There is a peak somewhere at 3700m, from which, when fortunate, one can see the entire range of the Himalayas. It is home of the God Shiva – the destroyer of selfishness and ego. A very ancient place but no one knows its origin; it is claimed to be one of the most authentic places found in the Himalayas. It was here where Pandavas, the winners of the war in the famous epic of Mahabharata, came to ask Lord Shiva for forgiveness for all their killings. Hearing those words from a stranger on the way, I knew exactly where I was heading next.
Life is just a play
Sitting on the front seat with the monk next to me, I was ready for a new adventure. Just as the bus was about to leave, a father with two little boys entered. Babaji, as if he knew I loved children, lifted one boy up on to my lap. Soon, the boy fell asleep in my arms. We started driving up a very steep hill. Then, suddenly, in the middle of the hill, the bus stopped and we slowly started to roll backwards. Everyone was panicking. Holding the sleeping child in my hands, which I was asked to pass out through the window, while people were screaming and pushing to get off the bus; Babaji remained calm and stayed seated.
I looked at him with a quizzical expression: “Should we get off?” He looked at me and smiled. It was as if I was in a crazy movie, where everyone was reacting and panicking for no reason. He was sitting there in silence and completely motionless. Then he looked into my eyes, still smiling: “It is his will. I will die when he decides so.”
I was sitting there but we were still rolling backwards, while half of the passengers had managed to get themselves off the bus. I inhaled deeply, remained seated and decided to give it a try. Suddenly, all my doubts and fears were gone. All that remained on my face was a smile. I was smiling at the chaos that was happening around us. Then the bus stopped. There were not many people on the bus any longer, so the bus had the power to continue driving up the hill. Babaji looked at me: “You see, it all happened in order for those extra passengers to leave so we could continue to drive normally again.”
The more we share, the more we care
I could not do anything else but smile. He was so simple, but he got to the point with everything he said or did. In order to reach the village at 3600 meters, we had to get a private taxi. As we reached the top of the hill, where the temple was, it was already dark. We decided to sleep there and then to continue the next morning. I was hungry and once again started feeling the altitude pressure in my head. The last thing I was looking forward to was sleeping in a hotel. As if he knew what I was thinking, he managed to find a house, where people were making dinner on the floor. They showed us a very simple room, which was probably theirs. Having us to sleep over meant they had to sleep outside on the floor but we still took the room.
As I looked around I saw a family having dinner. I was not keen on eating food that was prepared on the floor, but there was something about this food that made me feel like I could eat it. I never felt such a strong feeling that I needed to try it. Indeed, after tasting it, it was the most amazing food I had ever tasted. There was another Indian family staying over and we all sat together talking and eating. One of the guests told us that the owner of the house, the old man with one leg, who took hours to prepare the dinner for us with so much love, was the first person who discovered the beautiful temple on top of the hill many years ago. Previously, the temple had been hidden for many centuries.
The old man seemed to be sad about the actions of the hotel industry who were bringing buses filled with tourists up into the mountains just to make money, rather than keeping this lovely place authentic and pure. I could see that there were so much love and dedication in all he did. He was a very special man and I felt blessed that I ended up staying with him instead of in a cold hotel room.
We just sat, chatting, laughing, taking pictures and it was such a precious night. Another one to remember for the rest of my life. We were a bunch of strangers that got together on that night, but we were closer than many families on a Christmas eve in the West. It felt like home once again – safe, relaxed, natural and pure. It felt as if we had known each other for our entire lives. Babaji looked at me with his great dark eyes: “You happy?” What could I answer… Just a look from him gave me this rush of love. I looked back like a little child who just discovered the best chocolate in the world. It all felt so natural: “I am so happy. You have no clue how happy I am. Thank you. This is better than any kind of five-star luxury hotel!”
The next morning, we woke up at 4am to catch the only bus there was that day. It was still dark as we started to walk through the forest. In only two hours we climbed up to one of the oldest and yet unknown Shiva temples in India.
Due to the clouds, we were not lucky enough to see the entire Himalayas mountain range. I wished we could stay a bit longer. Time was going too fast for me and I started to feel impatient. Whilst observing Babaji, he was filled with unconditional love, never complaining, always accepting my mood swings as if they were normal and just so forgiving. The more impatient I got, the more love he was sending me. No matter my reaction, he just smiled and said it was normal what I was going through. As a result, I smiled and forgot what I was even being impatient about.
