When we planned our trip to India, that is, we who run this site, Tobias and Magnus Ahlberg, we both wanted to visit Kainchi Dham. It is the ashram that is most associated with the Indian guru Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Maharaj-ji. The guru that Richard Alpert, or Ram Dass, made famous for the western world. It was there Ram Dass and other Westerners such as Krishna Das spent a lot of their time when they visited Neem Karoli Baba back in the 60s and 70s, and it was the first location we went to when we arrived at the small city of Nainital up in the Himalayan mountains. Kainchi Dham is just a few miles away from the city and you can read about our visit there in this article: A Trip To India – Part 1 – Kainchi Dham
We have both been drawn to Maharaj-ji for quite some time, especially the unconditional love he showed humanity. He had no big complex teachings but kept it simple. Love people, serve people and remember God. This was his small, but yet great teaching. Often he answered questions with “Sub ek,” all is one. You do not need to know much more than that in order to reach God.
Kainchi Dham was one of the biggest reasons we traveled to India in the first place. However, we also wanted to visit some other places in the area that we felt drawn to as well, but the place we will describe now was actually added to our list of visits mostly because it was close to Nainital and we had some time left in our schedule. None of us knew much about the place or felt any special attraction towards it.
Just outside of Nainital is the first temple that Neem Karoli Baba established located, called Hanuman Gadh. We knew there were more temples than Kainchi Dham where Maharaj-ji and his followers used to stay at and felt that this place could be fun to visit when it was quite close to our hotel. We had no idea what it looked like since we had not seen any pictures of it or read much about it.
The temple does not look like much from the outside. You mostly see some walls and an entrance, but inside the temple you are met by an mesmerizing and beautiful environment. The first thing you encounter when you enter is a large majestic statue of Hanuman, the Indian monkey god that Maharaj-ji is closely associated to, a statue that instantly leads you a connection to the divine.
The temple was also much larger than we expected and is located beautifully up in the mountains overlooking the valley. As we walked around, we quickly fell into a quiet harmonious peace. The temple was a place far more beautiful than expected. It was love at first sight. We strolled around while our smiles grew by the minute. It was a place where Maharaj-ji’s presence was strong. A place we want to return to again. Hanuman Gadh surpassed all the expectations we had before the visit.
The most beautiful room in the temple is where Maharaj-ji’s image stands. A beautifully decorated room with pictures on Maharaj-ji along the walls and a statue of him at the front. The gate in to the room was closed, but one of the temple workers let us in and said that if we liked, we could sing some kirtan. We stepped in, showed our reverence for Maharaj-ji, and then sat down in front of the murti, the statue of Maharaj-ji. We meditated for a while and then sang Krishna Das’s prayer to his guru, the beautiful song “Om Namo Gurudev.” Time slowed down, love flowed into us, but most of all the feeling of gratefulness. After a while we bowed again for this big man and started our walk back to the hotel.
That same evening when we returned to the hotel we saw a beautiful display of fireworks over at Hanuman Gadh. It turned out they were celebrating Ram Dass’s birthday that just happened to meet the day of our visit. Suddenly it became very clear to us how important Ram Dass have been for the temples in the area and how revered he is by the people there. We felt a deep gratitude for Ram Dass for inderectly bringis us to this place. For him showing the way for so many of us. To Maharaj-ji, to God.
We also talk about Hanuman Gadh in Episode 15 of our podcast.
We traveled to India in 2017, and in this article series we will share what we experienced in a variety of places. Prior to this journey we had read a lot about Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Maharaj-ji, so we had a big attraction towards visiting the various ashrams he stayed at. Above all, we felt a very strong pull towards Kainchi Dham where he lived in the later part of his life. If you do not know about Maharaj-ji then you can read our previous post “Neem Karoli Baba” which explains who he was.
We took a taxi from Nainital and drove on the twirly road that take you towards Kainchi. When we arrived, it felt a bit unreal that we were really there. I looked at the temple from a distance for a few minutes just to let it sink in. When we took our first steps in the temple a sense of peace came over me. It was as if time stopped and any worries no longer existed.
