Umadutta Shukla 1 Chapter

Neem Karoli Baba Maharaj jiUmadutta Shukla belonged to the first batch of devotees who visited us. These devotees differed from each other in the nature of their association with Babaji and in their understanding of him, but they were all helpful with regard to my understanding and devotion to Babaji at a time when I lacked both.

It is a clear indication that his grace was coming to me from the very beginning that, through them, Babaji linked me to the mainstream of joy and solace from which they were constantly drawing.

The nature and variety of the experiences Shukla derived form his long association with Babaji were different than those of many of the other devotees.

Because of his pliable and accomodating nature, Shukla was able to easily adjust himself to any place or person and he met the whole variety of Babaji's visitors and devotees, both the celebrities and the nondescript ones, from the countryside and from the towns. His deep devotion to Baba inspired in him an interest in all who came and allowed him to learn more from them than the others. In many ways, his understanding of Babaji was richer than most other devotees.  

Out of all Babaji's devotees, I spent the most time with him. We could sit close to each other, on the same ground, and enjoy the intoxication of tavern life to the fullest. Shukla was generous in sharing what he had collected, and he had enough patience to give me the taste of what he had enjoyed. The variety and intensity of his experiences and the depth of his feelings gave me so much, so easily, that I could not miss the experience. He was very dear to everyone in the house, and Ma, Maushi Ma and Didi were as keen to hear him as I was. Shukla, with Tularam and Jivan, form the trio that helped me to join the ranks of Babaji's devotees. Moreover, we would sit together at any time or place in my house or in the ashram.

Shukla excelled among all Babaji's devotees because of his own preparations and his ability to draw on and benefit fron his association with Babaji. The stream is always full and ever flowing, keeping every drop of its water clean and fresh. Many persons come to the stream with their pots and pans to collect water. They have full liberty to draw as much as they like, whenever they like, but people draw different amounts based on the capacity of their pitchers, the intensity of their needs, and their ability to collect and carry. Shukla's thirst, his readiness to fill his vessel, and the fact that the receptacle he carried was very well-suited to the task, qualified him as a disciple worthy of filling his vessel and carrying it to others. I took many draughts from his ever-full vessel.

Shukla was born in a middle-class Brahmin family that had great proficiency in the Shastras and performed their rituals in the orthodox way. The family atmosphere was charged with religious feeling and Shukla was nursed in this environment. His religious education and observances began at the age of five. With all the other family members, he used to get up early in the morning to participate in the worship of Ram and Sita. In the evenings there were also suitable observances. His grandfather was in the habit of starting his japa at four in the morning after his bath and ablutions.

The recitation and reading of the Ramayana and discourses on Gita, Yoga Vashista, and other scriptures, were a regular affair in his house during his boyhood. Living in that atmosphere he not only picked up the abstruse rudiments of high scriptures, but also learned to relish the refreshing and appetising taste of the popular scriptures. After he had completed his fifteenth year, he would massage his father's feet at night, while abstract subjects, such as truth, morality, and faith in spiritual life were communicated to him.

After he married, he and his wife began observing the rituals and religious practices of the family. When his father died soon after his marriage, he had not yet met Babaji. After hearing about Babaji from his maternal uncle in 1945, he had Babaji's darshan several times in his dreams, and five years later he met Babaji face-to-face. Babaji referred to Shukla's dreams when they met for the first time. It was in 1950 that Shukla came to know Babaji and understand that Babaji had known him from much earlier days. One day while he was sitting with Kehar Singh, Tewari, and many others, Babaji pointed toward Shukla and said, "He was my enemy from an earlier life."

Shukla said that his first darshan was so unexpected and unconventional that he could not understand what had prompted Babaji to give that kripa to such an undeserving person like himself. Shukla had a photography business and, one day while he was in his shop, a tonga came and stopped there. Ram Prakash, a devotee of Babaji who was known to Shukla, entered the shop and told him that Babaji was sitting in the tonga and Shukla should invite him to his shop. The request was so unexpected that Shukla rushed out to meet him. Babaji had already gotten down from the tonga, and Shukla requested him to enter the shop. Taking a glance around, Babaji asked Shukla if he would like to take him to his house. Surprise after surprise! All he could do was take him to his home!

While narrating this incident he would be stirred so deeply that, like Jivan, his eyes would fill with tears and he would have to stop in the middle of his narration. Whereas Jivan would end by saying, "He is all in all," Shukla would end with, "Everything is grace, only grace."

Shukla brought Babaji and Ram Prakash to his home. His wife and children, uncle and aunt, all stood before Babaji after their pranams and obeisance. Maharajji had not only accepted their request to take food in their house but had actually asked them to prepare the food before sitting with him as he was so very hungry. Puris, halwa and vegetables were prepared and sweets were purchased from the market. Visitors started coming, and they were all busy talking when Babaji's food was served. All the items were served to him and he did not refuse anything. The devotees who had seen him take food before told Shukla that this was rather unusual for him.

As Babaji was taking his food, he told Shukla that all the guests and relations who were visiting him should also be fed. And so it was done. Before the others finished their food, Babaji left with Ram Prakash in the jeep. It was a great surprise for everyone when the aunt said that she had only enough wheat flour to prepare puris for Babaji and Ram Prakash, but twenty persons had been fed out of that and there were still enough puris left for the householders. Shukla said, "This was the first miracle. Afterwards there were miracles one after another."

Another incident occurred on the very first day on the way to Shukla's house in the tonga. They were crossing the bridge over the Gomati River and Babaji pointed his finger to a place down below and asked Shukla if he recognized it. When Shukla did not reply, he shouted, "Have you forgotten? Have you? It was night. It was dark all around and no traffic was on the road. You were standing by the railing looking at the water down below, trying to guess how deep it was. You were preparing to jump."

Shukla was silent. He could not open his mouth. But Babaji continued, "You wanted to give your life away. It is so very easy to die? Because of some quarrel in your house, you rushed to the river to jump into it. You do things without knowing or understanding or even caring to understand. What a fool you are. Tell me, tell me if I am wrong. Why don't you tell me? Am I saying anything wrong?" Shukla was crying. How could Babaji know? The memory of the whole scene that took place was revealed before Shukla's eyes. With difficulty he replied that he had never talked to anyone about it. Babaji interjected, "Tell me if I am mistaken." Shukla admitted everything and remained silent until they reached his house.

While talking about his incident, Shukla said, "It is worth noticing how things were done, one after another in such quick succession that I had no chance to understand or ask him anything about it. I was just to see them, note them and file them in my mind until some future time when I could recollect and reflect on them, and only then to understand and enjoy. I have learned this from all these years of living with him. I got so much—not only for my immediate use, but also for use afterwards when I could get the full taste of it."

Much later he related the whole story to me. "It was years back. Over the passing years I had crossed the bridge almost every day but the memory of the attempt did not come back to me. I remembered it only when Babaji was pointing out to me the place where I had prepared to jump."

Shukla continued, "I was seventeen years old, married, and in a big family. Father had a cloth shop but it did not do well. There was not enough for the family, to say nothing of the shop's expenses. Accusations and recriminations of one against the other were going on all the time. Because of my age and sensitive nature I was finding this very difficult to tolerate.

I could not do anything to help the family meet its financial needs. I was not qualified for any job, nor could the shop be helpful. It was actually closed down unceremoniously. There were no friends or relations to whom I could confide my desperate situation and seek help or advice, so I had not talked to anyone about it. When Babaji talked about it I was left wondering how could he know when I had not disclosed it to anyone."

"In that state of mind, the only escape I could see was to jump into the Gomati. It had to be at night when it was dark all about, with no traffic on the bridge, so no one could see or prevent me. I reached the bridge at eight at night and was trying to find a suitable place to jump where the water would be deep enough, making it impossible for me to get drowned outright. My fear was that since I knew how to swim, I might try to reach the shore if I did not drown. This was how I speculated and calculated while standing by the railing looking into the river below. Suddenly there was a huge flash of light! There was light on every side, above and below, as if it was dawn and the sun was rising. I had to stop. I raised my head and started trebling, frightened, when I heard some movement on the bridge and feared it might be the policeman on duty. I was afraid that I would be caught and everyone would come to know of my attempted suicide. Coming off the bridge, I walked without knowing what I was to do or where I was to go. It was late at night, and somehow or other I managed to reach home, where I received a hot welcome for being so late."

While talking like this, Shukla narrated his experience with his grandmother in his childhood days. "Mangoes would be purchased and brought home and we would rush for them. She would not give us any and instead, put them safely away. If we insisted, she would give us a piece to taste so we could see that they were not sweet, but she assured us that we would have them later. And when it was time, we were given all of them. How sweet they were! While we were eating them with satisfaction written on our faces, she inquired with all indulgence how we liked them. She was satisfied. Her work was done and she left us with the advice, 'Everything gets ready at its own time. You must always have patience. You cannot accomplish all your work to full satisfaction when you are in a hurry.' Wise advice it was. I did not understand then, but now I see what she meant. And also now I understand why she was hard in the beginning: she wanted to give us the taste of mango, which comes only when it is ripe and given time to mature."

Shukla said that from his experience on the first day, he realized that Baba knew everything about us, whether we told him or not, and therefore it was futile to attempt to hide anything from him. The second lesson of that day was that Babaji is always kind and gracious. You do not have to ask for anything; it will come to you when it is really needed. And the last lesson, taught to him by the first miracle, was that nothing was beyond Babaji's power, however impossible or unthinkable it might appear to us. To feed twenty and have enough left for many more out of provisions for two was a full demonstration!

I told him that we had had that same experience: Didi handed Babaji bunch after bunch of chapatis from her small pan which only held twenty-five or forty pieces. Hundreds of people got their quota from his hand, and the pan was still full. Shukla referred to the experience of the disciples of Jesus and how the master fed four thousand people out of seven loaves on the coast of the sea of Galilee.

The second time that Babaji visited Shukla's house, he was taken to sit on a newly constructed verandah with Kehar Singh, Tweari and two other devotees. The verandah was narrow, and taking his seat he said that he would be trapped there and unable to move. Shukla's eldest daughter came and bowed at his feet. She was preparing for her high school examination. Babaji asked her to bring her English textbook. Taking it from her hand he opened a page and asked her to read it to him. This was repeated three times with three different pages. Nobody understood this at the time, but when she took her exam, the questions were on the topics which she had been made to read before Babaji. Her knowledge of English was poor, and she feared she would fail because of that. How did Babaji know, was the question she asked her father. Shukla said that this demonstrated that nothing escaped his notice—even such a minor thing as the fear of a girl for her examination.

From the beginning, Shukla visited the houses of Babaji's devotees in Lucknow with him, and then in Kanpur, Barabanki, Sitapur and other nearby towns. While at Lucknow he would spend hours with Babaji, attending to his personal service—bath and toilet and such other things. He also came to learn day-by-day that if he wanted to move with Babaji, he should always be ready to do so. There was not much to prepare—food, bed, transport and ticket would all be ready. These lessons he learned early. There were many differences between him and Jivan, but there was one thing in common: both of them were ready to move whenever the order came.

Shukla accompanied Babaji in his journeys to distant places, both in the mountains and the plains. He was already known to some of the devotees around Lucknow, but his circle went on expanding until he came to know all the eminent devotees. There was so much to learn and enjoy. This was an opportunity for the newcomer to benefit from the association with old devotees.

There were certain lessons that had to be taught and certain habits that had to be changed before Shukla could accompany Babaji to distant places among unknown people. The first thing was that the japa and prayers to which he had been acccustomed must not be neglected or given up at any cost. However busy he might be, he must set himself free for his japa and puja at the appropriate times. Even in unknown houses full of strangers, he had to find a suitable place to do his puja in peace. He was taught never to give up this routine.

Another lesson was given one night when he was sitting with Babaji before the Hanuman temple at Aliganj. All the other devotees had been sent away and the priest of the temple brought Babaji a big glass of milk with cream and a roti. He took the roti and the milk, but after taking a couple of sips from the glass he passed it to Shukla to drink. This created a dilemma. Shukla took it in his hand, but could not put it to his mouth to drink. He had never taken food that had been eaten by anyone else nor had he ever drunk from a glass from which someone had sipped. To a Brahmin, this was jhuta (impure), and he could not think of drinking it. Babaji was not an exception, and the milk given to Shukla had become impure. Babaji knew what was going on in his mind, and he repeated, "Drink it." So Shukla had to drink it, thereby crossing the stream that had been keeping him from accepting that Babaji was more than just a human being to him.

In this connection I am reminded of my own dilemma with the glass of milk in Bhumiadhar in 1966. The milk came to Shukla from Babaji, and was fresh and warm. It had come to me from a shilpakar, an outcast, and was stale and cold. For Shukla, it came straight from Babaji's hand as prasad for him to drink, while for me it came first from the hand of the shilpakar, and was not prasad when it first came to my hand. It was clean and shining for Shukla, but for me the very unclean glass was covered with a piece of cloth that had not touched any water for its whole life. For Shukla, what was given was already prasad, but for me it only became prasad after Babaji took it from my hand before I could touch it with my mouth. He himself took two sips, saying, "Dada, drink it, drink it. This is nectar, nectar, not milk." It was given to Shukla in the darkness of the night with no one else to see, whereas for me it came in broad daylight with many eyes gazing.

The only comment I can make, and repeat times without number, is that such graces were not earmarked for Shukla or myself alone, but were for all who came to him. Many have drunk without knowing what was coming or without hesitation after knowing and, of course, there have been many who have missed because they refused to drink or eat what they considered to be jhuta. Shukla relished his rich glass of milk, which satisfied his stomach. Moreover, it removed the erroneous boundaries in his life about Baba's rightful place in all his prayers and pujas. I drank it, but my relish did not come from the milk, of which I was not fond. Nor was I hungry. I got the full relish from the nectar.

