I t is no simple matter to explain exactly why a devotee is attracted to his or her spiritual master. It’s hard to describe what the feeling is, the impulse of it. If it is real it is not arbitrary, and it is not self-created any more than love of the ocean is self-created. And as the ocean has drawn many, so have the Great Ones, those who were realizers of truth. Why did devotees gather at the feet of Gautama Buddha? Why did the disciples of Jesus drop their lives and devote themselves to him and his teaching? How about Krishna and the gopis? They simply forgot about their lives, their outward responsibilities, they were attracted beyond themselves, beyond all reason, to…what?
What do you call it; truth, love, beauty, freedom, liberation from the mind, from illusion, from suffering? Whatever you call it, it is not equal to the Great Masters. Words, ideas, they don’t communicate it any more than an elephant can be described to a blind man.
That’s why devotees tell leelas. Leela means “Divine
Play”. I can’t really tell you who Adi Da Samraj Is. I can only tell you of my own experience. I can tell you what I have seen. I can tell you what I have heard. I am not a formal member of the church of Adidam, though I spent decades as a formal member. Adi Da Samraj Himself once told me, “You have served me a long time, Jeff. You serve me in my House.”
I have not allowed my membership in Adidam to lapse because I have an axe to grind with anyone, or because I doubt the spiritual process. I, simply, am out of agreement with institutional and cultural leadership, and cannot abide the direction that the gathering of devotees has gone. Still, my attraction to Adi Da Samraj has not abated one jot, and my embrace of his Teaching and his presence is only more true.
In this flipbook are a few leelas about Bhagavan Adi Da Samraj. Some are nothing more than letters to friends chronicling the events of the day.
I have always loved reading about the guru-devotee relationship and the play between them, the manner in which the Master guides his student. And I also appreciate the confessions practitioners have made about the spiritual process. And so, because Adi Da
Samraj instructed his devotees to “tell the leela”, and because there is no better story to tell, I offer these humble, human tales of the spiritual wrestling match that is the guru-devotee relationship.
I have ruminated on how to best introduce myself and these stories, and have determined that Adi Da Samraj explains our relationship better than I can.
That is a description of exactly how it is. I don’t know why it is that way. I can just affirm that it is. It’s not like my relationship with Adi Da Samraj appeared out of thin air. There was preparation, though I couldn’t have known at the time that life was preparing me. I’m not saying that my life was scripted or that I was born with an ordained destiny. I am saying that life, lived, provides lessons. And the lessons of my life provoked disillusionment of the propaganda of daily life, opened my eyes to a lot of the generally accepted bullshit that parents, teachers, and that all of our friends and acquaintances, and life altogether affirm and support; the stuff that becomes the armature of our life-philosophy.
By the time I found The Knee of Listening in 1974, in a small bookstore in Ashland, Oregon, I had found that nothing was sufficient. That which seemed to contain some truth, the wisdom and instruction that I found in ancient spiritual texts was not accessible to me. The traditions and cultures were foreign. I did not speak the “language”. Then, I read Watts, Huxley, the modern thinkers. Philosophies were mental and abstract, and of no use to me. The diversions of the times; none of it satisfied me. And the usual life was impossible for me to embrace. Life, ordinarily lived, was no more than a treadmill; repetitive, mindless, uncreative motion ending in death.
I settled into a chair by the window overlooking Siskiyou Boulevard of my 2nd floor apartment in Ashland, and opened “The Knee” to the one-page prologue:
It seemed like the first line I read was speaking to me more than anything I had read or studied in the past
five years. The last two sentences of the prologue were:
The certainty in his words resonated with a cetainty in me. I knew, without knowing how, that this was It, this was what It was, whatever It was. It wasn’t a thought. It was a recognition, and there was no doubt. I had to go and find out about Bubba Free John.
I sat up straighter in my chair and continued to read Bhagavan Adi Da’s description of his early life. He had clearly led a unique and extraordinary life, like no one I had ever known. He spoke of his willingness to experience anything and investigate everything in his spontaneously manifested sadhana. As I said, I already knew I was going to make an approach to Bubba Free John, but as I read further and came upon Adi Da’s description of his experiences in drug tests at the VA hospital in California this connection that I felt with him was further confirmed. They were testing the effects of LSD for some purpose or other, and Bhagavan had volunteered for the trials. He described his experiences and visions during the tests, and was telling of his experience of "amrita nadi", which
Ramana Maharshi described in his teachings. Then I read Bhagavan’s spontaneous description of his experience of amrita nadi, “Getting to cry is shaped like a seahorse”.
I was already familiar with those words, though I never read or heard them before. Five years previous
to the publication of The Knee of Listening I was relaxing on the couch of my off-campus apartment in Lawrence, Kansas. I had taken some LSD and was reading Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I had been reading for some time when that phrase, “Getting to cry is shaped like a seahorse”, appeared in my mind.
I say “appeared” because I did not think it. It wasn’t a thought, anyway. It was a meaningless string of words. I presumed that I must have read the passage in Tolkien’s text, but I couldn’t think of any context for it in his story. Still, I presumed it was in the book, so I turned back the pages and started reading from where I had begun that evening. I didn’t find the words, anywhere. I never found them until I read The Knee of Listening.
Not long after approaching Adi Da Samraj a movie was being screened which devotees were invited to view with him. By the time the movie ended there were only a few devotees seated around Bhagavan, no more than twenty. All of us were sitting in folded chairs arranged chaotically around Bhagavan. Low room lights were turned on, and we all sat silently.
Bhagavan slowly looked around the room, turning
from one face to another and spending a few moments gazing at each devotee.
I was seated behind Bhagavan and saw that I would likely be the last to receive his regard. I watched him as he turned from one devotee to another until he finally turned and his eyes met mine.
Instantly my vision was overwhelmed with light. All I could see was white light. You might think that I then relaxed into some blissful swoon, or something like that. But that was not my response, at all. I resisted the light. I fought it with everything I had in me. Throughout my life I was accustomed to being in full control of my senses and was confident in my ability to meet force with force. It was an automaticity in me.
I closed my eyes and turned away a little. Then I brought all the energy and force that I could muster to my eyes. I turned my face to Bhagavan again and opened my eyes. Instantly my vision was overwhelmed with the white light. I could see nothing else. I turned away again, closed my eyes, and attempted to restore my ordinary vision. I brought all my intention into my eyes, every bit of fierceness I could gather and then, once again, turned my face to
Bhagavan’s and opened my eyes. And once again, my vision was overwhelmed.
I tried one more time before Bhagavan turned away and my vision was restored.
You might expect that I was converted to a great devotion as a result of this demonstration, but I wasn't. Ever since my early childhood I had been keenly aware of two things, 1)What I knew, and 2)What I didn’t know. And I knew it was important to know the difference.
Early on it became clear to me that there was far more that I didn’t know than what I did know. It was obvious to me that was true of everyone. So, after this experience I acknowledged that I had never encountered anyone who could cancel my normal vision. I noted that Bhagavan was more powerful than anyone I had ever known. I didn’t know what that meant, and I acknowledged that I could not say that this was a benign or malevolent being (though I was not afraid of him). I knew that I did not have the capacity—the intelligence, knowledge, clarity, understanding-to determine it. It was important to me that I not make assumptions, that I not fool myself, nor
allow myself to be fooled by another. I loathed the “idea” of self-deception, while at the same time acknowledging the obvious truth; that I, also, in spite of myself, was thoroughly deluded. In spite of my patterns and tendencies I could clearly see that Adi Da Samraj was not deluded, and He wasn't selling bullshit. He did not seem like a deceiver, not at all. He seemed like one who was willing to push your face into truth, no matter your protestations. He always seemed more committed to my realization than I was. That is a great friend.
S hortly after I approached Adi Da Samraj as a devotee, in early September of 1974, I was asked to come to his house at the Mountain of Attention to do a repair on his dining room table. When I entered Bhagavan's house he was seated at his kitchen table, wearing only his briefs, and he was doing some restorative work on a wood carving of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
When I saw him painting one of the faces, touching up the cracked and faded color, I thought to myself with delight; "Oh, he's an artist, too." He'd won me with that simple gesture. I don't think my guru could have done anything more perfect to attract me. I fancied myself an artist at the time, though Bhagavan would teach me over the following decade and more what it meant to be a true artist.
In any case, being so disposed, I related to and identified with him as he sat there, brush in hand,
dabbing at the sculpture. I cannot over-emphasize the import of that single gesture, for it was to influence my actions and choices in the service I would do for my guru for all the years to come. Adi Da offered me a way to come to him that was natural to me, one that I could immediately engage and understand.
Sacred art means different things to different people and cultures. In the culture of Adidam, sacred art is epitomized by Bhagavan's own images. I have no measure to qualify Bhagavan's work. It is representative of his own process. His art is at the pinnacle of sacred art. Truly, it is transcendental art.
Then there's everybody else - those of us who do not represent the Real in our work, but who strive to create and produce objects that evoke the "feeling" of god.
In my case, art serves my own contemplation and remembrance of my guru. I often knew that the object I was making was for devotees' regard, but the process was serving my own remembrance. I do love making pieces that move people, but my attention was never on the devotees who might view this art, but simply on my guru. In this way, perhaps, one's own contemplation may serve another's, their remembrance of what is great.
In the early years of my service to my guru, I did a lot of restorative work on paintings and statuary in his traditional art collection. Mostly, I worked with the Himalayan statuary, the repoussé and cast bronze images of deities and demons from Tibet and Nepal. Many of the metal images were originally smuggled out of Tibet, and in order to make them smaller and more transportable, they were removed from their traditional lotus bases, which nearly every image from those regions is seated or standing on. One of my services was to reproduce those lotus bases, as closely as possible to the original design.
This work came to embody a sacred artistic process. First, because I was doing the work for my guru. Second, I respected the images themselves, the tradition that produced them, and the artistic mastery and discipline it took to create them. It was a privilege to work on them at all. I never treated any of them casually. It wasn't just a matter of their history or value; it was what they were and why they were that made them objects not merely to revere as high priced commodities, but to honor as elements of a sacred life and culture.
Simply by working on these bronze and copper objects, I was given instruction. The process created a lot of tapas, the "heat" of purification. Often this tapas was made by the demand of transcendence in the moment. My service to Bhagavan always requires that I go beyond my present-time level of ability. I never have time to "learn" a new technique. I have to employ new techniques immediately, learning as I go. The capability manifesting at my fingertips is not self-made, and I often quite literally have no idea what I'm doing.
When I put the tool to the metal, I imagine and intend an outcome, but I often haven't known how it all would unfold. Eventually, I find out how the material will behave under my hand, and then I have to modify my technique or even abandon my approach altogether and find another. Every project is challenging in this way, and this, coupled with Bhagavan's demand to finish the work satisfactorily and, above all, on time, has always created an agitation in me, a fire of growth.
One of the first bases I made was for a repoussé statue of Tsongkhapa, the 14th century Tibetan Buddhist teacher. It was a beautiful piece. At the time it was given to Bhagavan, it was the highlight of his
collection. Bhagavan wanted a replacement base that would complement the statue. I'd never worked in anything but wood, so I decided to carve it out of teak. I'd done some carving of exotic woods before I came to Bhagavan, but my work was abstract and free form. I was self-trained with little experience. I didn't really try to do any literal carving. But I used the finest and most beautiful woods, and I found ways to reveal the beauty of the material.
In my research of images of Tsongkhapa, I found that statues depicting him were both unusual and complicated. Tsongkhapa is always seated on a double-lotus pedestal base. He's also seated in the lotus posture, cross-legged, so the shape of the base had to be irregular, the statue being wider in the front than in the back. Not only that, but the right and left sides had to be perfect mirror images of each other. This was not the kind of carving I was accustomed to doing! This project demanded far more discipline of me than I had ever required of myself. That requirement of self-transcendence was the true discipline; that is what fueled tapas.
The heat would begin as soon as I sat down at my carving bench − this incredible tapas, or fire. The
proportions and symmetry of the piece I was trying to make forced me to keep my attention yoked to what I was doing in every moment. I held the gouge in my left hand. I held the mallet in my right. My eyes trained with absolute focus on the point where steel met wood.
My attention could never waver, because once that wood is carved away from the block, it's gone forever. One mistake, one wrong move, could be entirely irreparable.
