Sitting cross-legged in the beautiful outdoor courtyard at the Standard Hotel, twirling an ancient Tibetan prayer wheel, Nada yoga master Bhagavan Das looks the part of a wizened mystic. His graying beard is so dense that a nest of hummingbirds could make a comfortable home in it; rivulets of thick dreadlocks cascade down his back. His voice gives wonderful contrast to his somewhat forbidding appearance. Das was born and raised in Southern California, and his surfer-dude drawl remains firmly in place. For a man acclaimed as a spiritual guru, Das is astonishingly open about his experiences with earthly excesses. His life is a collage of spiritual redemption and debauchery so wild its being made into a Hollywood movie.
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In the early Sixties, I was the freakazoid, weirdo, eccentric, nerd-geek of my high school. I was looking for the meaning of life: Why was I here? I just felt that there was a deep spiritual core outside of religion, and I knew I needed to find a sage to help me. I knew they didnt live in America. Thats all I knew, he says with a laugh. Das made his journey to India and lived as a hermit in dire poverty before encountering Ram Dass, the LSD guru who wrote Be Here Now, which portrayed Das as a guru wise beyond his years. The book made Das a spiritual superstar, and when he returned to America, he spent the Seventies hanging out with rock stars and enjoying the attendant drugs, wine, and women. It all came crashing down in the Eighties, and it took touring with the Grateful Dead to get him spiritually centered again. Dass path to ultimate enlightenment has been long and strange, and along the way he has recorded some classic world music albums. Now I dont live in the world; Im outside of mainstream society. Im just trying to take care of my body and be myself, Das explains. The celebrated master will share his wisdom and love at a four-day yoga retreat at the Standard that begins tonight at 7:30. Jivamukti master Loren Russo will lead an invigorating session while Das chants.
Dec. 28-31, 7:30 p.m.