MAHARAJJI BEGAN his spiritual work very early in life. He told one
devotee that as a small child of seven or eight he would skip
school to go into the jungle to do tapasya. Wisps of information                                             suggest that he had been born into a landed family who lived in a stone
house, but that he had left the security of his home very early to wander
about as a sadhu.
During those years he traveled about dressed in only a single dhoti,
and he took his food and water in a discarded fragment of a broken clay
water jug, which he wore on his head like a cap. At this time, he was
known as “Handi Walla Baba (the baba with the broken clay pot).”
At some stage, he passed time near Aligarh and Manpuri, where he
performed spiritual practices by sitting for some time in water. The local
residents knew him then as “Tikonia Walla Baba.” (“Tikonia” means a
triangular-shaped reservoir.) Probably about this same time he began
to pass time in the town of Neeb Karori (from which he later got the
name by which we knew him). There he stayed for some time in vari-
ous underground caves, coming out sometimes during the hot season
to sit in a ring of fire in the hot sun.

It was not until the 1930’s that he began to appear regularly in vil-
lages in the foothills of the Himalayas and northern plains. Early on,
he would play with the children and then disappear into the woods.
Later he started to allow Indian householders to take him into their
homes to feed him. These people were quick to recognize an extraor-
dinary presence in him, and they began following him for his spirit
and healing powers.
He was often seen visiting temples dedicated to the deity Hanuman;
later he instigated the building of many such temples by his devotees.
He seemed to be on a continuous religious pilgrimage and encouraged
others to visit the holy shrines around India. His special affinity for
Hanuman and Ram was reflected in his continuous repetition of these
names of God and in the stories he both told and asked to have read
to him. Yet despite his predilection for Ram and Hanuman, he honored
all aspects of God and found the true spirit in all forms of worship.
Obviously he had undertaken severe austerities during his own sadhana.
Yet he later said that such practices were not necessary. He honored
those who undertook such practices but for the most part encouraged
his devotees to feed and serve people, live dharmically, and, above all,
to remember and love God.

AHARAJJI ’S SADHANA prescriptions were tailor-made for the indi-
Mvidual devotee to whom they were directed.

At one point I asked Brahmachari Baba if Maharajji taught him tapasya,
and I gave examples of the tapasya Maharajji is said to have done himself,
such as sitting up to his neck in a lake and sitting in the summer noonday
sun surrounded by four fires. Brahmachari Baba immediately said, “No.
Only ordinary things such as various yoga-asanas (postures) and meditations
and pranayams.” With a little more questioning, he said, “Maharajji told me
to be maun (silent). I was silent for three years . . . after that Maharajji told
me to do the standing tapasya—that is to say, I must never sit or lie down,
but remain always on my feet. This I did also for another three years. I
performed this tapasya at Bhumiadhar before the temple complex was built. I
had a special contraption to support my body for sleep. Sleep would come and
my legs would swell up very big. Maharajji also told me to be phalahari (to
eat no grains, only fruits and vegetables). This I did for some eight years.”

For many years before I met Maharajji I was searching, going here and
there, studying this and that. I began following strict yogic codes—brahm-
acharya, 3:00 A.M. risings, cold baths, asanas, and dhyan. It was during a
period when I had given up coffee and tea that I met Maharajji. Tea was
being offered to all of us, and I didn’t know what to do. I said nothing but
did not accept a cup of tea, and Maharajji leaned over to me, saying, “Won’t
you take tea? Take tea! You should drink the tea. It’s good for you in this
weather! Take tea!” So I drank the tea. With that one cup of tea, all those
strict disciplines and schedules were washed away! They seemed meaning-
less and unnecessary; the true work seemed beyond these things. Now I do
whatever comes of itself.

When some devotees questioned him about hatha yoga (physical method
of attaining union with God), Maharajji told them: “Hatha yoga is okay if
you are strictly brahmacharya. Otherwise it is dangerous. It is the difficult
way to raise kundalini. You can raise kundalini by devotion and by feeding
people. Kundalini does not necessarily manifest as outer symptoms; it can
be awakened quietly.” To another one he said, “If you are going to stand
on your head, take butter. If you eat impure food, don’t do the headstand.
Impure food goes to the mind and affects it.”

Some Westerners who came to Kainchi from Rishikesh practiced the whole
hatha yoga regimen, swallowing dhotis, putting string up the nose, and so
forth. Maharajji urged them to stop being so fanatic about that, saying, “I
did all those things myself. It’s not the way.”


Maharajji used to say that equanimity in every aspect of life will take you
to the higher path. He would say that the ogres who follow the left path,
eating human flesh from dead bodies at the burning ghats and other polluted

foods, if they concentrated on God they were therefore not corrupted. Physical
corruption can be there, but what is important is the mental state.


A Western devotee thought she wanted to take sanyas (renunciation), and
Maharajji instructed her to gather all the accouterments. She got the cloth,
had it dyed orange, and got a mala, sandal paste, and stone. After she had
all the tools and had prepared herself emotionally, Maharajji never mentioned
the ceremony.

Reading the Gita in front of Maharajji, a devotee paused and asked
Maharajji to tell him what was the quickest method to see God. Mahara-
jji laughed and asked the man if he knew how to swim, and the devotee
replied that he did. Maharajji said that, in that case, he should bind his
arms and legs and tie himself to large boulders and throw himself into deep
water. “Then you’ll see God right away.” Maharajji laughed. Becoming
more serious, Maharajji continued, “Arjuna never saw God in that way. I’ve
never seen God. He cannot be seen with these two eyes. Only after years of
practice and hard work can you hope to see him.”


We Westerners would pass the day pursuing our usual pastimes—eating,
sleeping, drinking tea, gossiping, and moving about. Maharajji often jokingly
listed these five behaviors as all that Western devotees were good for. Actu-
ally we also meditated, studied, sang kirtan, and washed clothes.

LTHOUGH MOST of us considered our primary spiritual method to
Abe our relationship to Maharajji as our guru, he seldom admitted
it. He continued to throw dust in our eyes .

Maharajji always kept telling me that other people were my gurus. At first
I took him seriously. But finally I’d just say, “Maharajji, they may be upa-
gurus (teachers along the way), but you are my Sat Guru (ultimate guru).
You are my guru whether you like it or not.” He just laughed. (R.D.)

