I am overjoyed we have begun work on a new home for Hanuman in Taos. Ever since the idea came for a flying Hanuman crossing the ocean to America and he took up residence in Vishu’s barn in Taos, it has been our dream to have a temple for him.
We are all Maharaj-ji’s family. No doubt we are a fractious and diverse satsang, with a rainbow of opinions and ideas about what the new temple should be like or even whether there should be one.
Bringing change is not easy, especially to a place where so much devotion has gone on for so long. It’s taken decades to get to this groundbreaking. I honor my fellow board members for the long process of getting designs and permits and infrastructure in place. They have done a lot of listening.
We are one heart in Maharaj-ji’s unconditional love. Like all of Maharaj-ji’s ashrams in India, the Taos ashram features a temple dedicated to Hanuman, the embodiment of service and devotion. The new temple building will be a beautiful space with room for the devotees to share their experience of being with Maharaj-ji and Hanuman-ji.
“By taking Rām’s Name, all will be accomplished.”
Its Happening! Hanuman’s New Home!
In 1981, our beloved Taos Hanuman murti was installed in the milk room of an old adobe barn. The intention was always for that space to be temporary and a mandir would be built for Hanuman-ji one day soon. After following a path as long and winding as the road to Kainchi itself, that day has finally arrived! This past summer, the ashramsigned a contract with a local builder, Scott Machardy, to build Hanuman’s new home.
Taos County granted the ashram’s building permit on September 17, and construction began. The footings were dug, the consecrated bricks were ceremonially placed in the trench, and the concrete foundation was poured. The stem-walls are installed and preparations are being made to pour the concrete slab. Soon the walls will be going up!
The day after the Taos Ashram’s celebration of Maharaj-ji’s Mahasamadhi Bhandara, on Sunday, September 11, Mahendra, a Brahmin priest and devotee from Texas, performed a Haven and Bhumi Pujas to consecrate the ground the new mandir will be built on. The Bhumi Puja is a sacred Vastu practice, through which we seek permission for any action that may disturb the equilibrium of the earth.
The Puja began at 6 a.m. with the Havan: 108 Hanuman Chaleesas were chanted and swahas and offerings were made into the fire, with each line of every Chaleesa. At the end of each Chaleesa, a blessed coconut was also offered into the sacred fire. The ceremony culminated with two Bhumi Pujas, one to sanctify the ground and one to sanctify nine bricks, to be placed in the foundation. Following the pujas, satsang gathered on the site sang 11 Hanuman Chaleesas and Aarti was offered to Maharaj-ji and Hanuman-ji. The entire ceremony was a powerful verification of our intention to build Hanuman a mandir.
It is such an exciting time! The long-held vision of Hanuman having a mandir will soon be a reality! There is still a ways to go, funding is still needed to complete the project. To this end the ashram initiated an on line funding campaign in September. At the end of October we reached our first goal of $100K, now the campaign can continue until January. By Baba and Hanuman’s grace and all of your generous hearts we hope to raise another $100K. You can donate to mandir fund here.
Check out the Indiegogo Campaign for gifts & share with your friends!
As a devotee said to me: “This is the only Maharaj-ji, Hanuman temple being built anywhere in the world right now.” While He was in His body, Maharaj-ji built many Hanuman mandirs all over India. Help us to continue this tradition of Maharaj-ji’s, by supporting the funding of the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram’s efforts to build Baba’s first Hanuman temple in America.
Thank you. By His Grace, Ram Ram
Vice President, NKB Ashram Board of Directors
A Deep Bow to Steven Levine
Beloved Guru-Brother Stephen Levine died on January 17, 2016 at his home in Northern New Mexico, following a long illness. He was 79. Stephen and his wife Ondrea shifted and lifted the entire cultural conversation around death and dying. With a blend of bhakti and mindfulness that resonates with many devotees of Neem Karoli Baba, Stephen helped hundreds of people approach their own death, and the dying of their loved ones, as a sacred experience and an opportunity for radical awakening. “Softening the belly,” “keeping your heart open in hell” and “cultivating mercy” were common phrases in Stephen’s teachings and reflect his fierce commitment to being lovingly present with what is. Stephen and Ondrea lived mostly as hermits for the past three decades, yet they came to the Taos ashram for Bhandara in September almost every year. Stephen’s many books, from classics such as Who Dies? and A Year to Live to the more contemplative Becoming Kwan Yin, carry the essence of his significant legacy. We held a memorial gathering at the ashram in Taos during Guru Purnima in July, and satsang gathered from far and wide to pay homage to this beautiful being. We invite you to hold Stephen’s partner, Ondrea, in your thoughts as she begins to navigate her new life without her beloved in the body.
