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Neem Karoli Baba

by Dada Mukerjee: Babaji’s miracles were well-known. Swami Vijayananda, an eminent sadhu writing about Babaji, said that Neem Karoli Baba‘s very name radiated an aura of mystery and miracles.

There were many devotees—not educated or literate—who used to know him only as Chamatkari Baba—the Baba of miracles. Since we had come to know him, we were experiencing miracles one after another.

One year there was a very heavy flood of the Ganges and the Jamuna Rivers at Allahabad. Floods are a yearly affair during the rainy season, but that year the flood was devastating, even the fort at Allahabad was damaged. There is a Hanuman mandir on the bank of the river, and every year the murti goes under water. As the water recedes, Hanumanji comes out, little by little, covered with mud and debris. The pujaris take some days to clean him. But that year the flood was so severe that there was danger that the entire mandir might be washed away.

The pujaris were worried and approached Dr. Katju, the Defense Minister, who was in Allahabad because the flood was threatening the fort. Dr. Katju was a devotee of Babaji and was accompanied that day by another devotee, Bhavanath Bajpi, who narrated this story to me. The pujaris said, “This flood is so severe, many pipal trees that have stood for centuries have been washed away. You must do something to save the Hanuman temple!”

Dr. Katju said, “What can the army do? Only Hanuman can save himself. Of course, Neem Karoli Baba could do it; he is actually Hanuman.”

While they were talking Babaji arrived in jeep, shouting, “What’s the matter? What’s the matter?” They told of the fears for the temple. Maharajji went to the river and took some water in his palm and sipped it, just sipped it. He said, “It will go, it will go.” In three days the water receded and the temple was saved.

In January 1962, Babaji left Allahabad for a few weeks to visit some important centers of pilgrimage: Dwarka, Rameshwaram, Jagannath Puri, and others. Tularam and his family accompanied him. While they were at Dwarka, the head priest of the temple pointed to Babaji, “That baba with the blanket lives here all the time.” Babaji kept silent as the priest talked. That was the first time I had heard of him being somewhere else at the same time that we knew Babaji was staying in Allahabad. Afterwards we had many experiences of his being at different places at the same time.

Another example of this happened when devotees had just completed the building of a new Hanuman temple for Maharajji in Panki, near Kanpur. At the time of the official opening ceremony, Maharajji was in Allahabad and told everybody that he wouldn’t personally attend the function.

On the morning of the ceremony in Panki, Maharajji went into his room in Allahabad after his bath and said to me, “I shall sleep today, I am not keeping well.” He covered himself with his blanket and told me not to allow anyone to come into his room. He was locked in from the outside.

The next day some devotees arrived in Allahabad to give out prasad from the puja in Panki. They described the colorful puja and bhandara and said everything had gone perfectly—Maharajji had even come, although he said he wouldn’t. We said, “That’s impossible. Maharajji was here in Allahabad the whole time!”

“Well, he was also in Panki. He was at the temple from seven until twelve o’clock.”

After Babaji returned from the pilgrimage to Dwarka in 1962, many devotees arrived and we went on enjoying the satsang with Babaji staying the house almost all the time. One day he went out, accompanied by Tularam, Shukla and a few others. I had to remain in the house. At the time of the midday meal, Ma, Maushi Ma, Didi and myself felt we could not take our food as long as Babaji had not returned.

He was out for the whole day and returned in the evening. The daily visitors had already arrived and were waiting for him the hall, which was full to capacity. As Babaji entered the gate, he began shouting at me, “You are a fool and have kept everyone hungry. You should not have done that. Bring my food. I am very hungry. Bring it immediately!”

This was very surprising. Usually he took his food in his room, with only the Mothers present. He often said, “Food and prayers should be done in seclusion.” But this time he insisted on having his plate brought in and placed before him. He started distributing the chapatis from the plate to the people sitting in the room. When one bunch was finished, I took another from the kitchen where Didi was preparing them. When Babaji started distributing the chapatis, there were hardly twenty pieces in the pan from which they were served. When he had finished feeding over one hundred persons, Didi found her pan still full!

After the visitors had gone away, he began talking to me in an entirely different tone. “Dada, you should not have kept others hungry. If you had taken your food they would have joined you. See, Ma, Maushi Ma, and Kamala are hungry. Dada, I was on the bank of the Ganges. It was so nice and peaceful that I could not leave it. You should not keep anyone hungry.”

