Neem Karoli Baba (Maharajji)

Though he never set foot in America, his spiritual influence manifested in the work of many American devotees, including Ram Dass.

By Phil Catalfo

Neem Karoli Baba (circa 1900-1973) never set foot in America. But he would prove to be as important a figure in the coming of the Dharma to the West as many swamis and lamas who set up temples and ashrams here. His influence was felt in the work and lives of his many American devotees, especially former Harvard professor and psychedelic pioneer Ram Dass.

Introduced to Baba in India by an American devotee, Dass later returned to America, where he began lecturing and writing about his experiences with his guru and the yogic teachings he studied while in India. For many American seekers, his talks and books, including the now classic Be Here Now (Lama Foundation, 1971), provided the first exposure to yoga in particular and Eastern philosophy in general and helped touch off a spiritual reawakening.

Maharajji (as Neem Karoli Baba is also known) wrote no books and had no formal doctrine beyond urging his followers to "Love everyone, feed everyone, remember God, tell the truth." Instead, devotees say, he was simply a realized being who radiated love. "He'd bop people on the head and pour grace into them," remembers one woman who first met him in 1970. "God was always singing in his heart." For more information on Maharajji, visit or

December 2001

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