My experiences with Tatambari Baba
Tatambari Baba is one of the sannyasis who graced me with his blessings by the transfer of knowledge and spiritual energy. He is one of the most unique and extraordinary sannyasis that one could meet, for many reasons. India has an ancient tradition of sannyas, and it is sannyasis like Tatambari Baba who not only keep these traditions alive, but fill them with the mysticism of an unusually high level that makes the tradition glorious. Babaji is a Naga Sannyasi of the Juna Akhada. His diksha name is Swami Akhandanand Giri. Few people really know this name. He won’t even tell it to people. The reason he will not tell it to people is because it has everything to do with the sannyas tradition as well as its philosophy.
When a person receives Sannyas Diksha (initiation), at that time, all his final rites for death, too, are performed. In the Hindu way of life, when a Hindu dies he/she is not buried, but instead, they are cremated. The next day the burnt ashes are collected called phool or flowers and are offered to the Holy Ganges. (All rivers in this sense are considered as Ganges and the ashes may be offered to any river). Then, a process known as Pind Daan is performed by the sons of the deceased to their ancestors and fore-fathers. Except for the process of actual cremation all the other processes associated with the death of a person are carried out during sannyas diksha. Sometimes, the Guru may ask the sannyasi to undergo a special practice in the form of a process of mental cremation that is usually very intense and should be performed only under very competent guidance. Then, the sannyasi takes a spiritual rebirth devoting his body, speech, mind and soul to God. Instead of the usual Bhandara, (Feast- food served- usually to Brahmins, relatives, family and friends of the dead person), a Bhandara is given to monks, other disciples and persons who are associated with the monk. This is treated as a festival. The process of Pind Daan too is carried out for the sannyasi at the time of initiation into sannyas. A sannyasi is considered dead to the world in the sense of severing all his family ties. This is done so that he becomes free from the bondage of worldly life.
In reality, the garb of a sannyasi is only the external sign of his state of mind. A state of mind where he has a constant consciousness of god and everything in life is secondary, where there are no attachments, no family, no possessions, no relatives, and no bondages. Where, very clearly a sannyasi sees everything around in a state of constant flux, everything is changing, moving, alive, like one being, a cosmic dance of the projections of the soul(atman), the waves of bliss. It is transcendence beyond--time, death, the finite, ignorance, constant change, good, bad, noble, evil, beautiful, ugly, strong, weak and all the other dualities; where there is visible only one--the Paramatman (the permanent self). That state of existence beyond the body, like a wave of pure consciousness. In that state-what is in a name for this state is beyond this world, let the world drop and the name too, for this state is above all else. In that state people give you a name as a reference and he was called tat-ambari baba meaning the saint clad in jute sacks for that is what he wore then ( during a specific period in his life). It is such a philosophy that Tatambari Baba lives and holds close to his heart. He would say that nobody should know anything about a Sannyasi; where you were born, where you came from, what you did, what you learnt, what spiritual treasures you posses, what you practice, what you eat, when you sleep, let everything about you as a sannyasi be mysterious just like the eternal mystery of life and death and paramatman (permanent self). Since, the Param atman or the eternal consciousness is there in all around us, so we must learn to see all others as the embodiment of divinity, that same divinity that we worship, where our identity is neither the society, nor the body, nor the mind, nor causality, nor a sannyasi, nor a family person, nor rich, nor poor, nor educated, nor illiterate, nor the limited, for we are an embodiment of the supreme consciousness. This supreme consciousness is beyond all forms and identities.
One day when I found him in a good mood I asked him his age. He looked at me and said “One day I was born, another day I will die”. Then he added “Only the body dies”. In the area where he lives people from over five generations know him. There is no clear assessment of his age. Before this location he stayed in atleast three different locations and he has been living in the current location for over 47 years. One day he said to me “When you go out into the world, people may ask you about me. Do not tell them where I am and do not bring people to visit me. You found out about me through other sannyasis (monks) but let me remain unknown”. For monks like Tatambari Baba who have turned their backs to the world; seek neither wealth, nor fame nor glory.
