One of Abraham Maslow's later books was titled, The Farther Reaches of Human Nature. We now know that evolution is not limited to physical forms; consciousness, too, is capable of developing, maturing and evolving. In fact, when it comes to the evolution of consciousness, the possibilities are breathtaking. This article is about a being who exemplifies how far we are able to evolve.
In this brief discussion I want to write about an Indian saint known by the name "Neem Karoli Baba." In Vrindavan, the local people also called him Chamatkari Baba, which means "Miracle Baba". He was known by those closest to him as Maharajji, a very common name, meaning, "great king" - an appellation by which street sweepers are often addressed.
The following article may read like a fairy tale, the product of wishful thinking, or a delusional cult-like syndrome, and you are more than welcome to regard it that way. Only you can intuit its veracity and whether such development is possible for a human being. In a materialistic society such as ours - and a time in which charlatans abound - skepticism is very understandable. At the same time, another great spiritual teacher known as Amma said that: "In the West we don't have as much financial poverty, yet we have deep spiritual poverty."
I did not meet Maharajji in the flesh, but rather was introduced to him by one of his American devotees, Ram Dass (the former Harvard psychology professor Richard Alpert), who became one of my most cherished and influential spiritual guides. I feel profoundly connected to Maharajji, despite the fact that he has left his body.
Ram Dass (an Indian name that means "servant of God"), familiarized me and countless others with the existence of this extraordinary being through his 1971 bestselling book, Be Here Now, which made the reality and depth of the spiritual path comprehensible and accessible for people worldwide. What followed were decades of international lectures, books and workshops, which offered practices from the great spiritual traditions of the world. This was an expression of a much larger era in our world in which formerly secret, esoteric teachings are entering the public domain.
In the mid-1960's Alpert and Timothy Leary were booted out of Harvard University in connection with their LSD (and other psychedelics) research. While Alpert had had awe-inspiring experiences of intensified awareness and egolessness, as well as oneness with Divinity and the cosmos through his drug experiences, he naturally found that he "came down" once the drug wore off. Besides, he felt he did not have anything like an adequate map for gaining deeper insight into what he had experienced; for this reason, he traveled to India in search of someone who could make sense of his conscious-expanding encounters. He found Neem Karoli Baba. As Ram Dass said, "Maharajji didn't just have the map. He was the map."
Maharajji shunned publicity; nevertheless, a certain number of Americans and Europeans made their way to him, often after noticing the powerful, positive changes in people who had been around him. Maharajji was often referred to as "that fat old man in a blanket" (the blanket was known as his only possession, although this was likely a gift); all other accoutrements were given to him). Yet, many who met this possession-less being reported him to have extraordinary paranormal powers.
These powers included "reading minds," knowing the future, being aware of events in the past that he had no rational possibility of knowing, creating or evoking bizarrely appropriate (and sometimes life-saving) synchronicities/coincidences, and even being in two places at once, and reviving those who had been dead for hours or days. It was clear to anyone who had eyes to see, that Maharajji was aware, not just on the physical plane, but on many more subtle planes of being as well. It appears that Maharajji had merged with the Infinite, while in a human body. Maharajji also had a wonderful sense of humor.
His teachings were of the utmost simplicity. He advised those who asked to: "Love Everyone; Serve Everyone, Remember God, and Tell the Truth."
Yet these phrases do not capture the bliss that those around him experienced. As Ram Dass said: "Mararajji had become love." In his presence multiple people reported experience of tremendous joy, peace, and love. Countless individuals began a process of self-transformation.
After Ram Dass returned to the U.S. from India, he dedicated himself to service. This spanned work with those who wanted to die consciously, prison inmates in the U.S. (He was the originator of the Prison-Ashram Project, later directed by Bo and Sita Lozoff), blindness in Nepal, rebuilding villages in Guatemala, homelessness in New York City, and lectures and retreats for spiritual seekers.
For all his psychic powers, what was most extraordinary about Maharajji was the power of his love and his ability to inspire those he touched to open their hearts and minds. He was able to elicit transformation of many lives into willing vessels for Living Spirit - that they might become channels for relieving suffering and able to see life as an opportunity for spiritual awakening.
Late in his life Ram Dass coined a term that summed up both the journey and the destination: "Loving Awareness."
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