Land of the Baba Jis

Part 1: Living the Baba Ji life!

April 2016:

The day before I was to depart from Khajuraho by train, Kuldeep’s “Baba ji-in-training” friend, Mahese, arrived from Omkareshwar. Omkareshwar is the the holy “Om Island” situated on the even holier Narmada river.

After Kuldeep introduced us, Mahese felt we had a strong connection, so he invited me to return with him to Omkareshwar.

Daytime views of Om Island and the surrounding holy river, Narmada river.

Daytime views of Om Island and the surrounding holy river, Narmada river.

Sunset views of the Narmada river from Om Island.

Sunset views of the Narmada river from Om Island.

I had to consider Mahese’s offer. It’s rare for Western tourists to visit Omkareshwar, and exploring the spiritual island with Mahese sounded like an intensely cultural experience. Screw the itinerary…. I’m in!

Hanging with Mahese on Om Island.

Hanging with Mahese on Om Island.

When he was 24, Mahese moved to Omkareshwar to live among the Baba Ji’s after a Master Baba approached him and explained that he could see this young man has a special energy. The Master Baba invited Mahese to live with him at the ashram, where Mahese began a new life.

I was fortunate to travel with Mahese, as he is friends with all of the Big Baba Ji’s living in Omkareshwar, particularly Adit Baba. Adit baba is only 28 years old, but he is already revered by the Hindus as a holy man.

Selfie with Adit Baba, as he smokes his chillum (“pipe”) to connect with Shiva.

Selfie with Adit Baba, as he smokes his chillum (“pipe”) to connect with Shiva.

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What’s a Baba Ji?

In a previous post, I shared my definition of Baba Ji’s based on my experiences in India. As Baba Ji’s are an integral part of this post, I’ll share it in this post as well:

A Baba Ji’s life purpose is to live a life of simplicity (i.e., by renouncing their home, families, and all of their possessions), have a connection with Shiva (a Hindu god), and do acts of good karma.

A Baba Ji being a true Baba, blowing his horn to Shiva.

A Baba Ji being a true Baba, blowing his horn to Shiva.

I describe Baba Ji’s as ‘Wandering monks’ because they are constantly moving from one ashram to the next throughout their lives, and they simply live. Baba Ji’s don’t make any plans; rather, they go about their days by following what their heart wants to do in the moment. They don’t pay attention to the time (they typically don’t wear watches), they simply flow through it.

Although they’re homeless by choice, true Baba Ji’s are not beggars. They do not ask for any money or food; they simply accept whatever is offered to them by other Hindus (i.e., food, blankets, money donations, marijuana 😉 ). And because Hindu persons believe in the power of these Baba Ji’s, true Babas are always taken care of.

When they’re not helping others solve their issues, Baba Ji’s spend all day in meditation to be in close connection with Shiva (the Universal Energy).

Many Baba Ji’s attained much of their wisdom from living in solitude in a cave, or in the jungle among wild animals, for years. During these years, they would only meditate, do yoga, and survive in jungle life on their own. Sometimes the Baba Ji’s would not see any other human for years.

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Now, allow me to introduce Adit Baba:

Adit Baba has a wide tube that goes through the cartilage of his ear, not through his earlobe (i.e., it's not an earlobe-stretching tunnel earring). Only the most powerful Babas wear have the privilege to pierce their ears like that.

Adit Baba has a wide tube that goes through the cartilage of his ear, not through his earlobe (i.e., it’s not an earlobe-stretching tunnel earring). Only the most powerful Babas wear have the privilege to pierce their ears like that.

Indians in the streets constantly gift money and marijuana to support Adit Baba in his holy endeavors and facilitate his spiritual connection with Lord Shiva (Universal Energy). Despite how much money Adit Baba may receive, money means nothing to him. Any money he receives, he either spends on others or uses for good karma acts.

Adit Baba doesn’t spend any money on material things for himself. In fact, he doesn’t even buy much food, as he only eats 1 meal per day. Adit Baba only has one tiny bag for belongings, the most important of which are his mantra books, his ceremonial ashes (that is oftentimes given to people to eat), pictures of his guru, and marijuana.

Adit Baba wearing his small shoulder bag, which has all of his belongings (basically nothing!).

Adit Baba wearing his small shoulder bag, which has all of his belongings (basically nothing!).

