Attention campers! Don't forget to listen to the music before you leave here - (click on this)
This is a photograph of Swami Satchidananda and me that was taken about 10 months after I met him in 1978. The inscription says, "Beloved Peter, May the Lord bless you with peace and joy. Love, Swami Satchidananda".
My spiritual journey began a long, long time ago in another age and in another universe. But skipping forward a few billion years, my grandparents and parents renounced the God of this universe because of the German Nazis' horrendousness and they tried to raise me as an atheist. Somehow when I was very young I became convinced that my parents were incorrect about the non-existence of God although I had only begun to understand how correct they were about the hellish Nazis. When I was 7 years old, my best friend named Pauli Griffin whose family was Catholic showed me framed portraits of Jesus Christ in his living room. I was immediately drawn to Jesus and I had a strong feeling deep inside my mind that I had been alive during Jesus' time on Earth. Pauli's father asked me if I would like to attend church with them and I said yes. As I sat in their church pew gazing up at the wooden figure of Jesus Christ on the cross, a bright beam of sunlight suddenly cast down upon it from a window and the carved figure of Christ came alive, squirming in agony. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. I looked around to find out if anybody else was seeing what I was seeing but they were not. I felt as if I had watched Jesus go by me when he was riding the donkey on the way to his trial and that I had just yawned and walked away.
During my teenage years my religious thoughts faded into the background and at age 16, I entered the sexy world of rock and roll and became obsessed with music and girls. But many years later in 1974 when I was playing with a band in South Lake Tahoe and feeling as if I were on top of the world, I began to think about spiritual matters again. I read the book "Autobiography of a Yogi", by Paramahansa Yogananda, and deep understandings began to coalesce inside my brain. It occurred to me that most people turn to God when they are in dire trouble or mortal pain, crying out for help only when they need it most. I decided to be different and turn to God at the height of my happiness so I began to meditate by using the instructions in the book. Because I was living with the band members in a small rental house, it was noisy most of the time and I had tremendous trouble concentrating. Eventually I gave up meditation in frustration and put my spiritual yearnings on the back burner again.
In 1977, my wife had an affair with a doctor she met at Planned Parenthood in San Francisco while she was a volunteer worker. I was living a classy neighborhood off 24th Street in Noe Valley and one night when she went out to play doctor, I went out wandering the streets in a panic of desperation. I saw a large Victorian building on Dolores Avenue by 20th Street with a very interesting Yoga yantra next to the front door so I climbed up the steps and rang the doorbell hoping to find someone I could talk to. The Victorian building turned out to be the Integral Yoga Institute and Swami Karunananda welcomed me in. We sat in the living room and she listened silently while I told her about my wife and the doctor. I also confided my extreme frustration about not having one single song of mine ever accepted by a record company. After listening to me she said, "Peter it feels to me like you're just going to have to give up your musical ambition because it seems to be causing you constant unhappiness and there's nothing you can do about your wife and the doctor. We have a program here called Karma Yoga and you can live here without paying any rent but you will have to do whatever chores we give you to do and you must practice the yogic lifestyle while you live in our house." I realized that she was right about having to give up my killer music ambition because it had become a dead zombie anyway so I accepted her offer to move in because living with my wife's love affair was no longer possible.
There were at least 6 or 7 other swamis besides Karunananda living in the house at that time and I practiced Hatha Yoga every day, eventually teaching Hatha classes to beginners. After I had been living there for several weeks, Swami Satchidananda arrived in San Francisco to give a Satsang. Satsangs were occasions in which disciples and interested people came to see him and listen to whatever he had to say. He sat on a large royal chair and expounded extemporaneously about whatever came into his mind, and then he took questions from the audience. The room was well lighted so I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw a white light radiating from all around his body. It was his aura. I had never seen anybody's aura before and I have never seen one since then. After listening to him talk several times, I became convinced that I had finally met a true spiritual Master. For me the key was that he was able to express the true spirit of Jesus Christ better than anyone I had ever met, including any number of Christian preachers and pastors who always seemed to me to be way off the target. So I decided to take mantra initiation from Karunananda. At one point during the initiation ceremony, Karunananda put some drops of holy water on top of my head and I immediately felt a unique electric tingling sensation flow from the top of my head down to what is called the third eye (the 6th chakra) in my forehead. Ever since that moment I've felt a gentle pressure there as if somebody is pushing gently on my third eye with their finger and when I repeat my mantra in my mind, the pressure intensifies.
