November, 2016, began my very first trip to India. I have always dreamt of India as a place filled with sweet raga music and delicious spicy food - a land of wonder and spirituality. Yes, India is all of the above and much, much more. In fact, the inner journey of this trip was far more profound for me than the wonderful outward journey. The sight of majestic temples carved out of a mountain, the sound of prayers at dawn and dusk, the smell of incense and temples offerings, the vibrant colors of the flowers and silks, all of these are representation of humankind’s calling out to the Divine. India has an ancient yet advanced and rich culture originating from time immortal. India is a country definitely favored by the Gods and that's why so many Saints call it home.
We embarked on our journey from Mumbai through Ganeshpuri and Nasik to the retreat with Mohanji in Shirdi, then on to Aurangabad and then last stop to Chennai. The final scheduled event was attending the book release and Giri Jayanti Celebration of Baba Ganeshananda Giri in Chennai.
Before this trip, I did not know much at all about Baba Ganeshananda and very little about Shirdi Sai Baba. Little did I expect that they both would show up in my life in the most unexpected way. I felt so honored to have really "met" both Babas on this trip. Baba Ganeshananda Giri was the "Boy who walked with Sai Baba", and book release event was to commemorate the release of the book by that title.
As I mentioned before, Chennai was our last stop. Just when we thought that nothing could possibly top our experience with Mohanji and the darshans with Sai Baba in Shirdi, Baba Ganeshananda was there waiting for us to make the last leg of our journey a truly memorable one.
The cyclones created some interesting inconvenience in Chennai with downed trees everywhere and intermittent loss of power. The weather brightened up and we were happy to escape the oppressive humidity from the aftermath of the cyclone. We were invited to visit Baba Ganeshananda's mahasamadhi shrine on Sunday. This was the first opportunity for me to learn more about Baba Ganeshananda.
The ride to his mahasamadhi shrine was quite a distance from where we were staying. On the way, we were told many stories and personal experiences of Baba. We could feel the deep love and devotion his devotees had towards him. As we left behind the hassles of downtown traffic on a Sunday morning, the landscape quietly turned to a more serene one as we approached closer to where Baba lived. A very peaceful feeling soon welled up inside me. If there were such a place as a pastoral paradise, this would be it. The insane traffic now turned into more civilized highway driving and the honking was far less frequent. Not used to the Indian urban traffic, I had been pretty stressed out whether walking along busy and narrow streets or riding in a car. I knew they had some codes with the honking but I am as illiterate of them as with any of their dialects. So the change of scenery to a peaceful one was a soothing relief.
I looked out from the car window and passing by us were acres of wetland next to the river. Everywhere was filled with wildlife - ducks, geese, egrets, herons, and majestic cranes dotted the lush green landscape. Cows were grazing in the distance. Yes, this reminds me of the India I have seen in Bollywood movies - lively and perpetually colorful.
The gentle motion of the automobile lured most of us to sleep eventually. When I opened my eyes, we were quite close to Baba's place. My heart was filled with joy yet I was not quite sure where this feeling really came from. We passed a little village lined with houses and temples. There were paddy fields all around and we saw perhaps over a hundred of ducks and geese going for their swim, watched over by a human guardian. Life here was so simple, yet so filled with joy and contentment. I would love to bring some of this state of being back with me to America.
Then after a few turns, we arrived at Baba's kutir. It was a very modest cottage with a lingam at the entrance and then the room where Baba lived. The entire room was a huge puja altar filled with pictures of Baba himself, as well as Sai Baba and also other deities.
We were warmly welcomed into Baba's room and we all took turns to pay homage by bowing in front of Baba's picture. Yes, one could feel Baba's devotion and love for his guru and the deities and his humble living quarters was a shrine with every cubic inch of space completely saturated with spiritual energy.
It was my turn to bow down and a strong fragrance greeted my nostrils when my head touched the ground. This sweet fragrance filled my whole head and I inhaled even more deep to try to soak my entire being in the sweet mixture of flowers and incense. When I opened my eyes and looked up, I was quite surprised and could not figure out where that fragrance really came from. The wood floor could not possibly smell so sweet and so strong unless someone poured perfume around this place. I thought perhaps someone else would comment about this but nobody seemed to have noticed it. Before I could linger longer, I got up and let others have their turn for Baba's sweet darshan. I felt my consciousness keep on expanding from Baba's fragrance and felt a bit "intoxicated". I did not say anything, still trying to digest the experience.
