Excerpt of Teo's Autobiography (English)

Teo Baba 1928-2000

This is an excerpt of Teo Baba's autobiography. It has been edited, reformatted and translated by Marcel Baaijens. The selection of text was based on relevance for use in a documentary about Teo by Marcel Baaijens. The original scanned text as printed by Teo is available on request, should someone be interested. Images by Marcel Baaijens


A young 19-year-old girl
A pretty girl
With melancholy eyes
Wanting to be a singer
A girl's dream

Who spotted whom?
She him, he her, is irrelevant
He almost 30
Black hair combed back
With traveling dog circus

A Boden Lake engagement
With photo as memento
Short lived
She returned to Switzerland
He and his dogs to Czechoslovakia

Barely 20
This girl Lore
Eyes like Lorelei
Melancholy and blue
Became mother
My mother

At 14:21 in Zurich
The 6th of February 1928
Teo came into this world
Without sun
Without love
With a place at his mother's side
Pushed around by strangers
A childhood long

Into a kind of home
With kids who perhaps like me,
Had no parents
Put up for adoption for childless families
Just like me
First they come to look
Then they come to collect
On trial of coarse, never forever

Had to call him “Daddy”, her “Mummy”
Went to school, also Sunday school
Weed the garden path
One winter Mummy bombarded me with snow
I ran to the nearby lake
To surrender to its thin ice, its cold water,
But 'Daddy' was quicker
Back to the house

They gave me up after two years
why I don’t know
maybe there was truth to a rumor
I once heard
That I was not raised as a catholic
In 1936, at the age of eight,
A guardian from Zurich came
To take me by car
From Neideruster to Rathausen

Rathausen once a nunnery
Older than Switzerland
A reformatory
With about 100 boys
80 girls
20 nuns
1 priest, the director
Also a teacher and an employee
Enclosed by a huge wall
Outside farmland it owned

The guardian left
Had to wait for the servant
With such an angry face
So ugly
I was terrified

I had to sit on a chair
With a knife
Hair cut off my head
Clothes upstairs
Patched clothes for weekdays
Green clothes for Sundays
Gray clothes for holy days

All boys with shaved heads
All boys in green clothes
All boys and girls, behind 4 walls
A childhood long
Shaved heads, green clothes, behind 4 walls
Like a penitentiary

Here I was
In a penitentiary for kids
For 12 years

Daily routine:
Get up at 6
Do chores
Breakfast: two cups of coffee, one piece of bread
From eight to twelve: school
Lunch: soup, potatoes, vegetables
Break till one
Tea: 2 cups of coffee, a piece of bread
Free till eight
Then inspection and punishments by the director
After that bedtime

Wednesday and Saturday afternoons
Also during holidays
Work in the garden
Cut and split wood
Work on the land
Make hay and more

Such as
In springtime
Walking in rank and file
Through the fields
To pick up sticks and stones
Followed by the angry servant
Until he would find a stick or stone
Beaming with joy
Looking for the sinner
Who overlooked this stick or stone?
Ordered him over
Giving him a kick
As he bends over
To pick up
The overlooked stick or stone

Talking while getting up
At the table or in the kitchen
Disobeying the nuns
Not cleaning properly
And other similar acts
Would be punished in your spare time
For every crime
Kneeling a quarter of an hour
Arms stretched out in front
Get tired or lower your arms
And they will be beaten
By the angry-faced servant
With a stick

In about 1939 they system changed
From then on
The director checked every night
Us sitting at the table
The nuns verkliken
This one here, he talked at the table
That one there, did not listen
Those 'guilty' stayed
Others off to bed

Those who stayed
Had to lie on the table
One after the other
Enduring beatings
Followed by a handshake
Wishing 'goodnight'
A 'thank you' for the beatings
If not he would continue beating
Till you would say “ thank you Sir”

One night
I would never forget
One night
One of the boys felt the urge
To spend a lover's hour with a girl
But unfortunately one girl wakes up
Sees and hears the pair
Begins to scream
Maybe out of jealousy
All girls wake up
The nuns too
Even the night
In the morning light
They spot the boy with the girl
Recognise them before he escaped

