Don’t Fight the River

The first indication that my life was about to change was the engine in my Cadillac El Dorado blowing up in Shreveport, Louisiana. I was at the end of a road trip taking orders for waterbed products. I took a bus back to Kansas City.

The second was when I learned that while away, my friend Charlie, my parakeet, had been killed by the cat that belonged to my friends who were house-sitting.

Charlie was a real character and he used to fly out of his always-open cage and land on my nose to wake me up in the morning. That’s what did him in. Charlie had been given to me by Scottie. Scottie was my oldest friend, not that I had known him the longest, but he was over 60. I was in my early twenties. He had named Charlie after Charlie Parker, a personal friend of his. Scottie was into Jesus, Jazz, going to the horse races, and smoking pot.

The final straw, however, was that my apartment was broken into. The thieves took my stereo and speakers but very fortunately left my album collection. I could either fight or let-go and go with the stream. I decided on the latter and endeavored to get ahead of the curve.

Soon, everything that had any value, which wasn’t much, really, had been sold. It mostly consisted of the records and two Chinese rugs. The money was going to Europe with me. I was leaving behind my interest in a business that I had built up over the past two years. I wasn’t even going to tell the other principals involved; they could have what was left. I was concerned that I might be persuaded to change my mind.

We had been applying for an SBA (Small Business Administration) loan in order to take our waterbed frame manufacturing business to the next level. We were getting orders, I had brought back plenty, but we needed capital in order to produce at a level that we made money on our sales. When the SBA loan fell through, I knew that meant we would have to drop back and punt. But I was burnt out. I had had a nervous breakdown at 21. I was drinking 10—12 cups of coffee a day and smoking three packs of cigarettes. If this was life, I wasn’t interested. I was ready to chuck it all in and go to Europe with whatever cash I could assemble and see what happens.

Six hundred dollars is what I would be landing in Luxembourg with after buying a cheap Icelandic Air flight. The last ride I got, hitchhiking to New York was with the equipment truck for the rock band Seals and Crofts. Here was the first sign of what lay ahead. Seals and Crofts were into Baha’i and the driver of the van was a devotee of the young Guru Maharaji.

Soon, I was lying in the grass on the side of the road waiting for the sound of a car so I could jump up and stick out my thumb. The destination for the day was not known only the direction; in the meantime I was feeling the ground beneath my back, smelling the green grass and listening to the sounds of the birds flying nearby. I was reminded of Saint Francis.
Here, in stark contrast, was the difference between becoming and being.

-purushottama

This story is from a collection of stories and essays from along the Way titled From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva.

Kopan and Kathmandu

It was the most amazing New Year ever, crossing into Nepal in a bullock cart at sunrise. The sky was ablaze, the haze and dust in the air heightened the reds and oranges of the sun. It was New Year’s Day, 1976, sure to be a super year, and as it turned out, it was.

During that last term in Madagascar I heard from my friend Peter. He was now in Nepal studying Tibetan Buddhism with Lama Yeshe at the Kopan Monastery in Kathmandu. Randy Dodge, who was still living at the house, was attracted to going to India and Nepal. He had been practicing Yoga for several years and was also interested in Buddhism. I was interested in Nepal but somehow fearful of India. I knew deep down that it could grab me and not let me go. By this time, Voahangy had gone to Brussels to join her U.N. boyfriend. Rickey was making arrangements to go to university in France. Randy and I were busy changing Malagasy francs into U.S. dollars with the Indian money changers and making preparations for our trip to the sub-continent.

Randy and I had discovered that there was an Indian passenger ship that traveled from Mauritius to Bombay and so made plans to go to Mauritius and leave for India from there. I said goodbye to my home for two years and a people that will forever hold a special place in my heart.
Thirty-three years after first arriving in Madagascar, I finally made a trip back with my wife, Amido in 2006. She loves the place as much as I do. Many things looked the same, although Tana was a bit of a shock. In 1975, the population of Madagascar was around eight million; in 2006, it was sixteen million and most of those are now in Tana. I have never seen so many kids.

The ship we took had several classes of travel. I think Randy and I took the next to last. It was not too bad really, dormitory style with bunk beds. The food was good. There was both a vegetarian line and a non-vegetarian line. We used the vegetarian line for lunch and dinner and the non-veg for breakfast because we wanted eggs. The trip took several days and on the way we were treated to Indian movies. That was the first time I had ever seen a Bollywood production. Treated is probably not very accurate because the sound system was terrible and it was way too loud. The days were spent on the deck watching the sea go by and reading Herman Hess’s The Glass Bead Game. So, after another trip across the Indian Ocean we arrived in Bombay, India.

