A former monk travels to a tantric cult deep in the jungles of Central India and becomes a “Sex Messiah.”
My girlfriend, Psalm, and I were sleeping on a concrete slab of floor, the coolest surface we could find in the humid jungle heat of Central India.
A small woman entered the room and tugged Psalm’s foot. Peeling herself off of the floor, Psalm stumbled into the hallway. Held in a state between waking and sleep I overheard their conversation.
My husband and I are involved in a fourteen-day ritual, which is necessary for keeping cosmic balance in the universe.
Yes, how may I help you? Psalm said.
Well, the ritual consists of a specific ceremonial practice. For fourteen days, we need the assistance of another couple. The couple we have been using for the past twelve days are no longer eligible to assist us, since the woman has started to menstruate.
How is this ceremony done?
My husband and I worship the sexual intercourse of another couple.
At this point I started freaking out. Some guys might love the idea of having people “worship” their sexual endeavors but the thought of having an audience made me queasy. Even now it’s hard to believe that this really happened. The Indian woman went on to explain the exact details of this ritual.
The male and female are placed naked in the center of the temple wherein they engage in intercourse. The man is to insert his lingam into the woman’s yoni 108 times. Before each insertion we pour melted butter on the man’s lingam as an offering to the gods. Can you and your husband be the object of worship for this ceremony?
He’s not my husband. He’s my friend.
Can we use you and your “friend” for this ceremony?
So we would be the ones engaged in intercourse while you and your husband poured melted butter on my friend’s penis?
Yes, it is considered quite an honor to be the human forms that we use to worship the gods. My husband and I really need your help. If we don’t perform this ceremony tonight the entire universe might be placed into a state of unbalance due to engaging in an incomplete ritual.
As I listened to this conversation I kept hoping that my girlfriend would just say no. This was mainly due to the fact that up until that moment I had never actually put my penis into a vagina. I’d licked one and had my penis orally stimulated but I had yet to discover the joys of intercourse, and I instinctively felt that ritualized butter-saturated sex would be a traumatic introduction to vaginal penetration. The context of this anecdote requires a complex and very difficult explanation.
I was raised in an orthodox Hindu ashram in California. An ashram is a center for learning and often plays the role of monastery for many Hindu communities. My parents owned this ashram, which is all the more unique since they are not of South Asian descent.
My father, Patrick Francis Bishop, was born to an American Army intelligence officer and a nineteen-year-old Japanese girl in Tokyo, in the aftermath of the Korean War. (I have my mother’s maiden name, I can only guess it is due to the counter-cultural nature of my parents).
When my grandfather abandoned the family, my Japanese grandmother placed my father up for adoption. At three and a half, my dad found himself in the care of a U.S. military family with an abusive and alcoholic father.
My dad’s adoptive family, hopped from one military base to another, finally settling in Oahu, Hawaii. During the counter-cultural movement of the late 1960s my dad ran away from his adoptive home. His progress as a homeless teenager to ordained Hindu monk was made quickly via an introduction to Eastern meditative methods that were popular with hippies.
He went from drug-addled dealer of psychedelic drugs to religious convert, living in South and Southeast Asia by means of his monastic begging bowl. This was not all that uncommon in the era of Timothy Leary and Ram Dass (formerly Richard Alpert of Harvard University). My dad remained a monk until the early 70s.
Obviously, since I exist, he broke his vows, got married and had sex. American converts to Eastern monasticism rarely stay celibate for more than a year. My dad had made it through four.
Dad married the daughter of a Jewish doctor practicing internal medicine in an underprivileged area of Hawaii and a Japanese woman proficient in Italian culinary arts and French Impressionism.
In a series of strange events, (involving Jack Lemmon and Billy Wilder) my father got into acting and soon became a soap star on General Hospital and pursued a successful career in television. This is such a bizarre story, but true nonetheless. He played Dr. Yank Chung from 1985-1987. His love interest on the show was Tia Carrere (Jade Soong Chung, R.N.). He was the first Asian actor, who wasn’t a martial artist, to attain romantic leading man status in the U.S. During this time he also became a prominent figure in an exceedingly orthodox sect of American Hindus in California, which led to my parents owning and operating their own ashram.
In some weird way this is an extremely common Hollywood story (think Kabbalah or Scientology). I became unique among my siblings—there are seven of us—by undertaking the vows of a celibate monk. I rapidly gained a reputation in the Hindu community for an inherent knack for the memorization and exegesis of sacred texts. My dedication to sexual repression only enhanced the image I had been cultivating of yogic purity.
Soon, I was an overachieving yogi and meditator trying to climb the spiritual ladder to perfect enlightenment. All the while completely terrified that someone would find out that I wasn’t as holy as I appeared.
The beginning of the end of my career as a celibate monk came when I was 21. In June 2003 my father was hospitalized with an aortal dissection (where the main valve of the heart literally separates from the heart muscle) and died eighteen days later.
This was already traumatic for my family, but belonging to a fundamentalist religious community worsened the situation. The community gurus told us that we would be perpetuating a materialistic vision of life if we grieved the loss of our father. According to the gurus, the goal of life was to break the wheel of samsara and attain moksha.
My younger siblings were ordered to dry their tears and be happy for our father, since he was now free from earthly suffering. Because we were a loving family the gurus worried that we had too deep of an emotional bond, which was detrimental to the cultivation of spiritual detachment. My sister was sent to a Hindu nunnery in Southeast Asia and my little brother was sent to Hawaii. By separating us they hoped to break us of our unhealthy familial attachment.
I financially supported my younger siblings by sending monthly checks from the money I made teaching yoga and meditation, and I rededicated myself to monastic life. Soon, I began to fill the role of my father in the Hindu community in Los Angeles by teaching weekly classes on yoga scriptures and meditation. Four years after Dad died, the head guru of the California community proclaimed me fully enlightened.
I was twenty-five. I had achieved the goal, the attainment I had yearned for since I was kid—and it was empty.
In that moment I saw the game, and felt lonely and alone. I realized I’d only been playing a role. The guru was just maintaining the political hierarchy. She had no insight into my heart and she didn’t know my grief. The reputation I gained as a Hindu monk teaching meditation in Southern California and the importance of my family in the history of American yoga made it a really savvy move to promote me up the spiritual ladder. The guru would enhance her legacy through me.
The day after achieving enlightenment, I went out and found a girlfriend. It’s probably the best thing I ever did. I was now a disillusioned monk who felt ecstatic just to hold a girl’s hand. I could have wound up with any woman; this one happened to be a tantric goddess.
This was Psalm. She was married. She eventually left her husband (who is a decent and kind man) to be with me. My abrupt “blooping” (the term my former Hindu community uses for those who leave) and my alleged affair with a married woman was fodder for not only the gossipers but also for the religious leaders.
These religious leaders were intent upon controlling potential fallout in the community after a respected member had denounced its core values. My denouncement was less dramatic than one might hope, I simply began to openly question the meaning and even the existence of spiritual enlightenment. The entire religious faction was held together by a shared belief in the supernatural-enlightened consciousness of the gurus who led the community.
Once I saw through the charade via my own supposed enlightenment, I voiced my doubts publicly. If I hadn’t discredited myself by beginning a relationship with a married woman I might have been heard.
The gurus were concerned that I might still have some influence. They issued a statement declaring me to be not only a fallen monk but also a dangerous threat to Hindu faith. My entire family cut me from their lives and all my friends and former students openly rejected me as a poisonous and possibly evil human being. (The name for this is aparadha, which essentially means “against God.” It is the Hindu version of anathema (in the Catholic faith), and is used to brand someone as a heretic.)
I felt like an outsider. I felt like a counter-cultural weirdo not only in the world of college degrees, corporate jobs, mortgages, and traditional American family life but now, also, in the world of orthodox Hinduism.
So when my girlfriend, Psalm, told me about this ashram in the jungles of central India that practiced complete acceptance of the human being, regardless of lifestyle, I jumped on the opportunity. Psalm was a yoga teacher and had lived at this ashram, Devipuram, the year before.
In late June 2007, we flew to Vishakapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India, to Devipuram. In retrospect I had no idea what I was in for… group sex, girl-on-girl action, and a host of other debaucheries.
To be continued… in part 2
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Editor: Kate Bartolotta
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