I should mention that I was at the original Woodstock because many people today don't know that it was Swami Satchidananda who opened up the festivities by sitting up there on the stage before any music began, meditating and giving his blessing on the event while the helicopter flew overhead and dumped flowers over the audience. I didn't get to see the opening ceremony and I only mention it because it's interesting in hindsight that this Swami became my spiritual Guru even though I missed his act at Woodstock. One day when I was living at the Integral Yoga Institute, my sister called to inform me that our mother had experienced a physical and mental breakdown in Larchmont, NY, where she still lived in the same house in which my father died. Apparently the poor soul forgot where she lived, got lost and wandered into the nearest police station for help in the mistaken belief that police are there to help people who are experiencing mental problems. Of course they immediately committed her to Bellevue, New York City's worst mental hospital. When my sister told me this, it hit me like a sledgehammer that my time had finally come to live out Jesus' primary teaching about forgiveness because I had completely failed to resolve my problems with my mother and I did not want her to die as a lonely and troubled soul. So I decided to request a blessing for my mother from Swami Satchidananda and to do whatever he told me to do. When I asked him for the blessing he said to me, "Peter, you can't change somebody else's karma." I replied, "I know that but the Bible tells me to honor my mother and I believe in you, so I'm asking you for a blessing anyway."
Somebody had given him an apple as an offering and as he looked directly into my eyes he said, "Peter, take this apple and give it to your mother. Ask her to eat it and tell her it's from me." I was superstitious in a silly kind of way so I put the apple into an airtight plastic container as if spiritual energy might somehow leak out and I sent it to her via airmail special delivery at Bellevue Hospital along with a letter explaining where I had gotten it and what she was supposed to do with it. Because my mother was an atheist, I thought she would probably just throw the apple away but to my complete surprise I got a phone call from her a few days after I had sent her the apple and she was crying. She told me it was the sweetest thing anybody had ever done for her and that she had eaten it right away. Then I realized what I had to do. I booked the first available plane to New York so that I could get my mother out of the hospital. Bellevue had a policy requiring the signatures of two doctors in order to release an inmate but I couldn't find two doctors who would sign the papers. When I saw my mother in the hospital, I was astounded to see that she appeared to have aged way beyond her years. This 70 year old woman looked like she was over 100 years old with wrinkled skin dripping off her bones and she kept on aging rapidly every time I went to the hospital to visit her. When she died a few weeks later, she was clutching a photograph of Swami Satchidananda that I had given her. After closing her clothing boutique and selling her house, I left Larchmont and returned to California satisfied that I had done everything I could possibly do for my mother. By that time my wife had been blown off by the doctor who went on to younger and greener pastures so I moved back in with her again instead of returning to the Institute.
Many years passed, much water under bridge, and heap big trouble hit this brave poppa on May 9th, 1994. I was cruising along thinking that my life was as good as it could possibly be because I had my "soul mate", the best possible children and my dream home with a solar heated swimming pool and hot tub in Walnut Creek. Life doesn't get any better than that and I knew it. I was literally down on my knees in prayerful gratitude to God for being the recipient of the best that life has to offer when the atomic bomb of divorce exploded over me. This is how my personal holocaust began: My wife and I had seasonal tickets to the Walnut Creek Repertory Theater and we used to go out together every weekend to see the new productions. We had the best box seat and I was happy to be sitting there on an evening in late April of 1994 because I was happy with my life. When the curtain went up, the orchestra started to play cacophonous music that deeply offended my musician's ears and then insane action started occurring on the stage. A woman came out with pasties on her breasts and started shaking them around while children entered from the wings and performed somersaults and cartwheels. I watched with growing horror as this meaningless awful-sounding thing developed and then I said to myself, "I know what this is all about. The writer is trying to tell me that life is chaos. I don't need this crap." So I sat straight up in my seat, assumed a meditation posture and began to repeat my mantra in my mind.
