Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
The first time I felt Baba Jaan’s loving Energy was seven years ago. I wanted to shift to Pune for good. Each time I would initiate the move, something or the other would impede the process. I am from Mumbai but for two and a half years was living in Delhi. My youngest daughter Meher was born and I didn’t want her to live either in Mumbai or in the Capital. I had made several visits to Pune to work out the transition but it wasn’t happening.
One day in prayer, Baba Sai of Shirdi, gently whispered that the only way my move to Pune would fructify was if I took permission and blessings from Baba Jaan, as S(H)e was the Ruler of this beautiful city. Baba Jaan took Samadhi (or left Her physical body) on September 20th 1931, but as the beautiful stanza says, ‘Cycles change, the worlds rotate, But Qutubs never their seat vacate’, Baba Jaan’s spiritual reign over Pune continues.
I was aware of Baba Jaan, as my first book The Last Marathon, was about Avatar Meher Baba and life after death and spirit communication. I was aware that Baba Jaan was one of the Perfect Masters who initiated the realisation of Godhood in The Avatar.
I had often been to Baba Jaan’s Dargah, when I used to visit Pune. So I reached Her Dargah, and as it so often happens, the chaps in charge of providing Pune with electricity, being prominent activists in the ‘save Mother Earth’ movement and big on conserving power and electricity, had shut off the electrical grids. The Dargah was in partial darkness. A small lamp burnt and head lights of the cars that passed by, on and off shed light within the Dargah. I was all alone with Baba Jaan. I knelt and touching Her holy Tomb, prayed. I told Baba Jaan, that I wanted her blessings and permission to settle in Pune, but only if S(H)e thought the move was best for the overall wellbeing of my family and Pune city. The moment I had prayed to Baba Jaan, the Dargah and all the nearby shops lit up, as the electrical power had been restored. I knew Baba Jaan had given me Permission and Blessings. I went and touched my forehead to the Neem Tree trunk, where Baba Jaan used to sit while in the body.
The moment I stepped out of the Dargah, Pune Electrical Board, sprung to action, and all around once again the state of semi darkness returned.
Within a week all obstacles were removed magically and in a few months, after completing my book I was working on, we shifted lock, stock and a temperamental baby, to Pune.
Every time, a day before I have to travel out of Pune, I go and seek Baba Jaan’s Permission. There have been times when at the last moment, the trip has got cancelled. I know it is Baba Jaan’s way of telling me, permission to travel denied. The moment I reach Pune, in a few hours I go to give my Hazari to Baba Jaan. I would like to believe S(H)e is as happy to see me as I am, to be back with the Old Monarch.
Baba Jaan was born in Baluchistan, Afghanistan and named Gulrukh (one who looks like a Rose), year of birth has been debated, either 1790 or 1820. S(h)e is believed to be born in an aristocratic family of noble lineage and according to many biographers Baba Jaan had the lineage of royal blood. (Obviously S(H)e was Royalty; spiritual Royalty.) Baba Jaan at a very tender age learned the entire Quran and thus was a hāfiżah (one who knows the Quran by heart), apart from being fluent in Arabic, Persian, Urdu and her mother tongue, Pashtu. From a young age, Baba Jaan was more inclined towards prayers, meditation and silent contemplation. Between the age of fourteen to eighteen years, Baba Jaan’s parents wanted to get their daughter married. Baba Jaan had other plans. On the day of the wedding, S(H)e ran away and reached Peshawar, and then Rawalpindi, which was then in India. One can imagine a young girl, from an aristocratic family, brought up in the rigid discipline of the Parda system, running away, travelling all alone, to reach an alien country, in order to continue the spiritual journey. Those days wars were common; bandits a way of life and in a male dominated world, a young girl of eighteen, manages to escape unscathed and reach India, itself was a miracle. God was with Gulrukh.
For a long time Baba Jaan continued with her spiritual practices till one day she met a Hindu Saint, who then formally initiated Baba Jaan into various spiritual practices. It is said that after the initiation, Baba Jaan went into seclusion for seventeen months, staying in a mountain, just outside Rawalpindi, continuing with the spiritual practices and austerities passed down by the Hindu Saint.
