‘Too often we underestimate the power of thought. Thoughts manifest. Your life is what you think it is. That’s why meditating and disengaging from the thought process helps free the self’ – It’s Here Now p. 63.
It’s Here Now (Are You?) is one of the best books I have ever read. It was surprisingly very well written, and kept me engaged from start to finish. Even though the book is not a work of fiction, it is definitely out of this world: `I didn’t know it that night, but we would become close friends for the next six years… our conversation would become telepathic, thought to thought. It was easy to connect with him that way’.
I found out about this book through reading Be Here Now by Ram Dass, which told the story of how Dr Richard Alpert (Harvard psychologist turned LSD guru) had a chance encounter with a 20 year old white kid in India who spoke fluent Hindi and was accepted by all of the Buddhist monks, lamas and travelling yogis, much to Richard’s surprise. Richard ended up following this kid throughout India, and it is through him that he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. This resulted in his being sucked into a spiritual transformation and spat out a completely new being, freed from the chains of his ego. The young white kid was called Bhagavan Das and he ended up writing a very honest account of his experiences in India, which is this autobiography that I am reviewing, right now. Bhagavan Das never goes out of his way to make himself look good and actually writes into existence a lot of scenarios that put him in bad light, which is admirable. Bhagavan Das (Michael Riggs) also shares all of his spiritual insights and divine experiences, and doesn’t seem to mind if you believe them or not.
The book is flowing with great advice on how to pursue and embrace a spiritual lifestyle as well: `I think many Westerners are frustrated with meditation because they don’t realize that you can’t just sit down and meditate. First comes the need to learn to concentrate. One must practice being completely absorbed in something without thinking of anything else. You can’t skip this first basic step’. The book is difficult to put down, it’s soaking with Hindu spirituality, but even if you’re not into that sort of thing it’s still interesting to read the story of how some white kid from California escapes to India and becomes a saint pretty much over night, and to top it off there’s a lot of drug use and sex on the side.
Bhagavan Das does it all, and you can’t help but think of him as a spiritual materialist, snatching from every religion and ritual to find the sweet nectar of enlightenment. But this makes for a really interesting read as he allows you a peek at how spirituality is treated in India through all of its diverse religious practices. Throughout his journey Bhagavan tastes from every fruit of every tree, even forbidden fruits as he happens upon witches and demon worshipers and becomes fascinated with their `dark energy’. At one point he witnesses an Indian man meditating in a pit of fire, without so much as a scratch on his body. He also shows that at the end of the day he is still human: `Major Rikki also had a big stack of Playboy magazines, which I eventually gave into reading. I couldn’t resist the temptation. As soon as I was given the opportunity, I gave in to all of it. I was masturbating to pornographic magazines, smoking State Express No. 555, and listening to Major Rikki boast about his Military career’.
It’s Here Now (Are You) is a great companion piece to Ram Dass’ Be Here Now, and is an excellent book on its own as well. It is about a single person’s journey, and this is something we can all relate to. If you are into Indian spirituality, travel books or just need a good escape then this book might just be what you’re searching for!
Below is an interesting two part interview with Bhagavan Das about the writing of his book, for those of you that are curious.