Further to my post on religion a couple of months back, whilst away the other week I got to learn a little more about Babu’s faith.
I can’t remember if I have mentioned before, but more recently, somewhen between me visiting him in the Caribbean and him returning to this side of the world a few months back, that I had noticed a difference in how seriously Babu took his faith. From when I met him, through to when I visited him in January, I would say he was religious in the sense that he took part in festivals, and prayed a lot of the time, yet it was a little irregular. If I am completely honest, at the time this was perfect for me as I wasn’t in the slightest bit religious and didn’t have much of a clue, his casual approach to religion suited me.
On the first or second time I visited him after he came back he insisted on taking me to meet one of his friends, we visited him in his cabin and his friend showed me the photos of his baby girl, then photos of Baba and videos he had took in Shirdi. At the time I didn’t really know what so say apart from ” that’s nice”. Honestly speaking, it confused me a little because one time Babu is talking about worshiping many gods, but now he talks only of worshiping Baba, and moreso he is not a god, but thought of an incarnation of god. To be truthful the photo of Baba freaked me out a little as he was all white and stony looking – its only when I admitted this to Babu that he explained it was a photo of a marble statue – that made more sense to me, but I still wasn’t sure about the whole thing, worshiping a human didn’t sit well with me in the way worshiping a god does, but I guess in many peoples eyes he is god.
He had told me that recently he had been going to puja in this friend’s cabin every night, which explained why he was more tired than usual as quite often he wouldn’t get to bed until the early hours of the morning. Initially I moaned at him, reminding him the importance of sleep, especially as “I’m so tired” is the number one thing he says to me, but then after spending a little more time with him I began to realise that his extra devotion was having a good effect on him. I no longer would hear him swear, he was a little calmer, he had given up drinking (he only drank socially anyhow) and he was worrying less about things back home and the future.
When I went away in June, he told me another friend had suggested I go to puja with him one night, the friend also suggested it to me when I saw him later on as well, they didn’t have to invite me, so of course I should go along.
I didn’t have a clue what it was, and unfortunately my ignorance plus the culture shock resulted in a rather big freak out later that evening, but I’ll come to that in a bit.
We entered the (tiny) cabin, there were 4 guys in there already – two on the bed and two on the floor, I was given the chair whilst Babu sat on the floor. On the sideboard there were the photo’s I had seen before, a wick burning in what I assume was Ghee, a burning incense stick, a coconut, flowers and some food. The guys were chanting/Singing. I guess why for me I found it so awkward, is that in my whole life I have never experienced first hand people worshiping. So where for them all of these offerings, prayers and singing was so normal I felt so uncomfortable. It didn’t help that sat on the chair I was sat at a higher level than everyone, I simply didn’t know where to look. It was so hot that night as well, and the combination of the heat, being overwhelmed, and directly inhaling virtually a whole incense stick didn’t do me much good, I felt like I was going to faint any moment!
By the time we left I had managed to work myself (inwardly) into a bit of a state, I was gasping for some water and coughing like a seasoned smoker, and overall freaked out by the whole experience. I told Babu how I was feeling and he was understanding about it all. That night I had really bad nightmares, I’m convinced it was whatever might have been put into those stick to bulk them out, but anyhow it gave me quite a lot of awake time to think about it all. The next day i caught some WiFi and downloaded myself the sai satcharitra – I started reading it but found it a bit of a difficult read – I couldn’t keep my attention in it, so then instead I downloaded Shri Sai Baba’s Teachings & Philosophy and got my nose stuck right in. The book is great, It organised all of his teachings into categories, so if you need guidance on a particular subject it’s easy to find what you need. I am really enjoying the book, so much of it makes sense to me – really it is just basic morals – so much that has been forgotten in modern day-to-day life.
A few days later I asked to join him at puja once again, in a way I needed to make peace with it after freaking out the other night. I had been reading more so now I better understood who Baba was, so I would understand it all a little better this time. I sat there, this time on the bed at the back of the room, much more comfortable and a little more out of the middle of it, and all I did was listen and take it all in. The interesting thing for me in this situation is that since I don’t understand the language the only thing I could understand was the tone and feeling put into it. It was nice, to see these young men with such belief, devotion and commitment to something.
We planned to go back another day – a Thursday -which is the main day for Sai Baba Devotees, this didn’t turn out so well. We turned up at his friends cabin – there must have been 20 pairs of shoes outside this cabin – it was unbelievable – this cabin was cramped when there was 6 of us in there! Babu tried opening the door, he could only open it an inch before it was blocked, so we went and waited in a friends cabin. I felt bad because he missed prayers that night, we went in after though, and I was really impressed by the effort and resourcefulness put into creating what you can see below (I’m not sure what you call it.
All in all I learned a lot over those two weeks about this Guru from Shirdi, even if it involved being a bit freaked out along the way, but I figure anything so new or different is likely to scare most people at first. For me, I’m going to try and listen to Sai Baba’s advice a little more, as I feel it will make my life better – if only to adjust my way of thinking and attitudes towards things. Will I become a devotee? Religion is still a difficult one for me, but I would like to think I could one day…
Om Sai Ram 🙂