On this pilgrimage I have met many more remarkable men than Gurdjieff recounts in his book Meeting With Remarable Men. By and by, as and when it happens, I will talk about them.
Today I can talk about one of those remarkable men.
His real name is not known, nor his real age but he was called “Magga Baba.” Magga simply means “big cup.” He always used to keep his magga, his cup, in his hand. He used it for everything – for his tea, his milk, his food, for the money people gave him, or whatsoever the moment demanded. All he possessed was his magga and that is why he was known as Magga Baba. Baba is a respectful word. It simply means “grandfather,” your father’s father. In Hindi your mother’s father is Nana, your father’s father is Baba.
Magga Baba was certainly one of the most remarkable men that may ever have lived on this planet. He was really one of the chosen ones. You can count him with Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu. I know nothing about his childhood or his parents. Nobody knows from where he came – one day suddenly he appeared in the town.
He did not speak. People persisted in asking questions of all kinds. He either remained silent, or if they nagged too much he started shouting gibberish, rubbish, just meaningless sounds. Those poor people thought he was speaking in a language that perhaps they didn’t understand. He was not using language at all. He was just making sounds. For example, “Higgalal hoo hoo hoo guloo higga hee hee.” Then he would wait and again ask, “Hee hee hee?” It seemed as if he was asking, “Have you understood?”
And the poor people would say, “Yes, Baba, yes.”
Then he would show his magga and make the sign. This sign in India means money. It comes from the old days when there were real gold and silver coins. People used to check whether it was real gold or not, by throwing the coin to the ground and listening to its sound. Real gold has its own sound, and nobody can fake it. So Magga Baba would show his magga with one hand and with the other give the sign for money, meaning, “If you have understood then give something to me.” And people would give.
I would laugh myself to tears because he had not said anything. But he was not greedy for money. He would take from one person and give it to another. His magga was always empty. Once in a while there would be something in it, but rarely. It was a passage: money would come into it and go; food would come into it and go; and it always remained empty. He was always cleaning it. I have seen him morning, evening and afternoon, always cleaning it.
I want to confess to you – “you” means the world – that I was the only person to whom he used to speak, but only in privacy, when nobody else was present. I would go to him deep in the night, perhaps two o’clock in the morning, because that was the most likely time to find him alone. He would be hugged up in his old blanket, on a winter’s night, by the side of a fire. I would sit at his side for a while. I never disturbed him; that was the one reason why he loved me. Once in a while it would happen that he would turn on his side, open his eyes and see me sitting there and start talking of his own accord.
He was not a Hindi-speaking person so people thought it was difficult to communicate with him, but that is not true. He was certainly not a Hindi-oriented person, but he knew not only Hindi but many other languages too. Of course he knew the language of silence the most; he remained silent almost all his life. In the day he would not speak to anybody, but in the night he would speak to me, only when I was alone. It was such a blessing to hear his few words.
Magga Baba never said anything about his own life, but he said many things about life. He was the first man who told me, “Life is more than what it appears to be. Don’t judge by its appearances but go deep down into the valleys where the roots of life are.” He would suddenly speak, and suddenly he would be silent. That was his way. There was no way to persuade him to speak: either he spoke or not. He would not answer any questions, and the conversations between us two were an absolute secret. Nobody knew about it. This is for the first time that I am saying it.
I have heard many great speakers, and he was just a poor man, but his words were pure honey, so sweet and nourishing, and so pregnant with meaning. ”But,” he told me, “you are not to tell anybody that I have been speaking to you, until I die, because many people think I am deaf. It is good for me that they think so. Many think that I am mad – that is even better as far as I am concerned. Many who are very intellectual try to figure out what I say, and it is just gibberish.
I wonder when I hear the meaning that they have derived from it. I say to myself, ‘My God! If these people are the intellectuals, the professors, the pundits, the scholars, then what about the poor crowd? I had not said anything, yet they have made up so many things out of nothing, just like soap bubbles.’ For some reason or maybe for no reason at all, he loved me.
I have had the fortune to be loved by many strange people. Magga Baba is the first on my list.
The whole day he was surrounded by people. He was really a free man, yet not even free to move a single inch because people were holding on to him. They would put him into a rickshaw and take him away wherever they wanted. Of course he would not say no, because he was pretending to be either deaf or dumb or mad. And he never uttered any word that could be found in any dictionary. Obviously he could not say yes or no; he would simply go.
Once or twice he was stolen. He disappeared for months because people from another town had stolen him. When the police found him and asked him whether he wanted to return, of course he did his thing again. He said some nonsense, “Yuddle fuddle shuddle….”
