Embracing “Crazy Wisdom” – The Divine Life of Neem Karoli Baba
Neem Karoli Baba, also known as “Maharaj-ji”, was one of the greatest saints of Northern India in the last 100 years. He touched the hearts and changed the lives of thousands from India to the West.
He was born around the year 1900 into a wealthy family in Uttar Pradesh with the given name of Lakshmi Narayan Sharma. At the young age of 7 or 8, he often skipped school retreating into the jungle for austere spiritual practices. Some say shortly after the age of 11 he left his home and began living the life of a wandering Sadhu (holy man).
He eventually entered into deep retreat in the village of Neeb Karori, where he took shelter in underground caves, experiencing profound spiritual transformations. It was here that he became known as the “Neem Karoli Baba.”
It is said, that although he at times returned back home, he never remained with his family for too long. He ensured their material comforts from afar and only returned to fulfill his ritual duties.
Over time, due to his radiant disposition and immense spiritual realization, Maharaj-ji began to attract thousands of followers as he wandered through India.
His life was his message, as he gave no formal teachings. Simply having his darshan (the experiencing of his divine presence) is described as profoundly life changing and filled with the power and intimacy of pure love. It is said that Maharaj-ji could see inside the minds of his followers; beyond actions and appearances, he could see clearly into the depths of those he encountered.
As such, he had a profound inner knowledge of the spiritual development of others and at times followed the unconventional teaching methodology known as “Crazy Wisdom” – the use of radical and often wild techniques that shock the mind of a spiritual seeker into a deeper realization.
He would at times pull on people’s beards while they meditated – telling them to stop pretending to focus on God, while knowing their minds were wandering. At other times he would simply smack someone on the head with his hand and place them into samadhi; until after many hours later smack them again to return them back to normal waking consciousness.
He acted very differently with each follower and his treatment of the same devotee was often unpredictable. Maharaj-ji was a mirror; both the virtue and the affliction of each individual evoked a necessary and perfect response. He could see purity in the hearts of thieves and even the subtle wickedness still inside the hearts of the pious.
Out of complete compassion, he would humble the proud and shower love on the meek. By sometimes even antagonizing them, he helped his devotees to release their anger. Even through seemingly harsh words and actions, his compassion and tenderness shined through and helped them to heal after the psychic ‘surgery’ was complete. All of his actions, whether affectionate or hostile, were expressions of pure divine grace.
And Then There Were The Miracles
Stories are many of the miracles performed by Neem Karoli Baba. His closest devotee, Dada, once said, “Mind reading and telling the future and knowing what was coming and so forth- such things were always happening around Maharaj-ji. There was nothing special about them.”
He is said to have had the siddhi (power) of the goddess of Annapurna, who is the goddess of grain. Countless anecdotes exist of him performing miracles to create enough food when there were too many mouths to feed and turning water, from the sacred river Ganga, into milk.
His devotees also told of Maharaj-ji’s power to protect them and how they avoided death, hunger, injury, and misfortune which he had foreseen and divinely intervened.
Many speak of times that he detained them without reason, to later learn that a tragic accident had occurred in the very place they were planning to be. By staying with Maharaj-ji, many of their lives had been saved.
Although he had attained the ashta siddhis, the supernatural powers of an enlightened saint, he displayed them only as a means to open the hearts or strengthen the faith of his devotees.
Ultimately, he knew that his greatest power was to give people loving hearts and the ability to accept the reality of the divine.
The Way of the Siddhas
India is home to saints and sadhus of many varieties, but Neem Karoli Baba is of a rare few known as Maha Siddhas.
His teaching is of Advaita Vada, the doctrine of non-duality, which in his own words means, “There is only God, I myself am God and all things are my own heart & soul and God is present everywhere.”
He taught that all religions were one; that there were no differences. Although he himself had taken up very austere practices during his lifetime, he told his devotees that such practices were not necessary. He encouraged his devotees to let go of all forms; to love, to feed, to serve people, to live a dharmic life, and to remember God at all times.
Neem Karoli Baba attained maha samadhi, or consciously left his body, on September 11th, 1973 while chanting “Jaya Jagadish Hari” (Hail to the Lord of the Universe). While some of his devotees mourned the loss of his physical form, many understood that his presence was always with them and rejoiced in the pure love that Maharaj-ji continues to be.
In truth Maharaj-ji never really died, as he was a siddha. Even to this day people around India and beyond, continue to have visions of him – at times they even experience him in a physical form, much in the same way that Christ reappeared to his disciples.
As a true siddha, Maharaj-ji is not bound to time and space and is an inter-dimensional being, capable of manifesting in and out of our version of reality as God so wills for his form to do.
The ways of the siddhas are very mysterious to human minds fixated upon the physical dimensions of life. Only when one’s heart opens and embraces the infinite magnitude of existence can we get a glimpse into the life of one such as Neem Karoli Baba.
“Everywhere I look, I see only Ram (God). That is why I am always honoring everything.”
– Neem Karoli Baba