“Babaji can be seen or recognized by others only when he so desires.”-Swami Kebalananda as told to Paramhansa Yogananda, Autobiography of a Yogi.
Never in a million years would I have believed that I would be in the presence of Mahavatar Babaji, yet in 2004 I had an experience that I will never forget! I had an invitation to travel to India with my Uncle Stanley, an Ananda devotee. He and his wife had planned to travel together; sadly, however, she had to cancel unexpectedly. Uncle was 75 years young at the time and truly had his heart set on attending the pilgrimage. Because I was a registered nurse, I was offered the opportunity to go on the pilgrimage so that I could help Uncle should the need arise.
Having never been to India, or anywhere that required a passport or visa, I quickly agreed, and hoped to see the Taj Mahal. Uncle assured me my request could easily be met. My response: “Well, count me in!”
A fundamentalist Christian
Uncle told me we would be participating in a pilgrimage dedicated to “Babaji.” In preparation for our journey, he said he would be sending me a book entitled Autobiography of a Yogi. In truth, I must admit to only glancing at the book after its arrival. To me it did not matter what the book said. I was still going to India – and I was happy in my fundamentalist Christian faith.
However, just before our departure, I did read the chapters pertaining to Babaji, found them interesting — and quickly packed the book away in my luggage. “Nice reading,” I thought, but I won’t be “converting.” The evening of our first full day in India, our host group, Ananda Assisi, informed us that Swami Kriyananda would be meeting with us for satsang before we began our journey. When we met the American swami, I found him to be very engaging and informative, an experience which was the first of many surprises.
A blessing from Swami Kriyananda
As the satsang concluded, Kriyananda started walking towards his quarters. As he walked past me, he stopped and looked deeply into my eyes. A heartwarming smile came over his face. Kriyananda then said, “You are in for quite an adventure!” With his right index finger he touched me between my eyebrows and said, “It’s important that you keep an open mind.” Then he tapped me three times on what I now know to be “the spiritual eye.” He continued: “Yet, most importantly, you must keep an open heart.” With that statement, he tapped me over my heart with his four fingertips. Then he again gazed deeply into my eyes — a gaze so deep that I felt he looked into my soul. In that moment, I felt he saw my past, present, and future.
And so it began. Upon reaching the Himalayas, we arrived at a place known as “The Tiger Ashram.” I was personally taken aback because of the big red reverse swastika painted on the archway. Here began my first mind-opening experience. I balked at entering the building. However, one of the devotees of the ashram, who thankfully spoke English, asked if he could assist me. Upon expressing my concern, he assured me that their swastika does not express the same meaning as the one used in Nazism, that it actually represents good luck.
And true to its name, while at the “tiger ashram” we saw a tiger, and it was a big one. I took comfort that there was safety in numbers.
A sudden storm
Our next stop was Babaji’s cave. I had no formal training in meditation. Sitting at the entrance to the cave, I was simply enjoying the beauty of the day until a hard, cold rain began. Because we were in monsoon season, the rain quickly turned into a downpour. On the way to the cave there was a stream with several mini waterfalls that we planned to use as landmarks to find our way back to our bus. The deluge was now so extreme we could no longer see any landmarks – there were waterfalls in all directions. Thank God for our skilled guides!
The rain was falling so hard that I could barely see three feet in front of me! My rain- soaked clothing began to weigh me down. At my 6’8″ height, walking with wet heavy clothing turned into very heavy labor. As the walk turned into an uphill trudge, I started to fall behind the group. Because of the reduced visibility, I couldn’t even hear them.
Suddenly, WHAM! I fell face down into the red-orange Indian mud! Attempting to right myself, I slipped and fell again! Now I found myself sliding downhill. I tried clawing into the mud, but to no avail! I was sliding into a ditch that was deep enough to swallow me though not to cover me. “Oh, my dear God,” I thought, “they’ll never find me in here!” As I slid farther into the ditch, my right hand grabbed a tree root. Only my hold on the tree root prevented me from sliding all the way to the bottom. My feet could not get any traction; I was holding onto the tree root for dear life.
A cry from the depths of my soul
I shouted out in a voice foreign even to me; it resonated down to the depths of my soul, “God, Christ Jesus, I DID NOT COME TO INDIA TO DIE!” Instantly, I felt a strong hand grasp my left wrist and lift me up out of the ditch and stand me on my feet!
Expecting to see one of our guides, to my shock there stood a boy between the age of nine and eleven. I was thankful but bewildered: how could this young boy pull a 6’8″, 250 pound man out of a ditch? And with only one hand? (In his left arm he was cradling a bell-shaped gourd!) Next, he turned me in the direction he wanted me to go and then, interlocking our arms, firmly gripped my left wrist. As he gripped my wrist, my spine suddenly went into perfect alignment and feelings of safety, security and warmth permeated my body. Never in my life have I felt so comforted!
As we started to walk, I looked down at him, feeling him support me with the strength of a grown man. He smiled and I heard or sensed him say, “Don’t ever worry, you are going to be okay; all is well.” As we walked I looked at our feet; he was wearing flip-flops and I was wearing the so-called hi-tech, “go anywhere” boots. And like St. Peter when Jesus asked him to join him by walking on the water, as long as Peter kept his eye on Jesus he walked on the water. But the moment he took his eye off Jesus, he began to sink. So it was for me. The moment I looked down at our feet, I started slipping and sliding.
No more slipping
I heard or sensed the boy say, “Trust me.” After that, there was no more slipping; every step was true and steady. As we walked farther, I again looked at the boy and realized he was bone dry! The rain was pouring down upon us, yet there was not a drop of water on him anywhere. Then glancing at my own clothes, I realized the front of my shirt was starting to dry. We were in “a bubble.” The rain was pouring down around us, but we were not getting wet.
As the boy brought me out of the forest into the clearing, I saw our bus and also a blue sky and sunshine! In gratitude, I began repeating “shoo-cree-ya'” which is the phonetic pronunciation for “Thank you” in Hindi. I reached into my money belt and started pulling out rupees, saying “shoo-cree-ya” and happily handing him money for helping. I looked away to zip up the money belt, and in less than five seconds, he was gone! In a field with nothing growing higher than my ankles, I did several 360 degree turns but the boy was nowhere to be seen. There was no way a regular boy could have run away that quickly.
When I rejoined my fellow pilgrims, several asked me what happened. One in particular, Vijay Fontaine, knew what had happened. After the boy got him to safety, Vijay told the boy, “My friend is back there.”
“I see you had quite an adventure.”
My fellow pilgrims explained that I had met Babaji! Reflecting back, it all made sense. The boy I encountered had superhuman strength. Why me? Why not? Jesus said, “Those who are not sick have no need of a physician, but those who are sick do.” Of my fellow pilgrims, I was the sickest one in the group — sick with dogma, doctrine, stiff-necked, opinionated, ignorant, full of what Kriyananda calls “churchianity.” Maybe Babaji playfully came to me for comic relief; then later, talking to Jesus, Babaji said, “Where did you find this one!?”
At the end of our pilgrimage, we had another opportunity to meet with Swami Kriyananda. The moment he set eyes upon me we both burst into laughter. He said, “Well, I see you had quite an adventure.”
Since that day, Babaji has made other interventions on my behalf. He is with me always and my life is so much better because of it.