This is the story of how I became “spiritually awakened” in Nepal and soon afterwards lost my beloved mother. I have wanted to share it for sometime.
Before I learned to walk the spiritual path, I worked in the movie business in one way or another for around five years. After finishing the production of my last film in the U.S. in November of 2012, I decided to return to Nepal, a country that I had fallen in love with from my volunteering experience a few years prior. I went with no specific intention other than to rekindle the feeling of true happiness I felt when I was first there. Although making films is exciting, it did not provide a sense of fulfillment, nor did I feel I was doing something that was making a positive impact in the world. Once again, I felt like I was being drawn to this country, but this time it would be for different reasons.
After reaching Nepal, I decided to go to the second largest city of Pokhara for the first time and did what perhaps many other people do when they go to a place they know nothing about… I googled “What to do in Pokhara?” The number one thing that kept coming up on every “to-do” list was attend a course at Sadhana Yoga Retreat. At the time, I didn’t know much yoga but it was highly rated on Trip Advisor so I decided to give it a try. I planned on doing the 21 day course of intensive yoga, even though I was not in the best physical shape at the time. I had however quit smoking cigarettes and ganja, drinking, and playing video games a few months before this trip began and so my “mental state” was quite clear at the time.
Sadhana Yoga is owned and operated by a yogic husband and wife named Asanga and Durga Puri. Although I wouldn’t have known it at the time, I now consider them to be my “spiritual parents” in Nepal. Growing up in the U.S., I had never met anyone really like them and was enamored by how they lived and what they taught. Slowly, but surely, they led me down a direction which built a strong foundation for spiritual development to occur.
I remember thinking of leaving after my first few days because my mind was rebelling to the purification that was taking place. After the fifth day or so, I decided to just stick it out and to see what would happen. Throughout my life, my willpower has been pretty strong and I can force myself to stick through tough times if I know that I will be better off afterwards. Sadhana Yoga teaches primarily Kriya yoga, with Kriya literally meaning “working” and yoga meaning “union with God,” or “working towards union with God.”
For the first time in my life I began to learn meditation, pranayama, and yogic purification techniques. Throughout my three-week stay there, I remember multiple people coming or going explaining another form of meditation that was “hardcore” compared to Sadhana. They called it vipassana, but at the time I remember labeling it “the silent mediation” because students were not allowed to speak for ten days during the entire course.
Since my meditation was going well, I decided to give it a try and signed up for a course twenty-one days after the intensive course was finished. I thought that even if I didn’t end up going, I could cancel it. In the meantime, in between the courses, I went on my first solo trek for twenty days up to Annapurna Base Camp and then around the circuit to the holy village of Muktinath. It was a life-changing experience for me and looking back I received many signs that something big was about to happen in my life.
Perhaps because of the combination of the intensive yoga course, the twenty-day trek in the Himalayas, and four months of giving up intoxicants, meat, sex, and videogames, I had built an extremely strong and conducive foundation for my first vipassana. I was able to progress very rapidly and was intuitively doing things days before the teacher would tell me to start doing them. I just understood what they were trying to teach me.
I will not go into exact details, but something happened to me that changed my life forever. Since then, I have traveled across the world looking for even one person that could identify with my story and I have not been able to find them. Not to say that they don’t exist, just that our paths have not crossed. I have been forced to be my own guru and own master ever since this occurred. I call this my “blessed accident” because I did not expect, nor mean for it to happen, and perhaps that is exactly why it did occur, because I had no intention, reason, or expectation. I will reserve the exact details of what occurred during this vipassana course and what happened during the blissful week after for another post in the unknown future.
Soon after the course was over, I contacted my mother and told her how much I loved her and had found something that I was excited to share with her. Most of my life, when I talked to her on the phone over long distances, we never spent too much time “chit-chatting”. It was always pretty fast, short and sweet. In this call it was also short, but extremely emotional. I don’t know why I said the things I said, but it felt like something was sort of speaking through me at the time.
