Life in a Yogi's Mission
I first met Babaji in 2005, His second visit. I had seen a number of Yogis over the preceding years and had an understanding about Yogis, what they are, how they behave. When I first experienced Babaji's presence it was quite different to any other, He slowly, gently, gracefully walked the few short paces from the doorway of the host's living room to the covered seat. Even the way He sat and settled Himself captivated me. By the time He raised His head and shyly looked around the room, offering a slight smile to each one there, I knew, "This one is very different." Impossible to explain even to myself, let alone anyone else.
I attended all the programmes that year that I could, and soon after Babaji returned to Dehra Dun I emailed and asked if a friend and I could visit. I had no idea if this was possible or appropriate, but I wanted more, much more, and I felt instinctively that Babaji was the one who could explain meditation to me. The answer was an encouraging 'yes', and so the two of us spent some days in the Ashram in November 2005.
At that time I had been meditating for several years, trying to do one hour a day every day as commitments of life and work allowed. I was only interested in meditation, all other aspects were alien to me – devotional singing, Aarati, chanting, pranams – belonging to a differ culture. I felt only meditation was required. Babaji was happy to talk about meditation and answer questions. I recall vividly one evening on the first visit to the Dehradun Ashram sitting on the balcony as it got dark and hearing from Babaji how a few of Adishankara's close disciples had become jealous of one who had been asked to perform a particular task. I was puzzled. I had understood that the disciples around such a Realized Yogi would themselves be highly evolved spiritual beings, above such human failings. I asked such a thing to Babaji. He just chuckled at my suggestion.
My understanding of a Yogi and His Mission has slowly evolved and matured as I have had the wonderful privilege to spend more and more time with Babaji and Maa Ambaji. I look back with amusement at the views I had at the time. In the first few years I noticed Babaji often quoting stories from the Mahabharata – a very popular and well-known book of Indian spirituality. I was aware of the book but had been led to believe that it was merely a set of stories made to entertain people so they could learn about the Bhagavad Gita, one section of the Mahabharata. I believed it was the only part that contained the teachings, the rest of the Mahabharata being just for entertainment, a sort of wrapping. However, it began to occur to me that Babaji kept referring to stories from the Mahabharata, not just the Bhagavad Gita part. I decided there had to be a reason, so I read a very short version. This wet my appetite and I read a much fuller version immediately after. Here were those stories Babaji had mentioned, but now, fortunately, I also recalled Babaji's explanations about the significance and wisdom embedded in these accounts. I am so glad I heard Babaji explain them first so when I did read them I was able to appreciate them properly understanding the meaning and wise teachings they contained.
One day I happened to find myself sitting in the room alone with Babaji. I seized the moment to ask Babaji about one particular part of the story that had puzzled me for a while. In the Mahabharata the 'good guys' (the Pandavas) were supposedly very spiritual people. My question was simple, "Then why did they fight over owning the kingdom? If they were so spiritual why didn't they just go off to the forest and live a spiritual life? Why bother about such worldly possessions?" I had asked that question before to others and had various replies, none impressing me. Babaji explained that the Pandavas had, with Krishna's support, offered many compromises to the relatives who had stolen their kingdom. Even the most generous of compromises was rejected. Babaji told me that having done all that they could to avoid war they then had a duty to fight. They were Princes and the people in the kingdom relied on their protection and good governance. If they did not fight they would be failing in their duty as Princes to the people. It all made perfect sense when Babaji explained it.
This education continued over the following years, as Babaji visited each year and gave generously of His time to us all, and also when a small group of us visited the Dehra Dun Ashram each spring. Gradually my practice changed. At no point did Babaji ever tell me to do anything different, I just watched and listened as best I could and asked myself, "Why does Babaji do that? Why does He say this?" My preconceived ideas melted away so gently that it was only when others who knew me over this period mentioned how much I had changed (fortunately for the better, they said!) that I reflected back on the views and expectations I had held to be so dear, so correct, so certain.
As I got to know Babaji better and He got to know me, so in recent years I have had the once in many lifetimes opportunity to spend several months with Babaji and Maa Ambaji, mainly in the Ashram in Dehra Dun, but also travelling with Him around India and several countries. The education I have received has not always been smooth and without any obstacles. Only this past month someone asked if I had any doubts and was both surprised (and relieved) when I said, "Yes." I can only answer that honestly. I know some may take that as a negative sign, but it would be wrong to paint a false picture. I would more accurately say, rather than doubts, it is more 'confusion' sometimes. Something may happen which is different to what I had expected. That confuses me.
Those who have also heard Babaji talk over the years will almost certainly have heard Him quote the great Veda Vyasa, who wrote the Mahabharata, and recommended in his hymns that, "You should not go too close to a Yogi, a Master, because you are likely to misunderstand Him; and you should not go too far from the Yogi also, as you are likely to be ignored or neglected, because a Yogi's mind is always in Samadhi." As Babaji has said many times, "You need to maintain a middle distance and be in touch with the Master, 'prick' him if you have any doubts by asking questions, take the answers and practice such methods, adopt it yourself and achieve it."
