About the Book
In 1967, Ram Dass returned to the West from India and spread the teachings of his mysterious guru, Neem Karoli Baba, better known as Maharajji. Ram Dass’s words about Maharajji’s life-affirming wisdomresonated with a youth culture that had grown disillusioned with the violence, civil discord, and crude materialism of modern civilization. Hundreds of Westerners travelled to India and experienced Maharajji’s extraordinary presence directly until his death in 1973. His simple Directives - love everyone, feed everyone, and remember God - opened their hearts and awakened their souls.
What these followers brought back to the West has since changed the landscape of everyday life. Meditation is now mainstream; yoga studios are in every town; and mindfulness is practiced in elementary schools and board- rooms everywhere, from Silicon Valley to Capitol Hill. A stirring piece of history, Love Everyone brings these stories to life, sharing for the First time the inspiring tales of the men and women who followed the siren call of the East to the foothills of the Himalayas, then returned to forever reshape the world.
A compelling and inspiring tribute to Maharajji from the Western men and women who knew him best, Love Everyone is a profound teaching on the power of love, as lasting and transformative as the truth, wisdom, and bliss of Maharajji.
About the Author
PARVATI MARKUS is a developmental editor and writer of spiritually oriented nonfiction books and memoirs. She has worked on books by various members of the satsang, from Ram Dass’s classic Be Here Now (before she went to India) to those since her time in India with Maharajji (1971-1972)- from Dada Mukerjee’s By His Grace and The Near and the Dear to Krishna Dass’s recent Chants of a Lifetime. She is a former president of the board of the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram and Temple and a former development consultant for the Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders, held at the U.N. in Geneva, Switzerland. She lives in West Palm Beach, Florida.
When I left India the first time, my guru, Neem Karoli Baba, told me not to talk about him in the West. But as I travelled around and spoke to ever larger groups, I did nothing else. It was as if I had no choice. I shared him, and some of those who heard me talk about Maharajji went to India and met him as well.
We Westerners who Went to India on a spiritual quest and those of us who spent time with Maharajji experienced unconditional love and siddhis (spiritual powers) that we had never experienced before. Foremost was the way in which he saw us and loved us as souls. We bore witness to this exceptional soul as well as to our own true nature/ selves. When We returned to the West, we carried him in our hearts and souls. All of the stories in this book, by the people who went to have darshan (sight of) and to bask in the presence of Maharajji in the late 1960s and early 1970s, are truly an extension of that unconditional love.
On my second trip to India in 1970, during my time with Maharajji, he would say to me simply, "Love everyone." And all I could say was. "I Can’t do that, Maharajji.? That was because I was identified with my ego, which could not possibly love everyone. He would come up to me, nose to nose, and repeat, "Ram Dass, love everyone."
Over time this instruction took hold. My identification with ego shifted, and my perspective changed to one that came from my spiritual heart or soul. From the point of view of my soul, I was able to look at everyone as souls, and I loved each one of them. Maharajji’s instruction led me to perceive myself and everyone else as loving souls.
Ego is here, in your head, which is who "I think l am." If you see those thoughts and then go down to the heart, the spiritual heart, down there you say, I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. I am loving awareness. Whisper it: I am loving awareness.
Everything is love. Everything is a manifestation of love. Table. Tree. Yourself. Universe. The universes. They are all made up of love. And once you bathe in that love, you dive into an ocean of love. Oh, it feels so wonderful! Love. Compassion. Love. Compassion.
We meet in that love. We meet inside.
Inside our spiritual heart.
In Hinduism it’s called the atman. It’s God, guru, and self together inside.
In September 1971, Ram Dass and I were standing together, leaning over the balcony of the Evelyn Hotel in the "hill station? town of Nainital, looking out over the verdant foothills of the Himalayas and watching the postmonsoon clouds roll across the picture-perfect lake. Rowboats moved gracefully through the waters. Bells rang in the small temple across the lake. The sweet smell of incense wafted out from various rooms in the hotel, where some of the Westerners were meditating or doing devotional practices. Others were writing in journals or reading mail from home- missives from the other side of the World, a place that seemed far less real than the one we were now occupying.
