August 17, 2022, 06:26:48 PM

Author Topic: Theatrics - Part 4 of the Interview with Babaji, Summer 1978 By Dio Urmilla Neff  (Read 3530 times)

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Theatrics - Part 4 of the Interview with Babaji, Summer 1978 By Dio Urmilla Neff (printed in the Yoga Journal, 1980)

The first storm of the pre-monsoon season broke, swelling the lazy riverbed stream into a muddy torrent. The air became cool and soft, and everything -- the peach-colored buildings, the cement pathways, the profusion of banana leaves -- was wet and glistening. You couldn't get much of an understanding of Babaji from watching him, I thought. I'd sit in the back of the dripping kirtan hall, trying to piece together what I knew of the legendary Babaji and this enigmatic guru before me. He was different with each person and, sometimes, different from moment to moment. He'd be delightfully childlike, an affectionate playmate, then suddenly go blank, as if he'd just been called away and left his body behind. He'd be serious, then stern, then loving, then ridiculous.

With a beautiful Punjabi mother and her children he was consistently attentive, hospitable, cuddly. With an elderly village woman, he was always teasing, laughing and yelling the equivalent of "Boo!" in Hindi. To others he appeared indifferent or even angry. To many devotees he was all of these in turn. I didn't understand this kaleidoscopic behavior. I began to seek out Babaji's long-time devotees for an explanation. "I've seen him operate for six years," a London-based writer told me one morning in her cozy room, "and he always serves us and always from infinite love and compassion for us, regardless of what appears on the surface." She was a tall, graceful, very poised young woman who was apparently a favorite of Babaji's.

He praised her often and kept her near him every day. She'd gone through all kinds of misery in the beginning, she said. After her first visit, she came down with a strange, undiagnosed malady and lay in bed with a fever for six months. She felt the illness -- and its miraculous cure -- were all Babaji's doing. At a later visit, he threw her out of the ashram, bags and all, in a furious monsoon downpour. On subsequent visits he would alternately ignore her, treat her kindly, appear to forget her. I asked about his current behavior. "Just the other side of the coin, I'm afraid," she said, laughing. "I'm under tremendous pressure, she explained, "not to let my ego get caught up in all this attention."

She believes Babaji first works on people psychologically, purging them of their various hang-ups, and then uplifts them spiritually in the traditional role of a guru to his devotees. She felt all the attention was just another test he was putting her through.

I spoke with a lovely middle-aged Delhi woman one afternoon while we sat in the kirtan hall. The wife of an affluent Delhi businessman, she had been with Babaji since his early days. "Babaji is here to serve, and believe me, he does! He may pretend to ignore us, but behind it is an all-encompassing love." She told me that over the years Babaji had put her through some trying times, but she always gained some essential realization from it, a deeper understanding of her spiritual purpose. She became psychologically much stronger, she said, and was filled with gratitude to Babaji. "I'll never forget what he told me once," she whispered. "He said, 'I only came here to give. If you come to doubt, I'll give you reason to doubt,' he once told my San Francisco friend, who at first was quite suspicious of him. 'If you come suspicious, I'll give you every reason to be suspicious. But if you come seeking love, I'll show you more love than you've every known.'"

Soon the monsoon season was upon us in earnest. Almost every day it rained fiercely for hours, transforming the sparse hillsides into lush, gleaming jungle and our rooms into water-soaked caves. We huddled by candles for light, our lines of limp clothing criss-crossing overhead. The smell of damp cotton hung everywhere. "Don't be fooled by the outward drama," my London friend told me another time, as we sipped hot tea in her room. "He is basically impartial and unbiased. No matter what one does, one cannot . . .influence him. He is," she searched for the word, "unbribable." "And remember, she added, "Babaji's messages are always very subtle. He communicates in . . . symbolic language. He gives hints, clues."

I told her of an incident a few days earlier when Babaji had helped me wrench open the moisture-swollen doors to my room. "I am your helper," he'd said in English. "That's it, exactly," she said. "He is helping you; he's opening doors for you." And so I gathered anecdotes and opinions from Babaji's Indian and Western devotees. I heard plenty of pet theories about his sometimes incomprehensible behavior. He would puff up egotists, they said, praising them lavishly, making them his "favorites." When they were enormously proud, he'd appear to demolish them, by throwing them out of the ashram or staging some particularly humiliating experience for them.

Insecure people Babaji would push even lower, usually by ignoring them. And with indecisive people, he would answer their pleas for advice different ways at different times, confusing them hopelessly. An explanation offered for this phenomena was that when someone's psychological hang-ups (or tapes, sanskaras, ignorance, stresses or karmas, as they're variously called) come up in the presence of a spiritual master, they're dissolved by his purifying influence. It seemed that Babaji stimulated these to come up, so they could be dissolved. I was told that the egotists eventually lost their arrogance but retained their confidence, the timid realized the inner strength they had all along, and the undecided learned to make decisions.

This analysis is purely theoretical, of course. No one knew what he was really doing. Many of us called these theoretical maneuverings "Herakhan Theater." My own experience with Babaji was a case in point. One of the main reasons I'd gone to see him was for help in a tremendous fork-in-the-road decision -- I didn't know whether to stay married or leave my husband. Babaji bounced me back and forth like a ping-pong ball, from one side to the other of my dilemma.

On some days he told me to stay married and on others to leave, plunging me further into my sink of indecision and self-pity. He usually ignored me outwardly, answer all my questions inwardly, gave me numerous hints that he was really helping me, honored me with a request to write about him, and couldn't seem to remember my name. When I returned to California, I, too, fell mysteriously ill, and just as mysteriously recovered. And in the course of the next six months, my life altered dramatically for the better. I also found myself much happier, and able, finally, to make my own decisions. Had Babaji done something to me? It is all speculation, of course. "Of the thousands of people that will come to Herakhan," Babaji once told another American friend of mine, "only a handful will ever know me."


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