“I also used to go to the Burning Ghat, a square by the bank of the Mula-Mutha River. Hindus burned the dead bodies of their dear ones in that place. The Burning Ghat was easily accessible from the street with the same name. On the left side of the square was the temple dedicated to Chanchal Das Baba. At the entrance his picture was hung on the wall. In the temple there was also a rectangular pit with ashes and a big log which burned slowly. The person in charge of the temple told me that the fire had been kept lit since Chanchal Das Baba’s dead body was burned there. ‘What was special about Chanchal Das Baba?’ I asked him. ‘He was blessed by Lord Shiva. As such, he was very powerful. He used his powers to help the homeless by providing them with food, shelter, and blessings.’
“The temple was austere, with nearly ten small statues of Hindu gods. It looked like a morgue or a place where the dead rest for some time before continuing their journey toward an unknown world. I had seen something similar at Pashupati Temple in Kathmandu where a special indoor area was provided to dying people.
“Outside the temple, an area had been arranged to provide a shelter for the homeless. There were some steps opposite the pits where the dead were placed to be burned. I guessed that the relatives of the dead used to sit on the steps. At night some tramps slept there. In the square, six pits, all of them approximately thirty centimeters deep, were paved with clay bricks and were iron-edged. The square was surrounded by green benches. Some were made of iron and some of cement. At the back of the pits were water taps placed above a tiled washbasin and connected to a tank.
“I don’t know why, but I enjoyed staying at the Burning Ghat. I felt comfortable there. I watched corpses burning for hours, contemplated death and where we are going after death.”
“Sometimes I can’t understand you, Uncle Salvatore. Instead of enjoying the life in the ashram and making friends, you went to the Burning Ghat to watch burning corpses. I have a feeling that you preferred death to life, didn’t you?”
“No, I didn’t. At that time I speculated about life and death. I tried to see whether the burning bodies released a soul or a kind of energy.”
“How can you see the soul with your eyes? It is absurd.”
“I don’t give up trying until I find the answer to my question. It is my shortcoming and merit too.”
“Did you find out anything about life after death at the Burning Ghat?”
“Maybe not, but the horizons of my insight broadened a lot.”
“Let me know what you learned at the Burning Ghat, Uncle Salvatore.”
“Okay. Usually, after a body has been burned, the ashes and a few bones remain in the pit for one or two days. Apparently not all the bones burn out. Then the families of the dead person take away both the ashes and the bones.
“One day, I saw a few men set a corpse inside a heap of wood and cowpat chapati in one of the pits of the Burning Ghat. They poured some ghee on the pyre and started the fire in two different spots. A man dressed in white filled an earthenware pot with water and stood in front of the pyre for a few minutes. With a special tool, someone made a hole in the pot, and the water started to come out. While the water was leaking from the pot, the man walked around the pit clockwise. Then a second and a third hole were made in the pot, and the man walked around the pit twice more while the water kept leaking. Finally, he got back to the starting point and dropped the pot. The leftover water spilled from the broken pot. The man dressed in white squatted down and broke the pot into tiny pieces.”
“What is the meaning of this ritual, Uncle Salvatore?”
“When the funeral was over, I asked the man dressed in white to explain to me the symbolism of the ritual he had performed. ‘I am the eldest son of the dead man. So, it’s my duty to pay funeral honors to my father, but don’t ask me about the symbolism because I don’t know it. I just follow our family tradition. The ritual is transmitted from generation to generation. However, you can ask Rajan, a good friend of mine about it. He is educated and lives just here in the shelter for the homeless,’ he answered.”

This is an excerpt from The Vibrations of Words: second edition by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind



In the London suburb of Southall, religiosity seemed to pervade everything. The Hindu temple was small and housed on the ground floor of a four-storied building. At the entrance, I took off my shoes and put them in a shoe rack. I entered the prayer room and sat down on the floor. Here, women and men were not separated, so everybody could sit wherever they liked. The walls of the temple were covered with typical Indian paintings. There was a very beautiful one representing Krishna in the act of driving Arjuna’s chariot during the battle of Kurukshetra. Many statues and portraits of Hindu deities stood in a semicircle, one close to another. I soon recognized the statue of Ganesh, the Hindu god of good luck with the body of a human being and the head of an elephant. This god was familiar to me because the statue of Ganesh was always set for the ceremony when I worked at the Empire Hotel getting the rooms ready for the weddings between the Indians. Once, I asked one of the wedding guests to tell me something about Ganesh. He said that Ganesh is one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon. His name means ‘Lord of all beings.’ He is the firstborn child of Siva and Parvati. He is short, big bellied, and has four arms. The elephant head has only one tusk. Close to Ganesh there is a little mouse, which symbolizes moderation in eating. It means to leave a small amount of food for the mouse.
Ganesh is considered the god who removes hindrances and brings good luck. He is invoked at the beginning of every job, enterprise, marriage, travel, and so on.
In that temple, the ceremony was performed by chanting. Now and then, they chanted before one of the statues of the gods. A table with fruit and typical sweets was laid at the exit. Before going out, I asked the man behind the table whether there was a guru in that temple.
“What kind of guru?”
“A guru with exceptional powers like Sai Baba,” I answered.
“If you want to see Sai Baba, come here at nine o’clock in the evening next Wednesday.”
“Okay, I’ll come.”
I said goodbye to that man, with the intention of returning for the meeting with the guru.
A week later, I stepped aboard the usual number 105 bus and went to the Hindu temple for the appointment with Sai Baba.
In the middle of the room, a big portrait of Sai Baba stood, surrounded by a flower garland. The Hindus chanted in front of the portrait for a few hours. Was Sai Baba with us in the room? Was his spirit, besides his portrait, among us? Honestly, I don’t know. I can say that not only verbal communication exists, but also non-verbal communication exists, which doesn’t need a physical presence. A few people, with regard to the saints of Catholicism, affirmed that they saw the same figure, at the same moment, but in different places thousands of kilometers away.
When I went back to the Empire Hotel, I talked about this topic with Alexander, a friend of mine from Ukraine, who worked there as a kitchen porter. He was a dear friend, but unfortunately, I lost contact even with him. He was tall with cropped hair and always smiling. Often, I could see him reading a book or a magazine in the canteen. He was proud of having been a seaman in the Soviet Navy. We often talked about spiritual topics. He was well-educated and had read many books about hermits.
“Do you think,” he said, “that the hermits who withdraw from the mundane world to live in the high mountains are really alone?”
“I don’t know.”
“They are not alone indeed. They communicate with other hermits, even if they are a thousand miles away from each other.”
“Maybe the contact with another living being does not need the use of senses. It may happen through the soul, the spirit, the mind…”

This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind