Most of Maharaji’s devotees were householders, people who were very involved in daily life. They had children, jobs, all kinds of stuff. And he would just go from house to house, village to village, town to town, constantly wandering from place to place, visiting with people. One time, he was in Vrindavan in the middle of the summer. It was very hot, so he was wandering down the street, and coming towards him in the other direction was this baba – a sadhu, with the long hair and everything. And they had known each other many, many years before in the mountains. And they hugged, and they were so happy to see each other. This other baba said to Maharaji, “Oh, now I’ve found you again after all these years! We’ll stay together and this will be great, we’ll spend time together.” And Maharaji said, “No, no, no, no, no. Brother, brother, you don’t want to stay with me. I’m constantly surrounded by worldly people. All the people I’m with, householders all the time, nothing but problems. You’re a sadhu, you’re a saint; you don’t want to run around with me.” But the sadhu said, “Oh no, Baba, please take me with you, I want to see you again, it’s been so long!” And Maharaji tried to say, “No, no you don’t want to be with me, I’m with all these people all the time.” “Oh Baba, please!”
Finally Maharaji said “Ok, chalo. Let’s go. We’re going. I’m walking to Mathura,” which is this town that’s about fifteen miles away. In the middle of the day, in the summer, they start walking off together. And in those days there was nothing. In those days there were about ten or twelve mile stretches with nothing, only desert. There were no villages, nothing. So they start walking and walking, and they were dying of thirst. And finally, in the distance they see a well. Maharaji gets there first, and there’s a woman drawing water, bringing up a bucket from the well.
So Maharaji puts his hands out and he says, “Ma! Give me something to drink!” So she pours the water into his hands and he starts drinking. After he’s finished drinking the other baba arrives, and he had a gourd pot with him. This was his only possession, and he carried it. So he gets there, puts his pot out, and the woman pours water in it. While she’s pouring the water, Maharaji starts chatting her up, because he talks all the time to everybody; that’s what he does. He says, “Oh Ma, where are you from? What village? What’s your name? What’s your caste?” And it turns out she was an untouchable.
When the other baba heard this he flipped out. He started screaming at Maharaji, “Look what you’ve done!” The nature of the caste system is that when people are deemed untouchables they are, well, untouchable. You’re not supposed to come into contact with them or touch them, forget it. We’re not going to talk about that, however, this was the way it was and this baba was probably a Brahmin which Maharaji also was, but he didn’t care. After this guy heard the woman say she was an untouchable he takes his pot and throws it down on the ground and breaks it. Then he starts screaming at Maharaji, “What is this? Look what’s happened! Look what you’ve gotten me into! My only possession is destroyed because it’s now impure and I can’t use it!” He was screaming furiously.
Maharaji asked, “What? What? What? Kya baat? What’s the matter? What’s the matter? What happened? Oh, oh, oh,” he said, “Oh, I thought you were a sadhu! I thought you were a saint! Oh, I’m so sorry – I thought you were a saint! What’s all this attachment? What is all this anger? What is this?”
The sadhu falls down at Maharaji’s feet, and Maharaji said, “He washed my feet with his tears, and went back to the mountains to finish his work.” Maharaji had warned him, “Don’t hang out with me! Anything could happen.” And it happened.
Excerpt from Barefoot in the Heart: Remembering Neem Karoli Baba, edited by Keshav Das