Suddenly an incredible thing happened that had never happened to me before. I always had trouble concentrating on my mantra when other sounds disturbed me but this time the mantra started to roar in my mind, drowning out all other sensations. It had the most gorgeous sound I had ever heard. Not only was it easy to concentrate on the mantra alone but the sound was so beautiful that I couldn't avoid listening to it. The next thing I knew - boom! - I left my body and found myself in a universe filled with nothing but white light in which I appeared to be a component point of perception. I could perceive in all directions at the same time and the feeling was like plugging my fingers into a wall socket and being electrified by peace, happiness, warmth and pure life. There was a strong feeling of eternity with no sense of time and I thought to myself, "There's nothing happening here. Why isn't this boring?" I felt like I had been released from prison and was home at last so I just remained there in an ecstatic state for what seemed to be a very long time. Then I heard a voice say, "Honey, what's wrong with you?" It was the wife and her voice snapped me right back into my body again. I said "You won't believe what just happened to me." She also thought the play was bad so we left the theater and on the way home, I told her about my out of body experience. Big mistake. No, it was the biggest mistake of my life because she interpreted it as being evidence that I was going crazy. We had a huge argument about it and she didn't talk to me for days.
I had a second out of body experience a few days later in my back yard. I was walking around appreciating every square inch of the home I had worked so hard to create and all of a sudden there were two white swans in my swimming pool. I had been looking at the pool and I didn't see them fly in. Because white swans are yogic symbols for God like doves are in the Christian faith, I dropped to my knees and prayed to the swans. The next thing I knew - boom! - I was gone again. It was the same type of experience as before and when I snapped back into my body, the swans were gone. Needless to say I didn't tell anybody about this experience. The arguments with my wife intensified and one night she threw me out of our bedroom and made me sleep on the floor in our family room. I couldn't sleep because I was so upset over these marital developments so I just lay there and meditated. The same thing happened again and I remained in the universe of white light until the sun rose. I told my wife that we needed immediate marriage counseling and I made an appointment with a doctor at Kaiser Hospital for that same afternoon. During the marriage counseling session, two policemen entered the room and I was escorted out and thrown into jail without any charges being filed. I had been 5150'd. They transfered me from jail to a double lock down psychiatric facility at Herrick Hospital in Oakland where they kept me involuntarily confined for 7 full days in violation of the 72 hour limitation. When I was released and returned to my home, I discovered that the locks had been changed and I had been slammed with a court approved restraining order that totally prevented me from seeing my children, talking to them on the phone, writing any letters to them or coming within 100 yards of my own home. This restraining order was issued on the basis of my wife's testimony that I was potentially dangerous to myself, her and my children even though not one shred of evidence was ever provided indicating that I had ever done anything to deserve any punishment at all.
What I now call my Great Agony began. Because I was prevented from seeing my children, I rented a series of pathetic rooms within walking distance of my home in the mistaken belief that the close proximity would convince them to allow me to see my sweethearts. The torture continued in the form of humiliating and degrading "supervised visitations" in between horrendous periods of court enforced child deprivation. As my loneliness and pain increased, I began drinking heavily to achieve unconsciousness because I was having severe nightmares every night about losing my children. What was happening to me during my waking hours was horrible enough and I could not stand the pain. Something must have snapped in the creative center of my mind because entire songs started popping into my head - lyrics, music and arrangements simultaneously entering my mind as if I was hearing one of my own bands performing my song with me singing it on stage. I did not understand what was happening to me and I thought it was extremely weird because I had given up performing and playing music altogether many years before. Great new songs were being created and these songs were so good that I knew I had to do something with them. But I had no idea what to do because I had been out of the music business for so many years that I didn't even know any musicians I could record with.
Someone mentioned to me that his high school friend was a guitar player who lived in San Francisco. He had a small 8-track recording machine set up in his basement and after meeting with him, I showed him a song I had just written called Knight in Shining Armor. Because I couldn't play drums anymore, I used his drum machine which was something I had always been loath to do because I resented mechanical drum noises replacing real drummers. To my astonishment, he played the first thing that came into his head and it was perfect. I had never had this experience in a recording studio before. It struck me that something magical was occurring because the whole process felt effortless. The following summer I took a vacation to southern California and found a group of musicians who agreed to record basic tracks for me in another funky home studio. I brought the finished basic tracks back to San Francisco and hired studio musicians to record keyboards, saxophone, various percussion sounds, and even a whistling track on Someday. Every musician I hired played the perfect track on the first take and every time I opened my mouth to sing, the right sound came out. In hindsight it seems clear to me that the Great Agony I was experiencing was the key to opening up my creative center and for some unknown reason, God was granting me one of my life's two great ambitions that I had never been able to realize in all my years playing music professionally.
