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The Sage from the Valley of Flowers

Stories of the Sages

There was not much literature on the flowers and ecology of the Himalayas, but whatever was available, I tried my best to go through. One of the British writers wrote a book on the Valley of Flowers in the Himalayas. After reading this book a flame of burning desire arose in my heart. In the Himalayas there are countless varieties of lilies, rhododendrons, and other flowers, but I specifically was anxious to see this valley.

There lived a sage constantly traveling in that region of the Himalayas where this Valley of Flowers exists. I knew him well. He was very strong and healthy, about 80 years of age, but quite unusual. He used to carry a unique blanket all the time. It was very heavy. The weight of this blanket was approximately 80 to 100 pounds. You might wonder how he made this blanket so heavy. Any piece of cloth that he found during his wide travels, he would patch onto the blanket. It was a blanket of a thousand patches. He called it gudari, which means “blanket of patches,” and people called him Gudari Baba.

On my request he said, “If you would really like to see the Valley of Flowers and want to follow me, you will have to carry this blanket.”

The weight of the blanket was approximately 100 pounds.

I agreed, but when I put the blanket on my shoulders I stumbled under its weight. He asked, “How is it possible for a young man like you to be so weak when you are apparently so healthy?” He picked up the blanket and said, “See how light it is?” Then he put it on my shoulder again. He knew my master and so he allowed me to follow him to the Valley of Flowers.

As I was following him this sage said, “No one can retain his memory when he goes through the Valley of Flowers during the blooming season. We should bring all the obstinate kids like you here and set them right. Those who try to be intellectual and argue with us should be brought here so that they understand their worth.”

I said, “But I am following you.”

He said, “Oh yes. You argue all the time and don’t listen attentively. You are very proud of your intellectual knowledge. I do not know how to read and write. You are more educated than I. You have education, but I have control of mind.”

This man is really crazy!

I told him, “I also have control.”

He replied, “We shall see.”

I said, “Sir, first of all, please take away your blanket from my shoulders because it is difficult to carry.”

He lamented, “Oh, the children of this modern age!”

He took his blanket from me and started conversing with it: “O my beloved blanket, nobody understands anything about you. No one knows that you are a living blanket.”

I looked at him and thought, “This man is really crazy!”

The next morning a Japanese monk joined us. He was equally anxious to see the Valley of Flowers. This Japanese monk also thought that Gudari Baba was a crazy man. He asked me, “Rama, can you explain why this man is carrying such a heavy load?” We started talking and I thought it would be nice to share these experiences with each other.

This monk was afraid of going to the Valley of Flowers all alone. Someone had told him that if any traveler goes to see this valley, he forgets everything and his senses do not coordinate in perceiving sense objects. The traveler loses his memory and smiles all the time. He said that this baba was the right person to guide us because he traveled in this region and knew all the trails.

The next day this Japanese monk started shivering with fever. He had lived in the jungles of Burma and had suffered from malaria. He had a temperature of 103 to 104 degrees and his pulse rate was very high. The baba said to him, “You told this boy that I was crazy. Do you want to see the living power of my blanket? Do you know that this blanket is not a mere blanket, but a living force? Do you want to get well? Then kneel down and be humble!” The baba covered the Japanese monk with the blanket.

The monk said, “I will be flattened! It’s too heavy and I am a small man.”

The baba said, “Keep quiet!” After a few minutes he took the blanket away from the monk. When he removed the blanket, it was shivering. The baba asked the monk, “What happened to your fever?”

He said, “Sir, I don’t have a fever anymore.”

The baba said, “This blanket is very generous and kind and has taken away your fever.” The baba looked at me and said, “Do you want his fever to be cured forever?”

I said, “Yes, please.”

The baba said, “But he calls me crazy. I don’t think he deserves my help.”

I said, “The sages are kind and great and they always forgive others.”

The baba smiled and said, “Of course I will help him.” We traveled together for 15 days and the Japanese monk did not suffer from the fever again.

The sages are kind and they always forgive others.

Nine miles outside of Badrinath there is a side trail that leads to the Valley of Flowers where there is a small guru dvara (temple of Sikhs). We took our meal there. The people of this temple knew Gudari Baba very well. We rested that whole day in the temple and started our journey to the Valley of Flowers toward Hemkund the next day.

The flowers were in full bloom as far as the eye could see. For the first few hours it was soothing to the senses and stimulating to the mind. But slowly I started noticing that my memory was slipping away. After five or six hours the baba asked, “Hey you! Can you tell me your name?”

We were both so disoriented that we could not remember our names. We had completely forgotten them. I was only aware of my existence and had a hazy idea that I was with two other people. That’s all. The fragrance of those flowers was so strong that we could not think rationally. Our ability to reason wouldn’t function. Our senses were anesthetized. We had a faint idea of our existence and that of the things around us.

Our talk to each other did not make any sense. We lived in this valley for a week. It was highly enjoyable. The baba made fun of us all the time and said, “Your education and strength have no value.”

After we came out of the Valley of Flowers, the baba said, “Your joy was because of the influence of the fragrance of the flowers. You were not meditating. That’s what marijuana and hashish do to people, and they think that they are in meditation. Look at me. I was not affected or influenced by the fragrance of those wild flowers. Ha, ha, ha!

“You have gone to college and have read many books. You have lived on the opinions of others so far. Today you had a good chance to understand and compare direct knowledge and the so-called knowledge that is really imitation. So far the opinions that you have are actually the opinions of others. Those who live on the opinions of others do not ever have the ability to decide and express their own opinions.

Without control of the mind, direct experience is impossible.

“Boys, this informative knowledge is not considered by us to be real knowledge. Even if you understand that direct knowledge alone is valid, you don’t have control over the mind. The education given to modern children is very superficial. Without any discipline, control over the mind is not possible—and without control of the mind, direct experience is impossible.”

The Japanese monk left for Bodh Gaya, and I lived with the baba for another 15 days. He is a free wanderer of this region, and all the pilgrims have heard about him. For practical schooling it is important for the renunciate to live with such sages who have direct knowledge of the values of life with its currents and crosscurrents.

Source: Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama

Further Reading

Living with the Himalayan Masters

Swami Rama

“I will tell you how I grew up and how I was trained, about the great sages with whom I lived and what they taught me, not through lectures and books but through experiences.” —Swami Rama

About the Teacher

Swami Rama

One of the greatest adepts, teachers, writers, and humanitarians of the 20th century, Swami Rama (1925–1996) is the founder of the Himalayan Institute. Born in northern India, he was raised from early childhood by the Himalayan sage, Bengali Baba. Under the guidance of his master, he traveled from monastery to monastery and studied with a variety of Himalayan saints and sages, including his grandmaster, who was living in a remote region of Tibet. In addition to this intense spiritual training, Swami Rama received higher education in both India and Europe. From 1949 to 1952, he held the prestigious position of Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India. Thereafter, he returned to his master to receive further training at his cave monastery, and finally, in 1969, came to the United States, where he founded the Himalayan Institute. His best-known work, Living with the Himalayan Masters, reveals the many facets of this singular adept and demonstrates his embodiment of the living tradition of the East.

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