In the Realms of Passing
This is the realm of the passing away. All that exists does not for long
What ever comes into this world never stops sliding toward the edge of eternity.
Form arises from formlessness and passes back, arising and dissolving in a few dance steps between creation and destruction.
We are born passing away.
Seedlings and deadfall all face forward.
Earthworms eat what remains.
We sing not for that which dies but for that which never does.
-Stephen Levine, from Breaking the Drought
Deva Bhumi by K.K. Sah
“In 1940-41, when I was six or seven years old, my father asked my stepsister’s elder son (who was about 10 or 12 years older than me) to take me to see a siddha who had come to my stepsister’s house, the one right in back of ours. So I went, and like the others I pranaamed.
I had the idea that generally sadhus do not come to family houses; they live away from people in the forests. So I was curious as to why that saint was there. I whispered in the ear of my nephew who had accompanied me, “What type of saint is he that he visits the houses in town?” That saint, lying on a cot in the room, suddenly asked my nephew what I was saying. My nephew was embarrassed to tell him what I had said, but he insisted, “Tell me, tell me.” My nephew told what I had said. I said, “Will you come to my house?” The saint got up from the cot and said, “I will go to his house.” Right then and there, he came from the back side of the house into my house. Here he was, Shri Neem Karoli Baba! It was my father’s first darshan. My father and all the family members were so excited. What grace! He spoke with all the people there. I was standing off to a side, as many devotees and relatives flocked to my house. It was like a big jubilation. Then he left. My other nephew (who was about 9 years older than me) had been present, and he told me later on, “As soon as your father pranaamed to him, Maharajji asked, ‘Where is that cot on which Hariakhan would sleep?” My father was stunned. How did he know that? Then he asked, “Hariakhan Baba had given you a mantra. Do you repeat it?” Oh! My father was totally lost. No one knew about that. After that, Maharajji would often come to our house and my father was his devotee.”
– Excerpt from Deva Bhumi by K.K. Sah
To pre-order at the Puja Dukan, call 575-751-4080
K.K. Sah is a mentor, friend and teacher to many of the Westerners who have come to India in search of the extraordinary being known as Neem Karoli Baba (Maharaj-ji). His experience and knowledge of Bhakti Yoga (yoga of devotion) and his vocal renditions of Bhajans (devotional poems) from the mystic saints have been an important spiritual transmission for many of these same westerners who have come under his guidance.
In particular he was the first Hindi translator for Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert) when he first met the Guru in 1967 as he was searching for what he called “a map of consciousness”. It was K.K. who was instructed by Maharaj-ji to take Ram Dass back to his family home and show him the love and affection of an Indian family.
K.K. is part of a highly unusual family that was host to some of the most esteemed Saints of the 20th century in Northern India in an area called Deva Bhumi or Land Of the Gods. His father, as a police inspector for the British Raj travelled the remote trails in the Himalayan mountains and met the likes of Hariakhan Baba, Sombari Baba and Brahmachari Baba who are considered to be a few of the most accomplished Yogis of the last century. K.K. himself had the grace to grow up in this environment, literally in the lap of Neem Karoli Baba.
In Deva Bhumi , the title of K.K.’s book, we get an opportunity to hear of the vibrancy and spiritual tapestry of this very special region of India where the divine presence presided through these beloved Gurus in K.K.’s story. We also hear, for the first time, the stories of one particular Saint of this region of the Himalayas, Sombari Baba, who exemplified the enigmatic and holy presence of a completely free being or as it is known in India, a Siddha- a fully accomplished and realized being.
In Deva Bhumi, K.K. passes forward the love and wisdom of these very special beings who represent the promise of what we can be as humans. It is the story of a place on our planet that has been the centre of a tradition of love, compassion and service through the living examples of these great beings.
Here and Now at the Ashram…
“The mind can travel a million miles in the blink of an eye. Buddha said that.” – Maharaj-ji
This has been a year of many changes, some new beginnings, some letting go… One thing remains constant -the heart of love that is Maharaj-ji. It is His Grace that blesses and guides us, and by His Grace alone that we can offer our simple service
On the Farm
Last spring we began construction on a long-awaited pond. We had an exciting permaculture workshop with Rico Zook with lots of fun hands-on experience shaping the earth and moving rocks. The pond is still in process: this fall we hope to complete more earthwork and strengthen the clay layer which will allow us to reliably hold water. Still, this morning on our way to milk the cow we heard two ducks splash their way out of the pond’s water and take flight- even in the imperfection of its incompleteness it is being enjoyed!
