Bhagwan Singh and Haridas Baba Chapter

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Neem Karoli Baba MaharajjiBhagwan Singh, known as Bhabania, was born in an obscure village of the Kumoan. Now middle-aged, he was well known to those who visited Babaji's temples at Lucknow, Vrindaban and other places.

The visitors who came to the Hanuman temple in Lucknow knew him as the most important person there—the priest who did his puja, presented offerings to Hanumanji, and distributed prasad to everyone coming to the temple.

The rise of this illiterate boy—a 'non-entity' as he called himself—to the highest post in a celebrated temple happened before our eyes.

Many persons were jealous of this boy who, they felt, had no claim to the post, either by his merit, by family relationship, or by any service done to Babaji.

This caused a lot of heart-burning among some persons associated with Babaji's ashrams or temples.

They tried to hurt the boy and prevent his rise by all possible means, fair or foul. Babaji was unrelenting; he foiled all their attempts and secured for Bhabania the coveted place which he occupies now.

We have seen how Babaji worked for the good of all, known or unknown, worthy or unworthy, virtuous or sinners. However, we judge others according to our own knowledge and self-interest, and then test them according to our own code of conduct which we take to be good for all. Babaji had his own code of conduct which some persons did not approve of. They tried, in every way possible, to prevent him from showing favor to Bhabania. Failing that, they became hostile to the boy, taking him to be the problem. This was not new to Babaji's old devotees, who had seen him at work. The grace must flow and reach the chosen one, and all resistance must be overcome. Many of the chosen recipients are repugnant to our "good" sense as they do not conform to our own code of conduct. The only aim for the great saints is to bestow grace: to help, protect, and deliver those who are in need. Babaji's devotees will tell you, again and again, that you may try to understand his choice of recipient and his methods, but you will not know. Only the recipient knows, and he will not disclose that.

Bhabania was born in a poor farmer's family. When he was a small boy his father died, leaving him in the charge of his elder brother. His mother had also died long ago. His brother was married and had children, but both the brother and sister-in-law were not well disposed toward him. The absence of choice food and pleasant things, comforts and conveniences, did not pain him as much as the absence of attention and the consideration of his position as an orphan boy. He used to work for the family both in the house and field, like other boys in the villages. He had no complaint against the work that he had to do. His complaint came from something else: the feeling of partiality and discrimination displayed by his sister-in-law, favoring her son over him. This was painful to him, and he could find no redress at their hands. He had been nursing these grievances for a long time and sought an escape.

He had been attending the village school regularly, but was rebuked by the teacher for not paying his fees in time. The humiliation reached its peak when his brother said that he had no money for it, and if Bhabania wanted to study, he must earn his own fees. This was unbearable, and he took a desperate step. He left the house one day, unknown to anybody, and ran away from home. Bhabania wanted to escape from the humiliation and torture and to find sympathy and affection; the only thing to do was to go for that unknown place, that unknown person, who had all the treasures he was seeking. Did he have any inkling in his heart that there was such a person available to him, and that he only had to reach out to him? Bhabania says that he doesn't remember. He was only sure that he must move as far away as possible or his relations would catch him. They were probably already hunting for him.

After some days he got work as a laborer in a road-building gang. The pay was meager and the work was hard, carrying loads over his head. But he could not refuse that work; it gave him something to eat, some place to keep his head and the company of many co-workers. Bhabania said, "Later, I shifted to other places, working under many masters. I tried my hand at different odd jobs—working for families doing washing, dusting, and many other things meant for the menial boy servants. I did not earn much money, nor did I save anything for better food or clothes. But the labor that I did and the risks I had taken helped me grow strong in body and mind. I was able to take care of myself under difficult conditions and not be dependent on others for minor things. What is more, I was able to face the new places and new situations I was being pushed into. With the qualifications I had acquired, I moved to a town and found an opening as a hotel boy in a small eating house."

The only thing he kept emphasising was that he had to risk leaving his only security for unknown places in order to search for what he valued and missed most. He continued, "The affection and sympathy, the care and caress that I lost at a very early age, left a vacuum in my life and, as I see now, that worked as a hidden force, moving me from one place and master to another place and master.

"I do not know what prompted me to move, but something was a work behind the scenes. I had learned much from working at several hotels and households of the rich. While working in a hotel, someone told me there was a job available in the house of a rich well-known doctor in Bareilly, who was a very kind man who would pay me more than I was getting in the hotel. After some preliminary inquiries, I was engaged in his house. My employer and his whole family treated me well. Not only had I my full meals, which I had missed for so long, but also some rest and comfort to relax my body and mind.

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"One day in summer, a big man in a blanket alighted from a car and all the people of the house rushed to him shouting, 'Babaji has come.' I was standing behind, but when everyone bowed at his feet, I did the same, even though I knew nothing about him. He was Baba, a sadhu, that is all I learned. He entered the drawing room and sat on the cot while others squatted on the floor; nobody would sit on the chairs or the sofas in the room.

