Shree Krishnaji, a silent mystic from India transplanted to Minnesota, died recently of complications from pneumonia at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.

Krishnaji, 80, was known as Mouni Baba, or silent spiritual master, because he took a vow of silence in 1962 in New Delhi. He communicated through hand signs and grunts interpreted by his followers. Indian newspapers said he had advised national leaders, including Indira Gandhi and former Prime Minister Charan Singh.

Krishnaji, who died in March, was buried last month near an underground shrine he designed on his 40-acre estate in Kerala in southern India, said devotee Renee Reed, a Minneapolis librarian.

Krishnaji, who was born to a wealthy Indian family, told the Minneapolis Star in 1980 that he didn't speak because "real understanding comes out of stillness and observation and feeling." He also advised "having a daily laugh at yourself." The story said he first came to Minnesota in 1971 after meeting two Minnesotans in India who stayed with him and invited him to St. Paul.

Reed, 60, and another "close one" escorted Krishnaji's body to India. She said she had been a follower of Krishnaji since 1976. She was 21 when they met and was "impressed by his sensitivity and generosity."

Krishnaji, who traveled abroad frequently, spent about half of his life in Minnesota. He most recently lived in New Brighton. He didn't like religious labels, but believed God could be found in silence, Reed said.

"Baba embodies love and truth," she said. "He said God is in everything in creation and in everyone."

Krishnaji, who dressed in light-colored robes, often held court at his home.

"He was one of world's greatest cooks," said Steve Cooper, a Minneapolis attorney and former state human rights commissioner. "He [made] Indian dishes from scratch using the most unique products. ... The vast majority of things he made were phenomenal and unreproduceable, at least here."

Cooper said he had dined with others at Krishnaji's home many times since the early 1990s, when he handled a legal case for Reed.

Krishnaji was "a larger-than-life figure ... who threw out a lot of energy," Cooper said. He could converse about topics ranging from food to gems to Indian politics to the U.S. civil rights movement, Cooper said. "And he never says a word."

Cooper said he never saw anything mystical about Krishnaji, "but it was clear those around him viewed him in that manner." He said Krishnaji was generous to his guests and always had a few followers living with him.

Krishnaji was married for seven years to Isabel Thorson of Blooming Prairie, and ran a carpet business with her family in the 1980s. He had no children.

A memorial service will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday in the sunken garden of the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul. Like the conservatory, Baba's homes were always filled with flowers, Reed said.

Jim Adams • 612-673-7658