Kaiyum reviews Parvati Markus’ book on Neem Karoli Baba, aka Maharaj-ji.
To quote from the cover text, and to make Parvati Markus’ role quite clear:
A celebration of one of the most influential spiritual leaders of our time: Neem Karoli Baba, the enlightened guru who inspired a generation of seekers – including Ram Dass, Daniel Goleman and Larry Brilliant – on life-altering journeys that helped change the world.
Parvati is an editor and writer of spiritually oriented non-fiction books and memoirs, and has worked on (many of the) books by members of the sangha describing their experiences with Maharaj-ji, as he is more commonly known. In this latest book (2015) she has done a magnificent job of collecting personal experiences that together represent:
The transcendent wisdom of Neem Karoli Baba told through the stories of the Westerners whose lives he transformed.
The 350 or so pages of this well-designed book are filled with anecdotes which explore, explain and describe how so many individuals found their way to this master, and how they learned directly or indirectly from him.
Maharaj-ji and his followers
Guru, mystic, teacher, master – whatever, Maharaj-ji touched the lives of many Westerners and Indians alike and effected change through his simple actions and few words. All too often we read how a visitor has been ‘Jaoed’ (told to go away, to leave, to get out), precisely what the individual needs in order to gain the necessary clarity. There are stories of Maharaj-ji’s incomprehensible powers, such as being able to be in more than one place at a time, knowing exactly what someone is thinking, what he or she needs, of showering his loving grace on those who clamoured to be with him.
This is a series of deeply touching and equally interesting stories about the search for truth and a guide who helps each and every person at their own level, to move on, grow, discover their inner truth and innate wisdom.
We learn very little about Maharaj-ji as a man. There is little to know! He is. He wears his blanket, he talks to visitors, he distributes prasad, he accepts gifts and throws fruit to those present. He used to travel much more than is evident in these stories, but it is often the case that the followers have to go looking for him as he has simply taken off for another location.
We read how foreigners often have visa problems, and how Maharaj-ji gives precise instructions about returning to an office, where previously recalcitrant officials are all of a sudden welcoming, friendly and totally helpful:
“… You Americans… You better get to Delhi now and go home. Get out of my office. I never want to see your face again. Get out…”
I’m blown away…
[Later, with Maharaj-ji] “What should I do about my visa?” Of all things. He looks at me, and I have the strangest sensation; he’s kind of in my head; I actually feel something going on inside of me. He says through Dada, “Tell him to go back tomorrow morning.” I touch his feet, thank him, and leave.
… I walk in to the police station, and I look exactly the same. The same guy looks up from his paperwork and goes, “Yes?”
I cringe and say, “I want to ask about a visa extension.”
He goes, “Oh sure. Come in and sit down.” He calls a boy to go get chai and offers me a beedie. We’re smoking beedies and drinking chai, and he’s telling me how much he loves Americans. I tell him how I want to stay… “Sure, no problem.” He takes my passport and stamps it… for a year!
This story by Premananda (Tom Forray) typifies the conundrums set up by Maharaj-ji for his followers. Premananda continues:
I start crying because I know what’s going on now. What Baba did was make the officer the loving person he was supposed to be, the real self that he is beyond all of the ego stuff.
Maharaj-ji is well aware of other teachers, masters and gurus who affect the lives of his followers. Meher Baba is mentioned, along with Satya Sai Baba, Siddhi Ma, Jesus and the Dalai Lama. Goenka – of the Vipassana meditation – is a frequent ‘guest’ in these pages, as many Westerners who found their way to Maharaj-ji’s feet got deeply into meditation precisely through their experiences with Goenka.
The collection of personal accounts is carefully edited and attractively published in this hardbound book. The soft, off-white paper provides a comfortable support for the fairly large typeface and spacious lay-out, all of which contribute to the sense of calm purposefulness inherent to these stories that so intimately illustrate Maharaj-ji’s life and last years.
The numerous photographs, with styles so reminiscent of the late 1960s-early 1970s, serve to recall a time that has gone forever, along with the physical presence of this unique master whose work is nevertheless continued by his many followers in the sangha.
Kaiyum is a regular contributor
All articles by this author published on Osho News
Polishing the Mirror – Kaiyum on Ram Dass’ book
Great Indian Yogi: Neem Karoli Baba – as narrated by Ram Dass