“How do I know if a person is my guru?” a devotee asked Maharajji.
“Do you feel he (guru) can fulfill you in every way spiritually? Do you feel
he can free you from all desires, attachments, and so forth? Do you feel he
can lead you to final liberation?”

SKED TO TELL how he had met Maharajjii, a devotee smiled with
A amusement and answered in this way:

Once a Bengali gentleman I met at a mela was having visions of a baba
every time he took a bath in the Ganga, and he was looking for this being
at the mela. “He is my guru,” the man told me. The Bengali described the
baba, and I showed him a picture of Maharajji. The Bengali said, “That’s
the one.” It was arranged for him to meet Maharajji some time later when
Maharajji was in town. The Bengali gentleman came before Maharajji and
asked Maharajji when Maharajji and I had met. At first Maharajji didn’t
answer. Finally, after the man had asked several times, Maharajji said, “We
have been together for innumerable lives.” Later, Maharajji asked me, “Was
that the right thing to say? Isn’t it true?”



The first time I saw Maharajji a disciple had brought him here. I came to
Maharajji for his blessing for some illness and I said, “I’ll make you my guru!”
Maharajji replied, “But I’m not your guru. By God’s grace, you will be
all right. Your master is someone else.”
The next day I asked Maharajji who my guru was, saying I was anxious
to meet him. I said to him, “If you can make me healthy, you must be my
Maharajji said, “No. I’ll make you healthy. Just pray to God. Your master
is another—Swami Sivananda.” I went to Rishikesh and met Sivananda. I
told him what Maharajji had said and Sivananda accepted me as a disciple.

There was a great mahatma who had spent thirty years in a cave in the
lion pose (on his knees, back arched, tongue protruding, eyes crossed). When I
saw him I told him that Maharajji was my guru. He said that Maharajji is
a great mahatma, but made it clear to me that Maharajji never keeps dis-
ciples. When I asked Maharajji if a certain sadhu was his disciple, Maharajji
said, “What are you talking about? Of course not. This is a personal matter.
It is a result of one’s own yearning to become a siddha m hatma.”

Although he wouldn’t admit that he was our guru, now and then he’d say
something that made it pretty certain. Once he said to me, “Stay in the ajna
chakra (point between the eyebrows) and think only of me.” (R.D.)

AHARAJJI AGAIN and again sent us on specific pilgrimages. For us,
Mit often felt as if we were merely being sent “away,” but perhaps
there was more. Pilgrimages to holy places have never played a very
large part in American life. A few Christians and Jews have visited Jeru-
salem, and some followers of Islam have made the pilgrimage to Mecca.

But while we often do not call them “holy places,” many of us have
received spiritual sustenance from such places as the Lincoln Memo-
rial and from trips to the mountains and oceans. In India, pilgrimages
to holy temples and places of great spiritual power have always played
an important part in cultural life. For people who have families and
jobs and thus cannot live in spiritual retreats, the most usual forms of
spiritual practice are doing charitable acts and making pilgrimages. And
Maharajji very much encouraged such pilgrimages through example
and instruction.

When Maharajji and Dada were walking along the mela grounds, Maha-
rajji said, “Saints have been coming here for thousands of years. Dada, take
the dirt and touch your head.”

We were going with Maharajji to Chitrakut. As we entered the
boundaries of the sacred place, Maharajji sat down, looked around, and
said, “This is the place where Ram and Sita moved here and there.”
After he had moved a little further over the dry earth, a thorn pierced
Maharajji’s foot. He bent down and pulled out the thorn, saying, “Many
such thorns must have pricked the Lord’s feet.” He said this in such an
emotional way that it brought tears to the eyes of all the people there. It
was just a small thing but so charged as to affect everyone very deeply.
Later, when we had all returned to our senses, we laughed at our tears,
unable to understand what had brought them on.

Maharajji once told a devotee to be sure to take off his shoes in holy places
because the vibrations of a place can thus be transmitted up through the feet.

Before meeting Maharajji, I had made a pilgrimage to Amarnath Cave in
Kashmir. In this cave there is a lingam (phallic symbol of Shiva) made of ice
that changes its size in relation to the cycles of the moon. The cave is suppos-
edly left over from a previous yuga (age), hundreds of thousands of years ago,

and in it Shiva and Parvati (his consort) stayed. It was a rainy day when we
got there, and I was so saddle sore from two days’ climb on a horse that I didn’t
feel anything. Much later, in discussing pilgrimages, Maharajji said to me:
“You went to Amarnath Cave?”
“Yes, Maharajji.”
“But you didn’t understand it.”
“No, Maharajji.”
“You will.” (R.D.)

Accompanied by the Mothers and a few devotees and servants, Maharajji
stayed in the Amarkantak dharmasalla for eleven days. Each morning after
breakfast, they went to the various sacred places in the area—the temple,
Kapildhara, Dudh-dhara, Sonmuda, and so forth. Often they wandered in
the jungle, and Maharajji would visit with an old sadhu who lived there
alone in a cave. The sadhu had a white beard and long jetta (matted hair)
and extraordinarily long fingernails. He prepared rotis and fed them to Ma-
harajji with his own hands, along with fresh milk from his cow. Maharajji
commanded everyone to bathe in the sacred reservoir of Narmada Mata. He
then took off his clothes and, holding the hand of a devotee, submerged three
times under the water, shouting, “It’s very cold, very cold!” as he came up.
He immediately threw his blanket back on.

AHARAJJI USED names to awaken us to our deeper selves. First we
Mwere Joan, Jeff, Joe, Danny, and Barbara—and then we were the
whole Hindu pantheon.

The naming of the Western devotees reflected the difference in Maharajji’s
lila with men and women. While many Western men were given Das (servant)
names—such as Ram Dass, Krishna Das, Balaram Das—as far as we know,
no women were called Dasi, the feminine counterpart. Nothing Maharajji did
was without meaning, yet the subtlety of this distinction is hard to interpret.
Women were instructed to perform acts of service as frequently as were the
men, and regardless of the individual name given, Maharajji often called each
woman simply, “Ma.” Whatever our ages or conditions, we became Mothers,

the role that has always encompassed loving service.
Yet perhaps that was not the aspect he wished to stress most; perhaps we
most needed to see ourselves as goddesses, as the shakti whose first service is
to her lord—who is God.

