Babas of India
Men garbed in aesthetically appealing saffron clothing with Rasta dreadlocks and a begging pot in hand. Sound familiar? On your trip in India, you will come across many of these.
I do not mean to be too out there, but when you see these men, stay away! Do not fall prey to this prevalent tourist trap. These Babas, especially ones you meet in tourist destinations, are nothing more than foreign currency smelling parasites who claim to be saints.
What Does the Word Baba Mean?
The word Baba means saint. The saffron clothing stands for renunciation from everything material and worldly. Everything including material desires, sex, money etc.
Commercial Babas: How it Works
Since ancient times, the society has supported any man who announced his wishes to renounce worldly pleasures and start his journey onto attaining enlightenment. Unfortunately, the ritual has carried on beyond its time. Long after the practice of sainthood lost its credibility, and much after corruption crept into the temples.
Today, There are about 500,000 Babas in India. There are naked saints who wear their hair in thick dreadlocks. And there are Aghori Babas that live on the ghats of Ganga and practice Necrophilia as a path to enlightenment.
Babas are widely respected. Their presence is believed to help the entire community advance spiritually. As this is seen as benefiting society, Babas are supported by donations from many people.
Many famous Babas in India today, are millionaires, cashing in on the blind faith of society. Ram Dev Baba, who btw, was quite embarrassingly was caught dressed as a woman, trying to escape an arrest, has recently launched his own line of cosmetics and spices on a billion dollar level. ‘Swami’ Nithyananda was caught on tape having sex with his disciple, while Asharam Bapu is a known pedophile and is currently in jail for raping eight women. Two of whom were raped by him and his son together. Yeah! What a father! The stories could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea. Babas aren’t exactly men of god. Evidently, they are pretty damn far from that.
The lower level Babas line pilgrimage cities like Rishikesh and other banks of Ganga, Haridwar, Pushkar, Himachal Pradesh. Here, they beg for food, money and depend of devotees who make generous donations.
How to become a Baba
Traditionally, to become a saint or Baba, one needs a teacher, or a Guru. Today however, there are no religious authorities to govern one’s entry into the spiritual journey of renunciation. Anyone who dressed and acts like a Baba, can be easily mistaken for one.
Once a Baba, the man lives outside the system as we know it. He pays no taxes. He rides without tickets in public transport, and eats for free at temples. So, for one who aspires to corrupt the practice, sainthood is the most exploitable business in India. It’s about putting in the time. Once a Baba is revered, he begins receiving donations.
The idea of enlightenment sold in form of an orange dress.
Babas in the Tourist Industry
The lowest tier of Babas is found in the backpacker haunts of India. It is a hard fact that foreigners are much easier to fool than Indians who know a thing or two about the conduct of their own saints.
For drug addicts and lazy freeloaders, being a Baba is a popular and profitable business in the tourist sector. These commercial Babas (as I call them) line backpacker hubs smoking cannibus with backpackers, (who are out looking for ‘experiences’), and demanding food and chai from restaurateurs. In addition to this, under the garb of helping attain some spiritual advancement, they very often try to chance a flirtatious venture with foreign women.
The commercial Baba‘s job is to con people. The commercial Baba will first try to establish a friendship with someone who he thinks may be of some use to him (for food, money, sex). These men are usually quite intriguing, with charming personalities, and hence keep their audiences interested and continuously rolling in rounds of joints and food.
Different commercial Babas have different styles and approaches. Sometimes, all they may be looking for is a chat.
Conversations with Babas can be pretty fun and/or intense. Enjoy your time with him, but do not be fooled into believing him to be a spiritual guide. If you do, you will be helping a freeloader. If you have met your Baba sitting at a café, or found him smoking, he is not a not real Baba. Unfortunately, I have seen so many tourists fall prey to this. Be warned, these are only mind games.
What is Tantra? Does Tantric Practice Include Sex?
Babas practice Tantra, a widely misunderstood, ancient Indian discipline. Contrary to the Western interpretation of Tantra, it is not about sex. If your ‘Baba’ offers you enlightenment through sex, he is not your man.
Who is a Real Baba, Then?
A Baba is supposed to be a man of god. The saffron clothes represent renunciation of all material and worldly desires. Becoming a Baba means declaring that you are a man of god, on your journey to spiritual enlightenment.
Do Real Babas Exist?
Yes. But, if he is a real Baba, chances are, you will never meet him. He would either be living in the jungle or meditating in a cave. He sure as hell wouldn’t be smoking and chilling with tourists.
I know a real Baba. He walks across the state of Himachal Pradesh every year, visiting every temple of the seven goddess of the mountains. He does not smoke or drink alcohol, and will never accept a lift in a car or bus. This is the true meaning of renunciation.