Deva Bhumi: The Abode of the Gods in India

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Deva Bhumi: The Abode of the Gods in India
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Deva Bhumi is a region in the Northwest foothills of the Himalayas (Uttarakhand), where gods and saints have lived for thousands of years, where they performed their leelas (divine play) and inspired their devotees along the path of bhakti, dharma, and karma. (Bhakti is the path of devotion, dharma is the principle of cosmic order and righteousness, and karma is the spiritual principle of cause and effect that influences the future of a person.) I have always lived in Nainital, in the Kumaon hills, and grew up inclined towards the spiritual path, mainly through listening to the stories of the saints of this region since childhood. It is my hope that through this book Westerners can feel and understand the glory of the saints and siddhas. And that future generations in India will maintain the tradition of love and bhakti and the glory of the saints.

The Kurmanchal mountains have been blessed with the presence of many amazing siddhas over the centuries. However, their stories are not always known, and often get forgotten. Especially with the fast pace of modern life, the younger generation is not fully aware of the wonderful heritage, life, and teachings of these siddha masters. The intention behind this book is to make them aware of the lives of the great masters who have lived in this very area.

The stories in this book have been collected from eyewitnesses and first-hand accounts. Most of those people are now very old (and many have passed away since the articles were collected), so there may be some discrepancies in dates. However, I have tried to be as faithful as possible to exact facts. It is my hope that readers may get to know a little (a drop in the ocean) about the qualities of the siddhas who shower unconditional grace on us.

The root message of the saints is to love and serve and remember the Divine, but in the presence of unconditional grace, a devotee does not need to do even that! Simply by being in the presence of these saints, all the work is done. It is my hope that reading about these saints in this book will bring exactly that blessing to readers: that of being in the blessed presence of these great masters.

In the past, people in this area of the Himalayas were not very educated. They were simple, god-fearing people, sharing the stories of saints and siddhas among themselves. Going to see these beings (having darshan) was to pray for prosperity, to solve family problems, to get their children married-all worldly desires. No one wrote down anything about the saints of Deva Bhumi. For their part, the saints never encouraged crowds; they had no desire for name and fame. Their teachings were indirect. Sometimes there were miracles. In other parts of India, where the devotees were well- educated and could understand the glory of the saints, books were written about them, such as those about Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, and Shirdi Sai Baba. But nothing was ever written about the saints of the Himalayas.

Even the early Westerners who lived in the region did not write about their experiences. For example, jim Corbett (who was born in Nainital), the legendary British hunter of man-eating tigers, went to Tanakpur, where the Purnagiri Temple sits on the banks of the Sarda River in the Kumaon district. There he saw the lights of the Goddess. The temple priest fell at his feet and said, 'We have been here for the last fifty years and do worship every day, but we could never see that light. You, who are a hunter, you could see that light." After that, Corbett never fired on tigers again and became a noted conservationist and naturalist, who spoke out about protecting India's wildlife. He created a reserve for the endangered Bengal tiger, which was renamed jim Corbett National Park in his honor. But he never wrote about his spiritual experiences.

Even in today's materialistic world, a trip through the Himalayas brings great peace and inspires the heart. Those who are in search of truth and inner peace are always attracted to these mountains.

The Himalayas extend over thousands of miles, from Kashmir in the Northwest to Arunachal Pradesh in the Northeast. The area of Uttarakhand (formerly Uttarakhand) is a state in northern India that has special significance in the heart of Indians, especially in the Kumaon division. Many holy shrines such as Gangotri, Yamnotri, Badrinath, Kedarnath and Bageshwar-varying from the very famous to the almost unknown-lie in this area, which attracts saints, spiritual teachers, and seekers from all over India.


From the times of Adi Shankaracharya in the early 8th century to Swami Vivekananda and Swami Ram Tirtha in the 19th century and Neem Karoli Baba in the 20th century, many great beings have come to Uttarakhand. (The great follower of truth and the "father of the Nation," Mahatma Gandhi, wrote his book Anasakti Yoga while staying in Kausani in Uttarakhand.)

What is the difference between a saint, a sadhu, and a siddha? A sadhu or sadhaka is a renunciate, one who has been initiated in a particular sect and does his sadhana (spiritual practices). Anyone can be called a sadhu. Even I have been known as a sadhu because of my devotion and spiritual practices. If someone is living in a family, if the is leading a very simple life based on spiritual values, he will be known as a sadhu type of person.

In India, when you go to the Kumbha mela-a great gathering of more than 80-90 million people-there are millions upon millions of sadhus. Not all of them have holy aspirations, but they are practicing a lifestyle that is encouraged and protected by their sect at the mela. The heads of these sects, or mahants, may be wearing garlands of flowers, holding big malas, and be carried in palanquins in procession, but their self-realization may be limited.

An advanced sadhu may be called a saint-someone who has a certain level of attainment-while a sadhu can be either just beginning on the path or far along it. Someone who is living a simple life of devotion and spiritual practice, doing their morning and evening prayers, may be called a saint-treading the path towards God. You may receive wonderful teachings from these saints. They may even do so-called miracles. But siddhas, perfected beings, are above and beyond sadhus and saints. (Often, the terms saint and siddha are used interchangeably, which does create some confusion.) Siddhas use their power not for name or fame, as some saints do, but as a form of teaching for their devotees. The ways of a real siddha cannot be known, but their devotees will experience their grace and love. If we have love, we can conquer everything.

The stage of siddha is attained after a long, long process. I have heard a siddha comes along once in thousands of saints. A sadhu or saint has to do many pujas (rituals/ceremonies) to attain God. He will have to maintain all the standards of a saintly person, taking his bath, doing japa (reciting a mantra on a mala), doing sadhana, doing rituals. But when the saint is fully cooked, he reaches the stage of puma siddha. He may take a bath, or not. He doesn't do any puja or go to temples. His life is now lived for others, not for himself. Neem Karoli Baba only needed one dhoti (cloth wrapped around the waist), one blanket. He passed the stage of doing sadhana; he had attained perfection. Maharajji (Neem Karoli Baba) used to say: 'what's the use of doing rituals when people are dying of hunger? Feed people, then do puja."

A siddha can do anything, but a sadhu or beginner on the path has to maintain the niyam, the laws of nature. That is the difference between a siddha and an ordinary saint. An ordinary saint will put on the sacred thread and vibhuti (sacred ash) and do japa, but Maharajji was never seen wearing the thread or doing puja in his adult life. During his earlier tapasya time, he would pass through temples and often pranaam to the murtis (statues of deities) because he was always one with all the gods.

Those who understand the stage of a real siddha know so only when the siddha allows the devotee to understand these things. That is the problem in the West: everyone that comes there from India is treated as if they were on the same level-a sadhu, a saint, or a siddha. A saint may lecture and preach, but a siddha can be silent. It is the vibration of his presence, a look that can change your whole being without anything seeming to be done. A devotee came to Bal Brahmachari Maharaj who had many problems in his mind. As he sat in front of Brahmachari, he received answers to each of his questions without asking a single one out loud. That is the power of a siddha.

A siddha might do a miracle for the sake of instilling faith in his devotees, while a saint might do a miracle to attract a crowd. The siddha will generally avoid a crowd. The siddha knows who is deserving and who is not, so he will act according to his devotee's karma (sanskaras, the history and traits that influence that person). Whenever Neem Karoli Maharaj did a miracle, he always said, "I am nobody. God did it."

If you visit the places where the siddhas have lived, you can feel the intense vibrations that are still there. Places like Padampuri, Kainchi, Khairna, Kakrighat-where saints stayed and performed their leelas-if you go there with a pure heart, you can feel the siddha's ananda (bliss).

Sitting in front of a sidda, even if he doesn't talk, you will realize a kind of joy. Your mind and heart are the best judge. In the Ramayana it talks about the four yugas, the vast ages of the past. We are in the Kali Yuga, the lowest vibratory age. The Ramayana says that inthe kali Yuga, only those persons with good sanskaras will be able to have darshan of a siddha, for they are hidden nowadays.