After the time spent with the devotees of Lucknow, Kanpur, and other towns on the plains, and completing the necessary training for further journeys, Shukla went on his first major journey to the hills with Babaji, to Hanumanghar at Nainital. With the completion of the Hanumanghar temple, Nainital had become the first important center for the devotees. Before Hanumanghar, there was no place where the devotees could benefit from visiting Babaji and spending some time with him. He had always been on the move, living the life of a perpetual itinerant, not staying at any one place and without any certainty of when he would visit. Bees need a hive. They may collect the honey from flowers in many different gardens, but without a hive in which to deposit the honey, there would not be any for others to use.

In the same way that traders had a market center in order to operate in the hills, Hanumanghar came to be a center for the satsang of devotees who would come from distant places to exchange their experiences and impressions. Shukla had already been initiated into such sittings, and his very soft and gentle nature made him a favorite with every one of Babaji's devotees. Because of his deep devotion to Babaji, his being open to everyone, and his high adaptability, he was able to earn a rich and varied experience not available to others. We drew heavily from this and derived so much benefit that would not have been available otherwise.

Shukla said that Babaji was well known in those areas not only among the devotees who visited him, but also among the sadhus who resided in those mountains. It was from Shukla that we learned more about Hariakhan Baba and Sombar Giri Baba and Babaji's relationship with them. Shukla was deeply interested in such matters and collected from many persons who had memories or experiences of those saints. Shukla said that some of them believed that Babaji himself was the old Hariakhan Baba. When the objection was made that there were so many differences between them, they said, "It is so very easy for them to change from one baba to another by changing their dress. Nobody can say for how long he has been here or how many times he has changed his dress."

Shukla said there was no question of arguing. Hubbaji, as well as several others, had told us that Hariakhan Baba and Babaji were one and the same. Hubbaji's advice in such matters was very practical: "We cannot verify this from anyone nor can we refute this with full confidence, so if you cannot forget it, then believe in it. How much do we know about the great saints that we could come forward with a decisive judgment? Babaji himself has not opposed these talks. He has kept silent, only saying, 'They (the saints) can do anything and everything.' This has also been my experience while sitting with him or hearing him talk about the saints over the years."

Haridas, with his band of enthusiastic and active associates, was managing the affairs of the temples and ashram at Hanumanghar. He was well-versed in pujas and rituals, as well as in pranayam and meditation, and an experienced practitioner of hatha yoga. Along with the puja and decorations of the murtis, and arranging for the day-to-day management of the ashram, he also looked after the devotees who came there. When some of them began staying there, his work increased. Those staying there were sometimes tuaght the preliminaries of yoga, especially hatha yoga. Ram Dass stayed there in 1967 and Lawrie in 1964, among others.

Haridas was also very active in building the Kainchi temples and purchasing materials for them. His associates, mostly from Nainital, were his friends and companions, so it was not difficult for him to mobilize them for the work in the temples. Some of them were so attached to him that they parted from Babaji when Haridas left in 1968. The work in the ashrams ran smoothly under Haridas's leadership, with the full coooperation of his associates. However, his personal ambitions and the aspiriations of his associates led to the decline of his power and appeal and disarray in the working of the ashrams.

From his very first visit to Hanumanghar, Shukla became a friend of Haridas and his associates and learned much from their experiences. Shukla talked with great enthusiasm of his experiences there in the early days with Haridas and the ashram, but he was not interested in the later developments and kept aloof from them. He was too devoted to Babaji to misunderstand any of his actions or purposes. Such faith has been rare among the devotees so far as I know.

During his first visit to Hanumanghar, Shukla spent about three weeks participating in the working of the ashram along with Haridas. When Babaji reached there the streams of visitors kept rising. Prasad was given to one and all, not merely as a token of sanctity, but as food. People have to be fed while sitting down and not driven away while putting a small packet of prasad in their hands. The bhandara started and feeding was going on all the day long. This was Shukla's first experience of bhandara.

Shukla had a great knowledge of scriptures, especially of the Ramcharitmanas, the Ramayana of Tulsi Das, and in poetical language gave us a vivid description of the first bhandara, comparing it to the hordes of monkeys and bears who rushed and ran in all directions collecting the materials to build the bridge over the ocean. While the construction across the sea was going on, Ram was sitting on the shore as a spectator. It was the same thing at the bhandara. The large number of visitors waiting to be fed was like the turbulent sea which had to be crossed over. The energetic workers under Haridas' leadership kept the bhandara going on without interruption. There was movement all around, no one was sitting or standing idle, but Babaji sat in one remote corner as if unconcerned with everything that was going on around him.

Shukla was a highly religious person, and his very sensitive mind and observant eyes made him conscious of his duty toward the temple and ashrams. He would participate in all the activities, rather than sitting with Babaji or talking to the devotees. He would carry Babaji's bucket of water and lota for his toilet, procure a dhoti for his bath, open the temple doors, and sometimes help Haridas in his work, just as he was accustomed to doing in his own home in Lucknow. And when the bhandara started he was busy the whole time. For days together he would not get any time to sleep. Babaji used to observe this and sometimes late at night he would ask him to sleep in a corner of his own room. Babaji himself did not sleep, but he was conscious of Shukla's need.

Undergoing hardships while serving the master with love and devotion do not pass unnoticed, and bring their own reward. This was Shukla's experience again and again in many trying times. He might tolerate some discomfort smilingly, but it would not escape Babaji's vigilant eyes. Shukla liked to say while narrating these episodes to me, "Dada, he is so very kind and so conscious about us that there is no need for anyone to acquaint him of anything or ask anything from him." He often would find it difficult to speak. The high emotional pitch to which he was raised when talking of these incidents would choke his voice and bring tears to his eyes, like his counterpart Jivan.

As they traveled together, Babaji took care to encourage Shukla's high religious temperament. Most important for Shukla was to be with Babaji; the second was to visit the temples, ashrams, sacred places and have the darshan of holy men. Shukla said, "While visiting the temples in Benares, Vindhyachal or other places, Babaji himself might not enter the temple, but he would visit them because it was necessary for me to go there. This was also the case with taking baths in the sacred places. He himself would not take his bath, but he would make me take mine. This was necessary for my purification, but not so for him, who is himself all purity."

Many people who did not understand Babaji accused him of not behaving in the way that was ordained for the life of a sadhu. Once someone spoke to him like this, thinking that Babaji would refute it, but he was disappointed. Babaji said, "He has spoken correctly. I am not a sadhu, nor do I know what a saint is. But what is wrong with that?"

Shukla had very deep feelings about the responsibility for the care of the murtis in the temples. Haridas used to do this work every day before he would start for his office. One morning Haridas came to Shukla's room and told him that when he had tried to open the door of Ram's temple, it would not open. He tried three times before it opened, and when it did, his own force threw him on the ground and he hurt himself. He came to ask Shukla to help him with his work.

