I just came down from the mountain and will soon head back. A Sadhu has invited me on a pilgrimage high in the Himalayas to meditate.
Here is what happened:
After some solitude in the caves at 10,000ft (3000m) in the Indian Himalaya, I made my way down to the sacred hot springs of Khir Ganga where I could warm my bones and watch the sunrise. This is a place where Shiva’s warrior-son, Kartikaya, meditated in a cave for 3000 years to cool off after slaying all the demons of the ancient world.
lt is also the honeymoon site for Shiva and his wife Parvati. Hence the name Parvati River Valley. This also, coincidently, is the month of Shiva.
One morning I was walking by the smokey stone hut of a Naga Baba (a type of Sadhu, Yogi, or ascetic Hindu holy man) on my way to the springs. He had been watching me come down the mountain and when I came near, he waved me inside.
Over the next two weeks we became friends.
He knows over 84 assinas (yoga poses?), and he demonstrated some incredible contortions for me. After showing him a picture of my cave, he offered to feed me rice pudding (Khir- the sacred food of Khir Ganga), chapati, and milk tea. I ran out of money and food, so he fed me each time I passed.
Sometimes local Indians would stop by to bring some buffalo milk, cheese, or tobacco, and sit for a while. He would ask them questions about me, and they would struggle with some very rough translations.
From what I understand, Naga Babas are wild holy men who who wander naked and alone in the Himalayas, live in caves, smoke chillums of powerful hashish, and meditate. A lot.
They are living their lives in the image of Lord Shiva, who spent much of his life doing the same.
Some of them are reported to go months without food, living on pure life energy. And hash.
He invited me along on his pilgrimage: three days hard trek to a lake at 13,000ft (4000m), and then ten days meditating in spiritual retreat, living amongst the rocks, in a place without vegetation or wood to burn. Then three days back to a small village. I’ve been cold, damp, and hungry a lot recently, and feeling a bit malnourished and weak already. I think this is going to be a challenge on every level and I’m nervous.
The area is uninhabited, and we are taking very little food. Some rice, flour, sugar, tea. He says he doesn’t need to eat… The nearest village is at least two days walk, so if I get sick, hurt, or starve, it’s gonna be a tough solo trip out. The trail is notorious and it’s landslide season.
He speaks no English besides, “good” and, “yoga”, and I’m not totally sure why I was invited. Without words, he can’t teach me any ancient doctrine or explain anything intellectual.
But from what I understand, he wants to mentor me in the ways of the Sadhu; of Shiva-The First Yogi.
He follows a strict spiritual routine that I know nothing about, and I am intensely curious. These Babas are said to have magical powers from decades of an ancient yoga practice.
But. I really don’t know what to expect.
I’ve never done yoga, and his style is extreme -based on the grotesque swellings on his joints. But I want to see the world through his eyes, which are essentially 5000 years old, an ancient spiritual path. I’m going to put my heart into it and see what happens.
My back is in bad shape, (broken when I was 19) and even with daily soaks in hot springs, this cave/mountain life has recently put me in a state of constant discomfort. I’m sadly inflexible, and I can’t even sit still for a few minutes without pain.
Maybe Baba Life will be good for me. I should return mid September or so.
If I’m not back by then, don’t look for me ðŸ˜‰
Also. This Sadhu has cut his penis off, in full renunciation of lust. I don’t know how to casually drop that bomb, but I find it both unsettling and impressively dedicated.
(Song is Rainbow Voice, from the Baraka soundtrack)