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In 1969 I wrote to Richard Alpert, PhD, (Ram Dass) inquiring where LSD had taken him, what it had led him to. I also wrote to Timothy Leary,PhD, Ralph Metzner,PhD, and Humphrey Osmond,MD, asking them the same question. Humphrey Osmond, (he gave mescaline to Aldous Huxley and coined the word "psychedelic") responded that he was currently exploring hypnosis as an alternative to LSD, since LSD had recently been illegalized.
It was descriptions of my personal hypnosis experiences to falconer friend that led to my trying LSD, and so this reply simply returned me to where I had started. Timothy Leary and Ralph Metzner did not respond to my inquires. I received a letter from a 'Baba Ram Dass' at Esalen Institute , who was Richard Alpert, and had recently adopted this yogi - Hindu name that was given to him in India.
I was loaned a copy of “LSD” authored by Richard Alpert, PhD.,and Sidney Cohen, PhD by a falconer friend; we had met through our common interest in flying falcons and hunting hawks. I risked telling him about my hypnosis experiences at Stanford University, and also those at the Benjamin Woodman Institute where hypnosis was taught, at the local YMCA, on Alma St,. in Palo Alto, CA. I had experienced out of the body experiences at both Stanford’s Hilgard Laboratory, age 9, and with self hypnosis as taught by the Woodman Institute in Palo Alto and Portola Valley.
My falconry friend ventured to tell me that he had tried LSD, and that what I was describing was incredibly similar to his visionary experiences with this amazing substance. In Santa Cruz he shared it with me, and we spent the night walking about the town peering through psychedelic eyes, ancient and modern, an experience beyond words.
My high school counselor found this book, “LSD” in my locker (he heard I was interested in the subject), and so decided to do a sudden locker search. He reprimanded me, told me that I would be reported for having such material in my school locker. I never did receive any vocational or higher education advise or recommendations from my counselor, even though I was at the top of electronics class, and also head of the Ham Radio Club.
Richard Alpert, PhD., sent me a letter from Esalen Institute in response to my question, “Where has LSD taken you”. He responded that he was hard at work with Ashtanga Yoga, a technique to stay high forever. I was totally intrigued and went to Esalen with my trained prairie falcon meet him. John Blietreu, and John’s son Joshua directed me to Ram Dass’ room. I left my prairie falcon tied up on the outer porch and entered to meet with a robed, smiling and very radiant person, Baba Ram Dass. He simply asked, “How can I serve you”. I was not’t quite sure what to say. I was captivated by his presence: a clear, present time and joyous energy that radiated all about, and needed no words to represent, or express itself. Never had I experienced such a person, or a presence. I felt warm, at home, in the present moment, and I could find no questions within me to ask him. His eyes beamed a light of knowing, of being, of ancient and timeless presence. I was freed of all and any questions, even though I had arrived at Esalen brim full of questions about how to proceed on a path to higher levels of awareness.
Several weeks later I had the chance to hear him speak at Stanford University, not far from where I had journeyed to inner dimensions via the guidance of Ernest Hilgards hypnosis program.. Again, I was profoundly impressed with his descriptions of inner space, of personal transformation via raja yoga and the expert guidance of Baba Hari Dass (see publications by Baba Hari Dass) and Neem Karoli Baba ( see Miracles of Love, by Ram Dass) in India. At times he presented himself with an aura distinctly radiant, a personal energy exuberant, and a humor full of aliveness.
A month later I visited with Baba Ram Dass at the Big Sur home of John Blietreu, over looking the majestic pacific ocean. I spent a week there, and Baba Ram Dass kindly taught me yoga asanas and some philosophy. He was at work on his book, "Be Here Now", and John, an experienced author (Parable of the Beast) helped (?) guide the processes that finally produced the special box - book with record, photos, quotations, and instructions
Not too long after this visit, again I visited with Baba Ram Dass while he was in residence at Gorda, south of Esalen and Big Sur. He offered darshan during the afternoons from his simple, yet exquisite mountain cabin over looking the ocean. There were less than a dozen people visiting on the occasion when I walked up the mountain trail to his beautiful retreat. He told a story about how Richard Price, one of the co-founders of Esalen Institute had recently visited and beat him physically This was astounding, for it was Richard Price who had personally invited him to come out from the east coast and take residence there at the mountain cabin at Gorda. He told us that Richard had almost torn off his beard, and that the attack had no motive, that it was sudden and unexpected. Later people were informed that Richard Price had been taking a rare African psychedelic called ibogaine. Some people believed that it was due to this that he flipped out, and thus for unknown reasons attacked Ram Dass. Richard Price was interned in a ward after the incident, later released when it was seen that he was alright. Baba Ram Dass did not raise a hand in defense, he expressed no return of hostility, and said that he only felt compassion for Richard Price during the attack.