While Haridas was worrying about his painful experience, he asked Shukla what it could mean. Shukla asked if he had left the murtis of Ram and Sita standing or if he put them in their beds before closing the temple door. Haridas said that every night the murtis were laid on their bed. Now Shukla had his clue. He said, "In the night you put Ram and Sita on their beds. So in the morning you have to wake them up by knocking at their door; when they are ready, the door is opened. You did not do this, therefore the door did not open and your attempts to force it open were returned with your fall. Today's lesson was given with a bang, so you won't forget it." Shukla said that it was the rule for every pujari who attended the temples, that before opening the door one has to take permission from the murtis inside. He said it was his grandfather's standing instruction that it was necessary to treat temple murtis as living beings.

While the bhandara was going on, Babaji would encourage everyone to go on with their work even if they could not find time to sit with him. One day, Babaji asked Shukla to go to the wife of Dan Singh Bisht and ask for her car. Shukla said, "In order that she will realize that I need the car for you and not for me, I shall have to talk to her about you and say you are here."

Babaji then laughingly replied, "You are very intelligent, I did not think of this problem, how did you think of it? But what is to be done now? I have to go." While standing there enjoying his talk, another car arrived. There was no one else in the car and Babaji got into it and drove away. Shukla said no one had known what his problem was nor how it was solved, but he could come and go as was necessary. This was how his work went on.

When Babaji returned, they went to Bhumiadhar. At that time there was only a Hanumanji temple on the roadside with one room attached to it, and no one was there. The room was very dirty and not suitable for living. Babaji asked Shukla if he had ten rupees in his pocket. When he took it out, Babaji pointed to the man standing nearby and asked Shukla to give the money to him to clean the room for their use. It was done accordingly. Many persons stayed for the night, squeezing themselves in that one room.

While sitting there, many visitors came who had known Babaji for many years. Among them there were members of the Shah family who were well-known in that area. The old lady from the house brought food. The bhandara was started there in a couple of days and many persons were fed, but Babaji's food continued to come from the old lady—the mother, as he called her.

While at Bhumiadhar they would go around to different places. It was in the course of these wanderings that one day they came to a place by the river and Babaji sat on a stone slab under a tree. The place later developed into a big ashram with many temples, the well-known Kainchi ashram of today.

The bhandara was going on, and Shukla had little time for his routine—japa and prayer. One day while doing his japa with Gayatri mantra, Babaji shouted for him. He was late by a few minutes as he had to complete his quote of japa. Babaji asked him where he had been. If he had come without delay, he could have met a great American saint known as Baba Ram Dass. "You love to be busy with your rosary. How can you have darshan of a saint?" Shukla said, "At Lucknow I had hesitated to drink the milk after he had sipped it. From this I learned that nothing could be profane for me when it comes from Babaji. The lesson I learned at Bhumiadhar was that one must obey implicitly, without wasting any time or caring for your other work, even your prayer and japa. Once I learned to obey at the cost of everything else, all was made easy for me. There would always be time for my japa without going through any more tests of my obedience to him."

Throughout the years Shukla spent with Babaji and his devotees, he benefited much from his sadhana of puja and japa, and service to the temples and deities. Shukla was sincere and did not betray the trust of his grandfather who had been his first teacher. Babaji was a strict guardian of the rituals and religious practices followed by any family, and took care that Shukla continued to go through his sadhana, with the necessary changes that might be needed under new and different conditions. There was much to do and more to learn before his sadhana could be brought to fruition. Babaji steered him through it and made it easier for him to face any difficulties in his way.

They spent several days in Bhumiadhar. The temple of Bhumiadhar became a nucleus for maintaining contact and granting assistance to the people of that area. Babaji knew these people and their problems very well. He had spent many nights out on the road and in the culverts there. 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, the lowest caste people of the area. They lived the life of poor, God-forsaken people.

The number of visitors went on increasing every day, but there was no drawing room or hall in which Babaji could give darshan to the people. When he ws giving darshan, there were many shilpakars who would not enter his room where the so-called high class people were. How could they meet such a 'Great' Baba to whom big, important people were always coming?

Fearing to enter, they would be waiting on the road with high expectations. Babaji himself would go out and sit on the open road, where there was no one to prevent the shilpakars from approaching him. They were not wise enough to know that Babas are to be approached for religious and spiritual instructions on enlightenment; their lives were not lived on that height. They would ask for relief from the sufferings of hunger and starvation, and Babaji did not fail them. The bhandara that was started was specially for helping these people. The help took various forms: grants of money, clothes, medicine, and such other things. But the highest benefit for them was the confidence that they could acquaint Babaji with their woes and seek help and redress from him. They had been disowned by everyone around, and here they found someone whom they could approach.

The work at Kainchi was begun around this time. The jungle was cleared, boulders removed and the ground levelled. A wooden bridge was laid over the stream. This was the beginning of bringing together people from different countries, Indians and westerners, high and low, rich and poor, ignorant and enlightened. As long as people stayed with him, all the differences that keep them apart would disappear. But even after his samadhi, love for Babaji has kept alive that feeling of goodwill among his devotees.

The environment that was created at Kainchi was a suitable demonstration of the work that was uppermost in his mind. His aim was to bring people together, to live in a happy family, based on mutual understanding and good will for one another, in an atmosphere free from fear and worry. For him this was the very basis of one's sadhana, a sadhana of higher moral and spiritual life for the householder. The family was to be a miniature unit of what he was aiming for at Kainchi.

Shukla said that while everyone was busy with the clearing and construction work, Babaji would sit somewhere in the open or on the wooden bridge and meet everyone who came to him. The temples, ashrams and all the structures were there for the people to visit, participate in and share in the functions and celebrations. There cannot be any real celebration in the name of God if anyone is kept away. In order to benefit the people, real religion must not be one confined to the temple and its buildings, but must reach the life of the people.

While everyone was busy with the building of the temple and laying the rules of its management, Babaji was engaged in carrying the spirit of religion to the life of the people: the love of God, devotion to duty, service to elders, care of the young, purity of body and mind and helping everyone in distress. No visits to temples, pouring of sermons into the ear, or the framing of flawless rules of discipline for a noble life could bring the transformation that the contact and care of the master can bring. This is what Babaji was doing for the devotees, whether in ashrams, houses or on the streets. He allowed the people to be with him, helped to open their hearts and relaced their tears of pain with tears of joy.

Shukla visited all kinds of places with Babaji and met all kinds of people. Here is where the experiences of Jivan and Shukla differ. Both of the were with Babaji for long periods and observed him from close quarters, but both had their own ways of looking at things and had opinions based on their observations. The most important thing that struck Shukla was that Babaji was open to all. He would help whoever came to him without any hesitation or discrimination. His help may have appeared different to many persons, who accused him of partiality or indifference, but they forgot that the same diet is not served to the healthy and the sick, nor are clothes made in one size to fit all. Here Jivan would not agree. He would try to avoid sitting in the drawing rooms of the elite and the celebrated with Babaji. He believed that in those congregations Babaji was not actually himself and did not make himself fully open; it was as if he were wearing a mask.

