God Plays the Lila
In my youth I had taken a vow not to get married, from the day my aunt, who had raised me, died. My family tried to get me married, but I was adamant. When I was between the ages of twenty-five and thirty, Maharaji would tell me not to get married and told people that I was tubercular or had cancer, and that I was dying. In my thirtieth year, Maharaji asked me, “Do you want to get married?”
“No,” I answered. Maharaji then admired my shirt and asked to have it. He asked what sort of shirts I had before I started college, and I replied that I had only one old, torn shirt, but it served the purpose. Maharaji then asked how many I had now, and I said twelve. When asked why I had so many, I replied that as a teacher in public school, I had to maintain a certain code of dress or I’d be fired. Maharaji said, “No, no it is not this. Now you want to get married. You could have done with one shirt. If I ask you to marry, what will you do?” I told him, in that case I’d have to marry, but the responsibility would be Maharaji’s. For eight days Maharaji continued to press for my marriage.
On the eighth morning, Maharaji set off to catch the train. On the way to the station, he turned off the road to a young woman’s house and beckoned me to go in with him. There was kirtan going on and Maharaji was sitting in the puja room. I was called in and so was the young woman. Maharaji asked if I’d marry this girl, but I refused. Maharaji said, “If I asked you to?” I replied that the responsibility would be Maharaji’s. First Maharaji said, “I’ll not do it.” Then he said, “All right, all right. I’ll solemnize the marriage!” He put tilaks on our foreheads and said, “There, I’ve got you married! Do you accept it?”
Later Maharaji said, “Don’t think that I or you have done this. God plays the lila in his own way. No role of mine, none of yours. It was to happen! My wife and I have been very happy for over twenty-five years.
– Excerpt from Miracle of Love: Stories about Neem Karoli Baba
The Seed From Bodh Gaya
We were staying at this hotel in Bombay, and Maharaji would come to see us, or we would go to this apartment building in Bombay where this devotee and his married daughter lived.
There was a big bed in the living room and Maharaji would lie down on the bed. He’d sit up, he’d lie down, he’d turn over, he’d lie this way and that; hours would go by in silence and I’d just sit there staring at him, or sit there with my eyes closed. And nothing would be talked about, we’d just hang around.
Two years before, he had disappeared and when he would disappear, the Westerners would go do other things in India until he showed up again. This time when he disappeared we went to Bodh Gaya and were doing meditation courses. What else do you do when your guru’s not around? There were only two television channels at the time, so we had to do something.
While we were there, we visited this beautiful, very old lama, who was the teacher of the Dalai Lama’s teachers. He was a very respected, old lama. And he was really special. We went to see him in his room. He was very sweet to us, and he tried to give us a mantra. But he had no teeth. So he’d mumblingly repeat the mantra. And then, we would repeat it back – well, we didn’t know what we were repeating over and over again. It was so insane. Finally, he got somebody to write it down for us.
So, as we were leaving, he reached into his shirt and he brought out his really old leather pouch. And he opened it up, and out from the pouch he took a seed from the Bodhi Tree that he’d been carrying, a special seed from the tree in Bodh Gaya where the Buddha was enlightened. So this was a seed from that tree, and he had it in his pouch. And he takes it out, and gives one to me and one to a couple of other people there.
I went to put it away, to keep it. And he said, “No, you have to eat it.” So I ate it, right there – and I forgot about it. Then I left Bodh Gaya, and then we found Maharaji. Two years go by. Now I’m in Bombay in this Parsi apartment building with Maharaji, sitting for hours and hours in silence, and all of a sudden he sits up on the bed and said, “Give me the seed the lama gave you! Give me the seed!”
“What lama? What seed? I don’t know what lama!”
“Give me the seed, give me the seed!”
It seemed so important to him; I couldn’t remember what lama – I had seen a hundred lamas over the years. What seed – I didn’t know any seeds. Finally: Oh, that! I said, “Maharaji, he made me eat it then, at that time.” He goes, “Thik hai, very good, now you’ll be enlightened,” and he bopped me on the head and went back to sleep.
– Krishna Das
Million Dollar Darshan
In February of 1973, I met Neem Karoli Baba at the Hanuman mandir on Parikrama Road in Vrindaban, one day before he left for Kainchi Dham. At that time, I had only $300 in American Express checks, and $100 I would exchange for rupees in New Delhi before leaving for Kumoan. I decided to play a game with myself and not count the money again – cashing checks when I needed, but avoiding fingering the bills or looking too carefully into the envelope where I’d secreted them. Purchasing necessities, and allowing myself to be as generous to anyone in need as such generosity had been offered to me in the previous months, I would go in to Nainital to change money and buy a few things every few weeks. Each time, I continued with my little game, cashing two checks, then three, then a few more. After several bus trips, I tired of the game and of cashing money and decided to cash them all and be done with it.
Today I still remember standing at the State Bank of India, where a tall handsome gentleman with a mustache stood behind the polished counter as I withdrew the checks from the envelope and counted them for the first time in months. I had no idea how much remained: perhaps as much as $100 or as little as $40. But when I removed them, there were fifteen American Express checks laid out on the counter before me, the exact amount I’d left New Delhi with months before. My shock must have been apparent, for the Pahari gentleman looked concerned and asked, “Is there a problem? Are you missing some checks?” I asked him to count them again for me. “$300. How much would you like cashed?” he asked. I was speechless. “All of them,” I whispered, feeling suddenly rooted to the ground.
I returned to Kainchi on the bus in a deep state of wonderment. I’d cashed numerous checks in Nainital since arriving at Baba’s ashram. I had not miscounted; I’d cashed the checks and spent the money. That afternoon back at Kainchi Dham, Baba-ji was very funny, continually motioning to me, laughing and winking. He called out across the courtyard, “Kay, paisa mil gaya?” (What? Did you get the money?) I nodded that I had, and he laughed. I kept the checks that had materialized in my envelope a secret, fearing legal repercussions, as if Maharaji had somehow manipulated the American Express Company. Now it seems silly, but then only 20, I cherished the idea that I had to protect Baba-ji’s confidentiality, even long after his Maha Samadhi. I was in India for several more months after Maharaji left his body and the bag of rupees I’d cashed that day never ran out.
– Ram Rani Rosser
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