As I sat in front of the statue of Maharaj-ji, I got a strange feeling that it was alive. To some extent, it felt like I was sitting in front of him even though he had left the physical body. As I looked around and saw nature around me, I got a strong feeling that he’s in everything. I could feel him in the mountains, in the water and in the air. Even though he is not in the physical body, he still felt present.
I closed my eyes to meditate on his presence. After a while it was like he grabbed me and said, “Let go.” I had had similar experiences a few times earlier, and once again I felt how my identification with Tobias Ahlberg started to leave me. Unfortunately, I made the same mistake as I had before, not daring to let go fully. After a while I opened my eyes and began to walk around in the temple trying to get a picture of how it was when Maharaj-ji still was in his body. It was great to be there and get an idea of he place where he had received so many seekers.
I felt I wanted to sit down somewhere undisturbed so I sat by the wall at the very end of the temple and then I closed my eyes. I went into myself and just gave up all expectations. Instead, I allowed myself to just be. Perhaps Maharaj-ji’s energy was still in the walls of Kainchi Dham, or I just created an excuse to find myself in the now, but the next moment I opened my eyes, I felt a great peace within me. I needed nothing more than my existence to feel happiness. Once in this state, I saw how others met my eyes differently. They could see the peace that was within me and I could see it within them too.
We stayed until the closing ceremony and took part in the tribute to Maharaj-ji. It was a very nice ending to the stay at the temple before we went back to Nainital. On my way home, I felt very harmonious and grateful because I had come to know the place where Maharaj-ji had lived.
We visited Kainchi Dham on two occasions during the week we were in Nainital. During the first day, I let myself be absorbed by the energy the place had to offer. It did not take long for me to feel an inner peace within me after walking for a while at the place where Maharaj-ji spent so much time. The beautiful statue of Maharaj-ji made the biggest impression on me. It felt almost alive, like he was sitting there before me and in any second would begin to move.
The second occasion we visited Kainchi Dham would be a memory for life. Even before we went there I had a strong intuitive feeling that I should go back there once more. It had been a few days since we were there the first time and we had visited several places in between, places we will describe in the coming parts of this article series. When we arrived at the temple there were a lot more people there than the last time. The first time we were almost alone, but now it was a lot of visitors meditating or wandering around. After I had meditated for a while inside Maharaj-ji’s room, I sat with down with a group of people and meditated with them in front of the statue of Maharaj-ji. For some reason, I did not feel peaceful enough to sit with closed eyes and meditate, so I opened my eyes a fixed them on Maharaj-ji’s picture in front of me, and began to sing. I sang Krishna Das prayer to his guru, “Om Namo Gurudev.” It’s a beautiful song dedicated to Neem Karoli Baba. In some way it felt like the right thing to sing it directly to him.
After a while when I sang, something started to happen within me. Tears began to flow from my eyes, the voice burst while I sang and the feelings of his love flowing into me overwhelmed me. After a while, the tears exchanged for a giggle I could not hold back. I felt how my level of consciousness was raised at a rapid pace. I no longer felt a need to sit down so I walked around feeling high and feeling completely free. I could feel how the energies in my body and the surroundings flowed. Everything I looked at was so beautiful, so divine. I felt drunk on God. It was a state completely different from my normal state of mind, but still everything was alike. I went to our friend Niklas who was with us on the trip and he immediately saw what state of being I was in, because he was there too. We shared the joy together for what we experienced.
When I entered this state of being, I suddenly realized why I had felt a need to go back here again, it was to trigger this experience. After this realization I had no need to stay any longer. Niklas was also ready to go and Tobias had already left the temple and was talking to some people at the entrance. On my way out of the temple, I suddenly met an Indian mans gaze. When our eyes met, we looked at each other with big smiles and nodded silently to each other. I saw that he saw what state of being I was in, and I knew intuitively that he was in it too. I understood the true meaning of namaste, “I bow down to the divine in you.” This state of being lasted for about an hour before I landed in my normal self again, but nothing was alike. Something had happened within me. Something big.
We also talk about Kainichi Dham in Episode 15 of our podcast.