We then headed out to the samadhi site and Mohanji offered garlands and flowers and aarati to Baba. My husband, Natesh, was asked to write a chant in honor of Sai Baba, and we sang it while Mohanji was garlanding Nandi and the lingam on top of Baba's samadhi. Natesh starting composing this chant the night before, and finished it that morning, and we felt Baba's presence very strongly from the chant. I closed my eyes during most of the chant to continue to take in the profound sense of peace and love of Baba's presence. I could feel his strength as well as his gentleness and love for all those around him. He was a very beautiful soul.
When I opened my eyes, a herd of cows was listening to the chant and trying to come closer to us. They would have made it to our side if there were not this narrow ditch separating us. Two out of the five cows already had their front legs at the edge of the ditch trying to figure out a way to come over to our side. These cows were absorbed in the music till it stopped. Then the cows left one by one in single file returning to the area they were grazing when we started chanting.
I continued to have my eyes closed to soak in Baba's presence while Mohanji waved the aarati lights. Then I noticed different colors start showing up in my inner vision. First the bright colors of red and orange and yellow and then dark purple. The noonday sun was quite bright at that point and I have never experienced any inner vision under bright light. These lights were very beautiful and very vivid and intense at the same time. I was either asleep while standing up or I was indeed lost in these lights until I was awakened by the flame in front of me. Baba's presence was felt in broad daylight. I was still drunk from the experience.
Mohanji then noticed a sweet fragrance. It was coming out from the opening for the copper wire above the Baba's body that was covered in rose petals and sacred ash. To me, the fragrance was most intense closest to the opening. We felt so blessed being with Baba who was right there with us.
The next evening we arrived early for his Jayanti celebration and book release. I heard Baba whisper softly, asking me to take some photos of the pictures displayed around the room. That was an interesting request but I happily complied. There were camera crews around setting up so nobody would pay attention to what I was doing anyway.
Soon the dignitaries arrived and the music began and the program officially started. Something very powerful seemed to be putting us in a meditative state, wanting us to keep our eyes closed and let the energy gently embrace us. We felt a sense of deep peace. The bhajans and music were filled with so much love and devotion. Natesh and I also were invited to sing the chant he composed for Baba, the one that got the cows' attention at Baba's samadhi. When it was our turn, we both felt Baba was right there listening and nodding his approval and appreciation. Baba's grace gently wrapped us all in a big bundle of love and we felt almost in the arms of the mother's soothing lullaby.
The talks of that evening were given in Tamil except the part by Mohanji, which was in English. By then, we were quite used to listening to words that we had no idea what they meant. But somehow, we could feel the sentiments of what was being expressed and we could even laugh along with the humor. The evening ended with the most delicious bhandara feast for everyone to partake. With Baba's grace, we somehow managed to finish our meal eating with our hands with the camera crew filming us.
The surprise from Baba was waiting for us when we finally had the chance to download the photos the next morning. One photo of Baba caught our eyes. There was a spark of bright light where his fingers met in Chinmudra and in front of him was a starburst of light. Only after reading the new book did I learn that Baba was in Chinmudra when he attained mahasamadhi, which indicated it was an act of his own will.
There are a lot more stories about the miracles of Ganeshananda in this newly released book. We can all read it and walk along with Baba Ganeshananda. The photos in the book really brought the stories alive, giving us a glimpse of Baba's physical form, especially for those of us who did not have the opportunity to connect while he was still in his body. One thing for sure, Baba will continue to make himself known in years to come. We felt so honored and blessed that Baba had found us somehow calling us from the other side of the globe to be at his feet, at his guru's feet and at Mohanji's feet.
Sai Baba had said, "Nithya mee jeevantha jaana haechi sathya. Nithya ghyia pracheeta anubhavae." It means "I am immortal, know this truth. And forever get experiences of my immortality." We are so blessed that this boy has continued to walk with Sai Baba on the path of immortality.
Jai Ganeshananda Baba! Jai Sai Baba! Jai Mohanji Baba!
Author: Monnie Ramsell