One day during a period of confusion, I was complaining that Maharajji
was ignoring me and that he was never going to give me a name. Balaram
got very excited and said, “Oh, ask him, ask him. Lots of people ask him.
I’ll ask him for you. This is a good excuse for you to be with him, a good
excuse to talk to Maharajji.” Even though I thought I should wait until he
gave me a name, I asked Balaram to feel it out.
The very next darshan, Maharajji said, “She wants a name.” I was so
embarrassed, that I no longer wanted a name—I just wanted to run and
hide. Then Maharajji gave me a name, saying “Rukmini!” He said it very
harshly, and I was very cool to it. It just wasn’t right. I felt he hadn’t given
it freely, that he’d been pushed into it. I was very upset.
I didn’t tell anyone about it, and I was really unhappy for a few days.
Maharajji of course sensed my confusion about it, called me into the room,
looked at me, and with such sweetness said, “Mira, Mira.” I wanted to melt.
The name sounded like music to me.

When he gave me my name, I felt it as a sort of thorn. It was on a day
when I was feeling full of self-pity and out of place in the satsang. He gave
me the name, “Priya Das,” beloved server. I always felt that a lot of it was
in response to my own state of mind at the time.

One day Hari Dass wrote on his slate that Maharajji had given me the name
Ram Dass. I asked if this was good. He said yes, that it was a name for Hanu-
man and meant “servant of God.” Since then I have found that name to be very
much a reminder of my path—that I am slowly growing into the name. (R.D.)

I was standing alone by Hanuman when Maharajji appeared around the
corner of the temple. Leaning on the railing next to me and looking at me,
he said, “General Mahavir Singh,” and disappeared. I was stunned.
One morning a few days later we were all out on the road, where the
pavement was all hot and sticky. He came and sat down, so everyone else sat
down next to him and got their nice clean clothes completely filthy—a number
of people experienced considerable anxiety about that—and in the midst of
talking with people he turned around and looked at me and said, “What’s
your name?” Rather sheepishly, I answered, “General Mahavir Singh.” He
looked at me and crooked his head and smiled. And he said, “Nahin! Ab se,
Krishna (No! From now on, Krishna ).” Then he paused for a moment and
said, “Krishna Das.”

OR MAHARAJJI remembering God and repeating a name of God
Fwas the royal way. God was always just a breath away and appeared
again and again on Maharajji’s lips.





Once a devotee asked Maharajji what mantra he should use. “The mind
can’t concentrate. Use any mantra—use it, use it,” repeated Maharajji.

Maharajji taught me the utter simplicity and the power of mantra by actu-
ally immersing me in a situation and then rescuing me with God’s name.
So that I would not miss the teaching, he would repeat it three times. For
example, one morning as I sat before him, massaging his feet, I found myself
suddenly in the depths of depression and remorse. It was so unexpected that
I was totally caught up in it, neither questioning its source, nor seeking to
transcend it. Then, from within me, as if it were the voice of another, I heard
the quiet repetition of God’s name. In my desperation I latched on to it, and
to my surprise the depression lifted and all was as before. I sat quietly massag-
ing his feet.
Then, once again, I was plunged into a state of anguish, and again I was
consumed by it. Once again, as the voice from within began to repeat God’s
name, I latched on to it and the depression lifted. I laughed within myself at
the strange occurrence, only to find myself yet again deep in suffering. This
time, however, I turned immediately to mantra. I no longer identified with the
mind state, for it was like a passing cloud. As I repeated the mantra in my
ear, I looked up at Maharajji. He was smiling, twinkling at me. Maharajji
used this same silent technique of teaching to show me not to identify with
sexual thoughts.

Around 10:00 A .M ., a man came to my home and said that Maharajji
was calling me from the Ganga, and I immediately went to find him, ac-
companied by a young boy. At the Ganga some devotees said he’d gone for
a walk toward the Sangam and had been gone for two hours— too long for
such a short walk. They said he must have returned to my house. I said,
“No. He sent for me to come here. He must be here.” After some time the
boy begged me to give up and return; twice he did this, and both times I
insisted we continue. The third time, I felt in a quandary. I could neither go
forward nor turn back. Out of concern for the boy I could not continue, and
out of desire for Maharajji I could not turn back. I stood helpless.
Just then the boy called out, “There he is!” And there was Maharajji in a

boat just beside us on the Ganga, with two other men. The boat came ashore
and Maharajji got out and questioned me about the entire story, asking for
all the details. Then we walked to where the other devotees were standing.
Once there, Maharajji sent them all away except for me. He again ques-
tioned me for every detail of the story—receiving the summons, coming to the
Ganga, walking along in search, the boy’s pleadings—but this time Mahara-
jji insisted that I tell him what was in my mind at the moment of quandary
with the boy. I replied, “Why, I turned to saying Ram, Ram.”
Immediately, Maharajji leaned over and whispered in my ear, “Just take
Ram’s name and all desires will be fulfilled.” He had created this entire
situation to teach me that!

I would sit in meditation saying the name of Ram into the night. One
morning at darshan, Maharajji was giving out prasad. It had been so long
since I had gotten any that I had almost given up even thinking I would
get some. Somebody was passing it out and he dropped some in my lap,
and Maharajji said, “Give her more, give her more. She should have more
because she says Ram, she says Ram. She’s taken the name of Ram.” I was
so happy because he knew! He really knew!

When I was eighteen I asked him to give me a mantra. He said, “What!
I don’t know anything about these mantras. I only know Ram.” Then I
handed him a photo of himself and he wrote “Ram” all over the back of it.
Such personal acts were so special. Look! I carry it with me all the time.

He gave mantras to my wife and children before me. When he gave me a
mantra I thought to myself, I won’t take it because I’m not fit for it; I’m too
full of sin.

