A Visit With Sikhur Baba in Ilam, Eastern Nepal.
Fortune Telling, Yogic X-Rays, Tridents, Yak Tails, and Blessed Rice.
“Where is Baba? I swear I saw him one minute ago. I called and let him know we were coming, and now he’s disappeared. We´ve come all this way for nothing.”
Prashant, my friend and guide, was getting flustered. We were in a Nepali house up on a hill, talking to a group of women and an old man. This is the house where Baba lived, but nobody knew where he had gone to this morning. Some people said he left the property a minute before, and some said he left hours ago. No one could tell when he was coming back, and his phone was switched off. And yes — this Hindu mystic owns a phone, and also has a Facebook account. So where was Baba?!
Our journey to Sikhur Baba’s house started an hour before, taking a taxi from the Eastern Nepalese town of Ilam. The trip was breathtaking as most drives in Nepal are, climbing mountains covered in dozens of shades of trees and expansive tea fields that turn into psychedelic geometric patterns as you speed by.
Prashant told me about Baba a couple of days before, and asked if I was interested in meeting him. Baba is famous in Nepal and India for, amongst other things, being able to look at a person and instantly tell them the cause of their present ailments and future struggles. I knew I couldn’t pass up this opportunity, so Prashant tracked down Baba’s number and let him know an American was interested in meeting him. Baba was enthused, and said we could visit him anytime.
So there we were, sitting on stools in this random house, everyone chatting away and joking in Nepali. And then after about an hour of waiting, like the wind, Baba appeared.
He sported a chest-length beard framed by long hair and a couple dreadlocks, the orange robes of the sadhu and a giant grin. His eyes carried a smile within, as if he knew all of the cosmic joy and peace in the world.
We quickly went to his temple complex, where he gave us a tour of the grounds. First was the cave where he had meditated for 12 years. He nonchalantly shared a whole plethora of yogic feats he had achieved during this time, such as: living for 2 years on only fruit and water; living for 1 month without drinking or eating anything at all; levitating 80 feet in the air and meditating above the treetops; and my favorite, placing seeds in his chest and growing them into full-blown plants. The whole time he was talking he looked at me with that giant grin, as if to say: “Pretty cool, huh? I bet you don’t believe me, do you?”.
After the cave tour, we went into the temple proper, and sat down for the physical and spiritual body scan. This was proved to be one of the strangest experiences in my 8+ months traveling.
Baba started by lighting an entire handful of incense sticks and chanting a mantra. He then took out a quartz magnifying glass object and held it up to his eye like a monocle. He stared at me through it, and suddenly started speaking in Nepali.
“He says you have a small infection on the top of your brain. And also that there is a little problem with the right valve of your heart”.
Naturally, I was worried at this, yet the whole time Baba spoke he just looked at me with a smile. I asked him for more details but he evaded the questions, and only said I could get everything taken care of by a doctor.
For round two of the magnifying glass, he coated it in some oil from a holy-looking vessel, and then slapped the crystal over my heart. Then he took the crystal back and rubbed it on a sheet of paper, tracing the outline of the oil with a pen, kind of like a Rorschach ink blot. Baba repeated the motion on the top of my head, and made another drawing of my brain. He handed me the two sheets of paper.
“This is like an x-ray of your brain and heart. If you take it to any doctor, they will look at it and know what it means.”
Again, skepticism on my part, but hey — I was here with an open mind and to learn what I could. After the physical scan, Baba began the fortune telling part. Again he meditated on a mantra and then started speaking, never taking his eyes off of me.
¨In one month your present struggles will disappear and you will find a new job or financial opportunity. You will be prosperous until the age of 85, and you will own property and offices on the NW corner of a street. There will be a hospital across the road from your house. You will have 3 sons. They should study science if possible.”
"Do you have a Buddha statue in your room?”
“Yes I do”
“You should move it to face the western side of the room. And you should move any important documents to the eastern side”.
There were some other personal revelations that don’t merit sharing on the internet. But you basically get the idea — he told me non-offensive and not-scary things that anyone would be happy to hear. It was very similar to other times I’ve had my fortune read. I’m not complaining though! Prosperity until 85 sounds nice to me.
When the fortune reading came to a close, it was time for the cleansing part of the ceremony From a hidden corner of the temple, Baba grabbed a meter-long, very ancient-looking iron trident. The trident is one of the symbols of followers of Lord Shiva — it is easy to spot Shiva devotees in India or Nepal, as many of these holy men stroll around using a giant trident as a walking staff.
Baba took the trident and softly pressed it into different areas of my body. Each time he pulled it back with a slight wince in his face and sucking in of air, as if he was removing three decades of negative energy and ailments from my physical and spiritual being.
After the trident therapy, it was time for the yak tail. Yaks are common in Nepal, so I had seen these tails in many spots, and I knew they were considered to be good luck. Baba slapped me with the yak tail on the head and sides multiple times. The yak tail-slap was not a delicate touch, but a full-on strike, clearly meant for the forceful expulsion of bad things from my body.
The yak tail was put away and replaced with a metal vessel containing holy water and flowers. Baba chanted a mantra over the water, and then doused my face and torso.
For the final part of the cleansing, Baba blessed some rice that was given as offering in the temple. He handed me a small amount and told me to eat. While I crunched on the raw rice, he put more rice in my hand, along with some flowers.
“All of your ailments are now completely healed. All disease is gone from your body. You are perfectly well. Take the rice and save it for an occasion when you need healing. Or, if you know someone in your life that needs it, you may give it to them.”
I must admit, I did feel pretty good at the end of the ceremony, maybe because of the intense attention I received from Baba and onlookers. But there was also a slight lightness about my body, and I was infected by Baba’s happiness and piercing eyes.
We took some selfies and Baba wrote down his address and phone number, for me to send to any friends from the USA that wanted to visit with him. I gave him a gift of a dollar bill to aid in prosperity, and put an offering of 1000 rupees (9$) on the steps of the temple. Everyone watching was very happy with this.
We then abruptly said goodbye, and got in the taxi to head down the mountain. For the hour-long ride I was in a daze, trying to process what had happened. All I know is that I felt very happy, as if I had discovered some secret side of the world most people don’t have the chance to see. It is hard for me to comment on the validity of what Baba said and did, because we come from such different cultures and ways of perceiving the world. It would be easy to completely discard everything and say he is a sham. But I prefer to approach it all with a charitable mind that wants to learn, open to any opportunity for growth and wisdom. And what I do know as truth is that Baba’s smile — giant and infectious and loving — will stay with me for a long time, even if my fortune and x-ray and blessed rice fade away into distant memory.
P.S. — if you happen to be in Eastern Nepal and would like to visit him, let me know!