In the mid Nineties, many of the devotees at Neem Karoli Baba Ashram in Taos, New Mexico, USA, smoked cigarettes and bidis. There were few outside areas at the ashram where smoking was not allowed. The custom has now been reversed and there are almost no areas where smoking is allowed.
As a step toward that, the ashram's Board of Directors made a new rule that the area just outside what we call "Maharajji's office", often referred to as "Maharajji's porch", was now a no smoking area.
Still, many of the local devotees refused to stop their smoking in that vicinity. I adhered to the rule for some time, but after some months began to occasionally smoke there myself.
One day perhaps two years after the Board's ruling, I was sitting there in the old rocking chair talking with another devotee. We were directly outside the double-door entrance to Baba's office. That porch of Maharajji's is a wonderful place to sit and it is noted for the wonderful sunsets that can be seen across the field. We were facing toward the field.
I took out a bidi. As I lit the bidi, I said to the other devotee, "They made a rule that you cannot smoke here but no one enforces it, so I just smoke."
We continued our conversation. After maybe a minute, we looked off to the right toward where the vegetable garden is. I was holding the lit bidi in my left hand perhaps a foot from my face.
As we turned the bidi suddenly jumped from my hand and flew over and landed directly on the tip of my tongue. It gave me a pain that hurt like anything. I mean it really hurt. My eyes became filled with tears and I could barely say a word for a minute.
The other devotee was turned somewhat away from me watching some activity in the garden area and I did not let my intense pain show. All these years later, I still remember this event so vividly, yet I cannot remember who the other devotee was.
It was very clear that Maharajji enforced that rule, Himself. This is why I never smoke anywhere near Maharajji's "office" and porch area.
And actually, I've never seen any other devotees smoking there since then either.
- Jai Ram Ransom