The Making of American Yogi

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Steven

steven-closeupWhat I’m going to tell you might be hard for you to believe. I had never met Maharaj-ji and I had always wanted to talk with him. In 1981, I was staying at Maharaj-ji’s Kainchi temple. It was early afternoon and I was sitting and daydreaming. My back was against the wall with Maharaj-ji’s tucket to my right. All of a sudden, I heard a voice saying, “You wanted to talk to me?” I turned toward the tucket and I saw Maharajji laying there. Suddenly he disappeared. Then I heard his voice talking to me in my heart and we continued talking for about an hour.

One of the most important things he said was that he wanted me to make a movie about Hanuman. I took that to mean to also make a movie about Him. I asked, “Should I get someone to help me?” He replied, “Yes, Zoe.” Zoe had been my girlfriend many years ago and we weren’t in touch any more because she was about to get married. I’d always thought of her as my soul mate.

I went to LA to try to make this movie but nobody 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 later we were on our way to India to make “American Yogi!”

– Steven Newmark

Zoe

zoe-pinkI was walking at the seashore with Steven, my old/new love. We were both feeling the wonder of finding each other again. We had been walking in silence for several miles of beautiful woodland. Suddenly he said, ”I want to make the Maharaj-ji movie – now.” “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 dreaded not doing it – but could he actually do it?

This was one of the times in the beginning that I came in direct contact with the demands of love. Steven and I had loosely based our relationship and our commitment on Satya – truth. We had learned how to steel ourselves for the thing 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 a matter of truth. It was a matter of the irrational, the great leap, a leap into loving.

And why not? It was getting late in our lives. Now or never. I didn’t actually think it over. For me the word “no” written on something read “try it.” I had many lessons still to learn about relationship.

– Zoe Durga Harber
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The Palm Leaf Story

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Did you ever wonder if you have lived before? I have and I found the answer one winter day in Chennai, India.

In January 2014, I was making a documentary about India when I met a man who said that he saw his future and his past written on a two thousand year old leaf. I’m a very curious sort so I was very intriged by this man’s outlandish story. Of course, I didn’t believe it. However I had a free day before my flight home, so I decided to try and find this place he was talking about. It seemed like a great a story to tell back home.

This place wasn’t easy to find but through a series of co-incidences, common in India, I eventually found the Naadi Astrology center outside of Chennai, a small humble building on a side street in a residential area, When I entered the building the first thing I saw was a small waiting room with about eight people sitting in chairs. Out came a man dressed in slacks and a white shirt, and after I told him what I came for, he took me into a small room and took an imprint of my right thumb and asked what country I was from. Other than that print they had no information about me.

He said that for many of the people that came here there was a palm leaf written two thousand years ago that would have my birthdate and important information about my life, past and future.

The fee was $30 but if they couldn’t find my leafplate there would be no charge. I was told I might have to wait all day and there was no guarantee they would find my leaf.

One hour later, I was surprised when the same man came out and ushered me upstairs into another small room with a noisy fan. He had a stack of rectangular dried palmleaves and he said he found my particular leaf. I felt a sudden powerful feeling of fear, excitement and a sense that something profound was going to happen.

He said “ Your name is Steven. You were born on September 23, 1947. Your father’s name is Irving, your mothers name is Lillian. You first wife’s name is Catherina, you second wife’s name is Durga.“ He went on to name my profession, that I had an older brother and sister, that I had one daughter and many other very specific details about my life. Everything was completely accurate. My mind went into high gear. “How could he know this? All he knew about me was my thumbprint, they didn’t even know I was coming.” Could there be a super computer in the back room? Not possible, even if such a computer existed, it would cost so much and there was information he told me that no computer would know.

He offered to tell me about my last past life which I accepted and he offered to tell me about my future and my last life. I was curious about my past life but I passed on knowing about my future. I didn’t want to hear that I would die a terrible death in three months.

I left the room in a daze. How could someone, thousands of years ago, know the exact date of my birth? Doesn’t that mean that my birth was already decided before I was born?

The explanation I was given is that ancient yogis like Agasthaya, the sage who had written my leaf, had developed powers as a result of their spiritual practices that we in the West can only fathom as science fiction. They had the ability to see into the future.
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A Film About Steve Jobs’ Guru

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American Yogi is a movie about Steve Jobs’ Guru, an Indian saint who transformed tens of thousands of young people in the seventies and who shaped Steve’s approach to life and his work.

steve-jobs-In 1974, Steve Jobs quit his job at Atari and said to his boss. “I’m going to find my Guru.” Jobs had been impressed by reading about this guru, called Maharaj-ji, in the book “Be Here Now.” He later described the book as “profound” and said it had “transformed him.” He then met Robert Friendland, who had seen Maharaj-ji, and he was very impressed with him. That encounter inspired Jobs to make a spiritual journey to India.

Jobs later said, “For me it was a serious search. I’d been turned on to the idea of enlightenment and trying to figure out who I was and how I fit into things.”

A few months later Jobs arrived at Maharaj-ji’s temple in the foothills of the Himalayas. However when Jobs arrived, Maharaj-ji had passed away a few month earlier. Larry Brilliant, a devotee of Maharaj-ji, who had remained at the temple after this guru had left his body, was the first person there to meet him. He said “Steve was barefoot, wearing robes and head-shaven. He rented a small “Kumoan” hillside cabin and he would come and get tea and food at the ashram.”

Jobs later said “The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.”

Evidently Jobs maintained his connection with Maharaj-ji throughout his life. When he died two pictures of Maharajji were found in his room.

So who is this Maharaj-ji? Who is this man who made such an impact on a young Steve Jobs that he traveled all the way to India to see him? The new documentary “American Yogi” answers these questions.
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