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Here is a wonderful passage from Vedic astrologer James Kelleher’s website in which he describes the beauty and pandemonium of India as he searches for a spiritual teacher. He is a young man here in 1975, describing how, despite being new to Bombay and on foot, he finally locates the Hindi saint Beedi Baba by just asking random people for directions.
…I wove in and out as I walked, bumping against the throngs of pedestrians who filled the busy lanes…I was enjoying the fact that I had completely lost myself in the belly of this ancient city, and couldn’t even think of how I would find my way back. Yet many of the people I asked seemed to know Beedi Baba….“Beedi Baba kaha hai. His house is there,” the flower seller said, pointing across the street to an old building.
I jogged the remaining few yards to the teacher’s door, in order to dodge a rickshaw. The door was open so I poked my head in and said, “I am looking for Beedi Baba.” A middle-aged lady dressed in a royal blue sari beckoned for me to come in and pointed to a ladder-like staircase. I entered the dark building and started up the steep ladder towards the second floor where I could see a doorway. Halfway up the ladder the lady in the blue sari raised her voice and started chattering at me in Hindi. Confused, I turned around, not understanding what she was saying. A man said, “Your shoes, your shoes, leave them down here!” Embarrassed by forgetting to take off my shoes, I turned completely around and began my hurried descent. Unfortunately, the darkness, pitch of the ladder, and my impatience combined at that moment and my foot slipped from the ladder.
…I apologized to the lady and the man as I picked myself off the floor and painfully removed my shoes. I climbed the ladder-stairs once again, and entered the door at the top. As I entered, I found myself at the front of an attic-like room, filled with about twenty-five people. At the front of the room a very old man, with failing health, sat in silence. He looked at me for a moment as if he was deciding whether to let me in, after I had made so much racket on the stairs. After an awkward moment, he pointed to the back of the room and said, “Sit there.”
I made my way to the back, edging by the sitting devotees, half of whom sat with their eyes closed. I found a place and sat cross-legged on the floor. Beedi Baba said nothing, he just sat, eyes open, gazing out the window down at the street. After several minutes he mumbled something to his translator in Hindi. “Baba is saying there is nothing other than the self, the self alone is,” he repeated for the group. Again a long silence as Baba sat gazing. My first reaction was simply that I found it interesting that this man did not speak much. He was not giving a talk. I was aware, however, that something was happening which was not on the level of speech….My agitation from falling down the stairs seemed to disappear and I felt a sense of peace…