"It was a big house with a large compound. Many persons started coming; the hall was full of people and many cars were parked near the lawn. The baba was doing most of the talking and nobody wanted to miss what he was saying. There was much laughter when he imitated the shrill voice of a person who had been coming to him often, 'Baba, I am in great difficulty, very great difficulty. Tell me what I should do. Please save me.' When the laughter was over, someone asked Babaji what he did with him. Babaji said that he sent him away telling him, 'Sab thik ho jayega. You should make all your efforts without any loss of courage.'

"Part of my job was to offer tea and eatables to visitors. Seeing me standing near the door, Babaji suddenly asked me to bring him a glass of water. I washed the glass clean, rubbed it in a towel, and took it to him on a small steel plate. I had learned this while working as a hotel boy. He took the glass from the plate, and after drinking, put it back. He had taken only a few sips and there was much left in the glass. When I was going inside, a lady took the glass from my hand, saying it was a precious thing and must not be thrown away. Some persons shared it among themselves, drinking and sprinkling the water over their heads. I was also given a few drops and told that it was sacred and I must honor it fully. I did as I was advised, but can recall now my wonder—no one had ever before given me any auspicious or sacred thing to share.

"After a short while Babaji sent people away, saying it was getting late. There were not many persons left sitting in the room. The talks were mostly of a personal nature, and I was not attentive. I was standing by the door, waiting for others to leave, when Babaji suddenly got down from his cot. Others stood up and wanted to follow him to the door. He stopped them, saying he was going to urinate and would return. He came to the door, caught hold of my hand and asked me to move. I moved but not actually on my own—I was dragged. I was under a spell. How was it possible? The most adorable one, the one to whom everybody rushed, himself had come and taken me by the hand!

"While I was lost in thought and moving slowly, he asked me questions, such as when I took my food at night and where I slept. This being summer, I slept outside near the building. He asked if I was not afraid to sleep outside. I told him some male members of the household also slept outside—not near me, but on the lawn. I remember these questions. Although he asked me casually, they meant much to me when I realized afterwards why they were asked.

"Returning to the room, he sat for a short while. His food was brought and he gave prasad to all. Eating a little himself, he finished his meal. Chatting for a few minutes more, he came out to tell the people that they must go and take their food as it was getting late. We finished our food, and after the necessary work was done, everyone wanted to go to sleep. When everyone in the house had taken to their beds, I also took out my rope cot, spread it outside, and went to sleep without much delay.

"Soon I was in deep sleep. When I woke up, it was almost the end of the night. Looking around with my sleepy eyes, I saw that I was sitting in a car, someone was sitting near me in the back and Babaji was sitting in front by the driver. After a long drive we reached a wayside house and stopped there for our bath and food. I had no opportunity to find out how I came to be in the car or where we were going.

"When I asked the driver about it, he could only say that Babaji had told him that late at night they would go to Dr. Bhandari's house where I was serving, and that he should not tell anyone about it; he should come along in his car to where Babaji was staying and wait. Babaji said that he himself would come and call him when he was to go. It was past twelve, and the driver was sitting in his car dozing when Babaji came, tapped his shoulder to wake him up, and then asked him to start. When they reached the gate of Dr. Bhandari's house, Babaji asked him to stop the car outside the gate, but to keep the engine running. Babaji entered the gate, and the driver sat in the car watching him. Babaji went near the hedge where I was sleeping on my cot. He lifted me up by putting both his hands below my back and carried me to the car. He put me on the back seat and then took his seat beside me. Then Babaji asked him to start. They drove until they reached a petrol tank where a certain person who was waiting paid for the petrol. It was then that Babaji took his seat in front beside him. He could only tell me this much.

"We drove for several hours and by evening we reached a house where we spent the night. Everyone was unknown to me. I did not know whom I could approach to ask where we were going and what I was to do there. These were crucial problems before me, and there was no one who could help me in tackling them. Those whom I asked about it replied that they knew nothing about it — only Babaji knew. But who could ask him? All that was left for me to do was to be patient and wait for what was to come. Curiosity was of no use.

"While in my bed for the night I consoled myself with the assurance that I was not to worry. The person who took me out of my shelter would not leave me stranded. Baba was very kind—that was in everybody's mouth. When he was at Dr. Bhandari's house, he was kind to all, so he must be kind to me also. I must not bother anymore, everything should be left to him. For all these years I had been pining to find someone who would give me a break in my unhappy life. I came to believe, little by little, that everything I sought would come forth from Baba and I should depend on him, only on him, and not ask any questions. This was not easy to do. After so many years of trial and error, I could not immediately earn that faith and surrender at his feet. My faith has always been partial and contingent, and there have been occasions when it was like a shuttlecock going and coming." This confession was made when I met him at Lucknow, where he was already installed in his glory.