Shukla did not suffer from any such allergy. He would be as eager to sit with Babaji in the drawing rooms of the rich as in the huts of the poor. It might be anywhere or meeting with any person, but it made no difference because his aim was primarily to be with Babaji. Shukla said that when the environment, the persons and their problems are so very different, how could Babaji's behavior be the same with everyone all the time? That would be unresponsive, and he would then need a mask to maintain the same uniform face or behavior. Water turns into vapor when in contact with heat, but the same water is frozen into ice in the presence of cold. It is absurd to expect that water should be the same under the most extreme conditions. However, much of our interest in satsang was to hear the same thing over and over from different mouths, with their accompanying comments and conclusions. The aim was not to arrive at any common conclusion acceptable to all, but to enjoy the narrations and their repetitions.

Shukla was the head and sole support of a large family—his wife, seven children and some old relations—but he had no secure source of income. The family cloth business was gone; he had opened a photographic shop, but the income from it was barely enough to support a modest lifestyle. There was no way to earn more by expanding his business because his nature and temperament were far removed from that kind of thinking. From his early boyhood his training had been for the religious life of meditation and spiritual aspiration, rather than that of a successful businessman. The family created many difficulties for him and he was always trying to steer clear of open discord with them.

Shukla's family members knew that plenty and prosperity were not for them with Shukla as the head and the sole earner. His family actually lived on each day's income, which was never secure or adequate. He was a misfit in business life, but there was no alternative open to him. He had to bear with all the difficulties and continue working to earn even that very modest income. On the other hand, his spiritual life could not be ignored. Any attempt to restrict or redirect it would be like allowing a growing plant to wither away before your eyes. So Babaji had to guard it.

Babaji's help was always forthcoming when a crisis point was reached. Arranging his eldest daughter's marriage was a very big problem for Shukla. He had no money of his own, nor was it to come from any of his relations. It all came from Babaji, through his devotees. The second daughter, who was also of age, had to be married. Here, the boy had to be selected from the appropriate family, settlement had to be made and expenses financed, none of which Shukla could do by himself. Babji again helped him at every stage, bringing about the completion of the marriage.

Evern with responsibility for the family on his shoulders. Shukla thought more of monastic life than business, and Babaji did not disappoint him. He gave him the full taste of the mendicant's life. He went on pilgrimage, visited temples and sacred places, performed rituals, and made the necessary offerings and observances as enjoined by the age-old practices. He received the highest blessings of religious life that were available to few of his status and rank.

In 1960 Shukla went on his first real pilgrimage with Babaji to Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, Gomukha, Hardwar, and Rishikesh. All the expenses and arrangements for the journey were for Babaji to arrange and bother with. But the problem remained of managing the household that was to be left behind. From where was the money to come to meet the family's expenses while he was gone? This was the most difficult problem for the new pilgrim to tackle. The upward push that had built up with much planning and preparation over the years, might be negated by the downward pull of the interest of the family. Because of this pull, a large majority of persons can never go on such journeys, in spite of any planning or preparation. There was no such problem for Tularam or Jivan, who accompanied Baba on many such journeys, but Shukla's case was different. Babaji's help was needed so that Shukla could accompany him as easily as Jivan.

The arrangement that Shukla made was that the shop would be opened regularly in his absence, the work would be done by the man working there as before, and the daily income from the shop would be given to Shukla's wife. No other arrangement or changes were needed, and Shukla was able to move with confidence. Shukla took with him just a few rupees that he had borrowed from someone.

They already had gone to various places when they reached Badrinath. Shukla had been holding on tightly to the few rupees in his pocket in case of an emergency, but Babaji came in his way. He asked Shukla to perform the Shraddha ceremony for his ancestors on the Brahmakapal site at Badrinath. It is believed that if the Shraddha ceremony for the parents is performed at Gaya it will bring tripta (satisfaction), but if performed at Badrinath it will bring moksha, deliverance. Shukla was not anxious to perform the ceremony because he would be spent if he performed it. However much Shukla resisted, Babaji forced him to do it.

Shukla returned after the ceremony with all his money spent. He was feeling hungry, but he no longer had any money to purchase his food. When he reached Babaji, who was far away from the place Shukla had gone, he found that Babaji was just beginning to take his food. Babaji took a little out of it and passed on the whole of it to him, saying, "Eat up. You are dying for it. You are always thinking of your own food, but never of others. All the people in your house are starving, but you don't care. You want only your food. Eat this, you wretch."

Babaji's food had been brought by Usha Didi, who felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to cook for and feed Babaji, especially since Babaji himself had asked her to do it. The day before, Babaji had sent someone to tell Usha that he was remembering her. When she came before Baba he asked her, "Would you feed me roti tonight? If you agree to do so, then bring it for me here in the evening."

The rest of the story we got from Usha. She said she prepared the food herself and in the evening she left to bring it to Babaji. When she reached the place where she had met Babaji earlier, he was not there. She searched at several places and then was told that he was sitting by the bank of the river, some distance through the forest. It was already dusk and not safe. "But I did not look at it from that point of view. I was only thinking that he had asked me to bring his food, so he must be waiting. Whatever happened, I had to reach him with the food in my hand."

The journey was difficult. It was dark in the forest and several dogs pursued her. She felt it was a trial that she must go through. When she reached Babaji, the greeting that she got made her forget what she had been thinking only a few minutes back about her trial and test. Now she was before him, and he said to her, "Have you brought my food? I was watching the road for your coming. I have come away to such a distant place, it must have been difficult for you to reach here." The food was placed before him. He examined it. What were the things prepared? How many chapatis? Then he distributed some prasad out of it and took his own food. "The food is cooked so well. I have eaten plenty. Will you feed me tomorrow also?"

Shukla took the food; he was hungry and it came from Babaji. But much of the zest was gone because of Babaji's remark. He could not put the food in his mouth, but sat motionless, lost in thought. He saw before him what had been hidden in his mind: the fear that his family would starve. He had left the house without any stock of food or money with which to purchase it. His family had to rely on the money coming from the shop's daily earnings. Sometimes it was just a trickle and not enough to feed the family for the day. This must have been what Babaji was hinting at.

Babaji himself was also silent, as if patiently waiting for something. Shukla said he could not remember how much time had gone by when Babaji said, "Now eat your food. What do you need to do for others? You only look out for yourself. The Mother has made all the necessary arrangements."

Shukla said, "When I heard him, I actually woke up and was more or less convinced that my fear had been true; there had been no food at home, but now relief had come for them. I was sure that I was not mistaken. My tears had not found a way to come out for so long, but they could not be checked anymore. He only glanced at me and kept silent. I was given time to recover, but I was not looking at my food anymore. I was only looking at him." It was at a sitting late at night in Allahabad, while narrating this story at a high emotional pitch, that Shukla said, "He is gracious, but that is not all. It is not necessary for me to know, but he is always busy working for his devotees."

