I did not discover him, he discovered me. By that I mean I was just swimming in the river when he passed by: he looked at me, I looked at him, and he jumped in the river and we swam together. I don’t know how long we swam but I was not the one to say “enough.” He was already an established saint. I had seen him before, but not so closely, at a gathering, doing bhajan, and singing songs of God. I had seen him, and had a certain feeling toward him, but I had kept it to myself. I had not even uttered a single word about it. There are things which are better kept in the heart; there they grow faster, that’s the right soil.
At this time he was an old man; I was not more than twelve. Obviously he was the one to say, “Let us stop. I am feeling tired.”
I said, “You could have told me any time and I would have stopped, but as far as I am concerned I am a fish in the river.”
Yes, that’s how I was known in my town. Who else swims six hours every morning from four till ten? When everybody was asleep, fast asleep, I would be already in the river. And when everybody had gone to work I would still be in the river. Of course at ten o’clock every day my grandmother would come, and then I would have to come out of the water because it was school time, I had to go to school. But immediately after school I was back in the river.
When I first came across Siddhartha, Herman Hesse’s novel, I could not believe that what he had written about the river I had known so many times. And I knew perfectly well that Hesse was only imagining…a good imagination, because he died without being a buddha. He was able to create Siddhartha, but could not become a Siddhartha. But when I came across his description of the river, and the moods, and the changes, and the feelings of the river, I was overwhelmed. I was more impressed by his description of the river than anything else. I cannot recall how long I had loved the river – it seemed as if I had been born in its waters.
In my Nani’s village I was continuously either in the lake or in the river. The river was a little too far away, perhaps two miles, so I had to choose the lake more often. But once in a while I used to go to the river, because the quality of a river and a lake are totally different. A lake, in a certain way, is dead, closed, not flowing, not going anywhere at all, static. That’s the meaning of death. It is not dynamic.
The river is always on the go, rushing to some unknown goal, perhaps not knowing at all what that goal is; but it reaches, knowing or unknowing, it reaches the goal. The lake never moves. It remains where it is, dormant, simply dying, everyday dying; there is no resurrection. But the river howsoever small, is as big as the ocean, because sooner or later it is going to become the ocean.
I have always loved the feel of the flow; just going, that flux, that continuous movement…aliveness. So, even though the river was two miles away, I used once in a while to go, just to have the taste.
But in my father’s town the river was very close. It was just two minutes walk from my Nani’s house. Standing on the top floor you could see it; it was there with all its grandeur and invitation…irresistible.