"For the rest of the drive to Babaji's unknown destination, I was no longer troubled; I left it all to Babaji. After driving for some time in the day, we reached Vrindaban. All that was there were Hanumanji's temple with the murti and a few make-shift rooms. There was much activity as construction for the ashram complex was in full swing. We reached there in the middle of the day and all the persons working there or connected with the ashram rushed to Babaji. They acquainted Babaji with the work they were doing, the difficulties they had to face, and what they wanted him to do for them. But when he began asking questions, many of them coiled back; he said their work was not satisfactory. They had forgotten that they were working before Hanumanji's eyes and that they had to be very careful and vigorous. He told them what they should learn from Hanumanji for their own work.

"While talking to them, he sent someone to get food for us — puri, sabji, dahi, mithai. Babaji did not eat anything himself and when we finished eating, I was put in charge of some senior person who looked after the ashram work. Babaji told him that I was to live in the ashram and work there, and that although I could give my hands for various kinds of work, I should be associated in some way with work on Hanmuman ji's temple. After giving the necessary advice to everyone, Babaji left, saying that he would be in Vrindavan and would come again. If Babaji stayed there, people would start gathering around him. There were no facilities available at that stage, and he would not allow people to gather in their absence. He was very particular about such things, whether in his ashrams, or in the houses of his devotees when he visited them. So he decided to stay away, but would visit the temple every now and then. These visits were more or less in the nature of inspections and giving instruction about how the work was to proceed. The supervision and control were strictly in his hands.

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"Such control and inspections were not confined merely to the buildings and construction. Every activity connected with his ashrams or temples—the daily prasad, bhandaras or special celebrations, pujas and worship in the temple, permission and arrangements for visitors' stays in the ashram—were all open to his sharp and vigilant eyes. Nothing was left to chance on the wishes or whims of others, however important they might be in the ashram administration. Scanning and scrutinising were always taking place and there was no escape from it.

"One day, while Babaji was standing in the sun instructing the persons about their work, some devotee came from Delhi. He asked Babaji to leave the supervision in the hands of others. He said that Babaji had many devotees who could look after these works. The reply was very significant. Babaji said that the devotees were in full charge, and that he came to see how the work was being done and help in procuring materials. This was necessary to keep everyone happy and allow the work to go on undisturbed.

"At other times he had different explanations for this, saying that it was a serious mistake to leave the charge fully in the hands of others, however big they might be. He had learned this at his own cost during the construction of the temples at Kainchi. The finances for the three temples—Shankar, Lakshmi Narayan and Hanuman—had come from the Birlas. Jugal Kishore Birla was a great devotee of Baba's and had wanted him to build them. When the whole construction was completed and murtis installed, Jugal Kishore saw them in photos. He told Babaji that he could see clearly from the photos that not more than half the money given had been spent. The balance must have been shared between the person sent by him with the money and the persons in charge of construction. Babaji said that Jugal Kishore's estimate was correct, but what a shame it was for everyone. Moreover, if things are left in the hands of others, the risk will always be there and nobody will give more money for the ashram. 'Now I do not give full charge to anyone. I have learned much. Give all the liberty to your horses to run, but keep the reins in your own hand.'"

Bhabania's life in Vrindaban was not happy from the very beginning and eventually became intolerable. He was placed in the charge of persons who were not well disposed to him and who tried every means to drive him away. He was forced to do all kinds of menial jobs and was not allowed to go near the Hanuman temple, which was to have been his main occupation. Babaji knew all about this, and watching from behind, he allowed it to happen. Intervention came on several occasions when it was necessary, and each time it came, it was a landmark in Bhabania's career.

The people who had become hostile to him had many reasons to justify their behavior. One reason was that they all came from Braj Bhumi area and felt that they were close to Babaji, who, according to them, also hailed from there, whereas Bhabania was a pahari (man from the hills) who had nothing in common with them. So how could he be dear to them? The second reason put forward was that he was not a Brahmin with the sacred thread. How could he dare to be a pujari when he was not even entitled to enter the temple? Moreover, he was ignorant, had not studied the Shastras and knew no mantras, so how could he be the pujari? To allow him to do that would be to commit a great sin, and all of them would suffer for it. He should be checked at all costs.

But there was a third reason and their treatment of Bhabania was mostly motivated by this: jealousy. They had been jealous from the very beginning when Babaji brought Bhabania along with him and expressed his love for the boy, feeding him well and asking people to take care of him. Jealousy is a nasty and dangerous parasite. It threatens one's own peace and serenity and becomes a menace to others. This is the main thing that set their hearts burning.

Nobody cared about Bhabania's food, rest, or comfort, but insults and abuses were coming in plenty. When the humiliation became intolerable, he actually started thinking of running away, but it was not as easy this time. This was not the hills where people, although strangers, were helpful; it was a foreign land, unknown to him. So he would cry in his helplesness and pray to Babaji for help.