I had learned not to interrupt or contradict Shukla when he talked about Baba and his devotees. All the devotees who came to Baba were good, but everyone was not treated alike by everyone else. The special care that Shukla received from others was much due to his own treatment of them. Everyone could see how deep was his love for Baba. His submission to him and to his wishes was more or less complete, and was unequalled in many other devotees.

After returning home from his visit to Badrinath, Shukla asked his wife about their problems when he had been away and how they had managed them. Her reply was, "For two days we had no money from the shop and there was no food in the house for the children to eat." When Shukla inquired as to how she managed to feed the children, her reply was, "Everything was done by Babaji. Babaji was with you far away, but he knew what was going on with us here. So he arranged for us when we had nothing at home."

The shop manager would come at night with the key of the shop and the money earned from the day's sales. This went on for some days. One night the shop manager came with the key but with no money, as there had been no income that day. It was Saturday. The next day was Sunday and the shop was closed, so they had no money for two consecutive days. They were able to manage on Saturday, but nothing was left for the next day. There was nothing that Shukla's wife could do, so after she had finished her bath, she sat in the puja room and looked at the picture of Babaji's feet on the puja table. While offering her flowers, she said to him, "You know everything. I have nothing to say. So whatever is to be done, you do it. I shall sit here with you."

Shukla said his wife was actually greater in her devotion and faith than he was himself. The picture on her puja table had been placed there a few days after Babaji's first visit to the house. While doing her regular japa and puja she would put flowers at his feet. Babaji had been in her puja room several times and had seen the picture. Once he commented to her, "You worship it every day and offer flowers to it." Now, since there was no food, she was sitting in her puja room and staring at the picture when she should have been in the kitchen cooking. It was already very late. The children were feeling restless, and she came out to find that all the provisions needed for cooking were already there; rice, atta, and dal. While she had been busy in her puja room, Babaji had been busy making arrangements.

She found out how the food had come. They had a Kashmiri family as their neighbor. The old lady of the house used to visit every day and loved them very much. She had come for her visit that day but Shukla's wife was not in the kitchen, nor had the fire been lit in the oven. It took her no time to understand the predicament: with nothing to do in the kitchen, she was sitting with Baba. The Kashmiri lady brought the provisions and then returned home. When Shukla's wife saw the food, one of the children said, "This had been brought by the grandmother. You were in your puja room so she did not meet you."

Shukla asked his wife if she remembered the date and time when all this had happened. She said how could she not remember it? "It was the day that Babaji revealed himself here. He was present in person. This is the Babaji whom I worship." It was exactly the same time as noted by Shukla at Badrinath.

Shukla said, "Now we can see for ourselves how deep and unique is her faith in Baba. She was satisfied with his picture, taking him to be all in all. Whereas we cannot see him unless we are with his body, and therefore we are always running for it. She has actually got the real devotion; ours is nothing compared to hers."

Shukla had finished his narration and become silent. While we were talking, a few others had come and taken their seats, as if trying to extract for themselves what had been served by Shukla. The discussion continued for a long time, and centered around Baba's immediate response and the showering of his grace, even though the prayer was made to his picture while he was many miles away. For someone doing the same thing halfheartedly or to test his powers, as Babaji used to say, the prayer would not enter into the ears of Baba through his picture. But the prayer of Shukla's wife was the prayer of someone very rare, a sharanagath, one who has truly taken refuge in him. When a match stick is dry it will produce light when struck on the match box, but a moist match stick produces no light. If one could develop the feeling of sharanagata (dedication), then there would be no need to run after Babaji. One could rest with him in full confidence and not miss him.

While we were talking in this way, I related a case which was along the same line about a dedicated disciple, Deben De, a railway pointsman from an obscure place, and his ever gracious and alert master, Ram Thakur. It happened in the 1940s, two decades before the experience of Shukla's wife.

Ram Thakur had come to a small town in Feni in East Bengal (now Bangladesh) and inquired about an old devotee who was working in the railway, but no one there knew him. A certain person helped identify the devotee as Deben De. Thakurji asked his host to send for Deben De, who was posted at that time in a small station about twenty miles away. When Deben was told that Thakur wanted to meet him, Deben replied that he had no work with Thakur so it was not necessary for him to go, but if Thakur had any work of his own with him, Thakur could come to him.

Everyone was so amazed that they could not speak. They were thinking, "What a darshan! What a faith!" Outwardly, Deben De was unknown and appeared insignificant, but within himself he owned that precious jewel which was beyond the reach of the most high who came to Thakur.

Hearing the message, Thakur asked his host to inform Deben that he himself would visit Deben. The next day Thakur started by train with some devotees for Deben's house. When they reached there after two hours journey, a large number had already assembled before the house. Thakur was inside. On one side of the room, the east side, there was the cot for Thakur on which he sat, and on the opposite side of the room was the puja table with a big picture of Thakur. Deben's wife was sitting and offering to the picture the prasad that the devotees were bringing.

Deben, who had been busy moving about, sat down before the picture to report something that was causing him trouble. He was not going to Thakur, who was sitting on the cot in his body, but to the picture before him. The crowd had already swelled to a thousand, and more were coming. Everyone was carrying something in their hands, rice or dal, vegetables, gur and milk, all for Thakur's bhandara. Food had to be cooked and many had to be fed, but how this was to be done was Deben's problem. So he sat before the picture.

When he had given mantra to Deben and his wife, Thakur himself had given them the picture and asked that it be installed in their home. Whatever puja or prayers Deben offered to the picture, Thakur said would reach him directly. Moreover, if Deben had to ask for anything or communicate with Thakur at any time, he could do that through the picture. It was as good as personal contact. Since then, Deben and his wife had been doing that. More than a decade had passed, but their faith and reliance on the picture had not changed.

Thakur used to visit the town and adjoining areas in the company of many of his devotees. Deben would be informed of the visits by his fellow devotees, but seldom would he participate in celebrations. His plea was that it was not necessary, a mere duplication. When Thakur himself had said that he was always in the picture in his house, how could he do otherwise? It would mean that he disbelieved his guru, the greatest crime a devotee can commit. Everything was so very simple and clear for him that he had no problem with his sadhana. Thakur was always with him to give him guidance.

While Deben's wife was sitting before the picture offering the prasad to it and Deben was appealing to the picture to tell him what was to be done about the cooking, someone told Deben that there were two persons waiting outside who had been sent to prepare prasad for the bhandara. Nobody thought to ask them wherefrom they had come, or who had sent them. All those questions vanished from their minds, and everyone came forward to help in the work. It saved Deben from the restlessness that was disturbing him. "Thakur has taken charge. There is nothing I need to do for the bhandara." So Deben got busy talking, meeting, hearing everyone, and spent very little time with Thakur or with the picture in the room.

People started taking their prasad and came forward to serve as soon as they had finished, keeping everyone busy. But there were two who had not moved; Thakur could not leave his bed, and Deben's wife could not leave Thakur's picture. Since Thakur had not yet taken any food, some devotees thought he should be fed. They went out and returned with some bananas and a glass of milk. Thakur started belching and yawning. He said that he had no space for it in his body, as he had been eating all the time. He belched again to testify to his statement.