– Even more astonishing is that Adit Baba has 10x as much energy as I had, despite that he ate less than me, slept less than me, and smokes at least 50 grams of marijuana per day (even up to 100 grams of marijuana in a day!). He smokes marijuana for the purpose of fostering his connection with Shiva (Universal Energy). Adit Baba can quit smoking ganja cold turkey at any time, so I wouldn’t say he’s an addict.

– Adit Baba doesn’t even wear shoes. Even when he is hiking a mountain or driving a motorbike, he is barefoot.

Spending time at the ashram with the Baba Ji’s. If you can see the stone platform we are sitting on… that is what they sleep on.

Spending time at the ashram with the Baba Ji’s. If you can see the stone platform we are sitting on… that is what they sleep on.

Spending time at the ashram with the Baba Ji’s. If you can see the stone platform we are sitting on… that is what they sleep on.

Not just anyone can sit among the Big Babas. If the Babas do not feel a connection with your energy, they will ask you to leave. Luckily, I had a good connection with Mahese, which gave me an ‘in’ with these Babas.

Interestingly, when sitting among the Baba Ji’s, I learned that you must sit with your arms open wide. If you sit with your arms crossed, them you are closing yourself and your energy from those around you. You can see the open arms seared positions in the photo above.

My whereaboots in Omkareshwar

You may be thinking I just smoked marijuana all day with these Baba Jis, but they respected that I’m not into smoking ganja. Here are a few highlights of my Omkareshwar whereaboots:

– Rooftop cooking:

Every night we bought fresh vegetables from the market, and cooked delicious meals over natural wood fire on the rooftop of our ‘hotel’. We used minimal pots and cooking utensils. Mahese and Adit Baba were the head chefs.

Mahese and Adit Baba cooking dinner on the rooftop of my ‘hotel’

Mahese and Adit Baba cooking dinner on the rooftop of my ‘hotel’

As we prepared the food together, we sang Hindu mantras in unison on the guitar.

Before eating our meals, we gave gratitude to the fire for cooking our food. We do so by putting a taste of the meal onto the fire.

Adit Baba cooking over natural fire on the rooftop.

Adit Baba cooking over natural fire on the rooftop.

Mahese’s friends joined us on the rooftop of my ‘hotel’ to help us cook dinner on the days we were exhausted!

Mahese’s friends joined us on the rooftop of my ‘hotel’ to help us cook dinner on the days we were exhausted!

Cooking our Indian bread on straight up dried cow dunk! Apparently cooking it this way makes it tastier.

Cooking our Indian bread on straight up dried cow dunk! Apparently cooking it this way makes it tastier.

– Baba Jis over 100 years old:

I met a 108 year old Baba Ji, who lives beside the river in a small hut and takes complete care of himself. He looks like he’s 80, and definitely in better shape than my grandparents.

A 108 year-old Baba Ji in his home. To the right of him, you can see where he sleeps... on thin carpet on top of the concrete.

A 108 year-old Baba Ji in his home. To the right of him, you can see where he sleeps… on thin carpet on top of the concrete.

He cooks his own meals, sleeps on the concrete covered only by a carpet, and happily served us chai when we visited.

The 108 year-old Baba Ji’s home, alongside the river. He has no running water in his home. Therefore, if he needs water, he must trek all the way down to the river.

The 108 year-old Baba Ji’s home, alongside the river. He has no running water in his home. Therefore, if he needs water, he must trek all the way down to the river.

I also met a female Baba Ji (“Red Mama”) who is over 100 years old and she is the same physical shape as the 108 year-old Baba. Mahese explained that Red Mama has a powerful and direct connection to Shiva, and he said I can ask her any questions I want.

Meeting “Red Mama,” a female Baba Ji over 100 years-old. She still smokes mass amounts of ganja, and can walk up a flight of stairs almost as quickly as me!

Meeting “Red Mama,” a female Baba Ji over 100 years-old. She still smokes mass amounts of ganja, and can walk up a flight of stairs almost as quickly as me!

On my knees, I looked to Red Mama, and asked: “What am I supposed to be doing in my life?” She looked off into the distance and mumbled quietly to herself.

When she turned back to me, she said: “Right now, you are not chasing after girls. Be more focused on myself. Use this time to do some good karma acts.” (In my next post, I’ll expand on this further)

Meditating at ancient temples on the peak of Om Island, nearby Red Mama’s.

