From Mahamaya to Baba

February 2, 2016

After the warm embrace of Kamakhya we headed towards Tarapith where we will do the concluding work to fix the energies we have been working with in ourselves (whatever that means?!). Tarapith is the city of Tara; the Goddess of knowledge and compassion among the ten cosmic powers representing different phenomena of the great mother nature. As much as she may represent compassion, there wasn’t really an atmosphere invoking compassion in this town. To begin with, this time the rituals took place in cremation grounds rather than temples. It is quite common in tantric tradition to have spiritual practices in such places which reminds us how thin the line between life and death is and makes us confront our fear of death. There were many weird looking baba’s mostly wearing red, color of Shakti; the feminine energy with huge rasta hairs full of all kinds of beads and appearing half crazy half spooky. In Kamakhya it was common to see baba’s smoking weed in front of the temples as such drugs are also used by some tantrikas. Here alcohol seemed to be the preferred choice of vessel towards communion with divinity! In the midst of all these half-baked people of course one starts questioning again; ‘what the f. am I doing here?!’

From Mahamaya to BabaDespite all the facade around, it’s obvious that we can transform the space we enter. Our group all in red dhouti’s (a piece of cloth the men wrap around their waists) and saris (that may be more familiar to the reader) somehow created our own sacred temple in a way. Huge yantra drawings Manu prepared were put on the ground and women started decorating these yantras with colored rice. Perfect entertainment for someone like me who is obsessed with bright colors. Gurudji prepared additional yantras on the spot with a mix of colored rice and sand and connected all these yantras to each other with a thread. There were many locals gathering around us wondering what this huge group of foreigners are doing, so he also surrounded our space with rice. As if that border made of rice was an electric fence no one entered our space.

So we started with our practice without even any breakfast until the evening and opened our fast with the food prepared by Gurudji’s guru-sister (means that they shared a guru) Ma. We kept practicing in the same space for two more days from 9 in the morning until 8 in the evening, but somehow it felt like just a couple of hours. After a very strong closure Gurudji gave us the mantras to prepare for the next puja and it was OVER. Some members of the group couldn’t get enough and headed back to Gurudji’s house while others including me were on our way to Rishikesh right that evening.

It still doesn’t feel like it’s over though. According to Gurudji the effects of the puja will last for at least one more month, more purification reactions will come up and then the energy will be fixed. Honestly, I have no clue what the hell happened but I hope eventually we all will process this experience in our own way and see the effects.

From Mahamaya to BabaInitially I was thinking about a bit of touristy fun heading towards Varanasi or Nepal but Manu told me that most of the puja people would go to Rishikesh to join the satsang[1] of a master called Prem Baba. Why not, let’s see what this famous Prem Baba is about. I heard many times that seekers in Agama who may get tired or challenged of the tough discipline, methodology and other aspects of the teaching end up going to Prem Baba. In Agama there is a methodic approach to tackle problems and blockages in certain levels of consciousness commonly referred to as chakras in order to move them to higher, more refined levels. By moving the energy up you don’t necessarily resolve your problem but you gain a new perspective by stepping out of the state of mind/emotions which created that problem. This way you generate the capacity to evolve in a way. This is a very valuable technology. Some however were looking for another approach and their paths crossed at Prem Baba’s sangha[2]. I heard about him from people whom I resonated with in Agama, but all I really knew was that he is Brazilian and focuses on working with the heart. I am not really a seeker for a Guru; I had many amazingly valuable teachers in life and I continue meeting new ones. I also experienced moments of surrender but I never had the need to look for a master ‘under whose wings I would hide and who would free me from my suffering’. I mostly followed the flow of encounters. And that’s how I reached this day, the day I met Prem Baba.

From Mahamaya to Baba

After a looooooong but relatively comfortable train ride I was exhausted of carrying my by now 30 kg bag pack, so I just settled for the first semi-decent hostel room that we could find. It is so cheap here that Joceline and I decided to go wild and stay in single rooms for the first time during this trip. The bathroom is common but clean. There are for sure many other options in Rishikesh but we are just weary of moving from one place to another. Besides, in Tarapith we enjoyed a super luxurious hotel room for a ridiculous price, satiated with comfort. At least we are in a very central location, in a cozy setting and very close to the ashram hosting Prem Baba’s satsang.

