I had the opportunity to spend time with Bhagavan Das and attend his events while he was in Tampa, Florida (USA). I am excited to share this most interesting interview with Bhagavan Das as he speaks of his early experiences, and reflects upon his spiritual journey.
Teacher, performer, counter-cultural icon, lover of God: Bhagavan Das is as rich and manifold as Existence itself.
Born within sight of the Pacific Ocean in California, Bhagavan Das was raised in the heart of postwar American affluence. Six and a half feet tall, athletic, musically and scholastically brilliant, Mike Riggs typified the promise of Southern Californian golden youth.
But bored and disturbed by the monotony of suburban existence and the sterility of American materialism, he set forth to explore the world, leaving home at the age of eighteen to seek fortune and experience. A long journey had begun.
Busking for change throughout Europe, hanging out with the yet-unknown Leonard Cohen in Greece, the future Bhagavan Das headed east, hiking overland through Afghanistan and Pakistan into India. All possessions stolen, he threw himself into an intensive and painful period of solitary retreat. Upon emerging he had a new direction: total, unitary focus on devotion to God.
For the next six years he lived as an Indian sadhu, deepening his spiritual practice and sharpening his discernment. He met many saints and holy people, but his heart was truly opened by his guru, the great Neem Karoli Baba Maharaj, who gave Bhagavan Das his name. Bhagavan Das spent the next few years in the close company of his guru, absorbing his vibrations and drinking from the fountain of his grace.
Bhagavan Das gained worldwide fame from the publication of Be Here Now, the well-known “DIY guide to enlightenment.” The book documents Richard Alpert’s transformation into Ram Dass through an initial encounter with Bhagavan Das, who ultimately brought him to Maharaji. This fateful sequence of events has affected millions of people as it has rippled through time.
Bhagavan Das went on to record a number of albums that are considered classics. AH has been called an originator of the world music style, and Now, produced by Beastie Boy Mike D., brought traditional Indian chants together with contemporary beats and loops. In 2005 Bhagavan Das released the three-CD Sunset Kirtan, recorded live in New York. He has also written a memoir, It’s Here Now, Are You?, which emphasizes the necessity of personal effort to attain spiritual riches.
Today Bhagavan Das tours almost constantly, chanting the name of God and giving structured workshops on the mystic effects of sound. He visits all the major cities in North America and Europe yearly, and usually spends some time in the Caribbean or Mexico on winter retreats.
For more info on Bhagavan Das visit: http://www.bhagavandas.com/