I told her how much I loved her and how I couldn’t wait to teach her meditation or for her to take a course on her own. The main thing I remember and that brought us both to deep tears was that I kept on sincerely mentioning that she had succeeded. I don’t know why I said this, but this is what occurred. I know that she had been depressed for a long time, but she never really showed it around her children. She was a master of “keeping things hidden inside” even though for her it was a constant battle within.
She had been very depressed since her own mother committed suicide when I was just a toddler. I can still remember her screaming throughout the house even though I was only two or three at the time. It is my first memory. I felt that if she learned this technique it would help or even cure her depression. Where I grew up, we did not have any sort of spiritual practice or way to remove psychosomatic illnesses and so this depression grew inside of her for many many years.
Something inside of her may have made her believe in some way she had failed or was a failure and so I just kept on reassuring her that she had completely succeeded in what she was supposed to do. Like I said, I don’t know why I said those things. They were just sort of channeled through me at the time because of the spiritual state that I was in, characterized at the time by consistent clarity and realization about my own life and the world.
Little did I know at the time, but that was to be the last time that I would get to speak to my mother. A little over a week later she decided to take her own life, dying hopefully with the thought that she was a complete and total success. She committed suicide, like her mother before her, primarily because there is a lack of spirituality or purification methods within the U.S., or at least where I am from. I hope to be a source for these methods in the future so others have a way to change themselves from within and do not have to resort to suicide to escape their problems.
If this story helps give hope to even one person then my mom and I will have succeeded. This is my aspiration; that others won’t have to suffer like she did and that people can come out of their miseries without resorting to suicide or violence.
She was an angel walking among humans. Truly flawless and sinless. It was impossible for her to stay mad at anything and her love was like an overflowing chalice to all, whether they returned it or not. She was a teacher, starting off in special education and eventually moving on to teaching high-school mathematics. This love was felt by all of her students equally and abundantly.
Today would have been her 54th birthday if she were still alive. I found out later that she had promised my dad that she would wait until she was older than when her own mother took her life. She did keep this promise and was 52 to my grandmother’s 51. Furthermore, she waited until she knew that all of her children were going to be alright without her. I feel that my brother, sister, and I are all doing considerably well, carrying the torch that she passed to us as we go on in our own separate lives.
On that fateful day, I had a premonition that something horrible was going to happen to either me or to the world, but I didn’t know what exactly. I told my family in the U.S. and friends on Facebook and Nepal to prepare for an “event” that was going to change everything. I remember thinking at the time that there was going to be a major environmental disaster, like an earthquake in the U.S. or Nepal.
Here is the Facebook message that I sent my brother: “If something bad doesn’t happen then great, if it does you will know why I’m warning you. I love you and trust you will make the right decisions when the time comes. Don’t worry about me and don’t get Mom and Dad worried about me either. Just have a feeling an “event” will happen soon that will change everything. Stay safe and be happy! I’m sure we will meet up again soon! Can’t wait!” Unfortunately, he wrote me back exactly 12 hours later, “You’re right. Something terrible did happen. It will change everything. Call me.” I called him as soon as I got the message and he let me know what had happened to our beloved mother.
Because I was at such a high equanimous state, and because I felt and accepted that something bad was about to happen, when I learned the news from my brother, it did not phase me like it would have a few weeks before. I thank God for putting me in this state before it happened because surely I would have followed her as we were very close. The feeling was more like an “aw shucks” feeling. I questioned which was worse, what had happened, or a major catastrophe that would have killed thousands of people. I still ask myself the same question.
Since I had to come home as soon as possible and there were no more buses leaving that day, I took a cab all the way from Pokhara to Kathmandu to buy a plane ticket and return home. I had previously given away all that I had and was still in my robes, carrying very little with me. I’ll never forget getting in the taxi. When I sat down in the back, shut the door, and the driver pulled off, I broke down and cried the hardest that I have ever cried in my life for about one minute. This was the first time I realized I would never see her again.
This cry was the end point of my first spiritual awakening. It was the rebuilding point for my new ego and reactionary self. Occasionally I still cry, but I have never cried for her as much as I did then. Actually, in writing this I cried quite hard, but the tears of sadness were mixed with tears of joy contemplating the life of this wonderful woman. This cry in the taxi was the foundation of the new beginning. I decided then and there to tuck away in my pocket what I had learned, the experiences, the meditation and the spirituality and vowed to return when I could.
It may seem far-fetched to others, but I have my own belief about why this event happened. I believe that if I would have continued advancing spiritually at the time, I would have reached perhaps the highest level that one can reach spiritually, but I would not have been able to teach others how to do the same. Somehow, my mother sub-consciously knew this and so sacrificed herself to “bring me back from the ledge” forcing me to learn exactly what I did to reach this high level so I could teach it to others.
There is a big difference between those who have reached the highest levels spiritually and those who can teach others how to reach the highest levels themselves. If we had these types of teachers, then there would be a much larger number of Arahants or fully-enlightened beings in the world. Since then, I have traveled across the world practicing meditation and trying to figure out exactly what I did differently than the teachings. I am confident that search is coming to an end soon, and if God wills it, I will dedicate my life to teaching what I have learned to all.
This is how I “spiritually awoke” in Nepal and lost my mother shortly afterwards.
They approached the Nepalese Kathwala temple from the Lalita Ghat walkway near the Ganges river. The winding stone-carved stairwell was perhaps thousands of years old. Although many Nepalese temples had been recently demolished in the earthquake, this one was still standing in all of it’s glory.
He approached the Nepalese Brahmin boy sitting in the ticket counter.
“Namaste bhai. Kreepaya dui ta ticket dinus.” (Hello boy. Please give me two tickets)
“Ah ha! Nepal bolta ha?,” the boy responded. (You speak Nepali?)
“Ma ali Nepali bolchu. Ali ali buze.” (I speak a little Nepali and I understand a little.)
The boy, along with others now watching, began to crack up laughing. He gave them the tickets and they circled the temple three times admiring the hand-carved wood designs.
They had a very specific mission here. The daily meditation’s metta could be more easily transferred to Nepal and it’s people by meditating in a Nepalese temple, or so that was the theory.
They walked down a side staircase and luckily the lock was not attached to the “cave room” leading underneath the temple. The man had seen this cave the day before the earthquake struck and there was an amazing sadhu singing mantra there at the time. This time it was empty and perfectly conducive for meditation.
They took their place and began. To him, this special place allowed the metta to help to rebuild the foundation of Nepal with spiritual roots, which are stronger and more durable than any material foundation.
He knew pure and unvarnished spirituality could ward off future earthquakes by this fact alone. No amount of technology can stop the same event from occurring again in the future.
The meditation and metta bhavana performed were one of the strongest in his recent memory. Perhaps, the true effects can never be tangibly identified, but that is besides the point. It is the faith and the aspiration of those involved. He had great faith and aspiration that this practice worked and that is all that mattered.
Reverberations of Dharma soon filled the room…
“May all beings be happy. May all beings be peaceful. May all beings be liberated.”
List of daily expenses and donations for April 30th, 2015:
Total spent on food: $.95
Total spent on room: $1.59
Random (Paints): $4.77
Total: $7.31 + $72.12 = divided by 9 days = $8.83 each day.
Donations given to 8 random strangers = 110 Indian rupees or $1.75
Donations given to 10 sadhus or holy men = 160 INR or $ 2.54
Donation given to Nepali Temple = 80 INR or $1.27
Total = $5.56 + $428.45 = 434.04 divided by 9 days = $48.23 each day
Expense account = $527.80 – 7.31 = $520.49 (Avg $8.83 each day will last 59 more days)
Donations account = $171.60 – 5.56 = $166.04 (Avg $48.23 each day will last 3.5 more days)
Bhakti Yoga Chanting Session at Sadhana Yoga. January 8th, 2015. Part 1: http://chirb.it/C4tNKr