The variations in Maharaji’s use of the word “jao” were infinite – from a bellow (sometimes preceded by “Ap [you]!”) for the recalcitrant to a tender, “Jao, Ma…” as he gently patted a woman devotee bowing at his feet. 

Usually as devotees would come before him during the day, he would hand them a piece of fruit or some sweets, or ask them a question or two, and then jao them. Others would be allowed to sit with him while he gave darshan off and on through the day. It is interesting that a word seeming to imply rejection – “go away” – could be said with so much love that it came to mean “go with blessings” or “go with grace” or “go with  my love.”

There was jao to another part of the ashram; jao to take food or rest; jao to go carry out some indicated duty or service; jao that might be postponed, if one could think of a good question – or even ignored, if some distraction occurred, such as new arrivals. There was the jao of disgrace and banishment for some misdeed (often followed by a giggle once the culprit had passed out of earshot). 

The word became Zen-like in its all encompassing quality and, when roared inexplicably at first sight of a devotee entering the ashram, totally Zen in its effect.

Jao could be for a moment or forever – to the nearby city of Nainital for the night or, most dreaded by Westerners, maha-jao (great jao) to America. Jao could even be questioned, if one was willing to play that perilous game. For a jao might be disputed successfully; but also a jao of a week to go visit holy Benares might, on the response of a groan, be transformed to a jao of a month for a pilgrimage to Rameshwarem at the southernmost tip of India. Never was it simply “Go!” but always, “Go with love.”

After a month on pilgrimage in southern India, we returned to Allahabad in the early morning hours, anticipating another long gentle round of being with  Maharaji. When I came into his room at 6:30 in the morning his first words were, “Has your visa been renewed?”

“I don’t know Maharaji. I made application.”

“No, it hasn’t! Jao! Go to Delhi.”

“Now?” I was a bit taken aback to be thrown out before I’d even been welcomed home.

“Go by the 9:30 train this morning.”

Once this devastating piece of business had been transacted, Maharaji became tenderness itself, rolling around on his tucket, handing out the rudraksha beads we had brought from Rameshwaran temple, and playfully pulling my beads and patting me. Although I tried to get him to change his mind about sending me away, I found myself back on the train at 9:30.

In Delhi, Maharaji had arranged for me to receive help from a minor official in the government. And so began another round of entanglement in bureaucratic red tape. The prospects seemed to go from bad to worse. Earlier in the fall I had tried to take care of the visa extension with KK, up in the mountains. He had arranged for me to speak with the head of the visa bureau in that community. Those proceedings had gone awry and now made the work in Delhi more difficult. These machinations with KK, more or less behind Maharaji’s back, were not ignored by Maharaji, who kidded me mercilessly about how KK was now my advisor, my guru, and if I had not tried to get the visa done through KK, everything would now be alright.

As the end of February approached and the visa situation looked hopeless, I suddenly recalled the previous February when I had first seen Maharaji on this visit to India. “How long do you want to stay?” he had asked.



“You mean next month?”

“All right, a year from March.”

And now, early in March a year later, despite all the apparent attempts from KK and Maharaji to help me, I received my “quit India” notice from the government. There was no doubt about it, Maharaji was using the government to do his dirty work. All I could do was laugh and surrender once again. He had covered every angle.

Generally I tend to cry in the presence of purity or dharma. I’m not quite sure why that is, but the feeling is that such purity is too much to bear. I also cry when I am ecstatic and happy and, in rare instances, when I am very depressed. At the leave-taking from Maharaji I cried and cried, and, again, I’m not really sure why. Mrs. Soni felt great concern about my crying and said, “Don’t cry. You will be able to come back – won’t he Maharaji?” Maharaji said, “He can come in a year… or six months.” But I wasn’t really crying because of sadness; if anything it was from joy, for Maharaji had instructed me that serving people was my dharma. My work was clear. And he seemed to be telling me to get on with it.

Maharaji said two more things that day that I can remember. First he said, “I will always be in communion with you.” And the second thing was “Jao.”


~Ram Dass, Excerpt from “Miracles of Love: Stories about Neem Karoli Baba