“American Yogi is a film about events that sound like science fiction to the average Westerner… It’s a film about one man’s search for his destiny… and an Indian Saint named Neem Karoli Baba, also known as Maharaj-Ji… and Richard Alpert, who returned from India as Ram Dass. Most importantly, it’s a film about love – pure, unconditional love… because love is all that matters.”
In 1981, I was staying at Neem Karoli Baba’s Kainchi temple. It was early afternoon and I was sitting and thinking about my trip home. My back was against the wall with Maharaj-ji’s bench to my right. I had a great trip but the one thing I was sad about is that I never got to see Maharaj-ji when he was alive.
All of a sudden, I heard a voice saying, “You wanted to talk to me?” I turned toward the bench where Maharaj-ji used to sit and I saw Maharaj-ji lying there! Shocked, I looked at him for a few moments and then he disappeared. But I still heard his voice talking to me in my heart. We had a real conversation that lasted about an hour.
He answered many of the questions I had. Then he really surprised me when he said he wanted me to make a movie about Hanuman. I took that also to mean to make a movie about Him. “What, a movie? I don’t know anything about making a movie.” So I asked, “Should I get someone to help me?” He replied, “Yes, do it with Zoe.”
Zoe had been my girlfriend many years before but I didn’t know where she was or how to reach her.
I believed in that experience enough to go to LA to try to make this movie. However, nobody there was interested in investing money in a movie about a dead Guru, so the project went on the backburner, but never far from my heart.
Then, 23 years later, Zoe called me out of the blue. Eight months after that, we were on our way to India to make “American Yogi!”
I was walking at the seashore with Steven. We had been walking in silence for several miles of beautiful woodland. Then he broke the silence and told me that he was finally ready to make the movie about Maharaj-ji. This took me by surprise, “Wow! Well, why not? But can you make a movie?” He stood there looking like a gangly kid. He wanted to do it, he felt like he could do it, he didn’t want to die without doing it – but could he actually do it?
This was one of the times that Maharaj-ji put me in direct contact with the demands of love. Steven and I had loosely based our relationship on our commitment to Satya – truth. We had learned how to steel ourselves for the things we least wanted to hear. We had learned how to bring up the things we most feared. But I saw in a flash that this was not only a matter of truth, it was also a matter of the irrational, the great leap – a leap into loving.
– Zoe Durga Harber