Visit with Kara Patri
By Richard Wright
Inner Culture, November 1936
I quote the following from my notes of Jan. 27, 1936:
The scene is laid near Allahabad at the junction of the Ganges and Jumna Rivers, during the Kumbha Mela, the great gathering of Sadhus and Seekers, held every three and six years.
We next drove down the river bed (Ganges) to the undernourished sacred river. Alighting and treading some distance through the thickening smoke and treacherous sands, we approached a cluster of tiny, very modest straw huts. Suddenly, we drew up before one of these insignificant, temporary huts with its pigmy doorless entrance, the shelter of a young, wandering Sadhu, or mendicant, noted for his exceptional intelligence and capacities, named Kara Patri. There he sat, crosslegged in a pile of straw, his only covering, and incidentally his only possession, being an ochre cloth draped over his shoulders; and this was only temporary, for soon warm days would come.
Truly a divine face smiled at us as we crawled into the hut on all fours and pronamed at the feet of this enlightened Soul, while the kerosene lantern at the entrance flickered weird, dancing shadows on the thatched walls. His face, especially his eyes and teeth, beamed and glistened with the blessing of simplicity and freedom, “doing everything with the searchlight on God.”
Although I was puzzled by the Hindi, his expressions were very revealing, as he was full of enthusiasm, fire, intro-spection, love, happiness, divine glory, freedom, and all the other divine qualities. No one could be mistaken as to his greatness. Imagine the happy life of one unattached to a material life, free of most clothing, wearing only one cloth; free of food craving, never begging; never touching cooked food except on alternate days; no begging bowl; eats only one meal a day generally; free of all money entanglements, never handling money; never storing things away, always trusting in God; free of transportation difficulties, never riding in vehicles, but always walking on the banks of the River Ganges, or others; never remaining in one place longer than one week in order to avoid becoming attached to anything.
Such a modest Soul! free of worldly entanglements and struggles, but unusually learned, having read all the religious Scriptures, the Vedas (very lengthy), Vedanta, and so forth, and with an M. A. degree in four subjects, with the title of “Shastri” (master of Sanskrit) from the Benares University.
A grand feeling pervaded throughout as we sat at this Saint’s feet and listened to his noble expositions. It all seemed to be an answer to my desire to see the real, the ancient India, for he is the true representative of this land of Spiritual Kings. We bade pronam and reluctantly departed from this embodiment of God and Man, grateful for his hospitality and spirit.
And so, if I have not been too vague, you will see that there is something to this world of ours after all. Such men as I have just described come on earth to elevate those of us who are caught in the muck and mire of these passing fancies and pleasures.