In the Tibetan mountains, Lakshmi Devi was on a quest to find inner peace and ran into Premananda Deva, a teacher of philosophy, yoga and spirituality. Now the two teach the ways of the New Future Society out of their Springfield home, offering methods of mind, body and spirit freedom through yoga, massage, shiatsu, magnetism, metaphysical initiation, and "esoteric methods for achieving one-mindedness and cosmic consciousness," according to their literature.
Devi, who goes by "Lakshmi," remembers when they met in 1994.
"I wasn't really looking for spirituality. I had enough of the rat race. It was a saving grace that I met Deva. I was down by the Ganges, where the water was clear. There were all these swamis," Lakshmi said.
In the mountains, she was hanging out with a swami dressed in Ocher robes, living in caves, when she met Deva in the Tibetan community of Dharamasala.
Deva reached a level of enlightenment in 1960 when he met teacher Ananda Devi in a cafè called Nirvana. Her former name was Lydie Bastien. She gave Deva his spiritual name, and he in turn gave Devi her name. Ananda Devi died in 1994 when Deva met Lakshmi, and the two traveled the world, speaking the truth, as they called it.
"She was able to become a free soul," Deva said. "We traveled. We are the only ones that teach Tibetan yoga."
Deva has several books now and offers classes in Springfield as well as some new-age churches in the area. One church they frequently give talks at is the "Institute of Spiritual Development" in Washington, D.C. Deva's next book, "The Illumined Mind," is due to be published soon.
"We're very concerned with the state of people's mental status. We are naturopathic healers. Yoga becomes their main stay. They walk out a changed person," Deva said.
"So many people are coming to us on antidepressants," Lakshmi said.
Past students, Deva claimed, are German notable Maria Von Braun and former South Dakota Sen. Larry Pressler. On their Web site, the pair lists quotes praising the classes, but only initials are used for attribution. Many didn't want their names used, Lakshmi said. They get students from their talks, as well as meeting people on the streets. Deva feels there is a telepathic purpose when they meet people.
"We feel we are in certain places to meet people," he said.
"Sometimes people come to us from the Internet," Devi added.
Savritri Bach has been a student of Deva and Devi for the past five years. She taught yoga for 20 years before meeting them, and now she feels the yoga she experienced in the past was not even close to what they teach. Bach compared it to the contagious nature of enthusiasm.
"All that I had learned was just a drop in the bucket compared to what I learned from them," she said. "I actually learned to live in the state of yoga. My consciousness is enjoyed 24 hours a day."
Deva and Lakshmi admit that they do run into a fair share of skeptics. Some keep them at an arm’s length.
"The majority of people respond to us like that," Lakshmi said. "There are a lot of phony new-age people."
Bach experienced that as well when she tried to tell others about what she has learned.
"There are many [skeptics]. Some are only interested in their own agenda. Most times it's only one person in the couple that it helps," Bach said.
Franconia resident Parvati Woodworth was one of those skeptics. She saw Deva on Fairfax Channel 8 and met with the two, but shied away because of her busy schedule. Woodworth made the time, though, and now goes four times a week.
"I've grown as a person," Woodworth said. "I've become a much kinder, wiser person. There's a very calming presence being in front of the teacher."
Deepok Chopra, teacher of restored awareness, coincidence and the powers within, is another author Deva found similarities with.
"Ours is more advanced," he said.
IN THE EARLY YEARS, Deva owned three restaurants in Paris and met with figures of the "Beat Generation," to discuss philosophy.
"I knew all of them from the beat generation. I was friends with Allen Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and Langston Hughes," Deva said.
The pair noted how expensive it is to live in this area, compared with India. In addition to India and Paris, they have done lecture tours around the United States as well as England, Rome, Berlin, Katmandu in Nepal, and Cairo, Egypt. This March, they have a trip to India planned and have spoken to the president of India about the trip, Deva said.
"In India, we offer most of our services for free," Lakshmi said. "Here we need more money to live. You just say, 'I'm a spiritual person seeking the truth,' and they'll [Indians] take you."
Lakshmi feels the world of computer games and reality shows has taken away the spirit to strive for the best.
"No one is ready to revolt, too," she said. "Materialism has made everyone complacent."