It came as a bit of a surprise to me to learn that many later disciples did not know that Donato was actually a man who physically passed away. Donato died of a heart attack at 5:30 am, November 7, 1976, at Crestline, California. These are the events as I recall them.
This was a ‘couple’s seminar’ from the Escondido group, I believe. As usual, the discussion/teaching period extended well in to the night. Donato had made lasagna for the group – he loved to cook. I had gone to sleep already, but as I later learned, after most folks had gone to bed, Donato stayed up and had some more lasagna – probably around 4:30 am or so. He came upstairs to the loft and was lying on his mattress, smoking a cigarette and not feeling well, complaining of indigestion. He asked Tanene to go downstairs and get him some Alka Seltzer or something. He started having the heart attack – he simply said something like, “uh-oh” and passed out. Someone woke me and the image I have in my mind is of Morningstaar and I think, Nasanta, doing CPR. Tanene went to call 911 and asked them to arrive quietly. Sri was sitting across the room watching. The paramedics came up the back stairs – they got there rather quickly as I recall. They were very quiet. I don’t know if Donato ever revived at all. They put him on a board and into the ambulance and off to the hospital. Some of usl followed in a car behind.
They worked on him for quite a while at the hospital, but I don’t really know if the 5:30 time of death is from the heart attack at Crestline (that’s what I think it is, but I’m not sure,) or when he was pronounced dead at the hospital. (Rather doubt that one, but I could, of course, be wrong.) We were all allowed in to say goodbye. I remember kissing Donato goodbye – there was still lasagna on his mouth.
This was, of course, a time of absolute panic for me. How could this be? How could we possibly continue on without him? Had we failed? Had HE failed? Sri was very calm throughout the whole morning. She declined the option to have an autopsy to determine the exact cause of death. She was the strong one – we were all in shock. We stopped at a restaurant on the way back up to Crestline. I remember telling her how scared I was. She was a Capricorn – very good in a crisis – very reassuring and strong. Everything would be ok – this is according to the plan – it was time for him to go – that’s why he has worked so hard to get us ready – it was always his plan to stay behind the scenes and have the gopis out front – nothing has changed except that his body is no longer here – you are still one with him, etc…..
I don’t remember anything else until the funeral. Four days missing there for me. I know I must have dealt with the grief and breaking the news to many, many people, but I don’t remember anything until I see myself standing on that hilltop, next to Melikia, doing a reading on the chart of his death for the crowd. There were many people there from the Boy’s Club (that was where Donato worked as director of the Long Beach YMCA for years,) and I remember thinking – these people are gonna think everyone here is nuts! 🙂 *shrug*
Then the return to the Escondido temple. Suddenly we are all chanting “We are all one with Donato the Christ.” And Sri is telling us we are in the middle of a battle with the dark forces who are trying to close the vortex that Donato blasted open by his Mahasamadhi. We are terrified. There is a traitor among us – it’s Nasantta! What? What on earth is going on? They are literally throwing her out of the Temple! Now, I do recall that there was some kind of trouble going on between Sri and Nasantta in Escondido, but I have no memory as to what it was. All I can say is it threw the fear of Sri deeply in to me to see a gopi tossed out like garbage. No matter what she said to do, that crowd would have done it….. Nasantta quietly left – as if she’d known this was coming somehow…
Next memory is back at Crestline again. Was that the same night? Were we sent out in groups to all three locations? The battle is fully raging – we are chanting continuously – and we did this for four days, I believe. >From Crestline we are getting ‘update’ reports from Sri in Escondido. Just when we’d think it was over, a new ‘wave’ of attack would begin. Did we sleep? Did we eat? I have no idea. Someone remembers Celta freaking out and being taken up to the loft – I don’t even remember Celta being there. I do remember her in Escondido. Possessed? If Sri said so.. it was. I know she had to escape her ‘depossession’ at the hands of Sri and Melikia but when was that? I don’t know. Those details have to remain private, I’m afraid, but I don’t know when that occurred. The timeframe of Celta’s exit from ML is not clear to me at all.
It was almost two years later that the remaining gopis were evicted. As part of the clearing session period – which seemed to have started a few months prior to our eviction – (again, not sure about the timing of events,) suddenly we were under continuous surveillance and criticism from Escondido – we were doing everything wrong, I guess – and we were not ‘in the Oneness’. We were sent to Crestline to clear out our garbage – get in the Oneness or we’d be out. This order was delivered by Melikia – from Sri – and there was this subtle change in associations that had occurred over the last several months. Suddenly there were Brahmans surrounding them – and supposedly these new, closer, male disciples were clearer than the gopis, etc. We spent the weekend tearing in to each other as we’d been taught to do by now… I don’t need to go in to any details there – and truly, I remember little of it anyway. I just remember feeling very good at the end of the weekend – we all felt that we were as close to Oneness as anybody on the planet could possibly be. We waited for our judgement. Melikia arrived with Mohanta, Chang and Benares, I believe. Details? Nope… all I can give you is the feeling most of you would recognize of utter horror as someone began tearing in to you and demolishing your concept of reality by negating it from their position of higher ‘clarity’, etc. Outcome was – you gopis are OUT! Gather your possessions, all Morningland property and meet at the temple at midnight for a ceremony. You will all leave the state within two weeks. You will have no contact with any disciples. You will return to your pre-morningland state of awareness.
Next image – the temple, at midnight. We are standing up on the altar, in our gowns, as I recall. I can’t remember what is said, but it’s a tear-down and ultimatums are given. We remove our medallions and turn them over to Sri. We have brought boxes with our books, tapes, notes, pictures, charts – anything that was Morningland related. I think we sign a paper, but I’m not even sure about that. We leave.
When talking to Gyan on the phone a few months ago, she told me that she showed up in a bright pink outfit – she was going out in style! I don’t recall that. Hers was the medallion that had the stuck clasp and Sri ripped it off her neck. I don’t think that happened to anyone else. That is also how Jim/Choran remembers it. Those who were there besides gopis were Mohanta, Chang, Benares and Choran.
So… I was going to go to Denver with Morningstaar and Karisibane, but went first to my parent’s house where the events I’ve already shared transpired. I don’t know how many days passed before Jim called and asked to talk to me. Doesn’t seem like it was that many. He came to me to verify the things he had heard from Melikia and Mohanta. They were going to oust Sri. That attempt was unsuccessful, as you know – but many folks did leave as of that first night when they tried to close the temple doors.
Some time – feels like about a week – later, Sri called me and in that sweet voice that could soothe your soul, said, “It’s all right now, Pathena, you can come back. Everything is OK.” All I could say was, “I don’t think so, Sri.” And I didn’t…..
Thank you for filling in whatever blanks you can, and I hope this has filled in some for you.
Merry Solstice to you all,