“Shankaraaaa” he called me with the same melody as guruji would call me.

“Yes sir” I said. Guruji quietly told me to address him as swamiji.

“I do not know my name.  People call me Shilagra Baba.  Baba is prefixed to my name by others.  In fact they only call me Baba.  Shaila means mountain top” he laughed unto himself.

“Do you know the purpose of your visit here?”

“Guruji told me swamiji”

“What he has told you?” he was forthright in his question.

“To understand spirituality”

“What is spirituality?”

“To understand God properly, but I am not sure.”

“Spirituality is the only way to attain God.  It is a tough path to pursue for a young man like you.  You are different from others of your age.  Your mind is transparent. When you interact with more people, your mind becomes corrupt.  God is nothing but absolute purity.  You cannot have purity amidst impurity.  You cannot see the sun through the clouds. Impurity is also created by Him.  He is the creator of everything, both good and bad.  It is up to us to decide which we way we will move. Mind is the cause for spiritual evolution like food is the cause for physical evolution.  Physical evolution is visible and mental evolution is not visible.  In contrast to the general perception, spiritual evolution is firm and fast when compared to physical evolution. The difference between the two evolutions is that the evolution of the mind requires a strong foundation. Physical evolution cannot be reversed but the mental evolution can be easily reversed. You have to be extremely careful with your mind.

“Currently we do not have many people who pursue spiritual path, attain the ultimate goal and take it to the people.  In kaliyug, spirituality is not properly taught and pursued.  It is not a commodity that is to be bought and sold.  Spirituality is not a single subject.  It is the combination of various subjects.  You cannot earn a degree without being conversant with ancillary subjects, though your main subject is different.  You have to learn about ego, consciousness, mind, awareness, basic elements, energy, physical structure, functioning of every part of our body.  It is endless.  When you say I am God, you have to say it with confidence.  When you are God, you should know everything.  Your answers should always be right and instantaneous.  Your mind should stay connected with the God all the time and at the same time you should be able to help your fellow men. It is extremely difficult to establish commune with God and the world simultaneously.

“Spirituality is built on love and compassion. These two qualities are in depleting in the present world.  We have to re-establish these qualities and uphold universal brotherhood.  There should be no hatred, enmity, jealousy, and all that kind of stuff that is currently pulling down  mankind to be on par with animal kingdom.  In today’s scenario people often confuse spirituality with religion.  Religion is your choice.  For all the religions, God is one.  He does not have forms.  He manifests in the shapes of plants, animals, birds, men etc.  In the natural process of evolution there could be a higher personality than man.  Who knows?

“You have been specially selected by the Divine.  You will know about this as time passes by.  You are going to be here for another few days. You will undergo the first phase of training here.  There are many temples here, both big and small.  Divine Mother Ganges is here.  Shiva is also here and His consort Shakti is also here.  There are many saints here.  But it will be difficult for you to find a true saint.  Many of them are bogus.  Your guruji will be with you.  You have to learn the local language Hindi.  Without Hindi you cannot survive here.  Go to Ganges and temples daily.  You will have no restrictions here.  You can enjoy complete freedom.  There will be a Tamil speaking person to teach you in the initial stages.  You can take him with you wherever you want to go for the first few days.  There is a Sasrasvati temple in the main area.  Go to the temple and pray to Her that you should learn the local language in a day’s time and She will certainly bless you.

“We do not have any separate place for you.  There are about eight men here.  You can join them.  You can also help them and they in turn will help you.  You should progress with love as the foundation.  You don’t worry about your mother.  God will take care of her” Shilagra Baba has finished.  Before we could get up, he put his hands in the midst of the burning fire, took out a small piece of burning log, pressed with his right hand, poured some water and applied on my forehead.  His touch pierced through my skull and reached the other end of my head, as if carrying an arrow of fire. I couldn’t get up immediately.  It took time for me to realise what had happened to me.  Then he gave us permission to leave his place.

We left the place in absolute silence.  “I will show you a glimpse of Haridwar.  Let us take bath in River Ganges and will visit some of the temples here” said guruji as we moved out of the mutt.

