An excerpt from “India with Backpack and a Prayer”

By Jennifer Brookins

“Before entering we take off our shoes, find a spot in the back and sit cross legged Indian style, men to the left, women to the right. Satsang is held in this room each morning and evening. The floor is made from polished buffalo dung and covered with some type of matting. Overhead, there’s a tin roof with tarpaulin sides anchored with rope to keep wind and rain from coming in. I see small birds huddled together on top of tenting posts. Once again, I hear a crescendo of shabds*. Everyone looks in the direction of Baba Ji who now walks inside on a red carpet assisted by sevadars on each arm. It is impossible to put this moment into words. The sudden silence is deafening in the presence of this great Saint. He walks with some difficulty up the steps to the dais where he sits Indian style. Various sangats have sent tiered birthday cakes, now lit up to be shared with everyone.

Once again, the room is alive with shabds, more importantly the beautiful radiant face of Baba Kehar Singh Maharaj, who gently motions the crowd to quieten down. In silence, several times his head slowly turns from one side of the room to the other. He is giving darshan to each of us. An Indian lady leans over, taps me on the shoulder and points at two Indian men waving their hands in our direction. They motion for us to follow them to the dais where Baba Ji sits with a white shawl around his shoulders. He is looking for us. Doug protests when they lead him to the stage where Paramjit Singh, Achok Pabbi, and several others are seated. He gestures for Doug to sit beside him. I’m invited to sit with his family in front. Indians love to celebrate when it comes to Baba Ji. It is hard to describe the sense of joy within the walls of this spiritual community. I just know how grateful I feel to be in his company. Once the festivities are over, Baba Ji sends word for us to visit with him in his personal quarters. We walk up the steps, remove our shoes, and wait outside his door.

A young man who tends to his personal needs smiles as he motions for us to come in. Baba Ji is sitting behind a desk with a wicker basket of oranges to give as prashad, a space heater to warm his legs, and stacks of letters in need of reply.

He has arranged for Dr. Sharma, an expert in human physiology and spinal manipulation, to give Doug daily acupressure treatments during our stay. In one corner of the room is a chair he redesigned to massage his arm and leg joints. Baba Ji is full of life even after 20 hour work days, advanced age, and poor health. I am so happy to be with him again. What can I say that he doesn’t already know? He glances over at me, smiles and says,

‘Jado mai Jennifer nu vekhada ha, tan main vekhada ha ki chup hai ate ikalata hai.’

Translation: When I look at Jennifer all I see is silence and loneliness.As we get up to leave, Baba Ji gives us prashad. We stand before him, fold our hands and offer our gratitude for his love. He suggests we rest tomorrow from jet lag. Much has been planned, including the famous Golden Temple in Amritsar. He is so proud of India’s history; more importantly his predecessors on this spiritual path. I sit quietly, lost in his darshan, as Baba Ji and Doug speak together as old friends.”

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