Perhaps, had my skills been greater, I could have been more relaxed in my approach. But, as always seemed to happen in service to my guru, my skills and my temperament were both being stretched well beyond their limits.
If you'd been observing me sitting at the bench carving, you wouldn't have noticed anything unusual at all. In order for me to do the work, I had no choice other than to breathe and relax into the process of the carving. But as I did so, the tapas would increase, and energies would course through my body.
Sometimes I'd feel like jumping up from the bench, running down the street and yelling at the top of my
voice. Typically, I'd have done something to distract myself, to ease the pressure and intensity I felt running in my body. But I had a deadline, and I was always late! I could not allow myself to be distracted or to procrastinate.
So I would sit, and focus, and carve − while I felt like a million megawatts of energy was channeling through my body.
This happened hour-after-hour, project-after-project. Over time I realized: it was simply the natural result of serving my guru.
The need to focus my attention actually kept my mind clear, and my feeling-attention seemed to naturally rest with Bhagavan, without my thinking about it or making any of the technical effort we usually associate with spiritual "practice".
Of course, it is Bhagavan's demand itself that was the source-fire of that tapas. At the start of the project, I was asked how long it would take. I tried to explain that I couldn't say how long… I had a full-time job in the city… anyway, I'd never done anything like this. But no − Bhagavan always wanted a commitment. So I gave him a time line, but I was way off the mark.
When Bhagavan was told that I had not completed the base on time, he said: "Tell him that when he makes an agreement with me, he had better keep it!" This was how our guru was − fierce in his demand, meticulous in holding us accountable to our promises − to him,
to ourselves, and to others. It was a living force that moved our human growth. All of his devotees can attest to its generative power.
When all was said and done, the work itself instructed me. I did the carving, and the rest of it just happened. In this way, I understood something that has stayed with me ever since: Doing art is no different than doing puja. Indeed, doing art is doing puja. And that puja is the journey of the artist, a spiritual event >without ending. Something my guru so amply demonstrated, working tirelessly on his sacred art into the penultimate moment of his bodily life − a life that will always serve as testimony and example of the highest purpose of a sacred artist in this world.
M y guru used to talk about the system of patronage that existed for artists before the Renaissance. Artists would be given commissions and funding from the Catholic church, and the works were created to glorify god. Self-expression in art was not as celebrated in those times as it is today, and Bhagavan Adi Da never fostered mere self-expression in me. You could say that he didn't even support creativity in me − and, in fact, I used to feel and say that. But I was wrong.
In truth, the entire process was absolutely creative. I have often been the envy of my artisan friends, because their commissions were so much less interesting and expansive than what I'd often be making in my service to Adi Da. The reality is that Bhagavan supported and required creativity in everything that I did.
But he did not support flights of fancy or creative
zeal − as I found out when Bhagavan asked that I make some Shiva lingam bases. He had returned from his pilgrimage to India in 1973 with three Shiva
lingams, two of them six inches in height, and a larger one, twelve inches high. Bhagavan asked me to create a base for one of the smaller lingams first. I fashioned it out of Brazilian rosewood and chose to expose as much of the lingam as possible, holding it aloft with four thin arms of wood. I completed it in a week and presented it to Bhagavan. I received feedback soon after that Bhagavan felt the design wasn't correct. The lingam, he said, represents the ascended male force, descending; and the base represents the descended female energy, ascending. He said that the base should ground the lingam. It should have weight, gravity.
I quickly realized that my sense of design, my sense of aesthetic, was secondary in the creative process. There was a prior form that was appropriate, that was functionally correct. And it was not open to interpretation. The primary purpose of this work was not to create something of beauty: it was to honor the sacred, to properly incarnate its form. Beauty would follow that.
So, following Bhagavan's instructions, I created a base for each of the smaller lingams, with a billet of Cocobolo. I sawed the log in half, scooped out a depression in the tops of the logs in order to hold the
lingams, and then finished them to a high polish. He accepted them both.
When Bhagavan asked me to begin work on the final base, I felt confident that I could really do something spectacular. I would "ground" the lingam and also fabricate an image that visually communicated the Shakti essence. For the next two weeks, I carved in an enthusiastic fever − every day until 3am. Then I received a message: Bhagavan wanted to see the base I was working on.
I drove to Bhagavan's house, The Manner of Flowers, and when I arrived I was told to put the base on the floor in an upstairs room. Then I was asked to go downstairs to see a newly acquired statue of Padmasambhava (a sage who is said to have transmitted Vajrayana Buddhism to Bhutan, Tibet and neighboring countries in the 8th century). I was examining the repoussé statue when I heard Bhagavan enter the room above me, where the lingam base I'd created was waiting for him to view. The door was open and I could clearly hear his laughter resonating down the staircase. "It looks like an elephant's pussy!" he said, continuing to laugh.
My pride evaporated in an instant. I saw how my old habit of "creative frenzy", which I'd been enacting
while making the base, was actually about the energy of self-involvement and self-absorption. I'd been working by tendency, habit, and unconscious patterns, none of which required either discipline or real technique. I knew that I had a practice to engage in the creation of these objects, and I also knew in that moment that I hadn't been practicing it. At least not when I was working on that third Shiva lingam base. This was one of the root instructions that Bhagavan gave to me as an artist. Over time, I would learn better how to serve the true puja of creation.
One thing I have always particularly loved is working on sacred articles, such as malas, padukas, and the staffs that Bhagavan would use to walk with. These objects are traditionally ones that are spiritually empowered by a guru, and in the case of Adi Da, he would very intentionally infuse them with his spiritual force. These objects then became not merely sacred from a historical or cultural vantage point, but quite literally objects of spiritual potency. From time-to-time Bhagavan would give me some notes as to the purpose of some object, or the history of it.
This would add to my understanding of its
significance, and further deepen my relationship in working with it.
In 1980, Bhagavan asked that a "Cane of Empowerment" be made. This would be a cane that he not only used to walk with, but that he would also use as an instrument of his own spiritual transmission. He said that I should study the traditions and learn of all the ancient canes of empowerment that were associated with historical figures. But in my research, I wasn't able to find anything that gave me any direction. So the project languished for a year, while I contemplated the design and looked for a piece of wood that might be uniquely fine to carve the piece from.
Finally, I had a dream. Bhagavan and I were clearly present in the dream, but neither of us was in a manifest form. There was nothing but light, nothing to be seen objectively. Still, I knew that he and I were both present. When I awoke, I knew that I'd been shown the Cane of Empowerment. Because there was nothing manifest in the dream, I didn't "see" the cane as such − I simply knew it had been shown to me. Throughout the following day, all of the aspects of
the design gradually appeared to me; by the evening, I had the entire design in mind.
The wood that I would use came to me in an equally effortless cognition. Bhagavan's house had been in the throes of a remodel for over two years. The final push for completion of the project was on, and I was asked to build the vanity for the bathroom. Of the thousands of board feet of koa that we'd acquired for the remodel, the most beautiful piece of figured koa had been reserved for the vanity. It was a full two inches in thickness, about nine inches wide, and seven feet long.
The vanity design required that three inches be cut from the edge in the center section of the board. As I cut the board, I thought it a shame because the center was the most beautiful part of the wood. But the design called for it − there was no other way. I clamped the board down and completed my cut, setting the scrap aside. Then it struck me: that piece of scrap − the most exquisite portion of the board − seemed like just the right dimensions for the Cane of Empowerment. I put a tape measure to the piece, and, sure enough, I'd found the wood for the cane…or it had found me.
Incidents such as this always gave me the sense that I was involved in the 'grossest' part of producing these sacred articles − the tail end of it, so to speak. The actual manifestation of the object, it felt to me, was occurring at a much deeper level. Put another way, it often feels as if these objects already exist in another place, and I am simply helping to uncover them here. Kind of like an alchemy in the physical realm. I am merely a pujarist serving the appearance.
So I learned to make the humble work of sawing, filing, soldering, etc. into sacred occasion, simply through intention. That intention is a way of being related to the work feeling who and what it is for. From the moment that I selected the materials for a staff, or a hamsadanda, or a mala, I tried to treat them as if they were already Bhagavan's. And, to me, they were. I would always make sure to place wood or metal or other materials on an altar when I was not working with them. And I would do puja on the material, sometimes simply by dousing it with holy water. It was the intention that made it sacred, and that made this humble work profound. It was not simply the finished piece that was important: it was the process itself. At one time Bhagavan told me that I
should never lay his staffs and canes down. They should never be horizontal. He explained that the staff represented his body, and that it should be vertical, head-to-toe, at all times. When I make a staff or cane for him, from the moment the material is selected, it is kept upright. The only time it is horizontal is when it is actually being worked upon. It is never laid horizontal on the floor or a bench. Even when it is set aside, it is upright.
I took the piece of koa wood for the cane home. I like to have materials at hand. I like to hold them, turn them in my hands, and look at them. For me, that is a part of the process, too. So I keep them close. I wouldn't be ready to begin work on the Cane of Empowerment for a couple of months, not until the Manner of Flowers remodel was completed. But I wanted the wood kept out of the shops and near me.
When I took the koa home I first put it in the corner of my bedroom in the humble house that I was living in, but it didn't feel honorable to me. I had made a shelf of oak that was hanging over my bed. It was well-constructed, clean, and had only a picture of Bhagavan and some of his books of Dharma on it. I felt it
would be more honorable to place the board there, even though I would have to lay it horizontally. So, just before leaving for the sanctuary I took the board from the corner and laid it on the upper shelf of the oak unit.
When I returned home, I walked through my bedroom door and thought the house had been ransacked. The oak shelf had collapsed and was in pieces. I am notorious for over-building everything, so it was inconceivable that a joint could have failed. The joints were splined, glued, and clamped. And, in fact, upon examination I could see that it was not the joint that had come apart. The wood itself appeared to have been ripped apart. Then I saw that the koa board was now standing vertically upright on the floor, leaning against the bed. When I saw the koa standing there amid the ruins of my oak shelf, I whispered, "OK, I get it. Don't be casual with your cane".
Sacred art involves magic. But it is not a "hocus-pocus" kind of magic. It is the magic of transformation. The transformation of raw materials into a finished object is certainly a part of that magic. But more important is the transformation of life that occurs when you feel that what you are doing is
serving a sacred purpose, and that it's your responsibility to honor the profundity of that process.
The work of sacred art has nothing to do with self-expression. Indeed, the process itself relieves attention, by keeping it on the guru, on the spiritual source. It is joyful to lose oneself in the act of creation. I feel like a servant in the guru's own puja; in the surrender of attention I find the joy of being an article in Bhagavan's own work. And I know that everyone who makes sacred occasion of their service, whether artistic or otherwise, feels the same way.
I n the mid-1970s Beloved was given a Tibetan lama's bone apron, vest, and hat. I think that there are three pieces to the set. They used to be in the tansu in his bedroom at the Manner of Flowers, but I don't know if the set is still there. The set is made of human bones and was worn by priests for funeral ceremonies. It is quite old.
When he was given the set I was sent a message that he wanted me to make a stand for the set that would be placed beside his chair in Western Face Cathedral. He gave me a few guidelines regarding how it should be displayed. Essentially, he described something like a headless mannequin.
I made a design according to the suggestions that Beloved had made and brought them to him the following weekend at The Mountain of Attetion. He said the design was good, but he suggested a few changes. I said that I would have the modified designs to him by the next weekend, which I did. He looked at them and, once again, said they were good, but he had a few changes that he wanted me to
make. So, I returned to San Francisco and made some new designs including the changes that Beloved had asked for.
Every week Beloved approved the design, but wanted some detail or another altered. I had been drawing a new design every week for six months. When I completed my final design I put down my pencil and surveyed it. As I looked at it I realized that it was exactly like my original design six months earlier. I looked back through the pages of my design book, and it was an exact match.
Dubiously I brought the new, old design to Beloved. I thought that somehow I had gotten off-track because I was right back where I had started. But when I presented the design to Beloved he accepted the design, said it was fine, but that he didn't want the stand anymore.
Events like this continually remind me that the process is what I serve, and that I don't need to be concerned for, nor attached to the results. Nor do I need to expect or
look for a result. Of course, you have to be fiercely committed to your intended result at the same time.