"I observe a person's heart"
It seems to me that sometimes I go through an experience which challenges my concepts and beliefs. I become a bit confused, even doubtful. However, I have learnt to 'sit tight,' keep silent and observe carefully all the actions of Babaji and others. As the expression puts it "All will be revealed in time." And it is - if I have the faith and patience to await the conclusion. Even several years ago I understood how Babaji thought over a much longer time span that I did. He saw the bigger picture, was always generous and patient with all who came to him, even those whose attitude and behaviour seemed devious and false. So many came only wanting worldly things, money, status etc. Why did Babaji not tell them straight that they were wrong? It was frustrating to my impatient mind at that time. A good dose of the truth would sort everything out, I thought. Gradually I learnt Babaji does not concern Himself so much with what people say or even what they do in the shorter term. As He said to me recently, "I observe a person's heart."
And so Babaji continues to teach us, to remove our ignorance and all our preconceived ideas. Time and again I have recalled Babaji talking about an incident in the Mahabharata and Babaji's explanation of it, how many condemned Krishna for some of the things He did or taught as Krishna being 'just a politician'. Over the years as I have stayed in the Ashram and observed events unfolding I have been amazed to discover that Babaji's life and teachings are those of Krishna and the Mahabharata.
"Do not define your dharma"
I was in the Ashram in March 2013 when Maa Ambaji was attacked in the Ashram grounds. Afterwards I learnt how Babaji was prepared to act in a way many others would condemn as being inappropriate for a Yogi. The words of Babaji rang in my ears as I recalled His teachings, "Do not define your dharma." Time and again supposedly great spiritual people in the Mahabharata stories failed to act correctly because they believed they should act according to expectations. How many great spiritual giants did Draupadi beseech to help her as she was shamelessly disrobed? All those great spiritual giants present each in turn excused their inaction as they felt it would be wrong. In fact they were only concerned with reputation. Krishna however on several occasions acted quite contrary to expectations. On more than one occasion drawing criticism even from those on His side in the battle as being prepared to act 'wrongly' according to the code of war at the time. Krishna's response was simple, "Let the world condemn me, no problem. But if I act only according to expectations then good will fail and evil will triumph." He was prepared to lose all reputation and be forever condemned to ensure the larger cause was achieved for the whole world's benefit. The opposition, the 'bad guys' were frequently acting contrary to the code of war but were very quick to shout and complain if anyone did it to them. These double standards are so common, then and now. It fits exactly with the saying, "For evil to prevail all it takes is for good people to do nothing."
In the past couple of years again I have found myself seeing Maa Ambaji and Babaji spending so much precious time on non-spiritual matters and non-spiritual people. Of course, in truth it can be said everyone is spiritual in their own way, even if they don't know it, we are all on the path. So many hours spent chatting, seemingly gossiping even. And even tours postponed because of it! How odd, so seemingly wrong to so many, a Yogi should surely be sat in serene silence above all such things. And it is true, a Yogi can do that, has no need to be involved. Sadly there are many others who sit both within and without Swamiji's Mission unburdened with work or responsibilities and who spend their time plotting and scheming, trying through greed or jealousy to cause trouble, even steal the Dehra Dun Ashram. Babaji has persistently not bothered about such things, and increasingly, bit by bit more and more of Swamiji's Ashram land has been taken, more and more people have tried to undermine His efforts, obstruct the work ordained by His Guru. As with Krishna in the Mahabharata, after so much patience and repeated concessions, whatever they could take they grabbed, and then came back for more and more until it was obvious either the Ashram was to be taken or a stand made. Babaji, for the sake of His Guru's Ashram and for the sake of all devotees who benefit by its use, acted rather than walk away and sit under a tree. He defended His Guru's Ashram. As with Krishna, many misunderstood, thinking Yogis do not bother. Actually they do for the sake of others, for the devotees, so we all can benefit now and in the future. He has attained Realization, there is nothing for Babaji to achieve, He can go whenever, wherever in Peace always. He acts for us only.
The doubts I understand, they stem from the gap between my understanding and expectation and the reality. Either the reality is wrong or my expectations. Over the past couple of years I have spent several months with Babaji and Ambaji. I have learnt that the old saying is true, "The more you know, the more you know you don't know." I now appreciate how much that I thought I knew was based on wrong imagination of what a Yogi would be. I have slowly learnt that if I remain silent I hear more, if I just watch I learn more and if I pay careful attention eventually the reasons emerge, like shapes appearing out of the mist of ignorance.
"Sit and learn patience"
Only a few weeks ago, whilst staying a few days with a devotee in Delhi, I looked in on Babaji to see if there was anything to do and saw there was nothing. Pleased, I thought, "Good, I can get some work done on the computer." My anticipation was misplaced. Babaji, as if knowing my anticipation, on being asked, "Is there anything needing doing, Babaji?" Said, "No, just come, sit and learn patience." And so I did. And gradually, as I learn to sit and develop patience, I learn more. With patience only the truth emerges, not from my imagination and opinions, but from Babaji, as His actions gradually bear fruit.
And so I sit and learn to develop patience, and thus begin to learn how to learn. It has taken all this time to get to this. But it is a journey worth travelling; there is nothing better to do than this, no action of greater value, no worthier lesson and no greater Teacher.