We had a very successful year again at the farmer’s market selling the hand-crafted marigold malas which are the labor of love of our summer sevaks. We celebrated the opening of the on-site ashram Farm Stand on Sundays, which allows satsang members to interact with farm staff and select from a variety of fresh-picked vegetables. We enjoyed a bumper crop of apples and turned our small greenhouse into a fall dehydrator for fruit. Our pantry is stocked with pickles and sweet dried peaches, nectarines and apples, and our freezers are full of kale and green beans. We give thanks for an abundant year!
Last but not least, we welcomed our new cow, Matilda, to the farm. She is an incredible addition to the ashram family and everyone who has met her has fallen in love. And that is even before they taste her abundantly creamy milk.
Another new welcome came for Zephyr, Jesse and Stefanie’s little boy, born on August 2nd. He is the sweetest new face to be seen, often in Stefanie’s arms, enjoying the ashram ambience and basking in Maharaj-ji’s love with the wide open eyes of an infant. Welcome Zephyr!
By Maharaj-ji’s grace and through the generous donations of many devotees we have been able to feed thousands of people this year and continue to comfortably run our ever-expanding operation. We have also been able to complete various necessary projects, including installing a new stainless steel sink in the kitchen (no more soggy sevaks!), renovating the Dharmsala, adding adobe walls and floor to our farm stand/harvest structure, upgrading the area around Hanuman-ji in the temple room, and building a new desk in our office.
It is a very special blessing to be able to cook Prasad for Maharaj-ji and Hanuman-ji. As Baba said, “It is not easy to do Bhandara in the name of Hanuman-ji” and participating in Prasad preparation at the ashram always brings its own deep teachings. We had many memorable meals over the last year. Some standout dishes were the saag paneer from Guru Purnima, Ready’s morning poha, Charlie’s warm whole wheat bread, the super-spicy mixed veggie pickle from Vijay and Nalini’s last visit, the Mexican fiesta meal from the Friday evening of Bhandara, and Joe’s ever-delightful cookies, which now go so well with Matilda’s milk. We hope that you enjoy the enclosed chai recipe with original artwork by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw of “Chai Pilgrimage” fame. We wish you a warm connection to all of Maharaj-ji’s family as you sip the sweet and spicy warmth of chai at home.
In Sometimes Brilliant , Larry Brilliant, known to our satsang simply as Doctor Larry, recounts the incredible saga of the smallpox eradication campaign in India, which he joined at Maharaj-ji’s instruction. From one standpoint this is a dramatic medical account about removing a plague of suffering and death that scourged humanity for thousands of years. From another it is a story of Divine Grace coming together with human dedication and determination to overcome incredible adversity. Either way, it’s a great read!
“Doctor America!” Maharaji yelled. “How much money do you have?” He turned towards me and looked up at the heavens, peeking at some invisible timeline that stretched through permutations and combinations of events into a possible future that I could not see.
“Doctor America,” he repeated, louder this time, “how much money do you have?” I counted how much money I had left from my internship and the movie caravan and the weekends I had worked as an emergency room doctor in Los Angeles.
“I have another $500 back in America,” I said.
“Hare Bo! (Wow!),” he said, laughing in a singsong kind of way. “That is not much money for a doctor. Five hundred dollars here, five hundred dollars there. You no Doctor. Doctor America is no Doctor. No Doctor.”
He smiled at Girija. “Will you have to get a job?” he asked me.
A job? No one in the satsang held a job in any conventional sense. And how could we get work permits in India anyway? I could not practice medicine here even if I wanted to.
We were expats, living in an ashram, on tourist visas. Our work was being with Maharaji.
“You are no doctor,” Maharaji said in English, putting the back of his hand up to his forehead impersonating a carnival fortuneteller, giggling, rocking from left to right.
“You are no doctor, you are no doctor, you are no doctor, you no doctor, U- N- O doctor, uno doctor . . . ah . . . UNO . . . Doctor America is going to go to work for the UNO and be a doctor for the United Nations. You will go to the villages and give vaccinations.”
I didn’t understand what he meant. “You want me to give a shot to someone here?”
He began chanting again. “Doctor America is going to become UNO doctor. UNO
doctor. United Nations Organization doctor.”
Ahh. U- N- O. What we call the United Nations. U- N in English. Much of the rest of the world calls it UNO, pronounced “you en oh.” United Nations Organization signs were all over India.
“You will work for the United Nations,” he said. “You are going to go to villages and give vaccinations against smallpox.”
