A temple changed the lives of two of the world’s brightest tech brains thereby contributing to the phenomenal success of two of the world’s leading tech companies – Apple and Facebook.
It is well known that Apple founder Steve Jobs spent a good lot of time in India when he was young. He had been here on a spiritual quest visiting the ashram of Neem Karoli Baba in 1974.
That ashram, many believe, is the Kainchi Dhaam in Nainital.
During Narendra Modi’s Facebook townhall interaction, Mark Zuckerberg recalled how his mentor Jobs urged him to visit a temple in India when he was going through a rough patch.
Though Zuckerberg did not reveal the name of the temple or made a mention of Neem Karoli Baba, Job recommending the temple indicates that he must have visited this ashram in Nainital during his India tour in 2008.
“…he (Jobs) told me that in order to reconnect with what I believed as the mission of the company I should visit this temple that he had gone to India early on in his evolution of thinking about what he wanted Apple and his vision of the future to be.”
“I went, and travelled for almost a month,” Zuckerberg recounted. “Seeing the people and how they connected, reinforced what we were doing and is something I’ve always remembered,” he said.
According to a report, Vinod Joshi, the secretary of the trust that manages a small temple and the Kainchi ashram, got a call from Larry Brilliant, an American physician and former director of Google’s philanthropic arm Google.org, telling him that “some Mark” would be coming to the place for a day.
He didn’t know Zuckerberg at the time but says the Facebook founder flew down to Pantnagar, about 65 km from Nainital, and then drove to the ashram of the baba. Bad weather forced Zuckerberg to stay a day longer.
So who is Neem Karoli Baba?
The famed baba was an ardent devotee of Hanuman so much so that his devotees believe that he was an incarnation of Lord Hanuman.
He died in 1973, a year before Jobs’ visit, but his name continues to attract several high-profile Americans till date.
The ashram is nestled among the tall pine-forested mountains of Nainital and is small, almost Spartan in appearance. It has five temples dedicated to different Hindu gods, one of which is the temple of Lord Hanuman inaugurated in 1964.
Though there are several ashrams of Neem Karoli Baba spread across north India, not many know his name. His American bhakts are, however, remember him and his message to them.
In his 2013 commencement address at the Harvard School of Public Health, Larry Brilliant recalled how Neem Karoli Baba urged him to “leave the mountains to join the WHO team that was being assembled in New Delhi to eradicate small pox”. Brilliant never looked back since.
Brilliant later took Google co-founder Larry Page and eBay co-founder Jeff Skoll to the ashram.
Hollywood actress Julia Roberts who converted to Hinduism said that it was a picture of the baba that influenced her decision.
Among other notable foreigners who became baba’s followers are spiritual teacher Ram Dass, and musicians Krishna Das and Jai Uttal.
Quoting a foreign disciple, Dinesh Narayanan writes in the Economic Times that the reason behind a large number of foreigners following the baba could be because he talked a lot about Christ to them and used to say that Christ and Hanuman are the same.