A few days after Maharaji’s mahasamadhi (leaving his physical body), a busload of foreign devotees descended upon Vrindavan. Accompanied by Ram Dass, they came from all over to attend the final bhandara or great feeding which was associated with the final rituals twelve days after death. During this period there were discussions regarding the gathering of stories from Baba’s Indian devotees for eventual inclusion in a book (Miracle of Love). Myself, Janaki and Chaitanya were offered the opportunity to serve as collectors of stories. After the departure of these friends, the three of us stayed on in Kainchi for another month, enjoying the quiet of the ashram and the valley. We then began a slow pilgrimage across North India, visiting and staying with Baba’s devotees. The divide that had for so long separated the new and foreign devotees from the old Indian ones has vanished. We now shared a sense of common loss and common family. It was a magical journey into the hearts and memories of people who had been called to Maharaji years earlier.
We traveled eastward and stopped in Jaganath Puri for a bit of R&R and an opportunity to consolidate our ever-increasing library of stories. We rented a small four-room ashram on the beach. This was the same holy town where Maharaji had sent me two years earlier during the 1971 war with Pakistan. It carried great memories and was truly a mystical place. It was also one of Baba’s favorite places to visit. He and his entourage had often spent their winter months there. We had heard from some of his Indian devotees leading up to our arrival in Puri that Maharaji was in fact still “in body.” The whole death and cremation was just a trick or illusion so he could get away from “central jail.” Many people truly believed this. According to them Baba had been in several places, including Amarkantak, and had given darshan to some devotees. In some way Baba was just out of sight, just around the corner, watching us unseen from behind.
Janaki and I had brought a portion of the ashes from the cremation in Vrindavan with us. Our plan had always been to immerse the ashes in the Bay of Bengal in Puri. This was in keeping with the Hindu tradition of immersion in all the sacred waters of India. On the appointed day we waded into the water to chest height carrying the ashes wrapped in a gumpsha. We ducked under the water and opened the cloth and watched as the ashes dispersed in the warm and swirling water. Then we put our heads above water to catch our breath. At that moment hardly fifteen feet from us a huge black dolphin leaped out of the ocean, splashing down nearby and disappearing under waves. We watched in amazement. We had not seen one of these beautiful creatures before, and certainly not close-up. We waited for it to re-emerge, but it never did. Darshan. The Ocean god had sent its emissary to receive Baba’s ashes.
- story told by Kabir Das from Barefoot in the Heart: Remembering Neem Karoli Baba edited by Keshav Das