When Kris read the letter to him, Mahārāja thought it was the most spiritual thing he had ever heard. Upon receiving Prabhupāda’s letter, Kris had returned to the US, joined the temple in San Francisco as a brahmacārī and taken initiation from Śrīla Prabhupāda. After a couple of months however, he left and fell back into his old habits. He went back to see his friends in San Diego and finally decided to move to the Banana Patch. Kris recounted stories to Mahārāja such as how he was there when the first mṛdaṅga arrived from India and how Prabhupāda tore some of his saffron cloth to cover the drum. Kris also taught Mahārāja how to chant japa.
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: Kris explained to me how to offer food to Kṛṣṇa and told me about fasting on Ekādaśī – every once in a while, he would tell me it was Ekādaśi and I’d say, “Cool!” and we would follow Ekādaśī (whatever that was!). Actually I was already following Ekādaśī every day because I was a fruitarian during that time. If we ever did cook anything, myself and Kris would cook in David’s kitchen.
Since Hawaii was a welfare state, Mahārāja and Kris would get food stamps from the government. They would hike out to little towns on the island, and with their stamps they would purchase basic amenities such as toothpaste etc, and spend the rest of their stamps on honey.
One morning, while Mahārāja was in his shack meditating, he heard the shrill screams of the gigantic Hawaiian at David’s ranch house. Mahārāja ignored the yelling until he suddenly heard a loud crackling sound. Opening the trap door and jumping down, he looked towards David’s residence. The big Hawaiian was standing on the verandah wailing and flailing his flabby arms frantically, while Kris’s bamboo and timber tree house was engulfed in flames. Mahārāja saw Kris walking towards him with a bag over his shoulder. He was leaving and for reasons only known to him, had decided to burn down his hut before going. He came up to Mahārāja, they said their goodbyes and they never saw each other again.
Mahārāja and the other residents of the Banana Patch continued with their idyllic lives, but meanwhile David Joseph became embroiled in a legal battle. Local authorities in Maui claimed that Joseph was guilty of 28 violations concerning building codes, land use laws and health regulations. The old man faced $15,000 in fines and two years in jail. Local police conducted frequent raids on The Patch to intimidate David Joseph and the residents, and many court cases ensued. In the meantime, Mahārāja had been visiting an āśrama in Haiku known as the Haiku Meditation Center whose members chanted Hare Kṛṣṇa.
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: I used to frequent there at least once or twice a month. They would have these seminars, and they were a good canvassing group. You didn’t necessarily enter at the bottom. You entered according to whatever spiritual state you were already in. Not many newbies to spirituality ended up at at the Haiku Meditation Center. It had some principles, it had some leadership – of course, it was all whacky, but it had something.
People from the Center used to come to the Banana Patch every once in a while and have bhajanas and kīrtanas. They would wonder through the commune in a trail of people and they would chant. I got to know them and every time I heard them coming I would chop up a bunch of bananas and pineapple, have them over to my hut and we would have a feast.
Mahārāja’s yoga practice, chanting japa and meditation had given him a view of where he wanted to go in life and what he wanted to do. Yet he didn’t really have a guru, He knew that such things existed, but where could you find a guru in Maui in 1969? There was the teacher at the Zen Do and the visiting Tai Chi master, but they were not what he was looking for. For Mahārāja, yoga meant guru – not a Zen teacher, a Tai Chi master, a pastor, or a preacher.
Narasiṅgha Mahārāja: I didn’t really have a yoga-guru. I had a book and had picked up whatever I could along the way from others. But if you don’t have a proper yoga-guru then you could get in trouble! You could choke to death, strangle yourself, get a serious cramp and get locked in a contorted position which could cause you some serious damage. In fact, that is what happened to me at the Banana Patch while doing pūrṇa-matsyendrāsana (a full spinal twist). I had done it before, but somehow one morning while doing that, I lost my balance and the joint in my knee popped right out of its socket. I lay flat for a while and could hardly walk for days. My knee never recovered from that.
In the two or three months that my knee was healing I had more time to spend on the other things, because my āsanas were over for a while. While I was doing some prāṇāyāma, I found a nice little cave in a cliff overlooking the ocean. I planned it all out – I took enough fruit and coconut water to last what I thought would be about a week, and I repelled down this cliff and into this cave to meditate. I lasted three days. I was trying to meditate on Oṁ, but I soon found out that I wasn’t ready for that stage to go and meditate in absolute solitude.
The peaceful life of yoga and meditation that he initially found at the Banana Patch was slowly being eroded by the legal struggles between the Joseph family and the local authorities. Furthermore, due to his knee injury, Mahārāja could not continue with his daily yoga practice. He had already made several close friends among the leading members of the Haiku Meditation Center, so after thanking David Joseph for his hospitality, he decided to leave The Patch and move there.