(Continued from Wandering in the Himalayas – Part 2)
I came back to Rishikesh in the lap of my father Himalaya, just like a little boy who goes in his father’s lap from time to time for some re-assurance. I was going through a lot of spiritual energy movements at that time, all possible emotions hitting my mind wave after wave. The body felt like a blast furnace, but a faint understanding that my body was being baked , my mind was being processed so that my soul could shine, prevailed. My system was boiling and the waters of Ganga doused the fire with Love, like only a mother could.
I was sleeping on the banks of Ganga at that time on the ghat next to the Tera Manzil Temple above Laxman Jhula. It is a buzzing area full of domestic religious pilgrims coming in hoards to visit this multistory temple. Here, early morning is the best possible time for meditations and deep absorptions, just before sunrise when the portals of universal consciousness open for the ones who can connect with it, as they say. It’s a very delicate time, the active energy ( rajas ) around is in its nubile blossom, the mind treads slowly and picks up this energy ounce by ounce just like a nymph would pluck flowers in spring blossom.
After my morning kriyas and meditations I used to walk along the back alleys behind the temple and hang out at one particular Chai stall. The man making the chai was your average Indian man in his late sixties, unless you “experienced” what he had to say. I lovingly called him “chaiwale baba” and he certainly was a wise old man. This man, who I never met again in my repeated attempts to find, was one of the most important influences on me when it comes to “questioning” and forming my own definition of spirituality and devotion.
My usual 10 minutes chai break used to last for hours here, this is the best part about wandering, no desires to chase and no time chasing you. I used to be probably the first person to have chai at his stall every morning. On one such morning whilst sipping the fresh brew, trying to understand what to make out of baba’s pregnant pause, I looked at him. His gaze was fixed on the tall temple in front of us, with cloudy tearful eyes he immediately in a heavy guttural voice exclaimed “The God doesn’t live there!” I still had no clue where this was heading. I asked him what he meant. Looking at me with strong but heart full energy he burst out sentence after sentence in Hindi, it truly felt like the cry of a true Bhakta (devotee), he went on and after five minutes or so quietly started filtering the brew as if nothing had happened. His spontaneous out burst was a living testament of a man who had lived his whole life in simplicity, devotion and ruthless questioning of beliefs thrust upon him by religion and society. The clarity of his wisdom and his detachment was evident from the fact that he moved so smoothly between his spontaneous out burst and regular act of chai making.
The Tera manzil temple is a huge temple. But for some reason it doesn’t appeal to my heart. The statues of Gods and Goddesses have been installed in such a way that it looks as if they are sitting inside an office cubicle. Each God or Goddess has his/her own little room closed with an iron gate. A wooden box in front of each God calls for a generous donation. Busy road in the front, loud noise from the passing vehicles and the crowd and clamor does not go well with my idea of “peaceful ambience”. This was exactly the point that troubled the baba.
“Look what we humans have done to the Gods”, he said in exclamation. “Do we really believe we can hold them in iron bars, and capture them for their qualities? Do we really understand that no amount of bell ringing will invite the God in our hearts, no amount of blind faith and rituals will instill the divine grace in our mind? How blind are we, to believe this! Real God is in the hearts of people, and real worship lies in service of this God amongst the hearts of people, if only these people knew. When will the masses awaken to this God within? When will the humans stop thinking that they can capture the limitless in the limited, hah, what an illusion this one! How our society and religious dictates make us believe and do something that is a sheer waste of time. Beta (my child), divert all our attention to service, awaken the God within peoples hearts, only then will you really sense The God.”
His words still ring in my ears whenever I get lazy. They make me jump up and focus my energies on what I believe in. What an impact this man had on my life. Really, how some people meet us for such a short time and yet leave a deep impact on our life. I believe my meeting with chaiwale baba was not some random coincidence. He came in my life at the right time and gave me the right message and some how gave a direction to the turmoil and confusion I was going through. I have never seen him again, I asked around in my later trips to Rishikesh but no one could give me a coherent answer. His memory still remains in my heart and his words still inspires me and keep me going.