Babaji visited the ashram many times during the several years of Bhabania's stay and, although he saw everything with his own eyes and helped Bhabania when necessary, Babaji never interfered in the running of the ashram in order to favor him. There must have been something hidden behind all this. When Bhabania narrated to the devotees his precarious condition, they would tell him that he must tolerate it and stand firm; all of this was being done or permitted by Babaji only for Bhabania's own benefit. When Babaji had drawn Bhabania to himself, it was out of his kripa for him, and he would not leave him stranded. He should pray to Babaji only, and seek help from nowhere else.

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Once some mothers, devotees of Babaji and known to Babania, were staying in an ashram in Vrindavan. Bhabania used to visit them often and talk of his problems. They were very sympathetic to him, but they knew Babaji's way of working. In consoling Bhabania, they used to urge him to have complete faith in Babaji. They said he was lucky to have a place in Babaji's ashram and that he was being taken care of by him; whatever complaints he had against anyone, he should tell them only to Babaji. All remedy would come from him.

One day he rushed to the mothers excitedly and narrated the dream he had had the night before. In the dream, he was working in the ashram near the Hanuman temple when he saw Babaji coming toward the temple and rushed to him. Seeing him coming toward him, Babaji stopped, and Bhabania stood up after touching his feet. Babaji took out a Janeu (sacred thread) from within his blanket and put it around Bhabania's neck.

Relishing the full joy from the dream, Bhabania worked in peace near the temple. While busy in his work, he saw Babaji entering through the gate. Everything after that happened as he had seen it in his dream: he rushed to the gate and fell at Babaji's feet. Babaji lifted him up and put the Janeu on his neck. Babaji told him that he used to say he was not a Brahmin because he did not have the sacred thread, so now he had it, and now he was a Brahmin. Babaji stayed for a few hours in the ashram, meeting everyone and seeing how the work was going, then left in the evening.

Bhabania was happy at the change in his luck. He thought now his rise to priest would be smooth. He had already memorized the forty verses of the Hanuman Chalisa and the mantras recited in the temple to worship Hanumanji. The hurdle holding him back had been removed by Babaji when he invested him with the sacred thread. What he had seen in his dream had actually come true. He would rely more and more on Babaji. He called it his oath—seeking help from Babaji alone.

Babaji had announced to all that Bhabania was the pujari designate. He had not been fully qualified before, but those objections could not stand now. Yet Bhabania was still prevented from realizing his highest hope and now he was being forcibly deprived of what rightfully belonged to him. He had become bold, fully armed with Babaji's authority, and began to argue with those who opposed his rise. How could he take their challenge lying down? He was sure that Babaji would see him through in his fight.

The confrontation continued for some time, but Bhabania had to retreat. He could not stand against the combined strength of his detractors. They were vindictive and would not allow him near the temple. Bhabania broke down and stayed away from the temple, crying and fasting. He also started doubting Babaji. He had built a dream castle, but now it was dashed to the ground. Once again he felt that he had lost everything. His faith in Babaji began to wane, and his oath of relying on him only was held in abeyance.

One day, he saw Babaji and moved toward him, crying even more bitterly. Babaji allowed some time for him to cool down, then he started talking. "You have not taken your food for two days, but who suffers from it? Are you such a fool as not to know that you cannot win them over by your tears and starvation?" While the boy was shedding tears at his feet, Babaji took a package of hot puris, sabji, and pera from within his blanket and gave it to him. Bhabania's fasting had been fully recompensed—delicious food served with so much affection by Babaji. His hunger was satisfied and his faith in Babaji, which had become shaken by his misfortunes, became steady again. He stood before him, ready to hear and obey him in full.

Babaji said, "You must not break down so easily. You are no more a little boy to be carried in arms. You have grown up and there is so much work you have to do. Your people and friends are looking toward you. You should do your work, be friendly to everyone, and never quarrel with anyone. People who are jealous of you will oppose you in various ways but do not take it to heart. Do your work like a great hero and all will be well for you. I want to see you as a strong person doing all your work with a smile on your face and a friend to everyone around you." This was the first time in his life that he had gotten this type of advice.

After Babaji left, Bhabania returned to his work with much courage and enthusiasm, but this lasted only for a short period. His detractors, who had been harassing him in every possible way, knew that they were losing their struggle. Babaji stood firmly behind the man whom they were fighting. They had to seek help for setting things right somewhere else. They felt that their grievances were genuine and the sanctity of the ashram was being sacrificed by allowing Bhabania to offer prasad and arti to Hanumanji. But they had to change their strategy. Although Bhabania was unaware of the conspiracy, he became apprehensive. He felt a calamity was awaiting him. Not knowing what it was going to be, he became very nervous and panicky. His work suffered, and he was rebuked for his neglect of duty.

There were rumors going around the ashram that Bhabania's opponents were seeking the intervention of Seth Jaipuria, an eminent industrialist and devotee of Babaji who had financed the construction of the Hanuman temple. He was interested in the proper running of the temple by a comptetent pujari and used to acquaint himself with the running of the temple by occasional visits and reports from others. Bhabania's opponents went to him with their reports. When Bhabania came to know that Shri Jaipuria would come any day to see things for himself, he lost the strength and courage inspired in him by Babaji. He could not face the new challenge coming or struggle against it. The old days had returned with a plethora of troubles.