I practiced Ashtanga Yoga in Santa Cruz, CA as best I could. It transformed me in many ways, and my friends saw these changes and sought to know more about yoga, Baba Ram Dass and India. After several months on intense practice energies streamed through me day and night. I could not sleep and saw visions; psychic events occurred all around me. My appetite came and went, deep peace contrasted with unruly excitation. I knew I needed help and called various local teachers of the spiritual path, but no one knew what was happening to me. Finally I was able to reach Baba Ram Dass at his father’s home in New Hampshire. He told me that he would write to his teacher, Baba Hari Dass and explain what was happening, seek advice, and perhaps recommend that I travel to India for direct personal instruction from his teacher.
Several months later I departed for India, with the financial assistance provided by my parents. They supported me in my unusual interests, and in no way interfered, nor criticized me for my intense interest in yoga. They did say that this would have to be a financial equivalent -in place of my college education (funds), that it was the help they could offer only once, and I graciously accepted. I flew from SF to NY where I had the opportunity of once again meeting with Baba Ram Dass before flying on to Amsterdam, and then overland to India. Baba Ram Dass handed me a very small piece of Sri Yukeswars ( see The Holy Science, by Sri Yukeswar) ) robe(Yogananda’s guru). He said, “Place it to your third eye”. When I did so I felt a rush of amazing, life giving, sweet and blissful energy. It is hard to describe this moving, soul activating energy. I had never experienced anything like this in my life. A surge of bliss and life giving power moved through me, all from a very small (about 1/2 square inch) piece of cloth.
I had activated the kundalini energy while practicing Ashtanga Yoga in Santa Cruz, California: it over whelmed me completely. The psychic effects were extraordinary and constant, 24 hours a day. No one in the area knew what was happening to me, nor could advise me how to sleep, eat again, or perceive the ‘normal world’. After explaining to Baba Ram Dass (via phone) what was happening, he recommended that I should go to India and study with his teacher
I traveled around the world to the town of Ranchi, Bihar, India, overland from Amsterdam, Holland - to this desert town of central India, home to the Self Realization Fellowship (school)of Sri Yogananda. I fell down on the dusty street, somewhere in the neighborhood of Sri Baba Hari Dass. I was crying, sick with red urine and I suspected that I had contacted hepatitis on the train from drinking bad tea or water. A Hindu boy came up to me while I was prostrate on the dirt street and asked what was wrong, why was I crying. I told him the address which I was seeking was incomplete and I could not find the residence of a yoga teacher who I had traveled around the world to find. He looked at the address information I had and then said that he knew of the guru I was looking for. He helped lift me up off the street, still crying, and pulled me along for several blocks until we arrived at the private residence of Sri Mitra. The gate was open (later, I found out this is never left open) and walked in. To the left was an extension of the small house, and open doors - with a beaming guru inside - Baba Hari Dass smiling and waving for me to enter.
I spent two months there, in Ranchi, Bihar studying with Sri Baba Hari Dass. It was profound on many levels and difficult to describe, but I want to try.
Babaji, as he was affectionately referred to, was silent or ‘mouni’. So I decided to do the same practice and on arrival became silent: we communicated with chalk boards. I was silent the whole time I was in India, four and a half months. Babaji wrote two books for me, by hand, specifically on Raja Yoga or Astanga Yoga. He taught me 84 different yoga postures, with great attention and the care of a father. Sat yoga was also part of the daily austerities, cleansing of the body via vomiting, nasal cleaning, etc. He insisted that I wear robes of simple white cotton, and that I go barefoot: I did this the whole time I was in India.
At one time I asked Babaji about the extraordinary energy I felt around Baba Ram Dass. I asked him where did it come from, or what was it? He said the next day he would show me. The next morning, after yoga practice I sat down next to him. He just sat there with no expression at all. Suddenly I felt a surge of energy, blissful, and I smiled uncontrollably, I just kept smiling, almost laughing. He showed no outward sign or hint of anything at all. It was like the burst of life power I had felt when Baba Ram Dass shared with me the tiny piece of Sri Yukeswars robe. We had been traveling to upstate New York, from New York City. I had flown from San Francisco to NY the day before. I met with Ram Dass’ friends in NY, spent the night at his devotees temple, and the next day Ram Dass came to drive us to upstate NY, to talk and share time before I went on to travel around the world to meet his teacher, Baba Hari Dass.
I turned 19 in India, a birthday which passed with no special cake or party, yet was a true birthday of my inner self as none other. I had arrived in Ranchi during the last days of May. The rainy season arrived in June, and I was blessed to see the rainy season, or monsoon season of huge thunderheads, astounding lightening and torrential rains. The temperature and humidity made life very hard, yet still I practiced as Babaji taught and listened to his succinct wisdom on the chalk board.
Babaji had many devotes who came to him for blessings, especially on Sundays. Of all these sincere devotees none seemed very interested in the actual study and practice of Astanga Yoga. They all came with fervent devotion and prayer for him to absolve them of sin, karma, or to intercede with benefactions for good luck. There was a rocket engineer, an astrologer, a businessman and a wealthy land owner who came every Sunday. They never asked about the specific techniques of Yoga: these people sought miracles, interventions of divine power in their lives - rather than instruction.
My interest was in (metaphor) “hyperspace”: the incredible dimensions I had witnessed with LSD, mescaline and psilocybin. I wanted to know the techniques to access these states permanently. I had practiced yoga as Baba Ram Dass had taught me during a week long visit with him near Esalen in 1970. I was very motivated and my guru, Baba Hari Dass knew it. Now, 30 years later (1999) I realize that what he was teaching me was a fundamental platform, presented in the hand written books his simple teachings, and these would last my whole life. These teachings were so deep, and profound that only with the careful attention and slow digestion would I have a chance of comprehending them, even partially (later he asked me not to publish these teachings, and I have not done so).
Several friends of mine kept writing to me while I was in India; they wanted to visit with Babaji, and have the chance to learn from him also. I showed him the letters, and he said, “tell them to come and learn - if it is their true desire”.
Realizing there was no room for anyone else in the small home where we were staying in Ranchi, I suggested to Babaji that we move somewhere where others could also come and visit. He was saddened by the suggestion, and was clearly reticent to move. His devotees cried and begged Babaji not to leave: they said he had everything here in Ranchi, what more could he or I possibly seek? I pushed Babaji and told him we had to leave, and even though he was reluctant and seemed sad, he agreed, and we left for Hardwar, Utter Pradesh, in the Northern part of India, to ashrams located in the foothills of the Himalayas.
We spend two months there, next to the Ganges river. My friends from Santa Cruz, California arrived at the time when I attempted a brief journey to visit with Neem Karoli Baba, in the not too far away Nanital. I went only as far as New Delhi and then returned; I was concerned that Babaji may have been offended by my departure.
Babaji was concerned that many others would be arriving from the USA, and we would have no place to house them, or means to care for them. Baba Ram Dass sent $1000 to help, but we realized it would not be enough to buy land or an ashram. It was decided that the best thing to do was for me to travel back to California and seek people who had land in the countryside, and who would be willing to assist with the development of an ashram.
It was obvious that in India people would have to suffer dysentery, poverty, lack of adequate food and the extraordinary cost of round trip travel to India. So I went to California and spoke with people about land and possibilities; my friends stayed with Babaji and worked on his visa and passport. It took more than a year to get his papers together, to find a wealthy sponsor in the USA to guarantee all his expenses, etc.. It was during this time that one of the American disciples “Jasper Sunshine” recommended that I travel to Yelapa, Jalisco, Mexico, where I could pass the winter, practicing yoga in a grass hut (palapa) over looking the pacific ocean. I wrote Babaji and told him I would be going to Mexico for the winter, and he wrote me later and said that he felt this was a good idea. On multiple occasions I wrote Babaji from Mexico and he encouraged me to stay there until he could get to Santa Cruz.
Babaji spent his first 3 or 4 years in the USA at Sea Ranch, California. It was a remote and secluded home close to the seashore. My friends from Santa Cruz had obtained his visa, passport, and a close friend of theirs from Davis, CA sponsored his trip, covered his expenses and provided him with a home with her at Sea Ranch. It saddened me that I was not informed about his arrival here in the USA; I found out about this from acquaintances in Santa Cruz - that he had been in Sea Ranch for quite some time. I was later told that he needed time in semi-isolation to adapt to the climate, culture and food, etc. and therefore he was limiting contact with people as much as possible
During his years at Sea Ranch I continued to travel to Mexico. I was able to support myself and help the Huichol Indians buying and selling ethnic art crafts. I wrote to him quite a few times and he always wrote back, with words of encouragement concerning my new research into the path of Huichol Indian mysticism (shamanism), in a manner similar to that of Carlos Castaneda ( who had recently given a presentation at Bookshop Santa Cruz, which I attended).
luminous-places.com updated: 11/25/13
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