My friend Caitanya had come to Delhi and said he wanted me to come and meet Neem Karoil Baba. He was having a problem with addiction and a devotee had suggested he go to get Baba’s blessings. “Maybe some time at an Ashram will be good for both of us. I’d love to meet Neem Karoli Baba…he seems like a real saint. I just finished reading “Be Here Now” and I was blown away. It would be so cool now if I get to meet a real saint.” Caitanya said: “I really need a saint right now. I need a miracle… a guru with Siddhis.”
So off we went to Vrindavan. We got there at night so we didn’t get to see much of the town. But we managed to find lodgings for the night. My room was incredibly sparse very much like a cell at a monastery. It was a typical adobe type dwelling with recessed arched niches in the walls for candles as there was no electricity and of course no furniture except for a rope bed. I fell asleep to the sound of distant chanting from the nearby temple that kept a perpetual chant of the Maha mantra continuously without interruption for hundreds of years.
We got directions and found the ashram easily enough. The first thing that struck me was the giant Hanuman statue right at the entrance. It looked to be about twelve feet high and was painted in garish colours and a bit cartoonish but we knew the monkey God was sacred to many Hindus and that Maharajee was particulary fond of this deity that featured in the Ramayana. Caitany and I made our pranams to the statue and were soon greeted by a smiling group of devotees. The Ashram was exceptionally tidy and organized. People went about their business very peacefully as if in a state of perpetual meditation. I saw several beautiful western women dressed in Sarees preparing food and sweeping out the rooms and occupied in various tasks of “karma yoga”. I spent some time reading and Caitanya played his dotara and sang Bhajans all morning until lunch. We were served Dahl, Rice, Chappatis, and yogurt. We chanted for half an hour in anticipation of Baba’s appearance and the excitement was palpable. Finally Baba emerged from behind a curtain. The first thing that struck me was how fat he was. I kind of knew what he looked like from the pictures in Be Here Now but still I was rather surprised as I thought a guru who is not attached to anything wouldn’t eat that much and would be skinny. Anyway, he hobbled out in a rather unsteady walk and I could see that he was very old. Wrapped in his blanket he sat himself down on a divan and two female devotees immediately began to massage his feet. Neem Karoli Baba smiled at his little group of devotees and they immediately began offering obeyances and fruit to him one by one, bowing down in full prostration at his feet. He smiled and I saw a mischevious glint in his eye; it was obvious that Baba was feeling playful that day. Each time someone offered him a piece of fruit he would playfully throw it out to the group and burst out laughing as his chelas ducked and dodged his mango missiles. Believe me he wasn’t gently tossing the mangoes he was pitching like a ball player.
When Neem Karoli Baba spotted myself and Caitanya and saw that we were newcomers he asked us in English “What is your name?” “I am Caitanya” my buddy said and I answered “My name is Diksha”. The Guru looked at us with curiosity and said through his translator, “but these are Sanskrit names…how did you get these names?” Caitanya answered, ”a teacher in Bombay initiated us and gave us these names”
“What teacher? Neem Karoli Baba asked.
I answered this time. “Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh” but Maharajee did not seem to recognise this name. One of his Indian devotees whispered, ”the sex guru” with a little distaste.
Neem Karol Baba said “Tantra? Tantra yoga?” And some of his devotees nodded yes. He continued…”but why do you come to see me? You have a teacher?”
Caitanya aswered a bit bashfully..”well master..I was hoping you could help me get off Heroin.” In puzzement the guru asked: “ Haroun? What is haroun?”
Another devotee translated “Opium…”
The guru looked at Caitanya with deep compassion and then said “Opium no good. No good.” Then he laid his hands on my friend’s head and said a silent blessing. Maharajee turned to me and said: “You, no opium…I think you are Chillum Baba…yes?” laughing at me as I blushed for my naughty habit.
Then he surprised me and said: “Charas okay…Chillum Baba okay,” and he made the gesture of smoking a chillum and said “Bom Bom Bolay” and made as if to throw a chillum at me. Then he moved on to the next devotee and asked some questions. After another ten minutes or so of dialogue with devotees, the guru clapped his hands and said: “Kirtan, Kirtan” (music, singing) for he loved nothing more than to hear his devotees singing hyms. In no time I found myself singing Sanskrti hymns I didn’t know the words to. But the words come easily as they are so repetitive that they are easy to pick up or at least one can sing along on the chorus. We sang Hanuman Chalisa and Shree Ram Jai Ram and many other chants I can’t recall right now. I never knew such ecstacy as I did that day. Singing at the feet of a great master such as Maharajee I was in total bliss. I fell in love with everyone around me. And I was not on drugs. It was the presence of this great Saint and all of his loving devotees that lifted my spirits so divinely. Of course, being in this Ashram in this sacred town devoted to Krishna made it so special. I knew I was really in a holy place. I was particularly struck by how harmonious the atmosphere at the ashram was. I did not detect any jealousy amongst the devotees which I noticed often happens as people vie for a great teacher’s special attention. What a very peaceful life they had there. I could have stayed there forever but in fact I ended up only having one day at the Ashram. One day with the famous Neem Karoli Baba… only one day…but it was enough to last me a lifetime.