Elqui Valley

Profiles > People

In part two, Yama talks about his new life in his native Chile, after the commune years.

A recent photo of Yama
My daughters, Kiara, Celeste, Aurora by the river in Elqui
With my father, Alok, in Olmue, on my 50th birthday
Celebrating my 50th birthday
Yama, around 2012
In Elqui in 1992, just arrived from Pune

When I arrived in Santiago, my friend Devamani, whom I had known for many years, happened to be in Chile and she picked me up at the airport. That evening, she introduced me to a guy who had a vineyard in the north, in the Andes – a place called Elqui Valley.

When we arrived in Elqui Valley, I discovered what a beautiful spot it was, with such a strong energy, and the clearest skies in the world.

My first feeling was that there was a quality of presence. It was so obvious; it felt like being in the ‘presence of a place’ – like one would feel being in the presence of a living Master. I thought, “Wow, there is something here!” even though it was just a very small holiday town.

Many people came here to recharge their batteries. They came from Santiago, from the big cities, from all over the world to spend two or three days. The place had a charisma. I thought I was going to be there only for the weekend, but when my friends were getting ready to leave I decided to stay.

That was a very important moment, because I even had a ticket to go back to India! After being in Elqui Valley for a month, I gave the ticket to my brother, saying, “You know what, we have the same last name, you go to the airport – and you go to India.” He was thirty years old, one-and-a-half years older than me. He had been trying to get out of Chile for many years. Now he took the courage to do it and he used the ticket. And it worked out.

My brother has now been out of Chile for thirty years; he lived in India and later Holland. And in those years he married twice. The most important thing was that, for him, it gave him an opportunity for transformation. It was really important. When in 1982 Garimo had come to Chile and invited us to go and live at the Ranch, the disruption of the family – selling the house and going to some unknown guru in America – hadn’t appealed to him at all. But now he went to Pune and took sannyas. His name is Prem Mouka.

So I stayed on in Elqui Valley, on my own. I started to make a decantamiento, a change in position. I felt that after these ten intense years in the communes, my energy needed to settle. A bit like water; when it is disturbed it becomes muddy but then when it settles it becomes transparent. I built a small shack. I lived in a silent space and allowed things to happen.

I then met a neighbour who was going to become very important for me during this time in Elqui. He had been with a teacher called Silo, who was very well-known in South America in the 1970’s. My new friend, Feña, was twenty-two years older than me. I was twenty-eight and he was almost fifty. He had come to live in the valley about fifteen years before. He was a professor, a perfumist, an artist; very intelligent and sensitive. He was just getting divorced.

We had so many things to share! We came to a point where we decided to do something together. We built an art gallery to show his art, his paintings, his perfumes. My contribution was going to be the architecture. I was going to make an adobe house, out of mud and using natural materials like clay and bamboo. With this technique you can build round houses, like a sculpture, like a pot. The roof I made was a spiral totora, like you would have in Bali. And the entrance was through a tunnel.


So when you arrived in Elqui – from La Serena two hours away, or Santiago six hours away – you could stop at our gallery, entering through this womb which then opened into a new reality. To that we added music. Over the years I had collected a lot of beautiful music, like that of Hari Prasad. We wanted to create an experience of meditation – through art, painting, music – without the visitors even knowing about it. They could feel the harmony, beauty, and silence. And not that you needed to give a rap or some sort of philosophical guidance. No.

So, Feña and I were into this together eventually for about five years. Thousands of people went through the experience of the Galeria de Arte Zen.

Then one day Mardhava, a Chilean friend of mine who had been living in India for many years, invited us, Feña and me and Adan, another friend, to come for a visit to Pune. I had left Pune in April 1992 and this was November 1993. Ah, and a month before we left, Radha had come to visit me in Chile. In Pune we had been a couple for most of the time I was there. She came to Chile and did her first Tantra group. It was the beginning of her life as a Tantra teacher. So, for her it was an important moment also… very pregnant somehow.

So, Feña and I went to India. He stayed two months; I stayed for about six months. I did a Tantra training, which was really transforming for me.

Back in Chile then, I met Copihue.

I had first seen her at the airport when we’d left for India. She is the sister of Adan and she had come to the airport to say farewell to him, together with their father, Anahata, also a sannyasin, a musician. We had given each other a hug, and that hug… that was something… In that hug… something was revealed. So I said to her, “We’ll see each other when I am back.”

That’s when I knew that a new phase was starting. Also my friend Feña knew that I was going to leave the Galleria, that our meeting and our work together was coming to an end. I had to take the next step. So I started inquiring what to do, how to make a living in that place, in the mountains.

I had finished school and left Chile when I was only nineteen. I hadn’t done very much work in the world. I had worked on the Ranch and in Pune, so hadn’t made any money really. I didn’t want to move from Elqui, where we were living, and didn’t want to find just any job. So I started to feel and think, “What am I good at?” rather than thinking what I would like to do.

When I was in Pune I had done a Psychic Massage group with Sagarpriya, and I then gave sessions in the ashram. It’s a really strong method of healing and meditation. So when I arrived in Chile I thought perhaps I could do that in Elqui, but I also realized that the Chilean culture was too repressed. To be on that level of intimacy – and most of my clients were women – was always going to create trouble. I needed to find something else.

One day it came, the revelation, and it was: “Candles! Wow! Candles.” My name is Yama. Osho gave me the name Veet Yama, which means Beyond Darkness, and ‘Yama’ in Spanish means ‘flame’. I was so excited. I felt like things were making sense in a strange way.

After my experience with Osho, the communes and then the years in Elqui – I was nearly thirty-one now – many things had started taking a direction, an unknown direction. And the most important thing was: I really felt a strong urge to share something which is very difficult to share, and that is: presence. For me, living with Osho was basically that. The difference of mind and presence, and no-mind, and that space… love… open-ness. No fear. Openness. I felt that candles, light, colour, shape, and the combination of forms would be a great creative way to share that.

From the very beginning I knew what kind of candles I wanted to make. I felt – and still feel – that candles are one of the most underused instruments of meditation. In Chile people use candles only when the lights go off. I felt, “Why not try to incorporate them in daily life in the house. The flame, the presence gives an ambience, a different quality, to any situation. If you are in a room and you switch off the lights and light a candle, there’s a different quality.

fanales 1

The impact that a candle has is in one sense aesthetic, and in another sense energetic. You can be by yourself, just looking at the flame of a candle, and feel a presence, a company, a warmth, an aliveness, which is different from a TV. That for me made total sense. To be able, in a very subtle way, to enter into people’s lives, into people’s homes, with an energy that will feed them – even without their knowing about it, and with no philosophy behind it. Just with beauty, colour, shape.

So I started searching for somebody who could teach me. I was living in the valley, with no money really and not many people around who made candles. But then by chance I found an old man of eighty, Don Miguel Benitez. A humble man, but very passionate about candle making! He lived on the periphery of Santiago, very far from Elqui.

I phoned him, went to his home and said, “Hello, I have come to learn from you.” He was in the last years of his life. He had been working his whole life making anything out of wax – for instance, a sandwich for an advertisement. He also made candles. A master!

So, many times I went there and we’d spend days together making candles. We’d start work in the morning and end in the evening. Because to make a candle needs time. Imagine, you have a mould, you pour in wax of one colour, then that colour needs to dry. You move the candle to one side, then later pour in another colour, and you let it dry again. So you have to wait. It’s not something that you can do in a rush. Of course, you can make many candles at the same time. If you are interested I can tell you more about candle-making later…

After I had learnt how to make candles, I married Copihue. We moved to Santiago and lived there for three years. I found a very small, two-by-two place in a nice neighbourhood, where I had a small shop selling only candles; open Saturdays and Sundays. Everybody thought I was crazy. I had just married, I had to make a living, pay rent, etc. I had a small bike. And I had all the trust in the world.

That’s where it all started. I sold my first candle there. I kept that shop for ten years. But after three years we moved back to Elqui – we didn’t want to live in Santiago. I had a friend who ran my shop, but in the end it didn’t work out. When somebody else is in the shop, it’s different… That shop was very much about the connection between me and my clients.

I have been making candles for almost thirty years now. I started in 1995. At the time it was important for me that I could support myself from it. Remember, I had three kids…

I feel that my story shows that one can live in the world, live a normal life, do something simple and at the same time share the spirit of what we have been blessed with.


Related article
  • A déjà vuYama’s story (part 1) – as told to Punya – taking sannyas and getting involved in the communes

Punya is the founder of Osho News, author of many interviews and of her memoir On the Edge.

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