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Neem Karoli Baba

Neem Karoli Baba also known to his followers as 'Maharaj-ji', was a Hindu guru and a devotee of the Hindu deity Hanuman. He is known outside India for being the spiritual master of a number of Americans who traveled to India in the 1960s and 70s, the most well-known being the spiritual teachers Ram Dass and Bhagavan Das, and the musicians Krishna Das and Jai Uttal. His ashrams are in Kainchi, Vrindavan, Rishikesh, Shimla, Neem Karoli village near Khimasepur in Farrukhabad, Bhumiadhar, Hanumangarhi, and Delhi in India and in Taos, New Mexico, United States.

Neem Karoli Baba, known at the time as Baba Lakshman Das was born around 1900 in the village Akbarpur in Firozabad district of Uttar Pradesh, India, to a wealthy Brahmin family. After being married by his parents at the age of 11, he left home to become a wandering sadhu. He later returned home, at his father's request, to live a settled married life. He fathered two sons and a daughter.

Neem Karoli Baba left his home in 1958. Baba Lakshman Das boarded a train without a ticket and the conductor decided to halt the train and force Neem Karoli Baba off of the train at the village of Neem Karoli, Farrukhabad district (U.P). After forcing Baba off the train, the conductor found that the train would not start again. After several attempts at starting the train, someone suggested to the conductor that they allow the sadhu back on to the train.

Neem Karoli agreed to board the train on two conditions: 1) the railway company promise to build a station at the village of Neem Karoli (at the time the villagers had to walk many miles to the nearest station), and 2) the railway company must henceforth treat sadhus better. The officials agreed and Neem Karoli Baba boarded the train joking, "What, is it up to me to start trains?" Immediately after his boarding the train, it started, but the train drivers would not proceed unless the sadhu blessed them to move forward. Baba gave his blessings and the train proceeded. Later a train station was built at the village of Neem Karoli. Baba lived in the village of Neem Karoli for a while and was named by locals.

Thereafter, he wandered extensively throughout Northern India. During this time he was known under many names, including: Lakshman Das, Handi Wallah Baba, and Tikonia Walla Baba. When he did tapasya and sadhana at Vavania village of Morbi in Gujarat, he was known as Tallaiya Baba. In Vrindavan, local inhabitants addressed him by the name of Chamatkari Baba ("miracle baba"). During his life two main ashrams were built, at Kainchi and at Vrindavan. In time, over 100 temples were constructed in his name.

The Kainchi Dham ashram, where he stayed in the last decade of his life, was built in 1964 with a Hanuman temple. It started two years prior with a modest platform built for two local sadhus, Premi Baba and Sombari Maharaj to perform yagnas. Over the years the temple, situated 17 km from Nainital on the Nainital-Almora road, has become an important pilgrimage for locals, as well as spiritual seekers and devotees worldwide. Each year, on June 15, the Kainchi Dham Bhandara takes place to commemorate the inauguration of the temple, a celebration that typically receives over a lakh (100,000) of devotees.

Neem Karoli Baba was a lifelong adept of bhakti yoga and encouraged service to others (seva) as the highest form of unconditional devotion to God. In the book Miracle of Love, compiled by Ram Dass, a devotee named Anjani shares the following account:

There can be no biography of him. Facts are few, stories many. He seems to have been known by different names in many parts of India, appearing and disappearing through the years. His non-Indian devotees of recent years knew him as Neem Karoli Baba but mostly as “Maharajji.” Just as he said, he was "nobody". He gave no discourses; the briefest, simplest stories were his teachings.

Usually, he sat or lay on a wooden bench wrapped in a plaid blanket while a few devotees sat around him. Visitors came and went; they were given food, a few words, a nod, a pat on the head or back, and they were sent away. There was gossip and laughter for he loved to joke. Orders for running the ashram were given, usually in a piercing yell across the compound. Sometimes he sat in silence, absorbed in another world to which we could not follow, but bliss and peace poured down on us. Who he was was no more than the experience of him, the nectar of his presence, the totality of his absence, enveloping us now like his plaid blanket.

Baba would say that attachment and ego are the greatest hindrances to the realization of God and that “a learned man and a fool are alike as long as there is attachment and ego in the physical body.” He would advise people to surrender to God's will above everything else so that they might develop love and faith in him and thereby be free of unnecessary worries in life.

Maharajji established at least 108 temples, fed millions of people, advised government and corporate leaders, performed what can be called Miracles, influenced current American and Indian society, brought grace into the lives of countless suffering people, and all the while remained out of the "public eye."

It is believed that by the time Maharajji was 17 years old He knew EVERYTHING. This is to be taken to mean a knowing that is actually incomprehensible to you and me. A knowing that is all. The knowing of Bhagvan. The knowing of God. There are stories contained in this website and in the books referred to herein that hope to in some way help to tell of the Grace and Love of this truly remarkable being. Maharajji had nothing, and Maharajji had everything.

Maharajji taught many people. These teachings continue today. The teaching was very subtle or literally a knock on the head. Maharajji's teachings seem to have been totally individual. Each devotee would have the answer or the help they needed in the way that was best suited to their needs. When devotees remembered Him, Maharajji would rush to them to help and protect them. This seems to be going on to this day. Maharajji seems to be continually visiting people and helping them since He "left His body" in Vrindaban in 1973. One devotee said that he thought the greatest miracle was what Maharajji has done since then. Maharajji has visited, helped, guided, fed, and called into service so many in the last forty years. Maharajji never went away. For this, we can be grateful.

The 2021 documentary Windfall of Grace offers an engaging blend of narratives from simple, rustic Indian devotees juxtaposed by narratives of renowned American devotees. These expressions seek to bring out not just the contrasts but also the similarities between the two by way of their overwhelming love and surrender for Neem Karoli Baba. Their individual encounters with Baba sparked dramatic shifts in their life purpose along with their spiritual path and practice.

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