The following incident took place in the year 1942, prior to India’s independence from the British, when the then king of Kumaon, a Himalayan mountainous region of northern India, invited an army officer of the Western Command, L.P. Farrel for a picnic trip to the hills.
The king had a special reason for extending the invitation. Mr. Farrel, despite being a British officer, was deeply interested in India’s spiritual philosophy and culture, and was seeking opportunities to go into the Himalayan wilderness, with the hope of meeting some saint or yogi who could initiate him into spiritual practices.
Along the journey, Mr. Farrel, the king, the queen and their entourage reached a place near the town of Nainital. Full of natural beauty, the spot so enchanted them that they decided to camp there overnight.
Dozens of tents were pitched and the lonely place was soon filled with hustle and bustle. Gossip, merriment, eating and drinking went on till midnight. Everyone went to bed and due to exhaustion from the whole day’s exertions, immediately slipped into deep sleep.
The first phase of sleep was hardly over when Mr. Farrel felt that there was someone near his cot. He awoke, to hear a voice say clearly, “We need the place where your tents have been pitched. Please vacate the spot. If you are unable to understand my instructions, then you must come to the north-western hill in front of you. I will explain everything.”
“But who are you?” – saying this, Farrel got up from the bed with a start and lit his torch. There was no one to be seen. He came out of his tent, but there too he saw no one, nor heard any footsteps. After some brief moments of fear, he went back to bed. It was 3.30 AM by his watch.
Despite his best efforts Farrel could not fall asleep. Somehow he managed to shut his eyes, but no sooner had he done so that he again felt a presence. Still lying in bed, he opened his eyes to discern the shadow of a person standing in front of him. Once more he heard the same instructions repeated to him.
In order to identify the person, Mr. Farrel lit his torch, but the shadow vanished.
This repeat act greatly unnerved the tough army officer – a person not prone to being easily frightened, having seen the horrors and bloodshed of war. He was dumbfounded by the mere imagination of a supernatural being.
He lay awake in bed with his eyes closed, till morning arrived, but heard nothing else. A strange attraction was arousing within him to see the hill mentioned by the shadowy presence. He put on his clothes and shoes and silently came out of the tent and walked towards the hill.
Describing what took place next, Mr. Farrel himself writes: “The way to the place where I was directed to reach, was very difficult, narrow and dangerous. I was not at all able to climb up by myself, but I was constantly feeling that somebody was showing me the way and was providing me with the energy to climb up.”
“After a hard effort of three and a half hours I could climb up. It seemed difficult to go ahead due to heavy breathing and perspiration. So I sat down on a square stone, lying down on it, to take some rest. Hardly two minutes had passed that the same voice awakened me. ‘Mr. Farrel! Now put off your shoes and slowly climb down the stone and come to me.’”
“With these words in my ears, I looked around and saw that a sage, with a very weak constitution but a brilliant splendor on the forehead, was standing in front of me.
Leave aside the acquaintance, I had never met or seen him in my life! Then how could he know my name? He was here, then how did his shadow appear in my tent at night? There was no communication link like a radio or a microphone between us. Then how could his voice reach me?”
“Several such questions arose in my mind. Putting a stop to my unending trail of questions the sadhu (sage) said – ‘Whatever you have heard and seen cannot be understood by the ordinary human mind. For this purpose one has to undertake long sadhana (spiritual practice or penance) and the practice of yoga, abandoning worldly pleasures and attractions of the senses. There is a specific purpose for which you have been called here.’”
Mr. Farrel could not make out whether the saintly person was a human being or a god. The thoughts arising in his mind were being constantly read by the sage like an open book. He climbed down from the rock and in a short time reached the place where the sage was sitting. The place was so small that only one person could take rest there. There was nothing except for a fire burning in the dhooni (fire-pit).
Farrel writes further, “The sadhu patted me on the back with his weak hand and I was stunned. How could this electricity like power be there in that old body? My body which was almost breaking with pain due to exhaustion, at his mere touch, now seemed light like a flower.”
“As a humble gesture of respect for him, I knelt down and touched his feet. I had seen many sadhus; but I have always felt that the sadhus and saints, who had influenced Indian philosophy and increased its dignity, were not those who were roaming the streets, instead they were divine persons such as these, who lived in seclusion. Their physical bodies might weigh 80-90 pounds but the intensity of their energy and power was more than that of a thousand bombs and they were the storehouses of great knowledge.”
The sadhu told me – “I have inspired a youth to reach the place where your tents have been pitched. He was my disciple in his previous birth. His sadhana (spiritual practice or penance) is half-completed. Now I want to guide him again to undertake his sadhana for universal welfare. But the memories of his previous birth are dormant. The impressions and circumstances of this birth are attracting him. Therefore he is unable to take up the penance again. I have called him through subtle inspiration. If he comes here and is unable to locate the directed place, then he will get confused. In that event, whatever I want will not become possible. Therefore please vacate that place immediately.”
Mr. Farrel said – “Lord! Please tell me also a few things about my previous birth.” The sadhu replied – “My son! These siddhis (accomplishments) are not for demonstration. They are meant for certain special purposes and it is better that they are utilized for those only. Of course, if you wish, you can be present at the time when I show him the events of his previous birth. Now go. People are searching for you in the camp. I too am in a hurry.”
Mr. Farrel returned to the camp. Indeed, people had been searching for him. Mr. Farrel narrated the incident to the king. They then left the place and pitched camp some 200 yards away.
By evening of that day, a young man did indeed come searching for that place. After satisfying himself in all respects, he sat down there. In the meantime, Mr. Farrel also reached the spot. His curiosity was getting more and more intense as time passed.
In a short while the sadhu too arrived. Mr. Farrel and the young man touched his feet and stood waiting for his instructions. The place they were at, was in the center of a grove of trees. After lighting the fire, he did some puja (worship), recited some mantras (chants) and told them to sit down in a meditating posture.
A ray of light emanated from his forehead and a circular spot of light appeared on the trunk of a thick tree. Then whatever was seen in that spot was just like a cinema where they saw the characters actually walking and talking. Like a movie, they saw the events of the previous birth of that youth with their own naked eyes. In between the youth would get excited and say – ‘Yes-yes I had done that’.
At the end, the youth touched the feet of the sadhu and said, “Lord! Now my attachment with the mundane world is broken. I am ready to take up the unfinished sadhana of my previous life. Please guide me so that I can complete the unfinished task.”
The sadhu said – “My son! Today you take rest here. In the morning, you return to your home. At an appropriate time, I will call you.”
After that life-changing meeting, Mr. Farrel did not know when the youth was called again. But he himself became a staunch devotee of Indian spirituality.
Source: The above incident was narrated by Mr. Farrel himself, in an article published in the May 17, 1959 issue of the Saptahik Hindustan, a weekly Hindi Magazine. It has been presented here in its English translated form, courtesy the Akhand Jyoti Magazine of the Gayatri Pariwar. I have made some modifications to improve the flow of the English translation. My sincere thanks to the blog Guiding Thoughts for bringing this wonderful story to my attention.