Without even having a look around Rishikesh I just jumped into my sleeping bag for a chill night and a sleep full of vivid dreams; waking up in a rather grumpy mood. Before I could stop nagging about the bathroom and all, we found ourselves in the hall already. I looked around and immediately got irritated by the neo-hippy characters around in flowery-powery cloths, shawls, long, bushy hairs, a fixed slimy smile on their faces; all the works. While they kept hugging each other I was already questioning why I decided to come here to begin with. However I should put a note here; one shouldn’t assume that only patchouli smelling rainbow community is ruling this particular spiritual realm; there are many strikingly attractive, sparkling people in the hall. I guess there are around 200 people including a part of our puja group. I also have to admit, the hall was super-clean and beautifully arranged. Not to mention your typical free-spirited kids running around. So the atmosphere is full on spiritual in a new-age western style. Then started the bhajan. Not the type of bhajan where some wanna-be-musicians play around with a guitar and a harmonium; a musical feast performed by competent artists. Some join in, most not but no one loses himself and overpowers the beautiful vocals. Well, when the setting is like that what else are you gonna do; I allowed myself to sink into an inner stillness beyond all the doubt and sceptism; just enjoyed the magical music. All of a sudden the group rose up to their feet and Prem Baba entered the hall. A weight was lifted off from my chest and some tears dropped before I knew what was happening. I thought I just got emotional after the long trip, the bhajan but I admitted to myself that I never saw a smile so mesmerizing.

Satsang was in Portuguese although Prem Baba speaks English, but I guess the largely Brazilian crowd is one of the reasons for that. There is consecutive translation, which complicated the process a little. What to do. Prem Baba has a background in psychology; therefore he makes many references to this western science in his teachings and highlights the importance of the transformation of our relation towards our parents as our first heroes and villains in life. Some of my friends mentioned a retreat he offers focusing on this work. I thought about our long talks with my dear friend Vivian. We went very deep into the patterns in our life defined through our relation with our parents and Vivian has been a true mentor to me in that direction. Afterwards I went even deeper and pushed my own buttons big time dwelling upon the existentialist theories of Irvin Yalom and the like. I obsessed about this confrontation with family so much that my mother-issues appeared as the reasons behind many chronic health issues. Thanks to my dear teacher Laura I came to realize that going so deep and trying to confront all the darkness within are just suffocating and one has to go step by step; treat herself gently. In short, some of what Prem Baba was saying at his satsang was familiar to me.

He briefly talked about how we will have to suffer through several confrontations until we finally manage to bow down in front of our parents and be truly grateful for bringing us into this world and showing us many mirrors along the way. He stressed the importance of witnessing all kinds of bitter-sweet emotions without judging, reacting to or identifying with. While valuing the feeling of regret as a sacred teacher for ourselves he invited us to refrain from self-blame which carries a huge portion of hatred. It is worthwhile to contemplate on this distinction. Another important distinction Baba referred to is the difference between understanding and comprehension on a spiritual path. I can relate to that very well right now as I have no clue what Gurudji was doing; there is no way for me to understand it with my logical mind at this moment but I may be able to comprehend the intense universal energy called Shakti.

Following some discourses on these topics and more the satsang was concluded with another round of Bhajan after two hours. Prem Baba announced that he would accept the first comers and the ones who are leaving that day. I observed how many people started queuing up next to his seat. Despite all my scepticism towards these kind of salutations I also joined the que just to feel his energy up-close. I know from my experience in Agama that if you go close to very strong meditators it may feel like entering a magnetic field. While standing in the que I kept on observing what was happening. When their turn was on people one by one kneeled down in front of him giving a namaste and bowed down to his feet; some gave him flowers, others some cards or envelops. Too much for my standards; so what am I going to do?! Some kids were giving him their drawings and what I noticed was that he was looking at every offering with great attention, not just putting them aside. To some he said a few words to others gave just a greeting with a big warm smile on his face. Then it was my turn. The lights of my mind suddenly went off. I found myself in a moment of fullness where there is no space for any observation, doubt or intention. My heart felt three times bigger suddenly and wanted to come out of my chest so I had to put my hands there to keep it in; not because that is the way to greet! Feeling seen by him, warm by his smile; an ultimate acceptance and peace. I was struck so hard that a big knot from my heart dissolved. Then and there I accepted. Maybe it is not about choosing a guru or a path; rather having a divine inspiration to move on. That is more than enough.

[1] Literally meaning being in the company of the wise, satsang is a discourse by a Guru
[2] Spiritual community

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