Below is a record of the day when there was no doubt that I had met the Guru. Its the day that I gained a true faith in Grace. Since that day She has taught me that there is only One, True Guru, and He/She/It is beyond anything that we can grasp. The Guru is within. It’s the deepest reaches of our own heart, but It’s also a relationship. It’s not just love in an impersonal form, but that which loves us and wants nothing more than our evolution towards that love. Its that gentle hand of Grace that helps us along our path. It can come to us in the form of an angel, spirit guide, or our own Inner Voice. For me, the Guru has come to me in the form of the great Indian Saint Neem Karoli Baba, but my first meeting was not in that form.
The First Day of the Rest of My Life
It was the Summer of 2008. I had just turned 23 years old. I moved to Eugene, Oregon for the summer to work as a wildland firefighter. This was my second summer in Eugene doing this work, and so my plan was to stay with Alden, a fellow firefighter, as we waited for the call to action. Due to a paperwork error at my fire company, I was not eligible to firefight when the call came to ship out to California.
It was a big fire, and the entire company was sent down there except me. This left me alone in Eugene, waiting until the error was fixed so I could go with them. In the meantime, the lease on Alden’s room was up and his next house would not be available for ten days. Alden and I were going to stay with some of his friends, but now he was out on fire and had no cell service. The only people I knew in town were firefighters who were all gone as well. So I made the best of it and decided to sleep in the city park until either the house became available, or I got the fire call.
In the meantime, I was dead broke and had debt to pay. About seven months earlier I had been scammed out of 8,000 dollars, all of the money I had in my savings. (That is a story for another day.) After this I decided to move to the desert to work on myself and do some soul-searching. I was camping on the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico and working just enough to buy food, see my spiritual healer and pay off my student loans. The solitude of desert life allowed me to practice pranayama, meditation and other spiritual exercises, thus I experienced some extreme spiritual highs. This was a big deal to me because it was the first time I had ever been “high” without the use of drugs. I used these peak experiences as a marker for my spiritual “progress.”
I was not saving any money, however, and on my way back to Seattle I had car troubles that ended up maxing out my credit card. My credit card company, as a penalty for maxing out my card, raised my interest rate to 30 percent. I was not even able to pay off the interest as it accrued.
Not only was I broke and in debt, but emotionally broken. Once I returned to Seattle, all of the spiritual work I had done felt like it had completely shattered. I was having trouble reconnecting to my old friends and found myself still in love with a girl I had worked very hard to get over.
So here I was, homeless in Eugene and extremely depressed. I began having intense periods of longing for some Guru to come and take me away on my path to liberation, some Divine Being who could make everything alright. I had read Be Here Now, and I remembered its solemn words, “It’s really just another cop-out to be searching for the Guru.” God is within, and by waiting for some external thing to save me, I was just pausing the inevitable.
Though intellectually I knew that it was a cop out, I couldn’t help it. The longing was intense and very real. I began wondering what I would do if my Guru came.
“What if he just came and asked me to leave?
“Would I follow? I guess I would have to. That would be my one chance to reach God.
“But what about all of this debt? What about my parents? My friends?”
I was confused, to say the least. I just wanted something earth-shattering to happen to me, a divine encounter that was so powerful it would not be possible to turn back on it if I wanted to. I had faith, but it was dim. I wanted a faith so strong it could move mountains.
My prayers were finally answered on Saturday, July 5th, 2008 in a park in Eugene, Oregon.
It was approaching night. The sun was setting through the puffy clouds that seem to form perfectly in the Eugene valley. I was meditating in the park, chanting Om. The Om seemed to have an intensity that I had never before experienced, becoming powerful enough that it engulfed my entire existence, locking me in the Present Moment.
I was chanting with open-eye meditation, and I noticed two people, a man and woman in their early twenties, walking through the park. They only caught my attention because they were pacing back and forth, staring at the ground with deliberate action. My first thought was that they were on drugs.
I soon forgot about it as I continued in my meditation. It didn’t seem to matter how deep it got, I wasn’t seeing God there. I was still unfulfilled. I stood up to leave, thinking I would go to a cafe and read, but then hesitated. “Do I really want to read?” I thought. “But then again, what is the difference? It’s all Here and all Now.” And yet, It still didn’t seem good enough. I still had a pull to do something.
So, I was standing there, waiting in oblivion, and not knowing what to do. It was a strong, visceral experience. I felt as if I was frozen in time, lost between two worlds and not knowing which one was home.
As I stood locked in this existential dilemma, I noticed the man from earlier. He walked towards me with gradual, firm steps. He moved up to my side while I remained frozen until sure he was there for me. Then I turned towards him.
He stared directly into my eyes, his own eyes unwavering, piercing directly into me with their blue rings coated with a surreal gloss of integrity. A little voice in the back of my head spoke: This could be it.
“What is your name?” he asked. His voice was firm and direct. It seemed he must be on drugs.