The bhandara was over and everyone had been fed. They all returned home talking of Thakur's bhandara. While everyone was leaving, Deben remembered the two persons who had done the cooking, but they were not to be found. Deben was told that after the cooking was finished, they had gone away, nor had they eaten. Someone reported this to Thakur, but all he said was that they had nothing to worry about; the person who had sent them would look after them.

When everything was over and only a few people remained, Thakur got up from his bed, ready to leave for the station. Deben was standing behind those who were waiting on the platform. Calling one devotee, Thakur said, "Deben has not yet eaten anything. You should feed Deben and his wife."

The one thing that the old devotees who attended to Thakur year-round had learned from Deban and his wife was that true devotion and selfless dedication can accomplish anything. It can turn a picture of the master into the living guru and can make the master do whatever the devotee asks of him. Deben and his wife proved the most powerful examples of what shraddha (faith) and bhakti (devotion) can make the master do.

It was actually Babaji who first made me hear the name and greatness of Ram Thakur. "Ram Thakur was a great saint, a great saint. You have not heard his name. He took his samadhi very recently, in 1949. But it is very difficult to know anything about him. His devotees often tried to write about him, but he did not allow that. Now his devotees write their own experiences about him. But how much will they be able to write? No saint talks about himself."

These words apply to Babaji equally well. In this matter they were of the same mold and their lives and methods of work have also been similar. The writings that have come to us about Ram Thakur from his nearest and most trusted devotees help us a great deal to understand the meanings of some of the mysteries that are associated with our Babaji and have eluded us all these years.

Shukla accompanied Babaji to most of the major places of pilgrimage in the mountains, visiting some of them several times. While he was at Badrinath, Babaji asked him to visit Allahabad in the winter. "Mukerjee Dada is there. He is actually Udhav, and his wife, Kamala, is a great devotee who serves everyone visiting them." That winter, Tularam came earlier than Shukla and narrated his own experiences with Babaji in Badrinath. He started addressing me as Udhav. When I asked him not to nickname me, he said that it had actually been done by Babaji himself. Shukla confirmed this when he came to Allahabad that winter.

When Shukla came to Allahabad for the first time in December 1960, Babaji was already there with Tularam, Siddhi and many others. They were all known to Shukla and he was taken as one of them. We had already heard about him and it took no time to make him one of our own. The pattern of our daily routine had settled. Babaji would be in the house most of the time. Sometimes he would visit someone in the city and return home. In the afternoon, Didi would go to her college and I would go to the University, returning by three. Shukla, Jivan, Tularam and many others would be in the house and would attend to everything in our absence. No one was an outsider. It was actually a real joint family in the making, and it became big and vast with the arrival of the western devotees who had been inspired by Ram Dass. The 'joints' in one's own family might be getting loose, but in Babaji's family the 'joints' were becoming stronger, at least while he was there to preside over it.

After Babaji had retired to his room and bolted the door, we would have our food and would be free to sit together in our satsang, usually at about eleven at night. The beds were laid in the hall for the male devotees staying in the house, and we would sit on them, spending at least two hours talking. Sometimes Babaji would come out, peep into our room and then sit with us. This was our center where all could enjoy the sharing with each other. It started humbly, with only a few persons, but developed into the nucleus of our gatherings. Everyone had so much to relate. As a new entrant I was treated with much consideration and everyone generously shared with me what they possessed.

In Kainchi, there were so many new ones who were keen to hear as well as to relate their own experiences that we used to sit until pretty late at night, up to two or three. Babaji was in the front part of the ashram and we were far from him in the back, but he knew everything about our sittings. In the morning, sometimes he would say to Shiva Singh, "You were sitting up until twelve at night. What was Dada saying? Why did you not go to sleep? He does not have any mercy for you. People who have worked for the whole day should be allowed to sleep. But it is not so with him. He will catch hold of people and make them hear him whether they like it or not. But I am not like you. I tell him straight. Whenever he starts talking before me I tell him, 'When you do not have your brain, what could you say?' So I stop him outright." Shiva Singh used to enjoy all this. He was a very jolly person, simple and unassuming with great respect for Babaji and his elder devotees. While narrating these talks with Baba, he used to say, "Dada, we enjoy it from both sides, from you at night and from Babaji with his commentary complete with full gestures the next morning."

These sittings continued as long as Babaji was in his body, but became a rare affair after his samadhi. While the sittings with Indian devotees came to be few and far between, those with his western devotees grew into a regular affair. I benefitted in no small measure from my association with them. Tularam had died in 1962, leaving a vacuum in our satsang sittings, but Jivan and Shukla tried their utmost to keep it going.

Shukla was very regular in his visits to Allahabad, not only in the winter months during Babaji's stay here, but also sometimes in between. We became very close to each other and agreed on many things in our interpretation of Babaji's lilas, as Shukla used to call them. "Dada, there is nothing to understand. One has only to see, to hear and to enjoy. There is so much grace; everything comes to us of its own. We do not have to go anywhere or ask anyone, nor make any effort. Such is our Baba for us all."

It used to be a difficult problem to sit with Shukla when he started talking like this. He would forget everything and not look at anyone. His mouth was busy keeping the passage open for the flow that surged through his heart. His eyes would be full of tears as if giving his feelings an outlet. I would only keep silent, enjoying the glory and bliss of his talks, because he was actually quoting Babaji in his own words. Like a very busy bee he collected so much honey, and along with others, I enjoyed much of it.

Shukla would sometimes send pictures of Babaji to me, and pictures of Hanumanji and various gods and goddesses to Ma and Maushi Ma. One morning in 1961, I was going to take my bath when a friend came from Lucknow bringing two small prints of Baba's photo from Shukla. Shukla had directed the friend to tell me to always keep one with me. The other one was for Didi and she was also to do the same with her copy. I stopped him, saying that I never carried a purse with me, nor did I always wear a shirt with a pocket. So where could I keep the picture, as Shukla, out of his love for me, wanted me to do? I asked him to keep it for himself, but he said that Shukla would be sad to learn that I had returned his picture. Before I could say anything more, Didi told me that I should take it from him, and that if I did not want to keep it myself, I could give it away. So I took it from him and gave it to Didi.

Two months after this, Shukla came to Allahabad for a short visit. He said that a few days after he had sent the photos, Babaji came to Lucknow. He asked Shukla, "You sent photos for Dada. What need does he have for them? Where would he keep them?" Shukla had not talked to anyone about sending the pictures, so he was surprised by what Babaji said. Then Shukla looked at me and said, "He used almost the same words as you did when Lachchi was giving you the photo. Lachchi told me all about it after his return from you. But what is more is that Babaji takes an interest in even such minor matters of his devotees. Nothing escapes his attention. Dada, if you consider that even such a trifling thing does not escape his attention, then what can be said about the bigger things? He knows everything. Now think about it. When he himself keeps an eye on everything about us, then what have we to worry about? We can leave all our worries with him, and we can live free from them."