The following night
I had to wait for beatings
With three, four others
But not without reason
The director, who was also a priest
Waited with beating and constantly watched the door
Till it opened

Two nuns came in
In between them the girl
Whose lovers-hour was interrupted?
A girl so tender and beautiful
So terribly vulnerable
This poor soul stands there
The director, who was also a priest
Grabbed the reed, this flexible stick
Walked over to the girl
This tender, vulnerable girl
And began to beat her

And beat her
And beat her
On her head, arms, legs, tummy, back
Wherever he could and
This tender beautiful girl
Could no longer stand
Was carried out
The nuns mumbled
Holy wrath it was

The girl was barely gone
When the doors opened again
The angry servant and teacher entered
In between them the boy
His lovers-hour unfinished

A boy not tender and vulnerable
But strong and proud
Stood there, without fear
Close to the door

The director, who was also a priest
Grabbed the stick to beat the boy
Then the boy says
“You lousy dickhead”
And ran away
Followed by all
We stood there
No one said a word
Waiting for the beatings
I am terrified
Would he beat us half dead too
With his holy wrath

Finally he returns
The director, who was also a priest
We lie on the table
One after the other
Receive the beatings
Shake hands
Say our line
“Good night Sir”
And go to sleep
This boy was never seen again

There were claws in the school
A slap with a ruler on your hand
Or slap in the face
Which I hated
Without control
Like a reflex
My hand would make a fist
Punched with full force
Right on the chest of the nun
She started to cry
Since then I enjoyed peace

Sundays walks were punishment to me too
In rows of four
In green clothes
With shaved heads
Walking through the villages
Everyone knew where we came from

As soon as I arrived at this penitentiary for kids
I had learn all about sins
A book full with all possible sins
I had to learn, but did not understand
So I asked around what are this and that
What are mortal sins?

They explained all
Including what one can do
Alone or with others
With the hanging limb
That often rises
That put me right among sins
Quite liked them too
Then confessing all my sins
Especially mortal sins

The old priest from the neighbouring village
Was not too happy with me
I did the mortal sin too often
Without any signs of improvement
He already threatened me a few times:
“Not sure if I can give you absolution for your numerous sins”

I tell another boy
“Leave this confession box, go to the next”
Was his advice, so?
Next time I went to the old priest
Who said?
“Not sure if I can give you absolution...”
So off I went to the next
Which was the vicar who I liked
Next evening I had to come to the vicarage
Obediently I showed up

Had to undress straight away
Kneel for the Lord on the cross
And received on my thighs
Front and back
Soft slaps with a ruler
He stared at me forever
Specially down there
With a calendar as gift
I could go back to the penitentiary for kids

Three, four times per year
For a few days only
A brother came,
Like sunshine in our joyless existence
From where he came, which country
We did not know
Did not matter really
We loved him
With his love and cheerfulness
He had us boys, without any trouble
In the palm of his hand

He came at teatime
To hand out bread
One piece for each boy, as usually
There were two, three pieces to many
When he raised one in the air
We all screamed with one voice “me, me, me!”
He handed out the last pieces
Left with an empty basket
Returned with a full one
We all got another piece
A whole piece
A saint
All because of a piece of bread

I was always hungry
Lunch and three pieces of bread daily
Were not enough?
No surprise then
That my mind cried
From where more bread

When it was my turn
One night till twelve
To be on night duty
For bed wetters
Who were hooked up to electric wires?
Fitted in between two sheets of tin
Which, as soon as you piss, make contact
Ring a bell
Drop a number
So one knows who is pissing
Is woken up
Properly documented
At what time it happened

There I was in the hallway
Waiting and hungry
And my mind cried
From where more bread
Or something better
The answer came before midnight
Go to the kitchen
Although behind double oak doors
Well locked
There was a weak spot
The little door in a wing
Only closed with a latch
I was determined
To go to the kitchen one day
Not alone but with two

One night, everyone in bed
I went to the kitchen
Was lucky
Door still open
Quickly turned the latch
Hid in a corner
The nun comes out
Closes the latch
But goes away to fetch the keys
I run back, open the latch
Then sitting at the table upstairs
Like a good boy
Waiting for those who piss
Till midnight

