Of all the special moments with Babaji I would like to tell some that just randomly come to mind now. While I consider myself lucky to have spent some time in Haidakhan when Babaji was still in His body, at the time I found it very difficult, as we had to follow such a strict and demanding regime. It felt as if we were being crushed or broken, which of course was part of the game, though I did not understand it then. After Babaji left, I noticed that things changed in Haidakhan. The strict discipline gave way to a more relaxed, comfortable atmosphere. It was more like being at a resort. At first I was rather resentful, wondering why these people have it so easy, whereas we had it so difficult. Then I recalled something Babaji had said during darshan. He told us that we were lucky to be here because we were really just like monkeys, “you only believe what your eyes can see”. Then He added, ”The people who will come after I am gone will be my true devotees. They will not need proof, will not need to see me in a body. They will believe without seeing.” I tell this story to people who are envious, saying, ”You are so lucky to have known Babaji”.
We were only there for a short while and were full of doubts. It was necessary for us to be broken so we wouldn’t resist any longer and were finally ready to receive His blessings. The people coming now come with an open heart, so they can enjoy an easy-going time. They don’t need to be worn down first. It also took me awhile to realize that their experiences with Him were just as real and vivid as ours, that these other people were my brothers and sisters as well, that we were one family, with one father, Babaji. Babaji once said, “If you have doubts, I’ll give you reasons to be doubtful. But if you come seeking love, I will show you more love than you have ever known”. I still get moved to tears when I remember this because whatever the hardship He made us go through, in the end we realized there was no other way to learn and that He did it out of love. That’s why I often cried in Haidakhan, but they were tears of gratitude.
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Before coming to India I had let a famous astrologer and told him that, on my way to a vacation in Nepal, I was going to see “this Babaji” I had heard about and that, in the colloquial of those days, I wanted “to check this guy out”. He then said, “Check him out, Check this man out? You better watch out, he might eat you alive!” His answer kind of shocked me and I did not forget it. The day before I reached Haidakhan, a young American knocked on our hotel room in Haldwani in the middle of the night. He had no place to stay, so I let him in. He was full of enthousiasm on his way “ to see the living God”. He told me that he had written a letter to Babaji asking for permission to come to the ashram, as you had to do in those days. He had asked Babaji if he was the Babaji Yogananda wrote about in his Autobiography of a Yogi. “Because if you are not the same I won’t fly all the way to India. I had to save a lot of money to be able to come and if you are not the one I’d rather spend it on something else”. While he was sitting there I felt no need to ask about it any further. I did tell him, however, that he had to shave his hair in the ashram. He said he didn’t know that and that nothing in the world could make him do it, which I could understand because he had the most beautiful long, golden, curly hair I had ever seen. About a week later, I saw him again. He was sitting in front of me in the bus, baldheaded, full of bliss, on his way back from Haidakhan. I then remembered the letter he had sent to Babaji asking Him if he was the Babaji that was referred to in Yogananda’s book. I asked him, “Did you actually get an answer from Baba?” He said “Yes, but he didn’t answer any of my questions. He said only one line”. Then I asked him what that one line was, he said: “I will eat you alive! ”
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In the year that followed after my first visit to Haidakhan, my wife fell in love with a German actor and left our two children and me. I had been devastated but I also had to learn everything about being a single parent. After about a year we had adjusted to the situation. When a lady I knew approached me in the park, saying how hard it must be in my new situation, I told her that this had been true a year earlier but that now I was alright. “No, no,” she insisted, “what I mean is not only how hard it must be but that it’s also difficult for you because now you have to be both a father and a mother.” Her words shocked me because I had really tried to be a good father. But a mother? It had never occurred to me. It made me think of the different roles of mother and father. From that moment on I tried to adjust more to the role of the mother in the upbringing of the children. In those days it was not a common thing to observe your feminine side. So I never mentioned it to anyone. In order to learn from women, I started watching their behaviour and attitudes. At parties and on other occasions I tried to mix inconspicuously in their company. I noticed that a man approaching a group of ladies often creates changes in their behaviour. I considered it a compliment when nothing changed while I was there and the women even allowed me to join in their conversation. Later that year, at Christmas, I went again to Haidakhan. By that time I had no more doubts and proudly entered Haidakhan saying to myself “Baba, here is your brand new, full-time devotee. Just say the word and I’ll do whatever you ask.” But Babaji did not say or do anything at all and that did not change for the next couple of days. Every day I tried to be better than the day before. He kept on ignoring me.