When I had my first darshan of Maharajji, K.K. Sah was my translator-the first person I met from Maharajji's family of devotees. My first impression of him was how familiar he was with Maharajji, so free with him, not holding anything back.

When Maharajji sent me to stay with K.K. at his house, I began to see his spiritual side. I saw all the pictures of holy people on his wall and in his altar room, as well as the books he had and the way he turned our discussions to spiritual topics. K.K. was so at ease talking about spirit.

He lived in an old house with many floors and narrow stair- cases. I was used to considerably more comfort back in America. Maharajji told K.K. to feed me "double roti" (toast). I thought I was being punished. On the physical plane it was all very unfamiliar, but after some time we got to laughing about the cultural differences around food. They took great joy in feeding me, and distracting me while they piled more food on my plate. With that feeding and loving care, I started to feel like part of the family, a familiar family.

That family feeling made my discomfort vanish and my discomfort shifted. I began to understand the Hindu aphorism, "A guest in the home is God." I was going from middle class professor to family member. I had missed the feeling of this type of family love when I grew up.

I was reminded of what Maharajj i said, "I feed the Westerners love through food."

K.K. behaved no differently with me than with Maharajji. He treated him like a regular human, yet he knew at the same time that Maharajji was not a regular person. K.K.'s humor, warmth, fearlessness, and honesty were infectious. When Maharajji had K.K. take me into his home, he also had him take me into his heart. K.K. became my brother. I truly felt the bond beyond this lifetime with K.K., some- thing I had never before felt. He was never impressed with my western credentials. Instead, we had unconditional love.

He was drawn to my father and step-mother as they were familiar to him. He was so happy that my Dad treated him like family. Actually he brought out that quality in my father. In fact K.K.'s siddhi (spiritual power) is that he is able to make everyone feel like family.

His child-like quality is so infectious. I was not surprised when I heard that Maharajji gave him the blessing that he would always remain child-like.

Whenever I have been at K.K.'s house in his family temple room, I can feel the legacy of the siddhas (perfected ones) that permeates the room. This book represents K.K.'s persona-his love of the siddhas, from Hairakhan Baba to Neem Karoli Baba.

I can hear K.K. speaking to me when I read this book, which is an introduction to the bhav (spiritual feeling) we all got when we spent time living with his family in India.

Many people say to me that I was so lucky to be with Maharajji. The revelation of this book is that it transmits his love and spirit and, in fact, the soul of the entire Kumaon area, or Deva Bhumi, the abode of the gods, as it's called.

When you read this book, you will understand why K.K. Sah is my deepest friend and brother.



In 1970, I traveled to India after meeting Ram Dass. I had asked him to connect me with his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. Little did I know that not only would I meet Maharajji, as we called him, but I'd also meet a family of his devotees who were to become as dear to me as my own blood family. Before that fateful trip to the East, I could only think of family as a broken part of my life. Not that my parents did not care for me, but they were too wounded from their own history and cultural boundaries to provide that space of unconditional acceptance and love.

Soon after I arrived in India, I met up with Ram Dass at Swami Muktananda's ashram. Ram Dass told me that he had found Maharajji's whereabouts; he tucked a note into my pocket with the address of a hotel in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Two days later, I arrived in Nainital and was ushered into the hands of M.L. Sah, one of the two brothers who owned the hotel. I had no idea what to expect from this perfect stranger, and I certainly was not familiar with Indian customs. I was promptly served a cup of chai and M.L. welcomed me as if I were a long lost relative. He regaled me with stories of Maharajji and the other saints who had walked this sacred land for so many centuries. It was as if I had entered a dream world, at least until the next day when I met Maharajji for the first time and realized I had, in fact, come home. The dream was real.

Next I was introduced to M.L.'s cousin, KK. Sah, and their large extended family, through whom all of us Westerners were brought into a new reality: unconditional family love. At KK.'s house we were fed in a temple room where Hairakhan Baba, Bal Brahmachari Maharaj, Neem Karoli Baba, and other saints had all beer fed. Their family tradition included living with the saints! And guest were treated as if they were God. We learned to be like children demanding food and comfort from our parents.

