Tobias and I went to the area around Nainital in India mainly to visit the places where the two saints Neem Karoli baba and Sombari baba stayed when they where alive. You can read about our visits to these places in the earlier parts of this article series.
However, we knew through K.K. Sah’s book Deva Bhumi, as well as Ram Dass’s book Be Love Now, that another great saint had lived in the same area up in the Himalayan Mountains. Or actually two more saints. One was called Hairakhan baba and was contemporary with Sombari baba and died about a hundred years ago. The other one was called Haidakhan baba and died quite recently, in 1984. Actually, the two names are the same and the differences in spelling are just because our alphabet has no equivalent to the sound that is a bit of a mixture between r and d. Sometimes the name is spelled with an r and sometimes with a d.
Both Tobias and I had read about Hairakhan baba the elder in K.K. Sahs’s book Deva Bhumi and both felt a connection with him. He was considered to be one of the most highly developed saints in the area and was held in very high regard by Sombari baba. He was often seen with Tibetan lamas and seemed to have some connection to Nepal. No one really knew where he came from when he one day appeared in a cave near the village of Hairakhan (hence his name) in the 1880s, or where he went when he suddenly disappeared in 1922. Some believe he had lived for a very long time since he briefly mentioned that he had experienced historical events way back in history. Some also believe that he is still alive and there are those who claim that they have seen him even after his disappearance. There are even those who claim that he is the same saint as Mahavatar Babaji, the saint mentioned by Paramahansa Yogananda in his book A yogi’s autobiography. A being that has lived for thousands of years and is often called the guru of gurus.
Tobias and I felt we wanted to visit the temples and ashrams that were dedicated to him and on the outskirts of Haldwani lies his old ashram in Katgharia. During the time he was active in the area the ashram was located in the jungle, but today the city of Haldwani has grown around it. The week before our trip to India, I read in Ram Dass’s book Be love now how Hairakhan baba had been seen by his old devotees in 1958 during the inauguration of a new temple in the ashram in Katgharia. Suddenly a bright light had appeared above the statue of him and in this light devotees saw Hairakhan baba floating in the air. Several of his old followers went into ecstasy and fainted.
As we went out to the ashram, we quickly became aware that Westerners very rarely visited the place. The ashram was located in the outskirts of the city and was also in poor condition. The people who were there were surprised that we showed up, but they were at the same time happy to see us. The man who seemed to be in charge of the temple allowed us to sit and meditate in the temple where the statue of Hairakhan baba is placed. In the temple there were both pictures of Hairakhan baba the elder, as well as the younger man with the same name who lived until 1984. People here seemed to make no distinction between the two saints.
After we had meditated for a while we were gifted prasad by the temple caretaker and we went for a stroll around the ashram for a while. It was clear that the place needed to be restored, but I assume that a decreasing number of visitors has led to a lack of necessary financial resources. Perhaps it may help that K.K. Sah has written about Harikhan baba in his book Deva Bhumi and that Harikhan baba’s story is highlighted in articles like this to help people find this once flourishing ashram.
We were also interested in visiting the ashram and the temples dedicated to Hairakhan baba located in the area where he first appeared, near the village of Hairakhan. The old Hariakhan baba had an ashram there back when he was active in the area, but today there is instead a large ashram there dedicated to the younger Haidakhan baba, often called Babaji, the person with the same name who appeared in a cave outside the same village in 1970 when he was a young man and whom died in 1984. The modern Haidakhan babaji is considered by many as being an incarnation of the old Hairakhan baba and therefore you will find pictures of both of them in the ashrams in Kathgaria and the one near the village of Hairakhan. The ashram outside the village of Hairakhan is today more or less entirely dedicated to Haidakhan babaji the younger.
My brother Tobias was somewhat curious about the modern Haidakhan babaji but I didn’t feel any pull towards him and I also suspected that he might not have been a true saint. To some extent, I even thought he might have been such a person who attracts Westerners for his own personal gain. I went to the ashram mostly because I thought that the temple on the other side of the river of the ashram was dedicated to the older Hairakhan baba which I held in much higher regards than the modern saint with the same name. We had also been recommended to go to Haidakhan babaji the younger one’s ashram by an Englishman and an Austrian woman the week before we traveled to India and they had experienced that it was a place with very strong energies. In other words, I were a little curious about the ashram but did not feel any direct pull towards the place. It was the last location we visited in the area around Nainital before moving on to Rishikesh.