I had a shirt that Sihu embroidered with RAM RAM RAM all around
the collar in purple thread. I was alone at the tucket and Maharajji came out
in the middle of the afternoon. He saw this shirt and grabbed it. “Look at
this!” he said to some Indians who had come for darshan. “Look at what’s
on his shirt! It says RAM RAM RAM RAM RAM RAM RAM.” Then
he chided the Indians, “India’s really good for him! Why don’t you people
like India? Look at how good it is for him! It says RAM RAM RAM
RAM RAM. He came all the way from America! It says RAM RAM
RAM RAM RAM. Why don’t you like India?

I can’t resist telling of the time Maharajji told Naima and me to go around
the back at Kainchi to where some young naga babas were—and to do full
dunda pranam to them. At that time, we were both wearing special Ram tilaks.
There were some five sadhus hunkered around a fire and smoking a chillum. It
was very smoky and their naked bodies—but for langotis (loin cloths)—were
ash-covered. They took very little notice of us, even as I performed dunda pra-
nam. What they were saying among themselves was that all you needed was to
take Ram’s name and you would have no difficulties in this life. The example
one of them gave was of plunging into the icy cold water of the Ganga up at
Gangotri. All you had to do was take Ram’s name, and it was not difficult at
all. All the babas were wearing the same tilak that I was wearing.

Maharajji sent a baba to get malas in the market at Vrindaban. This baba
scolded a certain devotee, saying, “You are a haughty one. I bought malas and
now you think Maharajji will put one on you.” Then Maharajji said to this
devotee, “Take a bath and do puja.” Maharajji then put a tilak and rice on
the devotee’s head with his own hand and put a mala around his neck. The
devotee said, “Now, Maharajji, you must give me a mantra.” Maharajji did.

There was a Ma who in her youth was devoted to Ananda Mayee Ma.
After some time, she met Maharajji and became very close to him but was
confused as to who her guru was. Maharajji came to her in a dream and gave
her a mantra. She was in bed and had to get up and write it down. He said,
“This is a mantra from Ma.” Later, Ananda Mayee Ma confirmed that it
was the right mantra.

Annapurna had the desire to be initiated into a mantra by Maharajji.
Maharajji arranged a whole ceremony, initiating her formally: a mantra, a
mala, all of it.

After Maharajji had left his body a devotee had three dreams. In the first
one, Maharajji gave her a mantra. In the second dream he told her how to
use the mantra with OM (the cosmic syllable) on the in breath. In the third
dream, after the June feast, he said that she had worked very hard and had
done more than she should have.

Maharajji spent long periods inside his room during the last two years. He
wanted to hear God’s name both inside and outside all the time. We used to
spend time with him in the room. Everyone thought that we must be hav-
ing a good time, but actually he was mostly silent, with closed eyes, listening
to the Westerners singing kirtan outside. Now and again he would open his
eyes and look around. “Anything to say? Do you have any questions?” he’d
ask us. Then he’d again drift back to his other plane.

On Krishna’s birthday celebration in 1973 all the Westerners fasted
and did kirtan. At midnight they did arti to Maharajji. Through the closed
window he kept telling them to “jao.” Still they stayed, singing sweet kir-
tan. Finally he opened the window and tears were streaming down his face.

He sat still and listened for a long time. It began to rain, as if God were
raining down flowers—a very auspicious sign.


Maharajji had a pundit chanting the Shrimad Bhagavatam (one of the
great holy books) daily at the temple for a month. I couldn’t understand
what he was chanting, but I could feel the pundit’s devotion in my heart.
Every now and again he would intersperse the story with a few refrains of
the Hare Krishna mantra. Maharajji asked me, “What is he saying?”
“Maharajji, he is saying Hare Krishna, Hare Rama.”
“Ah!” Maharajji was delighted. “Ram Dass has heard the essence.” (R.D.)

While I was touring with a swami in southern India, he had given me man-
tra diksha (initiation) for a very powerful Shiva mantra that he said would
give me vast wealth and vast power. I was fascinated and did the mantra day
and night for many weeks. As a result of the mantra I began to travel out-
side of my body. Five years earlier, Maharajji had asked me if I wanted to fly
and predicted that I would, and now I found myself flying out of my body.
Sometimes when doing the mantra I would be taken out of my body and onto
another plane, where I would meet the swami. After this had been going on for
over a month, I was in a cave in Surat, meditating. But I couldn’t stop doing
the mantra. I was once again taken out of my body, but this time on the astral
plane I was brought to a room where Maharajji was sitting.
I was ecstatic and rushed to his feet. He sat on his tucket, wrapped in a
blanket. Then he pulled the blanket up over his face and I heard him blow
three times as if extinguishing candles. I felt simultaneously, with each blow, my
body inflate as if it were an inner tube at the air pump in a filling station. At
the conclusion of the third inflation, the scene disappeared and I found myself
once again back in the cave . . . but the mantra was gone— not in the sense
that I couldn’t remember it but, rather, because it had lost its compelling qual-
ity. It no longer possessed me; I no longer had any desire to repeat it.
Maharajji had taken it away. (R.D.)

One woman devotee did mantra from childhood. Fifteen days before Ma-
harajji left his body, he called her in and said, “Here is a new mantra. Do
“Maharajji, how can I change now?”
He said, “Touch my feet.” Since then she has done only that new mantra.