I remember at one point thinking that this felt more like home than the home I had left on the other side of the world. That feeling has persisted for all these decades. Maharajji left his body in 1973 but the unconditional love that we received from him, and which was extended to us from his Indian family, has spread like a benevolent virus through our Western community. As Meher Baba said, "Love is like a disease. Those who have it give it to those who don't."

Deva Bhumi, this book from K.K Sah, is a gift from the. immense heart of the region in northern India known as the Kumaon It's K.K.'s story of growing up in the lap of the siddhas. K.K.'s father traveled yearly the narrow trails on horseback to the sacred temple of Badrinath and encountered many of these realized beings along the. way. Stories about them graced the lives of his family. This book is primarily the story of one of these siddhas, Sombari Baba, whose tale, has never before been told.

Above all, this book is permeated with the highest spiritual emotion, or bhav as it's called in India, that leaves us with the feeling: of unconditional love and the possibility for our own realization of true kindness and compassion.



Foreword by Ram Dass XIX
Preface by Raghu Markus XXIII
Introduction XXVII
Sadhus, Saints, and Siddhas In this book  
Part I 1
Neem KaroIi Baba Maharaj 6
How this book came to be 23
Part II  
The Sages during the Chand Dynasty 28
Sage Riddhgiri rises again from his samadhi  
Shri Raukhdiya Baba 31
A description of the life of Shri Raukhdiya Baba  
A description of the life of Shri Raukhdiya Baba, continued  
Swami Vivekananda 34
Swami Vivekananda in Deva Bhumi  
Shri Harshdev Puri Maharaj 35
Shri Harshdev Puri Maharaj tries to save the king  
Khaki Baba 36
About Khaki Baba  
Part III 45
Early Days 45
Pind Dadan Khan's importance in history  
Pind Dadan Khan  
The incident with the stick  
Baba's first meeting with his Guru  
As a policeman!  
Descriptions of Sombari Baba 51
Sombari Baba  
Short description of Baba's life  
Description of Baba and his lifestyle  
General description of Baba's life  
Description of Baba's life  
Description of Baba  
General description of Baba and his ashrams  
Kakrighat 65
Description of Kakrighat  
Baba sends prasad for Priyaji  
Moong arrives for making khichdi  
Padampuri 70
A description of the Padampuri ashram  
The ashram at Padampuri  
Baba's usual schedule  
Daily activities at the ashram  
Living at the ashram  
Used Offering  
Some of Baba's asanas  
First Darshans with Baba 86
First Darshan  
Grace and Malpuas  
The first meeting  
Meeting Baba  
First meeting with Baba  
Annapurna Siddhi 97
Food at Baba's ashram  
Unlimited food from small pot  
Multiple meals and tiger sighting  
The gift of potatoes  
Offering from Goddess Annapurna  
Getting food that one desired  
Baba's cooking  
Frying puris in water  
Baba's prediction: Dropping of "hunger in the mind"  
Grating coconuts  
Sweets for the man from Ramnagar  
An unending supply of food  
Sending ghee for the Tehsildar  
Bhandaras at the ashram  
Saving milk for Chandra Lal  
"He is going to be your relative"  
Practical skills  
Pandi Jaidutt and the tikkar  
The cook goes hungry  
The milk and the tea  
Baba feeds devotees personally on the last Diwali  
Food appears magically in the ashram store  
Sending food in advance  
The three potatoes  
Pilgrimage 124
Baba's travels  
Spiritual Travels  
The meeting between Baba and his father  
The official and the Amarnath yatra  
The sadhu with the secret of making gold  
Healing 133
Healing cough and asthma with cold milk in winter  
Lala Radheshyam gets cured of TB  
Healing the compounder Natha Singh  
Baba takes on Radheshyam's fever  
Baba protects Pandeji's feet  
The importance of taking a bath  
Baba saves a dying woman  
Baba sends doctors who heal miraculously  
Lifting of grief from the heart  