The next day he again left in the morning along with some devotees. Before leaving, he told me that if he were late in returning, I should not keep anyone hungry. If I took my food, others would join me.

After he had been gone only a few hours, someone came and told me that Babaji was on the bank of the Ganges and wanted me to come there. Didi accompanied me. The journey was easy until the riverbed started and it was difficult to go over the sand by rickshaw. We reach the place where Tularam, Siddhi Didi, Shukla and Girish were waiting, but Babaji was not there. They said that after sending the message to us, Babaji had gone towards the sangam, not allowing anybody to accompany him. This had been several hours ago and they felt he must have left the sangam and gone someone else. They said it was of no use staying any longer and we should return, especially since obtaining transport was so difficult there.

I did not agree and wanted to wait for his return. I said I would go to the sangam and see if he was there. Girish, a young devotee, accompanied me. The route was along the bank of the river—we could see the Ganges on our left and also the sangam in the far distance ahead. After we had gone some way, Girish looked around and said, “Chachaji [uncle], let us return. Babaji cannot be seen. He must have gone away.” I continued going ahead. The same scene was repeated twice more. I didn’t want to return, but now I had to think of Girish. He had followed out of his love for me, and if I moved ahead it would be a torture to him, a sad return for his love. But I could not go back as I felt that Babaji couldn’t have gone away. He had sent for me; he would give me darshan here. So I was in a fix, unable to move in either direction. Suddenly Girish shouted, “Chachaji, here is Babaji!”

Looking at the river, we saw a small boat coming toward the shore, with Babaji sitting on it. The most striking thing was that we had been walking only a few yards away from the water. We had kept our eyes open, searching for him. I was so excited by this sudden appearance that I couldn’t say anything. When the boat anchored we got on it. It was very hot out and Babaji had dropped his blanket, sitting on his bare body. Babaji began heckling me with all kinds of questions: when had I gotten his message, had I come alone, how long did I sit with the others, and so on. But I would not reply to his questions, my heart was too full.

There was a Vaishnava sadhu sitting with Baba and he began narrating his story. Babaji did his utmost to interrupt, but the sadhu shouted as loudly as he could. The sadhu had come for the Magh Mela. The mela was over and many sadhus had gone away. The day before, while the remaining sadhus were in their huts, they saw a person in a blanket loitering around. They asked him where he lived.

“I have no place to live.”

“What about your food?”

“I eat if someone feeds me.”

One of the sadhus asked if he would like to stay with them. “If you will feed me, I will stay.”

After eating, the sadhus prepared some ganja and were passing the smoke around. When it was Babaji’s turn, he jumped up and began abusing everyone. “These wretched and corrupt drug addicts want to spoil me also. I hate sitting with these scoundrels.” He got up and went away.

Some of the sadhus went and searched for him. When they inquired at another camp if anyone had seen a man in a blanket, an old sadhu said, “You did not recognize him? That was Neem Karoli Baba.” This was a revelation to them. They had heard much about Baba, but had never met him.

That morning the sadhu had seen Babaji moving before his hut and had followed him. Baba started to talk to him and they had been together all day. The sadhu was jubilant. “I have had the darshan of Bala Gopala [Boy Krishna]!”

Our boat reached the place where the others were waiting. All were happy that we had found Babaji and brought him back. However, it was late in the day and it would be difficult getting back home because Babaji had not yet taken his food. Babaji said, “Something will happen.” After a few minutes, a devotee arrived in a station wagon. Babaji asked everyone to get into the car and return home, saying he would come afterwards along with me. He insisted they must return as Ma and Maushi Ma were waiting with their food. They left rather reluctantly.

We two were alone. After a few minutes he started asking me questions about the whole affair, beginning with the message he had sent. The questions had to be answered, there was no option because he hammered it out of me. “When you got the message, what did you think about it?”

“I didn’t think about it. I just came here.”

“When you did not find me here and the people told you Babaji must have gone away and you should return, what did you do?”

“I waited there for your return.”

“Why didn’t you believe that I must have gone away?” When I didn’t reply he repeated the question. “Tell me what you felt about it.”

I told him that my only belief was that since he had sent for me I was sure to have his darshan.

“You thought so. You were right. You had your darshan.”