In Bombay, we stayed at the Salvation Army Hostel. On the streets were quite a few wasted westerners wandering around. We didn’t really expect that to be our fate but it was a good heads up. We were both interested in getting up to Nepal as soon as possible and decided to take a train out to a good place to begin hitchhiking from. We didn’t see any reason why we couldn’t hitch in India. On our very first ride we had a surprise. A truck stopped. It was open in the back and we just needed to climb up and jump in. We threw our backpacks over the rail and climbed up and landed in a truck bed of manure. It wasn’t very wet so we just shrugged our shoulders and we were on our way.

After a couple of days traveling, we were ready to enter Nepal. We had arrived in the border town too late to be able to cross that day. We would have to wait for the next day. It just happened to be New Year’s Eve. I don’t think we made any festivities but just awaited our trip into Nepal in the morning.

After arriving in Kathmandu, we found our way to Freak Street where I knew Peter was staying in a guest house. Randy and Peter had never met. Peter had already left Madagascar by the time Randy showed up. Peter was very much into his exploration into Tibetan Buddhism. He was involved in a course that was being offered at the Kopan Monastery on the outskirts of the city. One day we went with him to visit and had a short chat with Lama Yeshe over a cup of tea. He offered his cup which we shared. He was a very kind man with a boyish grin. There were many westerners involved in the meditation teachings at the time but for some reason I wasn’t drawn to joining.

Randy and I went on to Pokhara in order to do a trek. In those days Pokhara hadn’t really become a big scene like it is today. On the sides of Lake Phewa were a few guest houses. Nearby was a Tibetan refugee camp and so a few Tibetans would set up on the paths and sell their goods. I bought a Tibetan mala and some pieces of coral with holes drilled in them for stringing on a mala. The guest house was very simple but I remember a nice garden and of course the views were incredible of both the lake and the mountains, a truly idyllic scene. There was a Japanese couple staying in the guest house that I noticed. She was very sweet and soft and he was intense with the stern look of a samurai. I would meet this couple again and they would get new names and become Geeta and Asanga.

-purushottama

This story is from a collection of stories and essays from along the Way titled From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva.

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch

Sumati and I finally arrived at the Ranch in Oregon in either late November or early December. We had started out from New Jersey on the first of September and crisscrossed the U.S. as well as driven into Canada.

Rajneeshpuram, OR

All along the way we stopped in bookstores and visited distributors taking orders for Osho’s books. The response was really, very, very good. Of course, all the publicity surrounding his coming to the States did not hurt. Neither did the ads that Chidvilas had placed in Time magazine with his quotes. People were very curious and were going into their bookshops wanting to find out more.

It was also a tremendous learning opportunity. Finding out exactly how the book business worked and what the bookshops and distributors wanted from us in order to aid them in the sale of the books. Many strong connections were forged that lasted for years.

Every couple of days we would call Vidya and check in. Occasionally she would relay something that Osho had said concerning the selling of the books.

When we did finally arrive I had a bit of a debriefing session with Pratima, who was in charge of book publishing. We had gathered a considerable amount of constructive feedback that we could use to chart our course with publishing.

After a couple of days, we were invited to Lao Tzu House to see Osho. This was the first time I had had such an intimate (Osho, Sumati, myself and I think Sheela) meeting with him, except for when I programmed the VCR at the Castle.

He gave both Sumati and me gifts; mine was a leather cowboy hat. I don’t remember what she received but it might have been the same.

Then it was down to business and he asked when we would be going out again. This was rather ironic because, in Poona, when anyone arrived back from the West the first thing he would ask was “How long will you be staying?” In this case, it was, “When will you be leaving?”

I explained that now was not a good time to be out selling books because the stores had already made their orders for the holiday season and that it would be best to wait until at least mid-January. He nodded and that was the end of the discussion.

Many times later I would look back on that situation. If I hadn’t been so involved in the book distribution, and so very interested in doing it right, I might have answered Osho’s questioning with more of a desire to say what I thought he would have wanted to hear. But as it turned out, I was not tuned into that at all. I simply told him how I saw the situation and he understood.

I give this as an example not of how I was above wanting to please, I’m sure that I can come up with many of those examples, but rather of what happened if one did not.

This was one of the lessons that so many of us learned at the Ranch—and we had so many opportunities. On the one hand, everyone wanted to stay close to the master so they would do whatever necessary in order to make that happen. But, the reality was, to be true to yourself (and by yourself I do not mean the whims of your mind or the pitfalls of the ego, but that silent inner voice) is the way to be close to the master.

One more of these situations involved Sheela. Rama was the coordinator of Buddhagosha (the book distribution department). Because I was the one most involved with the bookstores very often I would suggest things that we should do to support the stores. One time, I think it was involving a catalog or other marketing material, I had made a suggestion to Rama but he was concerned with how Sheela would react. He hesitated to pass it on. For one coordinators meeting with Sheela, Rama was ill and so I had to stand in for him. During the meeting, I made the proposal to Sheela and she accepted without a flinch.

It is important for us who were at the Ranch to look to what our own experiences were. What do we know from our own experience? After the Ranch it became ever so apparent that we all had not had the same experiences. We have different conditionings, resistances, proclivities, needs and desires, and because of that we found ourselves in differing circumstances.

This is not just a lesson concerning the Ranch but this applies to life. It illustrates how the commune was a large laboratory, a stage for learning about ourselves and the inner obstacles that prevent us from living a life of love and understanding. The commune provided opportunities for lifetimes of growth in both.

I’m the one with the short beard.

When I was not working with the books I was being a Peace Force (police) officer. This mostly involved driving around the Ranch and dropping in for tea at different locations. This provided another opportunity to bring the bliss down into the real world. As you can see from the photo above, Osho did not make it easy on those who were charged with keeping his body from being mobbed. You can also see that he enjoyed the whole affair.

Krishnamurti Lake
Krishnamurti Lake

Sometimes our duties became more serious. During the last festival(1985), while on patrol, we were called for an emergency at Krishnamurti Lake. There had been a swimming accident, apparently someone had drowned. When we finally got the body out of the lake, to my surprise, I found that it was Adinatha. He was the Japanese sannyasin that Sumati and I had stayed with for some time in Tokyo. The investigation showed that it may not have been accidental, that he might have just allowed himself to sink into the timelessness of the lake and never resurfaced.

-purushottama

This story is from a collection of stories and essays from along the Way titled From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva.

 

 

 

 

The Second Zen Stick

Deeksha in Vrindavan
Deeksha in Vrindavan

My first Zen stick happened when I was around three years old. It is one of the earliest memories I have. Of course I had never heard the term and it would be another twenty-three years or so until I would.

I was sleeping in my bed in a room with no one else present and suddenly, how could it be otherwise, I felt a whack on the top part of the back of my head. I sat up and looked around the room but there wasn’t anyone there.

Twenty-three years later I met a ferocious Zen master who carried a Zen stick made out of her words. Her name was Deeksha. Deeksha was the boss, the mom, the coordinator of the Vrindavan kitchen in the ashram.

Sumati and I had arrived from Japan with our pockets full of money saved from working and wanted to make a contribution to the ashram. Sheela gladly accepted but suggested that we save some for our own expenses and then assigned both of us to work in Vrindavan. Deeksha was not only in charge of the public ashram restaurant but also had her own band of handymen for whatever projects that came up. It was almost as though she had her own empire within the ashram; this certainly was no secret from Osho. Sumati went into the kitchen and I became a handyman.

Deeksha was known for her passion, energy and insults as well as being extremely capable of organizing work. She was also one of the most generous people in the ashram, often using her personal money to come to the aid of her friends and workers. But no one wanted to be called on the carpet by Deeksha. One day you could be leading a crew of carpenters working on building bookshelves for Osho’s library and the next day you could be banished to the bakery that was offsite and away from the ashram.

On one particular day during the lecture, a deep meditation had descended. It was one of those discourses that Osho would take you by the hand and lead you ever deeper into your interiority.  With this sense of being came a peace that knew no fear. I lingered longer than usual after the discourse bathing in the majesty.

When I left Buddha Hall, someone had been summoned to find Purushottama and bring him to Deeksha. I knew what awaited me but there was a calm easy feeling that accompanied my walk. I remember that she was standing with her back to the kitchen wall and she let fly all of her quivers. She was extremely animated and I have no idea what she said, but what I remember was that it was as if love was pouring from her in what would look like to an onlooker as anger. The energy that issued forth just washed over and through and yet didn’t touch me. I was a witness to a raging Zen master but inside was the same peace that I had left Buddha Hall with. From that moment I knew it was possible to be in the marketplace but not of the marketplace. I remained untouched.