The temple was in a league of its own and could not be compared to the other temples I had seen in India. The figure of Shiva was carved out of stone. The temple was very old, probably preceding the origin of the modern Indian Hindu religion. I could not stop myself asking for forgiveness for all the self-centred acts I had carried out in the past. A priest outside was smiling and insisted he took a picture of me. As I was smiling, he invited me to visit again and to stay with him. It did feel tempting, yet it was time to go.
To be forgiven, one has to forgive oneself first
We returned just in time to talk to the old man from the previous night, drink some tea and to entertain some tourists that were passing. They stopped to take pictures of us; a girl with two old men! The bus was waiting but Babaji turned to me, looked into my eyes and without even checking the bus: “It is full.” I did not understand what he was trying to say. We did not even check if it had space or see if we could get on it. He even stopped me from going to check. As we turned around there was a taxi waiting next to us. It was going to the village where we wanted to go. It was in this moment when I totally lost control without understanding myself, why or how.
I turned to him with an angry voice: “Why did we do all of this then?! Why did we run down the mountain like crazy, if we could have stayed longer and taken a taxi?! No, we were running to catch the bus, which was logically going to be full! Why did we do this?! We could still be at the top right now, enjoying the view and the sunshine!”
He was just standing there, with his huge, loving, brown eyes and looking straight into my eyes as if I just told him how beautiful he was. There was no reason for me to talk to him like this. I was angry and wanted to make him responsible for my anger but he did not react. His love and innocent big eyes caused me to freak out completely. “I want you to know that when we reach our next destination, I need time to myself. We can have dinner together but then I will leave on my own.”
He nodded and agreed it was OK and it will be as I wished. He was just standing there, listening to me, when I observed how his lips started to move as if he was praying.
We sat in the car and my anger continued, no matter how much I tried to stop it. I was too proud to say sorry. We were driving for more than 2 hours, he had been praying the whole time and I was chanting my mantra asking for help, but I still could not let go as the emotion was so strong. It was one of the worst rides of my life. The scariest roller-coaster at a theme park would have been a better option at this point. Then I fell asleep. As I woke up, there was already another taxi waiting for us. Slowly, I started to feel better and was ready to apologise to him. As I was walking towards the taxi, he was standing there, looking at me. He was holding something in his hands. I looked at him.
Sometimes having all our wishes come true is just not enough
“I am not coming with you. You go on your own. This is my address so you can visit me in my Ashram.” I turned to him with big, begging eyes: “But Babaji, you cannot just leave like this! Let’s have dinner together tonight.” He was standing there, smiling lovingly. He was so peaceful. I could not believe this was happening. Finally, I was granted what I wished for, yet I was the unhappiest person in the world. It was as if I was falling unconscious. He then looked at me. “I go by bus. It is coming in 2 hours. I go to my Ashram. I stay in my Ashram. I cook in my Ashram tonight.”
I remembered him telling me every day that I had to visit his Ashram and how he will cook for me. His eyes lit up like two fireballs when he spoke about it. Yet, he never told me that one of his Ashrams was only in the next village. I was looking at him, trying to grasp the whole situation, as the driver came to close the doors. Babaji opened his hands and I could feel he was holding something very special. Something very dear to him. “Gift for you. From my Guru.”
“No Babaji, I cannot take it. Please. I will see you tonight at the prayer. You promise? In the great temple and then we can go for dinner. Please take it, you can give it to me later.”
“No. You have to take it now. Be safe.”
I was about to burst out in tears, saying I am sorry, please forgive me but I could not. All I could repeat, looking at him was: “I will see you tonight, right?” But he never answered. The door closed.
All good things come to an end
He was standing there as the taxi drove away. He loved me so much. No matter what I said, no matter what I did, he loved me more than anything. I could not believe it. His love was so strong; I could feel it as we were driving away. The feeling of emptiness, when he was not there, entered. I could not believe this was happening to me. I wanted to jump out of the taxi, run back, kneel down in front of him and ask for his forgiveness. As we drove off, the rain started to fall heavily.
Later that day I checked all the buses arriving in the village but couldn't find him, I called his number over and over but only to hear an automatic response saying the number did not exist; I slowly realised that this was it. I will never see him again.