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Neem Karoli Baba, the Teacher referred to in this passage, is perhaps best known in the United States as the guru embraced by Ram Dass (Richard Alpert) in the late 1960s in India. Generally referred to as Maharajji or Babaji, Neem Karoli Baba was, by all accounts, a sweet, simple man. Beyond that, he is an extraordinary Teacher! Although it is apparently uncertain when he was born, Neem Karoli Baba died in India in 1973.
This selection is from the book “By His Grace – A Devotee’s Story” written by Dada Mukerjee, an intimate disciple of Maharajji. The book was produced after Maharajji’s death in an effort to preserve stories about the Teacher and his life and other memories dear to his devotees. In our view, it offers a fascinating, moving, and inspiring portrait not only of this Teacher, but of the spiritual process itself, whoever the Teacher, whatever the path. Another wondrous book about Maharajji is “Miracle of Love”.
We are grateful to the “Hanuman Foundation” for permission to present this passage here. For more information about them, please write P.O. Box 269, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501.
In these paragraphs, Dada Mukerjee addresses a question that concerns all spiritual seekers: How do we know when we are in relationship with a Teacher, particularly if we have never personally met him or her, or if she or he is physically deceased?
While, of course, the focus here is on this question as it regards Maharajji and his disciples specifically, the counsel offered by Dada Mukerjee applies equally to seekers of every description, whoever and wherever we may be, and whoever may be the Teacher.
If Babaji is a saint, actually an ocean of love and compassion, how are we to share, how are we to enjoy that love and compassion? Can we have a claim? Can we have a right to that? People are interested in so many things — maybe cricket, maybe the cinema, maybe the sadhus (see NOTE 2 below) or saints. We go to satisfy our passing enthusiasm and then we may forget that interest. We may be going to saints or sadhus simply to satisfy our curiosity and that ends the matter. But in the case of Babaji, like many of the saints, there have been many persons who wanted to have some sort of binding relationship — that our love, our interest in Babaji should not end. We want to have something durable, something permanent, something continuous, so that we can have a claim on him and he can also accept us and acknowledge us. We become related when a saint or sage accepts us as his or her disciple, when we take him to be our guru. Then we have that kind of permanent, beautiful relationship.
Can we say that Babaji is our guru? Can we say that he accepts us as his disciples? So far as a guru and disciple relationship is concerned, that is made when the saint or sage gives mantra (see NOTE 3 below) or initiates someone to the divine path or light. How is the mantra given? Did Babaji give you mantra? Those of you who were with him may claim that he has given you mantra, but what about those who have not met him in his physical body, can they claim Babaji is their guru and they are also tied to him and he has got a responsibility or duty toward them?
This institution of guru and disciple is as old in India as Hinduism, as India's religious past. In most cases, there may be a guru that is going to the home of the disciple after performing some ceremonies, giving him mantra in his ear. These practices go on in so many houses, so many villages, in so many states of India. But Babaji, of course, did that only in a few cases. We find out that just giving mantra is something like sowing the seeds – there are many different methods. A small farmer with a very limited amount of land goes on sowing the seeds in individual holes. When the farm is bigger in size, the farmer scatters the seed. Where the land is vast, as in your country [the US], you have various kinds of mechanical devices. Now think of the gardener or cultivator who goes on growing the forest or the trees over the entire universe. Think of God or the divine being who goes on planting the seeds over the entire world. He must have some devices.
There might be some gurus, priests, who go to each and every individual and give mantra. But the greater ones have got different ways of doing it, for example Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Sitting in Dakshineshwar, in that small ashram, he went on initiating so many thousands of people. Was he pulling everybody by the ear, taking them to a secret closed room and whispering the mantra? What about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (see NOTE 4 below), that great incarnation of Krishna (see NOTE 5 below), going through the streets singing the name of God? In Allahabad you will find people are singing Ram (see NOTE 6 below) bhajan (see NOTE 7 below) or they are reading from the Ramayana, because Babaji used to say, “By taking the name of Ram, everything is accomplished. In this Kali Yuga (see NOTE 8 below), nobody can go for kundalini yoga (see NOTE 9 below); they should take the name of Ram.” This was Babaji’s way of scattering the seeds and giving mantra.
There are those who have not heard those things from Babaji's mouth. But it has been said that a sage or saint can give you mantra in vision or dreams. Swami Sivananda (see NOTE 10 below) the great saint who had so many thousands and thousands of disciples, says that if you become interested in a certain saint or sadhu — and he speaks of the great saints or great sages — if you become interested in him, if you have developed a love for him, then you can take it that he is your guru. There may be some one saint or sage who you begin loving so much, that you would not like to lose him, that you want to feel that he is your own. Now Sivananda says, “Take it that he is your guru and you can actually claim yourself to be his disciple.”