I fetch the other boy
Together we go in the kitchen
The latch still unlocked
The door however, squeaked and groaned so loudly
In this old nunnery, at this ghostly hour
That we expected the whole house to wake up
Finally the door was open
We crawled through and stood
In the spic n' span kitchen
No leftovers to be found
Not even bread
We continue to look
Find a pantry
Door locked
Then two windows
Which opened, not far
Just enough for us though

Behind the window a table
With low dishes full of milk
No space for our feet
To get to inside
So we waded from dish to dish
And stood in fool's paradise
Then a cupboard with jam
Which we saw only on special occasions
Then lots of sugar cakes
Like the ones for Christmas

We ate and ate
From jam and sugar cakes
Till I went down the stairs
I could not believe my eyes
There were three big cakes
Real pretty decorated with icing
Never did I see the likes of that in my life
Not even those tasted

We ate from the first cake
It melted in our mouths
We ate from the second one
With chocolate filling
So yummy, a kids dream
We ate from the third cake
Also very good, but
We were full

So, back through the milk
The window
The loud squeaky door
The sleep of the satisfied ones
The sleep of a happy child
Till the next morning
Barely up gossip spread
Not sure who done it

Then breakfast
The eternally starving me, was full
Gave my bread to others
The other boy too, but
Unfortunately the nun noticed
“Got ya!” and was pissed off
Said the other boy after breakfast
“Something is brewing, the nun's pissed off,
And when the director finds out we will be beaten,
Like the tender girl

The storm blew over
But when some days later
The Fritschivater came
For whom the cakes were
We were locked in darkness

Every year St. Nicholas comes
Also to the penitentiary for kids
Dressed like a bishop
Carrying the book of sinners
Then his helper Rupert
With bag and rod
And lots of soot
To blacken the kids

We sit at the table
Waiting for things to come
The big book open
Nicholas begins to read
Named of sinners, the offence
Often funny, often not
Often having to come up front
Or the least rise

Names being called
One after the other, then
“Teo come forward”
Stood in front of St. Nick who says:
“‘Coz you're always hungry
Rupert will give you a bowl of milk rice”
Rupert brings this rice
With his black hands
But the fun didn't last long
Barely did I have the bowl in my hand
One spoon in my mouth
When Rupert smears this precious rice
In my face and on my head
The whole hall laughs
I have to go and wash

Every year the fairytale in the city theater of Luzerne
I look forward to it every year
Such a different world
Where the fairytale becomes reality
And the impossible possible is
Where angels protect children
Where children turn into princesses and princes
Were adults who do not love children?
Are punished or even killed
I sit there spellbound
Sympathise with Cinderella
Side with Hans and Gretel
And really enjoy the moment
When the belly of the bad wolf is cut open

After the fairytale home again
To the penitentiary for children
Where reality bitter is
The impossible not possible
Children unprotected by angels
Where children are beaten
Where people who do not love children
Go unpunished

Drognes, reformatory for big kids
Without a surrounding wall
However it was forbidden to go into the villages
So still a penitentiary
A penitentiary for big kids
Run by brothers an sisters
The guardian took me here
At age 17, to learn a trade
Working from morning till evening
Were you industrious and well behaved?
Six franks per month
If not, less or nothing,
Only on paper of course

I always wanted to get sick
So I cold sleep for days and nights
But I was always healthy
I tried allsorts, nothing worked
Lie in the snow in pajamas
Swim with clothes on
When water was frozen
Sit in draughts and more
But I never got sick

Asked other boys for advise, till one said
“Real simple, drink horse piss, that will surely help”
I begged him help me out
Bring a full bottle
After a few days
He delivered
It wasn’t horse piss
But would help too
A liquid filthy and yellowish
With a stench to make you vomit
I held my nose
Took two sips
More was impossible
Would have thrown up
And would not get sick
Which started some hours later

I went to the nurse
Called sick
He took my temperature and put me in bed
In the sick room with some others
Finally I could sleep and sleep
In between chat and listen to the radio
The doctor gave me medicine

The next day we had to make room for other sick boys
Had to leave the sick room
The dream was over
Back to the dormitory
With 30 beds on one
As equally many on the other side

