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Becoming the Breath of Ram : the life and teachings of Neem Karoli Baba

Langmuur, Katya (2011) Becoming the Breath of Ram : the life and teachings of Neem Karoli Baba. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86439) (KAR id:86439)


This thesis examines the life and teachings of twentieth-century northern Indian guru, Neem Karoli Baba. The guru was an exceptionally elusive character both in tenns of temperament and of what may be established about him. Aside from hagiographical sources (almost all composed since his death in 1973), very little substantive evidence remains through which to evaluate him or his preceptorial career. This notwithstanding, certain aspects may be established with greater surety. Firstly, Neem Karoli Baba was a highly charismatic preceptor. Secondly, whilst standing apart from any acknowledged vaisnava lineage, he was part of the Hindu bhakti guru tradition. Thirdly, as his community consistently assert, he displayed a clear predilection for stories of Ram and Hanuman. With so little that is known or knowable about Neem Karoli Baba, it proves fruitful to locate him within an awareness of these three factors and to appraise the motivations and workings of his satsang for promoting him in this light. Following an introduction in Part One to the method and orientation employed here, the mythical figure ofHanumlin is shown to represent the intennediary between the celestial and worldly realms. The Hindu guru tradition attributes a similar mediatory function to its human exemplars. Part Two assesses this convention, introduces Neem Karoli Baba as a proponent of it and evaluates the role(s) of the community that succeeds him in relation to it. Closer consideration of the guru is offered in Part Three in which a biographical study is followed by

analysis of his disciplic interaction and pedagogic modalities. The thesis concludes with an examination of the Western satsang that arose in the final years of his life, whose members include Ram Dass and Larry Brilliant. In this thesis, the initial charisma of the guru and the

community's attempts to concretise its force are observed as a dynamic interplay that continues to infonn the current movement and that offers a contribution to the contemporary East-West religious dialogue.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86439
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: gurus
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 17:00 UTC
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2022 14:37 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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