My family connection with the Guru of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg: Baba Neem Karoli

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By Kam Rathee

TORONTO: During a town hall meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Facebook headquarters in September, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed that when his company was going through a tough patch, Steve Jobs advised him to visit a temple in India where the Apple co-founder had experienced life-changing spiritual changes.

“He told me that in order to reconnect with what I believed as the mission of the company, I should visit this temple that he had gone to in India, early on in his evolution of thinking about what he wanted Apple and his vision of the future to be, the month-long trip reinforced for me the importance of what we were doing,” Zuckerberg said.

Deeply influenced by the Indian spiritualism in the 70s, Steve Jobs visited Kainchi Dham Ashram in Nainital in the state of Uttarakhand (the Ashram of Baba Neem Karoli, considered a reincarnation of Lord Hanuman); and he is believed to have got the vision at this place to create Apple.

Mark Zuckerberg also visited the Kainchi Ashram incognito some four or five years ago before Steve Jobs’s death in 2011. As the manager of the Ashram only recalled one “Mark” had visited and stayed with them for two days.

Who was Neem Karoli Baba?

Both legend and fact state that generations of families have said that Neem Karoli Baba – also known as Maharaj Ji by his followers – was the human manifestation of all-pervading, omnipresent, omniscient and encompassing – who could transcend time and space to serve humanity with inexplicable love and compassion.

Research has brought out amazing experiences by people who say he was present at two places at the same time. People have written that Maharaj Ji was a miraculous person. In fact, prominent Indian thinker and scholar and former Governor of Uttar Pradesh, Mr. K. M. Munshi, has written in Bhavan’s Journal, “Maharaj-Ji left his physical body on September 11, 1973. Much remains a mystery about him and his “Miracle Baba” reputation before and after this date. Nobody knows where he came from or where he went away to, nor is his original name known to anyone. He was omnipresent as having been sighted by people at two places at the same time”.

In fact, his name Neem Karoli Baba itself is due to a miracle. It so happened that while travelling in a train, without a ticket, he was ejected by the ticket checker at a station called Neem Karoli. After that the train would not move further and it was found that there was no technical fault with the engine. After a long wait at the station, and on being told about the Baba’s powers by the local followers, the authorities realized their mistake and requested the Baba to board the train again. After much persuasion, he got into the train and the train started moving immediately. The legend of the “Neem Karoli Baba” was thus born. People say he had mystic powers.

Maharaj-Ji was known for his power for performing miracles, but actually these miracles are nothing but mystic powers, also called Siddhi. But where and how he attained these powers in not known. Some people call Baba the great ascetic, some the supreme saint. Many believed him to be an incarnation of the all-powerful Hanuman as can be surmised by his penchant in building a string of Hanuman temples across India. Swami Karpatri Maharaj said, “In Kali-yuga, many learned saints have come into the world, but none is as enlightened as Baba Neem Karoli.” Swami Chidananda, the president of the Divine Life Society and Sri Shivananda Ashram, called him “a wonder mystic of Northern India.” Baba himself said, “If people got to know the truth about me, they would even pinch off the hair on my body and make talismans.” A man of few words, he would know what you have on your mind when you went to see him. Unlike saffron garbed gurus of India, he only wore a dhoti and a blanket most times irrespective of the season.

Notable Disciples

Neem Karoli Baba has a huge following among the masses and nobility of India. Some of his prominent devotees and admirers included, two former Presidents of India, Mr. V. V. Giri and Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, former Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, Governors K.M. Munshi, Bhagwan Sahay (formerly Lt. Governor of Delhi), leaders like Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, prominent capitalists like Jugal Kishor Birla, Saints like Mahesh Yogi, Mata Anand Mait, Prabhu Dutt Bhramchari, Karpatri Maharaj Ji, Durga Ma from Germany, Draupadi from Greece, Baba Ram Dass (formerly Dr. Richard Alpert of Harvard who for years and to date carried the message of the Maharaj), Krishna Dass, Balram Dass and Ma Jaya etc. from the USA, Steve Jobs, Dr. Larry Brilliant (who was associated with Google’s philanthropic arm, Google Inc., an ardent devotee of the Baba and who introduced Steve Jobs to Maharaj-Ji),and Julia Roberts who got attracted to Hinduism on account of Baba Ji.

