From Ram Dass to Krishna Das, from Trevor Hall to Julia Roberts, from Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg, all of these famous celebrities and business leaders have one thing in common. They have all not only been inspired by Hinduism but by one particular saint – Neem Karoli Baba. Who was this man who captured the interest of so many western celebrities?
Born in a Brahmin family in Uttar Pradesh, India as Lakshmi Narayan Sharma, Neem Karoli baba was referred to as “Maharaj-ji’ by his followers. He was a devotee of Lord Hanuman and a proponent of “Bhakti Yoga” – the Yoga of Devotion. He used to often say – “Sab Ek‘- All is one. His simple and universal teachings of love and service captivated everyone who visited him. He urged one to be truthful and “remember God”. He would also talk about attachment calling it the “strongest block to realisation”. (Ram Dass, 1974)
His teachings were very personalised leaving all those who met him with a deep impression and a life-changing experience. Neem Karoli baba was also believed to have many mystical powers or ‘siddhis’, although his focus was not on miracles but his message of service and Love of God. He had an aura of peace and blissfulness. He used to be often seen repeating the names of “Ram, Ram, Ram”. He did not offer any writings or a systematic approach, but rather simple teachings of bhakti, brotherhood and keeping the mind focussed on God.
“You should not disturb anyone’s heart even if a person hurts you, give him love.” – Neem Karoli Baba
Bhagvan Das, another disciple of Baba, wrote in his spiritual memoir –
“Neem Karoli Baba had opened my heart. All I wanted to do was be with Maharaji, my guru. And Maharaji seemed delighted to see me. I was so happy to be near his body. He had the most beautiful fragrance you’ve ever smelled. It was like the top of a newborn baby’s head. It took me out of my senses.”
Neem Karoli Baba passed away in 1973 and his samadhi is in Vrindavan. His ashram, Kainchi Dham, is located in Uttarakhand on the banks of the Kosi river. He also built many Hanuman Temples at various places. His other Ashrams are at Vrindavan and Rishikesh. His disciples Ram Dass and Larry Brilliant have founded the Seva Foundation to carry forward his humanitarian work.