There should be no difficulty in recognizing Neem Karoli Baba to be your guru, though you may or may not have met him. Even if you have met him and sat in front of him, he may not have told you, “Now look here, I am giving this mantra to you.” He was saying Ram Ram, that he was doing all the twenty-four hours, and saying that Ram Ram is the be-all and the end-all of people’s lives and that [by] taking the name of Ram everything is accomplished. I think it all becomes so very easy and so very clear.
Another question that comes is that if Babaji is such a mighty person, such a great saint, how does he go on picking or choosing his disciples? There are millions of people in India and in your country, too. All of them have not been attracted. All of them have not gone to him, neither has he come and visited your country and been with you. Now ask yourself this question. How have you been drawn towards him?
I have seen with my own eyes that there are many persons who have been interested in seeing Babaji or meeting Babaji. They may have come to the ashram, they may have waited for him in the road, but they were never able to see him because Babaji didn't draw them, didn’t want to initiate them. The old devotees in India have all seen this. We would be ten sitting and nine of us would see Babaji and the tenth would not. Or someone would be sitting on the road and Babaji would pass before him and the person wouldn’t see Babaji. Someone would tell Babaji, “So and so is a great devotee and wants to see you.” And Babaji would say, “No, I don’t want to see him. He's a big badmash (see NOTE 11 below), I don’t want to see him.” So I must say that nobody would come to Babaji, nobody would know, nobody would feel interested in him, if Babaji did not want it. Babaji has actually drawn me, drawn you, that is how we are here.
When the farmer sows his seeds, he is selective about his fields, choosing those which are suitable for cultivation. If the land can be properly conditioned, then he would plant it. If the land is rocky or barren, he would not sow seeds there. The saint or sage knows that not every individual is suitable for spiritual initiation. Some might be completely ready; their past karma (see NOTE 12 below) might be going in their favor and they can be immediately called and initiated. In the case of others, the guru would draw them near, watch over them and prepare them. I believe that no one comes to Babaji without him wanting them. We think we are running after the guru, but he is actually running after us. Why does he do it? He is not fond of your money; he is not fond of the sweet or nice things you talk about him; he is not fond of the publicity you can make about him. It is out of sheer grace, out of sheer kindness. (see NOTE 13 below)
The following NOTES relate to some of the words in the paragraphs above
which may be unfamiliar to some visitors.
1 – Hanuman, also Hanumat, is the monkey king who supports Rama in the Ramayana (see note 6, below). He is the ideal of a loyal, devoted servant.
2 – Sadhu is the Sanksrit term for monk or holy person, a seeker of God-Realization
3 – A mantra is a sacred syllable, word, or phrase, often a name of God, usually given in secret by a guru to a disciple, to be meditated upon and used in repetitive prayer.
4 – Chaitanya (1485-1534) was a mystic from the Bengal region of India
5 – Krishna is one of the best known deities in Indian mythology. He was the eighth incarnation of Vishnu, a principal god of Hinduism
6 – Ram, also Rama and Ramachandra, is the hero of the epic poem, Ramayana. He was the seventh incarnation of Vishnu. Rama and his wife Sita are considered the ideal of man and wife
7 – Bhajan, sometimes bhajana, is the worship of God or of a Teacher through music and song
8 – Kali Yuga is one of the four ages of the world according to Hindu reckoning during which the path of devotion is most recommended
9 – Kundalini Yoga, also Tantra Yoga, is a path or practice intended to awaken the source of spiritual energy at the base of the spine so that it will rise up and ultimately unite with the Divine at the crown of the head.
10 – Sivananda, also Shivananda (1887-1963), is a famous Indian monk and Teacher
11 – Badmash is a rascal or troublemaker
12 – Karma, a term found in Hinduism and Buddhism and increasingly elsewhere, seems to have various meanings, but essentially it is the sum total of all consequences of all actions, good and bad, by an individual in his or her current physical life and/or former physical lives
13 – For us at TZF, Grace is the Nature of God: Powerful, majestic, beautiful, comforting, miraculous, and free. We do not consider Grace as something offered to some, withheld from others. Rather, all of us are showered with Grace all of the time, unconditionally. But each of us perceives Grace differently, according to our willingness and capacity to receive it.