After that I had to narrate the whole episode of going towards the sangam and Girish asking me to return.

“You did not agree with him and continued. But then you stopped suddenly and could not return back or continue forward.” I said this was so. “What were you doing when you stopped moving?” For a long while I could not reply. He started stroking my hair and repeated the question, insisting, “Tell me. Tell me.”

Then I said, “I was saying ‘Ram Ram.'” It was as if something extracted the reply out of me.

He whispered slowly, as if pouring the words into my ear, “Ram nam karne se sab pura ho jata.” [Everything is accomplished by taking the name of Ram.]

Looking back, I realized how nicely the drama was enacted from beginning to end, finishing with the Mahamantra [Ram Ram]—the crux of all his teachings. The Mahamantra was not for any particular individual or for me alone, but for the generations of devotees who are attracted to him.

While we were sitting there, a devotee brought some food for Babaji, who said he was not hungry. I asked if I could offer the fruits to a sadhu who was living in a nearby hut. When I returned Baba said, “We must return to the house now. Ma and Maushi Ma are waiting for us. We shall take food at home.”

It was late afternoon when we reached the house. After the visitors had dispersed and Babaji had returned to his room, we sat together as was our daily routine. The devotees staying in the house were very keen to hear the whole story. Afterwards Shukla exclaimed, with tears in his eyes, “Oh Dada, how fortunate you are. You had the precious mantra on the sacred bank of the Ganges.”

A few days after that, Babaji left Allahabad. The day before he left he told me, “Dada, you stay at home.”

I told him I would do so, although I didn’t understand what it meant. When I asked Tularam, who was sitting with me, he said, “Udhav [Krishna’s friend who brought messages from Krishna to the gopis, here used to refer to Dada as Maharajji’s messenger], we do not understand it now, but we will know in due course.” Since then, I have come to stay in the house year-round, except to go to my work at the University or when I was in the company of Babaji or when he sent for me to meet him at Kainchi or Vrindaban. My visits to friends and relations all came to an end.

We never knew when Babaji might come unexpectedly. Aside from the visit during the winter months, he would sometimes come for a short visit any time in the day or night. It would certainly have been very painful if we were not in the house when he arrived.

In February 1963, Baba said one day that we should go to Chitrakut. There were a large number of devotees staying in the house at that time, and when we gathered together late at night, there was much speculation about who was to be included in the party. The next day we took our meals early, and then two cars—a party of thirteen—left for Chitrakut.

It was late in the afternoon when we reached the outskirts of the town bordering the forest area. There were no markets or shops, just a roadside stand where we had our tea. Babaji had me ask the chai wallah to prepare our food for the night. Kanhai Lal was asked to search for some accomodations. He said, “There are no houses nearby. How can we get accomodations?”

Babaji pointed to a building a little further away, “That is a government inspection house. Talk to the chaukidar there.”

Kanhai Lal went, then returned disappointed, saying, “The chaukidar will not allow us to stay without a written order from the authorities.”

Babaji said, “You don’t know how to tackle such situations. Give him ten rupees and he will open the doors for you.” This is what happened and we went there for the night.

After we had fixed up our things, Babaji said we should go and take our food because the area was not safe at night—the forests were infested with wild animals. When we reached the chai shop, Babaji asked for his food, but it wasn’t ready. Some vegetables were cooked, but not the one we had specially requested for Babaji. I was much distressed because Babaji was pressing for his food. I rebuked the shopkeeper, who said that since the squash was only for one person and would not take much time to prepare, he had kept it as the last item. It would be ready in a short while. But Babaji wouldn’t wait.

He was sitting in the car and I carried his chapati to him, since that was already baked. He knew how very painful it was for me to serve him an incomplete meal and he tried to console me, “Dada, do not be distressed. Get me a pinch of salt. You do not know how sweet it tastes. I have eaten such kind of food very often.” I brought some salt and stood beside him, keeping the salt on my palm. He praised the food, “A hot chapati with a pinch of salt is the sweetest food to eat.” Of course, I was not convinced and continued to be sulky. Most of us could not take our food that night as we had already lost the taste for it.

Our visits to different places were to begin early in the morning. At daybreak, Babaji began shouting for us to get ready quickly. We had our tea and were waiting for the dandi that had been engaged for Babaji. The dandiwallahs were to come at eight. By nine o’clock there was still no trace of them. Babaji began upbraiding Kanhai Lal who had arranged it. When they did arrive, Kanhai Lal burst out with rebukes at how late they had been.