My first meeting with Tatambari Baba:
It was also interesting how I first met him. A sannyasi friend knew about him and mentioned certain textual practices to me. For some reason I decided that these would help me. When I asked him to pass on these practices to me, he refused saying that he had not been authorized to do so. He said I could go to Tatambari Baba myself and obtain them. Left with no choice, I decided to visit him. It was the month of November, somewhat before Diwali in 2004. The address that was given to me was not very clear. I was told to go to a base settlement of a certain temple to clarify where to find him. When I asked people in that settlement about Tatambari Baba they named a certain village a few kilometers away but nobody seemed to clearly know his whereabouts. This particular temple was an ancient Devi (divine mother) temple that was located on a hill with over 1000 steps, some of which were steep. I decided to first visit the temple. It was a very hot day, I left my travel bag with a shopkeeper, my climb up to the top was exhausting, the sun had really gotten to me. By the time I came back, I was hungry, sweaty and tired and in no mood to go anywhere. I was thinking of hiring a room, having a bath and going off to sleep. But first I had to eat something, so I dragged myself to a nearby food stall and had some late lunch for it was almost 3:30 pm and by four I finished. As I sat there eating I saw a bus go by in the direction that I intended to go in. When I got up I saw much to my surprise that a short distance away the bus was standing. So I thought to myself “Okay, let me go a little distance to the shop and collect my things and if it is still standing, we’ll see. I got my things, turned around and the bus was still standing, so I half heartedly thought to myself “Let’s see, if I can make it to the Bus”. Since I was tired, I slowly walked down to the bus and guess what, it was still standing. So I got on the bus and as soon as I got on it, it started moving. I understood at that point that this was more than luck. Some unknown force was working on me, as well as on all the other parameters, and I was a mere puppet in its hands.
As I sat in the bus, I named a certain village and bought my ticket. While I was sitting a fellow passenger, a policeman asks me “Babaji where are you going”? To which I said that I was told that I can know the whereabouts of Tatambari Baba in so and so village. Was I surprised, when the policeman says that Babaji is not in that village and lives further ahead in a newly built ashram on the road itself and he tells me to keep sitting, that he will have me dropped at the exact spot where the ashram is. I get off the bus at the ashram and meet two of Tatambari Baba’s students who are at the ashram. They offer me tea, telling me that Babaji is in the forest and call a young boy to keep my things on his bicycle and we start walking through the forest. The Sun is starting to set, after walking more than a couple of kilometers in the jungle, I start to wonder what I have gotten myself into. After some time, we reach a place where there is a hill in front of us and on the right side is a kind of river bed with large rocks lying around. The young boy leaves the bicycle there, takes my bag in his hand and starts going over these rocks. Now I am kind of somewhat between amazed and shocked. Anyway, I start walking behind the lad and we reach a hut made of wood and plastic sheets, we turn the corner and I see Tatambari Baba sitting near a rock, with a small fire burning in front of him, at the base of this hill, like the Lord of the Universe. I was in awe, but truth is, I can’t really describe what I felt. I don’t think I can ever really forget that sight for the rest of my life. The boy keeps my bags, greets Tatambari Baba and says he better leave before it turns dark. There are a couple of other sadhaks there and someone who is serving the Babaji. Babaji looks at me and asks me to introduce myself and how I decided to see him. I mention the name of my Sannyasi friend and say that that I was hoping that he would shower grace on me and bless me with such and such a spiritual practice. Tatambari Baba calls out for a young sadhak and asks him to bring a book. Immediately he gives me the practice. After some time he turns around and looks at the other sadhak and says that this is a first, a man so hungry for knowledge that he had come looking right into the jungle, that usually people wanted to be blessed with material gains. He was quite pleased with me.
Even more interesting was the night. Since we were in the forest there was no electricity. Soon it turned dark, there were only some basic light, a large lamp and a smaller one made of mud, some oil poured in them and cotton wicks. These gave some light, there was also the sacred fire, the Dhuni that was kept going twenty four hours a day, and then off course the chulla or the cooking stove made with stones and mud as is traditionally done in villages in India and some wood burning in it. The light, off course was inadequate. One of the other Sadhaks started preparing a meal that was first served to Babaji and then we followed. By then an additional couple of sadhaks had joined us. Since, I had lived before in the Himalayas at Tarkeshwar, the forest was not new to me, but unlike Tarkeshwar where we had rooms, here we had, what one may call shacks or huts or something like tents made of wooden poles and sheets of plastic. We were basically open to the forest, to the animals, the snakes, the scorpions and the elements except for rain, and that too, as time would prove, would start pouring into the tents if it poured really hard. I was used to sitting in the night to do my spiritual practices, but this was quite a different experience. As the other sadhak’s and I sat through the night reading mantras and doing our practices, the night resounded with the sacred chants of the Vedas and the word of god. In the forest there was only god, nothing else and we were living like the Rishis of ancient times doing what we were born to do, what was our birthright; praying to god just like our ancestors. It is again very difficult to convey the impressions of my first night there but it was an indelibly intense experience to be surrounded by other sadhak’s in the middle of nowhere seeking only god.
Living in the forest:
What I loved about living in the forest most of all was that we had almost no possessions and the focus was only our spiritual practices and god. No ashram, no duties, no devotees, no nothing except what we wanted- to pray. Since Tatambari Baba had been in that area for such a long time people knew him, some people would walk in and give us some food grains and basic rations. Since we were in the forest, there was plenty of wood for the fire, some part of the forest was actually teak forest, but there were many other varieties of trees too. Near the cottages we had a perennial water source, a spring and a small space between rocks where the water would gather. These served us drinking water and a place to bathe. No electricity so no electric bills. We slept on some jute sacks and blankets on the mud floor, for a pillow I used some of my clothes. Life was simple. The forest was home to many wild animals, Bears, Panthers, Lion, Monkeys (langur), wild boar, many varieties of snakes including cobra, mongoose, fox, scorpions, chameleons, spiders, many other insects, and so on and our paths often crossed with these creatures. Most of all we crossed paths with the Langur, the black faced monkeys that were there in large numbers, almost over a hundred and composed of three different groups. They would steal our food and provisions and generally cause a lot of disturbance and sometimes even havoc. But this apart, the forest was quiet and conducive for our practices.
When I visited Tatambari Baba for the first time in the end of 2004, I stayed with him for about 12 days. The two other sannyasis (swami) who were his students who I had earlier met at the ashram, also kept visiting Babaji in the Jungle. One time, when one of the Swami’s who was Babaji’s disciple, whom people had nicknamed Tyagiji was visiting, I was standing near the small bathing pool on the rock bed doing something. Around the pool on the approach path was a lot of grass, as Tyagiji stepped in towards the pool he was shocked to see a huge male cobra, more than a two, two and a half meters long, swimming through the pool. He looked at me and said “Oh, my god, that snake is huge” to which I replied “Beautiful, isn’t it”. I had already seen it the day before. He looked at me with surprise and said “You are unbelievable”. Cobras, off course are one of the deadliest snakes on planet earth, it has the ability to raise its head, it can attack easily from over 2-4 meters and it also spews venom on its target. Later, in the evening he told me that he and the other swami were talking among themselves about me on the first day and they were of the opinion that I looked like a city bred educated sadhu used to a comfortable life and I would barely survive one night’s stay. Then he went on to say that even sadhus who were considered tough were often unable to survive in the Jungle. This was a fact that I later witnessed for myself. Often even those sadhus who were born and brought up in villages would run away at the sight of a snake. Snakes would often come out, especially in the rains, to sun and in other seasons to prey, since other smaller animals such a field rats would come out near the water to drink or often to feed on our foodstuff. The interesting thing though, was that none of the sadhaks or visitors had ever been bitten by a snake or any wild animal in all these years that Tatambari Baba had lived in the forest except for one individual who for various karmic reasons was bitten by an Iguana or a monitor lizard (some of which are poisonous and modern scientists finally agree) that are called Gauo in Hindi.
One of our major festival’s- Diwali happened to occur during this first stay in the Jungle. At night we sat down to do our prayers and were told to perform a basic special practice. This practice was a simple practice performed only on Diwali through the entire night and one is supposed to stay awake till 5 a.m. The practice additionally lets one bless some money, usually, a bank note and as per Hindu belief, one holds on to this bank note for the whole year and it is believed to work as a lucky charm to help financial fortunes. At night, as I was sitting and praying, I saw a scorpion crawling towards me. I did not know what to do with it, killing it was out of question, so I called out to my Gurubhai- Tyagiji who came running to me to see what had happened. I showed him the scorpion, he got hold of a pair of tongs (Chimta) used to make chappati and calmly threw the scorpion out. Since that day, scorpions have appeared many times, especially when I have been involved in a special practice.
Tatambari Baba observed that I spent a lot of my time doing spiritual practices. He liked that and asked me to do a special practice of 41 days. I had a prior engagement in Lucknow and had to travel so I told him I would come back soon to do the practice. A couple of months later, I returned to Babaji to do the practice.
The spiritual practices:
During that first stay a little before Diwali, Tatambari Baba decided to visit some of his disciples and asked Tyagiji to move into his tent and left us for his visit. I had about 4-5 days of stay left, after which I needed to go to Lucknow; I was sad to see babaji go. But, Tyagiji realized this, he caught hold of my hand and pulled me into Babaji’s tent and said that while leaving Babaji had asked him to pass on to me a special practice of Hanuman which would protect me. Tyagiji asked me to sit down on the seat where Tatambari baba had been sitting and sleeping. He was sitting on it (the bedding had been removed). I refused saying that this was the Guru’s seat to which Tyagiji said “I am your elder Guru Bhai, if I can sit here so can you and he sat me on this seat”.
‘Mantras are Conscious vehicles’
Then he passed on to me this special practice of Lord Hanuman saying that it was being passed on to me in full power and in my special case as I had done some sadhana, I needed to repeat it only eleven times for the practice to become perfected instead of eleven hundred times. Sitting on Babaji’s seat meant being in contact with enormous power, receiving that practice and repeating it, added to this spiritual energy manifold times. In the meantime, a Sadhak came to say something to Tyagiji and I started yelling at him for asking a stupid question. My style of yelling was so very close to the way Tatambari Baba would speak that an old sewak (a devote who served babaji) commented that it looked like Tatambari baba’s spirit and spiritual energy had entered my body.
From among the two most intense experiences that I have had during my spiritual practices connected with animal forms, this practice gave me one such experience, my first such experience. After, two-three days, I somewhat increased the repetition of the practice. At one point in time, as I was repeating the mantras, I felt a massive jolt at the base of my spine and felt as though an enormous tail, similar to an upright monkey’s tail had unfurled and appeared on my lower back, at the base of my spine. To say the least, I was very shocked. After that day I have always felt the blessings of Lord Hanuman.
The Practice in the Jungle:
When I first studied tantra, I was told that there were almost no remaining Tantric siddhs belonging to the Vaishnav School, however I was amazed to know that Tatambari baba was a Tantric Vaishnav Siddh. Each master has his own style of teaching his students. It is not uncommon for masters to either berate their students or abuse them, or show anger, or give them very hard duties and so on. A student must understand that if the master is harsh with you, then that means he is working on you, preparing you for higher practices. However, Tatambari Baba had his own unique style. He would usually praise the student saying that everything is fine, you are very nice and then, slowly and calmly, tell the student to go and live in the Jungle alone to do a special practice of 41 days. That was his style. The cottages or huts that we used for the special practices were in isolation and some distance away from the water source where we had a couple of tents or our base.
When I returned after a couple of months in the beginning of 2005, Tatambari Baba sent me into the forest on a hill, a couple of kilometers away from the water hole to a freshly built hut to do the special practice. Imagine that you are in the Jungle with a place that is like a tent or a hut, the side is open to the jungle, it is night, there are animals wandering around in the jungle, you have little food, you have a fire going which is basically logs, so it is low, even if you had a blaze going it would not last long, but you are completely unarmed, you have no electricity, the mobile phone may not work, even if it did you couldn’t order a pizza or get any help, few people would step into the jungle at night. There is a wind, the leaves are rustling, snakes and scorpions can always come into the tent, something that happened with us many times, not to mention other wild animals, you can’t tell the difference between the rustling of the leaves and an animal who may creep upon you, there is no toilet, the tent is sacred space meant for you to live in and to do your spiritual practices, so if one needs to use the toilet then one has to go out into the night alone into the jungle, so you have a flashlight but in the forest at night, it isn’t much. A little more than a kilometer away from my hut was a bear den. There were also groups of wild boar. It could have been like camping except that you are entirely on your own for more than a month unarmed, without any comforts or facilities, no electricity, no gas, no toilets and no running water. In the day, if you need drinking water or you need to bathe you have to go to the water hole, the nearest water source is a couple of kilometers away, off course, as you go through the jungle, the shrubs and foliage scratches your skin, if you cover yourself, your clothes are ruined. By the time you come back, you are again covered in sweat, somewhat tired and scratched up. Makes you wonder why you decided to bathe in the first place. If one needs provisions or products, someone may come in, or if one can hire someone (remember that a Sadhu has have very few possessions including money) to bring you what you need, then you have some groceries, otherwise the choice is to go out through the jungle about 4-5 Kms to the road, then take a bus to the nearest large village atleast another 5 kms away. While one is doing all that walking, remember that the Dhuni, the sacred fire must not go out (that is a condition of the special practice). Off course, walking through the jungle can be real fun in India, especially in the rains when the jungle has some parts filled with ankle to knee deep water, with every possibility of breeding very poisonous water snakes and every chance of getting stuck, as well as slipping and falling in the mud. The last but not the least, you are city born and city bred.
Once in a while, I would ask one of my acquaintances in the city to bring some provisions, but he hated even stopping for tea, he would get out of the jungle as fast as he could. He would say the jungle gave him the creeps.
The second time in 2005, when I did a practice for 41 days which was my third stay in the forest, I was close to the water hole. Summer had nearly started, the mantra practice was meant to be done at night, after 12 (00:00 hrs). For 3-4 days as soon as I would pick my Mala (rosary) and start, I would hear a lion roar. The first day it was a couple of kilometres away, when it roared, the Jungle shook with the reverberation of the roar. I grinned to myself thinking “So I had heard about you, but you have finally appeared”. The next day there was a huge noise with the lion roaring and the grunts of what seemed to be a wild boar filling the silent night with unbearable sound and din. The lion seemed to be hunting it. By now I was getting somewhat scared of picking up my mala, because within a few minutes of my starting the jap, all this would happen. On the fourth day, at about 3 a.m., I was sitting reading a textual practice when I heard a very deep growl and I was lifted from my seat by a couple of inches due to the vibration and impact of this growl. The Lion was not more than 50-60 metres away drinking water at the water hole while I was reading in the Candle light. I told Tatambari baba about the lion. He tells me not to worry as it is a good sign and a blessing from the divine mother since the divine mother in the form of Durga rides a lion. The next day, some villagers and wood cutters scared me, telling me that I may be his next meal, but luckily for me the Lion decided to go further in search of food. In a special practice one cannot shift place, so I had no choice anyway. If there was any choice at all, it was to either quit the practice or to complete it and I wasn’t quitting.
That is what Tatambari Baba did to me. He sent me into the jungle all by myself for 41 days to do a special practice. Actually, I should say that is what I did to myself; I convinced and talked myself into doing this practice. Basically, I was very hungry for knowledge and crazy enough to do it.
Living in the Jungle is not just about the animals who only hunt when they are hungry or bite if you step on them or come too close for their comfort, but it was also about a bigger animal called the Human being. We would sometimes find that some really strange kind of persons would appear at our camp, sometimes even dangerous. On the other hand, we could also attract some sannyasis who too would be unusual and forced you to think differently. One particular sannyasi was so amazing, he had this unusual ability to walk in the dark in the Jungle. He would get up and wander in to the night even on a moonless night without a torch. One could easily hurt oneself on the rocks or slip on stone or on the hill, not to mention snakes and other wild animals.
But then I must say something about the spiritual practice. My jungle troubles were only half the problems. The practice he gave me belonged to the veer school and has its roots in the tradition of the Nath Sadhus. Veer means brave, so called due to the fact that these practices by themselves are dangerous and can be performed by the courageous. If one dares to perform this kind of a practice, then one has to know, that if done correctly, you win a lot, if done wrong, you lose everything, your health and your mind included. In short, winner takes all, loser loses everything. To add to this, it is extremely important during this practice to be celibate and also that the mind must not dwell on anything sexual at all. Such a mistake may result in dangerous repercussions. Along with this, to protect oneself another practice of Lord Hanuman is done, so as to be able to perform the main practice smoothly and to maintain brahmcharya. This particular (main) practice had to be done at least twice. Once for the guru, then after finishing the first practice with a gap of 41 days it is repeated again for oneself. This particular practice was meant to remove all previous obstacles (arishth nivaran), it cleanses the mind, helps in accomplishing any works, helps in improving the ability to perform spiritual practices, in new learning, balances the spiritual energy and it also seems to help in increasing the length of life and renewing the body-mind. It also opens up all Shabar mantras and helps in perfecting them. (See article on Shabar Mantras).
I did this practice twice in the jungle, the first time for Tatambari Baba and the second time for myself. Later, I did yet another different practice of the divine mother for 41 days in the jungle which was my fourth stay in the jungle, but the periods of stay were always well over 50 days as the practices needed some preparation to begin the practice.
A Strange Incident of Healing:
Most of the time, as the Bhagvad Gita says that it is god who works through us and we are merely the pawns in this continuous game of consciousness. We like to believe that we make the choices but over time, many incidents have made me realize that I am merely a slave of god. What seems like a free choice is really within bracketed parameters giving the impression of free choice.
The first time when I stayed with Tatambari Baba he had been sick and was feeling terrible. He had one bad habit, he loved to smoke, so he had been coughing from a combination of smoking, inhaling smoke from the Dhuni (sacred fire) and some infection due to the cold and the changing weather. He wanted to go to see the doctor in Bhopal, but then I decided I would try to heal him, so I gave him some medicine. He had a chest infection that was easily treated by some good antibiotics that I had carried along with me from Delhi.
