Many years ago, on an intensely chilly, foggy December night, just a day before a New Year, I was sitting in a boat. Shivering. Partly from the cold and partly from the thought of  where I was heading :  to Delhi’s Nigambodh Ghat, the ground, like so many other cremation grounds where life and death stand out in stark contrast to each other and yet merge into one. This was not my first visit to the Yamuna River or to a cremation ground at night or my first ride in a boat on a fog enveloped river.

And yet, a gamut of feelings rose and fell within me and peace was far away. Neither was this meeting with the dark, curly haired mystic who frequented places of death going to be my first. It was perhaps the imperiousness of the summons from this man who knew no fear when he was alive which had given rise to assorted feelings.  The mystic had lived for twenty years or so at shamshan ghats and grave yards and acquired many powers.

On my first visit, he had been sitting cross-legged between the cremation ground and the Yamuna River, facing northwards. Close by, the embers had still been glowing a bright red-yellow-orange-blue on a few funeral pyres while stray wreaths of smoke were emanating from others. Little tongues of flame had been leaping up from a couple of pyres while the ashes had become cold in others. I had been told not to disturb him so I had decided to wait. To say that it had been an eerie experience would be an understatement. There was the gentle lapping of the water as it caressed the banks in a continual motion, there was this silhouette of a man sitting in a statuesque position and all around were poignant reminders of death.

I recalled the first time. I had almost jumped out of my skin when a voice had spoken out of the darkness and snapped my reverie. The mystic had come out of his meditation. “So you’ve come”, he had said with an unmistakable note of satisfaction in his tone. “I knew you would come. I know why you’ve come, but ask me what you want”. “Is there anything mystical about meditating at a shamshan or burial ground, amongst death, with so much sorrow and sadness in the atmosphere, with so much futility and helplessness in focus?”

“That’s where you’re wrong”, he had countered. “An important part of mysticism is to rise above the life-death divide. You can do so fairly easily after meditating at places like these. You then realise that sorrow and happiness are relative and yet inseparable. You realise that life and death are a continuity rather than separate compartments. You realise that death is not an end, but a new beginning, part of a progression. That’s the first step towards mysticism. Sitting here night after night has freed me of many of the perceptions and mindsets I once had, while replacing them with new realisations. I am now as free as the wind. I know that just the fact of ‘simply being’ is important. The rest follows if you keep up the search…”

“What exactly are you searching for or is that difficult to explain…?” “It’s not difficult to explain though it may be difficult for you to understand. I’m searching for something for which all mystics search victory over matter and an ultimate state of bliss.  Today, if my ears go, I’ll still be able to hear, because my mind is attuned to the sounds of the universe. If my eyes go, I’ll still be able to see, because I can see through powers far more powerful than the eyes. If my brain dies, my soul will reign supreme. To learn all this, I’m not suggesting that everyone should meditate at a shamshan. This is the way I have chosen.

“But this I will say. There are ways of embarking on a mystical path even when you hold a powerful material post, even if you’re an ordinary worker, even if you’re a housewife. But for that, you’ll have to visit me again wherever I may be on a night of the new moon”.  That chilly night hadn’t been the night of the new moon, and yet I had been called. Why had I been called, what he was going to tell me or show me I wondered as the boat touched the shore. In the fog, I couldn’t see into the darkness and had to grope my way up the slight slope towards the burning ghats but finding progress difficult decided to wait for the mystic to make contact.

He made contact after about half an hour and went straight to the heart of the matter. “I’ve called you before the appointed time because my own time of death has now become clear. I will remain in touch with you even after I leave this world, but there are certain things I can teach you only while in this body”. “What if I don’t want to learn them?” I had asked him, because despite my great interest in the occult and other such practices, I didn’t fancy myself frequenting cremation or burial grounds for the rest of my life. He had been a bit annoyed at my response.

“It’s for you to decide”, he had said in a dry tone. It was a difficult decision. Should I accept his offer and be drawn into who knows what? Or should I continue to explore the occult in my own way, at my own pace? I opted for the latter. But just a week ago, the mystic who is now in the other world, contacted me. “I want to teach you the secret of penetrating movement and space. Are you ready?” was the communication. Am I ready? Do I want to learn that secret? Perhaps that decision is not in my hands? Once again its déjà vu time and the next few weeks will be decisive.


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