Battered and psychologically abused by an alcoholic father and neglected by an equally abused mother, Michael, age seven, descended into rage at the murder of his beloved pet rooster and the death of his adored sister. Consumed by murderous hate, Michael was exiled to an obscure monastery between China and Tibet in the back of beyond, from a place it was assumed he would never return. A very special Buddhist monk,Kako, made it his life's work to reclaim the wreck that was this belligerent boy. It took Kako eleven years to transform Michael into the man of peace and charity he is today. The path was difficult and often seemed impossible as Michael resisted all of Kako's patient teaching. Michael’s transformation was aided by a handwoven soccer ball made from bamboo and coconut skin and a team of young monks who played a game they had never seen before in their lives. By the time Kako passed away at the age of forty-four, Michael was ready to return to a world that had long ago forgotten him. Shinawa: The Story of a Reclaimed Life is the remarkable story of the long and difficult path to Michael's transformation.
There was a thick and verdant forest on the opposite side of the river filled with monkeys and all sorts of birds singing their songs of Mother Nature. We were able to cross over and Kako took me to a place beneath a huge apple tree, telling me it was his favorite spot in the forest. He sat down with his back to the tree as I climbed up high into its branches. When I got as far as I could go, there was a brilliant red apple just within my reach, but the moment I touched the luscious fruit, the Devil came out in me again. Without thinking, I hurled the apple downward, striking Kako on the head so hard it raised an ugly bump. He didn’t flinch or even look up to see where the apple had come from. When I got down out of the tree, I noticed the lump on his head but made no mention of what I had just done. I started walking away and Kako got up to follow me. We walked in the forest for hours until I complained that I was hungry. Without a word, he reached into his robes and pulled out the apple that was all smashed and bloody on one side and handed it to me. “Are you crazy?” I shouted, “I’m not going to eat that bloody mess.” “It was a delicious apple before you decided to destroy it by throwing it at me,” Kako said matter-of-factly in his soft voice. I just stopped in my tracks and stared at him. The object lesson was much more effective than the gong ringer’s stick.
Michael La Vasani grew up in the lap of luxury during the reign of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. At a very early age, Michael developed a longing to fly, an obsession that nearly cost him his life while living with Buddhist monks in the no-man’s land between China, Nepal, and Tibet. Michael La Vasani is a quiet philanthropist who has for years traveled extensively in African countries to set up shelters and programs to benefit children—especially homeless children. Having been abandoned himself as a child; Michael knows firsthand the utter helplessness of throw away children. Michael La Vasani has devoted his life to philanthropic efforts such as digging clean water wells for children of lesser GOD in Africa, providing blankets ( an immense gift from United Airlines) and warm clothing for the homeless in Los Angeles, and giving his time to raise awareness about the prevention of child abuse. Proceeds from Michael’s Book, SHINIWA, go to the Shiniwa Foundation established to aid helpless children worldwide.