It was when he was in such desperation that he learned that Shri Jaipuria was coming that day. He could not think of anything to do except to hide some place. There was much activity and jubilation in the ashram throughout the day. Everybody was preparing a fitting reception for the distinguished visitor. Shri Jaipuria came in the evening with a large party. When they were seated, the proverbial sacrificial animal was to be brought and the search for Bhabania started. Just when he had been found, and was being led to the 'sacrifice', someone shouted that Babaji had arrived.

Babaji was ushered to the place where everyone was sitting. Everyone bowed at his feet. He looked around and asked Shri Jaipuria when he had come, and said it was good he was here so he could see for himself how his favorite temple was being run. Had he known that Shri Jaipuria was coming, he would have come much earlier. Babaji said that he had no idea of coming, but somehow or other he felt that as he had not been here for a long time, he should come for a visit. It was good that they could meet here.

The acting was perfect. None could imagine that he had any smell of what was happening here. Talking to everyone, he kept the show going on, but some were getting worried—the way Babaji was managing things, all of their work might come to naught.

Neem Karoli Baba MaharajjiSuddenly Babaji started to talk of the new pujari. "Have you met your new pujari? He asked them to call Bhabania there who was standing behind the door, hearing everything and shivering all through. When he entered the room, Babaji asked him to sit near him, facing the audience. Babaji himself was sitting on the cot with everyone else on the floor before him. Everyone was facing him, and he could see through everyone's eyes and know what was going on in everybody's mind. Resuming his talks and addressing Shri Jaipuria specifically, he said, "The pujari looks young in age but actually he is a great pandit who knows the Gita and all the Shastras. One could not believe it by looking at him, but it is true. You yourself are a great lover of the Bhagavad Gita, and you should hear him reciting it."

Nobody sitting there could believe what Babaji was saying and Shri Jaipuria was in a fix. He himself could not agree with what Babaji was saying, but what could he say? When Babaji pressed him, saying that he should hear Bhabania recite, and asked him which was his favorite chapter in the Gita, he was at his wits' end. He mentioned that the eleventh chapter was his favorite. Bhabania was sitting there like a statue without being able to apprehend what all this talk was about. Babaji started rubbing his foot on Bhabania's back and then striking his head with it as if to awaken him from his sleep and goad him to talk.

Then Bhabania started the recitation. The Celestial Song was recited in Sanskrit, perfect in rhythm and intonation. Everyone was sitting hypnotized by some unseen charm. When it was over, Babaji asked Shri Jaipuria what he thought about the recitation. He said he could hardly believe his ears; he had never heard anything like that before in his life. The sitting ended soon and prasad was distributed to all. Shri Jaipuria and the members of his family made liberal gifts of money to Bhabania. Once, when he narrated the incident to some of us at Kainchi, Bhabania said that he could not understand why so much money had come to him, more than he had ever had in his life.

Shri Jaipuria went to the dharmashala to stay for the night. The sponsors of the show were completely thwarted; they knew now that they had lost for good. Bhabania was firmly installed and none would be able to shake him anymore. It was all over for them, but it was just the beginning for Bhabania. Babaji gave him a few words regarding courage and devotion to his duty—he was serving Hanuman and should always remember the way Hanuman served his own master. He would learn everything from dedicating his work to Hanumanji.

Babaji left the next morning for Allahabad, where he was staying for the winter. The previous morning he had gotten up as usual, finished his toilet, and then started to hurry everyone in the house. He had to leave for Vrindaban immediately. It was as if he had gotten a message just at that moment. Someone must go and get petrol and return without any delay. When the car returned, he got in it and left. Several persons had wanted to accompany him, but he allowed only the one who had come from Agra. He was busy, and there was no time to talk or argue. Everyone must stay back—that was the reply to those who wanted to go with him. As mentioned before, they had reached Vrindaban in the evening after driving for the whole day, and returned four days later. Brij Lal, the driver who took him there, gave us the graphic description of what had taken place in Vrindaban. We also heard from many other persons who were present there at that time. Everyone knew that the whole show was Babaji's miracle, and Bhabania was the medium chosen by the magician for his show. When the show was over, Bhabania returned to his previous state.

This kind of miracle has been done by many saints before, mostly to help their devotees and disciples. These so-called miracles are not miracles to the saint; they are within easy reach when their devotees are to be protected, defended against hostile forces, or rewarded for devotion and service.

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Gyaneshwar used it for teaching the pandits who boasted about their knowledge of the Vedas. Knowing what was in their minds, Gyaneshwar said this could be done by the buffalo nearby. When they mentioned the name of the Veda and the mantras of their interest, the buffalo recited them a Gyaneshwar's command.