We had come back to the hotel after a long day spent at a Hindu temple in the Kainchi valley, a half-hour bus ride away on twisty mountain roads with blind hairpin curves, where we were spending time with a holy man named Neem Karoli Baba, whom we called Maharajji (a title ubiquitous throughout India meaning "great king?) or simply Baba. About twenty of us were living in the hotel as if it were an ashram. The hotel was owned by long-time devotees of Maharajji, and we were treated like family.
After a long silence, Ram Dass turned to me and said, "We are seeing Maharajji to bear witness." That comment stayed with me over the years, and I’ve thought often about what he meant. In being with Maharajji, we were bearing witness to the reality of enlightenment and all that implied, and to a greater love than we had ever known. We were bearing witness to the love within our own hearts and to the realization that, as Maharajji often repeated, Sub Ek ("All is One"). We were bearing witness to what it meant to surrender in service to others.
This book is meant to bear witness to how a disparate group of Westerners found their way to India and to Maharajji, what we experienced there, and how the seeds of Maharajji’s extraordinary love sprouted, grew, and blossomed in the West.
Neem Karoli Baba didn’t come bodily to America. Instead, he sent his emissary - Ram Dass. Many of us found our way to Maharajji because of Ram Dass - either after hearing him lecture (the Indians said he had the "gift of Saraswati," the goddess of speech and poetry) or from reading his book Be Here Now, published in 1971. Others, who had embarked on the tantalizing journey to the East looking for adventure, good drugs, or spiritual wisdom, also found Maharajji.
This ragged band of skeptical Westerners came from a culture where it is anathema to bow down before another person and the idea of touching or, God forbid, kissing someone’s feet is unthinkable. But that changed quickly in Maharajji’s presence. We had come halfway around the world to experience the ancient Vedantic sat-chit-ananda-truth, consciousness, and bliss- as it manifested in a toothless old man wrapped in a plaid woollen blanket.
When we met Maharajji, we knew nothing about him or his history; some stories suggested that he was hundreds of years old. It wasn’t until he died in September 1973 that we learned more. We discovered that, after emerging from his underground cave at Neem Karoli, he still honoured his Brahminical duties to his wife, whom he’d been married to as a young boy of nine or ten, to his children and grandchildren, and to his village. His yogic and spiritual powers were vast, but, like the wind, no one could catch him; he was a wanderer who usually spent no more than a few days in a place, which, to the amazement of his Indian devotees, changed when the Westerners arrived. But who he had been and where he had come from were irrelevant when we sat in front of him.
The Indians describe a being like Maharajji as antaryamin - a knower of hearts. Imagine sitting in front of someone who knows absolutely everything about you and still loves you unconditionally. Our thinking, rational, linear minds were quieted by the overwhelming experience of our hearts. We were home. We had made it to the home that’s completely safe, a home built of pure love. And we were transformed.
The Path of Bhakti
For Maharajji’s devotees, love is the heart of the matter. Maharajji gave no lectures, nothing for the mind to hold on to, no formal teachings other than his oft-repeated injunction: Love everyone, feed everyone, and remember God. And its corollary: Tell the truth. The only practices he encouraged were repeating the name of God (mantra or japa), singing the names of God (kirtan), and chanting the forty verses of the Hanuman Chalisa - a prayer to the monkey god, Hanuman, the aspect of God most closely associated with Maharajji. He didn’t teach meditation; often people meditating in his presence were brought back to the here and now with a well-aimed piece of fruit.
We read the books and poetry of the great lovers of God, like Rumi. We sang all sorts of songs to Maharajji, not only kirtan. When Linda Bush was given the name Mirabai (a Fifteenth-century devotional poet), she bought a tamboura (a stringed instrument made from a gourd) and sang bhajans (songs) to Mirabai?s beloved deity, Krishna, the god of love. Rukmini, who had been involved in the Hare Krishna movement, sang such a beautiful Hare Krishna Hare Ram that it brought tears to Maharajji’s eyes. And because Maharajji talked often about Jesus, we sang old gospel songs. Sometimes on bus rides back to Nainital at the end of the day from the temple in Kainchi, we would change the words to rock’n roll songs and Christmas carols and sing to Maharajji that way. Singing opens the heart, and the path of devotion, or bhakti, is all about opening the heart.
