A Serialized Novel and Podcast by Andrew Leo Lovato
The following is Chapter Eighteen of a serialized novel and podcast. Start the story of Elvis Romero at Chapter One.
Despite my journey into the world of artistic creativity and the support of my comrades, I felt a spiritual stagnation settling over me and I could do nothing to shake this feeling. It seemed like I’d always been searching for a connection with the spirit or whatever else you want to call it but I’d never found anything that didn’t fade away or disappoint me and leave me cold.
I remember a conversation I’d had with a born-again type that I met one day on the Plaza. He walked up to me as I was taking in an amazing autumn afternoon and without so much as an introduction he asked:
“Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?”
I peered up at him, squinting against the sun that blazed over his shoulder. He seemed like a nice enough fellow, probably around twenty-five with neatly cropped brown hair and an earnest-looking face. However, the vacant look in his eyes disturbed me slightly. It was as if he had been programmed and the words coming out of his mouth were not his own.
I glanced at the Bible he clutched in his hand and cautiously replied, “I respect what Jesus had to say and I think he was a great guy if that’s what you mean.”
The messenger sadly shook his head and continued. “Jesus is the only son of God and there is no other way to have eternal life except through him.”
Having nothing better to do, I decided to check out how deep this vato’s logic ran.
“Are you saying that all the people around the world who grew up with different religious traditions like the Hindus in India or the Buddhists in Tibet or the Jews in Israel are all wrong because they don’t see things the way you do? Sorry to say so, but that sounds a little unfair.”
He patiently explained that at any moment, when we would least expect it, the day of rapture would come and only the believers in Jesus would ascend into heaven, leaving all the idol worshippers and unbelievers to face Armageddon.
My eyes glazed over as he gathered steam and he continued his rap. I’d heard this ranting before. The more he spoke, the more it sounded like an elaborate science fiction novel. It was so fantastic sounding that I could not fathom how any rational person could fall for such a bizarre fairy tale. I let him go on and when he was finally satisfied that he had given me ample warning about my impending doom, he reached into a bag and handed me a magazine titled “Awakening” and then he went in search of another victim.
I wasn’t too put out by his aggressive approach because he didn’t seem all that different from the myriad of true believers I had engaged in conversations with in the past. They were all convinced that they held the magic panacea and if everyone would only see things the way they did, the world would be transformed.
If you wanted an earful, Santa Fe was the place to be. The city was a magnet for true believers of every ilk. Metaphysics and adobe seemed to have perfect synchronicity in my hometown. Churches, synagogues, temples, stupas, and kivas ringed the community.
I wondered what God thought about all of this if he’d thought about it at all. I just wasn’t compelled to hand over my life to a guru, master, priest, monk, or rabbi. If God had a plan that was right for me, I figured he’d let me know in due time, not in some hazy, abstract way that smacked of superstition.
I had a sneaking suspicion that much of this spirituality business was based on people’s fear, particularly their fear of death. Was religion mostly a way of avoiding the fact that we are essentially animals with the unfortunate fate of having too much brain matter? This put us in the awkward position of worrying about our own mortality and thus created a need to invent God and the prospect of life beyond death.
Maybe the prophets and holy men were all phonies playing on the terror of the masses who would believe anything to avoid the prospect of their own inevitable annihilation. Dare I say it? Maybe Buddha and Jesus were self-deluded madmen. Maybe enlightenment was an illusion. I wrestled with these thoughts as I attempted to make sense of it all. I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t wait for divine intervention. If I was going to find any answers, I was going to have to do the work myself.
The stirring for something more in my life kept rising in my soul. I felt inexpressively drawn toward something beyond the everyday existence around me. As I walked from one class to another as a senior at Santa Fe High, I thought about how I was sharing the eternal, present moment with all the equally infinite souls around me. It seemed that most of the time we were in a sleep state. Somehow everyone had shut themselves off to the wonder of life and had become content to live in a trance occupied by the most shallow and obvious aspects of awareness.
What is the purpose of my time on earth? Was it to get good grades or get a good job and make as much money as possible? Was I here to be loved and admired by other people or just to have as good a time as possible before I died? These thoughts weighed heavily on me as I went through the motions of being a seventeen-year-old high school student.
I truly felt an affinity with Siddhartha, who had been searching for similar answers. One major difference was that I did not have a Govinda to share my longings with. My friends tolerated my rambling discourses for a while but they soon became bored and distracted. I felt like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I began spending more of my time alone, away from the flock, hiking in the mountains or sitting by a river contemplating my place in the universe.
There was a big, empty hole in the center of my being. I longed to feel whole, to know what it was like to be truly at peace and not at the mercy of my fears and emotions. I craved for a sense of tranquility that didn’t flutter away like a butterfly on a sunflower.
I experienced a temporary sense of serenity when I was able to escape to the wilderness. During these precious times I cultivated a deep, direct connection with nature. I was able to go beyond simply admiring the trees and the running streams. I entered a state where I connected with their essence and life force. They existed as much as I did and they had their own intelligence and purpose.
This state of grace would crack open the mystery a little bit and I was able to take in a small portion of Nirvana. Colors in the world seemed brighter; smells more vivid, the sun and the moon glowed with more intensity. People I met were more lovable when I saw past their superficial facades and honored their inner divinity. It was not a consciousness that I could will into being. It was more like a gift that was bestowed upon me. Usually it lasted for only a few hours and then it slowly started to fade until only the old Elvis remained. When this happened and I descended from my spiritual peak, I was profoundly disappointed and I wondered what it would take to remain there.