There I sat with my medicine and a bad mood
Take all my medicine at once
After half an hour back again
With the nurse in the sick room
Sicker than before
Wanted to give me more medicine
“ Oh no, ate it all”
Then back upstairs,
It was Wednesday evening
Back in bed I slept, and slept
Till Sunday morning
Felt better than ever before
Back into the daily grind
Soon after I left with certificate
The penitentiary for big kids

I entered the big world
With a trade and little money
Worked here, there and everywhere
Never for long

One director said to me
You should become self-employed
You will never get used to routines
You will have 100 jobs
And loose 100 jobs
So I tried to become self-employed
Began to paint without any income
An artist's fate

This night, as always in the restaurant
But with a bad mood
Drank some wine to forget about the daily grind
On the table a box with saridons
Drinking glass after glass
A friend arrives,
We drink together

During the conversation
He takes the box in his hand
Plays it from one hand to the other
Opens it, closes it, then
From one hand to the other again
While we are drinking my bad mood worsens
To the size of an elephant
Grabbed the box of saridons
Ate all ten, did not care about what would happen
The other again
Plays with the box
From one hand to the other
Opens it, closes it and.
“Before the box was full,
Now it's empty, where are they?”
“In my stomach”, “are you crazy?”
Two of them drag me outside
Put fingers down my throat
Till there was nothing left to vomit
Took me home, put me in bed
I body was paralised
Could not move nor speak
Only see and hear
When I woke up the next day
I was reborn

Once I traveled to Ticino
Rented a house
In Maggia valley up a hill
For little money

Teo's house, now a holiday house.

For days I read a book: 'three pillars of Zen'
Barely closed a girl came in
“Just mediate what 'Mu' is?” I said
“I don't want to know” and off she went
Next time she came I said
“Just mediate on 'who am I'” I said
“I don't want to know” and she as off again
I did not know what else to say
The book did not help either
When the girl came again I said:
Meditate on what love is”
She found that interesting and left
I was alone at home,
Perhaps she would do it
If so, questions would come
To which I would not have an answer
So I began to meditate on what love is
First about things I like
Evenings reviewing the day
What I loved about it, for months

Teo in front of his house in Ticino.

Someone came by
With the holy Hindu script
Gita, the divine chant
I was not interested
But it lay on the table, open
I mixed my tobacco in it
Till it stained the page
Unintended, while mixing
I read some sentences
Which slowly began to have effect

Words from God I thought
Should be read seriously
Without religion I was neutral
So I read this book seriously
Much I did not understand
Much was familiar
One day a visitor said
“Don’t just meditate what love is,
Meditate on what love thy neighbour is”
I took his advice and the Gita
Discovered that every holy script
Is only useful; when you live it
Whoever embodies it can talk about it
Others should remain silent

First I only painted portraits, then
Without trying to follow any fashion
Shapes began to develop
Intertwined, ornamental, surrounded with lines
That would melt into one line
With these paintings to the Zurich Christmas Exhibition
Stood, because they were mine, a bit back
To see if anyone would look
Not many did, and
“Are you painting carpets now?” and more
I had to listen to
I was totally disillusioned

Shortly after
With watercolours on the table
Which I bought each year
But never mastered
I sat in the room, was in a bad mood
Painting many years without any success
Only few people like my paintings
One painter among thousands
With that mindset I walked to the table
Began to fill the page randomly
Who cares, they don't sell anyway
I could not belief my eyes
An image appeared
So beautiful, like seldom before
Painted a second, a third
For days on end, so beautiful

One day, as I sat on my bed
My room filled with a thick liquid
Higher and higher
A voice said
“This is the amount of work you've done”
The liquid disappeared,
a new one came
“this is the amount of sleep”
the liquid dissapeared, a new one came
“This is the amount of money you have”
the liquid disappeared, a new one came
filling the room till mylegs
“so much fun you had”
after some time the voice asks:
“for whom was all this”
You can't lie to yourself
“All for myself” I thought
The same voice asks
“What did you do for others?”
Then it was gone
I was left behind in deep thought

What can I do, I own nothing
Sell all paintings, should such be possible
It may raise one million
A good school with houses I could build
Then all money gone
Barely a drop in the ocean
For weeks I wondered what else I could do
Till the insight came
I can ask God to help me