Bhakti yoga is a method of learning to live in love, much like medi-tation is a method of quieting the mind and expanding awareness. Ram Dass, these days, looks at everyone and everything in the universe, including the wheelchair that has become part of his life since his stroke, through the lens of "I am loving awareness."
For Hindus, satsang means the community of people seeking higher truth, similar to "fellowship? or "brotherhood? in Western religious traditions and the sanga in Buddhism. Some of us spent no more than a few days -with Maharajji, while others stayed for years, but together we formed a satsang, a family of devotees. Then he died, and we were left to deal with the rest of our lives. In the decades since his passing, we have followed and forged many different paths and studied with many teachers in various spiritual traditions, but we all hold our experience with Maharajji in the center of our hearts. And we have each other as companions, best friends, supporters, and gadflies, as we seek to merge what we learned in the East with the realities of our lives in the West.
When we left for India, there were only a few spiritual books or bookstores (such as Weiser’s in New York and the Bodhi Tree in LA); there were no yoga studios on every corner, no meditation centers or teachers in every town, no one singing kirtan, no bhakti or shakti (devotional or spiritual energy) festivals. In the four decades since we came back from India, yoga and Eastern spirituality have become not only part of our lives, but also a large part of the changed landscape of America.
Some of us, like KRISHNA DAS, JAI UTTAL, BHAGAVAN DAS, and the late SHYAM DAS, brought the devotional practice of chanting (kirtan) from India to the West, while others have manifested their experience with Maharajji in ways that have little to do with religious tradition and more to do with service and changing consciousness.
DANIEL GOLEMAN wrote about the behavioural sciences for the New York Times, authored the revolutionary book Emotional intelligence, and works with the Dalai Lama’s Mind and Life Institute to explore consciousness and the brain. MIRABAI BUSH established the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, which encourages the use of contemplative practices in college courses, the legal profession, and _even high-tech environments like Google. DR. LARRY BRILLIANT has gone from helping to eradicate smallpox with the World Health Organization to directing Google’s philanthropy to overseeing the Skoll Global Threats Fund. GIRIJA BRILLIANT helped found Seva Foundation with Larry, Ram Dass, Wavy Gravy, and others to use skillful means to reduce cur- able and preventable blindness around the world.
TOM FORRAY works with the criminally insane; SITA THOMPSON does hospice work and was a prison chaplain; ANASUYA WEIL practices Tibetan medicine; RADHA BAUM combines East and West as a nurse practitioner and acupuncturist. BALARAM DAS GOETSCH is an anesthesiologist and lawyer. RAM DEV BORGLUM directs the Living/ Dying Project, helping those with life - threatening illnesses to find emotional and spiritual support. STEVEN SCHWARTZ founded the Center for Public Representation, providing mental-health law and disability law services. LAMA SURYA DAS is the founder of the Dzogchen Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, author of many books, and a teacher of Tibetan Buddhism. KRISHNA BUSH is the producer of acclaimed documentaries, including the journey into Buddhism trilogy. RALPH ABRAHAM is a mathematician and chaos theorist. RAVI DAS JEFFERY is now retired after three decades as a Superior Court judge in Barrow, Alaska.
Others are psychologists, artists, musicians, teachers, caretakers, entrepreneurs, realtors, and web designers. These are, of course, our professional roles; in addition, we have our family and societal roles. Beneath what we do, however, is who we are as souls. No matter how large or small our individual sphere of influence, we try to bring loving awareness and greater compassion to what we do and those we serve.
However, as a group We hold no single vision of who we are, who Maharajji is, and what we mean to each other. Maharajji gathers different ingredients for his satsang "stew"-all of us pungent with our array of "stuff"- and he occasionally picks up his long wooden spoon, throws in a new spice or another potato, and stirs the pot. Ram Dass used to call it the "sandpaper effect." Our conflicts, our coming together and breaking apart, our positive and negative interactions help smooth out the rough edges of our consciousness. As a group we are often as dysfunctional as many of our families of origin. But there’s a difference: we are related to our family members by blood, but our satsang is a family of the heart.
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