Other than my old friend Ima Genius, no one was given a better name than Dr. Larry Brilliant. And since I made up the name Ima Genius, that makes Larry’s name numero uno.

So, who is this Larry Brilliant? Lucky for him, he’s a brilliant guy. Known mainly for taking the lead in eradicating smallpox, Brilliant also ran Google’s foundation and then the Skoll Foundation. He was also a close friend of Apple founder Steve Jobs for several decades.

I could dive deeper into Brilliant’s bio but suffice to say that he has had a successful, meaningful and consequential career. And it wouldn’t have happened were it not for…

Maharajii does it again

Neem Karoli Baba, AKA Maharajii, his guru. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because I’ve written several articles about Maharajii, mostly in relation to another of his devotees, Ram Dass.

In fact, Ram Dass wrote a book called Miracle of Lovethat contains hundreds of first-hand accounts of encounters with Maharajii. One such encounter was that of Larry Brilliant.

His wife met Maharajii in India and had returned to America to bring Larry to meet this saintly man.

Turned off at the temple

His first impression wasn’t good. He found a bunch of whacked out Westerners dressed in cult-like clothing fawning over a fat old man wearing nothing but a blanket and a loincloth. Worst for him was watching these people touch Maharajii’s feet. Bottom line: He wanted nothing to do with Maharajii.

And he thought the feeling was mutual. Maharajii had completely ignored Brilliant the first seven days he was there. After a week, he decided he’d had enough and that he needed to leave. On that eighth day he told his wife he wasn’t feeling well and that he was going to skip going to Maharajii’s temple that day.

Instead, he spent the entire day alone, walking around a lake near their hotel in Nainital. He was twisted up in knots.

Fears of a marriage in ruins

He thought that if his wife was so devoted to somebody he felt nothing for then their marriage must be irretrievably broken. He was deeply distraught over this.

This led him to do something he’d never done before: Pray. He said he asked God,

“What am I doing here? Who is this man? These people are all crazy. I don’t belong here.”

As he wracked his brain for answers he remembered the Bible passage: “Had ye but faith ye would not need miracles.” Knowing he had no faith, he asked God for a miracle.

But nothing happened. No rainbow in the sky. No nothing. So he decided to leave India the next day.

Saying goodbye to Maharajii

Early the next morning he took a taxi from the hotel to the temple to say goodbye, but also to have it out with Maharajii. He was the first one to arrive at the temple so he sat, alone, in front of Maharajii’s tucket, a wooden platform he would sit on.

There was some fruit on the tucket. And when an apple fell to the ground, Brilliant bent down to pick it up. Just then, Maharajii emerged and stepped on Brilliant’s hand, pinning him to the ground.

Things couldn’t have been going any worse. He was leaving India without his wife and now he was being forced to touch Maharajii’s feet.

Maharajii looked down at him and the following conversation took place:

Maharajii: “Where were you yesterday? Were you at the lake?”

At hearing this, Brilliant tightened up. He didn’t tell anybody about what he’d done the previous day.

Maharajii: “Were you horseback riding?”

Brilliant: “No.”

Maharajii: “Were you boating?”

Brilliant: “No.”

Maharajii: “Did you go swimming?”

Brilliant: “No.”

At this point, Maharajii leaned in close and said very quietly,

“Were you talking to God? Did you ask for something?”

Brilliant recounts in Miracle of Love what happened next:

“When he did that I fell apart and started to cry like a baby. He pulled me over and started pulling my beard and repeating, ‘Did you ask for something?’”

From that moment forward, and to this day, Maharajii has been Larry Brilliant’s guru.

What’s it all about, Maharajii?

So, what are we to make of this story? An intelligent doctor visits his wife’s guru, is completely turned off by the whole scene, then becomes distraught because he thinks his marriage is over. And then…

This guy Maharajii does something to him that he’s done to thousands of others. He tells him something only Brilliant could know. That he was talking to God at the lake the previous day. Which had the effect of melting his heart and changing the course of his life, as it did to Ram Dass a few years prior.

What the heck?

I can’t explain it. How did Maharajii know that Larry Brilliant was talking to God at the lake?

Skeptics beware

And before heading into skeptic mode, please know that I am a skeptic myself. I never believed in ghosts, turning water into wine or the Loch Ness monster.

But I’ve read and heard countless instances where Maharajii did similar things. For all of these stories to be false would require Maharajii to be the greatest con man of all time.

And it isn’t like he did those things in pursuit of money or anything nefarious. The guy refused to take money from all the Western hot shots like Ram Dass who offered it to him. And all he possessed was a blanket and a loincloth.

No. It appears all he got from telling Larry Brilliant that he knew he was talking to God was a devotee who dedicated his life to doing big things in public health. [I’m saving Brilliant’s story about Maharajii and eradicating smallpox for a separate article.]

The takeaway

Maharajii died in 1973 so we’ll never know how the heck he did all these things. But in the deepest sense, knowing how he did these “tricks” isn’t important.

What is? For me, it’s remembering and trying to live by his main teaching. Which is this:

Love everyone. Serve everyone. And remember God.

Peace out.