I began to test the insight
Real or not, till I found an example
Franciscus and others, full of deeds,
As individual blessed by God
So I began to believe in God again
With that in place, I tried to love God, but
What does it mean to love God?
Till I knew, love mankind
That’s how you love God

Bought a book once
“Buddha's words”, read it
One sentence somewhere read
Let go of desires
I thought long
Wanted to know, which desires I had
Found about ten
But found it hard to let go
Till the insight came
Making it real easy
Nine were left
Letting go of the smallest
Eight left, seven, six, down to two
Then time to let go of the hardest of all: sex
Thought, impossible, but I was surprised
Managed for years
Saved a lot of money, had more time to meditate
Understood why Jesus took his disciples away from their families
Learned that not so pretty people often
Wonderful people are and lots more,
Thanks Buddha

My hometown, on the lake
With its churches and squares, many pretty spots,
A nice city
If only the people were as nice
My hair an inch longer than others and sideburns
Twenty years in Zurich, not a day without
One or more people telling me:
“Scum, get a haircut”
Sometimes they even gave me the money
With which I bought drinks
I also had to put up with:
“People like you should be killed”
I was often in other countries
But nowhere did I meet such angry people as in Switzerland
Like police, constantly watching what others are does
And when they find a fault
They become the judge
Speak ill behind your back
Often right in your face too, angry
These people

Despite all the good times
I did not want to live any longer
In a country where I am never loved
Always made a scapegoat, for 24 years
Absolutely everything was dark
No ties left
Sold my house and car had some money
And was determined
To commit suicide
With the money a last trip
The rest I would leave at home to
Do the deed somewhere on my return

Teo and Jonas, from Teo's scrapbook.

I took Jonas along, because of his independence, intelligence
Lack of fear and English spoke
On 28th December 1972 we boarded a train
Traveled through Switzerland, Austria, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria to Istanbul


The next day I saw the blue mosque for the first time
Such power such radiance
Such a contrast to its
Calm and peaceful interior
Muslims praying up front
Leaving the mosque when done
An old white-haired Muslim comes to Jonas
Hugs and kisses him

Interior Blue Mosque

After many years
I wanted to pray again
The many tourists obstructed me
So I hid behind the room sized pillars
Out of sight
Kneeled and worshipped God
I heard singing

A Muslim with a green turban came to me
Kneeled in front of me, took my hands with his
Looked me in the eyes
His eyes began to glow light, so bright
I can only explain it with these words:
I aw God in his eyes
Then he searched all his pockets for money
Found some, his last 5 liras
And gave it to me
Me with lots of money in my pocket
Didn’t want it, but he insisted
Raised his finger to heaven and said “Allah”
I cried, I was so moved by this experience
Outside a man passed
With his head and back at right angles
I went over to him
Gave him the gifted money and said “Allah”
He was happy, me too
From that moment I intended
To gift, just like the Moslems in the mosque

We sailed by boat to the other side, where Asia begins
By train again to Teheran
From Teheran by plane to Bombay

The sun rose while flying, just before India
Wherever I looked; gold, gold, gold
Then we landed

Customs were all very friendly
Something new for me
Outside a policeman saluted us

After two days I wanted to visit an Indian temple
I was told to visit Mahalaxmi
In a big park with wonderful trees
Along the road were statues of deities,
Whose name I didn't know
On getting closer
Every single one smiled at me
Inside the temple a Hindu gave me flowers
Some water and a sweet
From Goddess Mahalaxmi, Goddess of luck
Three golden heads on the altar, all three smiled at me

Back outside a Sadhu gave us a ticka
Three kids came running towards us
Begging for money
I had three rupees in my hand
Then my mind does the thinking instead of my heart
Only give one rupee and throw it in the air
I walk on with one child following me
It begs and begs for some money
But like a Swiss law I stuck to my 'no'
A 'no' is a 'no' and will stay a 'no'
The child began to curse me
I gave it a half rupee
Was half satisfied and blessed me
For weeks I thought about how hard I was
I began to hand out rupees thinking
If I had no food
I would be pleased to receive some
One rupee is enough to buy rice and lentils

