Brahmachari Keshabananda meets Babaji
Swami Keshabananda greeted our party warmly at Brindaban in his Katayani Peeth Ashram, an imposing brick building with massive black pillars, set in a beautiful garden. He ushered us at once into a sitting room adorned with an enlargement of Lahiri Mahasaya’s picture. The swami was approaching the age of ninety, but his muscular body radiated strength and health. With long hair and a snow-white beard, eyes twinkling with joy, he was a veritable patriarchal embodiment.
I informed him that I wanted to mention his name in my book on India’s masters. “Please tell me about your earlier life.” I smiled entreatingly; great yogis are often uncommunicative.
Keshabananda made a gesture of humility. “There is little of external moment. Practically my whole life has been spent in the Himalayan solitudes, traveling on foot from one quiet cave to another. For a while I maintained a small ashram outside Hardwar, surrounded on all sides by a grove of tall trees. It was a peaceful spot little visited by travelers, owing to the ubiquitous presence of cobras.” Keshabananda chuckled. “Later a Ganges flood washed away the hermitage and cobras alike. My disciples then helped me to build this Brindaban ashram.”
One of our party asked the swami how he had protected himself against the Himalayan tigers.
Keshabananda shook his head. “In those high spiritual altitudes,” he said, “wild beasts seldom molest the yogis. Once in the jungle I encountered a tiger face-to-face. At my sudden ejaculation, the animal was transfixed as though turned to stone.” Again the swami chuckled at his memories.
“Occasionally I left my seclusion to visit my guru in Benares. He used to joke with me over my ceaseless travels in the Himalayan wilderness.
“‘You have the mark of wanderlust on your foot,’ he told me once. ‘I am glad that the sacred Himalayas are extensive enough to engross you.’
“Many times,” Keshabananda went on, “both before and after his passing, Lahiri Mahasaya has appeared bodily before me. For him no Himalayan height is inaccessible!”
Two hours later he led us to a dining patio. I sighed in silent dismay. Another fifteen-course meal! Less than a year of Indian hospitality, and I had gained fifty pounds! Yet it would have been considered the height of rudeness to refuse any of the dishes, carefully prepared for the endless banquets in my honor. In India (nowhere else, alas!) a well-padded swami is considered a delightful sight.
After dinner, Keshabananda led me to a secluded nook.
“Your arrival is not unexpected,” he said. “I have a message for you.”
I was surprised; no one had known of my plan to visit Keshabananda.
“While roaming last year in the northern Himalayas near Badrinarayan,” the swami continued, “I lost my way. Shelter appeared in a spacious cave, which was empty, though the embers of a fire glowed in a hole in the rocky floor. Wondering about the occupant of this lonely retreat, I sat near the fire, my gaze fixed on the sunlit entrance to the cave.
“‘Keshabananda, I am glad you are here.’ These words came from behind me. I turned, startled, and was dazzled to behold Babaji! The great guru had materialized himself in a recess of the cave.
Overjoyed to see him again after many years, I prostrated myself at his holy feet.
“‘I called you here,’ Babaji went on. ‘That is why you lost your way and were led to my temporary abode in this cave. It is a long time since our last meeting; I am pleased to greet you once more.’
“The deathless master blessed me with some words of spiritual help, then added: ‘I give you a message for Yogananda. He will pay you a visit on his return to India. Many matters connected with his guru and with the surviving disciples of Lahiri will keep Yogananda fully occupied. Tell him, then, that I won’t see him this time, as he is eagerly hoping; but I shall see him on some other occasion.'”
I was deeply touched to receive from Keshabananda’s lips this consoling promise from Babaji. A certain hurt in my heart vanished; I grieved no longer that, even as Sri Yukteswar had hinted, Babaji did not appear at the Kumbha Mela.