Saturday, July 14, 2018

Education of a Chicano Part III A Spiritual Awakening by Antonio SolisGomez

author during the time covered in this writing

Despite being baptized as a Catholic no one in my family ever attended church and I grew up never giving religion much thought. By the time I was a young man I had read about some of the Catholic Church’s failings to be convinced that it was fraught with too many inconsistencies to be something I could embrace. I also did not have a good understanding of the concept of God and therefore I decided that I was an agnostic.

The woman I married on the other hand had attended a Christian Church from early childhood and when she asked if our marriage ceremony could take place in her church I said yes as I really didn’t care one way or the other. I was also indifferent to our two children attending church with her, thinking that as adults they could decide one way or another.

What gave my life purpose, in addition to my family, was El Movimiento and the publication of Con Safos Magazine. I spent countless hours with the men on the editorial staff, laying out the magazine, entertaining visitors to our workshop that was Ralph Lopez’ basement atop Rose Hill behind Lincoln High School and attending community meetings and functions. It was a heady time as we were being lauded for the magazine’s content, a potpourri of short stories, social political articles, cartoons, photographs and illustrations, all imbued with barrio humor and outlandish commentary.

I was somewhat ignorant of Literature in Spanish. In college I had read Miguel Unamuno, Garcia Lorca, Azuela, Juan Rulfo, Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz but not many of the other Latin American authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Pablo Neruda which I started reading along with the emerging Chicano writers such as Anaya, Rechy, Ron Arias, Acuña and of course Oscar Acosta.

A great spiritual change took place for me in 1969. In addition to the drinking of wine most of us smoked marijuana but drugs that were hallucinogenic were never taken as a group. But I was curious about LSD and at the time there was a British musician who was my neighbor who offered me some and I took it. Immediately I became frightened because I saw myself merging into the universe, losing all sense of my identity. In that instant I beheld a vision of a matrix with plus and minus numbers and at the place where zero belonged, sat the Buddha, serene, legs crossed in the Lotus position. I immediately understood that he was representative of God, not God but a symbol of God. I also realized that every individual is represented on that matrix by numbers unique to that person and that God is at the very center.

I had some acquaintance with Buddha because I had read Hermann Hesse’s book Siddhartha and had run across him in my readings on Chinese poets and in Alan Watts’ book The Way of Zen, which I was not able to grasp, but there was never a moment were I felt connected to Buddha. However I knew after my LSD trip that God exists and that realization has never wavered.

My intellectual life, my community involvement and my work on the Con Safos Magazine came crashing down on me in the early 1970’s when I came to realize that El Movimiento was being exploited by many self serving individuals. The Movimiento was replete with rhetoric about Raza education, health care, housing, jobs, etc, but when it came right down to it most of the Chicano leadership wanted some of the high paying jobs that Johnson’s War on Poverty money was providing. And Chicanos could be as bureaucratic and as insensitive as any of the former Anglo administrators that we had sought to replace.

Sure I was naïve and in many ways I was, as described by Eric Hoffer in his book The True Believer. I had staked my life’s purpose on El Movimiento and there were chinks in my ideal. I was thrown into a tailspin and I tumbled around in a daze for the next few months. I quit my job at the International Institute and enrolled in a master program in urban anthropology at UCLA with a small stipend. I was in a daze and literally have no recollection of my time at UCLA and still have unpleasant dreams about taking exams for classes I never attended. I quit UCLA and took a job with the LA County Health Department, helping with immunization clinics. While driving on the San Bernardino Freeway to pick up an immunization gun I saw among the clouds the face of Christ.

It seemed to me that the universe was throwing me a lifeline during that tumultuous time when I was very weak mentally from questioning deeply the meaning of life and my individual purpose. After that vision I was compelled to seek out the words of Christ in the New Testament and those passages gave me great solace.

Remembering my connection to the Buddha I began attending lectures at the Theosophical Society, whose mission was to introduce the spiritual teachings of the East to Westerners. In one of those lectures I was introduced to the Bhagavad Gita. I bought a copy and I couldn’t believe what great wisdom was contained in those verses.

Armed with the New Testament and the Bhagavad Gita I slowly began to regain my mental and psychic strength. I still had a family to support and I took a job as a teacher in a community bilingual preschool supported by Father Luce and the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany. I hunkered down in that preschool, away from all the hullabaloo of the Movimiento now in its death throes along with the protests against the Vietnam War, which Nixon was ending.
Self Realization Headquarters on Mt. Washington, Los Angeles

My house on the lower western portion of Mt. Washington had a good view of my former Lincoln Heights neighborhood, of Elysian Park and of the railroad yard from whence came the clanging of boxcars being coupled that drifted up with the breeze. One fall day sitting on my porch enjoying the unobstructed view, the local community newspaper, the Bulleting News was delivered. As I thumbed the pages I came upon a small add with the photograph of Paramahansa Yogananda, a smiling man with long black hair. The wording claimed that Self Realization used the original teachings of Christ in the New Testament and the Bhagavad Gita. I was stunned to have before me something that my heart longed to encounter, a teaching based on those two sources that were helping me regain my strength.

I began visiting the Self Realization Temple on Sunset on Thursday nights to hear a lecture and on Sunday for their regular service. I bought Yogananda’s spiritual classic Life of a Yogi and read it in two days. The night I finished the book I slept soundly for the first time in many months.

On my own I had already become a vegetarian and had given up alcohol both of which SRF recommended. And I began learning meditation, the cornerstone of those teachings from India.

A final surprise awaited me when I learned that the Self Realization headquarters sat atop Mt. Washington, a place that yearly offered the community a free Halloween Festival and one that I always took my two children to enjoy. How could such disparate events come together to form a unified direction? The old saying “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear” certainly seemed to apply to my case.

It was through meditation and the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda that I was finally able to rid myself of low self esteem and to walk this earth with full confidence that God resides in me as well as in all others.

Lao Tzu is credited with saying when the student is ready the teacher will appear. When the student is truly ready..the teacher will disappear. I was glad to have found this addition to the quote that I used earlier as I have had some guilt about not attending SRF functions, having made a break at the inception of the great shift of 2012. I still utilize the meditation techniques of SRF but the organization has not incorporated the understanding that in 2012 humanity entered a new age.

My education continues primarily by reading channelings given by Steve Rother, Lee Carroll, Patricia Diane Cota Robles, Lauren C. Gorgo all of whom can be found on the Internet. I also rely on for information regarding this new age, which will be characterized by peace, empathy, compassion, tolerance, unity and love. We are at the inception and the old ways are fighting tooth and nail to retain what has been in place for thousands of years namely, separation into exclusive groups, war and violence as a means of obtaining advantages, intolerance of differences, indifference and/or disregard for others, and rigid social stratification.

No comments: