There is a spring in his steps and his movements are remarkably smooth and agile. His skin glows, his eyes are bright, his hearing sharp. And he has a mind to match. A long white beard, long white hair and just a couple of missing teeth are the only indicators that Chirag Baba is above seventy years of age. Chirag Baba is the name that we have ‘given’ him because of his association with the Chirag Dilli Dargah. His real name is Baba Rahim. He disclosed it after our first few meetings by writing it on a piece of paper. When we saw what was written we were taken aback. ‘Baba Rahim’ was written on the paper in beautiful handwriting in English. He had a really good laugh at our surprise. “Looking at me, a barefooted sparsely clad baba, you didn’t think I knew English. I don’t usually let on but I can write and speak it quite well.” He had given us the first of many humbling and valuable lessons without lecturing. That’s his style.

Given that he doesn’t watch TV or read newspapers and isn’t connected to the internet, his current affairs knowledge and understanding is quite extraordinary. We surmised that he picks up news partly from his network of worldwide followers and his frequent trips abroad and to different parts of India. He gave us for example a vivid account of how he had seen Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the Art of Living guru moved to weeping uncontrollably at the Karbala ( a very important Shiaite holy site ) in Iraq. And recently while we were with Chirag Baba he received a call about someone’s demise. News of the death prompted him to relate a fascinating story which illustrated how the manner of responding to an occassion when a soul ventures out of a body voluntarily and intends to return can make all the difference between life and death.

Briefly, while a group of Sufi qawwals (singers of Sufi devotional songs) was about to begin a performance in Durban, South Africa, a spiritual seeker amongst them collapsed suddenly. The leader of the qawwals who was familiar with the equations between the world of the living and the other world advised against taking him to hospital. “His spirit has left his body and he’ll regain consciousness when his spirit returns. If you take him to hospital you’ll block his soul from returning to the body,” he explained.

The Tibetans and many Hindu sadhus, sadhvis and others believe that the soul often leaves the body when we sleep and goes travelling, meeting other out-of-body souls, remaining connected to the body with an invisible magnetic thread.

But understandably there were no takers for this strange explanation and people rushed him to hospital despite the qawwal leader’s protestations and pleading. After being kept in the ICU, the man was declared dead after a few hours. Much later, after relatives and others had buried him and were sitting in mourning, the man’s extremely angry spirit appeared before them. “Look what you’ve done.  You’ve buried me and now I have no body which I can re-enter. Now arrange for special prayers so that I can ascend towards the spiritual plane.” Many people recalled the qawwal leader’s words. He had been right after all.

Actually, in addition to beliefs several documented accounts exist of spiritually evolved people belonging to different cultures mastering the art of leaving their body and returning at will. The Tibetans and many Hindu sadhus and sadhvis (holy entities) and others believe that the soul often leaves the body when we sleep and goes travelling, meeting other out-of-body souls, remaining connected to the body with an invisible magnetic thread. That is why we sometimes wake up with a jerk – it’s the soul returning to our body. And that’s why it’s also said you should never wake up someone suddenly as there’s a risk of the magnetic body-soul thread snapping. That also accounts for  dreams like meeting someone coming true.

But even when a spiritually evolved person or an adept consciously leaves the body there is always a risk. There is the well known case of Guru Ram Rai. To cut short an interesting and very detailed story, Baba Ram Rai was the eldest son of the seventh Sikh Guru, Guru Har Rai. He was ex-communicated for performing forbidden miracles and misinterpreting some lines from the Gurbani before the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Thereafter, it is recorded that way back in 1676 Guru Ram Rai established his ‘Dera’ in Doon Valley which later became known as Dehra Dun. 

It was widely believed that Guru Ram Rai could leave his body at will. One day, to help a far-away devotee in distress, he left his body and also left strict instructions with his wife Mata Punjab Kaur that under no condition should his supine body be disturbed. But when he didn’t return for several days the courtiers insisted on cremating him. Mata Punjab Kaur did her best to stop them arguing that the body had not decomposed even slightly but the courtiers over ruled her and Guru Ram Rai’s body was readied for cremation. By the time his soul heard Punjab Kaur’s fervent importuning and returned it was too late. The funeral pyre had already been lit. Saddened and infuriated, Guru Ram Rai had to leave for the higher realms. This happened in 1687.

Over the years, while travelling through the polyandrous belt of Jaun-Sar-Bawar in the western Himalayas, I was fortunate to witness quite a few instances of villagers leaving their bodies at will and appearing in another form.  I am not an adept but I experienced my soul leaving my body when I saw my father, a highly evolved soul and a master of the occult, pass away before my eyes. My distraught soul accompanied his soul on its astral journey for a short while till he sent my soul back.  There have been other interesting involuntary instances of my soul leaving the body and returning but I’ll keep those anecdotes for another time. For now, suffice it to say that a soul leaving a living body either consciously or involuntarily and returning to it unless prevented by some mishap  is not a mere possibility but an amazing reality.

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