When we got there we walked around in the very big ashram. There were many visitors there, both Indians and Westerners. We sat and meditated for a while in front of the statue of Haidakhan babaji the younger. The Ashram was very nice and lay beautiful in the middle of the mountains, but despite that, I still had some resistance to Haidakhan babaji. I instead wanted to cross the river to the temple on the other side, which I thought was dedicated to the older Hairakhan baba, which I thought was the real deal. We crossed the river to the temple on the other side and quite soon I realized that this place was fully dedicated to Haidakhan babaji the younger and to top it all, the temple was quite newly renovated and many buildings were quite modern. To say the least, I was very disappointed since I had the idea of coming to something much older and, in my opinion, more genuine. In a moment my expectations and ideas fell apart.
In the temple complex there were nine depictions of Hindu gods that I showed my respect to, mostly because you where supposed to do that, but it all felt fake because I really felt disappointed about this place. But when I had shown my respect for the ninth god something strange happened. As I walked away from the statue, I suddenly and spontaneously slipped into a higher state of consciousness. I felt how energy flowed into me, or maybe it was out of me, and a kind of divine inner clarity came upon me. Suddenly I could see how wrong I had been and how my ego had locked itself in with ideas and expectations. I saw how I had been chasing the spiritual for so long and how the whole trip to India had been a search for something that always exists here and now, no matter where I am. I saw how I had put some saints higher than others completely based on my false ideas. And above all, I saw how the whole trip to India, the visits to the places we had been to, had been excuses for finding something that was already within me. I saw how my strong spiritual experience I had the day before in Kainshi Dham, the ashram dedicated to the saint Neem Karoli baba, really had been triggered by myself and not, as I had assumed then, by Neem Karoli baba. I realized that all the visits to these holy places had only been to give my ego permission slips in order to open up for my higher self and that the excuses were not really needed. But at the same time they had been necessary. For if I had not had these permission slips, my experiences of my higher self had not happened. I needed something to believe in that gave me permission to see myself, but now that my ideas and permissions slips had shattered in Haidakhan babaji the younger’s temple, who I thought was a fake guru, and I still had a strong spiritual experience, I saw it for what it was, me using excuses to find myself. And Haidakhan babaji, the guru I thought was false, proved to be the one who gave me the best lesson, that I do not need the permission slips, but that I can go into these states of consciousness anywhere, anytime. The permissions slips in the form of external circumstances were no longer needed, they had fulfilled their purpose now that I saw them for what they were. The trip to India had fulfilled its purpose. It had taught me that the trip was not really needed, since what I was looking for was already within me. But paradoxically, I had never learned this without having made the trip. I realized that external circumstances can help as an permissions slip to the day you realize that it’s never really the outside circumstances that do anything to you, but yourself.
This strong experience came to be the highlight for me during our trip to India. And it happened at the place I wanted to visit the least. The place I had previously concluded was fake was the place where the lessons was shown, and it was obvious why. You cannot have ideas about the truth if you want to find it, because the truth is nothing you can imagine what it is. You must therefore be completely open and receptive to everything. But with God’s grace, I had gained this insight despite my delusions and I was overwhelmed with humility.
When we went back to the ashram, I felt I wanted to go back to Haidakhan babaji’s statue and this time give him the respect he deserved. I had now seen his true greatness. With tears in my eyes, I prostrated in front of his statue and showed my respect, this time with full affection and genuine reverence. The guru I thought had been false was the one who helped me understand. Still fully established in the higher state of consciousness that I went into back at the temple, I apologized and showed my reverence.
When I came out of the main hall and out to the yard, an old man ran up to me with a big smile on his face. We had recently passed him as we walked from the temple back to the main hall with Haidakhan babaji’s statue. The man gave me a big hug and asked me how I felt. I responded that I felt very good and without saying more words, I knew intuitively why he had come running to me. In this state of consciousness, all the answers came to me without effort by them selves. He had felt what state of being I was in when I passed him and was bursting of joy that a visitor had an experience like this in his gurus ashram. That he once again got to see his guru’s loving work and that I had discovered his guru’s true greatness. I could also see that the man was pleased that someone who came to the ashram understood and experienced the truth. I sensed that it did not happen very often, especially not for Westerners. We hugged each other once more and then me and my company left the ashram. Just outside we crossed a store and for a brief moment I got eye contact with a young man who worked there. He ran out of the store and took my hand and I could see that he sensed my state of being as well, just as the old man had done. For the third time during this trip, I was able to see how many people in India have a completely different contact with the divine than many in the West. How many there, but far from everyone, can see and feel when someone is awake spiritually.
We then went back to our hotel and gradually I returned to my normal state of consciousness, but nothing would ever be the same again. What happened to me in Haidakhan babaji’s ashram changed me permanently. I now know that I no longer needed the permission slips to experience my higher self. And I now know that a judging heart is a heart that is closed. If I cannot see God in everything, I cannot see God at all. Thank you Haidakhan babaji for this, thank you.
Om Namah Shivaya.