My name is Jose (Apatx) Latorre, my Hindu name is Hari Prasad. My story with Mahavatar Babaji is long but very beautiful. I will try my best to make this long story short. It’s just that every detail is such a wonder!
When I was a young boy, before high school, I saw this boy in the city walking down the street and, even though he was a total stranger to me, I could not take my eyes off him. Strangely enough I saw him two more times before we finally met and talked for the
first time when we found ourselves to be classmates at the same high school! So it was as if I had known him forever. We became best friends. He was the first person to show me a book on yoga. So I politely took the book and read some chapters, but all those saints who do not eat, the levitation, the power to read thoughts and all that jazz did not say that much to me. They were like stories from far away places. I was a nature's child and my interests were the mountains and rivers and going back to the land. I married and indeed went to live in the mountains. My family and I lived atop this wonderful mountain in Puerto Rico. We were relatively poor but happy and I was the owner of 8 acres deep down in a canyon bordering on a very nice tropical river.
After some years of such a life I became restless and could not tell why. I was happy but "empty". I knew what I was lacking was the "spiritual" aspect of my love for nature. I rushed to try to find the book that my best friend had given me so many years ago and I found it! The book was "Autobiography Of A Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda. This time I read it avidly. I became mesmerized by the stories of Mahavatar Babaji. I would drive my Jeep to the mountains and shout to the sky saying: "Babaji, you can come to me. Look at these mountains. They are just as beautiful as the Himalayas. Come here!"
I started the basic teachings of Kriya Yoga according to Yogananda's lessons and practiced very hard for more than a year. I learned to slow down my heart beats substantially. So many things were happening to me. I would go behind my house to a clearing in the forest at the top of that mountain and sit in meditation, and two HUGE NIGHT OWLS would fly in and land just in front of me, at NOON, and I would open my eyes and stay still, staring at them for a long while, then close my eyes again to hear them flying away! Then I began to hear the sound of the heart chakra, like temple bells. First like one distant bell and then thousands of them, as if I was in the bell-tower of a cathedral. Then I would get too excited and my heart would begin to beat like a tropical conga drum, and I was back, out of meditation. Right during that week I received my next lesson on Kriya Yoga from Yogananda's Headquarters. It was the lesson about accepting Kriya Initiation after one year of preliminary practices. I could have said yes, fine, but I felt that if what was happening to me was just the preliminary lessons, then I was, honestly, not prepared for Kriya until I could control my heart beats, so that I would not get so excited and fall back from the astral planes. I felt sorry about rejecting the initiation to Kriya but I wanted to be honest. It was useless to try to go to high planes if I was not prepared to control my excitement and my heart beats.
Just when I sadly rejected the Kriya initiation from Yogananda, the most amazing thing happened to me. I had a dream with Babaji! It was not a dream. It was a vision. It was a wonder! Everything in that dream became true in my life and I lived many years in Europe and India just to fulfill what I dreamt that night.
I dreamt that I was lying horizontally on a boulder in the center of a river, deep inside a canyon similar to the one I have my land in. I was completely on my back, over that rock, looking upwards, towards the sky between the canyon's walls. The sky was bright blue but it had some clouds moving across it (I did not know then, but know now that clear skies mean direct, uninterrupted astral visions. My sky was clear but "with some clouds"). In my mind, there on the rock, I had only one thought: "Yogananda, God, Yogananda, God, Yogananda, God" It was as if I wanted Yogananda or God to come and show up! Nothing else was in my mind!
Then something particular happened. Atop of the left canyon wall I saw a group of multicolored, eastern tents (I was to see those same tents all around the 1989 Kumba Mela in India many years later). From them a group of five or six people emerged. All of them were carrying instruments and drums and were playing them in such a happy manner (I learned how to play one of the drums later in life). They were really, really, really happy. All of a sudden, one of them, a fair, young man with long black hair stood at the edge of the cliff, the canyon wall, looking at me down there on the rock in the middle of the river. I was looking back at him when he extended his arms outward, like Jesus on the cross, and let himself fall down into the abyss. I freaked out and covered my face with my two hands as I did not want to see him fall onto the river boulders and kill himself. "He is killing himself" I thought. But when I removed my hands from my face, to my surprise, He was just floating over the river waters in lotus asana (There is no death, I understood)! I stood up on the rock and automatically jumped onto the river, walking over the water to go look at Him. I was not familiar with any protocols for the situation. I actually was standing taller in front of Him over the water. First I glanced at His lean legs, then at His heart, and then at His eyes (which is a visual pranam).
