From private correspondence between a former SRF (Self-Realization Fellowship) monk and me, below is a kind-of guest post used with permission. In this story our former-monk-friend shares his personal experiences of the night he entered the SRF ashram to begin his new life as a monk.
The night I entered the ashram, I was picked up from the duplex where I lived. I shared this duplex, right across the street from the SRF Hollywood Temple (on Edgemont Ave), with a handful of other devotees. A brahmachari [one who takes vow of brahmacharya, a celibate junior monk in the swami order] who had lived at Hollywood Temple and, in fact, was driving the SRF ashram car that came to pick me up. I knew this brahmachari from before he became a monk.
Brother Premamoy [see my post Postulant House Cat: Queen Nefertari for a brief bio], who had been in L.A. for some organizational business and was on his way back to Encinitas ashram center, was in the passenger seat. It was about 9:00 p.m., maybe even a little later. I’d been told earlier in the day to standby and be read. So, when the brahmachari rang my doorbell, I grabbed my little bag of possessions and got into the waiting car. I’ll never forget that drive to Encinitas. Quiet, contemplative, whisked away into a new life. When we arrived in Encinitas, the streets were empty.
I, too, did not tell anyone in my family what I was doing. I just did it. In the car, the brahmachari told me I’d have to change my name because there was already a monk with the same first name as mine. [No duplicate first names were allowed in the ashram]. The brahmachari jokingly said, “This is your chance to name yourself Elvis.”
Not sure where my questioning of belief came in–it just happened gradually, over time. I am not the same empty vessel that I was when I entered the ashram decades ago to be whisked away into a new life as a monk. Recently, I was reading Camus’ The Stranger, a short, existential novel. I highly recommend this book if you have not already read it. It cuts to the core.
To the best of my knowledge there never was a monk named Elvis. However, the real Elvis Presley was apparently a staunch SRF follower and devotee of Sri Daya Mata. You can find plenty of online sources and references of Elvis’ affinity for SRF, Yogananda and Daya Mata in Elvis biographies. Also while I was a monk in the ashram, I had heard from Sri Daya Mata and from other senior monks of encounters of Elvis visiting the SRF ashrams. I can visualize the legend: Elvis, the Pelvis, sitting in full lotus.
Thanks to our guest contributor for sharing with us his story and his journey.