Baba Jaan after the seventeen months of isolation then stayed for a few months in Multan. It was here that Baba Jaan met a Majzoob, Muslim Saint, who blessed the thirty seven year old Gulrukh with God realization. Baba Jaan returned to Rawalpindi, met with the Hindu Saint, once again, who was instrumental in helping Baba Jaan return to normal consciousness; which means, though the state of God realization continues, Baba Jaan could also live a normal human life, by coexisting with normal human consciousness. This is of utmost importance as if The Master cannot operate from normal consciousness, then the God realisation is of not much use to all of creation. It is like Radiance, not shared, only meant for One individual; while God realisation along with human normal consciousness, means spread the Divine Light and Radiance to all of creation.
Biographers are undecided at what age Baba Jaan met up with the Hindu Saint, but for many, nearly two decades had passed since the time S(H)e had left Afghanistan, while some say S(H)e met the Masters when S(H)e was nearly fifty years old, and some claim Baba Jaan was around sixty five when S(H)e became God realised.
Baba Jaan then travelled to Iraq, Syria, Baghdad and Lebanon. It is said that Baba Jaan travelled to Mecca, though disguised as a Man, via Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey and then back into Arabia. In Mecca, Baba Jaan used to offer the mandatory five times a day prayers and also visited the Dargah of Prophet Muhammad at Madina, all the while taking care of the needy, the hungry and ailing pilgrims.
Baba Jaan returned to India, and reached Nasik where for a long time S(H)e stayed in Panchavati. After that Baba Jaan reached Mumbai (those days it was called Bombay for some odd reason). By now where ever Baba Jaan went, people began to recognize the Light and Divinity that throbbed within and shone forth to one and all. In 1903 Baba Jaan made another pilgrimage to Mecca, returning a year later. S(H)e visited and prayed at Khwaja Saheb, Moinuddin Chisti’s Dargah in Ajmer.
Baba Jaan then spent many years in North India and S(H)e was already considered a Saint by then. But Baba Jaan was facing problems there. Baba Jaan did not follow any set rules and norms prescribed by any sect of either Islam or Sufism. S(H)e walked the path of Oneness and being a Woman, revered and loved by the masses, the orthodox religious groups and leaders, were bound to have their egos and power threatened by this quaint, small, woman, who still towered above all of them spiritually. Baba Jaan never belonged to any sect. In fact S(H)e doesn’t belong to the Chishti Order of Sufism too. Baba Jaan belongs to Him, The One and is only answerable to The One. Like Sai Baba of Shirdi, S(H)e too walked along with The Fakir.
One day, being God realised, and in that Spiritual Intoxication of Oneness and Spiritual Ecstasy, eventually led Baba Jaan to reach Pune.
“After being Self-Realized Babajan lived for some time … in Punjab. During this stay many people began to respect her as a saint. Her occasional remarks, declaring Ana’l-Haqq [I am the Truth] upset the Muslim population, and fanatical Muslim Baluchi soldiers (sepoys) of a local military regiment buried Babajan alive. After a lapse of many years, during the First World War the Baluchi regiment was transferred to Pune, and in that city the same soldiers came face-to-face with Babajan sitting under her Neem tree at Char Bawdi. Fanaticism was transformed into devotion, and as long as the regiment remained stationed at Pune, the soldiers came to pay their respects to Babajan.”
The Baluchi regiment in fact became Baba Jaan’s personal Body guards and it was after they revealed to one and all what had transpired that Baba Jaan began to be known as Hazrat Baba Jaan.
Before Baba Jaan came to Pune, S(H)e settled down in Bombay, in 1900, and lived in Chuna Bhatti for five years. There two Sufi Saints, very high up the Spiritual Order of Sufism, Maulana Saheb of Bandra and Abdul Rahman of Dongri, became disciples of Baba Jaan and The latter would address Them as ‘ My children’.
One day Baba Jaan met Hazrat Taj al-Din Baba of Nagpur, known as Baba Tajuddin, a Perfect Master, another Power House, who walked to the rhythm of The Oneness Family. It is believed that Baba Tajuddin advised Baba Jaan to go to Pune.
Baba Jaan settled down in Pune, in 1905. By then S(H)e was to some researchers either 85 or over hundred years old, depending on what one took Baba Jaan’s year of birth.
Baba Jaan lived in the most humble manner, disregarding all physical comforts, which often saddened and troubled the thousands of devotees and disciples. When S(H)e came to Pune, initially lived near the Shrine of Panch Pir at Dighi. The entire place was ant infested. Hundreds and thousands of ants were visible and thus seen biting and crawling all over Baba Jaan. Eventually when one devotee could not bear the thought and her discomfort, after many days of persuasion he managed to take Baba Jaan to his house, and quickly he and his family toiled hard to clean and clear the place of all the ants. Baba Jaan was a Fakir in the true sense. S(H)e refused to pamper the body and was so engrossed in The Oneness that physical discomfort and the body was of no consequence.
Initially before the Baluchi soldiers arrived in Pune and revealed how they had buried and presumably killed Baba Jaan, who they found happily moving about in spiritual ecstasy in Pune, the devotees called Baba Jaan Amma Saheb. Baba Jaan would get furious if called either ‘mai’ ‘mother’ ‘woman’ and tell one and all ‘I am a Man’. One of the quotes of Prophet Mohammad is, ‘Lovers of God are males; lovers of paradise are eunuchs; and lovers of the world are females’. That is why Amma Saheb (Mother Sir).
Baba Jaan then began to live under a Neem tree near Bukhari Shah mosque at Rasta Peth. By then the number of devotees had increased to an extent that eventually the devotees began to request Baba Jaan to choose a place where S(H)e and they would be more comfortable. Baba Jaan refused till a banyan tree was cut down to widen the road. S(H)e then moved under a Neem tree (even Sai Baba of Shridi when He came to Shirdi lived under a Neem tree) in Char Bavadi. This place was a dangerous area, frequented by thugs, thieves, mosquitoes, and filth abounded. Within a decade the same place became a hub of spiritual activity and a pilgrimage spot for devotees and disciples to frequent from all over India.
Dr. Ghani who knew Baba Jaan personally has penned a beautiful description in his book HAZRAT BABAJAN: The Emperor of The Spiritual Realm of Her Time. “Short in stature, firm and agile in gait, back slightly bent with rounded shoulders, skin fair and sunburnt, face broad and heavily wrinkled, high cheek bones, liquid blue eyes possessing great depths, head covered with a silvery crown of thick white hair hanging loose to the shoulders, deep sonorous voice, all conspired to make her personality very unique and unworldly. Her attire was simple, consisting of a long apron extending below the knees, a pyjamas [paejamah, or trousers] narrowed round the legs and a linen scarf thrown carelessly round the shoulders. She always went about bare-headed; the luxuriant crop of white hair – never oiled or groomed – was for all practical purposes a headdress in itself.”
Baba Jaan like most unique looking and behaving Masters was initially harassed by children who threw stones (and I met an old man a few days earlier who told me that his neighbour knew Baba Jaan who would when in the mood also throw stones back at one and all). It is known that Baba Jaan called everybody ‘bachha’ (meaning child), spoke in Persian, Urdu and Pashtu. S(H)e had an extensive vocabulary of abuses.
By 1913 Baba Jaan was already revered by people in Pune and nearby towns and cities. It was that year when Baba Jaan and Avatar Meher Baba, a young lad then called Merwan, met Baba Jaan with tears gushing down the cheeks lovingly called Meher Baba ‘my beloved son’, in Hindi. In January I914, one night Baba Jaan kissed Meher Baba on the forehead and told one and all that, ‘ this is my beloved son…He will shake the world and all humanity will be benefitted by him’. In the same month and year, Baba Jaan again kissed Meher Baba on the forehead and Merwan lost all consciousness of duality and became God realised.
In Avatar Meher Baba’s words, “When the five perfect masters brought me down (to earth), they drew a veil over me. Hazrat Babajan was one of the perfect masters, and she unveiled me to my present form. With just a kiss on my forehead, between the eyebrows, Babajan made me experience (in May 1913) thrills of indescribable bliss that continued for about nine months. Then one night (in January 1914) she made me realise in a flash the infinite bliss of God-realisation. At the time Babajan gave me the nirvikalp experience of my own reality, the illusory physical, subtle and mental bodies—mind, worlds, and all created things – ceased to exist for me even as illusion. Then I began to see that only I (in the sense of Highest Self), and nothing else, existed. The infinite bliss of my self-realisation was, is, and will remain, continuous. At the moment I experience both infinite bliss as well as infinite suffering. Once I drop the body, only bliss will remain.”
