The idea for my second novel came from the pivotal episode in the life of the Buddha, when the young Prince Siddhartha secretly ventured out from his isolated palace and saw the four sights that convinced him to renounce the world and set off in search of enlightenment: an aged person, a sick person, a dead person, and finally a Hindu holy man. But the hero in my story doesn’t simply set off in search of enlightenment. He becomes so moved by the suffering he sees that he decides to do something about it. I’ve always felt that real spirituality cannot be selfish or self-centered. The quest for enlightenment is the noblest of human aspirations but if it doesn’t simultaneously involve a commitment to do what we can to relieve the suffering of others and to fight against the injustice that is the cause of so much of that suffering, then I think our quest is ultimately doomed — at least until we get it right. That’s what The Ashram is ultimately about: the awakening of our human heart as we walk the road to spiritual realization.
Set in the picturesque hills of Topanga Canyon, within hailing distance of the glitter and hype of modern-day Los Angeles, The Ashram gives us a fictional look at Southern California’s colorful esoteric community, where the forces of Western commercialism and the mystical traditions of the East meld to form the beginnings of a new spiritual culture. Against this backdrop, we follow the journey of a young yogi in his search for enlightenment, from his childhood initiation by a mysterious sage to his romantic encounters with the woman who is destined to open his heart to the suffering in the world around him, a stark reality that he must come to terms with before he can complete his inner journey. In the process, the reader is ushered into the primal landscapes of the human spirit, where the final reckoning of who we are is determined by how we respond to the challenges that life places in our path.
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