A spiritual journey from Sunol to Oregon, Berkeley, the Midwest and Hawaii

I love the sweet smell of Kilkare Woods. It signals my re-entry to Sunol. Twenty-three years ago, I pried myself away from here and my position as editor of the Sunolian. I now live in a yurt in the Hawaiian rain forest.

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I left Sunol in 1986 for Ashland, Oregon where I bought a house, edited a newsletter, and met my husband, Steve Bohlert. Our initial attraction was writing. He wanted input on his autobiography. But it was his deep spirituality I found most compelling. He shared romantic tales of Radha and Krishna’s “love sports” along India’s Yamuna River. His wasn’t book knowledge … he had lived it.

Steve became a Radha-Krishna devotee at twenty yearsof age. It was the sixties. He chanted at the Avalon Ballroom and Hippie Hill. Steve started eight temples. He preached in London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Bombay. His guru encouraged him to raise funds, recruit disciples, and build temples. Steve yearned for less mundane work and a deeper spiritual connection. He lived in India for three years as an itinerant monk and gained firsthand experience of Radha-Krishna devotion. Steve lived in the holy city of Vrindaban. He was befriended by O.B.L. Kapoor PhD, a prominent devotee, professor, and author. Kapoor confirmed his realization of a higher level of devotional practice than taught by Steve’s guru, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami. Kapoor directed him to Lalita Prasad Thakur, the son and disciple of nineteenth century reformer and Westernizer of Chaitanyaism, Bhaktivinode Thakur.

In 1974, Steve was initiated into the esoteric practices of natural devotion. Steve left India for Honolulu. He acquired an estate for the Krishna Movement from the Ford Foundation. After being sent to Fiji to “build a temple,” he resigned because of his dissatisfaction with the direction of the movement. He left the renounced life and reentered American society on Maui.

When I met Steve he was a family man, and a printer. He was a leader in the progressive Ashland United Church of Christ (UCC) and continued to worship Radha-Krishna. A Methodist pastor remarked, “If Christ equals love and Krishna equals love then Christ equals Krishna.” We progressed from co-workers, friends and business associates, and after the split with his wife, to romance. One day I remarked, “Wouldn’t it be great to be a minister?” By association, I had become increasingly attracted to spiritual life. Steve returned with a file folder of seminary applications. With renewed vigor, he applied to seminary and was accepted. We married and moved to Berkeley.

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In 1991, he graduated with a Master of Divinity and was ordained in the UCC. We moved to Iowa and learned the reality of being a Midwestern pastor. We addressed local justice issues, such as gay rights, homelessness, and de-stigmatizing the mentally ill. The church split, and we were asked to leave. Next came North Dakota with a less receptive congregation. After three years in suburban Grand Rapids, my husband lost his high paying job to find himself.

Steve started an independent ministry with an emphasis on Radha-Krishnaism. With Michigan’s declining economy, we moved to Hawaii, the Big Island’s rainy side to live in “voluntary simplicity.” Steve read “Hindu Encounter with Modernity,” a biography of his grand guru, Bhaktivinode Thakur, and discovered Thakur and he were on the same wave length. British educated, Thakur applied critical thought to the religion, as Steve was doing, with his seminary training. He blogged, refined his autobiography and developed his own theology. About a year ago I suggested he begin his reformed Radha-Krishna theology book.

He agreed and the result is the just released “Universalist Radha-Krishnaism: a Spirituality of Liberty, Truth, and Love.” In it, he redefines Radha-Krishna devotion enabling contemporary Western seekers to establish an eternal loving relationship with the Divine Couple. He presents esoteric Indian spiritual wisdom in plain English from a postmodern, Western perspective.

Philosophy of religion instructor Dr. M. Valle, of Scottsdale Community College (AZ) says, “Bohlert’s approach to spirituality merges Western and Eastern thought by de-emphasizing cultural trappings and literalism, while maintaining a passionate emotional bond with the Supreme Being.”

Nori Muster, author of “Betrayal of the Spirit” says, “As a life long seeker myself, open to both Eastern and Western religious ideas, I consider this book a portal to enlightenment. Bohlert leads the reader up a spiral staircase to the light, winding through the Christian and Hindu faiths as we ascend.”

Universalist Radha-Krishnaism: A Spirituality of Liberty, Truth, and Love’ by Steve Bohlert is available now at Amazon.com and bookstores everywhere. Or check out www.radha-krishnaism.org. Also, www.stevebohlert.com.

Submitted by Jahnava / Geraldine Baldassarre, as appeared in Sunol News, November 2009 (click here to download PDF newspaper spread)


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