Allow me to tell you a story about one of my oldest and dearest friends here in Costa Rica, an Italian by the name of Rodolfo. I introduce him to folks as my “Padrino,” which is “godfather” in Spanish. He’s been living in Costa Rica for thirty-two years, since 1990.
When we first met in a tiny Caribbean town called Cahuita, he owned and ran an Italian restaurant where I often ate with a handful of my employees on the weekdays. After several intriguing postulations over plates of pasta, our relationship grew to the point of me calling him my friend, something I rarely do.
We could not be more different when it comes to our life paths. I’ve spent my life more or less in the corporate world – he’s been a bar, club, and restaurant owner for most of his time in Costa Rica. Since I was a child, I’ve been searching for the Divine, and Rodolfo will readily tell you he doesn’t believe in God, much less any religion.
Yet, he’s an excellent friend, and we get along fabulously!
Why? He’s honorable. He’s never lied to me (or anyone else that I can tell). He knows how to be fair. His word is gold. He’s constantly saying positive things about me and others behind our backs – spreading good gossip. Over some jungle creepy, he’ll tell you a thousand funny and compelling life-lesson stories. Plus, Rodolfo is pretty much always in a good mood, prepared to dance. The party can start the moment you get ready because he already is! He just invited us to his 2022 week-long, 60th birthday celebration – seriously.
He lives close to the entrance of one of Costa Rica’s national parks. Whenever I visit, we take walks together at sunrise and talk like two teenage girls for sixty to ninety minutes. Sometimes we hike in the park, and other times we walk on the shoulder of the “highway” folks use to access that part of the country. Occasionally we’ll stroll through one of the small towns near his home.
While we’re exercising, people pass walking, in cars, and on bicycles. It feels like ninety percent of them know Rodolfo. He smiles, waves, and greets everyone – if they don’t beat him to it first. His favorite nickname to call folks is “campeón,” which means “champion” in English. But no matter what he calls you, it’s uplifting and encouraging. It isn’t something he does – it’s who he is.
Whether walking on the road, buying groceries, going for a haircut, at the bank, or even at a government institution, Rodolfo is patiently, invariably loving folks. He knows everyone’s family story just like a good pastor. Regardless of race, creed, or station in life – there’s a smile, a hand, and a hug for you if you’ll accept it. He’s got time and wisdom for people society has ignored.
When we’re out there walking on the highway, Rodolfo reminds me of when Maharaj-ji says, “Everywhere I look, I see only Ram (God), and that is why I’m always honoring everything.” He’s an atheist who loves everybody to the best of his ability. His religion is nature. His creed is honesty and honor. Everywhere he looks, his eyes search for something positive – love. And what is God? I told you earlier that our life paths weren’t anything alike. Yet it seems we relate to the Source in very similar ways.
There’s no need to read the Bible if you can accomplish just one thing Jesus taught – “love your neighbor as yourself.” Rodolfo gets up every day and does his best to put this into practice. He’s not perfect – just trying – and that’s a helluva lot more than most folks. He has a smile even for those that have done him very wrong – I’ve seen it.
Maharaj-ji teaches, “Constant repetition of God’s name, even without feelings of Devotion, in anger or lethargy, brings out His Grace. Once this is realized, there is no room for misgivings.”
Guess what? If you act like God, you get God’s grace (blessing, darshan) even if you don’t believe in Him/Her/It!
You just have to try to Love.
Once a devotee asked Maharaj-ji what mantra he should use. “The mind can’t concentrate. Use any mantra – use it, use it,” repeated Maharaj-ji.
Your mantra can simply be Love.
People worry and fret about what diety, spiritual tradition, mantra, or practice is the “right” one, the one with the most truth…or personal benefits. Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed, Guru Nanak, Baba Neem Karoli, Mother Nature – doesn’t matter. If a person genuinely loves one of these Beings, they love everybody – and if they don’t, they don’t.
Don’t tell me about your God – show me how often and profoundly you can agape others and how happy you can keep your heart…like Rodolfo does. There is no study of the Bible or the Gita, but lots of wisdom, love, patience, and contentment nonetheless.
The same Soul is indeed encompassing us all.
Recently, Rodolfo asked me to borrow “Be Here Now.” When he returned it, I asked him his thoughts. He said, “It’s full of good philosophy and wisdom, but I got lost in the religious stuff.” I thought to myself, “that’s for damn sure! Don’t we all?”
The seasoned Italian is retired from selling lasagna but is hard at work being intentionally kind and encouraging to every Soul that touches his, “leading a simple life in a simple environment,” as Maharaj-ji guides us to do…
What’s the priority of your agenda?
Walk the talk. Love is a verb.
Jai Shri Ram!