I couldn’t help but look into his eyes, becoming absorbed by their sincere glossy finish. His entire body seemed to pop out from the surroundings as if illuminated by an unseen light. I was hooked, and growing from my heart was a sense that this man was not on drugs, that he was here to tell me something, that this could be what I was yearning for. This could be my Guru, I thought.
“My name is Ken,” I said.
“Hi Ken,” and he reached out to shake my hand, not moving his eyes. “I am here because there is something that I am supposed to tell you. If this sounds weird to you at all, please let me know, and I will leave right now.”
It didn’t sound weird at all, but my jaw dropped in disbelief. I didn’t want to believe the possibilities, but the surging energy overtaking my body wasn’t leaving much room for doubt.
“You have been looking for something. Is this true?” he asked.
My eyes were watering and a slight tremble began its ascent from the bottom of my spine. I barely managed to say, “Yes.”
“You have been searching for a relationship with God.”
“Now,” he continued, “I don’t consider myself a Christian. I don’t like what the term implies. I don’t represent any church and I don’t have any doctrine to give you. In fact, I don’t even go to church. I don’t like what it stands for. The church today has lost the message and is only trying to control people.”
He had long pauses between speaking, sometimes only a few words would come out before pausing again. In these pauses his eyes seemed vacant, as if he was listening to another world, one to instruct him on what to say next.
“I am not a Christian, but I do know this: calling out Jesus Christ by name is the way to having a personal relationship with God. I am not going to try and convince you to join any church, believe in any creed or dogma or do anything. This is not about control. This is not about some mystic teaching either. I am here to give you the opportunity to receive Jesus Christ into your life. I would like to pray over you if you will let me.”
The year prior, when I was experimenting heavily with psychedelics, I gained a strange and unexpected love of Christ. I never grew up religious, and so the first time I read the New Testament, the only filter I had to understand it was the one I had gained from my L.S.D. trips and books like Be Here Now. I remember reading Christ’s words, “The kingdom of God is within,” and thinking, “does anyone else see what I’m seeing? Has anyone else actually read this?” It seemed to me that Christ was espousing the deepest truths I had uncovered from my weekend experiments. Although I also read the words of the Buddha, the Bhagavad Gita, and many other holy texts, for some reason my fascination with Christ only grew with each successive L.S.D. trip. I started looking into the writings of the early Christian church to try and see what their understanding of His teachings was. This culminated in a short-lived period of me even calling myself a Christian, although the word meant something different to me than almost everyone else I told it to. (This caused my friends and especially my parents some confusion.) I tried to attend some progressive Christian churches, but none of it ever seemed to fit. I couldn’t even find an image of Jesus I liked, and yet I couldn’t stop feeling this deep intimacy with Him. My time alone in the desert only brought me closer.
So, as I stood star-struck at the man before me, at both my lowest point and the end of a hard year of attempted devotion to God, here was the opportunity, the possibility, to finally meet the Being that, no matter how strange it seemed, felt like home.
I could hardly gasp to speak. I was choked up from tears. The words, “Yes, please do,” barely made it from my mouth.
“Will you tell me your name again?” he asked.
“My name is Ken.”
“Ok,” he said. “God, Ken has been searching for you for a long time. He has been searching long and hard for you, but his search is over.”
As he spoke my body trembled, becoming overwhelmed with an unspeakable energy, rapidly taking me over until I felt it everywhere and could feel nothing else. It was like a prolonged zap of static electricity, flowing fluidly from sharp burst to sharp burst until that was the only sensation.
“God, Ken has been looking for long enough! He has been searching hard enough! It is time you reveal yourself to him and grant him a personal relationship with you. He has suffered, God, but he will suffer no more! When Ken is ready, and if he so chooses, all he has to do is call you by name and say, ‘Jesus Christ come into my life!’”
If there was ever a chance, then this was it. “Jesus Christ come into my life!” I blurted out.
“Then, from this point forward,” he continued, “you are a new man. Everything that has happened in the past, everything that you have ever done, it’s gone. God has relieved you from all of it. From now on God doesn’t care. There is nothing you have to do. God will always be with you. Always. No matter what. You are now a son of God.”
I was no longer trembling. I was shaking violently. The energy ran sporadically. My arms waved with the energy and my body rocked with surreal motion. I could feel my hands clenching into a tight fist I was incapable of releasing. I had experienced similar occurrences doing various trance, pranayama and chi exercises, but it never felt as strong or as real as this. Nothing had ever felt as real as this.
I looked at the man’s eyes before me, and he looked just as shocked and surprised as I was.
“You see,” he continued, “there is nothing you have to do. Absolutely nothing. It’s that easy. God just loves you and is with you. Now and Forever. Whenever you need him, if ever in doubt, in fear, or feeling lost, just call on His name. He is always with you. No matter what.”
Even with all of this, this overwhelming sensation that was more real than anything I had ever experienced, I could still feel doubt creeping in. What if this is all a trick? And, right on the cosmic cue…
“And God, I ask you to banish all demons of doubt from Ken’s mind, anything that is telling him this is not real. I want them all gone. I want this encounter to instill in him its validity with absolute sincerity.”
