The Cave of Bhojaveda

from And I’d Do It Again by Aimée Crocker

…An idea was born in me then. It became almost a fetish. I determined to visit the Yogin, if it was my last experience in this life. I finally told my plan to Shikapur, who was seriously upset and concerned, and did everything in his power to dissuade me.

Stubborn as I was, I became even more determined to go. I was troubled by my vision, and by a certain inner disturbance of mind or soul which I associated with it. I was not a very happy girl and I wanted that Great Peace which the Kaivalya or true Liberation brings. Call it the sentimental or romantic ignorance of a silly young woman if you will. I was not the first nor yet the last. There was something I wanted. I did not understand but I wanted it fervently.

Result: I went to Poona.

I rode on a mule, accompanied by Shikapur, to the city, through a dark jungle and protected only by a few native bearers and guides and my very worried young friend. Nothing happened, however, that showed cause for his disturbance, and I reached there after five days of slow going, tired, a little frightened, and very sorry that I had come… but determined to go on.

The cave of Bhojaveda is situated about seven miles from Poona under a low wooded hill. It is less a true cave than a rock-shelter which runs some fifty feet back into a turf-covered gigantic boulder.

My guide would not approach it nearer than a half mile off, whether from fear or from some religious concept. However, I rode on alone, until three totally naked, blackened men barred my way. I exposed a little note written in Sanskrit which Shikapur had prepared for me. They read it very gravely and slowly and then stared at me. I wanted to cry or to faint. I was afraid to be there and afraid to go away. It was no fear of the ordinary sort, rather a fear of the mystic and of the powers of which I knew nothing. But one man made a motion for me to follow and then walked ahead of me towards the huge cleft of the boulder.

At a certain distance, the men motioned me to halt and to dismount. I did, and one remained there with me while the other walked very slowly forward and into the cave.

He remained there a long time. Meanwhile the one who had stayed with me stood rigid and erect, his eyes and body turned away from me and towards the cave. A statue.

After an endless while, the first man returned, slowly, with an exaggerated, measured step. He did not look at me. He took his place by his companion and fixed his gaze somewhere, saying… in plain English which was fairly understandable:

“Go. It is the moment.”

I went forward and into the cave as though in a trance.

Another naked Hindu emerged from somewhere and preceded me down the blackened shaft until we came to a dim room-like opening where the rock had formed a natural internal shelter. It was faintly lighted by a break which ended in daylight far overhead, aided by a feeble oil lamp.

My silent guide stopped and held up his hand.

I stood breathless, waiting.

Then from the shadows there appeared a phantom.

The being who moved silently into my vision was practically transparent. He was a man who was very aged. His perfectly white hair hung to his waist and his beard to his knees. He was without any garment at all and his skin seemed to be wax, and one could notice that the fingers and the flesh of the face were actually translucent. All the veins of his body were as clear as if they had been painted on him.

He stood before me, erect. But I knew that his eyes were not fixed on me, and this gave me the courage to look at them.

They were enormous, lustrous, and seemed to glow, as the light of the lamp struck them, deep in the caverns of his eye-sockets. His face was a skull with transparent wax-skin scarcely concealing the bones. But in some way which I cannot explain he was beautiful. It was an ethereal beauty. There was something of another world in that face from which all color had vanished.

Then, in a soft, clear, sweetly vibrant voice he spoke. It was probably Sanskrit in which he spoke, or some old Indian dialect. He spoke rhythmically and with no inflection of the voice. It was like a machine speaking, like some strange singing or intonations of sounds and accents. And I understood nothing.

But while I stood, too far out of myself for terror or any definite emotion, I became hypnotized by that voice. I was lulled by the timbre, by the rhythmic speech. I felt so far away from everything, and could see nothing definitely.

Then, somewhere in that dim light, I saw a vision… or perhaps a reality.

It was the image of a young Indian boy, very beautiful indeed. He moved towards me and smiled at me. He lifted his hands half-way towards me. He was dressed in the rich costume of a Hindu noble, and it was remarkable… I shall always remember it… that he wore about his neck twelve strings of magnificent pearls. I have never seen their equal for luster.

And then the voice ceased.

And then the boy vanished.

And the Bhojaveda, the Great Yogin, turned without motion, without sound, and silently faded into the shadow.

The naked Hindu was once more beside me. I realized the interview was at an end, and I followed him dazedly back along the passage, I could see the light of the entrance growing larger and larger, but I was not conscious of moving towards it.

Then the sunlight and the air.

Then more complete consciousness.

Then I recalled that I had learnt nothing at all, and that I had understood nothing.