Many spiritual seekers have become acquainted with Mahavatar Babaji, and an artist’s conception of him, through Paramahansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. Some claim that this same Babaji was known as Hariakhan Baba, from the early 1800s till 1922, and that he reincarnated again in 1970, in a cave in northern India, looking much younger but changing dramatically over his fourteen year incarnation. Still others believe the real Maha Avatar Babaji is a different entity altogether; one who had a feminine body in his youth, which changed slowly into an image of a balding Willie Nelson, before he left his body in 1997. This Babaji claimed that both versions of Hariakhan Baba were disciples of him. So, who is the real Babaji? Or are they all just different manifestations of the one and only Babaji?
I personally have had a deep connection to old Hariakhan Babaji and young Haidakhan Babaji, as he came to be known. When my house burned down in 1987, a photo of old Hariakhan Babaji did not burn up. Then years later, when it was time to sell our rebuilt home due to divorce, I prayed deeply to young Babaji for his help, promising to come to his ashram in India, if the house sold. Banks would not finance our house, as it was off the grid with alternative energy, and that alone cut out over ninety –five percent of our potential buyer prospects. Miraculously, the house sold the next day and I was soon off to India, and to learn much more about Babaji.
As divine providence and karma would have it, I was given young Babaji’s favorite silver silk waist coat as my Christmas present, at his ashram in Haidakhan in 1994. This was a Christmas I would never forget in one of the holiest place on earth. Then I was given a reading by saint Shastraji, who lived with Babaji nearly every day for his fourteen year incarnation. He stated that Babaji had appeared to me three times already in this life and that I didn’t recognize him, but he would be coming again soon. I next attended the opening, full moon night of the 1995 Kumbha Mela festival at Allahabad, with ten million souls in attendance already! Here Babaji appeared to me as time stood still. He asked me in perfect English, “Are you having fun?” I couldn’t find my voice to answer back. Then he disappeared, leaving me totally blessed and bewildered. Yes, I was having fun! And now I felt like Babaji had totally blessed my trip to India and, in fact, my entire life, unbeknownst to me most of the time.
Years later, with the advent of our online cyberspace, I began researching everything I could find on Babaji. There is a lot out there and much seems contradictory and confusing. However, I’ve come to realize what Babaji stated, “I am no body and no thing.” Yogananda said, “Babaji is beyond human comprehension.” How true! I think the various forms of Babaji attract different kinds of disciples. To those who believe Babaji was a manifestation of Krishna and advocated Kriya yoga, he appears as the long haired image known as Kriya Babaji in Yogananda’s book. To those who believe Babaji is Lord Shiva incarnate, he appears as the two versions of Haidakhan Baba. A photo of Kriya Babaji, as seen in a vision, can be viewed at as well as photos of both old and young Haidakhan Babaji. I am still confused about the Willie Nelson version of Babaji and why nobody seems to know much about this incarnation. I feel that Babaji can manifest any form at will, including animals. It is his message that is important, not the body. This controversy will never be solved by any rational mind. To me, there is only One Living Eternal God in truth, simplicity and love. That is the Babaji and message that I feel in my heart.

Author's Bio: 

Singer/songwriter Rob Rideout is still singing, somehow on a farm overlooking Colville, WA with his three cats Baba, Maya and Olive. He recently published a second book of poetry, based on his song lyrics. The release of his CD of original songs is scheduled for spring 2011.
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