Neem Karoli aka Maharaji (1900 c. - 1973) attained fame in the West: 1971
Neem Karoli Baba aka Maharaj-ji, was a Hindu guru who became famous in the West due to the publicity generated by 2 of his followers, Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass) and Kermit Michael Riggs (aka Bhagavan Das). Ram Dass soon became a travelling psychic/spiritual circus. By 1975 he was traveling with a road manager and a group of backup musicians for the chanting and singing the praises of this now dead Master. Neem Karoli became famous outside India even though Ram Dass and Bhagavan Das were the witnesses most unlikely to be believed by a skeptical, judicious and prudent audience. However they were just perfect for the audience they had, willing to believe, anxious to believe and desperate to stay on the cool, in-crowd bandwagon.
In 1967, despite Alpert's survival of an extraordinary amount of drugs with faculties reasonably intact he was once again deeply depressed and in despair touring in India suffering from physical discomfort & paranoia caused by hashish withdrawal when he met a guru, Jagat Gurudev Baba Neeb Karoli Maharaj. "Maharaji" or "Greatest King." In India gurus are usually given honorifics by their followers that would be considered excessive in European societies. Neeb Karoli is a famous guru in India and soon convinces Alpert that he is actually omniscient, omnipotent and etc, etc s he has convinced many before. Like Bhagawan Nityananda, he appears to be ugly and grossly fat, nearly always dressed in a tartan blanket and he does very little but lie around on a couch eating and occasionally getting into strange postures. This is not a picture I find compelling but he certainly appears less harmful than most of the gurus who've developed a Western following and some of his followers seem pretty impressively ethical. It's not as if there aren't plenty of other weird looking Indian gurus who've convinced their followers they're God.
Once a person is recognised as a famous guru, his disciples will explain away any bizarre or abusive behaviour as being for spiritual benefit:
We'd be sitting outside and Maharajji would pull my hands under the blanket and make me massage his legs, almost pulling me under the blanket. I loved touching him, but I was not sure how far you can go in touching Maharajji. I'd be working on his feet and calves, and he'd grab my arm and pull my hand up to his thigh. So I'd do his thighs for a little bit and then my hands would start wandering down to his calves again, because all of a sudden I'd look around and see all these people staring at me.
I was kneeling before Maharajji when he grabbed at my sari and started pulling at it. Then he was holding my breasts and saying, "Ma, Ma." I felt for the first time as if I were experiencing an intimate act free of lust.
There are stories about gurus doing things with women. But somehow around Maharajji there was a feeling of such purity that people could tell me anything he had done, and it never shook my total trust in him at all. It was clear that he needed nothing; he had no desires of his own. - Miracle of Love by Ram Dass.
Neeb Karoli has the usual Indian guru story though his is one of the weirder ones. He left home when young and moved often and was known under different names depending upon his domicile. One of his homes was under a Neem Tree near Mohaudbad. It was near there that the story goes he was evicted from a 1st Class section of a train as he was a sadhu and the train was unable to move until many apologies and prayers were made to him. The train station was named after him (his name can be transliterated in more than one way). An identical story is told of Bhagawan Nityananda. After many years as a wandering sadhu he was found by his father and ordered to return home and became a householder. He settled down with the woman he had married when he was 11 years old and fathered 3 children. He returned to the life of an Indian Holy Man in 1958.
Alpert received the name Ram Dass, or "servant of God" and returned to the United States where he edited and published 'Remember, Be Here Now'. This was an unexpected success and made both Alpert and Neem Karoli Baba famous.
Steve Jobs is often mentioned as being inspired by Neem Karoli but in fact they never met. Karoli had died before Jobs went to India. India had a major effect on Jobs' thinking though and he has often been quoted:
"We weren't going to find a place where we could go for a month to be enlightened. It was one of the first times that I started to realize that maybe Thomas Edison did a lot more to improve the world than Karl Marx and Neem Karoli Baba put together."
Did Neem Karoli eradicate smallpox? Not according to the World Health Organization. He inspired one hippie doctor, Larry Brilliant - a hard name to live up to - to get a job with the Smallpox Eradication Project of the WHO and there were another 150,000 people working for the project in India alone. But that's a lot worthier than coming to the West and fucking young women who think you're God.
Because Ram Dass is a public figure who compulsively discusses his private life in public it is possible to determine the results of his spiritual practice and his devotion to his guru over a thirty year period. In public seminars conducted in 1997 marketed as 'Truth and Transformation' he reveals that 30 years since writing 'Be Here Now' he has gained no spiritual insight or experience from meditation and that his cherished beliefs about this divine guru are just that - beliefs. This may be because Neeb Karoli was not a divine Guru and has no spiritual power or it may be that Ram Dass is and was a very poor meditator.
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