Vijayavada, a lovely town
Situated on a hill, next to the Krishna River
Dammed upstream like a lake, flowing in three arms below
At night we stroll the streets
Across a bridge onto a square
To a small bamboo temple
With a friendly priest inside
He gave blessings after prayers
And asked for some money to build a temple
I gave him a large sum
He asked us to return tomorrow
We could stay in the temple
As long as we wanted
I liked the exchange
As I had only enough rupees to pay for a hotel
A strike had closed all banks
I owned plenty of money but had none

A boy fetched us in the morning
Took us to the temple
Baba, as the priest was called, welcomed us
We sat near his unknown Deity
Two women came
Bowed right down to the floor for us
Gave each of us an apple
We were given a room in a Krishna monastery
Had a room with balcony
We sat there and smoked
I felt very happy
Later Jonas went inside
What a pity I thought
It’s so nice outside

Baba, image from Teo's scrapbook.

Next day at the temple Baba said to me:
“Yesterday Jonas went inside to pray”
I was totally flabbergasted, how did he know?
I had this thought in Swiss German
Then I thought by myself how nice it would be
If I never had to go back to Switzerland
The next day Baba said
“I you don't want to, you shouldn't”

One night with many Indians in the temple
Baba pointed at me and told the crowd
“One day he will bring many million dollars”
And started to dance in front of his deity

One day he stood in front of me in the temple
Prophesised the future and told his followers
“One day he will be a big Baba”

Another time I asked Baba if he could ask God
If I was allowed to smoke dope
He immediately went in front of his deity
Eye half closed, in trance
After about 10 minutes turned to me and said
'God says you can smoke dope and cigarettes too”

Another thought popped in my head
To let go of all the money
As before, just a thought in Swiss-German
That night in the temple filled with Hindus
Baba says to me in front of everyone
“If you ant you can give all your money”
So I take the money and give it to Baba and said
“In the box” that no one could have heard
But all went 'oh' and 'ah'
I let it all go, had no money left
Not one cent

It was a wonderful time at Baba's
I was floating
One day a poor man came to me and said:
“We love people like you”
Never before had I heard those words
They were ointments on my wounded soul
Deep down I thought
When there are people who love me
Then I should not commit suicide

On Shivaratri, Shiva's night I fell ill
Became apathic and weak
By bus we went to Venkatrao
Baba wanted to put me in this monastery
For ever
So I never had to go back to Switzerland
But I did not want to burden the people in my condition

I got worse, suffered from really bad stomach cramps and diarrhea
Lost weight, lots of kilos, only 64 left
Next day Baba gave us a ticket
“Change at the next station, there a reserved seat will be waiting for you
He gave us an envelope with money
“From an unknown God” he said
Helped us find a seat
Slowly he disappeared out of sight
We changed at the next station
Jonas ran from one carriage to the next
To find the reserved seats
I was weak and waited
“We will never get in, we have a third class ticket, all full,
Not even space for our feet”

I was too weak to stand, sat down and began to pray
Three policemen came,
Kindly helped me getting up
Took me to the train, ordered the door to be opened
The train began to move
The policemen moving alongside
Gently shoved me inside
I was in, all seats taken
Sat in a corner on the floor
Was happy to sit down

A priestess and priest were sharing one bench
While praying constantly
He looked at me, away, at me
For some time
He gestures me to come over
The priestess vacates her seat
Goes on the upper bunk
The priest follows
Giving us two seats, the reserved seats

I was thinking, a Hindu priest helped me
Did what Jesus preached
His action touched me deeply
I realised a mistake a made back then
To throw out Jesus with the church
I now saw that Jesus was not guilty
His words still pure, felt love for him again

When the priestess and priest left the train
I saw them out
A crowd was waiting for them
They invited us, but the priest declined
He is very ill,
Better he travels to doctor in Delhi

I thanked them for all their love
And all they had done for us
The priestess came over
Kneeled in front of me
Right to the ground
Kissed my feet and with a big gesture
Blessed me all over
Then they left

In Delhi I went to the Swiss embassy for help
“We could lock you up and cut your hair”
Was what the Swiss had to say
After three days I said goodbye to Jonas
And flew back to Zurich