The third time when I went to live with him he was again unwell with some fever and chills. I suspected Malaria but I was scared of giving him that medicine. Firstly, Tatambari baba’s age was uncertain, anywhere above a hundred years atleast. Even if one considers 100 years it is enough to give a good doctor a case of severe nervousness. In my case as his disciple, my nervousness was twice as much. Giving medicine to an old sannyasi (Hindu monk) was enough to give me fever and chills. Secondly, the medicine for malaria is quite strong and has a rather severe reaction on the body. I was extremely scared because in case it reacted, I would be in real trouble, not to mention that as a student I would ruin my good karma. So I decided to play safe, I decided to buy some antihistaminic, Paracetamol, etc, and see how he would react to that.
I caught hold of a devotee and asked him to drive me to the city. We rode into a small town some 17 kms away to a medical shop. I asked him to give me an antihistaminic by the name of Loratidine. As he starts pulling out the medicine, I see another box in the ‘L’ section that catches my attention. The chemist says that is not what I asked for but I force him to pull out that box. Guess what it is—Lariago, an antimalaria drug. By now, I had understood that I was again in the middle of something. Interestingly enough, the chemist does not have Loratidine. With some hesitation I buy Lariago instead and some paracetamol for the fever. We drive back to the ashram. At the ashram, I hand over the medicine to my Gurubhai with instructions for its dosage. On the fifth day Tatamabari baba is absolutely fine.
Unbelievable, but true. To this day, I hold my head in my hands in wonder at this incident and say to myself “What-- was that?” I ask myself “What if it had reacted, what if something had gone wrong”. But then on the other end, I understand that I was merely a tool in the hands of the divine.
The Mystery of Tatambari Baba:
Some people will read this section with great skepticism and disbelief. I must say that most spiritual people are blessed with certain special abilities that allow them to see beyond the ordinary world. After reading this section, some people, probably most people will say this is not possible, the man is lying. But let me point out that many of us (I mean spiritual people) are as familiar with nuclear physics, genetics, medicine, history, astronomy, astrology and so on, as well as many have good backgrounds in management, science, arts, music and so on. So there must be some good reason that makes us speak of things that are unusual and perhaps even unbelievable. Some people will content that it is a matter of faith. That may be so for some spiritual people but not so for all spiritual people. I would rather term this as a science and somebody will argue that science proves to all without doubt as fact a particular thing whereas spirituality does not. To that, all I will say is that these are not material sciences but subtle sciences. Here the proof will be for all to see, but with a qualification and that being -that the person must have a spiritually awakened state. Even in that state, depending on the individual level of the person they will be able to experience the other side. While walking on this path I was told many things by different Guru’s. Not all were understood or realized or experienced immediately but in the course of time many different dimensions were revealed. As I continue to walk more deeply on this path, I realize that there are even more dimensions as well as amazing truths that one may discover. In a certain sense the spiritual quest is to explore and challenge the known and traverse into the unknown, to expand and destroy the usual patterns of the mind, the common thought process as well as the limitations of the mind and go beyond it to the source- pure consciousness.
As I have mentioned before, one of his biggest mysteries was that none of us could tell Tatambari Baba’s age, he has to be well over atleast 125 years maybe even up to 225 or 250 years. I know many people will accuse me of lying but why would I. Saying that one has met or had a Guru of an unreal age is not the best way of giving yourself credibility, atleast not in this modern world. So I write this more to keep to facts as I know them and believe them to be correct, rather than to create an extraordinary story. In that area, there are families whose five generations have seen and served Tatambari Baba. It wasn’t unusual to meet persons who would say that their grandpa used to sit with Tatambari baba. He is not the sole sannyasi that I have met who is much above 100. I have met atleast two other Sannyasis around 150 and above. But I have actually met more than these three I mention. One interesting observation about these monks is that most of them look around 60-65 years old. They will talk, sometimes even a lot, but the talk is simple, uncomplicated and most of the time they will explain a point with an interesting story or anecdote.
For some of us who are sensitive to energy changes, we can usually feel this spiritual energy. But in the case of these sannyasis it becomes difficult to assess this spiritual energy as well as their spiritual power. Sometimes, with Tatambari baba one could feel this energy, at other times when he would sit in the sun, if one looked at him and if someone didn’t know better, he would seem like a simple old man resting on the cot. One time he moved into the forest in to the same place on the hill where I had done my spiritual practice. One could feel the spiritual energy all the way to beyond the bottom of the hill atleast a distance of over two kms.
What practice or cause enables them to hide this energy is very difficult to understand. He is so mysterious that possibly if a team of psychologists tried to understand his mind they would go crazy and I say that seriously. In part because the minds of such unusual spiritual persons are based on a culture that is very unlike modern culture, in part because no normal person could live so long, in part because to be a sannyasi is to reject normal life in search of god (whoever really saw god) and in part because the intensity of these spiritual practices can only be tolerated by a special kind of person with a mind very removed from the ordinary. The other unrelated sannyasi who is over 150 is called Phalahari baba (phal means fruits and ahar means food or here to eat). I have observed him too. He can be so simple that one can almost tell him what to do and yet I would not be able to do the practices he does. He has this enormous strength of Tapas (asceticism).
How do these Sannyasis lengthen their lives?
There are many ways how monks in India have lengthened their lives. The Tripura Rahasya Gyan Khand mentions seven methods through which one can obtain siddhi or perfection. These are as follows a) by birth, b) through a boon, c) by Ayurvedic medicine (herbs), d) through gemstones, e) through yogic exercises, f) through mantra, g) through asceticism (tapas); and through a combination of all these.
In India there is a belief amongst spiritual persons that when a person spends time in prayer, the length of life increases by atleast that much time as he has spent in prayer. From amongst other techniques, a text like the Shiva Swarodaya has verses on how siddhis appear with the shortening of breath (but one has to understand what that means and the subtle techniques related to this practice). And on how one can reach a state of near immortality. While some other Yogis can control there Prana by Pranayam and thereby lengthen their lives.
Through mantras, in the Mantra Mahodadi, in the sections on Apsaras and Yakshinis one can find mention of two different Yakshinis who have the ability to grant a life of five thousand and ten thousand years.
In the section of Rasayan Tantra and Siddha Ayurvedic medicine one will find the mention of Kaya Kalp, an ancient technique to rejuvenate the body. So there are many principles and techniques to lengthen life.
His Life and Philosophy:
Around Babaji life was always very happening, something was always going on, sometimes it was like a circus, really confusing. Tatambari Baba had other habits that defied everything that one could have possibly read or have been taught in relation to spiritual practices connected with the Indian spiritual system or yog.
He had almost no system for his meals. We could all be sitting from early morning till late at night without any food. We would get tea a few times in the day and maybe a small snack close to a breakfast. Babaji could sometimes give the order to make Dinner at 11-12 at night and we would end up eating at 1 a.m. sometimes. The food would usually be very simple, usually Tikhadh (thick chappati or Indian bread) and vegetable or Dal. Most of the Sannyasi’s were used to staying hungry. It was difficult for me. In the Hindu tradition, the shishya or student does not eat before the Guru and so nobody would say anything to babaji. It was not a classroom where you could complain about anything –food, shelter, clothes, or any other comforts. There had previously been cases when somebody would bring sacks of wheat and other food stuff for Babaji, who would not keep it, but instead, call some cooks, have all of it prepared and invite all the villagers for a Bhandara or a feast. The next day again there would be no food. Sometimes, during the days when there was no food, some of the sadhus would mix up ash from the Dhuni in water and drink it to fill their stomachs. Sometimes they would boil leaves from the forest to eat them. Luckily for me, while I was there, things had changed a bit so I never went entirely hungry but I was close to that. Sometimes, when he travelled, before he left, he would leave everything and vacate the place telling villagers to take what they needed. So they would take away the utensils and blankets etc. There was not so much anyway. Tatambari Baba has a complete disregard for material possessions.
Tatambari baba’s belief was simple. As sannyasis, we must have no possessions. We must depend on God alone for all our needs. It is very easy to read this but when one tries to live it, it is really difficult, but Tatambari baba really has extreme courage. Numerous people had offered to keep him in their homes, to specially build a separate room to accommodate him, but he always refused saying that he could always come to stay with them when he wanted. Many people actually did construct accommodation for him, but he would stay for a short while then move back into the jungle. He would often complain that previously visiting Sadhus had a Kamandal (water utensil) and were dressed in a langot (loin cloth), but now sannyasis are known by length of their cars. He would say that he was born to serve the poor, often the richer people would be scared of him. He’d say they don’t have compassion and become rich on the toils of the poor. On the other hand he treated everyone equally. He would also rarely keep any money, most of the time giving it all away. One time in the 2004 Kumbh at Ujjain, one devotee gifted him one hundred thousand rupees, within one hour, while he was still on the stage he distributed it to Sannyasis and Brahmins. Tyagiji was responsible for running the ashram so he would always say “Don’t give him the money, he will get rid of it within an hour, if you give it to me I will use it to run the ashram”.
While we were with Tatambari Baba, there were days when he would seem very young and full of energy and there were days when he would look old and feeble.
Tatambari baba’s unusual thinking and his way were both a big mystery.