As my descent into Hell continued and I was eventually forced to sell my dream home, I knew that I had finally reached the end of my rope. I was out of my mind with grief so I decided that I was finished with the material life altogether. I packed all my remaining belongings and moved to the Integral Yoga Ashram in Buckingham, Virginia, where Swami Satchidananda lived. I moved into a bug infested basement apartment in a house next to the Ashram that was owned by one of the old venerated disciples. I hated the climate and the living conditions at the Ashram. There wasn't even a garbage pick-up service available for anybody who lives there and we all had to drive 25 miles to reach the nearest public garbage dump. NEWS FLASH: A 21st century American community that lacks garbage disposal service also ignorantly lacks Step 1 of enlightenment. There is a definite caste order at the Ashram. Swami Satchidananda lived in the best house at the top of the mountain with a commanding view. Below him are the swamis, below them are the old venerated disciples, and below them are everybody else. At the bottom of the caste order was Connie, a diseased old woman who lived alone in a decrepit old house about 100 yards from the house in which I lived.
Swami Satchidananda visited his old disciple, my landlord, many times in his home but not once did I ever see him stop to visit Connie. He would come down from the mountain every Saturday night for Satsangs and he never mentioned Connie or tried to do anything about her sad condition. What he should have done was make a public display of his devotion to God by bowing, touching her feet, and then cleaning up her bodily mess. Next he should have instituted a program called Connie Care in which volunteers from the Ashram took care of Connie so that her suffering could be minimized. My opinion is that Swami Satchidananda became attached to playing the guru role and his ego inflated to the point where he became self-centered and addicted to adoration. He forgot one of Jesus' most important teachings: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." And now Peter Cross is here to say the same thing: By ignoring Connie and allowing her suffering to continue when there was so much you could have done to alleviate it, you also allowed my suffering to continue when you could have alleviated it. You demonstrated Jesus' truth that the tree is known by its fruit by pre-approving your own graven image, and it was egregiously displayed for worship at your Chidambaram Temple several years before you died.
So in conclusion based on 3 out-of-body experiences with the Great White Light and 60 years of intermittent contact with the Thing, the ridiculously insignificant Peter Cross has realized that the God/Creator of our universe is definitely all-powerful, truly infinite, but not human. And therein lies the Big Problem. Because God is not human and God is infinite, God is beyond ALL human concepts and does not conceive in terms of good and evil or in any other human terms. God has not only allowed evil to flourish in God's universe, but God has actually enabled evil to do what it does best. There is no system of Karma in which good is rewarded with more good, and evil is dealt with in any consistent manner. The entire concept of Karma is nothing more than a natural effort of the human mind to cope with an unacceptable reality and create some kind of logical explanation for it, and so is the concept that God is good. Human beings are basically unable to cope with a reality in which God is neither good nor evil and really doesn't care about anything in human terms at all. It's very frightening to understand the true nature of our universe and the infinite energy that lies beyond it. Essentially, this infinite energy thing is a game player who creates universes just for the fun of it to find out what could happen and to experience it all from a great enough distance that it doesn't have to receive the full brunt of the pain being created by its own creations. We are all its creations with no real power of our own. We have only the illusion of power and all the other illusions that have been created for God's amusement. We are all pawns on God's chessboard and our real difficulty is that there is no ultimate goal to God's game. The universe is not all about spiritual growth that somehow ends up with souls getting rid of their egos and becoming perfect servants of God. And life is not a game that can be played to win. Buddha was wrong, there is no way out and there is no end to existence. Our universe will eventually contract and collapse upon itself when God is ready for that to happen. And then there will be another one, just like there was before the one we are all stuck in now. And that's the truth, so help me God.
Web page design copyright 1996 © , text copyright 2004 © Peter Cross