Shankaracharya made his disciple, Giri, compose and recite verses in praise of the master. Giri loved to spend his time in his master's service; he was not versed in Shastras, nor interested in them. One day, when Padmapada and other disciples wanted to humiliate Giri for his lack of knowledge, Shankara inspired Giri to recite his immortal verse. Because the verse was in totak meter, Giri got the new name of Totakacharya. It was all glory for Giri, and humiliation for the proud disciples. The case of Bhabania is different in that Babaji seldom took any personal service from his devotees in order to bring about their transformation. For Babaji's devotees there was no smooth, laid out path to tread.

The work of the saints sometimes takes the form of making, unmaking, and remaking their devotees anew. Bhabania lived in Vrindaban for some time without any new trouble to face, but he was destined to move again. He had traversed many places, tried his hand at many jobs, served under many masters and had learned much about life and living. But there were other desires and hopes lying hidden in him, just waiting for suitable conditions in which to raise their heads. The time was now ripe. These hidden and unfulfilled desires—all his samskaras—became active and Bhabania became restless and was not able to enjoy what had been earned from his struggles and sufferings.

While living in Vrindaban and discharging his new duties of service at the temple, he was planning his next move. He had heard so much about Kainchi, and believed that all his fond hopes and cherished desires could be satisfied if he reached there. Kainchi was not far from the home he had left behind and he was known to the people of that area. He had been talking about his desire to visit Kainchi to many persons coming to the Vrindaban ashram, but not much help could come from them. It came from Babaji himself. He asked someone who was going to Vrindaban from Kainchi to bring Bhabania back with him.

In the ancient wisdom there is a saying, "Do not pour soma juice in an unbaked pot." It will break, spilling everything. The pot has to be baked before pouring the juice. The vessel may have been dried in the sun, but then it has to be baked in the fire and cleaned before pouring the sacred juice in it. The refrain often rings in my ears: "Dada, if you do not make it empty, how are you going to fill it up again?" That is the technique, the secret strategy, working in all his moves.

Bhabania was a young man by now, not an ignorant fugitive sneaking around in search of some crumbs. He was trained and qualified for the cherished post of priest in a celebrated temple, well-versed in the mantras and rituals, appreciated by all, and nourished with all the delicacies he could enjoy. He had the company of respectable persons, encouragement from all around him, and no more troubles or hurdles in the path. This made him bold. Now he wanted many things that were unknown or unavailable to him before. His friends and relations encouraged him in this.

When he had first left his home in desperation, he had no family, relations or friends. He had to steer his journey alone. Now the news had spread of his securing an honorable and lucrative post and suddenly he had many friends, relations and well-wishers on every side. Why should his relations not claim him as their very dear one? They began to goad Bhabania to cry for all kinds of things. They said that he could get anything from Babaji. The inspiration to come to Kainchi came from his new friends. All of these moves were arranged by Babaji for his cleaning.

When he came to Kainchi, Bhabania found himself in great demand among his many friends who had heard of his high attainments through Baba's grace. When he had run away from his house, he had moved stealthily so as not to get caught, but now he returned by the same road in a triumphant march. His days were spent in jubilation, narrating his stories again and again in every detail to anyone ready to give him a hearing. Several times he was taken by some of his admirers and friends to their houses nearby. He had no specific work to do in the ashram, and he avoided facing Babaji ass much as he could. He preferred to stay in the back of the ashram and spend time with several elderly and well-known people he found there.

Some of his relations and persons from his village had been visiting him in the ashram. Many of them were interested in getting him married, and some were interested in securing, through him, Babaji's favor. Babaji knew what was going on—particularly all the efforts to take Bhabania home and get him married. He was very eligible as a bridegroom and there was actually a girl selected for his marriage. Besides the visits, letters were calling him home for even just a few days to get the marriage celebrated. Babaji would sometimes ask him about their contents. It was always about the marriage.

One day Babaji raised his voice, saying he wanted Bhabania to ride on the elephant, but what could he do when Bhabania was determined to ride on the donkey? Bhabania should be ashamed. On another occasion after such a letter came to him, Babaji said that after the marriage, Bhabania would start begetting children as animals got their pups. Everyone enjoyed his caviling at the cost of Bhabania, but Bhabania was quiet and made no reply. He was facing another crisis point in his life with forces pulling him in many directions.

He was a young man and the idea of getting married and having a family was already working in his mind; it was the normal thing for him to do. When the pulls started coming to draw him home and get married, he started thinking well of his relations. They were only doing for him what close relations would do. It was all for his good, so why should he resist? He had reached this stage in his mind and was thinking how best to respond to their call.

Things began moving fast for him. The summer was over and many of those coming or staying at Kainchi had left for their respective places. I returned to Allahabad as my university was to re-open after summer. I had seen for myself the developments that took place during the summer, but not what happened afterwards.

