A Tale of Two Babas
While in North Goa, after a few days of trance parties, we decided to have a much needed beach day. Within our first few steps on the beach, a local gentleman escorted us to some lounge chairs with umbrellas to sit for entire day, a steal for only $0.80 USD. Perfect. As we sat down, he pointed toward the jungle behind us and said “Take a path 25 minutes into the jungle to find the baba under the banyan tree. Sit and have a smoke with him.” And with that he walked away. A baba under a banyan tree? No idea what that means but I am totally down. So we dropped our towels on our lounge chairs and headed into the jungle.
Turns out a baba is: AN ELDER MALE, USUALLY VERY LEARNED, OFTEN A SAINT.
baba number one
A few steps into the jungle, it already feels like we are worlds away from the beach. The music and people are muted in the background and we are now in a tranquil green land, breathing in crisp, cool air. I look to my left and see a huge black snake circling a branch. Really wish I didn’t see that, but I remain equanimous. Vipassana must be paying off. We continue walking and see a few tie dye sheets hanging up amongst the trees, a man with a long white beard sitting next to them under a tree. This isn’t a banyan but is this the baba? Hello, baba? He says “Yes, come. Welcome.” And motions for us to sit in a circle with him on the ground.
We sit down and he asks us all where we are from. We ask him how long he has lived here in the jungle. He says 35 years, 25 under then banyan tree and 10 under this tree right here. We ask him why he moved and he said the energy changed. We asked why, he answered, “I have no idea.” This answer instantly makes me enjoy people as other types of people often make up answers just to have them. We talk about Shiva and then God and he starts packing a chillum with tobacco mixed with hash. He takes a hefty hit and blows all of the smoke out of his nose. He instructs us to do the same and says “This high is for the head, not the body.” As we pass it around, he explains how many people are mistaken that Shiva is God. Shiva is Father. And God is not someone but God is all of us. We are all God. Inside us and around us. That is God. Baba gets it.
We ask how old he is and he says he is 18. We ask him if we can leave a donation and he says he has no need for money. To just bring him food or fruits next time. Noted. He says banyan tree is about 5 minutes farther into the jungle. We thank him and head that way.
We arrive at the beautiful banyan tree to find a group of about 10 people sitting in a circle around a fire sipping tea. At the head of the circle is a ripped Russian dude with his shirt off who looks like he may have won a few UFC championship belts in his day. Next to him, a tiny local guy with a huge smile on his face. On the other side of the Russian, a man sitting down with one leg behind his head.We soon learn this is Baba. He starts singing and looking at all of us with a smile on his face. They pack a chillum and yell “Boom Bholenat” to honor Shiva, and with a deeper meaning of One Love, and pass it around the entire circle. He asks me if I want to light the next one (an honor). Yes, of course. I light it, we all yell “Boom Bholenat” and pass it around.
Some Russian ladies walk up to the circle extremely happy and the whole vibe raises a notch. They pull out chocolates and breads for Baba, go hug him and sit down next to him, chatting away. What a diverse group of individuals all gathered here under the banyan tree. We sit there, chill, and take it all in for about 20 minutes. We then get up, leave a donation on the plate in front of Baba (50 rupees each we decided), and make the trek back down to the beach. We exit the jungle back to civilization. What just happened? Was it all a dream? Later in town, I pass one of the guys who was in the circle with us and he winks at me as we go our separate ways.