The Saints and the Sages

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Neem Karoli Baba MaharajjiPeople have asked me the same questions that I have been asking myself all these years: Who is Babaji? What is he? Wherefrom has he come? What was the aim or purpose for which he was living and working? Is Babaji here, or has he disappeared or vanished?

So far as who is Babaji, I have not been able to get a conclusive or satisfactory answer to that. About the miracles of Baba, of course, we know of many of them. Since I first met him I have been seeing so many miracles. Even now they continue.

But the mystery that surrounds his name, that is what has been bothering me all these years.

We used to see him from very close quarters, but still he was a mystery all the time. We have seen him as a human being with a certain form and shape, but were never sure about the form or the shape.

Devotees have taken dozens of pictures. If you look at those pictures you find Babaji appearing in different forms, in different sizes, in different shapes, in different stature. Whenever any devotee askes me what was the real stature or height or weight or size of Babaji, I cannot answer.

When the murti for the Kainchi ashram was to be constructed, Siddhi Didi asked me, "Dada, let us have a picture for the statue which will give a correct impression of Babaji." I could only tell her, "You shouldn't talk like that. You and I have been two of the few fortunate ones who have seen Babaji at very close quarters. Not only when he's sitting and talking, but taking his bath, going to the latrine, or taking his food or sleeping. We have never seen him of the same size or the same girth or the same height or the same weight." This has been a problem that has baffled us all throughout time.

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We all know that Babaji has been a human being with human form and shape. But if we confine our attention merely to the physical, to the body, we cannot understand him. We find that even with the physique of a human being, he had the energy, he had the power, he had the love and affection that does not come to a human being. The greatest human beings of whom we read in history, no doubt they have done and achieved so many things. But what Babaji, or a saint like him, could achieve was certainly not in the capacity of the individual human being. If that is so, we must conclude that in the human body there was some force, some authority, that was not human.

From my study of the lives of the great saints or sages, who have been called incarnations of God, I have learned what they used to do, how they used to live. From this study I have come to the conclusion that Babaji was no doubt of human form, but he was actually a saint or a divine being. A saint has been defined in the Bhagavad Gita as a person with dual aspects—the divine and the human. From the divine aspect, Babaji had all the qualities, all the virtues, all the power and authority of a divine being. Many of us have seen various of the powers that Babaji used to wield: he could atomize himself, take the form of a fly and go out of the room or building, he could take a gigantic form as did Hanuman crossing to Lanka in the Ramayana, he could move about anywhere, he could know what was in our minds, what has taken place so many years back, and what is to come. These things were so very common and simple for him.

Saints or sages are realised souls, those who have freed themselves from the doctrine of karma, fate or destiny. They are no longer slaves, no more at the mercy of birth and death. They take birth out of their own free and voluntary choice. Why do the saints and sages go on taking human form and undergoing all those hardships and trials that human beings have got to undergo? It has been said that they come as a blessing to the world. They take birth in order to help, to assist, to deliver, to elevate the downtrodden, the fallen, the helpless. I believe Babaji had that purpose.

The methods of working of the different saints and sages are not the same. Some of them, some of the greatest ones, may be living in the dark caves in the Himalayas or in the forest, but even from there they are blessing mankind—their very presence goes on creating spiritual vibration, purifying the atmosphere. Other saints and sages may be living in human society. Some might be sadhus living in ashrams or mosques. Others might be wandering here and there. Some might be living as householders, never owning saffron clothes or matted locks. Babaji would talk about so many of them, each with different methods of working, but each and every one with the same aim—the showering of grace onto the people.

We do not know about Maharaj ji's education, or the forms of sadhana he had undergone, or what guru he had. We only know that before the ashrams at Kainchi and Vrindaban were built he was moving all the time. For how many years he had been moving like that, how many places he had visited, how many persons he had initiated or delivered from their miseriers, nobody can say. We have knowledge only about particular places or times, a small fraction of his life. I have met most of his very closest and oldest devotees and all agree that we have known only a part of his life. Although the life of Babaji was quite a long one, it was only since the sixties that he stayed at the ashrams in Kainchi and Vrindaban or places like Nainital. Even at the ashrams Baba would be running away at the first opportunity. Also, he might be sitting with us, he might be talking with us, but he could also be roaming, moving about in another place or another world at the same time. There are so many cases of Babaji being seen in two or three different places at the same time. His body might be in meditation, but he might not be in it.

