I’ve been a spiritual person for a long time and, if I’ve gotten anywhere in life at all, I’ve always seen it as being on account of faith.
But, if you had told me just a couple of years ago that I would call someone my guru, leave an old life and go to his ashram, bow to his image feeling like crying, and call someone Baba — well I really, really wouldn’t have been able to imagine it. I considered myself spiritual but with enough “muggle” inside me to be skeptical of unexplainable devotion and strong emotion. And yet, here I am.
I do believe that’s one of the beauties of having a guru though, and in particular, the one I call my own: Maharaj-ji. You are constantly surprised by what opens up in your life and you see it all for what it is, incredible grace and love. How else to explain things you could never have planned or thought to happen in your own life?
Maharaj-ji is also known as Neem Karoli Baba, and I knew more about how he made people feel before I knew much about what he actually did or said. (Read more about his life here.)
I’ve been desiring to write about this since I started on this path of devotion or bhakti yoga in May of 2018. But sometimes things are just hard to put into words and even know I seem to stumble on words that seem inadequate. Why I’m having a hard time articulating roots in what bhakti is:
According to the Narada Bhakti Sutras, bhakti is intense love for God. It is a deep yearning to experience love in its purest and highest form, to unite with that which is eternal and unchanging…
– A Seeker’s Guide to Bhakti Yoga, Yoga International
It is not just about chanting and external offerings, he said. Rather it’s having the courage to face ourselves at the deepest levels of our being, and offer everything we are to the Divine, both the good and the bad, without holding anything back. And it is the complete dedication and surrender of everything we do in our daily lives as acts of worship. “Grease your actions with love,” Swamiji always said, whether you are driving your children to school, washing the dishes, working at a stressful job, or doing your practice. By learning to expand our devotional awareness, we can transform our lives so they are filled with peace, love, joy, and harmony.
That being said, I’m trying to express anyway, this outpouring of love that is constantly transcending and making mush out of my ego mind and all its devices… and I suppose the easiest way is just to start at the start and tell you how he found me: BOREDOM.
At the time, my work was getting a bit too easy for me and in truth, I was falling into a lull in the rest of my life. But my heart was always seeking something. I considered myself a professional dabbler – practicing and reading books about Hinduism, Buddhism, yoga, Islam, Christian mysticism, Sufi poets, Hawaiian spirituality, whatever I could put my hands on… and I was still seeking. This growing hunger lead me to listen to Ram Dass talks while I worked. Listening to him was changing my life, which then lead me to take a leap and big-time splurge on going to his retreat in Maui.
He, along with everyone who spoke, kept on mentioning their guru Maharaj-ji/Neem Karoli Baba guy and I had no idea who he was. Inside I was thinking, “who is this guy and why is he so important to them? I don’t get these dang hippies.” Laughing out loud at that thought now.
Regardless, I was curious and would always bring him up in conversation. Do you have a connection with Maharaj-ji? How did it start? Finally, someone mentioned something that seemed doable to me. He tried creating a connection with Maharaj-ji by putting up his picture next to his TV, so that he could look at him whenever he watches his shows. Nothing had come of it yet he said, but it’s worth a try.
Curious and coming home high off of healing and rest time, I mindlessly put Maharaji-ji’s picture on my little altar at home (the one that had the Buddha, Ganesha, little baby Jesus, and even my brother’s picture on it) – absolutely thinking that nothing would come of it. That was the beginning of me seeing that with devotion, what we are absolutely certain of turns to dust.
In truth, by putting up his picture with doubts in my mind, I was testing Maharaj-ji to see if he was really as powerful and all-loving as they made him out to be. And he rose up to the challenge – he saw through the doubts in my mind to the yearning in my heart…
I will continue to scrape the surface of explaining what Maharaj-ji has brought to my life but… he’s blazing a trail in my life and all that smoke is rising up outta joy.
Aloha and mahalo for reading. Ram ram!