among the sadhus

There were very few words about the return trip from Badrinath and all the way back to Rishikesh. I did mention that once back I felt the need to take a good rest as it was definitely a tough trip. It is obvious that not being able to have proper rest and diet for an indefinite period of time does have an effect on the body, and so was the case. This time I found a small room all to my self and was happy for the solitude once again as I was prepraring to face it for a longer period of time alone in the forest, if only I could get a cave.

I kept my regular practice of going down to the rocks in a quiet spot on the Ganges to meditate. Taking walks and enjoying the peace of the area.  I met a sadhu who spoke English. His name was Krishanand and he enquired as to my devotion and meditation and when I told him that I had studied with Maharishi he smiled and said he knew of a sadhu who lived in solitude and who was one of that family. He invited me to come one day and he will take me to meet him. We agreed to meet the following morning. I bought some bananas and vegetables to carry as was part of the tradition.
It was a lovely sunny morning when I met Krishanand at the spot he indicated and with my fruit and vegetables we took a path leading alongside the river to Lukmanjula. Just a few ‘furlongs”
(as he said) from the bridge, there was a path which led down the side to a cave. There was a sort of shelter attached. We could see some three sadhus sitting and we called out the greeting, “Hari Om!” and they replied back “Hari Om”  Krishanand introduced me to the host Bholananda.
He was a smiling siddha (advanced yogi) and in his cave was a picture of Bhramanda Saraswati. From the shed we could see another 2 paths, one leading down to the river and the other to another secluded cave. In this cave, there was another opening which led again down to the river.
We sat in a circle under the shed and in the middle was a hole in the mud floor with a huge block of wood burning. It was on this fire that the meal was being prepared and I had to shift position from time to time to avoid the smoke in my eyes.
We were served chai tea firstly. The rice was washed and cooked (1 kilo for 5 people). Some green mangoes were boiled. The skins were taken off and afterwards separated from the seed, the rest of the fruit was crushed and mixed with salt, sugar and lots of chillies and this was made into chutney. Bhola made the chapatis and the other sadhu prepared the onions and vegetables and the curry. The rice was cooked apart. It was not long and we had a most delicious meal, served on broad plate-like leaves and as was the custom, we ate with our fingers.
Afterwards we took all the pots down to the river and with some sand as a scouring pad, washed them in the flowing river. It was Tuesday 25th May, 1982 and my first real encounter and sharing with sadhus. They were very unpretentious, simple yet very awake individuals. There were no extra words but rather a certain joy of sharing a prayer, a meal and most of all just sharing their presence and being. Why does life have to be so complicated in other parts of the world?
I can still and always remember such moments and if I could go back to India, I would want to go back just to be able to live moments like those.
The next day I met Abdi who had found a place to stay not too far away. He had fallen in love with, of all people, a Canadian girl and she was trying to help him to flee the country. It was a delicate situation as he was here with a student’s visa from Iran. She was trying to get him to go with her to France.
As I write this, I remember the rest of their story. He had to go back to Iran as his visa was expired. He wrote several letters to me in Montreal. The poor guy was heart broken as his girlfriend gave birth to his baby boy. The last letter he wrote told me that, because he had not done the course which he was visaed to do in India, on arriving in Iran, he had to serve some time. Now he was being taken into the army. It was during the leadership of Khomeiny. He felt he would never be able to see his love again. I never heard from him since.
It was the Wednesday 26th May, 82 and as planned I met Krishnanand and as promised, we set out after buying some veges and rice, and started the climb. It was a good walk uphill in a very quiet area and before long we were at the caves which originally belonged to the saint Tat Walla Baba. he had already passed away (he was murdered) and his close disciple was in charge of taking care of the caves. He lived in the main one which was his Guru’s own and it was to this cave we went.
On arriving the Baba came out and invited us to come and have a seat. Krishnanand spoke with him first explaining I was looking for a cave to spend some time. He asked me a few questions and then he called his cook and asked him to take the rice and veges and prepare a meal. From time to time he would ask me a question and there were long periods of silence.
It was only after the meal was well finished he looked at me and said, “come with me, I will show you a cave” He led me on a path on the side of the hill where very discreetly hidden was a cave which he invited me to go in and have a look. It was on the side of a cliff and entered by a narrow path. i had to bend my head to enter and once inside i could stand only in the middle. for the rest I had to bend or be seated. At the entrance was a sort of chicken wire to keep out little things. the floor was beaten earth and very smooth. He told me to stay a while in it and come back and tell him if I liked it. It was not long for me to make up my mind. it felt cozy and somewhat secure so I went back to his place and told him and he said “you can stay one week, one month, one year, stay as long as you wish, its yours.”
The agreement was, I would give him 11 rupees per day at the time equivalent to 1 Canadian dollar per day and in return he would give me lunch at noon and dinner at nights. It was a deal and I promised I will be back on Friday.
That evening as I was going for dinner, I met a sadhu who asked me if I could help him as he needed a blanket as he was going to the Himalayas on pilgrimage. I told him I had a blanket if he wanted and he said “yes meet me at the Krishna temple after evening prayers.” So after the evening prayers I went with the blanket and sure enough there he was doing his prayers. His eyes were closed and I did not want to interrupt and so  I waited.
I was so impressed. He was lost in prayer with eyes closed, he was talking to Krishna. I could not understand as it was in Hindi but rarely would I ever see an adult so absorbed in prayer. I will never forget. When he finished I called ‘Sadhu” and on seeing me he smiled and came running and I gave him and he thanked me and left. What a joy it will be the day when we will all meet again I am sure,in heaven!
I also said goodbye to Abde and wished him well. He was full of hope then that one day he would be in Canada. It never happened as he was drafted into Khomeny’s war.
Before going back to sleep my last night near the river,  I went down and sat for meditation on a rock near the flowing river. I could hear the sound of the rushing waters.
This is life, our life, always flowing, never stopping and flowing back to the Source, taking with it, all the faces and memories and things of those who we met and shared along the river’s edge.
In the end it all became so peaceful, so silent, only the sound of the flickering stars in the sky and as we wended our way back to our place, and the murmur in the distance of the river, ever flowing.

“Children play by my River,
Sadhus stay by my River,
Cities old by my River,
Temples made of gold by my River,
Cows stray all the day by my River,
Young men and women now die by my River
We are all the widows who cry by my river
1008 candles drift on ;leaves that float on my River
They light the hope of the many by my River.

River, river, I am thirsty
I am burning my River
Quench my thirst, my Mother

I need the River to know her own
Ganga take my children home
Let them feel your abundance
Let them know your tears
Let them know that you, the Ganga are always near.” (Poem by Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati)


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