B eloved called a gathering in Huge Helper. A number of Lake County residents were invited along with the Sanctuary residents. Beloved sat on a couch in the middle of the floor facing the fireplace. People sat all around him. I sat on the floor to his immediate right and poured his shots of Jack Daniel's all night. I don't remember much of the content of the night, but Beloved drank a lot of whiskey. As the night wore on he commented that the shots I was pouring were getting smaller and smaller. He said to me that if I was trying to prevent him from getting drunk it was too late.
He was crazy and mad and free and absolutely fatally attractive and beautiful. It thrilled me from the soles of my feet to the top of my head to watch him. I, and everyone else, I think, was always transported in these gatherings. You entered a different loka, a different realm. The entire room, his Room, reverberated with energy. But it was more than that. You were in a
different space. I experienced a greater clarity of mind. Bhagavan would talk for hours about esoteric points of his Teaching and of the Great Tradition. I would follow every word. But if you asked me what he said the next day, I wouldn't be able to say anything intelligent about it. My words could not do what his did.
I noticed during the Jack Daniels parties that when Bhagavan was in the room you didn't really notice that anyone was drunk, or at least sloppy drunk. But when he left the room the level of consciousness dropped through the floor. All of a sudden there was just a bunch of shit-faced people sitting around. Then, he'd return and the clarity would return with him.
Bhagavan was playfully considering who could marry one of the single ladies that were present. I was one of only two single men who were in attendance, and I did not want to get married. So, I was slowly easing myself into a position behind the couch Beloved was sitting on. I seemed to be escaping attention, and then Bonnie Bommarito said, "What about Jeff Polson?" I gave her a deadly look, but it was too late. All of a sudden I had Beloved's full attention. He twisted around to face me on his right, bent over until he was
looming over me, and, looking straight into my eyes, and he said, "Fuck Polson." I escaped marriage for the evening.
The movement to be near Beloved was overwhelming and all-consuming. I spent weeks at a time in an unbroken heartache of longing to see him, to be with him. It was more than an emotion, though it included emotion, lots of it. But I had never experienced this feeling. I was literally feverish and in anguish all the time. I could think of nothing but Bhagavan. I was living in San Francisco in 1974 and 1975.
Devotees lived in several households in the city, and we would all race to the Sanctuary on Friday evening after work. In those days Beloved frequently gathered with a number of devotees in his house while the larger gathering would serve and then watch a movie or some other entertainment in the evening. I spent Saturdays and Sundays serving, but with little enthusiasm. I could not do or think or feel anything but my longing to be with Beloved. I would hope beyond hope that I would be invited to his house to gather with him, but there were long periods that I was not. In the evenings I tried to participate, but I couldn't. I would sit down to watch a movie, but I couldn't concentrate on it, and my restlessness forced me out of my seat in a couple of minutes. Then I wandered around the Sanctuary, inconsolable, unable to focus on anything but Beloved. I invariably wandered to the porch of Great Food Dish and stood there peering longingly at the house, tears rolling down my cheeks. I would stand there for awhile with my heart aching. Then, unrelieved, I would wander down to the swimming pool, or up to the shops, always returning to the porch of Great Food Dish to again stare over at the house. This would go on until I was exhausted and could finally sleep.
One late afternoon I was asked to go to Beloved’s house to look at the wood inlays in his Billiards table because we were making him a pool cue and we wanted to match the woods. It was a fancy table with a number of types of veneer, and I crawled all over the table identifying all of them. I spent as long a time as I possilbly could identifying those woods, hoping all the time that Bhagavan would enter the room and grant me his darshan. But he never entered. No one did. But I could not bring myself to leave. I had to see him. Then I could hear the sounds of an intimate gathering beginning. Beloved’s laughter rang above all else and was like a siren’s song. I had been hiding under the pool table for at least a couple of hours, and It was dark. I could have discretely left, undetected, but I could not bring myself to leave. So, I crouched in the dark listening to my Beloved, fearful of being found, but joyous just to hear his voice.
Then, in a moment Bhagavan and the entire gathering opened the door and entered the billiard room. I had no time to escape or even emerge from my hiding place under the pool table. Beloved immediately saw me and burst out laughing. I was completely humiliated. I felt like a fool. This kind of behavior did not characterize me at all. I was not accustomed to
losing face like this. In fact, years later Bhagavan told me quite forcefully that my only problem was my “stupid pride”. But my heart was in charge, and it didn’t give a damn for what my mind or emotions were going through. My heart's desire kicked my self-image to the curb. "I" was not in control.
There were two movements in me, a war of parts. It is very easy to intuit how dangerous Bhagavan is to the ego. You can absolutely feel that he is beyond the scope of measurement or imagination. It is not possible to say it, but I clearly knew that he was the only Man in the room. His presence communicates who he is. Everyone has their ideas about who he is, but he always undermines every notion of what anyone thinks he is. If you can think it, he is not that. His presence demands respect and straightness, and I was very intimidated by his manliness and his utterly uncompromised perfect clarity. You cannot bullshit the lord. You are revealed in spite of yourself. And if you have a lot invested in your face, as I have, it is an uncomfortable process. Somehow he reaches into the depths of you and brings up all the suffering of your unconscious, uninspected sub-humanity where you and everyone else can see it. It is not pleasant, and there is no way I could have ever tolerated a moment
of it were it not for the absolute beauty of Beloved’s heart. his truth, reality itself, is what he Is. And even a poor, suffering fool cannot turn away from that radiance.
By the time Beloved left Huge Helper it was nearly dawn, and he was quite inebriated. A number of men walked him home...the entire security department, all six of us. Upon arriving at Bright Behind Me Bhagavan laid down on the floor of the kitchen. The ladies sang to him and did laying on of hands. Two or three doctors were also called over to minister to him. After an hour or so Tempus and I were called over to Bright Behind Me. We were asked to pick Beloved up off the floor and carry him into his bedroom. I got down on his right side and gently took hold of his right arm. I was overwhelmed with love for him. I bent down and whispered into his ear, "My Lord, we're going to lift You up off the floor now." Then Tempus, who was on Beloved's left, and I lifted Beloved to his feet with one of his arms around each of our shoulders. We began to walk him out of the kitchen through the dining room and dressing room and into his bedroom. No sooner had we gotten him onto his feet than he turned his face toward me and
He started breathing deep, full breaths directly into my ear. My head exploded. Bliss shot through and beyond my body. And we slowly walked our Beloved Master to his bed. I thought to myself, "So, that's what it is to breathe."
When we reached his bedroom we gently laid him down on the bed and left. He was so vulnerable and given to us. I couldn't help but fall in love with him.
I had a very vivid dream many years ago. It was in full color and very lucid. It took place on The Mountain Of Attention Sanctuary in California. There is an oak there that is the largest tree on the property. We had a circular wooden fence built around it and we call it The Tree of Life. Twenty yards from this tree is a bathhouse called Ordeal Bath Lodge. Hot Springs feed these baths, and they have been used for healing for centuries. The Pomo that inhabited this land considered it sacred ground.
In this dream, the community of devotees was gathered behind Ordeal Bath Lodge on the lawn there. I was among them. I looked over toward where the tree should have been, but instead there was a three foot tall and three foot diameter cylinder-shaped, black platform. A shaft of light descended from some indefinable place, exactly the same diameter as the platform. On the platform was a miniature man in a business suit, not a dwarf, a usual man, but small scale. He was kneeling, his hands bound behind his back. There was another miniaturized figure on the
black platform, the Tibetan Buddhist Lord of Death, Yama.
In short, the legend goes something like this. A sage told a Tibetan Lama that if he were to go high into the Himalayas, find a suitable cave, and go into that cave to meditate he would be enlightened. The catch was that he would have to stay there without emerging for food or water for nine hundred and ninety-nine years. When his time was up, he would be rewarded with his liberation.
The monk was very serious about transcending this place, so he did not hesitate. He found a cave, and went to it. The years rolled by, and finally he was in his nine hundred and ninety-ninth year. In fact, he was in the last hour of the last day of his last year when four thieves appeared at the entrance to the cave he was meditating in. They had stolen a bull and were in the process of slaughtering it. They built a fire to cook the meat, and only noticed the lama after the fire had illuminated the cave. The lama was witness to their crime, and they determined that their only recourse was to kill him. Of course, the lama desperately protested. He begged them not to kill him yet. He pleaded with them to wait just one more hour. Then he
would have achieved his liberation. But the thugs wouldn't listen to him and they cut off his head and threw it down next to the head of the bull.
It's easy to understand that after nine-hundred and ninety-nine years of meditating in an ice cave without food and water the lama was enraged. He got up off the ground, grabbed for his head, but he got the bulls head by mistake. He put the bull's head on his shoulders, and he proceeded to lay into the robbers. He ripped their heads off, and tore the thieves into pieces. But he didn't stop there. He took off across the country-side laying waste to everybody and everything he saw. That is how Lord Yama, the Lord of Death came to be.
Lord Yama was on the platform facing the man with his hands bound behind his back. Lord Yama grasped a sword in both hands and held it over his head with the tip pointing downward toward the man kneeling before him. I was watching this when an unseen voice boomed, "Behold, the power of death." Then Lord Yama plunged the sword through the heart of the man.
In the next moment, the scene changed. I was in a long, white corridor. The walls were painted white,
and the floor laid with white tiles. There was door after door on either side of this endless hallway. I was walking down the corridor with Lord Yama. He had assumed a benign, humanform, and was wearing a
tailored, blue suit.
I was on his right, and he had his arm around my shoulders. We walked along, and as we came to each door Lord Yama would open it up. Behind every door there was a small room, and within each room there was a corpse. Each body varied in its degree of decay. At each door we would stop and peer in.
As we walked Lord Yama talked to me in a friendly manner, apparently concerned for me, saying, "Do you see what you have to deal with? Do you understand what you have to learn?" I was bewildered by the vision of it all, and as we walked along I looked at the floor and muttered, "Yeah" in answer to his questions. I did not feel repulsed or disgusted. I did not feel afraid. But my mind was overwhelmed with the vision of it. In the midst of it I felt comforted by this mentor.
Then, in a moment, I remembered Bhagavan. My mind cleared instantly. Confusion and consternation gave way to clarity and fierceness. I looked up at the face of Lord Yama and shouted, "You have no power!" Then I took hold of him, raised him over my head, and threw him onto his back on the tile floor.
I shouted at Lord Yama with all the force I was capable of, "Da! Da! Da!". At first I used Bhagavan's Name as a weapon, battling with the Lord of Death. As I did so he began to shrink, and my tone softened. As his size diminished my disposition changed from one of attack to one of service and love. As I leaned over him I peered into his face and simply began to repeat the name "Da" as a mantra and a blessing. In a few moments he transformed into the small proportions of the original vision, but now he had assumed the form of the Terrific Cute Creature in The Mummery. Then I told him what Bhagavan has told me and all the world so many times, "There is only god. You must submit to the Divine Lord."
At this moment, two dakinis came, picked him up by either arm, and carried him away. Then the scene changed again and I was in a large white marble room. Everything gleamed white, and there were mirrored white marble spiral staircases descending to the room I was standing in. As I looked up at the staircase Bhagavan appeared and descended the marble steps. He reached the bottom of the stairs and walked across the floor to where I was and laid down on his side on the floor, his head propped on his hand. I sat on the
marble floor in front of him.
He asked, "What's happening here?" I told him, "Master, I was just instructing the Lord of Death in the Teaching." He nodded and whispered, "Tcha".
The scene changed once again. I was at the Mountain of Attention with the entire gathering of devotees again. This time we were all in the mall running towards The Manner of Flowers. We had all been invited to darshan, and everyone was running as fast as they could, whooping and laughing as we ran. The entire scene was in black and white. Then, in the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of color, red. It was Bhagavan. We were running right past him as he strode towards The Manner of Flowers two feet off the ground, staff in hand, wrapped in a red shawl.
I stopped immediately, turned towards Bhagavan, laughing, and said, "Hey, where's everybody going? He's right here!"
O ne afternoon in autumn of 1975 Beloved made a trip to San Francisco from Persimmon. He brought with him all the men who were living on the Sanctuary, leaving the women behind. Then he invited all the women in the San Francisco community to a party with the Sanctuary men. The San Francisco men were left off of the guest list. Everyone was to convene at the 28th Avenue house, where I was living with my intimate, Nancy, who had lost interest in a relationship with me, though we were still a couple.