Meditating at ancient temples on the peak of Om Island, nearby Red Mama’s.

I found it fascinating that both of these Baba Ji’s first came to Omkareshwar over 50 years ago when the town did not exist… the entire island and surrounding area was all jungle! These Babas came to this island to live in solitude and meditate in the jungle among the wild animals. Other Babas came to this jungle to meditate as well, and eventually the Narmada river became a sacred place, where Hindus from around the world pilgrimaged to. Now, there is a developing town surrounding the island.

– Special poojah in honor of my brother, David:

Big Baba Ji preparing for my brother’s poojah. To the right of the Baba, you can see the ‘Shiva lingam’ he created on a large, spherical stone. Shiva lingam is an abstract representation of god Shiva on a natural object.

Big Baba Ji preparing for my brother’s poojah. To the right of the Baba, you can see the ‘Shiva lingam’ he created on a large, spherical stone. Shiva lingam is an abstract representation of god Shiva on a natural object.

As my brother recently recovered from lymphoma cancer, we did a holy 4-hour poojah (‘ceremony’), with an additional 2 other Big Baba Ji’s in honor of my brother’s future continued health. The ceremony involved offering sweets alongside the Narmada river, and lots of ganja and bhang for the Baba Jis to facilitate their connection with Shiva.

Big Baba Ji’s consuming bhang to facilitate their connection with Shiva in honor of my brother’s poojah.

Big Baba Ji’s consuming bhang to facilitate their connection with Shiva in honor of my brother’s poojah.

Making offerings to the gods (the Universal Energy) of flowers and other sweets in the Narmada river in honor of my brother.

Making offerings to the gods (the Universal Energy) of flowers and other sweets in the Narmada river in honor of my brother.

Two of these Baba Jis had hair of dreadlocks that were over 5 ft long! It took them over 30 years to grow to that length! These long-haired Baba Ji’s only wash their hair every few months for special occasions. For this poojah, the Baba Ji’s agreed to wash their long dreads in the holy river. Holy lordy, was this a hilarious sight!!

Big Baba Ji ready to wash his dreadlocks in the Narmada river. He’s been growing those dreads for over 30 years!

Big Baba Ji ready to wash his dreadlocks in the Narmada river. He’s been growing those dreads for over 30 years!

Big Baba Ji whipping around his shampooed dreadlocks in the Narmada river. #IWhipMyHairBackAndForth

Big Baba Ji whipping around his shampooed dreadlocks in the Narmada river. #IWhipMyHairBackAndForth

Absorbing the energy and yelling to Shiva after cleansing ourselves in the holy river.

Absorbing the energy and yelling to Shiva after cleansing ourselves in the holy river.

During the poojah, Adit Baba presented me with a small bag of his sacred ashes, which came from his Guru ji’s poojah in Ujaiin. He said that David should mix a small amount of the ashes with water and drink it each day to ensure a recovery to full health! (To all those concerned, I did not advise David to do this.)

Stay turned for eye-opening vagaventures with Adit Baba and Mahese in the next post!

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Patti Morey
    July 9, 2020 at 10:01 pm

    i very much enjoyed reading and studying the pictures of your amazing journey! 🙂 Also, i shared this with my Facebook friends!

  • Reply
    Patti Morey
    July 9, 2020 at 10:25 pm

    p.s. the ashes advice might be like how people will take activated charcoal capsules t o remove metals contamination, etc. to quote webMD: “Activated charcoal is sometimes used to help treat a drug overdose or a poisoning. When you take activated charcoal, drugs and toxins can bind to it. This helps rid the body of unwanted substances. … It becomes “activated charcoal” when high temperatures combine with a gas or activating agent to expand its surface area”
    This quote is from livescience.com : “Activated charcoal is also commonly found in water filtration systems, respiratory masks and air filters. Just as it removes toxins from our body, the activated charcoal attracts and binds to contaminants in water and air including radon, fuels, solvents and many industrial and radioactive chemicals, and protects us against breathing or ingesting them, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”

    • Reply
      Ariel
      July 10, 2020 at 3:14 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing Patti!
      And yes, you’re absolutely right that it might be exactly like taking activates charcoal. At the time, I was not familiar with the idea of taking activated charcoal, so I appreciate your insights on making that connection! 🙏🏼

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