“You had an opportunity to meet one of the greatest saints of our times.  He can do any miracle.  He can take you back to your place in a second.  He can make fire without any aid.  If he places rice in his pot and mixes with water, it becomes ready for eating in no time.  He lives on water and fruits.  He never sleeps.  He always sits before the fire.  He has a collection of various herbal leaves and roots.  Not all the parts of an herb are useful.  It depends upon the herb.  He knows all divine herbs.  Occasionally he goes up the Himalayas to get some rare herbs, dries them, and put them in the fire.  Sometimes, he puts fresh herbs.  There are only very few people who know him. When he takes someone as his disciple, he ensures his wellbeing in all possible fronts.  His devotees, though very few, worship him as God and not as a guru.  He is a Self-realized person.  Whatever he says will come true.  But, he does not prognosticate, though he knows what is in store for everyone.  He has extraordinary power and he never misuses it.  He goes to river Ganges for bath.  He doesn’t have a fixed time for anything.  It is he who has identified you to be brought here. After your initial training under him, you will be sent to Rishikesh for further training.  Finally you will be trained in kundalini meditation at Rudraprayag, a place further up in the Himalayas.  You could finish your learning process either in three months or in three years.  It depends upon your ability to grasp and recollect.  Recollection is an important aspect of spirituality, particularly if you are trained by these great masters.  You are really blessed.”

I only smiled.  I was awe struck.  I was now looking forward to my training.  It was a pleasant experience to walk alongside the River Ganges.  Taking bath in the River Ganges thrilled me.  We reached the main area of Haridwar. There were many ways to reach the bathing points.  Iron rods were erected in the area, around all bathing places.  There were rocky steps also.  One can safely take bath here. We went to Subhash Ghat, one of the places to take bath.  It was well lit.  It is named after the great Indian freedom fighter Subhash Chandra Bose.  It was very refreshing to take dip in the sacred River Ganges.  The water was ice cold.  First I could not withstand the cold water.  It was like melting ice. After sometime, I got used to it and enjoyed it.  Even at about eight in the night, I saw men, women and children taking bath. There are a lot of eateries a little away from the banks of the river.  They are also crowded.  It was a very interesting sight.  A few minutes walk from the ghat leads to Sarasvati Temple, where goddess Sarasvati is the presiding deity.  As told by swamiji, I appealed to Her to give me fluency in speaking local language.  I was sitting and praying as there was not much crowd.  I know Sarasvati temple will not be crowded, as She is not the presiding for material wealth. Students throng this temple at the time of their examinations. That too, not all the students come here. Only those who have not prepared well for the exams come here and submit applications to Her to make them pass in the exams.  People throng Goddess Lakshmi temples for wealth.  While I was sitting and praying, the pandit from the sanctum sanctorum put on my shoulders, a garland taken straight from Her idol.  The moment he put it one me, I was feeling dizzy for a moment.  Then I stood up and thanked the priest by folding my hands for giving me the garland.  He said in Hindi that it is not his decision and the Goddess ordered him to give it to me.  Guruji who was watching this smiled at me.  He asked me in Hindi whether we can return and I replied to him in Hindi.  On our way back to the mutt, we conversed in a fluent Hindi.  One of my major concerns was solved.  Happiness began to crawl into me.  Who said that God will not answer prayers?  They are all wrong.

The night was chilly.  The temperature could be around 15º C now and could plummet further.  I mentally thanked Mangalam for her gesture in arranging a woollen shawl for me.  But for that, I could have been frozen now.  Guruji did not use any upper garment even at this freezing temperature.  When I asked him about this, he said that by manoeuvring breathing, one can keep the body warm or cold as he likes.  One significant thing in this mutt is that, at about nine in the night all the inmates are served hot cow’s milk probably to overcome the cold weather.  Some men came to the hall with their beddings. They were all of my age.  We got introduced to each other.  Including me, now there were nine inmates.  I have not included Baba and guruji.  I found out that three of them work here full time and the balance five were Baba’s disciples.  Two of them are here for more than a year and the rest three between two to eight months.  I am the latest arrival. 

One of the inmates told me that at sharp nine in the night and five in the morning, we have to be present in the hall in the first floor.  Baba will come out to the hall and spend half an hour in the night and two hours in the morning with them. He will not only give lectures but also train them in various aspects of yoga.  Half an hour in the night is only a review about our activities during the day.  There are no restrictions, whatsoever on the inmates.  As the old clock in the ground floor hall was moving to strike nine, we all went to the first floor, including guruji.  Mats were spread on the floor for us to sit.  Nobody can sit on the cold floor.  There was a square mat for the Baba to sit and opposite to that there was a wooden desk, on which Baba can rest his hands.  When we are all seated, Baba came in.  All of us stood up to pay respects to him.  Guruji was also sitting with us. 

“All of you continue to be happy here” it appeared more like a statement than a question. 

“Yes, Baba” was the unanimous answer.