In 1968 when I was leaving for America, Hari Dass gave me his mala
that he had worked with for years. The beads were large and dark from han-
dling and were made from the stem of the sacred tulsi plant. At the time, he
told me that Maharajji had given him the beads many years earlier. Oh, how
I treasured those beads! I wore them daily and slept with them at night, us-
ing them as a constant reminder of the Shri Ram mantra that was at times
like a life-line connecting me to the spiritual oxygen I craved.
And then one night in 1971 when I was back in India, a group of us
were walking up to the Hanuman Garh temple, which is about a mile from
Nainital, where we were staying while visiting Kainchi. We had various drums
and cymbals and were chanting as we went. I was playing a set of cymbals,
and apparently the cymbals caught the string of the beads and broke it. It was
evening and in the darkness I failed to notice as one after another of the beads
fell along the wayside. When I did finally notice, twenty or more of the sacred
number of one-hundred-and-eight beads were missing. I was heartsick and
searched the next day along the road but found none of the beads.
I had never seen big beads like those before and didn’t know how to go
about replacing them, so I asked Maharajji. First he denied ever having
given them to Hari Dass, though I didn’t believe his denial; then he said
those beads were no good anyway. He said I could get the right beads from
Sita Ram Baba in Ayodhya.
In Allahabad many months earlier, Maharajji had instructed me to see a
holy man named Sita Ram Baba, of whom I’d never heard. Apparently that
had been a foreshadowing of this moment.
I had never visited Ayodhya, the seat of Ram’s kingdom, and the thought
of getting “special” beads from a “special” baba at the instructions of the
guru was the delight of a spiritual materialist (like me).
Within a day I was on a train bound for Ayodhya. The first matter of
business upon arrival was to find the right Sita Ram Baba. Maharajji had
said he was old, so it should not be too difficult. But as I roamed the streets
in the tonga with my bad Hindi, it was not so easy. After several hours I was
directed to a house a mile or so out of town. A fellow in his twenties standing                                                                                                            at the gate said that Sita Ram Baba was his uncle but was taking rest—per –
haps I could come back later. But, like Hanuman, I was not to be deterred
and said that I would sit outside until he would see me. It was very hot
outside but my resolve was firm.
Apparently the boy told his uncle, for within a few minutes I was ushered
in. Sita Ram lay on a hammock, and he was very old indeed. His nephew
said he was one hundred and twenty-eight years old and he looked every
day of it. His skin was transparent and his hands skeletal and his voice but
a whisper. He acknowledged knowing Maharajji and said that I could return
at sundown. I was disappointed for I was eager to get the beads and get back
to Maharajji, and it almost looked as if Sita Ram was too old and feeble to
help me anyway, but there was nothing to do but wait.
So I left, deciding to visit the famous Hanuman murti in Ayodhya.
But as the tonga started down the street and had gone perhaps fifty me-
ters, I looked back and there was Sita Ram Baba literally running after
the tonga. He jumped aboard and said we would get the beads now. I
was delighted yet concerned lest the ride be too much for the old man.
Now that he was up and moving, however, he seemed to be stronger and
filled with more life force.
But the next disappointment came when we arrived at the shop where
the beads were supposed to be. It was closed. He said there was noth-
ing to do but return in the evening, so we turned to go back to his house.
But about a hundred meters down the road we met the shopkeeper, and
Sita Ram prevailed upon him to return to the shop. Once at the shop, I
felt the goal was in sight. The shopkeeper showed Sita Ram Baba several
malas, but in each case, though I thought them beautiful, Sita Ram Baba
rejected them as not “the ones.” Then he spoke at length to the shop-
keeper, who suddenly lit up and went to a desk and opened a tiny drawer
that was in a dusty and unused corner. I was thrilled, for it was just like
all the occult books had said such things occurred.
But the beads he brought out were cheap-looking, garishly painted in
orange or green, and had been crudely carved with Sanskrit symbols of Sita
and Ram on each bead. I had seen such cheap beads in many places and
was always put off by them. But Sita Ram said that these were “the beads”
so I bought three strands for about fifty cents each and smiled gamely. Then
I returned Sita Ram to his house, thanked him, caught the afternoon train,
and returned to Maharajji’s feet the next morning.
When I arrived, Maharajji asked about the beads and I laid them before
him. All he said was, “Those aren’t the beads. I’ll have to get them for you
myself.” But he never did. (R.D.)

N INDIA RITUALS have always played an important role in maintaining
Ithe spirit. But too often these same rituals stifle the very spirit they
are designed to preserve. For Maharajji, rituals were to be honored yet
kept in perspective.

A fire ceremony was to be held at Kainchi, with Maharajji present in the
temple compound. I decided to sit through the entire nine-day ceremony to
see if I could erase my past reactions to ritual (which were primarily nega-
tive) and open my heart to this process. For if Maharajji was instigating this,
there must be a good reason for it.
The major participants in the ceremony were two Brahmin priests and
two laymen-householders, both of whom were old devotees of Maharajji. The
days wore on slowly. It was hot by the fire, and the repetitiveness, the heat,
the fatigue, the intensity, and the visual power of the scene slowly opened me
emotionally, until I felt as if that edifice were a spaceship carrying all of us
within it higher and higher.
During the first six days, Maharajji never attended the ceremony but
was constantly apprised of its progress. On the seventh day, when the rit-
ual had truly taken on a life of its own for me and had begun to hold me
deeply, he suddenly started to yell from the opposite side of the compound,
where he was sitting. It seemed that he was calling in a strangely jarring
manner to one of the householder-laymen who was a major participant
in the ritual. For almost seven full days these four men had been going
without stop and here was Maharajji disrupting the entire process. Seem-
ingly without a second thought the devotee got up and went to Maharajji.
My concentration was broken, so I followed after him to see why Maha-
rajji had called this man from the ceremony. I found the man handing
out prasad, small packages of puris and potatoes, to the local children who
came every day to the temple to be fed. There were dozens of other devotees
who could have done this, but Maharajji chose to call this man.
Later, still confused and somewhat resentful toward Maharajji for disrupting
what had finally become a sacred ritual for me, I spoke to the man who had
been called away. He simply said, “Maharajji is beyond all ritual.” (R.D.)

We were attending a yagna (fire ceremony), though we always preferred
contact with Maharajji over all these rituals, because his darshan is the
greatest puja. But he would always tell us, “Go there, you devil, wicked
man, leech!” And whatever he really wanted was not difficult for us to do.
He asked one devotee if he’d like to sit in the puja, and the man replied
that he’d rather not. Maharajji said, “You are a miserly fellow. All those
pundits are there and you think you have to pay them. No! I’ll pay them.”
This touched the man’s heart, and the next morning he took his seat at
the yagna. Offerings were being made to the fire, with chants of “Swaha!
Swaha!” “Hap!”, Maharajji shouted, “What does this swaha, swaha do for
them? Go out and distribute the food! What is the use of throwing things
into the fire?”

He was always very considerate with everyone. Although he never told
anyone to go do puja or rituals, he encouraged them to do it if it was their
habit. I regularly did some puja in the morning, but when Maharajji came to
visit, serving him became the puja. But every day Maharajji would leave the
house in the morning to visit the home of other devotees or on some walk,
thus giving me time to do my puja.

