In recounting his life story, Das (born Michael Riggs) takes readers on a romp through mystical India and some of its...


IT'S HERE NOW (ARE YOU?) A Spiritual Memoir

In recounting his life story, Das (born Michael Riggs) takes readers on a romp through mystical India and some of its countercultural counterparts in the US. Das first entered publishing history as one of the subjects of a book called Be Here Now (1971), by his fellow American traveler in Eastern life and thought, Ram Dass (born Richard Alpert). The two met in India, where Alpert found Das to be a spiritual guide of great value. (His Hindu name, meaning ""Servant of God,"" was conferred on him by his guru, Neem Karoli Baba.) Among the several paths to enlightenment in the wide world of Hinduism, Das chose the devotional way (called bhakti), which cultivates, through prayer, meditation, and chant, intense communion with one of the Hindu deities. The deity of choice here is the goddess Kali, a personification of the Cosmic Mother. Kali is a stern task-mistress and, according to Das, punishes him harshly over the wastrel ways and promiscuous sex he falls into on his return to America. Happily, in the end he recovers his balance, offering a peaceful synthesis of beliefs incorporating the Hindu-Buddhist East and Christian West. Along the way, the author describes, in breezy conversational style, encounters with such eminent spiritual seekers as Allen Ginsberg, whose poem on Das opens the book, and many out-of-body experiences and drug-facilitated ecstasies. More memorably, the first part of his narrative, set in India, offers a colorful, insider's view of devotional Hinduism in its native land. But even Kali must grimace when, back in America (in the book's second part), Das excuses his careless relations with women on the grounds that the goddess is his one true love. Das fleshes out the teachings of devotional Hinduism with his own vivid experiences, but sometimes forgets that in narrative art, as in spiritual life, self-justification blocks the light.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997


Page Count: 320

Publisher: Broadway

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1997

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