So, of course, this scenario was threatening to me because I was not yet prepared to release my relationship with Nancy. At the same time, it was exciting and magical. The guru was at my house! He was partying there with lots of devotees, and it was sure to be a mad and ecstatic evening. None of the men who lived there, James Steinberg and Rick Raeside were among them along with me, were permitted to enter the house. The men who lived at 28th Avenue had to arrange to stay elsewhere.
Rick and I got some fried rice at a neighborhood Chinese, and as we ate we speculated on what was happening at home. Rick was recently married, and we were both nervously laughing about what the outcome of the evening might mean to us personally. The Loka that was created when Beloved partied with his devotees was intoxicating and magnificent beyond description. I don't know how to say it, but it is a wonderful place to be. Rick and I were both feeling the irresistible seduction of that joyous place when we decided that we had to go over to the house, just presume relationship, and see what happens.
We drove back home. When we opened the front door we were confronted with devotees in various stages of undress, dancing wildly while the music blasted and everyone was yelling, laughing, singing, and altogether creating a wild rumpus. Rick and I walked in the door. No one attempted to stop us. People were clearly already half-tanked. It was a sake evening, and the bottles were strewn about.
We walked through the living room taking it all in, testing the waters to see if we could blend in and not be noticed. As we passed among the revelers it
seemed promising. No one was taking particular notice of us. We crossed the living room and turned left through the kitchen doorway, and there was Beloved wearing only his briefs surrounded by twenty or so devotees. The kitchen was packed with bodies. He was laughing uproariously. The scene was wild and playful. He spotted Rick and me almost immediately, and when he did his eyes widened and he shouted "GET OUT!" He started towards us looking extraordinarily fierce, and I thought to myself "Oh, shit", and headed for the door. Beloved continued to shout "GET OUT!" at the top of his voice as he made for us. I was pushing bodies out of the way scrambling for the door. As I was going I looked back over my shoulder and shouted to Beloved, "I'll get more sake!" It was the only thing I could think of that would keep me connected to this joyous event. As I reached the door and flung it open he shouted back to me, "Get more sake!"
I thought "Fantastic!" I get to go back. Rick and I jumped into the car and headed to the closest liquor store. Sake wasn't as commonly consumed in those days, so not all the liquor stores carried sake.
As we hunted for the sake I suggested to Rick that we only buy one bottle of sake at a time so that we could keep going back over and over again, all night. So, that's what we did. Each time we returned we tried venturing in. Each time we were thrown out. Each time I would repeat, "We'll get more sake" until Beloved said he didn't want any more sake.
Rick and I crashed at the Masonic Street house in the Haight. We lay awake for some time talking and laughing about the evening's events. We awoke early in the morning, and decided that we should immediately return to the house to see what was happening now.
When we opened the front door there were sake bottles, pizza boxes, and unconscious bodies strewn everywhere. Everyone was out cold. There was not a sign of life, not a sound. Rick and I slowly took in the scene in the living room and quietly said to ourselves, "Holy shit".
It looked like someone had been celebrating winning the Super Bowl and the lottery, all in the same evening...pizza boxes and sake bottles everywhere. Garments of every stripe were strewn about.
We had only been in the house a few moments when Beloved appeared at the top of the stairs. He was wearing his briefs. I was completely surprised to see him. No one else stirred in the entire house. He came down the stairs and sat on one of the lower ones. I sat down next to him, and Rick a couple of steps below. We just sat there and chatted for a half-hour. He talked about the evening speculating on the hangovers people would be suffering when they awoke. Then he asked, "What if everyone woke up in someone else's body?" I said, "Do it, Bubba." He replied, "I better not."
After awhile some other devotees appeared. Someone began preparing breakfast for him. Rick had some Balinese paintings that Beloved was interested in seeing. So, Rick laid the paintings out on the living room floor and Beloved looked each of them over. Rick was going on about the characteristics of Balinese art and pointed out the people in the paintings saying that the Balinese people have beautiful bodies, commenting on their thinness. Beloved replied, "Round is better." Then he and the rest of us laughed together.
I kept hanging out with Beloved. I did not plan on leaving until after he did. But he asked if I was
supposed to be going to work. I answered that I had a job interview, but that it was not important. He told me I should go to it, so I reluctantly dressed for the interview and said goodbye to the Great One for morning.
I was living in a student household in San Francisco. I first approached Bhagavan Adi Da 1974, and it was not long before it became known that I would do just about anything to get in the door of Beloved's house. I would do anything just to walk up to his kitchen door. So, when Beloved requested one thing or another from the city I was one of the go-to guys who was regularly called, and I did a lot of shopping for Beloved for all kinds of things. One of them was ice cream.
There was an ice cream shop on Haight Street around the corner from where I lived in the Baker Street household. A number of times I received a call in the late evening and was told that Beloved wanted some vanilla ice cream ASAP. It was invariably after closing time, but the couple who owned the shop lived above it. So, if I banged on the door loud enough and long enough I would wake them up and get one of them to come down the stairs.
Through the glass door I could see when the
slippered feet appeared at the top of the stairs and hear myself being called "Asshole!". I would shout through the door, "It's an emergency! I need a half-gallon of vanilla ice cream!" And every time one of them came down and opened the store. I bought whatever ice cream had been requested, packed it in ice, and headed the car north over the bridge for the three hour drive to the Sanctuary.
People thought I was nuts, jumping up in the middle of the night for ice cream. But I felt that it made life extraordinary and profound. I mean, how often do you feel so passionate about ice cream that you will make a complete fool of yourself to get some?
I was up and down the mountain to the Sanctuary countless times. I made the trip three times in one day. When I was living at 28th Avenue I was the designated driver to take a number of devotees up to the Sanctuary on Friday evenings because I drove so fast, and we were always racing to get up there by 8pm, when Beloved sat in meditation with us. A couple of cars were assigned to each household, and we had Frank, Beloved's old Chevy Impala that he had owned in L.A. The registration was still in his name, and the
dash was cracked where he had repeatedly pounded his fist because of a short in the radio speaker. I would drive "Frank" at 75 miles per hour up Big Canyon road, and I always made it on time.
One Danvira Mela Beloved spontaneously asked Mo to prepare a special meal to celebrate the day with. Many of the ingredients, not to mention the champagne, would have to be gotten from San Francisco. It was a six hour round trip, and it was already mid-afternoon. I was asked to make the journey. I was torn because there was high celebration at the Sanctuary, but I could not refuse. Besides, I was the man for the job.
The sanctuary had acquired a fleet of five or six small Honda cars, the early ones that were very small, and always yellow. I got the keys to one of them, raced to the city, and bought culinary delicacies I had never heard of in stores I didn't know existed. I covered the city in record time. Somehow a message was gotten to me that there were two new devotees who were at the Polk Street center. They had just flown in and needed a ride to the Sanctuary. I was asked to swing by the bookstore to pick them up. There was a man and a
woman, they were not a couple, and they were both in their early twenties, or maybe late teens. I ran up the stairs of the bookstore to collect them, tossed their bags in the hatch, got them in the car, and tore out of the city.
It was already well past dark, and as we began the climb up the mountain it was late enough that no traffic blocked my path. I pushed that little Honda through those curves, up and down that mountain as fast as I could make it go. For the entire trip neither of my passengers said a word, and I had to focus on my driving. I don't know what the woman in the back seat was doing, but the guy up front never let go of the handhold on the front of the dash for the entire trip up and over the mountain. He was still grasping it with both hands when the road leveled off and straightened out. He said, "I feel like I'm in Bullit."
My particular response may have been excessive, but it underscores the point that everything around Beloved has always had a sense of urgency. He always made it clear that what you were doing in the moment mattered, every moment. He did not waste time casually.
I had been up all night doing security when Quandra Sukhapur approached me and said that Beloved had asked for an aquarium for his House. He wanted one right away. She asked me if I knew anything about fish tanks and if I could get one for Beloved. She wondered if I could get one that day. I told her that I knew all about fish tanks, that I had kept aquariums. I had a lot of experience. Actually, I had the usual amount of experience that I had with things, text book knowledge with a smattering of practical experience...very limited. But I didn't want to characterize myself in this way because I wanted to get the aquarium for Beloved.
I drove to San Francisco that morning and went to Nippon Goldfish Company on Geary Street. There they had a wide assortment of goldfish, tropicals, and a particularly varied number of marine fish. I browsed among the tanks and was completely enchanted with the marine reef fish. I had always been thrilled with the incredible wild variations of fauna found among reefs.
I decided that I would get Beloved a saltwater tank even though I had absolutely no knowledge of nor experience with keeping marine fish.
I purchased a fifty-five gallon tank and all the necessary equipment and supplies to set it up, and took everything back to the Sanctuary. I presumed that was the end of it for me. But the following day I was asked if I was prepared to install the aquarium.
One of the requirements was that the aquarium be silent. Rather than relying on air filtration for this tank I was told at the fish store that a water pump would work more efficiently for marine fish. They have the added benefit of being very quiet, so I crawled under Bright Behind Me and placed the pump in a remote corner of the building. Then I ran neoprene tubing to the dining room where Beloved wanted the tank and drilled a hole through the floor and brought the tube up through the back of the stand.
I had been told at the store about the fact that an artificial marine environment was more difficult to create than fresh water. The aquarium would have to go through a "nitrogen cycle", which is a period of time in which the flora of the tank goes through a
process that creates an environment that in three to six weeks will support marine life. When I set up the tank I explained all this to Quandra Sukhapur who passed it on to Beloved. So, I put in the sand, the salt, the pieces of coral and other decorations and left Bhagavan with a tankful of water in his dining room, nary a living creature in it.
I took advantage of this time to do some quick studying on marine aquaria. Beloved had a lot of questions, and I had to be able to answer them authoritatively, at least I had to answer them apparently authoritatively. Beloved found the empty marine aquarium to be quite boring and wanted to have some fish right away. One Saturday afternoon Quandra Sukhapur told me that Beloved wanted some goldfish in a goldfish bowl right away. I told her that I would go to a store that I knew about that was twenty or so miles away and get something for him and have it back and set up that evening. She said that would be fine. Then she told me that Beloved said that he just wanted clams in the marine tank. I asked, "He does?", gullibly. She laughed. Then she told me that Beloved said that no fish was to die. He had kept fish when he was living in the loft in New York, and he had never lost a fish. I thought, "Never lost a fish, that's
incredible!" Later on Patricia told me that lots of his fish had died. But it was the Maha-Siddha's prerogative to humorously alter the facts in order to serve his devotee. In any case, his edict had a profound effect on me. I took him seriously.
A few hours later I was returning to the Sanctuary with four small fancy goldfish and a large spherical goldfish bowl. I was asked to set it up in the dining room next to the marine aquarium right away. There was a gathering in progress, and Beloved was giving a talk in the living room, right next to the dining room. The tiny kitchen of Bright Behind Me was filled with people preparing food drinks and snacks for Beloved and the guests. I was running around drawing water, adding dechlorinator, acclimating the fish to their new home. There were five or six others in the small space, each of us scurrying about, somehow managing to avoid tripping over one another.
I had set the bowl that would contain the goldfish on the counter across from the sink. I drew water into a pitcher and poured it into the bowl. There was very little counter space, and every square inch of it was being used to prepare snacks, tea, and other refreshments.
The goldfish had been placed in a plastic bag half-filled with water and then pumped up with oxygen for their trip to the Sanctuary. I had opened the top of the plastic bag in preparation for introducing the fish into the bowl. Remembering some detail I had forgotten I looked for a spot to put the bag down. Finding no place by the bowl I turned around and saw one by the sink. I set it down, leaning it against the wall, and satisfying myself that it was secure, I turned back to the bowl.
Then a sense of misgiving came over me. I had a premonition that the bag was toppling over. I quickly
turned around just in time to see it leaning to the right and going over. I leapt the short distance and shot my hand out to snatch the top of the bag before the contents could spill out. I got to it and had the bag in hand in a split second, but I had seen some water spill out the top as I grabbed the bag. I lifted the bag to my face and counted the fish, one, two, three...one was missing. I looked on the counter for the fish, no fish. I looked in the sink for the fish, no fish. Then I saw a narrow space, 3/4 of an inch wide between the splash board of the counter and the wall. I thought to myself, "OH, NO!!". The drain was too small for the fish to go down, I knew that fish was lost inside the wall of the kitchen.
