Sunday, May 22, 2011

Smoking with Shiva

In 1994, I was at a major turning point in my life. I had just survived a near tragic accident where I broke my body in twelve places, my father and best friend had recently died, and to top that off, I was now being forced to sell my house and land in the woods due to divorce. My soon to be ex-wife was taking my young son with her to New Mexico, so we really needed to sell our home, as neither of us could afford to buy the other out. As the house was off the grid and on a 12Volt system, this cut out the majority of possible buyers for us, as far as the banks were concerned. In desperation, I prayed to Mahavatar Babaji to help sell our home, promising that I would go to his ashram in India if this happened. Well, the very next day the house miraculously sold! I was soon off to the foothills of the Himalayas, to give thanks to Babaji and seek guidance for my troubled life.

 As I arrived here, just prior to Christmas, rehearsals for the Christmas play were well underway.  Babaji respected all religions and had told Westerners years ago to “do the Christmas thing.”  I was immediately asked to take part in the Nativity play and assigned the role of one of the three visiting wise men.  When Christmas arrived, I was very excited.  This proved to be a Christmas I would never forget.  At dress rehearsal the day before, I was told to come to the ashram office for part of my costume.  There, an Italian devotee named Ganga lent me Babaji’s silver silk waistcoat to wear.  I was floored when she stated that this particular vest had been His favorite. Wow, I get to wear it! All of my dorm mates had to smell and feel it, for a contact high
Our play went off very well, in front of hundreds of hill folk with children. Almost everybody was wrapped up in those, now familiar, blankets.  This ashram gig was very special for them, with free food and lots of festivities.  Many had walked a very long way to be here.  There was much chanting of songs in praise of God and, of course, a lot of Om Namah Shivaya.   Later, when I returned the special vest, Ganga mumbled something I couldn’t clearly hear.  When I asked her kindly to repeat, she said, “the vest is now yours to keep; Merry Christmas, Hari Om.”  Wow! I’ve got Babaji’s vest. What a day. Thank you Ganga…I’ll never forget you! It didn’t even seem to be a big deal to her but it sure was to me. Some of these women here who have lived with Babaji are very intriguing. I sometimes wonder where their heads are at, as they’ve lived here on and off for a very long time- living the same program of devotion, work and ceremony... day in-day out, year in-year out.  Also on Christmas Day, Muniraj, who was Babaji’s right hand man, and many high-profile Indian political devotees arrived for the big yagna or fire ceremony.  Babaji had said, “If you want to worship God, worship the fire.”  Both East and West Indians have sacred fire ceremonies.  Sadly, only the upper echelon got to participate here, while everyone else looked on enviously.
As the yagna fire was crackling away, a small wondering sadhu, who distinctly resembled Babaji and seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, called me to join him in his cave.  This cave was for sadhu only and located next to Babaji’s sacred cave, where He manifested His body in 1970.  After he smoked me up with his chillum, he let his hair down- literally, as his long dreadlocks hung like serpents cascading to the earthen floor.  He was, and still is, the most profoundly beautiful man I’ve ever seen.  I felt like I was seated beside Babaji, on Christ’s birthday. I’d just smoked with Shiva. I involuntarily knelt and kissed his feet. Was this Babaji seated in front of me, looking exactly like Lord Shiva? I had secretly always longed for darshan such as this. Be careful for what you pray.  As I was meditating now, automatically in front of him, I opened my eyes to see him point at me and exclaim, “Babaji!” Now who is Babaji?  What a blessing this day had been.  This sadhu was named Mukunda Baba Bramachari.  He lived solely on curd (yogurt) and fruit and had never experienced a woman.  His purity was awe-inspiring.  He spoke little English, but gave me a picture negative of him that I developed later.  To really see the divine in human form, so beautifully manifested, is beyond words.  Ironically, he mysteriously moved on before I could give him my blanket. This small Shiva sadhu was headed to the source of the Ganges to see a fabled ice lingum of Shiva in a cave. I’m sure he probably made it. I know too that he gave me a memory of a Christmas that I will never forget. Om Namaha Shivaya!
Singer/songwriter Rob Rideout is the award winning author of Still Singing, Somehow. He lives on a farm overlooking Colville, WA with his three cats Baba, Maya and Olive. He just released a second book of poetry, based on his song lyrics and has a CD of original songs scheduled for release May 2011. These songs of three decades are meant to accompany both books.  Rob’s books can be viewed or purchased @ He can be contacted there too. Be sure to check out his blog on the home page of his website.

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