My first darshan was sudden and unexpected, and came at a time when mentally I was least prepared for it. I lived a carefree social life with friends, mostly from my college days, whose company and friendship I valued. On holidays we used to get together to enjoy our time.
One Sunday evening in June 1955, we were sitting in the courtyard, joking and laughing. My mother, Maushi Ma (my aunt), and Didi (my wife) said that they were going to an adjoining house to see a baba who had come there. Hearing her, a friend asked, “What kind of baba is he? If the baba wants to eat, I could feed him.” This friend was referring to the deer and hare he hunted. Mother rebuked him, saying it was a sacrilege to talk that way about sadhus. I mention this to emphasize how ignorant and indifferent we were about the religious and spiritual life.
It was not even half an hour later when they returned. Some¬one asked about the outcome of their visit. They had seen the baba in a small mud house. He had been lying on a small cot covered with a bed sheet. The room was lit by a flickering candle which gave only a glimpse of him. When they reached the door and said that they were from an adjoining house and had come for his darshan, he sat up on his bed. He greeted them with, “Jao!” (Go), but they did not move even after the repetition of “Jao!” Then he said to Didi, taking her name, “Kamala, go back. Your husband’s Bengali friends have come. Serve them with tea. I shall come tomorrow morning.”
This was a great surprise for us. How did he know Didi’s name, and also that we were sitting here looking for tea? So there must be something with that man. The friends dispersed, saying they would return the next morning to see things for themselves. All of us were excited.
The next morning Didi arranged a room with a spacious bed for him, and we both went to bring him. When we arrived, he was lying on a cot. Seeing us, he almost jumped up and, catching hold of my hand, said, “Chalo.” (Let’s go.) The distance was short, but he was moving fast and Didi had some difficulty in keeping pace with us. Entering the house, the first thing he said was, “Henceforth I shall live with you.” I was so surprised, I could hardly believe what he said. He was a stranger to us. How easily he imposed his company on us unsolicited! I could not see the ‘grace’ he was showering on us. Rather, I was intrigued to think that his intentions were not purely benevolent.
This was the reaction of some of my friends who saw Babaji coming and staying with us frequently. They warned me that I must beware of babas whose intentions were anything but altruistic. I could not disbelieve them in the beginning, but as time went on I was caught and could not come out of it. Ultimately, I had to resign my¬self to the forces working and free myself from all mental conflicts.
Ma, Maushi Ma and Didi greeted him with all joy and excitement. “How very blessed we are,” they said, and went to prepare some refreshments. I was left alone with him. The first thing he said was, “You are a devotee of Shiva?”
“I am not a devotee.”
“But you visit Shiva’s temple?”
“Well, I might have visited sometime.”
Then he said, “You have been given mantra also,” which I admitted. It was very striking indeed that I failed to recollect the en¬counter I had in May 1935 at the Shiva temple in Dakshineshwar, Calcutta. A hefty looking person with a small beard had made me accept mantra from him. It was only much afterwards that I realized it had been Babaji who had given me the mantra in the temple, although my mother and aunt had been saying it all along. Many years later, Babaji was visiting Jagannath Puri with some of his devotees and travelled to Dakshineshwar, where showing them the Shiva temple, declared that it was in that temple that he had given mantra to me.