Babaji was essentially and fundamentally not a householder, nor an ashramite. From 1971, he started saying so often every day, "Dada, what is attachment for a sadhu? I will run away, I will run away." He would not let us ask about this, but we knew that he had gotten completely tired, and he wanted to run away. We knew this very well.

Why then, if Babaji loved moving about like a tramp, did he open ashrams? The time that he was in the ashram in Kainchi or Vrindaban and some small time also in Allahabad, he was giving his bhandara, giving his prasad, feeding the people. In what way is this the showering of his grace or showing his compassion and love to the people? In a country like America, you do not know what food means to the common people. You do not suffer hunger and starvation. But in India you will find that so many are going hungry or suffering from malnutrition. Food is a very precious and a very valuable thing. The places that he chose, such as Kainchi, are surrounded by villagers who are very poor. Babaji therefore started the bhandara, the feeding, so that these people would be able to get some food. He would be talking not of the Bhagavad Gita or Upanishads or Ramayana. He would say, "God comes before the hungry as food. Give them food first, then talk to them of God." So one way of showering his love and showing his affection for the people was to remove their suffering in the form of hunger and starvation.

But it was not merely food he was giving. He was also trying to mitigate the sufferings or hardships of as many people as possible in other ways. Some poor farmer would come and say, "Out of my pair of bullocks, my only source of livelihood, one bullock has died and I have no money to purchase another." Another would say, "My daughter has reached a marriageable age. I have to get her married and I do not have the money for the dowry." Some other persons would be coming saying, "My relative is suffering from tuberculosis and I cannot afford to get help." Many of them would come because they couldn't pay their children's school fees. Babaji had a secret way of helping and assisting so many people, in ways he did not publicise. He may not be distributing the money himself, others would be doing that. But he may be telling somebody, "Take care of her," or "Give to him."

Perhaps the worst kind of suffering comes when a man or woman feels completely helpless—that there is nobody to stand by me, no one to whom I can look or ask for any kind of benefit. Very few of us can be so very religious or noble-minded as to feel or think that God is always with us and we need only look to him. We need some sort of tangible support near us, someone on whom we can lean, in whom we can put our faith or our trust. Babaji would be going to the houses of so many persons—helpless people living in helpless conditions—consoling them, giving words of cheer, trying to bring some smiles to them. We do not know how many tears of helpless women or children or men he has wiped out by his sweet words, by his compassionate touch.

You may say these are certainly not the functions or duties of the saints or sages, this is the duty of householders. That of course Babaji did not accept. He said, "You must make beginning here." But side by side with this he was also looking to our spiritual life, to our moral life, and to our religious life. Did we come for the food or the nice talk he was giving us? Did we get anything more from him, something that was actually entering our hearts and making a seat there? Was he giving us any kind of example or any kind of lesson or any kind of teaching indirectly by his gestures or by his talk, which was trying to elevate us, ennoble us, teach us some of the highest virtues or the qualities of human life? Was he not actually doing that?

If Babaji is a saint, actually an ocean of love and compassion, how are we to share, how are we to enjoy that love and compassion? Can we have a claim? Can we have a right to that? People are interested in so many things—maybe cricket, maybe the cinema, maybe the sadhus or saints. We go to satisfy our passing enthusiasm and then we may forget that interest. We may be going to saints or sadhus simply to satisfy our curiousity and that ends the matter. But in the case of Babaji, like many of the saints, there have been many persons who wanted to have some sort of binding relationship—that our love, our interest in Babaji should not end. We want to have something durable, something permanent, something continuous, so that we can have a claim on him and he can also accept us and acknowledge us. We become related when a saint or sage accepts us as his or her disciple, when we take him to be our guru. Then we have that kind of permanent, beautiful relationship.

Can we say that Babaji is our guru? Can we say that he accepts us as his disciples? So far as a guru and disciple relationship is concerned, that is made when the saint or sage gives mantra or initiates someone to the divine path or light. How is the mantra given? Did Babaji give you mantra? Those of you who were with him may claim that he has given you mantra, but what about those who have not met him in his physical body, can they claim Babaji is their guru and they are also tied to him and he has got a responsibility or duty toward them?