All went dark
Was called scum so often
By people I 'd never seen before
That I thought by myself
“If no-one loves me, why should I carry-on living?”
I still had the money to go somewhere,
To commit suicide

Then I remembered the poor man who told me
“We love people like you”
Thoughts came and went
It became darker and darker

But a new thought entered my mind
“What would happen if I give everything away like Buddha?”
Don’t know anyone who has done that
Priests and monks are giving robes
A room, food and some even money
Well then, to find out I had no other choice
But do it myself

I gave an artist the content of my house
Took a bag with the last of my money
Bought a one-way ticket
Non-stop to Nepal, to follow Buddha's path


I sat around the wonderful city of Kathmandu
For two three weeks, often near the Narein pagoda
Where angel Garuda kneels with praying hands
I thought by myself, if I stay here to long
I will have no money left
I saw the angels praying hands when an insight came
All I needed to do was pray

I went to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha
To Kushinagath, where he died
On to Sarnath, where he first preached
I visited the temples and prayed
Ended up in Varanasi
Where I love sitting on the steps
Watch the holy Ganges
All the human activities
And the vast plains in the background

I asked a Hindu to take an envelop with money
To the golden temple for the poor
We went together
He went in, I stayed outside
He returned with a string of flowers
Put it round my neck, took me to a small window
To peek inside the temple
I saw a never-ending shower of flowers
My companion said:
“God often stands outside”

He took me to a holy man
What makes one holy, how do they look?
In his room stood a bed
On which he was seated
Many people sitting left and right
A fan providing some cooling
Saints don't need that
Next to his bed stood some boys
Who started to laugh when they saw me, and then left
This holy man on his bed, just like others
But with light in his eyes, which he raised at me
With love and said
“Excuse me, they don't know who you are”
I bowed and left the room
A holy mans says that to me?

Then continued by bus to the Dalai Lama
Sat with the lovely, peace loving Tibetans
After ten days it was time to do
What I came to for, to know:
“What happens when you give everything away”?

I went with the last of my money in an envelope to the temple
Wrote on it that its content is destined for the Dalai Lama
For his people in need
I laid the envelope in front of the White Tara
Prayed for a while and left
Now I had only a few rupees left, enough to last two, three days
When a voice said: “you did not give everything”
I bought a Kati
Wrapped the money in it
An went that night to a small temple

Left in front was wooded Green Tara
I went up to her, out the last bit of money in her lap
Stayed a while and looked the Green Tara in her eyes
And said to God:
“I have given everything away,
Now its up to you, I am done”
The Green Tara lit up
The last gift radiated brightly in her lap
I went back to my hotel
A small girl stood in front, as if waiting for me
Shook my hand and disappeared in the night

There I stood, with nothing, in a strange land
Without a house, food and it's language
Perhaps I fall ill, starve to death
Get bitten by snakes, eaten by predators
Whatever would be?
There I stood, at 45, with nothing
A suicide, yet alive

I got up, room gone, money for tea or food gone
So I began, as Buddha said, to beg for alms
But only from tourists
Some gave, others didn't
Some changes sidewalks when they saw me
An Italian couple allowed me to stay a few nights
Gave me some food now and then as well
Then I met seven, eight Spaniards who said
You can have our room
Has been paid for for 2 weeks

I came across this bench and thought
This one was made for me, I will stay right here
It got dark, and started to rain
I said to God
“If it is your will to get sick, so be it”
The rain intensified and again I said:
“If it is your will to get sick, so be it”
It rained even harder
I was soaked
And just as I was about to say again
“If it is Your will...”
I remembered I had been offered a free room
And a voice said:
“God gave you this room, it is not his will that you lie in the rain and get sick”

Some days later an Italian came by and said
“I heard you are a painter”
I explained: “if you have seen the beauty of people, flowers and nature
So you will know that no hand, no colour can ever express such beauty”
But he did not buy into that
Took me to a shop, bought paint, brushes and paper
Gave it to me and said: “ get on with it”
This was my cue to start painting again
Every day I painted
Always the Green Tara first

Whenever I was in town
People invited me for food, a cuppa tea
I never asked, tourists came to me
Some gave me money
Others brought me food

