Sometime shortly after April Celebrations 1987, I stepped into Guru Health Foods for a snack after work.
Ashrita was working behind the counter and there were a few other customers in the store, including a guy who sang in the boys' singing group with me. His name was Premik.
"He Yogaloy," Premik said. "You know anyone looking for a room to rent."
Although Premik was in the Connecticut Center (which actually met in Queens with all the other local Centers) and worked at a disciple-run restaurant in Greenwich, he lived just a few blocks from the Smile.
I'd never been in the house where he lived, but it looked big on the outside and inconspicuous. Unlike many of the disciple-owned houses in Jamaica which were painted bright blue, Premik's place was pale yellow and indistinguishable from the others on the block.
The only other thing I knew about the house was that during the day, another disciple (who I think owned the house) ran a small mail order business which sold gift items (like high-end maple syrup) out of the home's first floor living room. But instead of running the business himself, this guy employed a female disciple to run it.
I was interested in the room. At the time, I was still living at Mangal's -- who I liked -- but the landlords there lived downstairs and were disagreeable.
Premik told me the rent and that he and I would be the only people in the house, except for Celebrations. Narada, he said, also rented a room, but would only be around a few times a year. Within just a few minutes, it seemed that we had a deal. That's when Ashrita chimed in.
"Yogaloy," he said, "I think you should ask Guru's permission before you move there."
"Why," I asked, a bit incredulously.
"Because there are girls working in that house," he responded.
I was immediately agitated. First, from day one, my relationship with Ashrita was what you might expect between two spiritual type-A personalities. I always held Ashrita in high regard, but that didn't mean I wanted his advice.
Second, I was still brooding about Guru's warning to me, which, of course, had been delivered to me by Ashrita. Third, and probably most important to me, I generally didn't ask Guru questions. Period.
I particularly despised the idea of asking Guru questions about the everyday minutia of life: can I move? should I take this job? can I watch TV? may I have a pet? I mean, for God's sake people!
I understood the impulse of such questions. The point of the guruvada is to surrender oneself to the guru, heart and soul. Why wouldn't a disciple put every decision no matter how inconsequential to the master? I thought of the issue differently, though. My orientation -- and I wasn't unique in this regard -- was to avoid adding, in any way, to Guru's everyday burden. Not pestering him with mundane questions was one way to help.
Plus, I always saw discipleship as a means to a goal, not as the goal itself. And that goal was to become what I think can accurately be described as the Supreme Individual. Surely, a prerequisite to divine maturity is the ability to make decisions for oneself.
That's why I was feeling agitated at Ashrita's suggestion that Guru be consulted about my prospective move. Figuring Ashrita was going to mention it to Guru anyway, I said fine, go ahead and ask. A day or two later, Guru said that the move would be fine.
Premik is a great guy and was a great roommate for the next year and a half or so. While his day job was restaurant manager, he was a highly accomplished jazz musician. I had seen his name -- Russell Tubbs -- even before becoming a disciple on the liner notes of some great jazz fusion albums. For some reason -- perhaps the soul in his saxophone -- I had always thought Premik was African-American.
Outwardly, at least, Premik is in fact as white as can be. He's tall and ultra-skinny. His slight build was in inverse proportion to his daily caloric intake; the more he ate -- and he ate a lot -- the skinnier he seemed to become.
At its root, Premik means love, love for God. He's a truly good man and I've been blessed to know him. (Check out Premik's myspace page here.)