This institution of guru and disciple is as old in India as Hinduism, as India's religious past. In most cases, there may be a guru that is going to the home of the disciple after performing some ceremonies, giving him mantra in his ear. These practices go on in so many houses, so many villages, in so many states of India. But Babaji, of course, did that in only a few cases. We find out that just giving mantra is something like sowing the seeds—there are many different methods. A small farmer with a very limited amount of land goes on sowing the seeds in individual holes. When the farm is bigger in size, the farmer scatters the seed. When the land is vast, as in your country, you have various kinds of mechanical devices. Now think of the gardener or cultivator who goes on growing the forest or the trees over the entire universe. Think of the God or the divine being who goes on planting the seeds over the entire world. He must have some devices.

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There might be some gurus, priests, who go to each and every individual and give mantra. But the greater ones have got different ways of doing it, for example, Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Sitting in Dakshineshwar, in that small ashram, he went on initiating so many thousands of people. Was he pulling everybody by the ear, taking them to a secret closed room and whispering the mantra? What about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, that great incarnation of Krishna, going through the streets singing the name of God? In Allahabad you will find people are singing Ram bhajan or they are reading from the Ramayana, because Babaji used to say, "By taking the name of Ram, everything is accomplished. In this Kali Yuga, nobody can go for kundalini yoga; they should take the name of Ram." This was Babaji's way of scattering the seeds and giving mantra.

There are those who have not heard those things from Babaji's mouth. But it has been said that a sage or saint can give you mantra in vision or dreams. Swami Sivananda, the great saint who had so many thousands and thousands of disciples, says that if you become interested in a certain saint or sadhu—and he speaks of the great saints or great sages—if you become interested in him, if you have developed a love for him, then you can take it that he is your guru. There may be some one saint or sage who you begin loving so much, that you would not like to lose him, that you want to feel that he is your own. Now Sivananda says, "Take it that he is your guru and you can actually claim yourself to be his disciple."

There should be no difficulty in recognizing Baba to be your guru, though you may or may not have met him. Even if you have met him and sat in front of him, he may not have told you, "Now look here, I am giving this mantra to you." He was saying Ram Ram, that he was doing all the twenty-four hours, and saying that Ram Ram is the be-all and end-all of people's lives and that by taking the name of Ram everything is accomplished. I think it all becomes so very easy and so very clear.

Another question that comes is that if Babaji is such a mighty person, such a great saint, how does he go on picking or choosing his disciples? There are millions of people in India and in your country, too. All of them have not been attracted. All of them have not gone to him, neither has he come and visited your country and been with you. Now ask yourself this question. How have you been drawn towards him?

I have seen with my own eyes that there are many persons who have been interested in seeing Babaji or meeting Babaji. They may have come to the ashram, they may have waited for him in the road, but they were never able to see him because Babaji didn't draw them, didn't want to initiate them. The old devotees in India have seen all this. We would be ten sitting and nine of us would see Babaji and the tenth would not. Or someone would be sitting on the road and Babaji would pass before him and the person wouldn't see Babaji. This happened on so many occasions. Someone would tell Babaji, "So and so is a great devotee and wants to see you." And Babaji would say, "No, I don't want to see him. He's a big badmash, I don't want to see him." So I must say that nobody would come to Babaji, nobody would know, nobody would feel interested in him, if Babaji did not want it. Babaji has actually drawn me, drawn you, that is how we are here.

When the farmer sows his seeds, he is selective about his fields, choosing those which are suitable for cultivation. If the land can be properly conditioned, then he would plant it. If the land is rocky or barren, he would not sow seeds there. The saint or sage knows that not every individual is suitable for spiritual initiation. Some might be completely ready; their past karma might be going in their favor and they can be immediately called and initiated. In the case of others, the guru would draw them near, watch over them and prepare them. I believe that no one comes to Babaji without him wanting them. We think we are running after the guru, but he is actually running after us. Why does he do it? He is not fond of your money; he is not fond of the sweet or nice things you talk about him; he is not fond of the publicity you can make about him. It is out of sheer grace, out of sheer kindness.