After we had gone, Babaji was living in the ashram. One day he left, saying he would return after a few days. With Babaji gone, everyone was free to do whatever he liked with no vigilant eye to escape or abuses and punishments to avoid. For those who were living like true ashramites, with all the decencies and decorum of a disciplined life, Babaji's presence or absence did not make any difference. But the smoldering fire looks for the blowing of the wind to flare up, and there were some ashramites who were waiting for Babaji's absence to indulge in their vulgar play. It was to be another turning point in Bhabania's life.

After Babaji had left, the drama was enacted in the early night on the roof of the ashram building, in full view of the ashramites and the people of the neighborhood. It was sponsored by an elderly and respected person in the ashram and Bhabania and Khemua were the main participants. Drinking and dancing were common practices while celebrating some festival or happy occasion—entertainment and release from the tensions of life. On such occasions, the rules of conduct become lax and all kinds of obscenities and indecencies are tolerated. Even in these, however, there are limits, which when crossed turn into crude and vulgar excesses. When Khemua and some others discarded their clothes during the dance, they crossed all limits in a sacred institution. Those in the ashram regretted the orgy enacted before their eyes, but they had no way of preventing it. They all awaited anxiously for the return of Babaji.

Babaji returned shortly thereafter. Everyone surrounded him, acquainting him with their own story, making it as graphic as possible. All kinds of exaggerations were freely indulged. The climax came when some women from the neighborhood gave their complaints in strong language. Hearing them, Babaji flared up. With shouts and abuses, he created terror in the hearts of all. But for those who had been connected with the show, the axe fell on their necks. They were all banished from the premises — Khemua went to the farm, the sponsor of the show was barred from the ashram for good, and Bhabania was sent to Lucknow. He had to leave Kainchi for good; there was no return to his village, no spending his life with his relations, getting married or starting a new family. The road to them was blocked and he was packed far away from his home and relations. It was actual banishment for him.

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The terror created by Babaji continued for some time, but with the dispatch of the accused from the ashram, calm returned and life continued as before. Afterwards, when someone started talking about it, Babaji's reply was, "I knew everything. I went away simply to give the opportunity for their dance drama, so I could remove them outright after that." It was true that he knew everything that was to come and had manipulated the whole thing. Something decisive had to be done to prepare these devotees for future duties. No one understood at the time, including those for whose benefit everything was done. If it had been possible, they would have tried their utmost to prevent Babaji from 'playing with their lives.

For Babaji, once he had decided to do something for the protection or benefit of his devotee—to fully bake the pot or clean the vessel—nothing could deter him. The strategy was the same—no one must know, whatever the cost and whatever others might think, the work must be done. Everything was determined by him alone, and he alone was responsible for its completion. Similarly, if anyone opposed or resisted, he would not tolerate it. This was a very striking part, if not the most striking part of Babaji. When he was at work, very few of us would be able to guess anything about it. We were always misled by the reactions of the affected parties and caught in outer dramas.

The story of Bhabania being sent away from Kainchi to Lucknow was on the same line as that of Haridas being sent away from Nainatal to Delhi. There were cogent and powerful reasons justifying these drastic actions. The charge was of his relations and friends indulging in violence and creating terror on the ashram premises. Neither Bhabania nor Haridas was the sponsor of the events for which they were sent away, but they were the center around which everything was done.

For Haridas, the drama consisted of a group of rowdies from Nainital, who entered the ashram from the back, tried to force open the doors and drive away the ladies who were occupying the rooms. Finding some rooms locked, they demanded the keys from the mothers. When they were told that they keys were with me, they all rushed to me. Demanding the keys, they abused me, taking me to be the main culprit. Their accusation was significant. "You sycophants hailing from the plains and sitting around Baba think the ashram belongs to you. We built the ashram, not you or your Baba. The ashram belongs to us; go away from here." The situation became serious; they began pushing me out. Someone standing there intervened at the mothers' request. He knew the culprits and they obeyed him.

All of this happened on the 15th of June—the main Bhandara day. Babaji had left the ashram in the afternoon, after his meal, but he returned a few minutes after the boys had left. He entered the gate, walking fast and highly agitated, as if he had been waiting for this. He knew what had happened as it had been his hand working behind everything. He had seen those boys leaving in a truck, and hearing from persons at the gate who had seen what happened; he came before the temples all fire and fury. Such a heinous crime committed—breaking into the ashram doors, abusing everyone and insulting Dada! They should have shot at him (Babaji) instead, sparing Dada from insult. "I know everyone who inspired and sent the boys and what they want, but I shall frustrate all their moves and throw them out. They do not know me." Shouting loudly, he moved very fast to the road and got into the jeep and ordered the driver to start. He was talking loudly all about the persons, what they were after and what their strategy was, saying he was going to foil all their plans and drive them away.

