Bhagavan Das (Kermit Michael Riggs)
In 1968 Richard Alpert journeyed to India and met Riggs, going by the name Bhagavan Das. Riggs had grown up in Laguna Beach, California, and went to India in 1964. Alpert described their first meeting with wide-eyed wonder and zero skepticism:
I met this guy and there was no doubt in my mind [that he "knew"]. It was just like meeting a rock. It was just solid, all the way through. Everywhere I pressed, there he was! (Dass, 1971).
Dass proved to be unreliable in his spiritual evaluations, not only in this case. Das himself, years later (1997), gave his own honest evaluation of his earlier spiritual state:
Ram Dass would describe me as if I were some kind of enlightened, mythical being. But I was just a lost child, trying to find my way home to Mother.…
He may not have found "Mother" but he found some solace in the arms of many young ladies after becoming a spiritual superstar, one of the first, of the developing circuit of self-regarding New Age gurus, Masters, roshis, tulkus, etc.
Das and the soon-to-be Dass went to drop acid in Kathmandu, and then Das got rid of his overly-interested, new best friend forever by introducing him to Neem Karoli Baba partly in the hope of getting rid of him (Das, 1997). The humble "Maharaji" (or "Greatest King") impressed Alpert enormously especially after he gave the guru twelve hundred micrograms of LSD–many times the "safe" dose–with no apparent effect and especially after Maharaji did the usual Indian guru "knows everything about you", "knows everything", "can do magic" shtick.
What of Bhagavan Das back in the USA:
I … found myself onstage before thousands of people, I named babies and blessed people, and people fell at my feet. I felt like a king with my patrons and movie stars, but I was still a kid, a guru at twenty-five, sitting on a tiger skin in a Manhattan town house.… … After three years of "spiritual life" that was really a party [drugs, groupies, etc.], I got sick of it and wanted to be home with my children. I rejoined the world and sold used cars in Santa Cruz, I became a businessman, and I gradually lost my sense of [the] divine completely (in Kornfield, 2000).
This was one confused and hopeless young guru. At one point he actually became a born-again Christian, of all things, a born-again Episcopalian. Now that's being outrageous. He became obsessional and psychotic:
I was now officially in Bible college, and I was going to be a pastor. … I got rid of everything but my Bible, which I worshiped. I'd go to bed with my Bible, I'd sleep with it, and I'd hug it. And God woke me up at all different times of the night. … I would go into Denny's restaurant with my Bible, constantly looking for souls to save. I did nothing but read the Bible and pray (Das, 1997).
In Episcopalia you can speak in tongues though they wish you wouldn't but you're not allowed to have sex with a teenage choir girl half your age even if you consider that Mary and Jesus were there with you. This could be a new high in heresy, a foursome with Jesus and his mother. And so many spiritual paths to explore, alcoholism, Alcoholics Anonymous – though not anonymously, selling insurance, more teenage sex and back to the other basics of spiritual life in the modern USA, smoking dope and doing magic mushrooms. When the going got hard he followed the modern Oprah script and said he was sorry, and started selling himself again as "Bhagavan Das" the reformed mystic, yogi and and got back to Being Here Now in "It's Here Now, Are You?"
That's the power of infinite hypocrisy.
Books and Albums by Bhagavan Das are available at Amazon but I'd recommend you try Krishna Das instead as he has talent as well as singing pseudo-bhajans.
Back to Gurus Page.