The police said, “This man is mad. What are we going to write in our reports: ‘Yuddle fuddle shuddle’? What does it mean? Can anyone make any sense out of it?” So he remained there until he was stolen back again by a crowd from the original town. That was my town where I was living soon after the death of my grandfather.
I visited him almost every night without fail, under his neem tree, where he used to sleep and live. Even when I was sick and my grandmother would not allow me to go out, even then, during the night when she was asleep, I would escape. But I had to go; Magga Baba had to be visited at least once each day. He was a kind of spiritual nourishment.
He helped me tremendously although he never gave any directions except by his very being. Just by his very presence he triggered unknown forces in me, unknown to me. I am most grateful to this man Magga Baba, and the greatest blessing of all was that I, a small child, was the only one to whom he used to speak. Those moments of privacy, knowing that he spoke to no one else in the whole world, were tremendously strengthening, vitalizing.
If sometimes I would go to him and somebody else was present, he would do something so terrible that the other person would escape. For example he would throw things, or jump, or dance like a madman, in the middle of the night. Anybody was bound to become afraid – after all, you have a wife, children, and a job, and this man seems to be just mad; he could do anything. Then, when the person had gone we would both laugh together.
I have never laughed like that with anybody else, and I don’t think it is going to happen again in this lifetime… and I don’t have any other life. The wheel has stopped. Yes, it is running a little bit, but that is only past momentum; no new energy is being fed into it.
Magga Baba was so beautiful that I have not seen any other man who can be put by his side. He was just like a Roman sculpture, just perfect. Even more perfect than any sculpture can be, because he was alive – so full of life, I mean. I don’t know whether it is possible to meet a man like Magga Baba again, and I don’t want to either because one Magga Baba is enough, more than enough.
He was so satisfying and who cares for repetition? And I know perfectly, one cannot be higher than that. I myself have come to the point where you cannot go any higher. Howsoever high you go; you are still on the same height. In other words, there comes a moment in spiritual growth which is untranscendable. That moment is called, paradoxically, the transcendental.
The day he left for the Himalayas was the first time he called me. During the night somebody came to my house and knocked on the door. My father opened it and the man said that Magga Baba wanted me.
My father said, “Magga Baba? What has he to do with my son? Moreover he never speaks, so how could he call for him?”
The man said, “I am not concerned about anything else. This was all I had to convey. Please tell the person concerned. If it happens to be your son that is not my business.” And the man disappeared.
My father woke me in the middle of the night and said, ”Listen, this is something: Magga Baba wants you. In the first place he does not speak….”
I laughed because I knew he spoke to me, but I did not tell my father.
He went on, “He wants you right now, in the middle of the night. What do you want to do? Do you want to go to this madman?”
I said, “I have to go.”
He said, “Sometimes I think that you are a little mad too. Okay, go, and lock the door from the outside so that you don’t disturb me again when you come in.”
I rushed, I ran. This was the first time he had called me. When I got to him I said, “What’s the matter?”
He said, “This is my last night here. I am leaving perhaps for ever. You are the only one I have spoken to. Forgive me, I had to speak to that man I sent to you, but he knows nothing. He does not know me as a spiritual man. He was a stranger and I bribed him simply by giving him one rupee, and told him to deliver the message to your house.”
In those days, one gold rupee was too much. Forty years ago in India one gold rupee was almost enough to live on, in perfect comfort, for one month. Do you know the English word “rupee” comes from the Hindi word rupaiya which means “the golden.” In fact the paper note should not be called a rupee; it is not golden. At least the fools could have painted it in golden colors, but they didn’t even do that. One rupee, of those days, is almost seven hundred rupees of today. So much has changed in just forty years. Things have become seven hundred times costlier.
He said, “I just gave him one rupee and told him to deliver the message. He was so bewildered by the rupee that he did not even look at me. He was a stranger – I have never seen him before.”
I said, “I can also say the same. I have never seen the man either in this town; perhaps he is a passer-by. But there is no need to be worried about it. Why did you have to call me?” Magga Baba said, “I am leaving and there is nobody whom I could call to say goodbye to. You are the only one.” He hugged me, kissed my forehead, said goodbye and went away, just like that.
Magga Baba had disappeared many times in his life – people had taken him and brought him back again – so when he disappeared last, nobody bothered much. Only after a few months did people become aware that he had really disappeared, that he had not come back for many months. They started looking around the places he had been before but nobody knew about him.
That night, before he disappeared he told me, ”I may not be able to see you blossom to a flower but my blessings will be with you. It may not be possible for me to return. I am going to the Himalayas. Don’t say anything to anybody about my whereabouts.” He was so happy when he was saying this to me, so blissful that he was going to the Himalayas. The Himalayas have always been the home of all those who have searched and found.
I didn’t know where he had gone because the Himalayas is the biggest range of mountains in the world, but once while traveling in the Himalayas I came to a place which seemed to be his grave. Strange to say it was by the side of Moses and Jesus. Those two persons are also buried deep in the Himalayas. I had gone there to see the grave of Jesus; it was just a coincidence that I found Moses and Magga Baba too. It was a surprise of course.
I could never have imagined that Magga Baba had anything to do with Moses or Jesus, but seeing his grave there I understood immediately why his face was so beautiful; why he looked more like Moses than any other Hindu. Perhaps he belonged to the lost tribe. Moses had lost a tribe while he was on the way to Israel. That tribe settled in Kashmir in the Himalayas. And I say it authoritatively, that that tribe was more correct in finding Israel than Moses himself. What Moses found in Israel was just a desert, utterly useless. What they had found in Kashmir was really the garden of God.
Moses went there in search for his lost tribe. Jesus also went there after his so-called crucifixion. I’m calling it so-called because it did not really happen, he remained alive. After six hours on the cross Jesus was not dead.
The way Jews used to crucify people was such a crude method that it took almost thirty-six hours for a person to die. It was arranged by a very rich disciple of Jesus that the crucifixion should happen on a Friday. It was an arrangement, because on Saturday Jews don’t allow any work to be continued; it is their holy day. Jesus had to be put down off the cross into a cave temporarily, until the coming Monday. Meanwhile he was stolen from the cave.
That’s the story Christians tell. The real fact is that on the night he was in the cave, after having been taken down from the cross, he was taken away from Israel. He was alive although he had lost much blood. It took a few days to heal him, but he was healed and he lived up to the age of one hundred and twelve in a small village called Pahalgam in the Kashmiri Himalayas.
He chose the place, Pahalgam, because he found the grave of Moses there. Moses had gone before him to search for his lost tribe. He found it but also found that Israel is nothing compared to Kashmir. There is no other place to be compared to Kashmir. He lived and died there – I mean Moses. And when Jesus went to Kashmir with Thomas, his beloved disciple, he sent Thomas to show India his way. He himself lived in Kashmir, near the grave of Moses, for his remaining life.
Magga Baba is buried in the same small village of Pahalgam. When I was in Pahalgam I discovered a strange relationship running from Moses to Jesus to Magga Baba and to me.
Before Magga Baba left my village he gave me his blanket saying, “This is my only possession and you are the only one I would like to give it to.”
I said, “That’s okay, but my father will not allow me to bring this blanket inside the house.”
He laughed, I laughed… we both enjoyed. He knew perfectly well that my father would not allow such a dirty blanket in his house. But I was sad and sorry not to have preserved that blanket. It was nothing much – a dirty old rag – but it belonged to a man of the category of Buddha and Jesus. I could not take it to my house because my father was a clothes merchant and very careful about clothes. I knew perfectly well that he would not allow it. I could not take it to my grandmother’s house either. She would not allow it because she was very fussy about cleanliness.
I have got my fussiness about cleanliness from her. It is her fault, not my responsibility at all. I cannot tolerate anything used or dirty – impossible.
I used to say to her, laughingly of course, “You are spoiling me.” But it is a truth. She has spoiled me forever, but I am grateful to her. She spoiled me in favor of purity, cleanliness and beauty.
To me Magga Baba was important, but if I had to choose between my Nani and him I would still choose my Nani. Although she was not enlightened then and Magga Baba was, sometimes an unenlightened person is so beautiful that one would choose them, even though the enlightened one is available as an alternative.
Of course if I could choose both I would. Or, if I had a choice of two among the whole world of millions of people, then I would have them both. Magga Baba on the outside… he won’t enter my grandmother’s house; he would remain outside under his neem tree. And of course my Nani could not sit at the side of Magga Baba. ”That fellow!” she used to call him. “That fellow! Forget about him and never go close to him; even when you just pass by him, always take a shower.” She was always afraid he had lice, because nobody had ever seen him take a bath.
Perhaps she was right: he had never taken a bath as long as I had known him. They could not coexist together, that too is true. Coexistence could not be possible in this case, but we could always make arrangements. Magga Baba could always be under the neem tree outside in the courtyard, and Nani could be the queen in the house. And I could have the love of them both, without having to choose this or that. I hate “either/or.”
From Glimpses of a Golden Childhood, Chapter #15
An interesting footnote is that in 1949 Meher Baba visited Magga Baba. See TrustMeher.com.
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