Nainital, nature's gift to India at the foothills of the Himalayas, is a place that evokes quite meditation and contemplation. Naini means "Cool Air" and Taal is the word for "Lake". Like many hill stations from the time of the British Raj, Nainital is also a bustling tourist centre but it has those picturesque, tranquil vistas that just humble us humans, to wonder about the beauty of creation and nature.
A few kilometres away from Nainital is the temple and the ashram that has been hitting the headlines in Silicon Valley: "Mark Zuckerberg says that visiting an Indian temple at the urging of Steve Jobs helped him stick to Facebook's mission". Called Kainchi Dham, the temple and ashram is at an altitude of 1400 metres and was started by the Guru Shri Neem Karoli Baba. Also known to his worldwide followers as Maharaj-ji, he professed universal love.
Visitors to his ashram are said to have been overwhelmed by the love that seemed to emanate from Maharaj-ji. The guru, it is said, was initially reluctant to deal with the increasing flux of American youth — and celebrities — making a pilgrimage to meet him. Many of these young seekers were drawn to Maharaj-ji because of dissatisfactions that they faced in their own lives or were there because of their quest about the purpose of life. One of Maharaj-ji's first suggestions to this eager flock was to read the Gospel. When one baffled seeker asked Maharaj-ji how they should practice meditation, he responded, "Meditate like Christ. He lost himself in love." [Read this article about a follower in the Folio Weekly: A Love Supreme ]
Steve Jobs, along with his friend Dan Kottke, traveled to India in 1973 to meet Neem Karoli Baba, but arrived after the guru died in September of that year. It is interesting to note that practically thirty odd years later Steve Jobs advice to Mark was to visit the same ashram. Imagine the influence that his visit ought to have had on him to make that suggestion! Wonder what he discovered there which was such an inspiration? When you think about it, it is fascinating to see how different people have connected with India and how learnings & experiences from different cultures can have such positive influence in your life.
As another India lover Mark Twain once said "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the things you did do. Explore. Dream. Discover.
[If you'd like a first person account of traveling through the area, do read the blog post: "Kumaon Sojourn" An excerpt from the blog & a picture have been used in this post]