Their reply was, “You cannot understand how difficult it is to come out in this rain and cold. You have plenty of warm clothes on you, but what do we have?” It was early February and the cold had been intensified by a night of drizzling rain. The two men were lean and shivering with cold. When Kanhai Lal asked them to start they asked for eight rupees, although the agreement had been for six rupees. One of them pointed to Babaji and said, “Six rupees for this passenger?”

I do not understand how it came out of my mouth, but I said, “You will have your eight rupees all right, but your passenger is very light.” Babaji looked at me significantly and smiled. It still continues to be a mystery how they knew Babaji was the passenger out of the whole bunch of us, as well as my comment that the passenger was light.

We came to Kamadgiri, the sacred hillock. The distance to be circumambulated was a few miles. Babaji got into the dandi and we were on foot. There were a number of temples and places of interest along the way. Babaji would be in the dandi for some time and then would get down and walk. I was with him all the time, either moving with the dandi or walking with him.

As we went along, Baba would be commenting or explaining. We were often waiting for the others to catch up. Finally as we were walking, the dandiwallahs following behind, we came to the place where the cars were parked. I asked whether we had finished our journey and he said this was so. When I looked back, the dandiwallahs were nowhere to be seen. They had simply disappeared! I asked Babaji where they were, as they had not yet been paid. “Dada, they said that they had done a very virtuous act and they would not accept any money in payment.”

I got very excited and shouted at him, “Well, they have done a virtuous act all right. But what about their children?”

Seeing how upset I was, Babaji put one hand on my shoulder and began stroking my head with his other hand. The rest of the party reached us then and asked what was happening. Baba said, “Dada is angry with me because the dandiwallahs have gone away without taking payment.” Someone said that they must have been paid already. I got furious because only Babaji and I had been with the dandiwallahs and when I was with him money always came out of my pocket. Babaji, all smiles, whispered in my ear, “Dada, do not get angry.” So, who those dandiwallahs were I cannot say. It was simply one more mystery.

Later we were standing on the ghat before the temple. Across the river a dead body was being carried on a litter by men chanting, “Ram nam satya hai. Ram nam satya hai.” [The name of Ram is infinite truth, traditionally chanted in India by those bearing a dead body to the burning ghat.] Babaji said, “You see, that is how all life ends, with ‘Ram nam satya hai.’ People take the name of Ram only twice: when they are in very great difficulty, and when they are carrying a dead body to the cremation ground.”

After that we visited two other places and then Babaji said it was time to return to Allahabad, although it had been expected that we would stay three days. He said that Dada was angry so we had to return. While getting into the car, he told me, “Dada, one has to return to Chitrakut many times for darshan. It cannot be done in only one visit.”

We came to a nearby market town and went to visit the workshop of one of his devotees. The people were delighted to see Babaji and one went to arrange for food while a few others took Babaji around to see the premises. I and two others were sitting with the old manager of the workshop. Talking to us about Babaji and his grace, he recollected an event which had happened years back.

Babaji was in the habit of visiting a nearby village. One evening he came to the house of a devotee where he often took his food. The lady of the house came out crying bitterly and said, “The person who used to serve you your food is lying there.” He lay dead, surrounded by the people who had come to arrange for his cremation. Babaji sat down by the man, put a part of his blanket of the man’s body, and began talking to the people around him. Everyone was looking at Babaji and listening to him. After some time, Babaji got up and said he would go and take his food somewhere else. No one thought of stopping him. After Baba had gone away, the man lying there sat up as if from sleep and asked, “Why am I lying here?” Everyone was so dazed that no one could reply.

While we were talking, the food was brought and served to all. We all enjoyed the food so much after starving the night before. As we were returning to Allahabad, Babaji said, “We are returning because Ma has prepared khir for Babua and is looking at the road waiting for us.” Babua was Didi’s nephew, a young boy who was in the party. Ma was happy when we returned and said she knew we would be back because Babaji was aware of what was in everyone’s mind.