I used to keep a complete fast on the day and night of Shivaratri (day for
honoring Shiva), not even taking water or even sleeping. I would stay up the
whole time doing puja to Lord Shiva. One year by chance, Maharajji came
to Nainital the day before Shivratri, and we ended up at the home of one
devotee who had prepared special food for Maharajji’s visit. Maharajji told
everyone to eat, and when asked why I wouldn’t eat, I said that it was a fast
day. He said, “Why fast? Carry on! Eat!” I told him that I would eat only
with his permission. He said, “Yes! Eat!” then I took food from him. He
said, “You do your puja now.” I asked for his blessings to go, but he replied,
“No, you do it here—here, in front of me.” I started my puja.
Maharajji sat there talking and people kept coming and going. Three or
four people who had never recited these prayers before were so charmed that
they also began to recite. Maharajji turned to me and said, “Oh, you are
just showing off. What is the use of fasting and all these rituals? The Lord
is within you. You can’t remember him until his grace is there. If his grace is
there, everything is there. Always remember him and try to acquire him.

And if his grace is there . . .” Then he sat still for two-and-a-half hours. The
whole atmosphere was charged. Each year I had been very fastidious about
that particular day, fasting, praying, and so forth, but this time he broke
On other occasions he wouldn’t allow me to do my puja. I told him that I
wouldn’t do it if he wouldn’t allow me, but that I also wouldn’t eat until the
puja was done. Then he shouted, “Close the door, you wicked man! Finish
your puja! What is this puja and this troubling the Lord? Praying and fast-
ing? Can’t you remember the Lord for a second? What good is this puja? I
don’t understand!

Every morning and evening at the temple, rituals would be performed
that included the use of a red paste and grains of rice. After the ceremony the
pujari would place a bit of this paste and a few grains of rice in the middle
of each person’s forehead. The high point of the ceremony for the old priest
would be the placing of the tilak on Maharajji’s forehead. Maharajji would
of course be talking to people during the whole process and, invariably, just
as the old pujari would apply the paste with great seriousness and concentra-
tion, Maharajji would turn his head to talk to somebody else and a smear of
red would go completely across his forehead. The pujari just could never get
Maharajii to sit still for the rituals.

QUALLY AS IMPORTANT as fire ceremonies are the ceremonial baths in
Ethe sacred Ganges River. Maharajji disrupted even these .

Two old men were en route to the Ganga at mela. It is considered a very
holy thing to bathe in the Ganga at this time. Maharajji commented, “No,
take your bath here. Everywhere is the Ganga.”

Once a devotee was on his way to the Ganga to take his ritual bath,
when he encountered Maharajji. Maharajji sent him back without his bath,
saying “Serving people is better than a ritual bath in the Ganga.”


HE LESSONS Maharajji taught about rituals, like so much of his
Tteaching, were fraught with the paradox that outdistanced the
rational mind. He seemed concerned that the rituals be done properly,
yet he broke all the rules. But as one devotee said, “When there was
work, he would set aside the rituals, and the minute the work was
completed, he sent you to do puja.” But perhaps he also broke the
rules, such as upsetting that fire ceremony, to show people that the
thing itself was not the ritual but the spirit: Do the ritual to tune in,
but don’t get caught.

There were two old men who, having raised families and done their du-
ties, had taken sanyas and were wandering about on foot. They spent many
months at the Kainchi temple, and Maharajji had them singing “Sita Ram”
for several hours each morning. When it was time for them to leave, Maha –
rajji called them in front of him and, in what appeared to be outrage, yelled
at them for beating an iron pan in front of the murtis during arti. (In the
scriptures, iron is not to be used in the temples.) Maharajji told them that
they didn’t know how to behave properly and so he threw them out. As they
turned to walk away, Maharajji broke into a grin and sang in a high falsetto
voice, sweetly, “You beat the gong, and I threw you out.”

A man brought in his baby for Maharajji’s blessing, but all Maharajji did
was to pat the child on the head. The man was angry and said he wanted
Maharajji to perform the proper blessing ceremony. Maharajji retorted that
he didn’t know that ceremony, that he’d blessed the child, and if the man
wanted the proper ceremony, he would have to go to someone who knew it.

Once the Westerners had prepared to do a great puja to Maharajji, plan-
ning to wash his feet in all the proper ingredients in order to make amrit.
They had divided up the tasks among them and were quite excited about it.
When Maharajji came out he was wearing socks. He made them perform the
ceremony using his index finger instead.

When Maharajji’s Vrindaban temple was completed, he told B to be pujari
there. The young boy was not a Brahmin (as priests traditionally are) and knew
nothing of pujas and rituals. Maharajji called in a pundit and told him to teach
the boy the prayers. Then Maharajji sent him to the bazaar to buy a sacred
thread and tulsi beads. Maharajji put these on him and told him to do the puja
to Hanuman, that now he had become a pukka pujari (first-class priest).
Maharajji had gone out one day, and J, the man who had built the temple,
came and questioned B as to his caste, his knowledge of Sanskrit, and so
forth. B answered that he was not a Brahmin but a Thakur (a lower Hindu
caste). J was upset, and just then Maharajji appeared and called him away.
J complained to Maharajji, and in the big hall in front of many people a
discussion followed. Maharajji then asked B if he knew Sanskrit; if he could
read the Bhagavad Gita. B said no and Maharajji retorted “Don’t lie.” Ma-
harajji told J that B knew the eighteen chapters of the Gita by heart. J then
asked to hear chapters eleven and twelve. Maharajji threw his blanket over
B’s head and hit his head a few times. Then B began to sing the Gita in the
best Sanskrit, impressing all the Brahmins. J broke down and threw himself
at Maharajji’s feet. B remained pujari for a year and a half. Although he
never again recited the Gita, when that boy would perform a puja he was in
such communion with God that much peace would come to all.

S A PROTECTOR of the dharma, Maharajji not only kept devotees
A from getting lost in the rituals, but also he was quick to point out
spiritual deception, fraudulence, and materialism when he would find it.

Once at a mela, Maharajji and a devotee passed a sadhu sitting as if in
deep meditation, with a lota next to him. Maharajji said, “He’s a deceiver.”
He told a young boy to steal the sadhu’s lota. As soon as the boy took the
lota, the sadhu came out of meditation and jumped up. Maharajji yelled to
the boy, “Drop it, drop it, or he’ll beat you.”

