Recently while on the topic of Mystics a very dear friend of mine commented,
“Since childhood I have had no use for Babas, swamis or of any kind of mystic. I saw them as parasites taking advantages of well meaning but duped followers. I have always put them in one of two categories – they are either charlatans or they are self-delusional. Nothing in between. In other words, they either knowingly deceive people, or they believe in the bunk they spread. (Sorry, couldn’t control this diatribe – Tourette syndrome)”
My response at the time was a brief one that I agreed with him partly. The response was brief at the time because we were really engaged in a conversation on some other matter. But, the comment does need a more detailed response and I am attempting that now in a sort of question and answer dialogue because this is a difficult topic
Who are Babas, swamis and mystics?
Babas, gurus and swamis are eastern usage for mystics but such like persons exist around the world with different names. These are persons who have made a primary occupation or concern of their life, the spiritual side of life.
Is there a spiritual side to life?
This depends on what you mean by the spiritual side. If it means, flying through the air along with your laptop and mobile phone, there probably is no spiritual side. However if it means things like love, fear, human abilities etc. that living things display as distinct from machines, robots etc. then yes there is a spiritual side to life.
Yes, so who are Babas and swamis?
As mentioned, Babas and swamis are persons who make the spiritual side of life their prime occupation. It is just like an artist makes art his prime occupation and a scientist makes science his occupation and within that science are specializations such as chemistry, physics, astronomy etc.
Do Babas have disciples?
Some do and some others don’t. This is similar to some scientists also being Professors and some who are just scientists who do not teach others (for example a friend of mine Dr. Pimputkar). Babas and Swamis who teach others about spirituality are also called spiritual gurus. This is similar to a scientist who is called a Professor too if he teaches. A Guru is really, or should be just like a Professor of spiritual knowledge or practice. It is different matter if some claim to be god because there is no limit to a lie or madness if one was on that path.
Are there Fraud Babas and gurus?
For sure there are, just as there are fraud doctors, lawyers, scientists etc. who may or may not be knowledgeable but use some immoral practice or lies for personal gain. As a matter of fact, the percentage of fraudsters is much larger amongst babas than percentage of fraudsters amongst modern scientists.
The percentage of fraudsters amongst medical practitioners practicing traditional herbal medicine (Ayurveda etc.) is larger than amongst those practicing modern allopathic medicine. The reason is that there are formal degrees, regulations, study, practice and examinations for allopathic doctors while there is not much of that for herbal, traditional medicine etc. Therefore it becomes easier to fudge in the latter case. Greed shows up in any area where human need is acute. That is why doctors and lawyers will at times rip the shirt off your back. Can mystics be far behind when their need becomes acute?
There have been fraudulent Babas from ancient times. An ancient eastern spiritual text, Gita mentions that these are hypocrites who pretend whereas there are others who are more learned and do not flaunt. Hypocrites have their mind on non-spiritual pursuits while outwardly pretending spirituality. Jesus Christ warned of false teachers 2000 years ago as people who are like wolves in sheep’s clothing. The religious/spiritual garb has been used as a convenient disguise and cover by criminals and unsocial elements from all parts of the world since ancient times.
Do Fraud Babas exploit and cheat others?
For sure they do and so do fraud doctors, engineers and lawyers. I have met doctors who have even made their patient intentionally sicker to extract more money and lawyers who intentionally encourage the prolonging or complication of a case to make money out of clients. Last year when a friend of mine was involved with prolonged legal problems, I expressed that fear to another friend (KC) in a long phone conversation. The former friend had the option to conclude the matter with a fine but he chose to challenge the matter on encouragement from lawyers prolonging legal dangers.He has been sentenced to prison now.
Are all Babas fraud?
No, there are sincere seekers and teachers too.
Are they self-delusional?
No, not necessarily any more than we all are about life or our primary preoccupation in life. Some are, because just as the tool of a doctor is the stethoscope the tool of the mystic is his own mind and soul, and, just as the stethoscope gets spoilt from use, the mind too get into psychosis at times. The stethoscope can be repaired and so can the mind.
Do all Babas wear ashes, funny clothes or no clothes at all etc?
Many do and many do not. Some never declare their true pursuit and can go about as an ordinary person. There are schools of spiritual study that require belonging to a sect with its uniform and perhaps living in a place like a monastery. Some require isolation from society into hills and caves, yet there are also schools in which one can pursue spiritual study while appearing and living as an ordinary person pursuing an ordinary profession.
Do Babas have special magical powers?
Yes and no depending on how you look at it. Yes, they do have special powers just as a doctor has special powers to heal, a lawyer to argue in court etc. But no, these powers are not magical. They only appear to be so because they are not common.
In the book – The Babaji Affair – I have written about mystics and Babas because of my personal interest in the spiritual side of life. A friend of mine recently enquired on phone if I too have become a Baba and if I dress funny. My answer is no, because I have another profession besides spiritual pursuit. This last has been an intermittent pursuit for me in life. I dress ordinary most times. However, during a brief intense period of spiritual studies during 2007 in Nainital, I did dress funny as well, for some months and grew a beard etc. It was a really grand and funny dress made out of a single piece of hand woven woolen cloth (just a single piece because my spiritual order dictated a single garment with not even an undergarment, and it did keep slipping off).
That dress has been unstitched now and has been converted into a lovely quilt for my adopted grandson – Golu. I have spent other periods of prolonged and intense spiritual studies in ordinary garb during my lifetime whenever I found an opportunity to interrupt a professional career. Presently it is only on some ceremonial occasions I dress different.
Anything more about special powers of Babas?