You must know that a sage or saint has got the whole wealth of the world at his disposal. He has got no needs, no requirements of his own. He doesn't worry about food, clothes, money, nothing of the sort. A guru is there to carry the big loads or burdens of his disciples. This is what the guru goes on doing, giving and giving and giving to you. That giving we cannot call charity, which is a word that comes from our family references, our business life, our day-to-day life. A gift or charity is made to one from whom we have received something in the past or hope to get something in the future. When a gift is given, the relationship between the person making the gift and receiving it comes to be one superior and the other inferior. Somebody who goes on receiving charity, getting gifts, can never himself be very proud or very happy. But in the case of grace, anybody who has got the grace of God feels himself so elevated. "Oh, I have become something divine. I have been elevated." So when the grace of the guru comes, its purpose is to elevate, to raise and lift people.

Now we know that a sage or a saint does not want anything, he has no need of his own, but still, out of grace, he makes you work for him, makes you give to him. A guru comes to have a claim not only your physical labor and exertion, but also on the working of your mind and on every possession. Tan, man, dhan [body, mind, wealth]—your guru can claim it all.

In India, when you go to a temple and the priest performs a puja or any kind of prayer or ceremony, you must pay him a fee. You might also give prasad, rich clothes and ornaments to the deity, but if you don't pay the priest, your worship is not complete. Similarly, a guru is taking a lump of clay and turning it into something permanent and beautiful and abiding. When he is transforming you from a lump of clay into something precious, he must take a fee from you, otherwise your spiritual growth and journey would not be complete. If the guru does not accept the fee from us, all our efforts will be absolutely useless.

Sometimes the guru has got to be cruel, has got to punish us, simply because willingly, voluntarily, we would not be able to give away our valuable or precious things. The guru says we have got to make the journey, we have got to reach the goal.

It has been said that there are three main functions of the guru. The first is the work of the swan. The swan is one of the creatures that can separate milk from water. If you or I mix milk and water together, we cannot then separate them. Similarly, if sugar and sand are mixed, we cannot separate them, but the ant can. So the swan (called the 'hans') can differentiate the real from the unreal, the useful from the useless. Ramakrishna was called Paramahans, which means the great swan, because he could take from this jungle of worldly life what is real, precious and valuable, the crest jewel, from the superficial and useless. You and I cannot know what is the actual path of bliss, what is the road for the divine life. So a guru first of all goes on showing the disciples what is real, what is unreal, what is precious, what is worthless, which is the road you must walk, which you must discard.

In America, when your ironware or tools become rusted and useless, you throw them out. But in India there is a class of blacksmith who collects this scrap iron which is not longer suitable for any kind of work. They go on removing the dross or rust, the external elements, from the pure iron that may be there. This is also the second thing the guru does whenever a new disciple is chosen. He takes the rusted iron and puts it through hard treatment. The greater the dross, the hotter the fire the guru must use to reclaim the pure iron, to make it useful and valuable, to make it serve the purpose that is still there. The great gurus can reclaim us, no matter how very rotten or useless we may have become.

Those of you who have been in India know that, in place of plastics or glassware, clay pots are used as utensils. In each and every village there are potters who collect the clay, make it into a paste, and then try to bring a form or shape to it. Each utensil has got to be completely smooth, without any edge, without any leakage. When they put the clay on the wheel to shape it, two things are necessary. First there must be some force or pressure used to shape the clay. Yet if the clay is unprotected or unguarded, the pressure would break the pot. So what the potter does is use one hand to go on beating the clay into shape, but the other hand is kept inside the pot, saving it and protecting it from the outward force or pressure. This is the third thing the guru does.

You have read the life of Milarepa. His guru Marpa was outwardly so very cruel and hard that even his wife was complaining, "Why do you do this?" But look at his inner heart, how very affectionate, how very soft, how very gentle, how very gracious the guru was in order to protect his disciple. So we find that the guru is compassion. But if merely compassion or softness takes form, not bringing any pressure, not applying any force, then the pot would not be made. So in our heart of hearts we should feel that when Babaji has drawn us to him, it is not merely a joke, you see that. If he has drawn us, he must certainly be interested in our welfare. He wants us to be worthy of something. If we have this faith or trust in the guru, then that would be the most valuable, the most precious thing for our spiritual journey, for our future growth and development.

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