This will be my first post of 2018 so I thought of devoting it to my Guru and saviour Baba Neem Karoli Maharaj ji.
Since we are talking about the first post let me talk about my first real meeting with the phenomenon the world has come to know now as Baba Neem Karoli Maharaj. I say real meeting because everyone who has been born and brought up in Lucknow has visited the Hanuman Setu Temple many times. So was the case with me but I never knew that the temple and ashram were built at the behest of Maharaj ji. I bowed before his statue in the temple premises but that’s something one does when you see a saint as part of your culture and upbringing.
I am not sure of the exact year but it must be some 8-10 years ago. I had gone to visit Farrukhabad as my in laws live there. Sometime during the afternoon, my brother in law asked me if I would like to visit a temple of Hanuman ji. It was about 30 kms away and would take about 2-3 hours to go and come back depending on how much time we spent at the temple. He also said that the route is a bit deserted so he will have to take one person along who keeps going to Nib Karoli every Tuesday. And knowing UP that too Farrukhabad the obvious condition was to go and come back before it gets dark. We started at about 5 pm or so and the highway was quite OK till we reached Mohamdabad. The route became deserted once we took a right turn from Mohamdabad. ( You get excellent Gulab Jamans here) The person whom we had to take along with us lived somewhere around and since we could not contact him over phone we decided to land up at his place. As luck would have it our “guide” was travelling to Kanpur and was not available. At this point we were faced with the executive decision to go ahead or to turn back. In those days there was no GPS so the only way you could reach your destination was by asking people. The trouble was we could hardly see any people! My brother in law looked at me and asked “Now what should we do? I feel it’s better to go back. We can always come back another time”. Normally I would have gone with his decision but something crossed my mind “What good is your faith if you can’t trust the Lord of bravery and courage in a situation where there could be real but there is no present danger!”
I told him “Let’s go. Hanuman ji will help us. Nothing will happen.” He told me that it was not that dangerous but it’s better to be safe. I said just keep moving and don’t stop the vehicle even if that means we have to hit someone 🙂
We reached the ashram just as it was getting dark. It was a remote and dusty place and at that point only the Pujari plus a couple of others were in attendance. We did the darshan of Hanuman ji ‘s Murti in the main Temple and got Prasad. As we were completing the parikrama my brother in law asked me “would you want to see the place where the saint who set up the ashram performed his tapasya?” It sounded like something thrilling in a place devoid of any activity except the sound of bells and chanting. He spoke to the Pujari and after some hesitation he agreed to take us to the cave. I must say that it was one of the most profound experiences of my life. The cave was underground and was probably dug up by the villagers at the instructions of Maharaj ji. We took the spiral steps going down and after going some 10-20 steps deep we found the entrance to be locked. We wanted to go further up but we were told that no one is allowed beyond that point. There was a faint light from a bulb till the point we reached but after that it was pitch dark. The pujari told us that Baba Neem Karoli performed his Tapasya for years together in the cave. No one was allowed to enter the cave and even the milk was kept outside by the milkman who visited everyday. I later read a story where one day out of curiosity the milk man tried to look inside the cave. He saw Maharaj ji in the form of Lord Shiva with serpents coiled around his body. As he moved further he was hit by a bolt of energy and fell outside the cave and became unconscious. Maharajji came running out and was angry why he did something foolish like that. He could lost his life. By God’s grace the man regained his consciousness in some time and was perfectly fine. After that incident no one dared to go against the rule.
As we headed back in the car I was surprised that I didn’t feel an iota of fear in me although it was pitch dark and we were just following the headlights of the car not knowing where we were going. Many thoughts ran in my head, the principle one being – is it even humanly possible to live in that cave many feet below the ground for such a long time with no contact with the outer world what so ever! Unless there is something that we just don’t know about how can someone live and meditate in such condition for days on end? Who was Maharajji and what promoted him to perform such austere sadhana?
As all these questions ran through my logical mind but somewhere deep down I felt peace in my heart as if I have got all the answers. And more than anything I felt a great connection with Neem Karoli Baba. I did not know then that it was his way of taking disciples into his fold. To expose them to his mysterious ways and let them find their own answers under his divine supervision and his limitless love.
I hope that I get a bit more closer to Maharajji in the coming year and he helps me in my search for truth regardless of what he thinks I must go through.
ॐ श्री हनुमते नमः ।।
A superb tune to sing Hanuman Chalisa in Bhajan form.
May the Lord bless everyone !!