Unlike any of the holy men of India of yore, Neem Karoli Baba, through his presence in the physical and the metaphysical world, gave eternal peace and happiness to all men, women and children alike. He did not subscribe to any religion, caste or creed; he was the symbol of all pervading love, peace and well-being to anyone who would be with him. Such was his charisma that it permeated through and made people his lifelong followers. His mere presence would energize people around him. Through so called “miracles” of the modern world he would touch a person’s life by acting as a guiding light and a ray of hope to all his worldly problems. He gave the message, as later spread by his followers around the globe – “treasure life and treat it as a gift of god”, which should be cherished and celebrated.

My Connection with the Baba

In the early sixties, when I was in my teens, my father, Mr. K.L. Rathee, was a senior civil servant in Delhi, holding the position of the Housing Commissioner of Delhi. In that role, he was in charge of drafting and implementing the Master Plan of Delhi, and his office controlled and allocated land for development of Delhi. My father’s boss, Mr. Bhagwan Sahay, Lt. Governor of Delhi, was an ardent follower of one Neem Karoli Baba. It was the Baba’s mission to build temples for Lord Hanuman in any city the Baba visited in India. So he demanded that his devotee, the Lt. Governor of Delhi, should build a temple in Delhi. But the Lt. Governor shrugged his shoulder, showing his helplessness because the Housing Commissioner of Delhi controlled the land and he could not order him to just allocate the land for the temple. Since the Baba had a habit of moving from place to place and ending up at people’s homes on short notice or unannounced (with the entourage of devotees following him), the Baba said to the Lt. Governor, “Take me to Rathee’s house”. My father got the call from his boss that Neem Karoli Baba wants to visit our home. My father and I had heard about him but never met him. He came with his followers to our house – into our lives.

As days and months went by, we became very close to Maharaj Ji. Some of the instances of his miracle were out of this world. For instance, my parents, who were avid walkers, used to go to the India Gate area of New Delhi for a walk, and once walking along the boat canal spotted Baba ji sitting on the side of the canal. As they moved closer to meet him, they saw the Baba unwrapping his blanket and re-wrapping it around him and he was gone. My parents were merely fifty yards away and could have made a mistake in recognizing the Baba. A short while later, my father gets a call from his friend at the Kainchi Ashram that he had just visited the Baba that morning. Now how could a person be present in Delhi and at the Ashram at the same instance, at two different places at the same time?

Similarly once, when we were on our way to Kainchi to meet Maharaj-Ji, we stopped on the way for lunch at Haldwani. The restaurant food we had served Indian dal (lentils) as one of the dishes. It had unbelievable amount of salt and we did not eat it after the first morsel. On reaching Kainchi, Maharaj Ji offered us lunch and we politely declined as we had already had lunch on our way to the ashram. His reply was, “But the dal had too much salt in it”. We could not believe how he could know this. In a similar vein, Lt. Governor Bhagwan Sahay’s son had gone to the UK for higher studies but it was unknown to the father that his son was not well and happy there. In his brief comment, as was the Baba’s hall mark, said to Mr. Sahay to get his son back to India (as perhaps the Baba knew he was not doing well there). When the son came back and met the Baba, he was flabbergasted to hear from the Baba crystal clear description of the activities the son was involved in during the day he left for India.

One particular incident that has ever stayed my mind was in the spring of 1963, when I appeared for my Senior Cambridge exams and was awaiting the results (and I felt I had not done well), when I met Maharaj –Ji at our home. Sensing my pensive mood, he inquired why I was so worried and went on to say himself that it was perhaps on account of the exam results I was awaiting. Without my replying to him, he said, “Not to worry, you will do well” and perhaps jokingly mentioned the grades I will get. I paid no heed to him but when the results came out he was bang on!

While these examples may sound like trivia, they do reflect a unique power the Baba had. Personally, when I was intending to come to Canada in August 1969, my father asked him if he should allow me to go. Very tersely, the Baba said, “He will do good, let him go”.

Over the years, since my coming to Canada, there have been innumerable happenings and events – really miracles – which only a book can accommodate. I made it a point to meet the Baba on my India visits not only because of my respect for him, but also  because he had given any hints about my future life. He did and they have all come true. I call it a miracle!

As a footnote, I should add, my father did allocate land for the Hanuman Temple and got it built for the Baba on the shores of the Yamuna river on the Ring road in Delhi, adjacent to the famous Dalai Lama Tibetan Temple. Till my father passed away in 2005, he continued to serve as the chief trustee of the temple.