He loves to feed people sometimes going to the extent of buying food on credit to feed people. He also loves to give away things to people specially to visiting Sannyasis (monks) and Brahmins often not letting them leave without gifting something. He would gift things to everybody sometimes going to the extent of asking his better off devotes to buy things so that he could gift them. Imagine a person who himself does not have anything being able to do that, without possessing anything, not even a place to stay but distributing to and feeding others.
At many times, other strange things would happen. He loved to distribute sweets to children and would sometimes run out of them. Then one man would appear with a couple of kilos of sweets, then another, then a third, then a fourth, then a family, then a sixth till he almost had 10-15 kgs whereas in the normal course maybe one man might turn up in the week with sweets. Similarly, one time there was another strange run with red chilies. Although, no one in the ashram really ate any chilies but people starting appearing with bags of red chilies, some even being sent from a large distance, and soon we had a huge amount of chilly. I was truly perplexed and it wasn’t even as though that was chilly harvesting time. I looked at Tatambari Baba in great surprise and asked him “Swamiji, why are people gifting you chilies, you don’t even eat them”. So he looks at me and says “It is God’s will, he does as he deems fit”. So I asked him “What will we do with all this chilly”? I was truly confused and somewhat disturbed, it didn’t make any sense, after all, most people knew that food in the ashram is prepared almost without chilies. So he says “We will gift it to people”. I didn’t understand anything of this whole lila, maybe I will understand this incident in a few years.
Tatambari Baba had this habit. When he was ready to go to sleep, he would have someone massaging his feet till he fell asleep. I wanted to serve him too so sometimes, I would ask him to allow me to massage his feet. He would always refuse on one pretext or another. One night, it so happened that except for one other sannyasi and me, there was no one else, so there was no one to massage his feet. Seeing the opportunity, I asked him again; looking around seeing no one, he was forced to agree. I sat near his feet massaging them till he eventually fell asleep, but I continued for some more time. At one point while massaging his feet, I closed my eyes and came to a meditative state, and I see Lord Krishna’s image in front of me. Such was the benefit of that small little service that I did for him, not that I expected or wanted anything out of it, but it was like a side-effect. Such is the value of personal service to the Guru.
He also had enormous compassion. It did not matter who came to him and when. They were always welcome. One time somebody came at about 3 a.m. looking for Babaji. He made a lot of noise. Another Sannyasi and I woke up and asked him to calm down. Then we told him that babaji was resting and he should come back later in the day, we didn’t want to disturb babaji. When Babji woke up in the morning, we told him about the Visitors. His response was “You should have woken me up. A man does not come to visit at an odd time just like that. He must have had a great need”.
Another time, a boy appeared at the ashram, he was visibly mentally disturbed. Wherever he had been, people had chased him away. But Tatambari Baba welcomed him. He saw everyone equally, as divine. Then he looked at us and said “We will make him fine”. As the boy lived with us, slowly the boy’s condition started to improve.
Tatambari Baba was quite strict and even hard on all of us. Babaji also has this great sense of humor. Often, he would joke about numerous things, many times he would say “Sometimes the other visiting senior sadhus ask me-- “You are hard on your students (shishyas), abuse and insult them, you have almost no facilities, but even then they serve you and do not leave you. While, we look after our students (shishyas), provide them everything and even then our students (shishyas) run away. After all, what is your secret? Please share it with us too”. Laughs. But I give my shishyas spiritual practices and help them in achieving perfection. Smiles. But everyone wants to know my secret. Why so many people become attracted to me? What kind of secret practice or mantra for charming--do I posses that attracts all these people to me”. Once on seeing him in a really good mood, I decided to take advantage of the mood and asked him “And Babaji What is the secret?” As usual, I was being greedy for spiritual practices, I thought that if Igot lucky he may give me some special mantra; another practice in my arsenal of mantras. He looks at me smiling, yet serious and says “When you wish people well, when your intentions and actions benefit people, when you love them and have compassion, when you learn to keep giving them whatever you can, people will love you; that is my secret—genuinely wish people ‘good’ from deep within your heart”.
A summary of the Teachings Of Tatambari Baba:
- Live a simple life without any possessions.
- The main purpose of human life is to become self-realized.
- Depend entirely on God.
- One does not live to Eat, but one eats to Live.
- Pray regularly, never ever give up prayer (Spiritual practice).
- Make and inspire others to pray as well.
- Keep your attention focused on God.
- Especially look after the welfare of women.
- Always have the welfare of people in your mind.
- Serve the other Sannyasis (monks), the people and even the animals.
- God is within everybody, treat everyone equally and divinely.