Finally I came to the realization that there was no use pretending to be better than I was. He knew me inside out, my weaknesses and mistakes. It was then that I decided to just be my everyday self. The next morning at darshan, when I got up after my pranam and was about to leave, Gaura Devi, who was standing next to Baba, translating for Him, said, “Baba wants to say something to you”. I turned to Him. He leaned over to me, handed me a couple of bananas and said: “You are a gentle lady”. In those five little words, softly spoken, He showed me that He knew me completely, and that He was aware of my new secret aspiration, while at the same time complimenting me on my achievement. I started crying and could not stop my tears.
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In those days karma yoga was assigned to us either by Lok Nath or someone else. You were not asked whether you would like to do this or that, not at all. You were told to work and that was that – or else you could leave. Babaji often sent people away. I was given a job working in the river, taking out stones to build bridges and walls. It was a lot of work and for someone not used to walking barefoot it was hard on the stones. You also had to lift rocks out of the sand and roll them or carry them to the river where they were needed. Your hands would be in the water and after lifting so many stones with sandy hands, they would start hurting. I hated the work. Each day I silently pleaded, please let me do something else, cleaning the toilets, anything but this. But everyday it was back to the river. Then, at some point I gave up hope of ever doing anything else and just accepted having to go to the river as usual. And that’s when Babaji said, “You go to the garden”. What this story is really about is what happened one day when we were working in the river. We were moving rocks when we saw Babaji coming down the stairs. He was surrounded by many people and there was a lot of noise, people shouting jaikars and blowing horns and conch shells. We said to each other “Baba is coming” and although we realized that Babaji knew everything, we were still in the habit of giving it a little extra when He was there. So here I was, standing in the river and Babaji came and sat down on a rock about five meters from where I was, overlooking the work. I started looking for a stone. There were three different ones in front of me, a nice round one that I could easily handle, nothing wrong with it, my kind of rock. There was also a fair sized one, more fitting the occasion. Nearby I noticed a huge one, which I quickly dismissed because I could never have lifted it, even without my back problems. But just as I went for the middle one, I heard His voice, “Take a big stone”. I silently complained, “Baba, what are you doing? Am I going to break my back right here in front of you? I can never lift this one”. Then I remembered “Om Namaha Shivaya” and I went for the big one. I almost had to get under the water to get my hands under it and I tried moving it, moaning and groaning as I strained to lift it. Then I gave it everything I had and suddenly I felt it coming up. It was such an amazing feeling that I could lift this rock, I stumbled a few meters with it and put it in its right place. “Take a big stone!” These words have stuck with me ever since. Many times after that when I run into problems, I have remembered them.
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While we were making the “Sanatan Dharma” video, we had some serious problems. Because Babaji had said that He had come to bring the message of Sanatan Dharma to the West, I knew that I had to include the Christmas celebrations in Haidakhan in the video, so the whole planning was focused on shooting in December. A few months before we planned to leave, the Indian embassy had already assured us that the working and shooting permits were granted. But when I finally came to pick them up, nobody knew anything about it and even tourist visas were refused. The Indian government had just collapsed because of the Ayodhia riots and the whole thing was in a mess. Our tickets were already paid for and the equipment was on its way to Delhi. Everybody told me to forget about it, but remembering Babaji’s “Take a big stone”, I did not want to give up, went against their advice and kept on pushing. Two days before the plane was going to leave, I received a telephone call from the embassy telling me the permit had arrived. I could come to pick it up together with the visas.
Bhole Baba Ki Jai!