When the jeep reached Bhumiadhar, he asked Brahmachari, who lived there, to switch off all the lights in the temple and in the rooms. Babaji sat silently in the darkness on the verandah by the road and would not allow anybody to come near him. This continued for some minutes, full of suspense and high tension. Suddenly, there was a noise nearby. It was what he had been waiting for. A truck had stopped a few yards away and some young men jumped out onto the road. With burning torches in their hands, they moved toward the temple, little knowing that they were actually heading for the lion's jaws. When they reached the road in front of the temple where Babaji was sitting in the dark; he jumped up, shouting abuses loudly, and rushed toward them. They threw away their torches and, chased by Babaji, ran to save their lives. When they could not be seen anymore, Babaji returned to the temple laughing and chuckling at the fate meted out to the misguided wretches.

"They came to fight with me. They wanted to burn the temple building. I knew what they were after and took up their challenge. If you had seen their condition you would have laughed. They ran for their lives and many of them soiled their trousers. Fools—they do not know me. Bigger battles I have fought and won. How could they know my strength? They are fools."

There was terror among the parents and relations of the boys. Their whole plan was lost and they dreaded to think of what was to come in return. Haridas himself was not part of it, but it was done by his own relations and associates and with his full knowledge. After this, no one could accuse Babaji of having done anything wrong when he sent Haridas away from the Hanumanghar temple of which he had been in charge.

Even before this, Babaji had arranged for Haridas's stay in Delhi. Haridas had been sick for a long time and needed very intensive treatment in a modern hospital with much rest and freedom from all worries. His worries had been more from others than from himself. Some time back, Govind Narayan, a devotee of Baba's who was the secretary to the Ministry of Health, had come from Delhi. Babaji asked him if he could arrange for the admission and treatment of a person in the medical institute. Govind Narayan said that there would be no difficulty in that. Babaji told him that he would send the person to him but he must remember that no visitors should be allowed to see the patient when he was in the institute, nor should anyone talk to him on the phone. Then Babaji told him about all the tests and treatments that would be needed. Everything was settled in advance.

The difficulty remained in how to take him to Delhi. Haridas did not want to go and all his friends and relations were oppposed to his leaving Nainital. They were suspicious about Haridas being sent away and advised him to be cautious. Jivan, a very generous and affable person and an old time friend and well-wisher of Haridas, was chosen for this task. It was necessary for Haridas, who was to convince everyone that it was all for the good of Haridas and in the best interests of his relations. With much effort and persuasion, he succeeded and took Haridas to Delhi, where Haridas was admitted to the institute under the full care of Govind Narayan. Haridas was in the hospital under close vigilance. The rules were rigidly enforced.

The same was true for Bhabania at the Lucknow temple. It was hard work and strict discipline; he had no place or opportunity to indulge in any kind of frivolity or cheap entertainment. Moreover, he had to realize how dangerous these things were for him. However strict the rules and strenuous the work, they were all for his benefit. He grew up in that atmosphere and came to realize how Babaji had saved him from the crisis that had faced him at Kainchi. Yielding to those temnptations would have been the end of the life that Babaji was preparing for his good. This realization—regaining his faith in the benefactor and in his work—became his most precious possession. All work became pleasant and all duty a tribute to Babaji for his unceasing grace.

By his hard work, honesty, and disciplined life, Bhabania pleased everyone around him and came to be vested with greater responsibility and nobler duty. From the lowest duty of sweeping and cleaning the premises to the highest one of worshipping Hanumanji, distributing his prasad to all, and the supervision of work connected with the temple—all became possible for him. With the confidence he earned through his honesty and integrity, he came to enjoy his coveted post without any worry—so unlike what it had been in the Vrindavan temple. This is what Babaji had wanted him to attain and value.

He is a very important person in the temple now, in charge of the day-to-day work and life in the ashram. He got married and lives with his family in the ashram. His wishes of getting married and raising his family, which were sternly resisted at Kainchi, were all fulfilled at Lucknow. Bhabania's relations and friends are all proud of him for his attainments. So also are the innumerable friends and relations of Haridas. Had he been clogged in the mire of jealousy and pettiness of Nainital life, Haridas could not have risen to the coveted position of a swami with disciples of his own. But Babaji knew, and all his moves, though misunderstood by all, were prompted out of his grace for Haridas, to clear a path for his rise.

Those whom Babaji took under his charge were not left high and dry and helpless. They stand on firm ground, worthy of the kripa their master showered on them. Babaji did not seek laurels from anyone for his work. There was no question of postponing or leaving the job unfinished. His advice was, "Work has to be done. What is to be done tomorrow must be done today, and what is to be done today must be done right now." This advice was actually practiced by him in his every action.

The stories of Bhabania and Haridas happened before our eyes. These cases have caused much misunderstanding and heart-burning among some, and have remained as enigmas for others. But when we see Haridas in his glory, as an eminent sadhu and celebrity admired by many, we can understand the reason for the hard treatment. Bhabania is also a celebrity in his own place and among his people. He acknowledges fully that he is the handiwork of Babaji. Babaji just smiled when someone talked like this with full enthusiasm. His work was done, and that was enough for him.

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