“Smallpox, this terrible disease, this mahamari, this great epidemic, is killing our children. You will go to Delhi, join the United Nations, go to villages, and give vaccinations against smallpox. It will be unmulan, eradicated from the world. This is God’s gift to humanity because of the dedicated health workers. God will help lift the burden of this terrible disease from humanity.”
These stories were narrated on a Tuesday evening, after aarti, Prasad and kirtan. As the floor was being swept, the nightly milk from the cow was being filtered, and the puja dishes were being cleaned, these are three stories which emerged…
“When I first showed up at the ashram, my life had fallen into a place where there was no direction nor purpose. I was living on the street and had been staying in a homeless shelter. Somehow, I remembered Taos as a special place and I came. The first day I arrived at the ashram, I felt a peace that I hadn’t experienced for a long time. I met Jesse, fell in love with the farm and started doing farm seva. I started doing dishes, I loved it. I was told I could stay for three days and was preparing myself to go back on the street. When I was allowed to stay longer I felt this huge relief. As I started talking to people I heard them all saying, “Such and such was thanks to Baba, Baba this, Baba that…” I didn’t know who Neem Karoli Baba was but I wanted to share in the beautiful experience which everyone seemed to be having. I wanted to connect with Baba so I started sitting in front of his takht and looking at his photo. Then one day the photo started smiling at me. It suddenly hit me that this entity loved me no matter what regardless of all that I had done, whether it was good or bad. I had been going place to place for six months and never felt welcome anywhere. I asked Baba if I could stay here and he said, “John, you are welcome here anytime.” I started crying and I cried and cried. Then I felt, this was something I could devote myself to, something beautiful.” – John
“I feel I can rest my soul at the ashram. There is an energy that helps me to be more quiet. We all come here bringing our needs and requests and sometimes this place seems so full of these. But when I keep quiet and do seva, I feel that peaceful connection with Baba. He provides me with such a reflection. He allows me to see my own judgements. We all come with our own problems and this place accepts everyone.” – Marcia
“I was about to turn fifty-nine and had never been on a vacation. This was going to be my first moment of rest-an extended bicycle trip across the Rockies. It was the culmination of a number of years of working less and becoming more devoted to the lifestyle that Jesus had lived, the life of a sadhu. I thought why not, I have a trade that I can always fall back on anywhere I go, I’ll see where it leads…The very first night in Taos in my tent I was aware that this space, this ground, this sky was very special. Since being at the ashram, I have had a lot of unexpected experiences. Subtle joys and pleasures, and a true place of rest. When I have gotten caught up in the idea that my happiness was tied to employment, I have put so much of my energy into that- trying to create my environment and path on my own. I have found, though seva is no lighter work than the paid work I have done, it feels restful. Seva is devotion. Here we receive the rest that is promised by God. In the Bible, Paul says, “I refuse to know Jesus according to the flesh. My desire is to know him as he is today.” That has been very much my approach with Baba. The God that Baba says we should remember is the God that I have always known. It is the creator. God has intertwined each of our trajectories here in this moment in space and time in Maharajji’s house. And this moment is full of potential.”- Weyland
Hanuman, Reliever of Suffering for Our Times
“Some two millenia before Western environmentalism emerged in the aftermath of the industrial revolution and the exploitation by European settlers of the North American continent, Indian storytellers (anticipating pioneer environmentalist John Muir) described a realm whose “wilderness” was also, in a sense, “the preservation of the world”: a place of quietest “forest teachings” and adventurous and transformative quests. And their tales also reveal an implicit ecological vision of a “crowded cosmos” in which every life form has its place, and wherein acts of destruction must always stop short of extinction, because of the need to preserve, for each species, “the seed of the future”.
In India, Hanuman has long been associated with liminal spaces that mark the boundary between human habitation and unsettled “jungle,” as well as the mountains and (vanishing) forests, where his devotees occasionally encounter him and where his (sometimes) honored cohorts the langur and macaque still “play.” Moreover, he has, through his father Vayu, a special identification with the air that is the breath of all life. Associating this supernatural being- a matchless mediator between the animal, human, demonic, and divine realms- with “ecology,” a relatively new concept even in English and still perhaps without an adequate translation in an Indian language, seems not appropriate: indeed, it is but a small step for one who already plays so many roles. But it could be a great leap, for his human devotees, toward liberation from the self- generated sankat (suffering) that now menaces all earthly life.”
We would like to pick up where “Hanuman’s Tale” leaves off and dedicate our Ashram Blog to sharing examples of how we can embody Hanuman’s devotion and Ram’s Dharma during this essential time. Join us as we update you on steps the ashram is taking to become more sustainable and ways that you can be a part of the positive change.