The sort of powers described for one of the Babas- Neeltal Baba- in the book are special but those that I have experienced of as true. I am certain that there are many more such powers that I have not experienced because there are always aspects of any branch of knowledge that one does not realize until one goes deeper. The last section of the book describes a highly revered Babaji who demonstrated many unusual powers during his brief appearance from 1970 to 1984 as Babaji Haidakhan in the Nainital Himalayas.
One of the powers of Neeltal Baba was immunity from heat and cold. This fact has been examined and proven scientifically as a power developed by a some Himalayan and Tibetan monks (I do not have references at hand but they are available on the net).
Another power of the Baba was walking over long distances at great unreal speeds without any physical tiredness. This is one power, I have experienced myself although admittedly only on rare occasions. It is effected by a certain type of Jap/ mantra meditation when one’s mind is focused on the mantra or just one other thought while removing all other concerns from the mind. In an incident in the book the character practicing this meditation walks into town nude without realizing that he is nude because his mind was so much removed from worldly concerns. We have an incident from history where the scientist Archimedes was so focused on a scientific principle that when he discovered it, he ran nude into town shouting Eureka.
Yes, scientists, businessmen and all others who perform special and magical things often have special hidden human/mystical powers not possessed by others and are actually powered like Babas without declaring so. That is the reason why some can excel in a miraculous way in their pursuits.
Yet another power Babas often have is the ability to read minds. This too is something I have experienced myself albeit intermittently. My mother possessed that to a surprising degree and perhaps influenced my spiritual inclinations from a young age. This power of thought is not limited to reading a facial expression but also occurs over distance on phone. During the late nineties when I returned to IIT Delhi as a faculty member after a period of isolation and spiritual pursuit, I was telling people on phone without them having uttered a word what they were thinking and then laughing about it. However, after a few years of stay in Delhi about a decade ago, I found that the power of reading thoughts was disappearing. These powers wax and wane with time, practice and environment. There is a nice and detailed description of that in http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2010/08/from-birds-to-telepathy.html
Another power the Baba of the book has is the power to will events. I am not fully certain about this power because events can happen anyway but I strongly suspect it exists and people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have used it. Similarly there are other powers such as prophecy and healing by touch that I have close experience with and written about in my other blogs. In fact the power of prophecy follows mystics like a shadow a man during daylight in the open. It is from this in parts of the world the most evolved of mystics were also known as prophets.
Do Babas do any good to the world?
They may not over finite periods of time if they by and large stick to their own pursuit just as a scientist may not for long periods if they stick to their labs engaged in God knows what study? Yet just as some scientists have changed the course of human history and civilization, so have some mystics.
This brings us back to Nainital the Himalayan location in focus in the book, The Babaji Affair. Steve Jobs who is much in the news nowadays was in my view a Baba. He spent time in Nainital in spiritual pursuits during his younger days pursuing Baba Neem Karoli of Nainital and also Baba Hairakhan (Neeltal Baba?). He also suffered because of the disorder and poverty in Indian society and came to the conclusion that many of these Babas were not doing any good for Indian society at the present time. He felt a Baba like scientist or professional makes a better contribution to society and returned to a professional life to do precisely that.
Are Babas Freaks?
No they are not freaks any more than a scientist with a scruffy beard or an artist with funny clothes and paint all over him. Many people do view them with awe but they are ordinary humans with a specialization in mysticism. In the book, the Baba of one of the the stories appreciates the fact that the hero of the story – Fred- treats Babaji like an ordinary guy. The Hero developed that impression because at first he met the Baba at a party where the Baba danced and hopped around like others, had a drink etc. Later when Fred visited him at the monastery he found the Baba very different and wondered what was going on. He wondered if Baba was a fraud and questioned him later about it as a friend.
Why do some people think that all babas are freaks?
Humans tend to do that. When humans note that a large number of gypsies are involved in petty robbery some tend to say all are robbers or if they find in America that the percentage of unemployed or welfare seekers are larger amongst blacks they may say that blacks are bums (in private because there are laws against that) but they cannot be serious because we also have a Martin Luther, Sydney Potier or a Barak Obama amongst the blacks.
One last question, who are Saints?
The very evolved accomplished mystics are saints just as Einstein was a saint amongst Scientists and Steve Jobs amongst Professionals. Incidentally Steve Jobs spent more of his time thinking of Death and Nainital than he did about the Iphone or the Ipad : ).
Who is more popular, the frauds or the real ones?
That depends on time and space. In a society where greed, lust and immorality is widespread the frauds are far more popular. Birds of a feather after all stick together.
Unfortunately the modern world seems to have been overrun by frauds in the guise of saints and babas. Just recently one (name withheld but well known in India) has been charged for raping his minor female disciples and is lodged in a jail. it would be wrong to call such persons Babas. They are merely crooks and charlatans using the convenient disguise of a mystic. It is not surprising that there are such crooks in society, there must always be a few such. What is surprising is that so many persons allow themselves to get fooled. It is easy to pick out the frauds. If they claim to be God or if they are into collecting wealth, either in their own name or a trust they control, if they impose secrecy, especially if they practice or justify any sort of violence, watch out. This baba mentioned here did not allow his disciples to pray to any god except himself. There is another thing that criminals do, they try to prevent a free flow of information because then lies are discovered quickly. This baba did not allow newspapers, TV or raidio in his ashrams just as evil dictators and governments or sects do.They also react violently or aggressively to criticism. It disrupts brain washing because after all a house built on lies is a a house of cards ready to fall down anytime. it has to be protected every which way to prolong its life.
Genuine Babas or genuine spiritual schools/sects have no use for any secrecy or brain washing. They welcome transparency, criticism, debate and a free flow of information.
This author has written a book with a focus on the doings of some recent Himalayan Mystics – The Babaji Affair – http://www.amazon.com/The-Babaji-Affair-Ashok-Malhotra/dp/149232955X