“Come on,” said Maharajji to a devotee. “I’ll show you a very big
mahatma. You’ll have darshan (here he was being sarcastic) of a very great
saint.” Maharajji and the devotee traveled by car to the ashram of this baba,
and Maharajji led the devotee to a young man clothed in saffron silken robes
and smoking a cigarette. When this man saw Maharajji, he threw his ciga-
rette away and pranammed to him. They sat down and the sadhu went into
his room and brought out a very expensive blanket. (Maharajji was wear-
ing an old, very plain blanket.) The sadhu removed Maharajji’s blanket and
wrapped the new one around him.
“What’s this?” asked Maharajji.
“It’s a new blanket, a very beautiful, expensive one. That millionnaire’s
mother came and gave it to me. It was kept for you, Maharajji. Here it is.
It’s a most excellent blanket. Don’t give it to anyone.”
Maharajji didn’t take a second to get up. He threw off the expensive blan-
ket and said, “You are a sadhu? Can there be distinctions between blankets?
This is good and this is bad? A blanket is a blanket!”
He snatched his old blanket and said to the devotee, “Come on. He’s a
sadhu and he sees a difference in blankets. What can he see in men?” Ma-
harajji left for the car, mumbling, “What’s this? Hap!” They got into the
car and drove away. Maharajji was very different from the ordinary sadhu.

A devotee was describing some dishonest sadhus. Weeping, Maharajji said,
“Look what they have done in the name of dharma.”


One person loaned some two thousand rupees to a sadhu and it was not returned.
Maharajji said, “When you loan money to a saint, don’t expect to get it back.”


Staying with V’s cousin was a big sadhu from Lucknow, who was re-
puted to be very clever and to be able to make predictions by looking at the
palm of one’s hand. V showed his hand to the sadhu, who predicted good
things but a short life, no more than sixty to sixty-five years. V wasn’t
happy. Later Maharajji asked him what had happened, saying, “Don’t
lie, tell me. You think your age will only be sixty-five. No. No. I’ll tell
you—not less than eighty-five. Whenever sadhus come, show them great respect
and feed them if possible. But don’t let yourself get too involved with them.”

Maharajji spoke of a companion from his early days: “He was so high, yet
his maya was so strong.”

The chief of police of Kanpur, a devotee of Maharajji, came to Mahara-
jji one day with a warrant for the arrest of a baba, who was also very fond
of Maharajji, on charges of desertion from the army and illicit dealings in
Kanpur. Maharajji told the police chief not to serve the warrant. After all,
the man was now a sadhu and shouldn’t be held responsible for desertion.
Maharajji later scolded the baba: “What are you doing? You pretend to
be a sadhu and yet you are still doing this business. Leave it.”
The baba left Kanpur for Nainital, where Maharajji was also going.
With his very imposing figure and a beautiful singing voice, the baba
quickly gathered a following from whom he collected a lot of money. Ma-
harajji called the baba to him and rebuked him, telling him to leave it all
and run away, but the baba continued to use and manipulate money and
power. He married twice, leaving children with both women before running
away from them. Until that time Maharajji had been kind and sympa-
thetic toward him, always asking how his “swami” business was doing. At
this point, however, Maharajji rebuked him for his lecherous activities, and
the baba, breaking with Maharajji, never returned.

Traveling in the south Maharajji and SM came to an ashram, and Maha-
rajji went into a gate and saw a Krishna murti under a tree, not being prop-
erly cared for. He said, “You stay, but I am leaving. A murti is the same as
the living God and it must be treated that way—I don’t want to be where
somebody thinks that they are higher than God.”

ECAUSE THERE WAS SO much spiritual fraudulence all about, Maharajji
Bwas joyful and honoring when he found people of pure spirit.

One devotee said that every time they passed a temple while driving in
a jeep, Maharajji would stop the jeep and pranam, and for every sadhu that
passed, Maharajji would bring his hands together too, under his blanket.

I took some swamis, including a famous singer, to have Maharajji’s
darshan in Vrindaban. Before I could introduce them, Maharajji said, “I
know them. Call them here. They must have some tea. He wants to sing
bhajan.” I had never told Maharajji about this famous south Indian sing-
er, who was accompanied by five south Indian women. Maharajji called for
tea, then took me alone into his room and said, “He’s very good. Would
it trouble him to sing for me? His singing would give me great pleasure.
Would it trouble him to sing kirtan?”
I replied, “Baba, what trouble would there be in your place?”
Maharajji came out and asked the swami to sing. The swami sang some
bhajans about Radha (Krishna’s beloved and devotee) and Krishna. He
felt a strong connection to Maharajji. “Now you are tired,” Maharajji said.
“You’ll eat sambar and rasam (southern food) here! Mas! You’ll make food
here?” Maharajji laughed. The women couldn’t understand Hindi. “Speak
up! Tell me! Will you come here every day for meals? Sambar, rasam daily.”
I told Maharajji that we couldn’t stay in the ashram since we wanted to
move around and visit the temples of Vrindaban.
“Accha! Then do this—come every day and take prasad here!”
We came to see Maharajji daily, and each time he tried to fill us up with
prasad. He took special care of this swami, saying, “He’s a very good ma –
hatma. This sort of saint you won’t meet.”

Swami Sivananda was considered one of the great saints of India.
He left behind him many disciples and a great ashram in Rishikesh.
Maharajji would now and then visit the ashram unannounced. Each
visit, some incident would occur that would be long remembered at
the ashram. Sometimes the head of the ashram would prepare food for
Maharajji with his own hands. Once Maharajji called for a swami
who was very old and revered. This swami honored only the memory
of the great Sivananda and would not even bow to anyone else. As he
came near Maharajji, Maharajji shouted “ Veda Vyas (a great histori-
cal saint in India)! Veda Vyas has come!” At this, the swami’s entire
demeanor changed and he did full dunda pranam before Maharajji. In
some deeper way they recognized one another.

