Basket of Tolerance “Great Tradition” Series
Neem Karoli Baba – Miracle of Love
Baba Neem Karoli Maharaj was a great Indian yogi-saint of the Himalayan lineage who left his body in 1973. Neem Karoli Baba is also known as Neeb Karori Baba, and is called “Maharaj-ji” by His devotees. Maharaj-ji’s teachings were simple and universal. He often said, “Sub Ek” or “All is One”. He taught us to “love everyone, serve everyone, remember God, and tell the truth.” Strongly connected to Hanuman, the Hindu God in the form of a monkey, Maharaj-ji “taught” in a highly personalized, non-traditional way that reflected the deep devotion of the bhakti path of the heart.
Known as the “Miracle Baba” throughout north India, He manifested many siddhis (powers), such as being in two places at once or putting devotees in samadhi (state of God consciousness) at the touch of a finger. Maharaj-ji is best known for the unconditional love He showered on all who came into His presence as well as those who never met Him in the body but established a connection to him beyond the physical plane.
This is how Maharaj-Ji became known as Neem Karoli Baba, which means the sadhu from Neem Karoli (or Neeb Karori). This was many years ago, perhaps when Maharaj-ji was in his late twenties or early thirties. For several days, no one had given him any food and hunger drove him to board a train for the nearest city. When the conductor discovered Maharaj-ji seated in the first class coach without a ticket, he pulled the emergency brake and the train ground to a halt. After some verbal debate, Maharaj-ji was unceremoniously put off the train. The train had stopped near the village of Neeb Karori where Maharaj-Ji had been living.
Maharaj-ji sat down under the shade of a tree while the conductor blew his whistle and the engineer opened the throttle. But the train didn’t move. For some time the train sat there while every attempt was made to get it to move. Another engine was called in to push it, but all to no avail. A local magistrate with one arm, who knew of Maharaj-ji, suggested to the officials that they coax that young sadhu back onto the train. Initially the officials were appalled by such superstition, but after many frustrating attempts to move the train they decided to give it a try.
Many passengers and railway officials approached Maharaj-ji, carrying with them food and sweets as offerings to Him. They requested that He board the train. He agreed on two conditions: The railway officials must promise to have a station built for the village of Neeb Karori (at the time the villagers had to walk many miles to the nearest station), and the railroad must henceforth treat sadhus better. The officials promised to do whatever was in their power, and Maharaj-ji finally re-boarded the train.
Then they asked Maharaj-ji to start the train. He got very abusive and said, “What, is it up to me to start trains?” The engineer started the train, the train traveled a few yards, and then the engineer stopped it and said, “Unless the sadhu orders me, I will not go forward.” Maharaj-ji said, “Let him go.” And they proceeded. Then Maharaj-ji said that the officials kept their word, and soon afterward a train station was built at Neeb Karori and sadhus received more respect.
He appeared and disappeared for years, being known by different names in various parts of India. His western devotees knew him as Neem Karoli Baba, but to the Indians he was simply Maharajji,” writes Baba Ram Dass of his guru in his book Miracles of Love. Ram Dass, formerly Richard Alpert, Harvard professor of psychology and colleague of LSD guru Timothy Leary, met Neem Karoli Baba in 1967.
Duringthat time, Alpert was quite a firm believer in the mysticism of psychedelic drugs. However, one meeting with Maharajji changed his whole view of life. And after Neem Karoli Baba left his body on September 11, 1973, Ram Dass, along with some other disciples, compiled stories and anecdotes about the sage. The result was Miracles of Love—an attempt, in the words of Ram Dass, “to give Maharajji’s darshan to all”.
Neem Karoli Baba never gave any discourses as such. His mode of teaching was through simple stories and practical examples. Little is known about the saint’s background. He did not appear to belong to any religion. His only message was loving and living in spirit. The enigmatic mystic abused, shouted, lied, even experimented with drugs and had tea with dacoits. But, like the wind, he belonged to no one. In his own words, he was ‘nobody’. What follows are excerpts from Miracle of Love by Ram Dass:
When you finally arrived at the right place at the right time and were told: “Yes, he’s here,” and found yourself seated before him, what was it like? Even the tongues and hands of the gods and goddesses of speech, music and poetry could not do justice to those occasions.
When Maharajji came out, you never knew what to expect. He could do the same thing a week in a row until you’d think: “Well, he’ll come out at 8.00.” Then he might not come out at all that day, or he might just go into another room and close the door and be in there for two days. You had to learn to expect the unexpected.
One day he came out and all he said all day long was “thul-thul, nan-nan,” repeating these words to himself like a mantra. Days went by like this and somebody finally said: “Maharajji, what are you saying?” And it turned out to be an old Bihari dialect and all it meant was “too big, too big, too little, too little”. When he was finally asked why he was saying this, he finally said: “Oh, all you people, you live in the world of judgment. It’s always too big or too little.”
A policeman and a dacoit (criminal) were both once visiting Maharajji. Each was massaging a leg. Maharajji said to the dacoit: “There is a bounty out for you and anyone who brings you in gets a reward. Isn’t that true?”
“I don’t know, Maharajji,” the dacoit replied.
Then Maharajji turned to the policeman and, indicating the dacoit, said: “Do you recognize him?”
Such was his play.
The lessons Maharajji taught about rituals were fraught with paradox that outdistanced the rational mind. He seemed concerned that the rituals be done properly, yet he broke all the rules. But as one devotee said: “When there was work, he would set aside the rituals, and the minute the work was completed, he sent you to do puja.” Perhaps he also broke the rules, such as upsetting the fire ceremony, to show people that the thing itself was not the ritual but the spirit. Do the ritual to tune in, but don’t get caught.
Once, two old men who had taken sanyas after raising families and having done their duties, spent many months at the Kainchi temple (near the hill-station Naini Tal in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh). Maharajji heard them singing “Sita Ram” for several hours each morning. When it was time for them to leave, Maharajji called them in front of him and, in what appeared to be outrage, yelled at them for beating an iron pan in front of the idols. In the scriptures, iron is not to be used in the temples. Maharajji told them that they didn’t know how to behave properly and so he threw them out. As they turned to walk away, Maharajji broke into a grin and sang in a high falsetto voice, sweetly: “You beat the gong, and I threw you out.”
A young fellow once came and Maharajji asked him how he was, and he said: “Oh, Maharajji, I’ve overcome anger.” Maharajji said: “Very good,” and kept praising him. At that time, there was another fellow present who had been asking Maharajji for many years to come to his house, but Maharajji had never come because the boy’s father did not believe in sadhus (ascetics). But now Maharajji suddenly agreed. The whole party went to the boy’s house and Maharajji sat on a cot belonging to the boy’s father.
Then Maharajji leaned over, looked the father in the eye and said in Hindi: “You’re a great saint.” But he used the personal form, which you use only to intimate friends or to people of lower caste. So it was really an insult. The old man got upset but held himself together. A little time passed and Maharajji leaned over once again and said: “You’re a great saint.” The father’s temper was rising by the minute, but he still kept control. A few minutes later, Maharajji said the same thing again. This time the father screamed at Maharajji: “You’re no saint. You just eat people’s food, and take their beds. You’re a phony.”
At this point, the young fellow who had overcome anger leaped to his feet, grabbed the father and started shaking him, saying: “Shut up, you don’t know who you’re talking to. He’s a great saint. If you don’t shut up now, I’ll kill you.” Now Maharajji got up, looked around bewildered and said: “What’s the matter? Don’t they want me here? We should go—they don’t want me here.”
So he got up and started walking out. On his way, he turned to the young fellow and said: “It’s very difficult to overcome anger. Even some of the greatest saints don’t overcome anger.” The fellow said: “But Maharajji, he was abusing you!” “That’s right,” Maharajji said. “But why were you angry?”
Once I (Ram Dass) said: “Why do you feed so many people and why so much? I could eat only four chapattis and still stay alive.” Maharajji answered: “We have an inner thirst for food. We don’t know of it. Even if you don’t feel you can eat, your soul has a thirst for food. Take prasad!”
Maharajji was talking in a room with only a few people, and to one man the talk appeared meaningless. He said: “Babaji, you should give instructions and lessons to people.” Maharajji didn’t answer. “Sometimes,” the man went on, “give us answers and teach us something.” Again Maharajji didn’t answer him. The man repeated his statement a third time. Irritated, Maharajji shouted: “What are instructions? What is this? What are lessons? This is all foolishness!”
Turning to the men standing there, Maharajji asked each how each one would pass the next day. Each man gave a similar reply, saying that he would go to work as usual. Maharajji said: “So many people would pass the day and they’ll all do what they have to do tomorrow and they have all pre-planned it. What is the use of giving a particular teaching? No matter what I say, you’ll still go on and do what you want. Yet you want me to dictate something. These teachings have got no meaning. It is the Almighty who teaches everybody-they all come well-taught.”
Reading the Gita in front of Maharajji, a devotee paused and asked him what was the quickest and shortest method to see God. Maharajji laughed and asked the man if he knew how to swim. The devotee replied that he did. Then Maharajji said that, in that case, he should first bind his arms and legs, tie himself to large boulders and throw himself into deep water. “Then, you’ll see God right away,” he concluded.
Baba Hari Dass, Mouna Yogi
Sri Ram Orphanage is a very beautiful place and a worthy cause to support.It was founded by the “silent yogi”, Neem Karoli disciple Baba Hari Dass
Sri Ram Foundation was created to provide a loving home for orphaned and destitute children in India. In 1976 Sri Ram Foundation began funding Anath Shishu Palan Trust of India. Today Sri Ram Ashram is situated on 16 acres of land in the state of Uttarakhand. In the past 26 years a group of dedicated volunteers sponsored by Sri Ram Foundation has worked tirelessly to build the ashram into a thriving residential home, school and medical clinic.