Healing Shri Naithani's son  
Healing a leper  
Digestive troubles  
Preventing Suicide  
Dr. Bhargava bandaged Baba's leg  
Animals 152
Tigers and Cobras  
The Barasingha  
The forest officer and the snakes  
Dr. lha is saved from a tiger  
Gopal Sah's horse and the tiger  
Pure offerings  
The British commander and the fish  
from "Dying to Know"  
Fish and monkeys  
The greedy Brahmin and the tiger  
Ordinary Miracles 165
1.1. Sah sees exam paper in a dream  
Stepping over the line  
The man carrying alcohol  
The man with the basket of bananas  
Pandit Motirarn's drinking  
Thakur Iagatchand Gurkha stops drinking  
A gambler gives up his addiction  
The gambler from Bareilly  
Government above the government  
Lessons and Grace 173
Darshan of Hanumanji  
The incident at Padampuri ashram at night  
Hariduttji meets ghosts  
Sadhu returns money  
The stolen two rupees  
'Your brother is fine"  
Rescuing Keshavdutt in heavy rain  
The bottle of Ganga water  
Baba fulfills Harish's wish to see the world  
A Sufi learns from Baba  
Treating all equally  
Respect for all paths  
Lessons in humility  
Learned men argue about God  
Protecting devotees  
The insects in the grains  
Pandit Devidutt Kabdwal changes  
The man with wet clothes  
The thin man and the large log  
Baba teaches a doctor the importance of charity  
The judge from Prayag  
The Kshatriya learns a lesson about strength  
Baba reverses time  
Faith instilled by simple words  
A man gets cured of his pride in his self-control  
Pandi Jaidutt and the gaze of grace  
Baba removes a doubt about the Shrimad Bhagwatam  
The experience of spontaneous samadhi  
Time/Space travel?  
The contractor who peeked into the ashram at night  
Promotion without a degree  
Reversing a fine  
Sadhu returns money  
Trouble in Nepal  
Quotes from Sombari Baba 219
Things directly heard from Baba  
Baba's thoughts on the Kumbha Mela  
"Do not waste a single minute"  
Baba reads a devotee's thoughts about his shoe  
Two Tolas  
Baba consoles Harpal Singh  
"I never forget anyone"  
Refusing milk from Gopaldutt  
Poking fun  
Predictions 226
Prophecy about the end of British rule in India  
Prophecy about playing with a Siddha  
What is Ananda?  
Predicting the arrival of devotees  
The value of love  
Predicting the storm  
Baba's prediction: Your uncle is coming here  
Helping the police find a murderer  
Predicting the birth of my son  
Baba's prediction: You will stop taking charas  
Baba's prediction: Price of ghee at the time of death  
Baba's prediction: coming back as a boy sadhu  
Baba gives an indication to Krishna J oshi  
Forecast of death  
Mahasamadhi 237
Dates of leaving the body  
Final Samadhi  
Death of a deer  
Photos of Baba  
Buying wood worth 100 rupees  
Incidents from Baba's life  
Murti of Sombari Baba brought to Padampuri  
Padampuri after Baba's samadhi  
The Brahmins at Bodhgaya  
Anniversary of Baba's passing  
Part IV 251
Hairakhan Baba 251
About Hairakhan Baba  
Hairakhan Baba's words  
Bal Brahmachari Maharaj 256
How will we live without you?  
Milk for offering  
First meeting with Brahmachari Maharaj  
Bhajans with Brahmachari Maharaj  
Baba asked Shri Kabdwal for clothes in a dream  
Bal Brahmachari Baba in Varanasi  
Shri Kabdwal and the Babas  
A brief description about Shri 1008 Badri Narayan Bal  
Brahmachari Maharajji  
Bal Brahmachari Maharaj removes a devotee's despondency  
Brahmachari Maharaj plays the role of a son  
The sadhu at the railway station  
Shri Ramnath Augad Baba offers flowers to Maharajji  
Ram Navami in Ayodhya  
The Man in Vrindavan  
Maharajji sees Gopaldutt in Kanpur ... from Banaras  
The journey from Allahabad to Banaras  
Neem Karoli Baba and Major T.D. Joshi  
Bal Brahmachari and Neem Karoli Baba  
Epilogue 283
Glossary 287
Acknowledgments 297
Credits 301

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