Going Underground with Pilot Baba


While increasing numbers of Christians see recent hurricanes, earthquakes and wars as signs of the inevitable end times, other religious traditions have a different tack on what needs to be done. WebIndia123 reports from Madhya Pradesh:

A Japanese god woman buried herself alive underground in “Samadhi”, a state of complete meditation in Hinduism, as she prayed on Thursday for world peace and bringing back natural order to earth in times of natural disasters and tragedies affecting the world.

Yogmata Japaki, a Buddhist by birth, was on a strict fast for the past two days, a pre-requisition for attaining “Samadhi”, as she climbed into the 15-feet-deep earthen pit in front of a massive crowd of devotees in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, who prayed and sang in her honour.

Japaki would stay in the underground samadhi for 72 hours without food or water.

The report notes her many supporters, including “Pilot Baba” and Russian “holy man” Henry Giri. It also adds:

It is not the first time that a Japanese god woman is undertaking such an ordeal. During the holy Hindu festival of Maha-Kumbh in Allahabad in 2001 when the largest gathering of mankind at a single place took place, a similar ritual was successfully performed by another Japanese yogi Keiko Aikawa.

Aikawa is also known as Yogmata Kaila Giri, and she runs an ashram in Tokyo; I have been unable to track down whatever Yogmata Japaki’s “secular” name may be. Both women, however, are followers of the aforementioned Pilot Baba, and these burials are a regular feature at the yearly Kumbha Mela festival (click here for a pic of Keiko Aikawa from 1992; page also contains some nudity). The one in 2001 received media attention:

Thousands thronged Tuesday to the camp of an Air Force pilot-turned-ascetic, Mahayogi Pilot Baba, when a Japanese disciple of his emerged out of a “living grave” after 72 hours underground.

Renamed by him as “Yogmata Kaila Giri Ma,” the middle-aged Japanese woman, Keiko Aikawa, had been “buried” eight feet underground on January 20.

…It took some time before “Pilot Baba” could persuade the crowds to maintain order. The “Yogmata” then blessed the enthusiastic crowd, that included several Japanese men and women.

Commencing with a recital of Hindu ritualistic chant of “Om”, followed by the Indian greeting of “namaste”, she spoke in broken English and delivered a message of peace and happiness to the devotees.

Pilot Baba himself got a similar notice on CNN back in 1996:

Pilot Baba, Indian air force officer-turned-yogi, climbed out of a damp hole in the ground Thursday to the cheers of some 10,000 admirers.

…”I had to minimize my breathing and survive without anything. No eating or drinking,” the 57-year-old yoga adept said after his return to the surface.

“Breath is the bridge between the soul and the body. You have to go beyond the mind. The very first thing is to remove the mind.”

Pilot Baba (also known as Kapil Adwait) explains his mission on his website:

His adventures, his teachings have always been different, true to life, more close to life, enabling a common man to know its strength and rise above the mundane living, though living in it. He is on a mission of “WORLD PEACE CAMPAIGN” and has been travelling the world over, teaching and making people experience the art of meditation, the art of Samadhi or the art of Realisation. Its true meaning and sanctity.

The Deccan Herald has further details:

He believes that he was saved from the jaws of death, when he was flying the MIG in the Ladakh region, by the divine intervention of Goraknath Hari Baba.

(I assume this is Goraksanath, one of the five ancient gurus of the Nath cult, which venerates Shiva)

Soon after this incident, Pilot Baba, an officer with the Indian Air Force resigned from the IAF and took sanyas in 1974. He devoted his time and knowledge to mastering the teachings of Goraknath Hari Baba.

…In his new avatar, Baba has undertaken numerous samadhis for world peace in water, in air tight containers and in glass chambers. He believes that world peace is possible only through meditation, collective thought and by praying together. “Success can be achieved through meditation and the power of collective thought,” said Baba.

…Baba has established several Ashrams in Nainital, Haridwar, Jaipur, Tokyo, Bhopal and Guna. He has also worked with Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi for world peace.

He is also president of the Mahayog Foundation, as the website for that organisation explains:

Mahayogi Pilot Baba is Mahamandaleshwar [i.e. sect leader] of the Juna Akhara [a monastic “order”] and a Himalayan Master from a lineage which traces its ancestry to Kripacharya of the Mahabharata.

He has taken jal (underwater) samadhi, bhumigat (underground) samadhi and samadhi in air-tight containers with the sankalpa of world peace and to enliven consciousness. Several of his disciples have also taken bhugarbha or sthal samadhi, at his instance, to promote peace and goodwill.

