Love Everyone by Parvati Markus – on Neem Karoli Baba
Love Everyone by Parvati Markus is the tale of the hippie generation. The generation that was born in the West but came to the east as seekers. They had their own ways, they had their own gurus and they had their own community. Today a generation later, some of them look back at a towering figure common to them all – Neem Karoli Baba.
In a series of chapters, many western devotees of Neem Karoli Baba or Maharaj ji as he was known, talk about their experience with him. Most of them talk about the miracles he did. Though at one place author Parvati Markus mentions that miracles get mentioned as they are easy to narrate. They talk about how they discovered Baba. Some of them knew about him before they landed in India while others found him after coming here. They are all like a commune following him – chasing him between his ashrams at Kainchi near Nainital and Vrindavan. He was their guru, their guide, their friends and even their God.
I read this book over 3-4 months. When I started reading the book I was very skeptical of the ashrams that are run only for the foreigners in India. I thought it was a perfect way to make a fool of them especially in an era before the internet. I could figure out a loop in every miracle mentioned – for how difficult it is in an Indian village to know about what is happening in another person’s house. If that person happens to be a Firang in the 1960s or & 1970s, the whole village would anyway know everything they do – even things they do behind doors. How difficult it is for them to tell it to Baba, who would then act as if he saw it from the 3rd eye.
However, the book changed my perspective by the time I finished it. No, my views on Baba did not change. I did not think he was a enlightened soul. It was these naive devotees who changed my view. It was their lost lives, who found a direction because they thought they found their guru. And it was their will to change their lifestyles, to take new identities and to live a life very different from the one they were raised in that changed my attitude. I started pondering: Is it not the devotees who make gods or demi-gods. Look at the euphoria around these
Look at the euphoria around these Babas, is it because they have something special or is it because some people found a little hope in them. More often than not people find support in the communes around these Babas – for they seem to attract a homogeneous group of people going through a certain low in life.
Each of the stories in the book was the story of a seeker, a seeker who gave up everything to seek. Each of them left an impact on me. I was stunned at their devotion, at their bravery, and at their courage. Even if I could see the not so beautiful truth, I would never have the heart to tell them. They are so happy in their devotion.
I learned the power of books, for it was One Book that was responsible for sending all these hippies Indiawards. It was once disciple who worked as the marketing guy for the Baba. It was the perfect identification of his audience. I have personally never met anyone who followed Neem Karoli Baba, all I know about him is from this book. To me, he comes across as a free willed man who excelled at human psychology.
The book is conversational. It is like group memoirs of people who met him during his last days. It is peeping into the hippie world that for most of us was the other world. There is a hell lot of repetition. Most people had similar experiences, thought the same about Baba and lived a very similar life so their experiences are as similar. You do get bored a bit, but then the faith, these guys display is what keeps you going.
I would always remember this book by Parvati Markus for changing my perspective 180 degrees between the first page and last page.
Take your call.