Only once did I experience this state of grace for an extended period of time. It lasted for about three weeks and it was like living in a dream. I went through the motions of daily life but my feet were hardly touching the ground. Inevitably, this too waned and I found myself back in my old mode of being. I realized that like the seagull in Bach’s book, I could go no further.
One afternoon as I made my weekly expedition to the downtown Public Library, I was scanning the community bulletin board and my eyes rested on a flyer that offered a free meditation workshop. The class was sponsored by a group calling itself, the Ananda Marga or “Path of Bliss” Yoga Society. They were followers of an Indian guru named Babajii.
I arrived for the workshop and walked up to a large adobe house on the north side of town. I was met at the door by a beautiful girl with flowing blond hair who was dressed in a white cotton robe. Her sparkling blue eyes projected an inner happiness. She asked me to remove my shoes and directed me to a large, bare room with pillows that were lying on a wooden floor. I sat cross-legged on one of the pillows and looked around the room. There were about twenty people already seated. They were mainly in their late twenties and early thirties. Many of the men wore beards and pony-tails and white draw-string pants. Several women dressed in white cotton robes similar to the girl’s at the door. I felt a bit conspicuous wearing blue jeans and a Pink Floyd tee-shirt.
After a few minutes, a melodious hand bell rang and the people in the room focused their attention on the alter at the front of the room. It held burning incense, flowers of various kinds, a basket of fruit, and a framed photograph of a short, dark man named Babajii who possessed a large smile and deep eyes.
I expected someone similar to the man in the photograph to walk in and deliver the lecture. I was surprised when a young man who appeared to be in his early twenties strode to the front of the room. He sported a long, orange robe. He stood at least six feet-five inches tall and he had long, yellow hair and a full beard. He smiled, pressed his hands together and bowed slightly. He softly whispered “Namascar” an Indian greeting meaning, “With my mind and my heart, I recognize the divinity within you.”
He emanated a radiance that permeated the room. He spoke with a thick European accent that sounded Scandinavian. The blond girl introduced him as Acaraya Jagadeva. He began speaking about the importance of meditation in quieting the mind which he likened to a “wild horse.” He explained that each person possesses a perfect nature within themselves and through meditation everyone was capable of discovering it.
Acaraya Jagadeva talked about the importance of the “mantra” which was an incantation with particular vibrational powers that helped open up a person practicing meditation to the divine and liberate the mind. Through Ananda Marga initiation, one received a personal mantra which was transmitted by Babajii himself. Even though Acaraya Jagadeva was the vehicle through which the mantra was delivered, it was really Babajii working though him. Babajii was always present during the process.
As Acaraya Jagadeva spoke, I felt my being fill with divine energy. The presence of his spiritual force was almost overwhelming as the sound of his voice sent me into a dream-like state. I ceased to follow the meaning of his words and I sat in silent rapture. Slowly, I realized that the lecture had concluded and the people around me were beginning to rise to their feet. I stood up and headed toward the door. The blond-haired girl approached me and asked if I was intending to be initiated. I shook my head, yes and she entered my name on a schedule for three o’clock the following afternoon. She stated that there was no fee for spreading God’s bounty, but I was expected to bring an offering of fruit and flowers for Babajii when I arrived the next day.
The following afternoon, I was directed to a chair placed outside a small room. The door was shut and I waited until it was my turn. After a few minutes, I was summoned and I walked into the room and found Acaraya Jagadeva sitting cross-legged on a straw mat. He asked me to sit down facing him. The ever-present incense and photo of Babajii were on a small table behind him. I presented my offerings and sat down.
Acaraya Jagadeva asked me why I wanted to be initiated. I explained my yearning for spiritual knowledge and my past experiences and attempts at enlightenment. The holy man smiled serenely and asked me to close my eyes. We sat in silence for about thirty minutes before he spoke:
“Please repeat after me, Baba Nam Keva Lam.”
I repeated, “Baba Nam Keva Lam.”
We did this several times until he was confident that I would remember the mantra. He explained in a gentle voice, “When you meditate, do not speak the mantra aloud. Recite the mantra internally. As you breathe in, focus on ‘Baba Nam.’ When you breathe out, concentrate on ‘Keva Lam.’ This mantra can be translated as ‘Only the name of the Father.’ When you use this mantra, you are tapping into the divine love of the Eternal Father.”
“As you breathe in, envision yourself as a channel of love. With every in-breath you are receiving the divine love and grace of the Father and with your out-breath, you are channeling this love to the entire world. Remember that you are not the source of this love but only the channel. Let it flow through you. Become a humble channel of love. This is my gift to you as I am also just a humble channel.”
“From this day forward, you will carry a second name. Your spiritual name will be ‘Karma Nyima Darjey’ which means ‘Flourishing Sun.’ Go in peace Flourishing Sun and follow a righteous path.”
I stood up and only then did I realize that tears were streaming down my cheeks. I looked at his radiant face and I could only whisper “Thank you.” I shuffled out of the room and sat in my car for a long time trying to sort out what had just happened to me.