In that moment that fish's life hung in the balance. I stood in the middle of the kitchen in a moral and mortal debate. I remembered Beloved's admonition to me earlier that day, "No fish is to die." He had said it only hours ago and I had my first victim already in the throes.
Everyone who was in the kitchen was too harried in their own work to have noticed what had happened. Maybe no one would ever know. The only way for me to get to the fish was to saw open the back of the base
cabinet under the sink.
The wall was open, I could see that much. But I had no tools nearby, they were at the carpentry shop. By the time I gathered tools, got them back to Bright Behind Me, and opened up the back of the cabinet the fish would likely have been asphyxiated. I would have murdered him. Maybe I shouldn't do anything. Nobody saw what happened. Did Beloved know I had bought four fish? He didn't, but others did. Somebody would tell him for sure. Then he would look in the bowl and say, "Where's the fourth fish?". I could see myself saying, "Fourth fish? What fourth fish?, Oh, that fourth fish...well, he is in the kitchen wall." I thought about the incredibly disturbing racket it would make to do heavy construction in the kitchen while Beloved was giving a discourse on the Dharma in the next room...it was so quiet in there, dammit. But maybe he won't find out about the fourth fish. "SHIT...HE'LL KNOW!"
I grabbed the intercom and buzzed the security attendant, "Bring me a flashlight fast!" In a moment I had the flashlight in hand. I held the light to the crack behind the cabinet, pressed my head tight to the wall, and peered into the narrow space. There it was, laying
on the 2x4 floor plate between two studs covered in sawdust with his mouth gasping for breath and his little eye looking up at me. I thought, "Oh, man, he'll never make it." I called the attendant's cabin again, "This is an emergency. I need a keyhole saw, an electric drill and a spade bit fast!! RUN!!!" Then I turned back to the cabinet and threw open the doors. I have never seen so many cleaning supplies in one place in my life. I hurled cans, jars, bottles, brushes, sponges, rags and everything else under the sink out of the way. The floor was littered with it all. Everybody was stumbling and tripping, but no one looked up from their tasks. The tools arrived in record time. I jammed the spade bit into the drill, plugged it in, and rammed the drill bit through the back of the cabinet. I threw down the drill, took the saw in hand, and began to furiously chew at the wood. I was possessed. I could only get a four or five inch stroke because of the wall on the other side of the studs. So, I was like a human saber saw. The back of the cabinet was made of a thin piece of 1/4-inch plywood, and it reverberated and amplified the sound of the sawing like the skin of a drum. In the din and my fierce intention to get the back of the cabinet open and the fish out I still had a moment to think, "Oh, god, this is loud." I had been sawing for fifteen or twenty seconds when Stephen,
who was serving in the room with Beloved, came running into the kitchen, "What is going on?!!" Quandra Sukhapur, who was meeting with some devotees in another adjacent room ran in at the same time from the opposite door asking the same question. I pulled my head out of the cabinet for a moment and said something like, "Fish...in wall." Quandra Sukhapur doubled over in laughter and ran to tell the others. Then I threw the saw down, reached into the hole that I had drilled, pushed the wood aside where I had sawn it, and, with both hands, ripped the back of the cabinet open. The hole I had ripped open was still too small for me to get my hand through so I asked Patricia, who was preparing Bhagavan's refreshments, to stick her hand into the hole and see if she could reach the fish. She did it!! I filled a cup with water from the goldfish bowl, and Patricia plopped the fish into the cup.
I quickly cleaned up the mess I had made and finished the set up of the goldfish bowl. Not a trace of a problem, I left. Beloved had not asked about the noise and knew nothing of the incident.
No one mentioned the episode to Beloved until the following day. Beloved was having his lunch when
Quandra Sukhapur told him of the incident in the kitchen. She related the entire story. He was rolling on the floor in laughter when she was describing the scenario.
Later that night Bhagavan was gathering with a small group of devotees when I was asked to come right over to his house. He had been telling the story of the goldfish to the gathering, and he wanted to hear about it first hand. I entered the room and was told to sit up directly in front of Beloved's chair. I bowed and offered a gift. Beloved said to me that he had found out about the goldfish incident even though I had asked everybody not to tell him. He cracked jokes while I related the details of the story. He stopped me often and asked me how I felt at that very moment. I said something like "mild panic". Several of those in the room scoffed at "mild", and everyone laughed and made their own comments. Beloved was very loving and humorous.
A week or so later the traumatized goldfish began swimming upside-down. Beloved asked me why he was doing that and I told him it was because the goldfish was a mutation, and he had over-developed air bladders. Beloved humorously insisted it was
because I had caused him severe brain damage.
I continued to research the keeping of fish and provided aquariums for Beloved. The weeks rolled by and not much was happening with the marine aquarium. It didn't seem to be curing very quickly. I told Beloved that it was common practice to put a few hardy specimens of the damselfish variety into aquariums to speed up the nitrogen cycle. The fish eating and eliminating wastes moves the process along rapidly, but it creates dangerously high levels of anaerobic bacteria which could weaken and kill even these hardy fish. As I told him of this I remembered
his admonition to me, "No fish is to die."
But Beloved said to go ahead and get the damselfish and put them in the tank. Soon there were several of the small colorful fish swimming among the coral and rocks.
I had set up a small marine aquarium in my cabin to serve as a hospital tank for diseased fish and I put a few damselfish in it also. Days rolled by and the nitrogen levels in both tanks began to rise. The colors of the fish in the tank in my cabin began to fade, an indication of distress. Some of them stopped eating, which indicated that they were very sick. Soon they began to die. Although the level of toxicity in the tank in Beloved's house measured greater than the tank in my cabin, the fish in his tank seemed fine. They showed no signs of discomfort whatsoever. In fact they were vibrant and ate aggressively. I informed Beloved of this. He sent a message back to me, "Let that be a lesson to him. He can either live in my House, or die in somebody else's."
In the following weeks and months I procured more aquariums for Beloved, and before long there were numerous tanks of all different varieties of fish. There
was another fifty-five gallon tank in the dining room with several large fancy beautiful goldfish in it. Also in the dining room was a small ten gallon tank with fancy guppies in it, and in the opposite corner was a twenty gallon marine tank. There were three aquariums in the living room, one or two in his dressing room, and another here or there. The keeping of fish had become a full-time occupation, which was rivaling my other more than full-time occupation which was security. I would do a twelve hour all night security shift, and then I would go to Bright Behind Me to feed fish, clean tanks, repair equipment, treat a sick fish, etc. I was not getting very much sleep, not more than four hours a day maximum, often less.
One morning, after an all night shift I was on my way to my cabin when one of the Kanyas told me that Beloved wanted different colored gravel in one of the tropical tanks. It was natural, and he decided that he wanted blue. I forgot about going to bed as I drove off to Clearlake Highlands to the closest pet store that would have the gravel. An hour and a half later I returned to the sanctuary with the blue gravel. I called Bright Behind Me and was told that Beloved changed his mind. He now wanted red gravel in the fish tank. I headed back up to the parking lot, and in another hour and a half I was back with the red gravel. Then, when I returned with the red gravel Bhagavan had changed his mind again and decided that he wanted blue gravel after all. So, off to town again, and I returned with the blue gravel. Finally, when I returned again Bhagavan said that he just wanted the natural-colored gravel that was already in the tank. I wanted to install a new filter system, so I decided to go ahead with the plan to remove the gravel.
To change the gravel in a tank you have to net all the fish and put them in temporary quarters, remove all the decorations, remove filtration equipment, bail the water out of the tank, and scoop out the old gravel. Then the new gravel has to be washed, and the
procedure reversed. I had slept very little in the last few weeks and was running on empty by the time I finished at 3pm. I cleaned up the mess from the gravel replacement and put everything away. Then I went to my cabin to sleep for three hours before my next security shift began.
I had just fallen asleep when there was a knock at my door. Beloved was being disturbed by the aquarium. He sent a message to me telling me to get my ass over to his house and get things sorted out. The tank was making too much noise. He wanted to be able to hear the fish breathe.
When I got back over to Bright Behind Me it was pointed out to me that the water re-entering the tank from the outside filter was free-falling about an inch and burbling a bit. It was to be silent. I went to the shop and found a piece of inner tube and cut a flap from it. I then glued the flap to the exhaust of the filter. The other end hung in the tank, and the water ran down it into the tank without falling. The following day I received word from Beloved that I should become a breeder of goldfish and an inventor of silent aquarium equipment. I haven't realized either of those occupations yet.
It took two months for the marine tank populated with damselfish to cure so that it would safely support other more delicate species without undue risk of ill effects. Beloved called me over after lunch one day to check out the water. It tested perfectly. It had been a very long nitrogen cycle with very high levels of bacteria, indicating that the tank would be a healthy one now that it had stabilized. I had been eagerly awaiting the time when it would be ready as had Beloved. There were many beautiful fish that I was looking forward to bringing to Beloved, the copper-banded butterfly, lemon peel angelfish, Hawaiian tang, psychedelic
mandarin fish, but, most of all I was anticipating bringing him the blue-faced angelfish. There were two of this type of fish in the aquarium shop when I first went there, and I was struck with the extraordinary beauty of the species the moment I saw them. I didn't know then that my response to this fish and my desire to give it to Beloved would precipitate a lesson for me. As I have already stated, when Beloved told me that no fish was to die I took him at his word. However, I had serious doubts about my capacity to fulfill this admonition, and it was not long before I was called to Bright Behind Me to remove a dead fish from one of the tanks.
I was told that Beloved wanted to know why he had died. I took the two-inch corpse in hand and studied it, no wounds, no signs of disease or distress. In fact it was still quite beautiful. But it was dead. I replied that I did not know why.
As the days passed, there were more sick fish and more deaths. I became proficient at spotting diseases and learned how to minister to the ailing. Nonetheless, fish continued to perish.
Whenever Bhagavan noticed that a fish was ailing he
called me to Bright Behind Me to examine the fish, determine what the problem was and a course of action. When a dead fish was found in one of the aquariums it would be sent to me with the question "Why did it die?" It became common for me to emerge from my cabin after getting a few hours of sleep to find a dead fish lying on my shoes outside the door of my cabin. Or I would comehome to my cabin to find one on my pillow. And I would think, "Not another one". Occasionally I was able to cure a fish. More often I was not. After each death Bhagavan would ask why the fish had died. Sometimes I would be able to determine the cause. Most of the time I was guessing.
On one occasion Bhagavan noticed that a fish I had only procured a few days previously was not looking quite right. It was a spotted mandarin fish, an outrageous looking creature. I was delighted to offer it to Bhagavan, and here it was, only a couple of days later, and he was already having trouble.
When I arrived at Bright Behind Me Bhagavan was standing in front of the mandarin fish's tank. He pointed at him and commented that he hadn't eaten. His color looked good, but he did seem listless. Beloved asked what my recommendation was, and I replied with my suggestions. It happened that one of the mandarin fishes tank-mates was a lionfish. Lionfish have nine dorsal spines that each have a poison sack at the base which contains a neurotoxin similar to cobra venom. Bhagavan joked that if the mandarin fish died he was going to make me hold my hand in the lionfish tank for five minutes, and the antivenon would be placed at the top of the palm next to Bright Behind Me.
One day I was called to tend to yet another ailing fish. In one of the tropical tanks in the living room of Bright Behind Me I found a dwarf gourami floating on the surface of the tank, his body already frozen in a
rigid arc, indicating that death was near. I was told that Beloved wanted me to "save this fish."
"Save this fish?" I thought. "Nothing can save this fish!"
Still, I removed him from the tank and took him to a "hospital tank" in my cabin. There I treated the water with medication. I watched him for a few minutes, hoping that there would be some sign that he would recover. I placed a hand on either side of the tank and prayed for him. I also poured into the tank a small amount of holy water. But from the moment I had seen him, I had known that the fish would not survive. In
twenty minutes he was dead. I took his body from the tank and flushed it down the toilet.
In the meantime, another devotee had come to my cabin. He watched while I tended to the fish. After I had disposed of him, I said, "Well, there goes another one."
He looked at me, "Don't you feel anything for him?" he asked.
"No", I answered, "it's just a fish. Do you?"
"Do you think most people would?"
This was a revelation to me. I had felt nothing for these fish. I had no emotional connection to them. That was the point. I felt no emotion. I had approached the matter intelligently and with a good deal of energy. But I did not care about their lives. I had not given my heart. And I saw that this lesson wasn't just about fish. It was an indication of how I lived my life.