“There is difference between Shiva and Shakti. Shiva is beyond any explanation.  But for Him, the universe is not there.  He is beyond our comprehension.  He is free from all the technical terms used in philosophies. He is the primary cause for creation. Shiva is free from anavamala.  Anavamala comprises of two words anu and mala.  Anu means the observational individual and mala means impurity.  Therefore, anavamala means impurity in an individual.  Shiva is the purest form of consciousness which is also known as cit.  But a person on this earth cannot have purest form of consciousness.  A person’s consciousness cannot be pure because of ego.  The purest form of consciousness, Shiva, does not have any afflictions whatsoever.  Hence He remains pure. Shiva thus becomes the Universal Soul or the universal consciousness.  If Shiva continues to remain inert, there cannot be any creation.  But He has the willingness to create.  The willingness of Shiva is called Divine Will.  How is this Shiva?  He is Self illuminating.  Nothing else is Self illuminating including the sun.  They derive their light from Him.  Sun shines due to the Light of Shiva and the moon shines due to the light of the sun.  Shiva is also known as Parama Shiva or Anuttara.  Anuttara means the chief.  Parama also means the highest degree of anything.  Both parama and anuttara mean only the Supreme. Shiva is both I and This.

“When He wants to create, He causes a pulsation and this is called spanda.  Till Shiva makes the first pulsating movement, there remained nothing except Shiva.  Therefore, the first pulsation is made only because of His own Will known as spanda or throb. There is nobody there to tell Him to cause this pulsation.  It is His very own act.  Spanda is the movement of Divine I consciousness happening out of His own Absolute Freedom. It is not the physical movement by itself, but is the cause of creation.  What is created during this Divine Pulsation of Shiva?

“Shakti emanates from Shiva due to this pulsation. Shiva is prakasha or illuminating in nature and Shakti is vimarsha. We must understand the meaning vimarsha. It is the nature of Shiva. It is His very own condition or state of self consciousness in which the powers of will, knowledge and action are merged.  The creation begins here.  Shakti is not different from Shiva because, Shiva has created Shakti out of His power to create.  He has used His Absolute Freedom, which none except Him enjoys, to create Shakti.  After creating Shakti from His independent and absolute authority, “This” consciousness is withdrawn, retaining with Him only the “I” consciousness.  Though both “This” and “I” are separate, they are technically inseparable as they still constitute the same Shiva.  Shakti is the “I” consciousness of Shiva. Creation proceeds from Shakti. We will discuss this in the next session.  If you have any doubts regarding what we have discussed now, please go ahead now.”

I was little confused regarding “I” and “This”.

I stood up and asked him, “When “I” and “This” remain together, how only “This” was transferred to Shakti and not “I”?”

Baba smiled at me.  “Good thought.  “I” does not have any objective content and naturally comes first and next is “This”, which has objective content.  Further creation can happen not from subjective contents, but from objective contents. Hence Shiva created Shakti and gave a Power of Attorney to Her to use His Absolute and Independent Authority. Shakti has all the powers of Shiva barring that “I” which Shiva continues to keep it with Himself.”

Baba appeared to be happy on my question.  He got up from his seat and moved towards his room.  Guruji told me to be with rest of the inmates.  He followed Baba to his room.  Everyone talks in a hushed up voice.  The whole area was still.  The sound of water flowing in the Ganger was clearly audible.  I was given a mat.  I spread the mat, used my bag as my pillow, and covered myself with the shawl, Mangalam had given me.  Sleep was overpowering me.

At four in the morning, there was a loud sound of conch. Later I was told that Baba blows the conch at four in the morning to wake us up.  Everyone got up, rolled up their mats, and kept them in a corner.  The entire building was swept clean and mopped. One of the disciples told me to take bath in the back yard, where the Ganges water is pumped into an overhead tank.  The water was freezing cold and the weather was also equally cold. I am not used to this kind of cold climate.  When I poured water on my body, I thought that my body had frozen.  For sometime, I was not able to move my limbs. A colleague of mine told me to inhale through the right nostril while taking bath in cold water.  I did that and I felt slightly better.  But it was not effective.  He told me that I would become accustomed to this weather. Beyond this place, there is a cattle shed.  There are three jersey cows. One of the boys, who was employed there went to milk the cows and another made fire for our morning milk.  I thought it would be a good idea to have some hot drink in this climate.  The time is now close to five in the morning.  At five our classes will continue with Baba. 

I searched for guruji.  He was not to be found.  When I met him after the morning class, he told me that he had gone to Ganges to have his bath.  He also had milk with us.  Nobody felt the cold except me.  I was still shivering.  We all assembled at the first floor hall.  The heat coming from Baba’s fire pit had marginally increased the temperature. Baba came sharp at five.  He does not have either clock or watch with him.  He said he is going to teach some breathing exercises. Baba appeared very fresh, in spite of the fact that he had not slept for years.

(to be continued)