Years after we had left Poona and even after the Ranch had closed I would think about Deeksha and feel some regret that she had not had a Deeksha like I had. Deeksha offered me an opportunity that no one else in the ashram could. It was easy to see why Osho gave her so much freedom and so much responsibility.  In his Buddhafield even the wildest, fiercest expressions were love.

-purushottama

This story is from a collection of stories and essays from along the Way titled From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva.

Time to Be

Touched by majesty
Bathed in glorious mystery
Surely shaken, perhaps awakened
Worked, played, meditated, celebrated
We knew it was time in magic.

When the moment passed
Some put away the treasure
Knowing that when the time was right
We’d bring it forth and let it shine.

So we burrowed, and integrated
Hibernated and some emigrated
There were those who propagated
Even a few were castigated
And Still the treasure we knew
Lived in us—our life.

Been hiding in the dark lying wait
Searching for the time of Now.
As time came, always knew it would,
To shine, to share, to be aware.

Need not wait, no more
For surely Now – is the time to
Be
Unto ourselves – the Light.

-purushottama

This poem is from a collection of stories and essays from along the Way titled From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva.

Bodh Gaya

“Be ye lamps unto yourselves,
be a refuge to yourselves.
Hold fast to Truth as a lamp;
hold fast to the Truth as a refuge.
Look not for a refuge in anyone beside yourselves.
And those, who shall be a lamp unto themselves,
shall betake themselves to no external refuge,
but holding fast to the Truth as their lamp,
and holding fast to the Truth as their refuge,
they shall reach the topmost height.”

Buddha’s Farewell Message to Ananda

Setting the Time in the Timeless

DSC_0050In the spring of 1981 Deeksha took a group of her workers and a few others to New Jersey to prepare a large house which had been known as Kip’s Castle for the arrival of Osho a month later. The Castle was a 9,000 square foot, 30-room mansion, complete with turrets and a small chapel. There was a lot to do within a very short period of time. The main house and carriage house had to be completely remodeled. The castle was in Montclair sitting on the first ridge with an incredible view of New York City. You could even see the Statue of Liberty on a clear day. Our nearest neighbors were Salvatorian Fathers who lived in a monastery next door.

Osho arrived on June 1st. Because of his bad back, we had installed an electric chair to take him up the entrance stairs at the side of the house, inside was an elevator. He took one long look at the chair and walked up the stairs; he never used it.Castle stairs

The atmosphere of living and working at the Castle was so very different from Poona. Because of the small group compared to the throngs in Poona, Osho was free to walk around the grounds and check out our work. I remember one day running very quickly around the back of the house and almost running into him. I came to a skidding stop.

Soon after his arrival he started having driving lessons so that he could get his driver’s license. He would occasionally pick someone from the group (that would gather to see him off) to accompany him. Most everyone that rode with him was scared to death. Of course Osho was a fearless driver and that is what terrified the passengers. Before too long, the musicians began to gather for his departure and arrival which soon blossomed into mini celebrations. He would often give some small gift to someone who he picked out for that day. He once gave me a rather nice pen, which would later be used to write book orders. Our work schedule was not so demanding by this time because we had already completed work on his living quarters.

When he first arrived he shared a floor of the house with a tenant who had a lease from before the purchase. I forget the fellows name but he had a big dog. Occasionally Osho and he would meet in the elevator.

One day I was downstairs in the main office when Vivek came down. She said that she needed help programming the VCR that had just been purchased. I looked around and as there was no one else present said that I would be happy to.

I followed her up the stairs and into a room that had been outfitted for Osho to watch videos. He was sitting in his comfortable chair beaming as we entered. On the floor was the new VCR with its LED time flashing at 12:00.

Setting the clocks on these machines just required pushing the correct button until the clock moved around to the correct time. And on this VCR, like on most, there was one button for fast changing of the time and one for slow.

I sat on the floor and explained how to do so, while setting the time. The difficulty was that as I was focusing on the time (so that I did not go past the needed setting); there was a tremendous expansiveness taking place. It took a lot of awareness to remain grounded in time and simultaneously be dissolving into the timeless. And of course Osho would ask a question here and there to make it even more interesting.

I think I missed the mark the first time and passed the correct time, but I was sure not to do so on the second go round.

-purushottama

 

This story is from a collection of stories and essays from along the Way titled From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva.

From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva

I have just completed a collection of stories and essays from along the way. Some of the material has already been posted on Sat Sangha Salon but most of it is new. You are free to download and distribute in any non-commercial fashion you wish.

You will find it here:

From Lemurs to Lamas: Confessions of a Bodhisattva

Love Is Being,

Purushottama