Once I walked to the next village
Suddenly everything turned white
I watched for clouds, but there were none
Then the face of the Dalai Lama appeared
Whiter than white
I stopped and looked
Thought it precious that he wore his glasses too
I rememberd a book that said
“When you meet Buddha, so what, nothing special
Just carry on”

My visa as finished, my room too
When a German came and gave me 200 rupees
Sufficient to go to Delhi
To see if there is a ticket for me
If so then back to Switzerland, if no
It will be enough to get back here
In Delhi I went to Swiss Air
“Just wondering if you might have a ticket for me”
To which a woman replied
“Yes we do” she is kind and friendly
And shows me a telex, I received help from Bombay
With one bag but no shoes
I returned to Switzerland, with nothing
I was back in my mountain house, alone

Not far in the forest is a chapel
Two meters high, one meter deep, no roof
Some frescoes fragments left and right
The remnants of an angel in the back, which
At the slightest touch would crumble
One, two months and the chapel would collapse
My painting also

I started painting at noon
Stood at the wall, brush in my hand
I spoke to Christ and said:
“I have never seen you, please show you face
So I can portray you
My hand is painting
I pray while I observe how Jesus' face manifests
So sweet, so sad at the same time
The hand continues with His body
By accident I step on a tube of ochre
The paint on the floor
Determined I take it unmixed
And it shapes the cross
It’s ready, so beautiful
The farmers were pleased too
One fixed the roof wit stone slabs
The chapel was saved

I sold 10,000 franks worth of paintings
Someone bought me a ticket
To give the money away
On arrival in Delhi I changed all the money
Bought a first class 14-day rail pass
Just to be safe
Could hop on and off without any problems
At seven I arrived in Calcutta
Went to the house of Mother Theresa
To give her a quarter of the sum
As a gift for her people in need

In Varanasi I went to the Golden Temple
Where it rained flowers
Gave the second quarter to Krishna
For his people in need

Back to the Tibatans in Daramsalah
Such kind and friendly folk
Went to say hello to the Green Tara
But she was no longer there, I was sad
Went to the secretary of His Holiness The Dalai Lama
Gave him the third quarter for Buddha
For his people in need

Then with my rail pass
On its last day of validity, back to Varanasi
I still had the last quarter of the money
Destined for the Muslims in Istanbul
But my ticket did not allow me to stop there
So I decided to go to Nepal
Met two sadhus there
Who advised me to donate food?
With two other sadhus we cooked all day
And served the poor that night
It was a great success
That I continued to cook
For the next five days

Feeding the poor, image from Teo's scrapbook.

The last quarter for the poor I distributed that way
I gave the Muslims a symbolic gift
To bring them the money later
Then back to my little house
In the mountains
With nothing

A passerby bought two more paintings
Now I had the money for the last quarter
For the blue mosque
Boarded a bus for heading for Istanbul
Explained the imam that the gifting started here
That I have come to honour Allah and
The gesture of the five liras
Gave him the money
In the honour of Allah for his people in need

Maggia Valley, North of Locarno, Ticino (Tessin), Switzerland

Then back to Tessin, with nothing
Where it all turned dark again
Many did not love me
One day a pamphlet was posted
Which said: it would be best for everybody
To rid ourselves of such parasites and pseudo artists

Thus I flew to Nepal
At age 55
Out of Switzerland, which had never been home

Meggie Restaurant, "Freak Street", Kathmandu, where Teo lived.

Back in Nepal, in Kathmandu
Among people who loved me
Warts and all
Greeted me, whenever they saw me
Smiled at me with their wonderful eyes

Reflecting the light of Soul
Such wonderful people
A new experience for me
My wounded soul
Began to heal
Gain strength

Been here for 5 years now,
Painted about five hunderd paintings
All eyes, eyes of Nepal
Eyes of Goddesses, Gods and people.


Teo was 60 when he completed his autobiography. By then he had donated over 135,000 Swiss Francs.He continued living in Kathmandu a supporting orphans and the poor till his death at age 72 of cancer.

A Tulsi Tree planted by Teo Baba on Basanthipur square in Kathmandu still stands today.