New Age magazine Enlightenment concentrates more on his supposed miraculous abilities:

…he buries himself underground, encases himself in an airtight glass box, or submerges himself under water-for days or even weeks at a time. Employing an ancient yogic technique that could best be described as a sort of human hibernation-plus, Pilot Baba is purported to be able to voluntarily shut down all bodily functions to the point that he is clinically dead, only to return to life at a pre-specified date and time-a feat that has withstood the scrutiny of at least some Western scientists.

He also claims various miraculous abilities, such as being able to divert a river and a few Jesus-like exploits, such as walking on water and dissipating storm clouds. However, those of a sceptical disposition might note certain features of the following:

It was the middle of last April in the central Indian town of Dewas, and Pilot Baba had again entered into an airtight glass case where he was to remain motionless for four days. In order to prevent the 110-degree desert heat from causing the case to explode, it had been surrounded by curtains which would be drawn back for brief darshan [viewing] periods several times each morning and evening. On the third evening, everything seemed to be proceeding as usual. But at 8pm, when the curtains were drawn open for the third time that night, “a quick hush went over the crowd.” As filmmaker Andre Vaillancourt, who was there to document the event, describes it, “I squinted . . . in order to catch a glimpse of Baba. As the words [of the crowd] came to my ears, the picture came into focus: Baba is gone! Vanished! Dematerialized! Only his orange dhoti [robe] lay on the spot where he sat.”

Particularly unimpressed is the Indian Rationalist Association, whose president, B. Premanand, relates the following:

On October 20th, 1980, Pilot Baba held a religious tamasha of underground samadhi by Khareshwari Baba for 10 days, along with a conference on Vedanta and Ramayana to be followed by a “Panchkundi” Gayatri mahayajna. Lakhs of rupees were collected by Pilot Baba for this. Khareshwari Baba was lowered into a pit of 10 feet deep and 3.5 feet square which could contain only 122.5 cubic feet of air, less the swami’s body. On the 10th day, when the pit was opened, the body of the baba had decomposed as he had died of dehydration, as the maximum time he could have survived in the pit was less than 24 hours unless Pilot Baba had arranged fresh air supply by some method into the pit.

He goes on to write a J’accuse to the yogi:

The death of Khareshwari Baba was a brutal murder by you with the connivance of the government officials and the organisers of your show.

A later report from Rationalist International adds another accusation:

In 1992, Sanal Edamaruku exposed the godman Pilot Baba who claimed that he survived in meditation under water for five days without breathing. Pilot Baba’s under-water feat attracted national and international attention. He constructed a huge swimming pool in a Delhi public park, climbed down in front of a crowd of 4000, ordered water to be pumped in and stayed there underwater for four days. That was at least the claim.

But Edamaruku and his assistants exposed him. They found out that there was a special secret pipeline connection. Though water was pumped in, the tarpaulin-covered pool did not get wet inside, and the Baba had a comfortable time on its dry ground. Four years later, in 1996, he tried it again. This time he claimed to stay for four days buried under the earth. Edamaruku exposed him again in front of television cameras. This time he was sitting comfortably in an underground dug-up room.

We might also question some his “global peace and goodwill” platitudes, if this 2004 account is accurate:

Akharas [Hindu monastic orders] are low profile but some of its leaders are involved in the current nationalist struggle of the ruling BJP. Pilot Baba, an ex air-force pilot who had a divine vision in mid-air during a flight, is a vocal opponent of any compromise in the controversial Ayodhya impasse that has plagued northern India for years. In this small town in Uttar Pradesh, the birthplace of Rama, a fifteenth century mosque was torn down in 1992 by an armed mob of Hindu fundamentalists, connected with the ruling party.

However, an interview in the Hindustan Times (which notes his “makeshift tented palace, which boasts of all comforts of a millionaire’s home”) is rather more conciliatory:

“The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) are good organisations with extremely good manpower for promoting Hindu Dharma, but their agenda against other religions and communities is dangerous for mankind…If the political will had been there, the Ram temple could have been built within 24 hours. The heads of the two warring communities should sit together and sort out all their differences. All political parties want to keep the issue alive, so that they can use it to come back to power’”.

Pilot Baba can also take credit as a bit of a feminist, as this report notes:

The Simhastha Kumbh 2004 has thrown up unexpected surprises.

Perhaps for the first time in Kumbh’s history, female sadhvis [i.e. female ascetics] are breaking the glass ceiling and are coming to their own.

…”Things are changing, but some people refused to let sadhvis rise on grounds of morality,” said Pilot Baba, sadhu.

Nonetheless, the rise in empowerment of women in the secular aspects of life was bound to be reflected in the religious side.

No doubt Pilot Baba’s Japanese follower will emerge from her pit unscathed, as usual. What will, one suspects, be harder to establish is whether she has really done anything to “bring back natural order” to the earth…

(Tipped from The Revealer)