greatest benefit from these visits. They are Babaji's way of educating and enlightening me. He never forgets to remind me that I am a fool with no understanding. All the visits and satsangs are his attempts to force some sense and understanding into my mind. That is the most valuable legacy left by Babaji for me, which can never be exhausted.
Let the celebrations and illuminations continue in his ashrams, bringing his devotees full jubilation, but let the modest fire that he kindled here in Allahabad continue and not die out. This is why visitors are sent with their twigs and wood chips to keep the fire burning.
It is said that those who are dear to the one who is dear to you, become dear to you also. This is true, and we realized this in those early days when we gathered together as Babaji's devotees. Babaji was a well-known saint, and he had a very large number of devotees who constituted the members of his large family. When I was inducted as a new incumbent, I was taken as one of them and promised my share of the accumulated treasures. The share was liberally given, and even now it continues to come although I am staying at home.
Every devotee enjoyed the treasures—the joy and serenity emanating from Babaji. One need not be in his presence for enjoying it. Getting together with devotees, hearing and sharing each other's experiences and remembering Babaji, was enough to give us joy, although we were away from him and did not meet him often. This goes on even now. When devotees meet, we rekindle the love in each other's hearts for our guru, and take our share. So long as the spokes are linked to the nave, the chariot moves.
This is not something exclusive for Babaji's devotees. The same thing happens with the disciples of all great saints. There is much to learn and enjoy when you come in contact with the devotees of Ramana Maharshi or Shri Aurobindo or Ram Thakur. Although the saints took their samadhi many years ago, the devotees keep their gurus alive in their hearts.
Whatever I have received from Baba or receive from him now, I am not very conscious of the breeze entering a room through the open window. But I remember well what I received from his great devotees. A large part of the knowledge or experience I have of Babaji has come from them. Some of them may have doubted how far this can be accepted as true, but so far as I am concerned, I accept and believe it. I could not doubt the authenticity of the experiences which came to some chosen devotees while fully awake. They are as true to me as those which I saw with my own eyes or in which I participated. Some extraneous elements might have been mixed up with the main theme, but that does not mean that they are to be rejected outright. There are always the husks coming with the corn, or the skin with the banana, but you do not throw away the corn or the banana. You separate the substance from the cover before using it. So a true devotee of Babaji knows what is genuine and what is spurious accretion when he hears the experiences of other devotees. He takes what passes his test and leaves the rest. This is how I got the benefit of my satsang with his devotees.
It has been necessary for me to declare the source and authority of the stories narrated in this book. They are true, genuine experiences coming from the worthy disciples of Baba. I treat these devotees as my preceptors and therefore I value their stories so much.
I visited Babaji's ashrams for a couple of years after he took his samadhi. It was during these visits that I realized that I was not fitting in well in the new environment. For some time I could not decide what was to be done. Then I was reminded of what he had said in 1962: "Dada, you stay at home." I did not understand then why he wanted me to do so. The understanding came when my excursions to his ashrams proved to be a failure. After I had stopped visiting the ashrams, some ardent devotees began saying that I had left Baba. When faced with a statement like this, the only reply I could give was, "When did I catch hold of Baba that I could leave him now? I could never catch him, so the question of leaving him does not come. That is the all of it."