A very striking thing that I had noticed while going around Kamadgiri with Babaji was that “Ram Ram” was written on many leaves of the trees around the hillock. I had drawn his attention to them. All he had said at that time was, “It is like that. There is nothing strange about it.” Two days after our return, I was alone with him. He asked how I had felt about our visit to Chitrakut. I asked him how “Ram Ram” came to be seen on the leaves. He talked about the sanctity of the place, how Rama had sanctified the whole place by his presence. Each and every piece of stone bears his footprints on them. Even the plants and trees, because of their association with him, treasure his name in their bosom. Babaji said, “‘Kan kan me Rama hai’ [Rama is present in each and every particle], and his devotees get his darshan even now.”

That night in Allahabad when we had just returned from Chitrakut, Babaji was in his room and the Mothers were with him. Maushi Ma said, “Baba, you are very kind to everyone, but not to these old women.”

“Why, Maushi Ma?”

“You took everyone to Chitrakut, but left us behind.”

“Maushi Ma, Chitrakut is a rocky area and it is very difficult for you to visit such a place. We shall go to Vindhyachala and you will have the darshan of the Vindhyavasini Devi. We shall go tomorrow.”

The next day a large party started early in two cars. Didi and her sister Ashoka stayed behind to look after the household duties. After visiting the temples we were returning and Babaji said he would go to urinate. Babaji told the others to remain in the car, and I walked with him some distance into a field. After urinating, we had walked back a bit when he suddenly sat down and said a thorn was stuck in his foot. I also sat down, not in front of him as I normally would, but behind him. Everyone in the car came rushing out and some began examining his foot. Mr. Joshi took a pin from the turban on his head and began searching for the thorn. I was sitting behind Babaji, supporting his head which he had placed on my shoulder. Little by little he leaned his whole body on me. It was so light. Suddenly it came to me in a flash what I had said the day before to the dandiwallahs in Chitrakut, that their passenger was very light. I felt that this communication had been his, with my mouth serving as his instrument. This happened many times afterwards also.

A month after Babaji left Allahabad, Didi’s father died and we had to go to Kanpur to attend the ceremony. We had had no news of Babaji since he had left, but somehow I had the feeling that we would meet him there. When we reached Kanpur, Didi’s sister Ashoka and her uncle were waiting for us at the station, saying they had just received word that Babaji had arrived and was staying with Dr. Dixit. We went to his house, but Babaji was not there, having gone to a devotee in another part of the city. This house was situated some distance from the main road and was reached by going through a narrow lane. We got down from the car and had started down the dark lane when an old devotee came carrying a flashlight. He had been sent by Babaji, who told him that we were coming and should be met at the road with a lamp.

Babaji was sitting on the open roof surrounded by a number of devotees. There was much jubilation in our meeting. I offered Babaji a packet of sweets I had brought for him from Allahabad. He exclaimed, “How did you know that I would be here?” I did not reply. After some time he asked me to go home and take my bath, as was my custom, and he would come and visit us there. As I was leaving, he wanted to give me some prasad but there was nothing nearby. He took off the garland that was around his neck and offered that to me, saying, “You have given me so much, but what shall I give you? These people are badmash. They do not keep anything for me. You take this from me.” I was overwhelmed by his grace, the soft and affectionate words, and the sacred prasad offered to me.

He visited us that night and spent some time with Didi’s brother and his family. Next morning he sent for me, knowing there was no work for me to do in that house. I spent the whole day with him. In the evening when he was leaving Kanpur, he dropped me near Mr. Choudhury’s (Didi’s brother’s) house and I returned to Allahabad that night.

It was all a unique lesson for me. When we had to go to Kanpur I was distressed with the idea. It was only a year back that Baba had asked me to stay at home. Here, at the first opportunity, I was disobeying him and I was not happy about it. Had it not been so important for us to attend the function, I would not have left the house. Faced with this situation, I suddenly felt that I would meet him there and that he wanted me to go. This was the first time I felt this method of communication. Afterwards I became more accustomed to it.

Even now, since he has left his body, it goes on. A few years ago, when the Western devotees were asking me to come to America, I could not take it seriously. It seemed too great a burden to put on those persons. But pressure continued on every side, and for days and months I was feeling very helpless about it. Then late one night I was reading in my room after everyone else had gone to sleep. The door to Babaji’s room was open and I went and bowed at his bed. Suddenly I felt that he said, “You should go.” The next day I wrote them saying that I would come.

Source: AWAKEN


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