OR THE HIGHEST SAINTS MAHRAJJI held the greatest reverence and
Flove. When one was privileged to hear him talk of such beings, it
was like hearing him speak of members of an intimate and loving fam-
ily. Just the quality of his voice as he spoke or remembered or reflected
conveyed the depth of the connection. He spoke this way of such as
Christ, Ramakrishna, Hariakhan Baba, Tailanga Swami, Shirdi Sai Baba,
Ramana Maharshi, Nityananda, Ananda Mayee Ma, Sombari Maharaj,
Deoria Baba, and Sivananda, among others.

A picture of Shirdi Sai Baba was given to Maharajji and placed at his feet.
Maharajji immediately sat up and took up the picture. “It doesn’t belong there.
He was a very good baba,” Maharajji said and put the picture by his head.

There was a great saint named Gangotri Baba who lived permanently
on the snows of Gangotri in the Himalayas. Maharajji was known to visit
with him. One can’t say who was whose devotee. Beyond a certain point, the
behavior of saints is inexplicable.

Once in Allahabad, the head of a five-hundred-year-old Gorakhnath sect,
begun shortly after the time of Shankara, came to see Maharajji, and Ma-
harajji made Dada and others touch his feet. The man was very humble and
said, “Here I am before the saint of saints and you call me saint.”

Maharajji once said, “Once I was going by Ramana Maharshi. He got
up and tried to follow me but I ran away.”

Maharajji said I should not go alone to the Kumbha Mela. I was with
him, holding onto his blanket so I would not get lost. A ragged man came
up to Maharajji and put his arms around him in a very familiar way.
They began to dance, arm in arm, singing “lillyri” over and over again. It
lasted about two minutes. It’s the only time I’ve seen Maharajji dance. I
tried to touch the man’s feet because I had heard that Hanuman and other
great rishis attended the mela, but I could not touch them. It was such
ecstasy that I couldn’t. Then the man disappeared. I have always regretted
not forcing myself to touch him.

Maharajji had gone through Behariji temple and out the back and into
a house, where he asked for food. In the street someone was yelling, “One
roti!” and Maharajji called him in. It was a sadhu who only begged for
two rotis a day. Maharajji asked him, “Where is your roti?” Maharajji
took it and ate it. Maharajji said the man was an Iraqi who had come to
Vrindaban forty years ago, but the man didn’t seem of this world to the
devotees who were present.

Once a sadhu came into the temple carrying a trident and covered with
ashes (which are characteristic of Shiva). Maharajji ran right up to him and
did obeisance, and the man disappeared.

Another time, a man came late at night and asked for a lantern at the
temple gate. Dada went and gave him the lantern because his car had broken
down, and then the man came back and returned the lantern. The next day
Maharajji said, “Did you invite him into the temple for food?” They hadn’t.
He said, “You fool! Don’t you know who that was? It was Sombari Maha-
raj (a saint long deceased).”

KK worked hard at the bhandara. Maharajji later told him he had had
the darshan of Sombari Maharaj there. KK was angry because he hadn’t
realized it. Maharajji said, “Why should you know?” and the anger

Maharajji went with one of the Ma’s to visit a new murti of Vaishnavi
Devi being installed, and it was still in the packing case. Only the face
showed. Maharajji talked to the murti and the Mother clearly saw the murti
blink. That is the true consecration.

Rabu was sick and had lost his voice. Maharajji told him to do Devi
puja (prayers to the female aspect of God) to Durga for four days. As the
last line was recited, Maharajji opened the window and called out, “I’ve
told the Mother (Goddess Durga) and all will be well with you now.”

AHARAJJI ’S LOVE of Christ was unearthly. When he was asked,
M“Who was Christ?’ Maharajji answered:





You never knew what a devotee’s statement would evoke. A boy came one
time and asked, “Maharajji, did Jesus really get angry?”
As soon as Maharajji heard the word ‘Jesus,” tears came to his eyes. He
was sitting up when the question was asked, and he leaned over on his
elbow and tapped his heart three times with tears coming down from his eyes.
There was total silence for a moment. Maharajji had brought the reality of
Christ into everyone’s consciousness, and he said, “Christ never got angry.
When he was crucified he felt only love. Christ was never attached to any-
thing; he even gave away his own body.” And at that point everyone was
crying—we had gone through the complete Passion of Christ. And all of
a sudden he sat up and said, “The mind can travel a million miles in the
blink of an eye—Buddha said that.”

“Why was Christ so maligned?” Maharajji was asked.
“It is so with all saints, but they see only love in everyone. You should not
speak, hear, or see evil. You should see love everywhere and in everyone. See
the good in all.”

Maharajji once went to Catholic mass and took prasad there. Maharajji,
T, and BD were all in Lucknow on Christmas morning and decided to go to
Jesus’ puja. As they approached the church, Maharajji had BD go in first (as
he was a Westerner). Maharajji was of course barefoot, wearing his blanket
and dhoti. BD knelt down before the font of holy water and someone there
sprinkled water on his head. T and Maharajji followed this example. They
attended the ceremony, and when time came for Communion, they receive the
Sacrament in their hands.

Once a devotee asked Maharajji how Christ meditated. Maharajji sat up
and closed his eyes for some time. Tears began to stream from his eyes as he
sat in silence. Then Maharajji said, “He lost himself in the ocean of love.”

AHARAJJI HONORED purity of spirit, no matter what the tradition
Mor lineage. He kept drawing us back from our concerns about
individual differences, back beyond the forms, with his oft-reiterated
remark, “Sub Ek (All one)!”




A Moslem devotee invited Maharajji to attend a religious festival at his
home. The whole family and many of their friends gathered together to sing
Sufi songs and to hear readings from the Koran. Many Moslem mullahs
(priests) and scholars attended the festival to perform the rituals and read
the scriptures. When Maharajji arrived, the devotee escorted him to the place
of honor in front of the scholars. They immediately ceased their singing and
complained to the host. They said that they couldn’t continue the rituals in
the presence of a Hindu. Maharajji verbally abused them for their prejudice
and narrow-mindedness. He quoted from the Koran and from some great
Sufi poet-saints on the oneness of all religions. Maharajji asked for some
prasad. When it was brought he distributed food, sweets, and money to the
scholars. Happy again, they started their chanting. Maharajji accompanied
them for many hours, singing “La Il Aha El Il Allah Hu.”





                                                                                                                                                          MIRACLE OF LOVE   Ram Dass