The following day Beloved asked how the fish was doing. Prior to this I had felt that his admonition that no fish should die was made for my benefit, to put me in the hot seat, so to speak. But now I felt that he truly wanted the fish to be healed, and I saw that I would have to engage this service in a new way. I should interject here that I had not taken his edict lightly. I was constantly studying the subject, reading books, talking to experienced aquarists, marine biologists, university professors, and anyone else I thought could provide me with useful information. Now I intensified this study.
Then, one morning I was called to Bright Behind Me. The blue-faced angelfish that I had only recently brought to Beloved after waiting for months to give him to my Heart-Master was acting listless. Beloved had spotted his lack of energy and had sent for me. Ordinarily he was not in the room when I came to work on the tanks, feed the fish, or examine them. This morning he was waiting for me when I entered the dining room. He pointed the fish out to me and asked me to diagnose him and give him a recommendation. I am certain that Beloved felt my connection to this fish, because he took such a strong interest in its welfare.
The diagnosis and treatment of fish diseases was a little-researched and inexact science. Many times the symptoms are not specific enough to indicate a particular treatment. Quite often any treatment is a shot in the dark. I elected to leave the angel in the tank. Moving a fish causes stress, often worsening the condition of one already failing. I told Beloved that this was what I was going to do. He accepted my decision and then left the room. I stayed and treated the tank with a wide-spectrum antibiotic. When I had finished one of the ladies entered the room. She brought a message to me from Beloved. He said, " Do everything possible to save the angelfish. "Find out everything you can, do everything you can to heal him. When you have done everything that you can do go to the Communion Hall and pray."
I felt Beloved's communication to me, and I deepened my resolve to save the angel. I also felt that I had received a blessing and empowerment from Beloved, and I felt that because of this I could heal the fish.
I called the Marine Biology Department at The University of California at Davis and spoke to an expert there. I also called some knowledgeable aquarists and aquarium shop owners. No one could
give me any new information. Everyone agreed with my handling of the fish, so I went to Plain Talk Chapel and meditated and prayed there for an hour and a half. I breathed deeply, directing energy to my heart, asking Beloved to come to his aid. I felt how I wanted him to live.
Throughout the day, I kept my attention on the blue-faced angel, at the same time feeling Beloved with my heart, and directing toward the fish the healing energy contacted through my Communion with the Great One. In the midst of this drama the circumstance took on a new dimension for me. It was no longer just about a fish. It was about love and my faith in my Ishta Guru and my abiding in that love and feeling. It was about trust in the sat-guru's Grace, and resting in that space that is the intimacy of our relationship.
Later on that afternoon I returned to Bright Behind Me to observe the patient again. His condition had worsened. I was disappointed, but I did not abandon my disposition of trust and love. I decided that it would be best to move the angelfish to a hospital tank in my cabin.
I placed him in the tank and added a small amount of
holy water and a bit of ash. I again placed my hands on either side of the tank and prayed. His condition worsened further. Hours went by and life slowly ebbed from his body. As he weakened, I put my hand in the water and gently cradled him, praying for him. I was filled with compassion for that being, and I stayed with him until he died at three that morning. Then I took his body to the pond at Fear-No-More Zoo, said a prayer, and threw his body into the water.
Later that morning I went to Adi Da's Residence to feed the fish. As I walked to his House I was feeling
sorrow for the loss of the angelfish, and I was also despairing for my inability to save it's life. I went into the dining room where Beloved was eating breakfast. I knelt beside him as I prepared to feed the fish in the tank from which I had removed the blue-faced angelfish only hours before, he asked me how the angel was doing. I told him that he had died that morning. It was hard to give him the news, because I had really felt the loss of the fish.
I wasn't sure how Adi Da would respond, but I thought it not unlikely that I would be chided for my failure to save the angelfish's life. However, Adi Da Samraj looked into my eyes and quietly said, "It was his time." It's difficult to express the impact this moment had on my heart. It felt broken, not in sorrow, but in compassion. At the same time it felt as if an inexpressible burden had been lifted from me. Simultaneously my mind was simply undone by his tenderness. Adi Da wanted the fish to live, just as I did. I had hoped to emerge from this ordeal "the victor", being the agent of a miraculous recovery. The outcome was not miraculous, but it was profound, for I learned how to bring life to another, how to serve death, and what it means to be feelingly present in both.
ave you ever heard of Dr. Phibes? I hadn’t, not before Adi Da Samraj gave the name and title to the lionfish that I had just delivered to him.
“The Abominable Dr. Phibes” is the name of a British comedy, a movie expressing the dark humor with which the British are so clever. Apparently, Beloved felt that it was an appropriate name for a creature with the traits of a lionfish.
The fifty-five gallon salt-water aquarium I had installed in Bhagavan’s dining room, after several months, had finally “cured” to the point that it could support marine life, and I was in Rohnert Park at an aquarium shop seeing what I might purchase to add to the few hardy fish that were already inhabiting the tank.
When I arrived at the shop I called Bhagavan’s house to report on what was available. The most fantastic and dramatic looking fish were a lion fish and a clown trigger fish. But I had my doubts about both of these
species because they will only eat live food. They don’t scavenge and they don’t eat vegetable matter. They have to stalk and kill their food. Because I had received the edict, “No fish is to die” when I first set up the tank I had my doubts about Beloved being interested in these two killing machines. I wasn’t even sure if I should suggest it, but I did. And Beloved said to purchase them both.
I told the shop owner that I was interested in the two fish. He put a live goldfish in each tank. The clown fish was about four inches long, multi-colored, and moved through the water like a torpedo, with a hard beak-like mouth built to crush mollusks. He bit into the two inch goldfish like it was butter. Triggerfish generally first bite out the eyes or off the tail of their prey to immobilize and render their victim helpless. Then they consume the fish one bite at a time while still alive. The lion fish had a different strategy. He was about eight inches in length with long, flowing ventral and dorsal fins. He moved across the fifty-five gallon tank in a single bolt, and inhaled the goldfish in a violent powerful vacuum of a mouth that threatened to empty the tank of water. The goldfish vanished in an instant, never to be seen again. The shop keeper fed both fish before I purchased them to demonstrate that
they were healthy. Before I left I was reminded that the fish would be upset after traveling, so skip feeding them for a day.
The fish were packed into bags filled with oxygen and then placed in a Styrofoam insulating box for the ride to the Sanctuary. The box kept them in the dark, which helps to keep them calm.
By the time I returned to the Sanctuary night had fallen. I went to my cabin next to Bright Behind Me, putting the box containing the two fish in my room. Then I called to the house saying that I could introduce the fish into the tank anytime. I was told to bring the fish immediately.
Nina met me at the kitchen door of Bright Behind Me, and told me to go ahead into the dining room. Marine fish are very delicate, and you can’t just pop them out of a darkened crate and into a lit room. The shock can kill them. So, I turned the tank lights and room lights off before I removed the box lid. I left the box alone for a few minutes. The room was dark, but I could see the fish moving in their bags when I looked down into the opened box. They were alive and well!
After a few minutes I gently lifted the plastic bags out
of the box. Beloved had come into the room so that he could see the fish before I put them in the tank. I held each bag up to his face so that he could peer in. He smiled and commented on each of them, describing them humorously. Then Beloved left the room and I floated the bags in the aquarium. This allows the water temperature inside the bags to gradually equalize with the aquarium water, once again to prevent shocking the fish. I waited a half-hour in the dark before opening the two bags and releasing the fish into the aquarium. Beloved had returned, anticipating their release. The room was still darkened, but the silouette’s of the fish were visible in the tank. The lion fish was not very active, but that is the nature of lion fish. They wait for their prey to come to them. The trigger was already swimming back and forth, checking out the unfamiliar territory.
Beloved and I sat next to each other on the floor in front of the aquarium, in the narrow space between it and the low dining room table. The room lights were on a dimmer, and after fifteen minutes or so I turned the light on ever so slightly, simulating dawn. I told Beloved that I would gradually raise the room lights, and after they had been on full for five or ten minutes I would turn on the tank lights so that he could get
a good look at his house guests.
We both watched the fish in the darkened aquarium. He commented on one and then the other, laughing and cracking jokes. I related to him all I knew about the two species, recounting what the shop keeper had told me. As we talked I would get up now and then to raise the room lights. Then, finally I turned on the tank light. Beloved asked that the room lights then be turned off so that the room was illuminated only by the aquarium, and the fish were unable to view us in the darkened room. I assured Beloved that the fish were
vigorous and healthy though they appeared a bit listless at the moment. I described the shop keeper feeding the fish to show their vitality. As soon as I told Beloved about the devouring of the gold fish I regretted it a little. When I watched the annihilation of the hapless goldfish that the two carnivores had been fed earlier I had observed it from a clinical, distant perspective. But now I felt an apprehension. I didn’t want to witness the carnage. I felt a bit on edge just thinking about it. There was a brief pause in the
Then Beloved said, “Go get a goldfish”. I tried to dissuade him, telling him that the fish were disturbed from their habitat change and that they probably shouldn’t eat. There was another brief pause, and he said again, “Go get a goldfish.”
I jumped up and ran to my cabin, threw the door open, grabbed a net to scoop the unsuspecting fish out of his new home only to deliver him to the jaws of death. I put him into a baggy filled with water and delivered him to Bright Behind Me only being gone little more than a minute.
Beloved was still seated in front of the tank when I returned. I held the bag with the goldfish to his face and announced the first victim. Beloved smiled, looking at the goldfish in the plastic bag for a few moments. Then he told me to put him in the tank with creatures that I would say ounce-for-ounce were more savage than a great white.
The clown trigger paid no attention to the goldfish. He had recently eaten and had no movement to the goldfish. However, the lion fish, who was at my
end of the tank, floating stationary, rotated about fifteen degrees until he was facing the goldfish directly.
As soon as the goldfish had been placed in the aquarium he began to swim erratically. Goldfish are fresh water creatures, and this was a marine environment. In only a few moments he was swimming drunkenly, going almost nowhere. He was however, slowly propelling himself in the direction of lion fish, who had not advanced, but remained directly turned towards the goldfish. As the goldfish inched his way closer to the lion fish, the lion fish began to breathe deeper. His mouth opened wider each time he pulled another mouthful of water in and over his gills. He didn’t do the lightening-fast lunge that he had demonstrated in the shop. This time he was winding up, preparing himself. This time he would take his time, and every breath he took was deeper and more violent. All the while the goldfish bumbled along straight in line with the lion fish, now appearing feeble and utterly unaware of the horror that awaited him only a foot away.
As we sat watching the spectacle I could feel the tension rising in me. It was like watching a Hitchcock
film, only infinitely more so. The goldfish was only inches away now and the lion fish’s breathing was so deep and exaggerated he looked like he was going to explode. I was thinking to myself “Run, you bastard, run, you’re going the wrong way.” Any moment the goldfish would be vacuumed up and done with. I was gripping the edge of the aquarium stand. It was too dark to see, but I am sure my knuckles were white. The goldfish was only an inch away from the lion fish’s mouth. The lion fish took one final, huge, deep inhalation and with great force ejected the fish he had eaten earlier in the day. The corpse erupted from his mouth with such force it shot half-way across the tank. Then the goldfish, like a drunken buffoon, bumped into the lower lip of the lion fish, backed up and continued on his way, taking no notice of anything.
Beloved and I both erupted in laughter in the same moment, as we watched the lion fish settle down on the bottom of the tank apparently relieved of his discomfort. I was immediately aware of the difference in our laughter. My laugh was of comic relief from the tension that had been gripping me. Beloved’s laughter was full-throated, full-bodied, and full of humor and delight.
I gazed upon Beloved’s profile, softly illuminated in the aquarium’s light. He was beautiful and my heart delighted to see his face. As I watched him I realized that I loved him. I realized that my watching, questioning, examining, assessing was over. And I just loved him.
I recognized that the heart is senior in these matters. The mind is useful. It can see the signs and life obviously requires great discrimination, but it cannot recognize the the heart. The mind will never know truth. It is the heart that responds, and the heart that knows The Great One.
That night Beloved named the lion fish “Dr. Phibes” and the clown trigger “Peter Pain”.
T he Manner of Flowers remodel was started in early 1978, I believe. We prepared Bright Behind Me for Bhagavan’s return on Guru Purnima of 1978, so the Manner demolition had already begun by then. Beloved went to Tumomama for the first time after that Guru Purnima. He spent about four months there before returning to The Mountain of Attention in October or November of 1978. He stayed in Bright Behind Me for around three years when he was in residenc e at The Mountain of Attention. During that time he rarely visited the Manner construction site. There was nothing there except the art that he had not moved to Bright Behind Me. The remainder of the collection was being stored in what had been the billiards room, and what is now the entry room. Many framed paintings and posters were stacked against the walls of the room, and statuary was packed into corners and elsewhere throughout.
I had served Bhagavan doing restorative work on the traditional art and making various objects for displaying statues and other objects, so I had spent
quite a bit of time with Bhagavan looking at the art and even working on pieces with him. I had observed Bhagavan in his environments and seen how he worked with his art and the objects around him. He did Puja in his Rooms. He fully considered the placement of everything, and as anyone can attest who has been in his Rooms, there is a pristine quality everywhere. The Force of his presence is obvious, not only his Touch, but also visually. Consciousness pervades his Space. You feel it. You see it. And that was how he worked with the art while it was in storage also. From time-to-time he would go to the Manner into the room where the art was stored and he would stand in the center of the room and look at each of the rows of framed thangkas, Disney posters, and canvases. I would throw the pads off of them and he would have me flip through them while he looked at them. Then he would have me move a piece to another row. He would puruse the room and have me move this piece or that until he was satisfied. Then he would leave. He talked about how he worked with the objects in his Room. He likened it to Shirdi Sai Baba's coins. He spoke of his devotees the same way. They were his coins. He continued his Work even when the art was in storage, or he was distanced from his devotee.
In the winter of 1981 there was a final push to complete The Manner of Flowers. I was living in Novato when I got a call from Mo. He said that Beloved wanted the Manner completed. Mo asked me if I could move to Lake County and construct the bathroom vanity. He told me that it was going to be the "jewel" in the entire house, Pakistani onyx top and a case constucted of the finest Koa wood. I think Mo was trying to bribe me, but he didn't have to.
I moved to Lake County immediately. The Manner of Flowers was being completed as quickly as possible. I don't really remember how long it took. It was a day-and-night affair, and the entire ashram was involved. Many devotees were coming up from San Francisco and the Bay Area every night after they got off work. People would work into the late night. Then they would make the two hour drive back home in the wee hours to go to work the next day. It didn't matter whether a devotee was skilled or not. There was something for everyone to do, men, women, and children.
It snowed a lot during that time. I remember having to walk to the Sanctuary from Loch Lomond for several days because the road was impassible. The snow was
up to my thighs, but I wouldn't have considered staying home. No one stayed home. Everyone was putting themselves into completing The Great One's House.
It was a unique time in which all devotees were invited to participate in the creation of Bhagavan’s “House”, and most embraced the opportunity. People were working their nine-to-fives in Marin and Sonoma counties, then getting into their cars and making the long drive to the Mountain of Attention to sand, oil, paint, and do any manner of support work for the craftsmen that were working sixteen hour days, themselves. This happened night after night. I’ve rarely seen people more single-minded in their collective intention. It was inspiring.
The night that Beloved moved back into the Manner of Flowers and the following day were wonderful happy occasions. Everybody was so excited. I had completed all of the projects that I had been assigned. All of the skilled people were at the House putting the finishing touches on things, while the less skilled moved Beloved’s things into the new house. He was wandering around the house from room to room observing the activity.
Bob Sabatino asked me to go to the wood shop to put the last coat of oil on Bhagavan’s new koa bed. I really didn’t want to because Beloved was in the house, and I longed to be there with him. But the bed had to be oiled. I always finished the sacred articles with a coat of pure Mysore sandalwood oil. The fragrance is incomparable, and it was the last part of preparing a pair of padukas or a sacred staff before presenting it to him. So, I oiled his entire bed with sandalwood oil. It was probably overwhelming the first night. The scent was so strong. But he received all the gifts that we brought to him.
He also gave everything. When I was done with the bed I returned to the house and entered Bhagavan’s bedroom. He was there moving art and other objects about. When I entered he picked up a hamsadanda and the stand it was resting in that I had made him three years earlier. Beloved engaged me in some humorous theater when I was working on the project. When I presented the hamsadanda to him he asked where the stand was. No stands for staffs or canes or anything else had ever been made, so it had never occurred to me to make a stand for the hamsadanda. But Bhagavan told me that it was not a completed gift without a stand, and he asked for a design to be made.
He made a quick sketch on a yellow sheet with his suggestion for the design. I looked at it, and told him I had another idea, and then described it. He drew his
interpretation of my design, and I told him not exactly like that, then I scribbled out a quick sketch of a detail or two I had in mind, and he accepted the design.
A humorous side note. I kept Bhagavan’s sketches and framed them, hanging them in my bedroom, close to the bed. One morning, three or four years after the completion of the hamsadanda and stand, I woke, rolled over, and opened my eyes to the sketches on the wall. But I didn’t see Bhagavan’s design I saw “HI” written on the yellow paper. I didn’t recognize the image, at all, and it briefly stopped my mind in my waking moment. Then I smiled at my morning greeting from the Great One.
It took me a week to complete the stand, and the entire time I was working on it Bhagavan was asking if it was done, three or four times a day. And each time I answered, no, not yet. He was being very impatient. When I finished the stand I took it to his House and gave it to Kanya Remembrance. She took it to Bhagavan, and he placed the hamsadanda into its stand. Kanya Remembrance asked him if it was worth the wait. He answered, “Yes”, which, of course, pleased me immensely.
When the stand was completed, and the hamsadanda hung in it, I felt that it was the best work I had ever done for Beloved. I never told him that, but when I came into his bedroom he immediately picked up the hamsadanda in its stand, keeping it in his hand, and walking around the house, bidding me to come along with him to look at things. We walked from
room to room; all the while he was toting the hamsadanda around. He had no reason to be lugging it around, and it was somewhat cumbersome. He always knew what was up, though. He knew my connection to the piece without my saying anything about it. And so, he made a point of…of what? Perhaps he was letting me know that he knew me…better than I knew myself, letting me know, as he has told me and everyone else, that there is nothing between us. He made gestures like this to his devotees all the time. Every gesture he would make was an invitation to make a gesture back to him. That is what the guru-devotee relationship is all about, the giving and receiving of gifts, continuously. I don’t mean the gift of the hamsadanda. I’m talking about the gift of love, the giving of all of this.
First thing the next morning I was summoned to the house to handle a few details. When I walked into the entry room the door to the darshan hall was open. Bhagavan was seated in his chair, and Annie was washing his feet and doing puja on them. It was such a tender and intimate moment, and a delight to witness.
I had been working for an hour or so when I had to go
to the wood shop to get some materials. When I returned I entered the entry room again. The darshan hall door was closed this time. I walked to the door and opened it. At the precise moment I opened the door, Bhagavan opened the opposite door at the other end of the darshan hall. We entered the room at the exact same time, as if we were mirror images. We closed the doors and turned towards each other at the same precise moment. He had changed his clothing and was wearing a pair of indigo shorts and a sleeveless indigo shirt. As I gazed at him walking toward me his beauty overwhelmed me. I thrilled from head to toe. I was ecstatic. We gazed in each other’s eyes as we walked towards each other, still appearing to be mirror images. As he neared, his eyes radiated the Bliss of his Samadhi, and his smile reflected the swoon of his state. The joy I felt in this moment was what only the Divine Being can bring. When we were only a few feet apart, our steps in unison, I raised my hands to my heart and bowed my head. Simultaneously, Beloved raised his hands to his heart and bowed his head, and we affirmed the Blessings of the Great One in the same movement. It was beyond all comprehension. I was simply overwhelmed with happiness and love. Then when we reached the opposite ends of the darshan hall we
opened the doors and exited, still in exact synchronicity, the doors snapping shut at precisely the same moment.
I knew that it was not me, this character, “Jeff Polson”, that I animate by habit that Bhagavan was acknowledging. I had walked with him around the Sanctuaries and elsewhere and I knew that he saw the Divine everywhere, in everything, everyone. In this moment of vision I was moved way beyond myself into an ecstatic state, all the hairs on my body were standing on end. Beloved said that he loved the happiness of his devotee. It is that happiness that Bhagavan was responding to, the happiness that moved me beyond the frustrations and self-created problems that “Jeff Polson” indulges, and into what can only be called JOY!
Rodney had procured a very large lingam and was making a gift of it to Beloved on this auspicious occasion. It was one of the largest ever found, and the largest by far we had ever provided to Bhagavan. He asked that it be brought over to the Manner after he ate his lunch. It required six of us to carry it. We laid a blanket on the ground and rolled the lingam onto it.
Then we surrounded the blanket and carried it over from the Bright Behind Me lawn to the site where it is installed at the lingam site at the Manner. We could only move it a foot or two at a time. It was lift, move a few inches, then repeat over and over again until we reached the Manner lawn. As we neared the front windows we could see that Beloved was sitting in his chair in the darshan hall watching us. When we finally had it outside the window opposite his chair We rolled it off the blanket. He walked to the window to take a closer look. As we struggled to bring the lingam upright, so that he could view it fully, he turned towards the entry room door. We knew he was coming outside to join us. It took the six of us to turn the lingam upright.
When Bhagavan came to the window two or three of us let go of the top of the lingam so that they could receive Beloved’s regard. Then when he came out of the entry room and started walking towards us everyone let go of the lingam but me. You have to understand that it is a huge lingam. I don’t know its weight, but it is not manageable by a single person. So, as Beloved neared us I dared not take my attention from the lingam. It was balancing on one end, and if I let the center of gravity drift even slightly I knew I
would lose control of it. At best it would have rolled down the hill and crashed into the house. At worst it might have landed on Beloved’s feet.
I was reveling in his presence, but I could not look at him, nor take my attention from the lingam even for a second. He stood next to me, and then he began to talk to me about how and where he wanted the lingam placed. He talked to me about the various details of the project including the modification of the front windows in order to accommodate it being in front of the darshan hall. He bent close to the lingam and me to examine it, and as he did a breeze came up. his hair was flowing free and it blew across my hands as I steadied the lingam. In that moment I thought, “Oh, it would be wonderful to feel Beloved’s hair blowing across my face, but before the thought was completed he stood upright. My happiness wasn’t diminished.
I just thought “Oh, well”. Then, the next moment he bent down once more, and the breeze came up again and blew his hair fully across my face, wrapping around it from ear-to-ear. It was a Divine Caress, a most wonderful kiss. He seemed to give everything that anybody asked for. You didn’t even have to ask!
On my fourth birthday I was given a gift of a painted tin merry-go-round. It was small, about eight inches in diameter, and brightly colored. When I received it I was delighted with it. It was spring-driven, and a musicbox mechanism played a tune as the toy
On my birthday evening my grandmother placed the merry-go-round on a small wooden table next to my bed, so that I could enjoy it as I went to sleep. I recall looking at the toy slowly spinning on the table and feeling an urge or impulse to somehow connect with it more, to combine myself with it, to experience it more, somehow. I felt that I was separated from it and that all the enjoyment that I was going to get from this thing had already been gotten. And it was not enough. It was not sufficient.
Nothing in the world is sufficient.
I was on retreat on Naituaba in 1987, and no sooner had I arrived than the Indoor Yajna began. There were a number of people present at the gatherings who were respectable singers. Bhagavan would have one of them stand from time to time during the festivities to sing a song. Sometimes it would be to sing along with whatever was playing on the audio system. Sometimes he would request that a specific song be sung a capella. He also asked others who were not noted for their vocal virtuosity to entertain the gathering on occasion. It had always been a secret desire of mine to sing to Bhagavan. I am not a bad singer, but I am not exceptional in any way either. My desire to sing to him had more to do with simply being vulnerable and revealed to him and giving him my love than entertaining him. I was timid about being this emotionally expressed and open. To be that given to him was what I very much wanted. On one of the evenings a few weeks into the gatherings at The Giving Coat I was given my opportunity to sing to Bhagavan.
Beloved spent long hours during the gatherings of Indoor Yajna relating points of his Teaching and of The Great Tradition. And he spoke about contemporary physics, the big bang, strings theory, and many other topics.
