Papaji and the Very Erudite Swami

Though Papaji seems to have stopped visiting other teachers sometime in the late 1970s, they still continued to visit him. The following story, which Papaji has told on several occasions, probably dates from this period.

I was staying in the Arya Nivas Hotel at Hardwar when an eighty-year-old swami from Gujarat came to the reception desk and asked to know my room number. The manager informed him that I had left my room at 6 a.m. and had returned at 1 p.m. for lunch. He told the swami that I would probably go out at around 5 p.m. and return about five hours later.

The swami left without coming to see me, but the next day he came back and again asked the manager if I was in.The manager said, ‘Yes, he’s in at the moment. He is staying in room number three, the one facing the Ganga.’

This time he came to see me and knocked at my door. When I opened it I found this swami standing there, clad in saffron robes and wearing a rudraksha mala around his neck. I saluted him, invited him inside, and offered him a seat in front of me.

He introduced himself by saying that he was a guru with thirteen ashrams in Girnar, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. He also said that he was a yogi who taught the Upanishads, the Vedas, the Gita and the Bhagavatam.

‘So,’ he said, ‘please do not speak to me about any of the above subjects, as it will be a waste of time. I have no questions to ask, unless you can speak of something that is not part of the yoga tradition and not mentioned in these books. I am a yogi myself and I have mastered the art of going into samadhi for long periods. You may have seen my photo in the newspapers because recently I was in an underground chamber in samadhi for forty days. The government in Gujarat found out in advance that I was planning to do this and tried to prevent me. They told me it was too dangerous. As a compromise we eventually agreed that I would do it with a doctor present and that one of the walls of the chamber would be made of glass so that I could be observed at all times.

‘There is nothing you can teach me about yoga, and I am not interested in listening to a discourse on the scriptures because I teach them all myself. However, if you have something new to say, I will be happy to listen to you.’

He went on to tell me that he was currently on a pilgrimage to Badrinath and Kedarnath with eighty of his devotees. They were travelling there on two buses that he had hired.

He explained how he had come to hear about me. ‘We are all staying at the Gujarat Mahila Mandir, on Kankhal Road. The founder of this ashram, Smt Shanta Ben, is one of my devotees. She is the one who gave me your address.’

After he had finished telling me how important and famous he was, I told him, ‘I agree to your conditions. I will not mention any book that you have read. I will not even talk about yoga, kundalini or any of these other things you are so interested in. I have something fresh and new to tell you but I cannot talk about it now because you have brought this enormous bag of ideas into the room with you. All these ideas belong to the past. So take this bag outside. Drop it outside the door and re-enter the room without it.’

He didn’t understand what I was talking about, so I got up and started propelling him towards the door. When I had got him outside, I told him very firmly, ‘You can come back in only when the garbage of the past, which you seem so fond of, has been left outside.’

He sat outside the room, looking very bewildered. I sat in my chair, looked at him through the doorway, and stared into his eyes. Neither of us spoke a word for a period of about fifteen minutes.

At the end of this time the swami suddenly leapt to his feet, rushed into the room and attempted to touch my feet.

I quickly moved his hands away and told him, “This is not the tradition. I should be touching your feet, for three different reasons: first, you are my elder by twenty years; second, you are learned and I am illiterate; and third, you are a sannyasin whereas I am just a householder.’

‘I understand your point of view,’ he said, ‘but if you won’t let me touch your feet, will you at least tell me where you learnt this teaching? I have been teaching people for many years. I have read books on all the spiritual traditions, but I have never even heard of this technique. Where did you learn it?’

I didn’t answer his question. Instead I changed the subject by asking him how he had heard about me.

‘One of my students told me about you. She said, ‘If you are in Hardwar, ask around for him. He doesn’t stay in any particular place. In fact, most of the time he isn’t there at all because he likes to wander around in the Himalayas by himself. But if he is in town, you can probably track him down by asking at some of the ashrams and dharamsalas. Many people know him in Hardwar.’

Then he said, ‘Something very different and very special happened to me today. When can I come back and see you again?’

‘Why should you come back?’ I asked. ‘What more do you need? What has happened to you is quite enough. You don’t need to come again.’

He was overcome with emotion. As he left, his body was still shaking uncontrollably.

The next day, the founder of the Mahila Samaj Mandir came and asked me, ‘What have you done to this swami who was so proud of his knowledge? Many rich people – including high government officers – are his devotees. He came up to me and said, “This person did not even speak to me, but his silence removed all my garbage. He told me not to touch the past and as I looked at him I became free from it. No one has ever done this to me before.’

This woman looked very perplexed. She couldn’t understand what had happened to this famous swami.

She continued: ‘He has decided not go on any pilgrimage. His devotees have already left without him. They are going to Badrinath and Kedarnath by themselves.’

This woman from the Mahila Samaj Mandir told me that the swami would return home the next day, because he had no more business in the Himalayas.

Many people come to see me with a head full of garbage. Garbage means everything they have collected in the past. None of this garbage is useful, so I tell them to throw it away. Many people want to have discussions about this garbage because they think that understanding it will somehow make it less smelly, less rotten. You can talk about garbage all day, but at the end of the day the garbage will still be garbage.

Instead I tell people, ‘Don’t touch it,’ which means, ‘Don’t allow any thought of the past to arise in the mind. Come to me with a clean, fresh mind in which no thought of the past is arising.’ If anyone can do this, one satsang will be enough to reveal the truth. Satsang means association with your own Self. When thoughts of the past don’t arise, the Self reveals itself.

Excerpt From Nothing Ever Happened Volume Two, pages 124-127
By David Godman