There was a time in my life when devotion was flowing through me like a river in spate. Mind had limited application during those times, tears didn’t stop rolling down the cheeks. I had to be close to Lord Shiva in the Himalayas only to come closer to the Shiva within me. Devotion or Bhakti has always been for me a test of my surrender to the higher designs of the Universe. It was time to put this surrender to test.
In December of 2006 I traveled across the foot hills of Himalayas. Promptly surrendering my money wallet and mobile phone to a friend I walked to explore the inner through the outer. Dropping all, I walked with a mind of a ‘Parivrajaka’ (wandering spiritual seeker).
Feeling totally light in my ‘freedom’, I explored whatever came my way. The comforts and security of having money in my pocket were thrown and flown in the wind; insecurity and fears were now face to face with power and strength of detachment.
There was no goal and no destination to this exercise; I was ready to face whatever came my way. The days and nights passed as I walked and flew in the freedom. There was no safe roof to come under at night. When the body called for rest in the night I would sleep along the banks of Mother Ganga whilst she sang me a sweet lullaby of her rustling waters. Waking in the mornings to the chirping of the birds and the temple bells, I would continue walking on the goal-less path. In the backdrop the strong and sturdy Father Himalaya kept reassuring me with soft pats of gushing wind on my back. There was no schedule or timetable, every moment was captured spontaneously and relished. I had read about this spontaneity called ‘Sahaja’ by the Yogis, now I was living it and enjoying it, celebrating it with childlike wonderment.
When the hunger struck, food would come from some place or other, either through the Temple Bhandaras (mass feeding for Sadhus) or little peanuts given as Daan(offering) by devotes at Temple corner. If I was lucky, the friendly neighborhood Chaiwala would treat me to a hot cup of chai.
The winters in Northern India are very sharp, the obvious warm spots outdoors are the ‘dhunis’ or small fires the group of wandering Sadhus ( monks) light to stay warm. Around this fire which also is symbolic of spiritual thirst and detachment a lot was exchanged. Sitting with the Sadhus and interacting and traveling with them taught me a lot about the carefree and confident life of a spiritual seeker. Once in a gathering I came to know of a Himalayan Master who had come to Haridwar from Badrinath, it was a rare moment as He would hardly come to the foothills not even in the winter. He was an Avadhoot, the one who has cast off everything. I was very keen to meet him.
The next day I went to meet the Avadhoot Tatbaba with a few people I had met on my way. My meeting with him was very powerful for reasons I cannot explain. A gentle old man, he looked like an Indian Santa Claus especially when he laughed out loud. I knew of the strange ways of the Avadhoots. Now I was experiencing one myself. His pull was so magnetic that I went to meet him every morning for the next three days, just to sit silently and listen to his words of wisdom. On the second day he ‘noticed’ me and enquired about me and my life. He discouraged me, telling me to give up the wandering and go back and make money, get married and live a ’safe’ life. He kept discouraging me the entire time that I was sitting near him. He mentioned that if I continued on the path I was, I would end up like him ‘with no clothes, and no money’. Was this the kind of life that my parents wanted me to live? I kept listening to his views with respect but held on to my belief of keeping on exploring what came my way through a spiritual perspective.
On the second day of continuous brainwashing to divert me from the path, in one quiet moment he looked deep into my eyes, got up from his seat and we went to his modest little hut. There, in that small room it was just me and Him but yet there was the whole universe. Words fail to explain my experience. He invited me to be with him one day when the time was right and said that He was only testing me by discouraging me the last two days. All was silent then, all but my racing heart beats and the bright light inside of my Being. With the touch of his blessing hands on my head and my pounding heart in my hand I continued on my travels.