Shukla talked in this vein for a long time. I should have been listening to him, but I heard very little more. I was trying to understand what he had said. He had flung such precious things for all the devotees while aiming at me. Yes, things could become easy, or at least less troublesome, if we could learn and practice even a little of what Shukla was saying. While thinking like this, I felt that out of all the devotees I had met, Shukla was the only one who took thesse things to heart. Moreover, he had actually begun to shift some of his worries to Babaji and get respite from them. He was a worthy vessel and Babaji would fill him accordingly.

During the day, Shukla would spend more time with Babaji than any of the other devotees. He had many experiences to tell about the places that Babaji had visited and the celebrities he had met. So whenever there was any reference to these people and places while sitting with Babaji, Shukla would sometimes be asked to talk about them. Similarly, in our house, many persons would be interested to hear about the religious and spiritual masters, saints and sages, places of pilgrimage and various kinds of rituals. Shukla had a large stock of such information, both from the scriptures and also from his own visits to places of pilgrimage and meetings with sadhus. Thus Shukla was kept busy all the time. Moreover, my mother and aunt would sit with him whenever he was free in the noon to talk to them about Babaji and his experiences with other saints. Shukla was a great favorite with everyone.

Shukla visited Chitrakut with Babaji. While going round Kamadhgiri, Tularam had seen Ram Ram written on the leaves of the trees. Shukla saw them, not on the leaves, but on the bodies of the trees. The same reply was given to Shukla's question as it was to Tularam's and mine: "How could the trees forget Ram, when he is always there with them?"

Shukla had another experience at Anasuya ashram. He heard the blowing of the conches and the sound of ringing bells. He drew Babaji's attention to it and asked how this could be when there were no temples or persons nearby in that forest. Babaji said that there were many siddhas (realized souls) living in those areas, and it was from them that all the sounds were coming.

I also had a similar experience with the blowing of conches, the sound of bells, and fire rising to heaven. In May 1966 at Kainchi, it was the full moon night and the hilltops were filled with light. Pointing to the high mountain opposite, Babaji said that it was Gargachala, the mountain where the sage Garga lived. He said that Garga was immortal and such immortals do not ever leave their places permanently. Then I asked him if anybody could have his darshan. He said, "Yes, sometimes people get the darshan." The matter ended there, and we go busy with other things.

The next summer in Kainchi we had the first of several darshans. One night, Babaji was sitting on my bed and we were standing on the verandah from where we could see the mountain, Gargachala. Suddenly in the dark night we noticed some light on the mountain. The light shone for a while, then disappeared, and then appeared again. We could also hear the sound of bells. While we were engrossed in all this, Babaji came out to see. There were many persons watching the sacred fire while standing on the verandah, including Didi, Siddhi, Asoka and myself. Standing beside us, Babaji said that there was nothing unusual in it. "These things go on wherever the siddhas and mahatmas (great souls) live. Those who have no faith or interest in them cannot even aspire to see them. It is not the Great Ones' fault but your own if you do not see them."

On many occasions during our visits to Kainchi we were shown them, but many persons could not take them to heart. They did not have the faith that such things were possible and were going on all the time. Nor did they have the faith in Babaji when he said to accept them as real and genuine spectacle coing from Garga Rishi's havankund (pit for the sacred fire). This was fully demonstrated one night at Kainchi.

It was past nine at night. A few of us were sitting around Babaji in his room. While we were talking, he stood up and caught hold of my hand saying, "Let's go out for a while." The three others who had been sitting with us also joined. We got into a car, took our seats in the back, and started toward Bhowali. There was no movement on the road or nearby areas Babaji was talking. Then he pointed his finger toward the narrow path used by people to walk on the mountain. It was far away on the other side of the stream and running parallel to it. We could all see that there was some light, like the light of a lantern, moving on the path. But no lantern, nor any person carrying a lantern, could be seen.

Babaji asked repeatedly, "What is it? What is it?" Someone said that it must be some pedestrian going that way with his lantern. The matter ended there. After some time, during which we must have moved more than two miles, he again directed our attention to the moving light and asked the same question as before. The reply was ready: it was the pedestrian we had already seen going that way. "Well, well, it's the same person. That man has come quite a long distance."

He stopped speakng about it. We turned our gaze from the mountain path and were looking ahead. Several miles passed, then Babaji said, just cursorily, "What was that?" pointing to the moving light on the mountain track on the right. Some ventured to say that it was from the traveling men whom we had already noticed. Then Babaji gently exclaimed, "Well, well, it is that man's light. He is walking very fast. He is actually competing with your car." He said no more. It must have made some of us ponder over the whole thing, but there was no reply from anyone.

We drove silently for some distance more and when we reached the Bhowali market, he said, "Let us return. It is already late at night." While returning, some of us looked out toward the mountain road, but there was no light nor any pedestrian moving with a lantern in hand. Only darkness. Babaji had been showing us some mysterious or celestial lights—the whole journey was arranged for that—but for us the light disappeared after giving our eyes just a few glances. We could not enter within, and it left us in the darkness as before. Shukla said that now we could see that it was not lack of interest in us on his part, nor any slackness in his efforts to enlighten us, but simply that we would not open up and see what was in front of us despite the fact that he had pointed us toward that light.

Shukla then made a statement with philosophic import. He was in a very high mood and there was no question of arguing with him or interrupting him. Moreover, I always felt myself to be unequal to it. He talked not from book knowledge but from his own experience, gained through his deep desire to derive the utmost benefit from his close association with Babaji. With his voice full of admiration he said, "Dada, you need your eyes to see before you can do anything. That is why people consider their eyes to be the most precious things they have. But there are two kinds of eyes: one kind to see outward things and another kind to see things within. The majority of people are only interested in external things, so they are happy when their outward-seeing eyes are intact. These people do not know that there is anything inside that is worth seeing, so they don't feel that they are missing anything. They consider any talk about a separate pair of eyes to be nonsense. What Babaji was trying to show us with that light was useless for those people; they are not aware that they are missing anything, even though you and I may feel that way.

"With the exception of those who are born blind, we are born with eyes that are ready to see the outer world and we learn to use them with no help from others. But with the exception of the saints and sages, we are born with the inner eyes closed. Moreover, we do not know where these eyes are, for what uses they are needed, or how they can be found and opened. Some select ones, however, become curious and make an effort to bring these eyes into use. Such persons are helped by a class of people who are always in search of the genuinely interested ones; they help them to open their inner eyes, giving them the light to see the real thing.

"This is the task of all gurus. Our param (supreme) gurus are always busy trying to remove our inner blindness and give us celestial light. But sometimes we are not prepared for this and we resist. We are satisfied with our outer pair of eys. When we are in darkness and these eyes cannot see, we are satisfied if we are given the lantern light." Shukla said, "Dada, when our mind and intellect are set like this, what can he do to help us? All his efforts prove fruitless. On the other hand, we are busy maligning him, saying that he has not done anything for us. This is the way it is with us."