There is a woman who attends aarti at Parmarth Niketan some nights. You cannot miss her if she is there. She is a white woman with dirty blonde hair who wears an all white skirt and all white robes. She stands on the ghat and dances, a very solemn expression on her face and a series of complex and intense mudras on her hands. Everyone stares. She makes no indication that she notices and continues along in her dance, winding her hands from mudra to mudra, twist and contorting, sometimes holding a small sprig of white flowers in her hands. People whisper, some laugh. You can’t help but notice.
One day while walking in front of the ashram I saw her go into a bookstore. I followed her inside and told her that I thought her dance was beautiful. I figured that she was the object of so much ridicule that she might like to hear a friendly voice tell her something kind. Her voice was small and delicate and she spoke very deliberately. Often she would close her eyes and squint, as if trying to hear some very quiet voice on the inside of her head tell her what to say next. She was eager to talk and share spiritual discussions of her path and her practice. She said she lived in the mountains and experiences much harassment from the locals. She said that she works with flowers and herbs, spent four years in a cave, is a total renunciate, fasts for much of the year and practices levitation as a form of daily meditation. She said her name was Upasana and that she had come to India after a very painful upbringing of abuse to find God. She spoke of specific intense sadhana practices, her guru, and asked me to say prayers of protection for her from my tradition. I asked her if I could watch her levitate, but she said that only her disciples were permitted to view it, as people outside of their order were not allowed to watch other than in certain very public instances that have been, according to her, well documented. She was a gentle and delicate woman, seeming more fairy than human. It was time for arti, so I suggested we walk together and I told her I would sit behind her and do a meditation for protection for her, since she had said that she was very aware of the negative attention she got. We went through aarti like that, me chanting softly “Aad guray nameh, jugad guray nameh, sat guray nameh, siri guru devay nameh” behind her and her dancing her mudras. After aarti, she thanked me for my mantras and my kind words, said she would pray for me and we went our separate ways.
I asked someone I knew at the ashram afterwards who she was. They said she was a “mentally unbalanced” woman who lived in the hills. Now I do not know whether she is a levitating saint or a crazy woman with visions of grandeur. It doesn’t matter to me. She is a woman who is living her life how she chooses to live it, and I don’t agree with her being the object of negativity from so many just because they don’t think what she is doing is normal. Maybe she is crazy, so she should be looked upon with compassion. Maybe she is a saint, so she should be looked upon with compassion. Essentially who and what we are doesn’t matter. Our souls all deserve to be treated with compassion, tenderness and the freedom to express ourselves how we choose. We all deserve a mantra of protection.