Life of Neem Karoli Baba: A Mystic’s Biography

Last updated on June 20th, 2024 at 11:08 am

A wise, old man seated on a wooden bench, covering himself with a blanket; interacting with those who came to meet, with a pat on the back, brief talk and a sense of humour. Such was his unassuming personality and behavior. The spiritual mentor of many Americans who visited India in the 1960s and 70s; tycoons like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg visited his ashram in India. Such was the greatness of his work. Let’s get to know this mysterious man, spiritual Guru Neem Karoli Baba, (also called Neem Karori Baba) through this biography.

A Glimpse of His Life

Neem Karoli Baba Kainchi Dham

Born around 1900, in the Akbarpur village in the North Western provinces of British India, the birth name of Neem Karoli Baba (initially known as Laxman Das, and referred to as Maharaj-ji by his followers) was Lakshmi Narayan Sharma. He was born into a rich Brahmin family and his religion was Hinduism. His parents married him off at the age of 11, and years later he left his house to lead the life of a monk, then, at the request of his father, he returned and resumed his family life and had two sons and a daughter. During his journey as a monk, he influenced many lives and his philosophy spread to many parts of the world.

Story Behind His Name

According to a narrative by Ram Dass, one of the disciples of Neem Karoli Baba, after leaving his house in 1958, Laxman Das boarded a train without a ticket, for which he was forced out of the train in Neem Karoli village in Farrukhabad, UP. When he got off the train on the instruction of the conductor, the train did not start again. After many failed attempts of taking the train ahead without Neem Karoli Baba, someone advised taking him in, so that the train may start, and so it did when Neem Karoli Baba boarded the train again. He placed two conditions while getting inside the train; one that a railway station must be built for the residents of Neem Karoli and two, that the railways must treat sadhus with respect. His advice was followed, as per which, a station was built in the village and that’s why the people living there, gave him the name Neem Karoli.

Neem Karoli Baba as an Ascetic

Later, this ascetic wandered and stayed in many parts of North India. His place of sadhana was the Vavania village of Morbi in Gujarat. He followed the Bhakti yoga. He preached that service to mankind was the highest form of devotion to the Almighty. He was a devotee of Lord Hanuman.

In a book titled ‘Miracle of Love’, compiled by Ram Dass, it has been stated that he did not give discourses, and that he would often sit or lie down on a wooden bench, with a plaid blanket wrapped around him. He was often seen sitting in silence, but those around him would experience joy and bliss. Neem Karoli Baba used to say that ego and attachment should be let gone, to understand God. According to him, what distinguishes a learned man from a fool is detachment and shedding of ego. He maintained that one should surrender to God, have faith and love for Him, and this is the way to get rid of unnecessary worries. He defied conventional patterns and descriptions, yet seemed to possess an omniscient awareness, guiding events and people effortlessly.

Interestingly Neem Karoli Baba was known by different names in different regions of India. His other names include Lakshman Das, Handi Wallah Baba and Tikonia Wallah Baba. In Gujarat, he was called Tallaiya Baba. Locals of Vrindavan called him Chamatkari Baba.

He left this world on September 11, 1973 in a hospital in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, after going into a diabetic coma. Earlier, he had experienced chest pain, for which he had visited a heart specialist in Agra. While returning to Kainchi from Agra, he had convulsions after which he was taken to Shri Dham Vrindavan. It is said that on being taken to hospital, the doctors said that he had gone into diabetic coma and started treating him. He rose for a few moments, pulled off the oxygen mask, asked for Ganga water, and was given regular water, after which he repeated Jaya Jagadish Hare many times, and left for his heavenly abode. At the time of death, his face was peaceful with no signs of pain.

His samadhi has been built in the Vrindavan ashram. He continues to live through his teachings and through his followers who respect and remember him and are working towards continuing his legacy.

Ashrams and Foundations

Kainchi Dham Neem Karoli Baba Ashram
Kainchi Dham Neem Karoli Baba Ashram

Ashrams of Neem Karoli Baba are located in Kainchi, Bhumiadhar, Kakrighat, Hanumangarhi in Kumaon Hills and Vrindavan, Lucknow, Shimla, Rishikesh, Neem Karoli village in Khimasepur, Farrukhabad and in Delhi. Outside India, his ashram is located in Taos, New Mexico. The ashrams in Kainchi and Vrindavan were built during his lifetime. 100 temples were built in his name. Today, his temple on Nainital Almora road is a place of pilgrimage for the locals and his devotees around the world. On June 15 every year, the Kainchi Dham Bhandara is held to celebrate the inauguration of this temple, and the event attracts more than 100,000 people.

Ram Dass and Larry Brilliant, two of his noted disciples established the Seva Foundation in Berkeley, California. It is an international health organization working towards the prevention and treatment of blindness. There is another foundation known as the Love Serve Remember Foundation, which was established in the late 2000s. It works towards preserving and spreading the teachings and philosophy of Neem Karoli Baba.

Notable Disciples and Followers

Celebrated figures like Steve Jobs had traveled to India to meet Neem Karoli Baba, but he had died a month before. Mark Zuckerberg had come to Neem Karoli Baba’s Ashram in Kainchi. Larry Page and Jeffrey Skoll had visited the ashram.

Spiritual gurus Ram Dass, Bhagavan Das and Jaya Sati Bhagavati, musicians Jai Uttal and Krishna Das, filmmaker John Bush and author Daniel Goleman, and notable people like Larry Brilliant and his wife Girija, and professor Dada Mukerjee, among others were disciples and followers of Neem Karoli Baba.

This goes on to say how far and wide, Neem Karoli Baba’s name and fame had reached. Through his life and work, he impacted several individuals across the globe and people from diverse sectors came to seek his blessings. The ashrams founded by his followers are running successfully and working towards the betterment of society. Here are a few interesting quotes by Maharaj-ji.

Here are a few books that offer a wealth of spiritual wisdom and personal transformation, focusing on the teachings of Neem Karoli Baba and his disciples:

Sri Siddhi Ma: The Story of Neem Karoli Baba’s Spiritual Legacy
The Miracle of Love

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