West 🏗️ Meets East 🕉️🧘‍♂️- Neem Karoli Baba

What do the late CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, and the well-known American epidemiologist, Larry Brilliant, all have in common?

West 🏗️ Meets East 🕉️🧘‍♂️- Neem Karoli Baba

They all had the same spiritual guru from the Himalayas, called Shri Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Baba or Maharaj ji. Surprised to know?

As Steve Jobs said in his famous Connecting the Dots speech at Stanford. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

Looking backwards – the story of the dots starts with Larry Brilliant.

💉 Larry Brilliant

Larry Brilliant is a physician, epidemiologist, and public health expert, who, along with his wife Elaine, worked with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to eradicate smallpox. He is the founder of The Seva Foundation, which works to prevent blindness in several developing countries.

In 1969, Larry, as a non-official doctor, accompanied a group of people to visit Alcatraz Island to help a pregnant woman from the American Indian tribes when they forcefully captured the Island. After the US forces re-captured the Island, Larry became famous in the media. This gave him a role of a doctor in the movie Medicine Ball Caravan. The cast was paid for an airline ticket to India. Larry and others encashed the money and took a tour from Europe to India. They ended up in humanitarian aid due to a cyclone in Eastern India and Bangladesh.

Brilliant somehow arrived at a remote ashram at Kainchi Dham near Nainital, which was headed by Baba Neem Karoli Bagh. One day the baba gave Brilliant a mission to leave the ashram and join World Health Organisation (WHO) to help eradicate smallpox. Brilliant wasn’t an epidemiologist or a doctor, but baba used to call him ‘Dr. America’. He was refused the job at WHO a few times, and baba sent him back to New Delhi every time. Finally, he approached the WHO to get any role in the organisation just to keep the baba happy, and he was hired as an administrative assistant.

In the 1970s, India was a poor country and Brilliant would have been termed an outsider. Still, the guru and the disciple went on a mission that impacted billions and killed more than 500 million people worldwide. Indians then believed that smallpox was caused by the goddess ‘Sitala Devi’; hence, it was also connected religiously. With no mass media, an extremely high infection rate with every individual infecting seven others, a large landscape, poor infrastructure and low education, this was an almost impossible task to achieve.

But when science, religion and spirituality come together, everything is possible. Over the next few years, Brilliant helped lead a team of 150,000 people from 170 countries to work together to wipe out the last traces of the disease.

📱 Steve Jobs

Baba has influenced and changed the lives of many. Disciples who were previously sworn to the corporate world are being drawn to and have started believing and practising spirituality. Larry Brilliant was a good friend of Steve Jobs (co-founder and CEO of apple). After a series of failures, Steve Jobs was in search of some eternal peace and motivation, so he turned to his friend Larry Brilliant who advised him to go and meet Baba.

In 1974, Steve Jobs travelled to India. However, he was too late, as Baba had passed away. Despite the unforeseen circumstances, Steve decided to stay at the ashram for a while and spend time with the spirit of Baba, learn his teachings and meditate. After a seven-month stay in India, Steve returned to America and eventually started Apple Inc. in 1976.

After Steve Jobs had stayed in India, he mentioned that he had realised how important it is to have intuition.

👥📚 Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg in the year 2015, during a conversation with India’s PM Modi, mentioned how Steve Jobs, Mark’s mentor, persuaded Mark to visit the temple/ashram of Neem Karoli Baba (watch the first 1min 48sec of the video here). This was at the time when Facebook was in serious trouble. Initially, Mark only planned to be there for a day, but he eventually stayed there for a couple of days.

🎭 Julia Roberts, 🏏 Virat Kohli, and many others!

Julia Roberts visited India in 2010 to shoot her movie Eat Pray Love. After that, Julia Roberts became a practising Hindu. In one of her interviews, she said that her life-changing event was when she saw Baba Neem Karoli’s photograph.

Everyone has their doubts when it comes to myths and legends, more particularly spiritual leaders. However, when a miracle happens to one of your close ones or an idol you look up to, you start questioning whether spirituality is legitimate or not.

Why do high performers like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Julia Roberts, Larry Brilliant, etc., from the western corporate world travel to India and have their lives turned upside down by meeting these mystics? It raises the question of whether the materialistic and corporate environment is sufficient or to succeed, we need to extend ourselves to the spiritual dimension as well?

Shri Neem Karoli Baba – An Introduction

Neem Karoli Baba was a guru and devotee of the Hindu deity Hanuman. He was born in the early 1900s and is considered one of India’s most revered spiritual leaders. Many of his followers believe that he is the incarnation of Hanuman, as he has performed many miracles. His teachings emphasise the importance of love, devotion, and selfless service. Baba’s teachings were said to be simple and universal. He would often preach, “sab ek” meaning all is one. Baba taught in a highly personalised and non-traditional way, reflecting the deep devotion to the bhakti path, i.e. liberation via devotion.

Baba was once in the first-class section of a train. Baba did not have a ticket when the ticket checker came. Then Baba was asked to get off the train at the next station, ‘Nib Karoli’. Baba sat at a distance by burying his stick in the earth. Officials told the train to move, and the guard waved the train off, but the train didn’t move even an inch. After many tries, the train still didn’t work, so a local judge who knew Baba asked officials to apologise to Baba and bring him inside in a respectful way. There were also people on the train who agreed with the judge. From then on, Baba was called Neem Karoli.

Baba has many ashrams and followers around India and some in America, his most popular ashram being Kainchi Dham (which was visited by Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg).

Miracles, by definition, are events that cannot be explained by natural laws or scientific principles and, therefore, cannot be verified or disproved. Everyone has different beliefs, values, and worldviews until something astounding happens right in front of their eyes. He manifested many siddhis (powers), such as being in two locations at once or putting devotees in samadhi (state of meditative consciousness) at the touch of a finger. Neem Karoli Baba has performed many miracles, and a few of them have been captured in the book Miracle of Love by Ram Dass.

The Legacy

Even though Maharaj ji physically left us on September 11, 1973, his devotees believe he is still improving people’s lives. He has left behind a vast legacy, some of whom we recognise and others we do not. A baba in the Himalayas was instrumental in eradicating smallpox and saving millions of lives, but we are too preoccupied with our lives to comprehend this. By nature, we in the corporate world are profit driven and have lost our purpose. Spirituality helps us reconnect. However, the irony is we now know of baba ji because of the corporate world. Would you have read this article if this article was not connected to Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, food for thought?

About the Authors:

Bhavin Shukla has been working as an IT Consultant in the data space for more than 20 Years. As a Data and Analytics professional, he has worked extensively for years on complex IT Transformation Programmes within Health, Finance and Telco domains.

Prisha Shukla co-authored this write-up and is currently studying her 3rd Year of Medicine at Aston University, Birmingham.