Monday, December 19, 2005


sukhi and gurpreet paji took me to a little buffalo house in a field of dirt with buffalo dung scattered about. i wasn't quite sure why. we walked in, and i saw many sadhus clad in orange robes, orange turbans, and long beards. for the uninitiated, sadhus are holy people, typically old men, that have left there families and all material possessions to wander from holy place to holy place.

we chatted with one of the sadhus for a while, then wandered into the buffalo house. one of the sadhus was wearing a white outfit and had no turban. gurpreet paji introduced me as the cousin from abroad, and said i had a deep spiritual question for the baba. then he and sukhi both started laughing. basically, i was left to put together the situation on my own. the baba breaks out in perfect english and says, "why are you here? is this a joke for you?" i stumbled for a bit trying to recover the situation, then asked him the first spiritual question that came to mind. basically i said something like "many religions: christianity, sikhism, hinduism, islam, have some notion essentially saying "God is everywhere and in all things." so, if this is true, then it means God can be in evil as well as good. is this true? he thought for a moment, went on a bit of a tangent, then i asked the same question again a few times. eventually he said something like, God is in you, that is the most important thing to focus on, purify yourself, and you will find God. that is the only path to God.

we wandered back to the open field area where lungar was being served to about 10 poor kids from local villages. my cousins introduced me to a rather large and old baba. he smiled and said, roughly translated, wonderful little one, what a great thing that you have come. this is a phrase that old people in villages often repeat over and over again to any young visitor. anyway, the main baba (holy person), smiled and walked away, then a few moments later, returned and said to my cousins, this means he is sant's sukha (true) nephew. we all nodded, then he got very excited, hugged me repeatedly, and started ordering everyone to get me milk, give me food, get me a manja to sit on, put parshad in my mouth, etc. sant mamaji (my mother's brother) and his father, my grandfather, gurbachan singh, had been going to this baba for many years. it turns out these sadhus, and this baba are rather unique, they are followers of sikhism, but also are devout hindus. many sikhs, and adherents to the later gurus, reject hinduism with its idol worship, and well, practice of asceticism. it turns out, the baba was given this land by someone many years ago to live in. he visits with villagers and they feed him and feel honored that he showed up. once a year, a group of sadhus from haridwar spends 14 days with him on route during a pilgrimmage to, i believe, rishikesh; but the details are foggy since my punjabi is not that hot, and i lose things when people are talking really fast.

in any event, i returned a few more times over the course of a few days. ameen came as well. we both loved it. i felt like it was such an incredibly authentic situation. there were only a few people in a field; there was no money, no press, no hope for anything bigger to happen, no drive to gather more people, convert anyone, or make this worship anything other than what it was.

i pulled out my camera one night - when the flash went off, the babas were all anxious. someone explained what was going on. they got incredibly excited that "the one whos returned from afar" was shooting pictures. someone had donated a car for the night to drive the main baba (the world leader of this group) to a prayer. on rare occasions they randomly show up at someone's house. they showed up at gurpreet paji's. everyone was thrilled, its considered a sign of good luck. i asked sukhi why - he said it happens on occasion - not many sikhs support them, and have houses free of meat, eggs and alcohol. he added while laughing, "well actually we have a few bottles lying around (for guests); we're just smart and keep them hidden."

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