Baba Jaan loved tea and shared everything along with the devotees and liked to hear qawali. Baba Jaan did not speak much and when S(H)e did speak it was in a soft voice. S(H)e listened to all and would nod often in response. S(H)e cured the sick and even performed astral surgery. S(H)e would hold the affected area between the fingers, pray, order the entity bothering the ailing person and tell the entity to leave immediately and the sick person would recover and experience virtually immediate relief. S(H)e has been known to bring back sight to a Zoroastrian child, by mumbling a prayer and the blowing her breath on the eyes of the child. The child recovered immediately. Women who couldn’t conceive were blessed and became proud mothers. S(H)e let people take away (rob) all the meager possessions S(H)e had or was gifted with. One night a thief was trying to take away an expensive shawl gifted to Baba Jaan by a devotee. Obviously the thief was finding the going tough, as part of the shawl was held underneath Baba Jaan’s body. So Baba Jaan raised the back so that the shawl could be easily whisked away. Once somebody had gifted Baba Jaan two gold bangles and a thief snatched them away from Baba Jaan in such a rough manner that the wrist bled profusely, but nothing mattered to Baba Jaan. In fact S(H)e did not allow the thief to be apprehended and told the police to take in custody those who had created such a ruckus over two bangles.
It is mentioned that Baba Jaan would keep murmuring things and very often would say aloud, ‘vermin are troubling me constantly; I brush them away, but still they keep on coming and troubling me’. S(H)e would go on and on talking under the breath and move the palms of the hand all over the body, as though cleaning the body off dirt or something that was causing lot of discomfort.
Meher Baba, gave the following reason to Baba Jaan’s inexplicable behaviour: “Annihilation Of all Amal (actions) good and bad, means Najat (salvation) and Babajan being God-realized was much above the state of salvation. She not only had no Amal (actions) to account for, but was in a position to destroy the Amals of others. The physical body of a saint like Babajan, when working on earthly plane after realization, becomes the focal point to which myriads and myriads of Amal of the universe get attracted, and getting purified in the furnace of Divinity i. e., the body of the saint, they go out again into the universe as spiritual Amal. … Perfect saints like Babajan give out more spiritual Amal to the world than they destroy. Hence it is that living saints are a blessing and mercy to the world whether one knows it or not.” (HAZRAT BABAJAN: The Emperor of The Spiritual Realm of Her Time.)
Also Baba Jaan often when consumed by Divine Glory would get upset and say aloud, “why do you torment and kill my children. They have done no wrong to you. Do I not feed you, and clothe you? What is it that you want? And still you carry on with all these atrocities on my children. What have I done to deserve all this?”
Meher Baba, when questioned regarding this explained: ” By children, she evidently meant the saints of the time (Awliyae-waqt), who are misunderstood, vilified and persecuted by the churches of all denominations, unmindful of the circumstances of which they are the outcome. Babajan was equally concerned about the enlightened and the ignorant, and hence her reference to feeding and clothing of the latter. She was as much for the material well-being of the world at large, as for the spirituality of the godly few whom she called her children.” (HAZRAT BABAJAN: The Emperor of The Spiritual Realm of Her Time)
Baba Jaan lived in the Physical Body in Pune for nearly three or more decades. S(H)e continued to live under the Neem Tree. Devotees fought over where The Master’s Body, after the Spirit left, would be Buried. S(H)e didn’t care about all this. The devotees were worried that the Cantonment Board, managed by the Military, would never give permission for a Dargah to be made, bang in middle of the road, even for a Master. Baba Jaan when told of all this high level drama about the burial, I am sure after a few choicest abuses, told them, “get away from here. How can the dead show concern for the living? I am not going to leave This Place.”
Eventually S(H)e didn’t leave the place. Even today Baba Jaan’s Dargah is under the Neem tree. When still in the body, a nice room was made for Baba Jaan a few feet away from the Neem tree. Initially the British wanted Baba Jaan out of the area but realising the public sentiment and also the Baluchi body guards, the British relented. They made the dwelling. All officials had come to inaugurate the new dwelling. Baba Jaan refused to budge. The reason being the Neem tree was not part of the interior decoration plan. Eventually the officials had to extend the room in such a way that the tree too was part of the new dwelling. Once again Baba Jaan had shown little regard to man-made rules and regulations. S(H)e never followed any norms where religious worship or spiritual dos-and-don’ts were concerned and neither did she care much about the British or the Army or anybody. S(H)e from the time had left home till S(H)e left the physical body, lived by just His calling.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha