|On the road with Purna das Baul|
The Bauls of Bengal are a lineage of minstrels - gypsies- Sufis that travel the world singing love songs to the Divine. Purna Das Baul's lineage goes back nine generations. As a child he traveled with his father Nabani Das Baul throughout India. Nabani Das Baul was a close friend of Tagore's. Nabani was often asked to compose songs for him. It was the writings of Tagore that brought the Bauls into the global village. The Nobel Prize winning poet , who lived from 1861-1941, is often referred to as the "Greatest of Bauls". Baba, in turn, is great friends with a modern poet-musician: Bob Dylan. Baba was on the cover of Dylan's John Wesley Harding album.
Among the people of India, Baba is a holy being, a sacred incarnation of deity. When he is in the United States, people flock to him for blessings, which he freely gives. He also gives them prasad (blessed food) and he prays for their well being.
|Purna Das Baul (far right)|
During 2003-2005 I was blessed with being asked to accompany the Purna Das Baul and his son Chotton as they traveled through the Southwestern United States performing. I had no prior training or context for this opportunity. I was working in a bookstore (which sold 2 books about Bauls) in San Diego one afternoon, when I felt a breeze in the room- prior to the door opening. As I looked up a beautiful woman (named Siai) in a brightly colored Sari was opening the door, with fliers in her arms. I asked "Are you a Baul?" From that moment I was pulled into the story.
When Siai told hime about meeting me, Purna Das Baul asked to meet this woman who recognized this energy. Later I heard them sing a line repeatedly "Do you know the wind?" The wind in this context was the movement of the body's subtle channels in yoga. It was this I felt preceding the presence of Siai and the Bauls.
From the moment of meeting him, he called me "Ma", not Debra, or Mrs. Page. I became Ma. Of course, I had no understanding what this meant at the time. This my was first direct experience with Eastern philosophies and religion. I loved Baba instantly, and I had no problem saying "yes" to the call to be with him. While I was with him, all my needs were taken care of. I was given beautiful Indian clothing, saris, jewelry, food, lodging- all needs were met. My rock musician husband, Larry, was given place in the band with them. There are so many wonderful stories about this time in our lives. However, this post is about being a "Ma".
Baba has an ongoing dialogue with the Divine Mother. He talks to her during the day as he goes about doing Baul things. He sings to to her, praises her, thanks her. I watched him interact with Her. I came to see through his devotion, that she was the very force animating matter. There would be times when something needed to be done, tea prepared, prasad (blessed food) needed preparing,etc. and he would look at me and say "Ma?" I quickly learned in those moments, I was Mother answering his prayers. I assumed that all women were a "Ma", but that was not the case. According to Baul philosophy (which is a form of Tantra), all women are an aspect of The Mother. Yet, only certain women were an aspect of the prayer answering shakti. The definition of shakti is; 1) The active manifest power that creates the universe, and 2) The consort of the male expression of the divine, especially the god Shiva. (source: Answers.com)
During my life, I had longingly searched for the Divine Feminine, the lost counterpart to our Christian concept of God. My heart ached to know Her. Baba was teaching me that She lived within me. She wasn't to be found out there somewhere, or in a temple on the other side of the world. She was right here, every moment. He was showing me that everyday life was a prayer to Her, and a dance with Her. He did not have to verbally tell me how to do the many new things I was introduced to. There was a part of me that innately knew these things already. I am not claiming I was full of grace, or didn't make mistakes. Baba is an infinitely patient being. My neurotic mind was always afraid that the 6 yards of my sari would come unraveled!
One afternoon, I was alone with him, which was a very rare occasion. We were sitting in a beautiful home overlooking a busy valley in San Diego. The afternoon sun was streaming in the room, making everything luminous. There was a beautiful fluid feeling of peace. I had a text of sayings by Anandamayi Ma (an Indian Avatar, or Incarnation of the Goddess). Baba was reading the same text in Bengali.
"Baba, what does it take for a woman to become a "Ma" (an incarnation of the goddess)? " I asked.
"Complete and total sacrifice," he responded.
The ego, in terms of self-cherishing in a selfish way, has to be sacrificed (to make sacred). If any human aspires to the divinisation of the the body to incarnate the The Divine, they have to surrender the ego to the higher force.
Purna Das Baul lives this way every moment.