In the West, when we think about holy people, we might not think about the Indian saint Neem Karoli Baba. Usually, when we think of holy people we think about those we have come in contact with through the religions. It is primarily Jesus who has received the most attention. But also holy people such as Buddha and Muhammad have many followers. Most of us know these people but it is far from all who think they really existed and instead see their stories as false. Whether they existed or not, I will not argue in this article, instead, I will look at a holy man who existed in modern times.
That there have been people in modern times who have displayed a divine consciousness is something that very few people know. A big reason for this, I believe, is that we have very little interest in actually exploring whether they exist or not. We are too busy with our lives to find them. During my childhood, I rejected everything that had to do with religion. The stories in the Bible or the Buddha, I saw only as stories without any truth. For this reason, I felt that the whole spiritual concept was false and therefore I stopped searching. It was only when I had my spiritual awakening in 2011 that I opened myself to the idea that a higher state of consciousness as possible. Then I personally experienced a state within myself which was beyond anything I had previously experienced. More about this event you can read about in my book Stepping into the Unknown.
After my strong experience, I went out on a hunt to try and understand what I have been through. A state in which I felt a unity with the whole universe and unconditional love for everyone and everything. My search finally took me to a man named Neem Karoli Baba or Maharaj-ji as he was usually called. When I started reading about him, I realized that there had been people who had shown a divine state even in modern times. As a matter of fact, Maharaj-ji had been alive until the 70th century and there are people alive today who has spent a lot of time with him.
There are a lot of books that talk about his greatness, and the most famous is Be Here Now by Ram Dass. The book explains Ram Dass time with Maharaj-ji, and it is clear that he possessed a consciousness far higher than the ordinary man. The first evidence that Ram Dass explains in his book is when he met Maharaj-ji for the first time. The day before Ram Dass met him, he looked at the stars and thought about his mother who had passed away some time before.
When he met Maharaj-ji the day after Maharaj-ji looked at him and said, “You stood under the stars yesterday and thought about your mother. She died because of problems with the spleen.” Ram Dass was blown away and could not believe what he had just been through. He tried to understand how Maharaj-ji could know this, but he had no explanation. This was just the beginning of a series of miracles that Maharaj-ji performed.
We know very little about his time before he became a saint. The name Neem Karoli Baba, he received following an incident at the small village Neem Karori. Maharaj-ji had stepped on a train without a ticket and after the train had started the conductor came up to him and demanded to see his ticket. Maharaj-ji had no ticket and the train stopped at Neem Karori, where he was thrown out. Maharaj-ji sat down under a tree not far from the train station, and the train tried to start but it could not move an inch.
They tried everything to restart the train, but nothing worked. Eventually, one of the passengers suggested that perhaps it was because they kicked out the holy man from the train. The conductor walked up to Maharaj-ji and asked him to get on the train again but Maharaj-ji replied that he would only step on the train if they built a new railway station in the small village. The conductor accepted and Maharaj-ji got on the train. The moment he stepped on board, they could start the train again. From that day he was known as Neem Karoli Baba. They also kept their promise of building a new train station.
Maharaj-ji became known in the west through Ram Dass and other westerners began to visit him. Several stories about their encounters with Maharaj-ji are published in books, films, and sound recordings. The kirtan singer Krishna Das also spent time with Maharaj-ji and he has through his music spread Maharaj-ji’s message worldwide. Maharaj-ji had a very simple but powerful message. He said that the path to inner peace is to love everyone, help everyone and remember God.
He left his body in 1973 but continues to touch people’s hearts around the world even though he has been dead for many years. For him, the body was only a shell and he really never disappeared. I have felt Maharaj-ji’s presence on some occasions and in my next article, I will talk about the first time I was at a kirtan concert with Krishna Das. There Maharaj-ji opened my heart and I got to feel his grace.