Now my shaking and rocking turned to something I could only call a seizure. I had absolutely no control over it. Though I remained standing, every part of my body pulled to every direction it could. The energy raised its voltage, exploding violently with an icy shiver, surging ruthlessly with infinite speed, burning with fire. I could no longer feel my physical body, only the electric shock of Spirit.
As he stared at me with amazement, he continued, “You will probably never find a church to be a part of. Like I said, the church today has lost the message and is now only serving to control people. However, you will begin to meet people in your life who will share your love of God. They may be people whom you would not normally choose to hang out with, but they will appear at the exact right time and you will know when you meet them. In fact, I firmly believe this is so. You will be in a spiritual community with them, and you will all grow together. This community will not be based on any creed, or doctrine or religion, but simply the love of God.
“And God will speak to you tonight. He will tell you exactly what you need to do next. I firmly believe this as well.”
And then he stopped talking. He just stared into my eyes. My body slowly calmed until I found myself resting, jaw still dropped in the air, hanging in that silence. My eyes met his. I wanted to hug him.
“May I hug you?” he asked.
“Yes, Please!” I cried.
We hugged, my arms clenched firmly behind his back so I could feel as much of him as possible. The energy was only beginning to subside, and now I could only just barely feel my body.
“Thank you,” I said.
“No, thank God,” he answered. “I had nothing to do with it. You see there is nothing you have to do. God will do it all. He is always with you. He loves you. It’s that easy.”
I began laughing. His blue eyes twinkled as he laughed back. We both laughed with the high pitch of children overwhelmed by joy, and we hugged again.
“I had nothing to do with this,” He continued. “God told me to come find you, and I actually felt weird about the whole thing. That’s my sister over there. She was praying for you. From here on out everything will be different. Whenever you need to know anything, just ask God. He will answer your prayers. Tonight God will speak to you, and you will begin meeting people who will help facilitate growth.”
He closed with these words: “You should share your story with others.”
I hobbled from the park, star struck. The words, “Jesus Christ, I love you,” began playing in my mind like a mantra, as if on auto-repeat.
Not knowing what to do, and not really caring, I hobbled through the streets of Eugene until nightfall. I must have looked crazy. Much of the time my jaw was loose, chin drooping far from my nose, and I sensed a frizzled look in my eyes as if I had just seen a ghost. I could hardly feel my body. I was in love and didn’t have a care in the world.
Remembering his words, God will answer your prayers, I kneeled down to ask a heartfelt prayer.
“God,” I said. “There is something I have to know. I know now that Jesus is the Way to God, but one burning question I have is… Is he the only Way?”
I sat in silence waiting for an answer. No answer came. But the event I just experienced was too profound to discount anything, so I knew my answer would come. I waited. Then came a flash of intuition.
“I can never know what another person’s path towards God is,” I said. “I can only know mine.”
It was a powerful moment. Those words of wisdom did not come from a booming voice from above, but rather from my own voice in my own head. And I believed it. At that time it was the deepest I had ever trusted my own intuition.
What I didn’t know was exactly how important that question really would be in directing the next year of my life.
For the next year, my main focus was to break free of all dogma, to see God outside of any framework. Because this event was more real than anything I had ever experienced, I knew that I needed to know first hand if its truth would be found in other traditions.
It would lead me to find God in group drum trances, ecstatic chanting, Buddhist meditation retreats, Reiki, astral planes of existence, and finally would lead me to my Guru, Neem Karoli Baba, the Indian saint who became famous in the west through the book, Be Here Now.
Each of these experiences would help me to develop a fuller picture of the Spirit. Vipassana meditation would teach me that the Kingdom of God is within and does not exist in a name. I studied with a spiritual and energy healer and learned that the Holy Spirit flows through everything and is everything. I would learn that all of Life is made up of this Spirit, and that the Spirit is life itself. I began having visions of Christ, and I learned to trust them.
These lasted until almost exactly a year later when I had my last vision of Him. I was on Maui, and it was the night after my first meeting with Ram Dass. The vision lasted maybe 3-4 seconds, and it occurred as I was falling asleep on the beach. I saw a Being shapeshifting back and forth between the images of Christ and the Indian saint Neem Karoli Baba. Two months later I moved to Maui, where I was able to live with and serve my teacher Ram Dass. It was there on Maui that I learned to devote myself more fully to the path of devotion, and where I found refuge in Neem Karoli Baba, more commonly referred to as Maharajji.
Maharajji has given me the image of Christ that I had always wanted, and he has given me a spiritual community that I can truly connect to. I feel at home in his temples, in front of his picture, and when I am with his other devotees. His teaching of “sub ek,” meaning “All is one” resonates deeply with me. He once said, “All religions are the same. They all lead to God. God is everybody… The same blood flows through us all, the arms, the legs, the heart, all are the same. See no difference.” He also said…
“Hanuman, Christ, and Krishna are the same.”
-Neem karoli Baba