These discourses would go on for hours sometimes. When he would take a break he would often sing opera and have others, or often the entire room sing. Many times he would just randomly select someone to sing. On this particular evening Bhagavan told me to stand up and sing. He told me to sing whatever song came up next on the audiotape. It could have been anything. Greg pre-recorded an eclectic collection of the guru's favorites over the years in addition to experimental stuff that he thought Bhagavan might like. Everything from opera to rock to country to symphonic to Christian orthodox music would be on the tapes. Whenever people were asked to sing along with an aria they always sounded horrible and invariably felt self-conscious doing so.
As I stood, I was indeed feeling self-conscious. There was a lengthy segue as I waited for the song to begin that I was to sing. I was in a state of
apprehension. Bhagavan told me I was to sing loud, and he said that I was being recorded.
It could have been anything, and if it had been anything other than what it was I would not have had the opportunity to sing to Bhagavan in the way that I truly wanted to. Finally the music began and as it did I immediately recognized the guitar lead-in. It was the opening of Harry Belafonte's Carnegie Hall recording of John Henry. A seventh grade music teacher had introduced me to Belafonte, and the song that I first heard Belafonte sing was John Henry. I loved Belafonte's music, and over the next five years I collected every album that he made. I listened to the dozen or so albums daily, and I learned most of the lyrics of most of the songs. So, when I heard the fingerpicked lead-in to John Henry I relaxed a little.
When Belafonte started singing I was right with him:
I was somewhat tentative on the first verse, but this
was home territory. There is not another song in the world that I know better than John Henry. It could have been any song, an aria by Placido Domingo or anything else. Just the fact that out of all the songs by all the singers in the world it was John Henry by Harry Belafonte seemed like more than a happy coincidence to me. Synchronicity in this kind of thing, all sorts of situations and circumstances, happened frequently. So, I wasn't as surprised as I was grateful. I knew I could belt this one out!
By the time I got to the second verse I was rolling.
Generally when someone was asked to sing, they had to fake it because the song was in Italian, or, at best, they were simply unfamiliar with the lyrics. But it was obvious that I knew this song well, and several people shouted at me to go forward to Bhagavan's chair to sing.
So, I walked up to him until I was standing right in front of his chair and I continued singing.
Bhagavan told Greg to turn down the cassette player so that I could be heard well. He then stood up and started dancing right in front of his chair. We were
only a couple of feet apart.
Bhagavan began to act out the story of the song, acting as if he were swinging a sledge hammer and making motions that reflected each of the verses. He was very humorous and free, and his abandon made me feel more free. I sang loudly, directly to him:
It became a dance or play between Bhagavan and me…that's the way it felt to me. Everybody was really supportive and enjoying it, cheering and whooping as Bhagavan frolicked and I sang, but I was nearly oblivious to it. I gave him my full attention and energy, and I lost every shred of reserve, embarrassment, and self-consciousness. I was just singing to Bhagavan, and he was responding to my singing with his bodily motions and mudras. I had never felt so free to express myself to Bhagavan as I
did in that moment.
I didn't sing praises of him, but I unreservedly gave him my energy, and that was better than a life's worth of rituals and ablutions. Actually, that was the greatest and most useful and profound instruction in devotional chanting I ever had. I am grateful to both Bhagavan and Harry Belafonte.
I continued singing until the end of the song, and Bhagavan continued to dance. When it ended everyone applauded, even Bhagavan! Everyone seemed to be laughing and as infused with joy as I was. Happiness is infectious.
B hagavan was on yajna in California in 1989. He had returned to California in May, and he went on quite a few outings during the yajna. Many of the outings of that yajna were quite elaborate, such as the “Teddy Bear Picnic” in Golden Gate Park, and they required a lot of people and logistical support in order to make them happen. By August the outing staff was pared down to a skeleton crew, just essential services.
By Mid-August the outings possibilities we had to offer Bhagavan were getting thin. he had been to the Redwoods and other regional and state parks numerous times. he had gone to the Bay Area museums and other points of interest. And he had been to L.A., Disneyland, Balboa Park in San Diego, etc. We were having a difficult time coming up with something that Beloved was interested in. So, I drove down to Great America in San Jose to check it out.
I walked around the park and surveyed the surrounding area for any interesting attractions and features. After Disneyland and the more elaborate outings I wasn’t very enthusiastic about what the
South Bay had to offer. I called in to give my non-recommendation, but Beloved elected to go. We left early the following morning.
I went on very few rides that day. Because I had checked out the amusement park the day before, I was hosting, and because there were only a few others serving the day I was busy just keeping things moving. I led Sri Gurudev, the Kanyas and Brahmacharinis to whatever roller coaster or other ride Beloved was interested in. Then, I waited in line with the group, and as soon as they boarded I was handed everyone's personal belongings. With two snack bags, Beloved’s outing bag, eight purses, nine hats and pairs of sunglasses, plus additional assorted cargo, I reversed direction in the entrance lane, looking like a mobile clothing rack. Then I headed around to the other side of the roller coaster, which could be quite a distance, to the coasters exit. I met Bhagavan and everybody else as they were disembarking and returned everyone’s belongings.
By mid-afternoon all of the major rollercoasters had been ridden at least once. Bhagavan was interested in a more relaxing ride. The “Revolution” was decided upon.
“The Revolution” was a very large vertically-oriented single arm mounted on an axle. On one end was a large galleon, a pirate ship. It seated, perhaps eighty people, maybe more. On the other end of the arm was a large counter-weight. Riders were buckled and harnessed into their seats, a series of benches that ran port-to-starboard the entire length of the vessel, maybe ten or twelve of them. Seats were bolted into the benches. Bhagavan took a seat in the middle of one of the center benches. Beloved's family occupied the seats on either side of him.
The Revolution was also a “slow” ride, and it operated like a pendulum. It swung back and forth on the center axle, climbing higher and higher with each swing until, when it reached the apex of the rotation it paused, balanced at the top, the riders suspended upside down, hanging in their harnesses.
I stood and watched from the ground below, and when the galleon paused, motionless, balanced at the top of the arc Bhagavan was responding entirely differently than anyone else on the ride. His arms hung loosely below his inverted head, and he simply relaxed and hung there, held in only by his harness. Everyone else on the ride was clinging to the harness or the safety
bar in front of them. Screams emanated from above, pocket change, combs, and whatever else people had left in their pockets rained down onto the ground. Bhagavan’s relaxed condition did not surprise me at all. I presumed he would respond just as he did. Still, I smiled. He was in such a different position and state than all of the people grasping onto anything solid. You couldn’t miss him.
The Revolution remained stationary for fifteen or twenty seconds. Then, it fell, swinging back and forth, until inertia was dissipated, and the galleon came to rest at the bottom of the arc.
Bhagavan wanted to ride again. This time he wanted some of us who had remained on the ground to ride with him. I strapped myself in two seats to his right. When the revolution reached the top of the arc I looked to my left where Bhagavan, once again, was hanging free in his harness, his arms dangling downward, fingers gesturing toward the ground below. I, too, let myself go free, relaxing my body entirely. Ordinarily I would have been tense and hanging on like everyone else. With Adi Da Samraj there was a lot of practical, human instruction through demonstration.
A few years later I was serving Bhagavan on his Hermitage Island in Fiji. Bhagavan was staying in Indefinable, his house in the village on Naitauba. It was a fiery time. Bhagavan’s shout could be heard daily thundering throughout the village. On this particular afternoon I was told that I should go to Indefinable immediately. Bhagavan was waiting for me in the kitchen. He would tell me what he wanted me to do when I got there.
I had been serving the divine domain daily and was called to his house regularly for one purpose or another, so this was not an unusual request. I set off to Indefinable which was no more than one hundred yards from my house, as I had done many times before.
Serving Bhagavan directly is always demanding. You can’t be a slouch in his company, and you never want to create any kind of disturbance around him. Ideally, one’s own presence should not create a ripple in his Domains. That has always been my intention. The other inescapable factor was the fire of his presence. It demands “straightness”, a clarity, simplicity; you have to be out of the way when serving the guru.
So, I was accustomed to Bhagavan’s company and his Transmission. I don’t really mean “accustomed”, I mean I had felt it. I knew it. On this afternoon, though, I was really feeling wound up as I walked to Indefinable. I don’t know why. There was no reason for it. But with every step I took I felt more locked-up in fear and self-contraction, more than I had ever experienced before. As I drew closer, step-by-step, I envisioned myself walking in his kitchen door, seeing him standing there, and being in such a state of fear that I would not even be able to speak to him. And the image of that compounded my fear. There seemed to be nothing I could do about it. I was overwhelmed.
Then, I remembered Bhagavan’s instruction, “…feel towards me from the heart”. My desperation drove me to let go of myself and remember him, feel him. I had been holding my fear down, in the navel, desperately trying with all my will to suppress it, control it, to prevent myself from being overwhelmed by it.
As I said, the situation felt desperate to me, and in my desperation I, finally, resorted to Bhagavan. As I felt towards the Great One my navel relaxed, it’s inevitable. My breathing eased, and breaths became
full. And as my belly relaxed I felt the fear dissolve into incredible energy coursing throughout my entire body. It seemed that the fear was only there as the result of stuffing energy down, below the navel. The more I breathed and felt Bhagavan the stronger the energy became. There was incredible force in it. I couldn’t feel my body in the normal sense. It felt expanded beyond the limits of my flesh.
I walked in Bhagavan’s kitchen door and bowed at his feet, leaving a flower gift there. Then I stood, exploded with energy, and I looked in his eyes and asked how I might serve him. No drama, just simplicity. I remember this moment over and over and over. It was, once again, practical instruction in the body. I wasn’t just given an “idea” about what was happening. I was shown it, in the body. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go.
Years before these incidents, at The Mountain of Attention, I had another unusual experience. I had a small jewelry studio in the corner of the carpentry shop building. I put a lot of hours in there, and I was usually late for meals. As a result, by the time I arrived at The Great Food Dish there was often little food left. It was late autumn, and the sun was long set. As I descended the steps of the carpentry shop and turned towards the kitchen I had attention only for my neglected belly.
I followed the gravel path which passes behind Western Face Cathedral and Plain Talk Chapel. It was a moonless night. My eyes stayed on the shadowy path, while my mind envisioned brown rice stuck to the bottom of a large industrial stainless steel pot. As I began to enter the gentle curve that borders the lawn of Plain Talk Chapel I glanced up and my vision fell upon a sapling that had been planted thirty feet from where I was walking. Suddenly light blasted forth from my heart. The sapling was brightly illuminated, as was the entire lawn rolling down to Spirit Vase and Goat’s Wool Blanket dormitories. The impact on me was such that I stumbled slightly. Coincident with the light I experienced an extraordinary state. I noted that I was not separate from the tree. This state was one of
no dilemma, no problem, no concern, and, most significant, no fear. Bhagavan has spoken of all of these things many, many times. I had heard him speak, and I had read his teaching for years. All of a sudden these things which were only concepts in the mind, only thoughts, images, ideas, all of a sudden they were my present and immediate understanding and experience. It was freedom from the limit of the mind and the body. That’s the best that I can do to describe it. There are no words. And as soon as that experience arose, in the next moment it was gone. I remember thinking, “I want to live like this always”. Then I thought, “Oh, but it isn’t my responsibility”. And I remembered that no experience was truth, and none was to be clung to. So, my attention returned to food as I continued on the path.
Bhagavan cautions not to become enamored of experience. Cling to nothing. So, I, more or less, just forgot about it. Still, I remembered the moment from time-to-time. After all, it was an extraordinary state. It was peace. It was freedom. But it didn't last.
It was also something that I had absolutely no control over. I didn’t make that experience, and there is no way that I could replicate it. It happened, and I was
In any case, any state or condition that changes or disappears is not what Beloved is here for. He is here representing for us, the changeless.
That light-blast moment was, without a doubt, some kind of samadhi. The moment with Bhagavan in Indefinable was a kind of samadhi, too. The difference between the two is that I cannot be responsible for that light, but I can take responsibility for conductivity and the conscious process.
When I first approached Bhagavan I was attracted to him immediately. I was also wary and unsure. I was attracted to him, but I was also reluctant. Then, I served him and lived with him in ordinary ways, as you would a friend. I observed him, listened to him, felt his transmission, felt his Bliss in my own body. I considered his teaching and saw the truth and wisdom in it when I measured it against my own life experience.