Be Seated!

Mar 1, 2005

"I like birds. They are spiritual masters for me, because they don't hoard. With infinite faith, they roam the vast skies and descend upon the earth to pick up a few grains. And off they go again. That's why I like birds," he declared.

Right then, a Cuckoo sings its morning melody. With a mischevious smile, Balavdhut Maharaj looks to us and briefly looks to the sky -- without moving his head. We all crack up.

After our pilgrimage last morning, all five of our exhausted bodies decided to take a 1.5 hour bus trip to Matar. On the outset, it seemed like a bad idea. In hindset, it seemed like a destined destination.
My cousin, Shilpaben, had kindly hosted Mark and John during their first couple days in India. Deeply moved by their hospitality, they investigated the source of their unending inspiration. Turns out his name was Rangavdhut Maharaj and his successor Balavdhut Maharaj, who lived in Matar.

So all five of us went to Matar, a small village of Gujarat, to visit Balavdhut Maharaj and his Bal-ashram.

Neatly tucked away by the river, Bal-ashram is a place worth visiting. Apart from the obvious peace, the first thing you notice is the beautifully orchestrated plant life and the chaotically organized animal life (including ample peacocks).

Actually, we arrived very late. The festivities finished the day before but we went anyhow. Fortunately Shilapben and her mother were still there and they kindly gave us a tour of the place. Just we were passing through one of the mud paths with our bare feet, we hear some whispers. It turns out that their teacher, Balavdhut Maharaj, was outside. He generally only comes out couple times a week, and according to the devotees, it is a divine privilege to be in his company.

We washed our feet outside and stepped in. Just as we went it, he first saw Mark and said, "You stay here. No need to go anywhere else." In his usual way, Mark cracks up and sits down. All of five of us sit down on the door, as Bapji stayed seated on a veranda swing. Other disciples sit behind us, as Bapji continues: "Don't roam around from here to there. First find God. Then everything will become easy. Don't just build hospitals, and more efficient hospitals. Ask the harder question of why people get sick in the first place. Go to the deepest root."

Our conversation continued in all kinds of directions from nonviolence to God to is-this-all-a-dream. We'd ask a couple of questions and he would speak on it for a while, and even abruptly change topics. :) Although they were concepts all of us had heard before, it was nice to be reminded of them.

After about an hour, Bapji looks to us in an almost-intoxicated way and valiantly moves his index finger from his heart to the sky: "Ask for anything and I will grant it."

Wow. Anything? None of knew what to say. He looked to me, in an almost challenging way. I smiled and blurted what was on my mind -- "Bapji, I just want your blessings that I find God." He stared at me for a bit, closed his eyes and then suddenly opened them to declare: "DONE."

Done? You mean, I can scratch one more thing off my todo list?!? I didn't know what to make of it, and I still don't. :)

He later told us we would find God, find abundant talents in unimaginable ways, and become very well recognized for our contributions. Interestingly enough, his predictions were similar to those of our Bombay friend.

Bapji didn't want us to leave. "Your presence belongs in a place like this," he said. He asked his devotees to do whatever it takes to keep us there. While we had planned on leaving that night, we stayed back.

That night, we learned more about the multi-acred ashram's curious practices. None of the leaves or fruits can be plucked from the huge trees; they are strictly for the 72 species of birds that are in abundance anywhere on the campus. If they have any left-over money after major events, they return it back to donor; if money is needed later, they trust that it'll come. The ashram doesn't do any "marketing"; if people are to come, they'll come. The cows are taken care of as if they were human ... so much so that vegan-John even had butter! The whole ashram was started when Rangavdhut Maharaj made a "sankalpa" -- strong determination -- under a tree of a then-baren land; years later, the owner of the land donated it in its entirety and subsequently, a major flood made the land incredily fertile for vegetation.

The next morning, before we left, all of us met Bapji again. Among many things said, I especially remember this: "To be is God. To become is worldly. Be seated!"

Be seated. Be still and know.

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