If you are not part of the Ram Dass/Neem Karoli Baba community let me briefly describe what and where Kainchi is. It’s a place nestled deep in the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern India that was the primary meeting place of the Western devotees, led by Ram Dass, where they met and hung out with Neem Karoli Baba from 1967-1973. This was not the only place where Maharaj-ji took them but it was perhaps the most special.
And for those of you in the community, you know exactly what this means.
I’ve spent a few days sitting on this post because I’ve been waiting to come down a little. The high from these retreats is potent, intense, orgasmic and fucking amazing. When you’re high after these things you can be prone to do crazy shit so I had to come down a little to make sure this post was authentic and most of all true.
For the last several years I’ve spent a lot of time going to Maui to hang out with Ram Dass, Krishna Das and the global satsang (spiritual community) at the Napili Kai Beach Resort for the now bi-yearly retreat called “Open Your Heart in Paradise.” Over the years these gatherings have taken on almost a pilgrimage sort of feel. Many of the same people, many new ones too, make this yearly trek to the NKB (no accident there) resort to suck up this whole concept of “unconditional love.” I can only speak for myself in saying that sometimes the practice has a very direct and applicable result and other times it’s elusive, fuzzy and nostalgic.
Let me address the latter first. The now oft-told story of Ram Dass meeting Neem Karoli Baba in 1967 after being jettisoned from the identity of Richard Alpert is now one of legend that has been documented in many legendary tomes. After he came back to America he then turned on a group of other young acid drenched wildly amazing hippies who were looking for more. Fortunately many of these people went on to do amazing works in the world and are still with us today. They are very eager to tell the stories of what it was like to hang out with the “old man in the blanket.” These stories are colorful, magical and have the ability to pry open even the most cynical heart from the clutches of self loathing, fear and darkness and thrust them into a state of love, peace and equanimity. This is true, it does happen. I’ve seen it and experienced it. The only rub is that after hearing the stories so many times the practice can sometimes feel like a nostalgia act. How many times do I need to hear the spleen story or the bus story or the acid in babas mouth story?
The other elemental issue that gets in the way is the “getting high.” Unless you’re the most cynical uptight cyborg replicant freak there is no way that you’re not going to get somewhat high at some point during one of these retreats. I’m a lover of the high so I tend to get really high on these love hits and can often mistake these succulent juicy hits of love to be the practice itself when in truth they really aren’t. They are just the results of what may happen when you practice this stuff.
This gets murky because if you’re not paying attention it becomes about these things and you may loose the essence of what’s REALLY going on here and come to the conclusion that these gatherings are about glorifications of someone elses trip. I’ve been here before, I’ve lost the focus of the message and application of what’s being said. But I don’t want to get stuck on that. So, what is the message?
The message is that there is a portal for unconditional love that allows you to be transported into a dimensional state of being in which you love yourself more, you love others more and through this love portal you experience a joy for being alive that may have eluded you previously. If you have any desire to experience any of these things I’m here to tell you that it’s real. This is a real thing that can be experienced by you, now and in this moment. These practices when done with even the slightest shred of sincerity can unlock a way of living within the constructs of the material world that knows no boundaries. It can labeled bhakti yoga, guru kripa or just “yoga.” Or it can simply be called “love.” Real honest to god love.
As mentioned, I’ve been to many of these retreats. But I have to say that this past week in Maui took me to a place that I’d never experienced prior. Perhaps I’m a slow learner or perhaps I needed many doses to get the full effect. Either way, I had more heart opening conversations, tears, inter dimensional drop ins and ecstatic love bombs than I’d ever experienced at any other retreat. As Duncan told me “I literally had a dozen conversations that were more powerful than those experienced when on MDMA.” Same goes for me. The connection to the stories I’ve heard a thousand times before, to my old friends, to my new friends, to Sharon Salzbergs fierce teachings and to these names of God I’ve chanted countless rounds before took on a new high that may in fact created an unravelling that will result in me truly forgiving myself for all my mistakes. It seems that I am truly ready to forgive myself of all the self induced pain that I’ve inflicted on myself and others in a way that can give me the room to move forward on the path. Constantly being stuck in the wheel of samsara has only worked in the sense that it’s taken be so far up and equally as far down. Rinse and repeat. My new and fresh set of eyes that were bestowed upon me at OYHIP ’15 has given me the gentleness of equanimity and ease of being.
On the final morning of the retreat it all came into a complete form when my friend Alex Deleuse shared something with me that put the whole game into context. He simply said (i’m paraphrasing Alex, sorry dude) “this is our Kainchi. History will look back on these retreats as ‘oh you were at the OHYIP retreats in Maui? Then you know.’
Yes, I know. This is our Evelyn Hotel, this is our Kainchi, this is our great transmission of Maharaj-jis darshan. If you are at all into Ram Dass or Neem Karoli Baba this is our time. What happened 43 years ago doesn’t take away from what’s happening now.
It’s taken me so long to see the “big maharaja-ji” and to loose the trap of nostalgia and to simply accept this gift. Of course, I’m gonna come back down and act human again. But perhaps this time I’ll recognize it with a little more softness and gentleness of heart. The endless cycle of ascent and decent from the mountain doesn’t have to be so extreme any longer.