Now, when I saw this Man's eyes, something unexpected occurred. You know, your mother may know you quite well, maybe your friends know you better than your own family. Nevertheless, there is always something that is very, very yours, that nobody really knows about you, something not even you yourself can put your finger on, but you know that nobody, nobody knows that part of you. When I stared into this Man's eyes I SAW that HE KNEW me sooooooo well, better than I knew myself. It was like ME looking at MYSELF! Standing there I asked: "Who is my Guru?". That was a weird question, actually. I always thought Yoganada was my Guru. Why was I asking that? The Man gave me a stern glance and said: "No, not your Guru. You should ask- "Who is my Guror"? (this is obviously my mistake in using the wrong words in sanskrit, the language of the Devas). I felt ashamed and said: "Sorry, I said it the way I read it in the books". I looked back at Him and He was smiling again! Then another great thing happened. I, who was standing over the water in front of Him, jumped into the water. Then I extended one arm out with my hand opened. In a circular motion I began to splash the river water all around me like in a water dance. This may sound like nothing to you, but it was a real miracle! We humans talk about perfection and strive everyday to do our best in everything we do. But we always fall short and fail; so short on the job, so short in our arts, so short with our families. There is always a distance to go, a fence to mend, a limit somewhere. Sometimes even in the midst of success we may find a disappointment, an imperfection. My Dance, my simple water dance, instead...was PERFECT...absolutely....perfect! I was spreading every single drop of water in the most perfect and graceful way ever possible. Perfect numbers of drops were making beautiful, perfect ripples over the water surface, I was perfectly splashing the water in my perfect, wet, dance of perfect circles! I just did three perfect rounds, but that moment of perfection remains eternal for me! It is useless to try to explain. Nothing about Babaji is to please the mind, The mind is often the obstacle. What we feel in His presence comes from the heart. From that place within that is even behind the mind. That place is perfect!
As astonishing as this dream already was, the best part was yet to happen. From the water, after my dance, I gazed at Him and He was smiling at me with His priceless smile. His face conveyed a message to me like saying: "You see! You are Perfect!" This moment of realization was very sweet indeed.
Then, all of a sudden, a force pushed me out into the water and I began to drift down the river without any control, hitting and bouncing against the river's boulders and rocks. This part of the vision refers to karma that takes me into "the main stream" and away from my teacher. I remember thinking: "I have to stop this. I have to go back to that Man". Immediately I stopped bouncing down the river and began to walk my way back to the place where I had left Him. The dream was so unbelievably clear that I ACTUALLY jumped back over the boulders and up the river until I reached the rock I had been lying on at the beginning of the vision.
Standing on that rock I saw Him again at the river’s shore. This time the five other people were behind Him too. I did not know how they got there. Maybe they threw themselves from the cliff like the Man had. I was speechless, looking at the Man and his companions behind Him by the river shore. Standing there I dropped my arms by my side, with my palms turned forward (the position of surrender and non-violence) and internally I said "I do not know You but I know you are The Man. If you are going to do something do it now". Then, OH, My God, He did. He raised His arm and waived it towards Him in a gesture meaning "come". Immediately I was transported to ANOTHER PLANE, a place MUCH MORE REAL than earth. It was a forest made of pure light! Everything in this forest had a light of its own! I did not look up to the sky because the sun was redundant. Everything was glowing with a beauty beyond descriptions. Gone forever was the world behind me. The world and everything regarding it. Gone was my name, my kids, my family, my country, the lovers, my pains, all the relationships, and all the struggles. I was awoken. All, all of that was a dream! I was living in a dream world that looked so real and was just that, a dream. At last it was gone. I was AWAKE! The dream was over! I looked at myself and noticed that I was all naked but for a pure light, white, loin cloth covering my waist and legs. I was barefoot and my body itself was made of light. I looked at my hands and my feet. They were luminescent and yet not radiant. My body was made of compacted particles of beautiful, colored light. Topping this visual paradise was the most overwhelming sensation of joy, this BLISS, that I was feeling from INSIDE-out. It was absolutely overwhelming. I could not see my face but I knew my mouth was wide open as I was caught in awe! A torrent of new information was filling my Self. I "knew" that this was a paradise but not the only one. I "knew there were others. I "knew" I was closer to the "Source". There was this all-encompassing deep "electrical" vibration sounding all over, but never annoying. I "knew" also that that place was a "step" on the way. All this I knew very suddenly from the inside. I looked in front of me and there was the Man again. He was wearing a pure white robe of light and He was smiling. His companions were behind Him too. It was all light! Behind them and into the forest there was a path. At the end of the path, in the distance, was a mountain (Kumaon Kailash I discovered years later). From the mountain top a river was flowing. In its way down the mountain the river stopped three times, forming three lakes. I "knew" these three lakes were three worlds. The Man turned and started walking along the path towards the mountain. His companions followed Him. I started walking with them but I could not keep up with their pace. I was very distracted with the visuals (can you blame me?) and they were walking fast! I saw a little town of white houses at the side of the path (I saw it again when I visited India. It was Haidakhan). I was getting farther and farther behind the group, and then an obstacle appeared on the way. All of a sudden a man and a bull were fighting in the middle of the path. I could not pass because of the fight. The man had the bull by the horns and they were fighting heads on. Beyond, I could see the group still walking, but now they were dressed in Western clothes. They were not in the forest but in another place (the place turned out to be Babaji's ashram at Cisternino, Italy, where I was to go and live many years later). The companions were coming to my help. The Man opened a door and entered inside (the door was that of the Temple at the ashram). I was slowly descending into the normal dream world again, but before it was over I was given a message (coded in the form of light colors) of hope for the future! At that moment I woke up from my vision and came back into this dream-world.
Everything that I saw in the vision became true in my life. Many of the symbols which I saw in the vision have taken different meanings as I transit and grow older in this life of mine. Babaji has given me so much. When I arrived at Haidakhan in 1988, fulfilling the dream, I was initially sad that Baba had left. Then I understood even more the blessing of having had His darshan in the astral planes the way I had. There I saw Babaji without the constrictions of the physical body and in great splendor. He has always guided me this way. The inner way. When I need Baba's physical presence then I look at all His devotees who carry Him so dearly in their hearts and who always are there for me when I need it.
Bhole Baba Ki Jai! Jai Maha Maya Ki Jai!