India is a land of spirituality and the Hindu religion has specified different periods of life for different purposes with the last part of life to be devoted to spirituality. However, often people have started their spiritual journey at a very young age. Examples of such actions are galore and one such enlightened soul is Neem Karoli Baba alias Lakshman Narayan Sharma. He is widely regarded as an exemplified spiritual guru, a mystic, and a diehard devotee of Bajrang Bali or Lord Hanuman.
Known as Maharaj Ji his towering personality is equaled by his stature as a spiritual leader and was respected across every spectrum of the society.
Neem Karoli Baba had a spiritual streak from his childhood. He left in search of a spiritual quest at the tender age of 11 years and after constant requests from his father, he returned home.
In 1958 he again left his home and boarded a train before being pushed out by the TC for being without a ticket. As per a popular legend, the train would not move before some passengers saw the attire of the Baba as a sanyasi requested the TC to allow the Baba to board the train. Before boarding the train the Baba made a promise that a station would be set up in the village of Neeb Karori. As Baba boarded the train, it started moving ahead again. This is how the baba got his name Neeb Karori baba.
However, the spiritual quest took the Maharaj Ji across the length and breadth of the nation. In his spiritual odyssey, he also stayed for some time at Vavania Morbi in Gujarat. He was nicknamed Tallaiya Baba. He was also known as chamatkari baba for his mystical abilities. He would often arrange huge bandanas or religious banquets and be also known as Handi wala Baba.
Carefree And Unassuming Nature
Neem Karoli Baba was not like the other spiritual personality, was carefree and often mingled with his devotees and followers and cracked jokes. His lifestyle was very simple and always sat on a bench with a plaid cloth. A visit and his appearance will always be accompanied by prasad distribution and he would not forget to bless everyone with a pat on their head. He had a mesmerizing influence on his followers and devotees, who listened in rapt attention to his sermons. His sermons were down to earth and rustic and could be understood by the simplest blokes of rural India.
His actions would confuse even the most intelligent and one such incident was narrated by his ardent follower Shri Yogesh Bahaguna who brought a finite number of oranges as offerings. However, he was surprised to see Baba Ji offering them to his disciples. Only this time the oranges multiplied into many times the number which Bahaguna had given.
Devotees Spread Across India And Oversees
His popularity spread and even reached many foreign countries in the ’60s and ’70s. He was an ardent devotee of Lord Hanuman. It is said that Lord Hanuman was not aware of his strengths as a result of a curse but was reminded by the Jambawant. It is said that Babaji became aware of his mystic prowess at the tender age of 17 due to his unflinching devotion to Lord Hanuman. Seeking to delve deeper into his personal details, Baba was born in Village Akbarpur in erstwhile Faizabad which has now been renamed as Ambedkar Nagar in 1900 when India was a part of British India. He was born to Durga Prasad Sharma who was a wealthy Zamindar. He never revealed his mother’s name. Not much is known about the other members of his family. He was married to Rambeti Sharma when he was only 11 years old as child marriage was very common then. As already mentioned he was very spiritual and his early marriage could have been one of the reasons so that he could be weaned away from his path of spirituality.
He had a son Aneg Singh Sharma and a daughter Girija who is married To Jagdish Bhatele who look after the affairs of Vrindavan Ashram.
Babaji was very unassuming and according to his disciples, worldly possession seemed to have no use to him. His diet was also simple and consisted of fresh-boiled vegetables, dal, and chapatis.
Death Reason: His Final Journey
It was in September 1973 while returning to Kainchi near Nanital when he fell ill. He was returning from Agra when he felt discomfort. He was taken to Vrindavan where Doctors attending on him diagnosed him with complications related to Diabetes. Refusing treatment the Baba only asked for Holy Ganges water, chanted the Hymn, “Jaya Jagdish Hare ” and left this earthly realm to unite with his creator. His Samadhi was established in Vrindavan Ashram.
Neem Karoli Baba Ashram
Situated in the calm and serene Uttarakhand Mountains, the place is unique in many ways. The devotees who flock to the Ashram each year are enamored by the calm and serene surroundings where they can engage in meditation, singing of devotional bhajans, and enlighten themselves by listening to the spiritual discourses of the different speakers. The place is visited by hundreds of devotees who also practice bhakti yoga, and immerse themselves in selfless service to God and his children.
The doors of the Ashram are open to everyone and everyone can enjoy the feeling that all are created as equal by God and the Baba also relentlessly adhered to this principle and asked all his followers to follow suit.
During his last days, the Baba asked his followers to run the ashram and supervised Haridas. The Baba has ashrams built in Vrindavan and Kainchi. After his demise, many ashrams were set up both in India and abroad. It included ashrams in Bhumiyadhar, Neeb Karori village, Hanuman Gadi, Shimla, Lucknow, Rishikesh, New Delhi, and Taos (New Mexico, USA).
Kainchi Dham Ashram which was set up in 1964 by Baba is the hub of all the ashrams activities. Situated in a quiet and serene location on the Nainital- Almora road, the Ashram was set up by Baba on June 15th, and the day is commemorated as the Kainchi Dham fair. The day is also remembered as a day to preserve and continue the teachings of Neem Karoli Baba.
Baba had a number of disciples and the prominent being stalwarts like Steve Jobs, the famous musical composer duo – Jai Uttal and Ram Das who has also penned a book named “Be Here Now”. Another prominent writer who was an ardent follower of Babaji was Danial Goleman who penned the book “The Varieties of the Meditative Experience” and “Emotional Intelligence”. His disciples came from wide strata of society and included academicians, college professors, eminent filmmakers, and ethnologists.
Steve Jobs’ link to Neem Karoli Baba
Recently American multinational technology company Apple opened a retail store in Mumbai. However, its founder Steve Jobs was disillusioned by the poverty he saw in India. Steve had once famously said that “If a person is born in poverty it is not his fault but if he dies in poverty it is 100% his fault”. Not many people know that Steve Jobs visited India in 1974. It was in India that Steve Jobs was motivated to create the most innovative electronic gadgets and rule the world.
The world was very different at that time and escapism and hippie culture which approved the use of drugs to get over the woes of life was a common practice. A college dropout, Steve Jobs, who lived by consuming free food at Hare Krishna temple in Portland, was saving money for his trip to India. He was deeply affected by the Book written by Richard Alpert, a devotee of Neem Karoli Baba named ‘Be Here Now’. At first, Steve was disillusioned by India but later he came to understand the deep philosophical meaning of Indian Sanatan Dharma.
When Jobs returned to America he found the cultural shock after his sojourn in India worse than his disillusionment with India. He realized that the essence of Sanatana Dharma was serving fellow humans and this brought a transformation in him. He joined a steady list of Western Icons like Julia Roberts, Larry Page of Google, and Jeff Skoll of eBay who were enamored by Baba’s philosophy. It emphasized the fact that to trust in one’s own intuition is the greatest strength and Steve never let this concept off his radar.
Neem Karoli Baba Quotes and Teachings
Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Maharaj ji was a spiritual leader who believed in the Bhakti Marga as proposed by Mira, Kabir, Tulsi Das, and Rama Krishna Paramhansa. He always advocated an absolute surrender to God before spiritual enlightenment could be achieved.
His teachings have inspired a lot of people from all walks of life. Here are some of the most notable quotes of the saint.
1. “Wealth should be used for the betterment of the society.”
Like his own self where monetary consideration had scant use for him, he also asked his devotees to shun the greed for wealth
2. “Sticking to worldly possession is the strongest impediment to moksha.”
Babaji always professed that attachment to Maya or worldly possession is the biggest hurdle towards the path to moksha or uniting with the ultimate creator.
3. “Compassion heals and cures”
Baba was a very compassionate person and freely interacted with his devotees praying for their well being. There are many stories of how the Baba has treated many sick people but it is the compassion and love that heals a person.
4. “One must do every action as a prayer and its outcome must be like a prayer”
Trees are the giver of life and vaayu and every drop of water is as precious as Ganga. Every piece of soil is like Varanasi and must be revered as such. Neem Karoli Baba was a true nature lover and his quotes above are the essence of what climate scientists and ecologists propose in present times.
5, “Anger often corrupts the mind of even the most serene”
Babaji had warned of the consequence of anger which can corrupt the minds of fools and the intelligent alike. He even quoted scriptures when the Rishis cursed people in anger only to realize their folly. Today his words seem even more relevant if we see the violence which is gripping the Civilized West. People are slaughtering even children in their anger.
6. “Your Guru resides in your heart”
It is not necessary to meet one’s Guru. Eklavya did not have the physical presence of his Guru. However, even by invoking his Guru’s name, he was able to become a distinguished archer equaling the prowess of Arjuna.
7. “The World and its worldly attachments imprison us.”
The world is like a quicksand and the more we struggle to get involved in its vagaries the deeper we sink and do not obtain nirvana.
8. “Kan Kan Mein Bhagwan, God resides in every atom.”
We often tread for miles endlessly trying to find the truth and God. However, God resides in every atom in this universe, in its nucleus.
9. “All religions are the paths which lead to the same almighty”
Neem Karoli Baba was very secular in his belief and respected every religion. He considered the different religions as different paths which led to the same God.
10. “Love Begets Love even if the person hurts you return him, love”
Babaji’s preaching’s even more relevant today with religious fundamentalism and violence spreading across the world. Violence begets violence and Ahimsa is supreme. Love everyone as the sons and daughters of God and one cannot attain salvation without loving all God’s creatures.
11. “Forgiveness is the greatest weapon.”
Only a brave person can forgive others, even his enemies. Do not remove the evil person but remove the evilness which is propagating in his heart. Only by forgiveness can there be peace in this world.
The strength of Neem Karoli Baba was his ability to connect with the common man. He never used eloquent words nor led a life full of pomp and poise. He always walked to his destination and never used any luxuries. His greatness lay in his simplicity.
How did Neem Karoli Baba die?
In September 1973 Neem Karoli Baba was returning to Kainchi from Agra when he fell ill. He was taken to Vrindavan where Doctors diagnosed him with Diabetes. Refusing treatment he asked for Holy Ganges water, chanted the Hymn, “Jaya Jagdish Hare ” and left this earthly realm.
Did Steve Jobs meet Neem Karoli Baba?
Not many people know that Steve Jobs visited India in 1974. It was in India, that Steve Jobs was motivated to create the most innovative electronic gadgets and rule the world. He was deeply affected by the Book written by Richard Alpert, a devotee of Neem Karoli Baba named ‘Be Here Now’. At first, Steve was disillusioned by India but later he came to understand the deep philosophical meaning of Indian Sanatan Dharma.
Why is Neem Karoli Baba famous?
Neem Karoli Baba is widely regarded as an exemplified spiritual guru, a mystic, and a diehard devotee of Bajrang Bali or Lord Hanuman.
How to reach Neem Karoli Baba Ashram?
The Kainchi Dham is visited by hundreds of devotees who also practice bhakti yoga, and immerse themselves in selfless service to God and his children.