Pagal tried again and again to convince me that my future was to be a musician. I said “No,” and when I say no, I mean no.
From my very childhood my no has been very clear, and I rarely use yes. That word yes is so precious, almost holy, that it should be used only in the presence of the divine, whether it is love or beauty, or right now…orange blossom on the gulmarg, so thick it is as if the whole tree is aflame. When anything reminds you of the sacred, then you can use the word yes – it is full of prayer. No simply means that I cut myself off from the proposed activity; and I have been a no-sayer. It was very difficult to get a yes out of me.
Seeing Pagal Baba, a man who was known to be enlightened, I recognized that he was unique even in those days. I did not know anything of what enlightenment is. I was in just the same position as I am now, again utterly unknowing. But his presence was luminous. You could recognize him among thousands.
He was the first man who took me to a Kumbha Mela. It takes place every twelve years in Prayag, and is the biggest gathering in the whole world. For Hindus Kumbha Mela is one of their life’s cherished dreams. A Hindu thinks that if you have not been to a Kumbha Mela at least once, you have missed your life. That’s what a Hindu thinks. The minimum count is ten million people, the maximum is thirty million people.
It’s the same with the Mohammedans. Unless you are a haji, unless you have been to Haj, to Mecca, you have missed. Haj means “journey to Mecca,” where Mohammed lived and died. All over the world it is every Mohammedan’s most precious dream; he has to go at least once to Mecca. The Hindu has to go to Prayag. These places are their Israels.
The religions may look very different on the surface, but if you just scratch a little bit you will find the same rubbish; Hindu, Jew, Mohammedan, Christian, it does not matter.
But Kumbha Mela has a unique character. Just a gathering of thirty million people is in itself a rare experience. All the Hindu monks come there, and they are not a small minority. They number five hundred thousand, and they are very colorful people. You cannot imagine so many unique sects. You cannot believe that such people even exist, and they all gather there.
Pagal Baba took me to the first Kumbha Mela of my life. I was to attend once more, but this experience with Pagal Baba, at the Kumbha Mela was immensely educating, because he took me to all the great, and the so-called great saints, and in front of them, and with thousands of people around, he would ask me, “Is this man a real saint?”
I would say, “No.”
But Pagal Baba was also as stubborn as I am, he did not lose heart. He went on and on, taking me to every kind of saint possible, until I said to one man, “Yes.”