The early years
My first conscious energy connection occurred when I was six years old playing in the park. Two Tibetan lamas appeared out of the air and stood before me. There was no problem in my accepting them as I knew no fear and loved everything that related to me. They told me they represented the head of the yellow hat and red hat Tibetan Buddhist sects and were going to place within me all of the energy and spirituality of Tibetan Buddhism. Some four-foot clay jars appeared next to them, which they said they would put inside me, from my belly button to my bowels. These, they said, would stay in me; and, at the age of thirty-one, begin to open. The process of assimilating this content would continue for the rest of my life.
My next experience occurred when I was 101/2 years old. I had just undergone two bone operations, followed by plastic surgery to relieve some congestion in my nose, which was backing up mucus poisons and causing a slight paralysis. The operations were successful, but just after I reached the age of 10, I was smacked in the head. Once again I had to go to the doctor for an examination. Since my family had a almost no income, I went to a city hospital. My mother worked very long hours, so I had to find the clinic by myself. After the doctor examined me, he very gently explained that I had exactly the same problem as before and it would require at least three more operations. He would have to break the nose bone with a hammer and chisel and remove it with the pliers while I was under local anesthetic. It was a brutal, medieval type of torture.
I thought of going to the subway and dropping myself under the oncoming cars. Terror of this operation made any escape from it seem rational and pleasant.
Suddenly, as I walked across a great open field outside the hospital, I felt a strange energy. I looked up and there was a great beam of light. I heard someone talking in a very resounding tone. He said, "This pain and torture that you are being subjected to is the expression of my love for you. You must understand that you are paying for something which in later life will give much peace and love to you and many other people."
I did not really understand what was happening, but this faint promise sustained me through the ordeal that I faced.
At the age of eleven, I had many dreams and visions that were almost identical. I saw myself at the end of my life looking happy and young, although I knew I was in my late seventies or early eighties. I was standing on a box as high as a four-story building. The box was white and I was dressed in a white gown with my hands held up to the sky. Around me, stretching into the distance, were many thousands of people similarly dressed with lovely faces. I took a deep breath, and slowly rose into the air a thousand feet. Then great fire shot out of my lower body, much like a rocketship. I sped into the atmosphere for some minutes and then exploded into dust, which spread on the ho-rizon and became a rainbow. This vision fascinated me. I felt so grateful to be free of the earth. The idea of becoming a rainbow appealed to my childish mind very much.
When I later traveled to India, people asked me how I would die and I would explain that I had seen what I believed to be my death. My vision received mixed reactions, from incredulity to complete boredom. Later, when I was about thirty-eight, I was given the name of Swami Rudrananda. It was explained to me that Rudra was an earlier aspect of Shiva. Whereas Shiva stood on a dwarf, Rudra was surrounded by ten thousand people. It brought back to me my childhood vision.
At 111/2, I would often wake up at night and look down upon my sleeping body, sensing the separation between my soul and physical self. One day I had been feeling quite strange - a little nauseous, a headache and general discomfort. These vague feelings were usually the buildup of some spiritual experience. It did not surprise me when I woke late that night and found myself aproximately where the ceiling should have been, looking down at my bed. Unlike the previous times, there was nobody there. This did not disturb me since I didn't know that the situation was remarkable. When I tried to contact my physical self, I found I was standing in a different world. I saw great stone doors of extraordinary magnificence. I was aware of being near a vast mountain. Suddenly I became aware that what I thought was a mountain was actually part of a leg of a person. It was as though I was standing next to the Empire State Building on a cloudy day. The enormous building rose up and left me thinking it went on forever. I could not even see as far as the knee cap. Children must have an incredibly fatalistic attitude, because I could not remember a sensation of panic. It was strange, but not as strange as having someone scream at me for no reason. As I stood looking up, a booming voice, which I felt was God, started to give me a long lecture. It said, "You know that everyone who ever grew spiritually and taught, stopped, because they thought they were to serve the world and not me. They always became caught in the external nature of their spiritual duties."
The conversation went on and on in this vein. I did not know what was being talked about and stood listening like the child I was. I was asked to remember what was said and to promise that I would never stop working. I promised because there was no reason not to promise, and I respected the vision. Then the voice said, "You must stay detached to serve me and to serve people. Doing this, you will then have everything and it will mean nothing to you because it will just become nourishment for your growth".
Throughout my life, as situations were ripped from me or dropped away, I would remember that it was part of the price I was paying for my spiritual growth. I now understand there is nothing to be attached to, except our own work; and that what we cannot surrender, only becomes the resistance to further growth.
For the next six years, I had a recurrent vision. I saw myself as an enormous water buffalo. It went around and around a tremendous rock about twenty feet in diameter that was part of a mechanism for grinding grain. Something within me understood that this was the expression of the enormity of the work that I would have to do in my life; that regardless of internal or external conditions, I would just continue to go round and round and round, grinding down everything.
I saw this vision several hundred times over a period of many years. Whenever I was working very hard, I thought of the simplicity of this ox who worked at a regular pace and accomplished what was wanted. I came to realize that this simple beast had a healthy philosophy. I have seen people do the most insignificant things for me and demand enormous tribute. I have seen people do terrible things to me and demand great recognition. I have seen people destroy things for me and feel justified in asking for money, time and energy. To the ox, everything was the same. He was just doing a job.
During my growing years, I had an operation every three months. It may seem strange, but the hospital became a place of rest and nourishment for me. My pain tolerance increased to astronomical proportions. Later in my life when I was physically beaten, I was able to absorb the pain, without crying. I would understand that I was receiving somebody else's frustration. I thought of the ox many times and felt this kind of physical structure developing in my own body.
When I was twelve years old, I had the opportunity to get my first job due to the labor shortage caused by World War II. I was physically strong for my age, and found great pleasure in working and earning money. The job was in a pocketbook factory putting together frames and carrying them to the spray room, where they were lacquered. Whenever someone came from the state to check up on employees, I was hidden in a closet because I was underage.
It was a wonderful world for me. I was able to go and buy my own lunch, ride subways - life opened into this beautiful expression of working, doing, earning. It was a simple existence and the people I worked with were not particularly bright. But for me it was the first time I was relating on my own as an individual. Being so young and completely innocent, people were very good to me.
I next got a job working in a textile company where I earned 5 times the money and worked 10 times as hard. I stayed there until I was 18, when I went into the army for 11/2 years. I was an instructor for the government teaching ROTC at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Not having been to high school, I was awed by the college students. But I had very good books, from which I taught myself and then instructed them. They were not particularly interested and I was not particularly gifted, so we had a very good relationship. They loved me because of my enthusiasm and youth, and that seemed wonderful to me. Many people invited me to their home or to parties. There were many attempts at getting me involved sexually or in various political and social programs. But there was nothing in me that understood what these people wanted. Their subtlety was completely lost on my ignorance. You cannot contaminate somebody who is innocent.
I became friendly with a girl at the USO in Seattle. She was a sweet, plump, red-headed lady. I am sure she wasn't more than five or eight years older than me, which, of course, made her an "older woman." I patiently waited to be taken advantage of, but it never happened. However, this woman did get me an invitation to spend Easter with a local family. It was common practice for the USO to provide service-men with a home atmosphere during religious holidays.
The people who invited me turned out to be quite unusual. The woman had been a doctor in China and was also a belly dancer. Her husband was a business man with international interests. They had two little boys close to the ages of four and seven. I have always loved children and had a wonderful time playing with their sons. During the course of dinner, the wife told me that the crystal goblets that we were drinking from were a wedding present from China given to her by her father. A few minutes later, reaching for my water glass, I tipped it over and broke it into three pieces. I got very upset. The woman tried to make me feel better by telling me that she had only five left out of the original dozen and this made an even number, which she preferred. During the dinner conversation, it was mentioned that the older boy was going to be eight in two weeks. I went back to my barracks and bought a beautiful birthday card, which I sent to the young man and thanked them all again for their hospitality, while apologizing for my clumsiness. I gave no return address because I felt that my action had severed the bond of friendship with these people. Two weeks later, the Sergeant of my company told me that I was wanted in the Captain's office. There, to my complete surprise, was the lady. She had gone through a great deal of trouble to trace me in order to extend an invitation for the weekend.
This event helped me to understand that anything we value should be nourished. I was aware that I was not particularly bright, but if I could simply communicate to others in every way possible, I would at least be able to show what I felt. This couple, for their own reasons, took me in as their son. I lived with them for over a year, going back every morning to teach at the university. It was an exposure to a much finer type of living than I had ever known. I learned a tremendous amount, but when my term in the army was over, I left to return to my job in the warehouse. I could have stayed, as a sort of companion and nurse to the children, but it would have been an unreal situation. I felt I had learned what I needed, so I left.
It was at this point in my life that a much more formal type of spiritual relationship developed. I began going to lectures and speaking with people who had spiritual experiences. My interest in Asian art began to develop. I started collecting objects. I read many books about Tibet and China. A deep awakening began to express itself in my being.
Before going into the army, I led a very solitary existence. I had only superficial relationships with people and existed within the strange world of myself. But now my search for inner understanding led me to reach out to others from whom I hoped to receive aid and nourishment.
When I was almost twenty, I began to feel enormous physical pain in various parts of my body. During the week, it was tolerable; but from Friday night until Sunday, it was unbearable. From weekend to weekend, I thought that I would go mad. I could feel the bones in my head cracking and breaking. I could barely see two feet in front of my face. I felt a desperate need to have somebody close to me. For some reason, a deep personal relationship was like a sedative. Later, I understood that someone who was close to me drew enormous quantities of energy from me, which reduced the pain. I could not sleep at night. This burning inside tormented me very deeply.
The company I worked for was anxious that I leave. Since it was a union shop and I had been there a very long time, my salary was quite high for the menial task that I performed. Refusing to be paid off, I settled for the fact that my employer helped me get into college. He said that my potential was wasted on the job. I applied for and was accepted to North Carolina State College.
While registering, I was called off the line and taken to the Dean's office. He had my entrance papers laid out. I had obtained a score of 35-45 on English, Math, and the more practical subjects one takes in college. On the psychological tests measuring perseverance, I had scored in the high 90s. It was a frighteningly unbalanced pattern and I could understand his uncertainty about me. I begged the Dean to let me in, even on a trial basis. I told him I needed to study in order to survive as a human being.
Throughout my life, I have found that when I asked without embarrassment, my deep cry for help was recognized. The warmth that was extended to me during my time at North Carolina State College was responsible for a great turning in my life. I shall never forget the kindness I received during those years. I had no doubt that I was on he brink of a complete nervous breakdown. I was like a great broken pot with enormous quantities of water pouring into me, losing less than I was receiving, so that I had the illusion of a vessel overflowing.
In my last six months of college, I began to feel a flowering in my mind. I knew that I had succeeded through enormous discipline and great sulfuring. Then something separated in me. During the next two years, I was almost in a total coma moving like a puppet, unable to communicate clearly.
It was my wish to stay in the South. It gave me the quietness that I needed. But my mother became quite ill and it was necessary for me to return to New York.
I became an engineering trainee in a textile company. For a year I played hide and seek. They looked for me and I hid. I was like one of the fifty thousand people they can never find in the army, or like a character in some strange mystery running in and out of closets, eluding my employers. I was simply incapable of doing the work that was put before me because of my strange inner condition. If someone had sent me to a psychiatrist, I would have been put away for a year or two in a sanitarium. This would probably have ended my creative existence.
When you are in a coma, you do not know you are in a coma. You only understand it as you come out. I lived in this strange half-life for several years. It took me almost twenty years to totally shake the inner tension and exhaustion associated with my condition. Finally, the people who were responsible for my productivity could no longer hide the fact that I was incapable of being trained for the kind of work I was undertaking. The fatal day arrived and I was sacked.
The next thing I attracted was a more technical job with an enormous textile firm. It would have meant my living in a laboratory, measuring two threads fifty thousand times a month and weighing them on a scale one hundred thousand times. I could not face the possibility of locking myself into something without a flow of creative energy. I felt that to be made to do an endlessly repetitious task would drive me completely crazy. I had lunch with my prospective sister-in-law. She listened to my concerns and was very sympathetic. It loosened me up a little bit. After that, I walked down Fifth Avenue for several miles and finally got to Greenwich Village. I passed a little store with a "FOR RENT" sign on it and looked in. It was no larger than a decent-sized bathroom and was in terrible condition. But to my amazement, I heard a voice whispering, "This is your store, this is your store, this is your store" The situation was like that of a man in a sinking ship off the coast of an island with cannibals running around the beach. One condition represented certain death, the other meant there was a vague possibility for survival. I called the agent for the building and came to terms with him. I opened my business with just a few hundred dollars in my pocket and some sculptures I had collected over the years as my stock.
It was during this period that I began to see the energy flow within people. But looking into myself was like seeing a great dark cave. I could feel things moving but they were invisible. It was very frustrating and painful to be aware that there was no light inside at all. A continual observation of my inner condition made it apparent to me how desperate my need was. I went to different spiritual schools and tried to put myself in situations that could break into this inner vault and allow some light to enter.
I started attending a spiritual school under difficult circumstances. It was a cold and clinical situation, with a limited capacity for developing people as individuals. But I found within myself such a desperate need that during classes and meetings with members of this school, I was able to draw knowledge and nourishment from them. This was in no way done through their giving, but through fly taking. I became an energy pirate. I found that I could awaken talents that existed within these people that they didn't even know they had, by opening deeply within myself and letting my appetite, which was endless, reach and absorb. It became one of the foundations of my existence.
Once I began to understand that my system was able to take nour-ishment in this way, I tried to associate with people I felt were gifted or who had an internal strength that I could absorb. It was not often that they were gifted or nice in an ordinary sense, but they served my needs. This strange type of search was an example of the unconscious seeking what the conscious mind does not yet have the development to understand. It accounts for many relationships that are not obvious on the surface. We often see a beautiful woman with a homely man or a homely woman with a handsome man. We cannot understand what they see in each other. Theirs is not a surface situation. It is the inner need for nourishment that is expressing itself, and the flow between them is satisfying what an external quantity could not.
I had, at this point, another type of shock. I was living with a very thick, peasant type of person. He had a basic goodness, but he was not successful in communicating with many people. We met because of our mutual interest in Oriental art, and I found his hospitality and warmth essential at this particular time.
One morning at about four o'clock, I woke screaming. I found my friend sitting quietly in the next room. I asked whether this had happened before. He said he could not remember when it was otherwise. I was very disturbed because I had been sleeping only an hour a night at that time and did not realize what was waking me up. The tremendous inner torment, which was keeping me awake, also gave me the nourishment that replaced what a normal person would get from sleeping. Pain is intense food. One should never indulge in such nourishment by choice, but if it is what life brings, one should eat what is given, not what one wishes.
The paintings of Tibetan beings dancing above fire reflected my situation because I lived above my pain. I was so busy reaching beyond the level of my particular agony that I did not sink into it. A child could remove me from this depth of despair for half a day. The scent of a flower gave me twenty minutes of peace. I have gotten high as a kite over a new pair of socks. The ability to love everything saved me. I found the narcotic of life enabled me to transcend the pain of existence. Everything and anything became essential for me. It taught me to appreciate all things.
Shortly thereafter, I started hemorrhaging through the nose, mouth and rectum. The increased consciousness of my condition brought it to the surface. I began to wish I were triplets, so I would have two filler people to share this pain with me, but I was grateful to have one friend who was willing to act as a witness.
We had another friend whom I had actually met before the man I was living with. This person was deeply psychic, but without the consciousness to build his gifts into a vehicle that could serve him. He was very adept at Tarot cards, palmistry, and had a great capacity for going into trances. One day he meditated deeply and asked God to help him find the meaning of his life. He was told that on a particular day, in a certain place, he would meet somebody who was spiritually gifted and would grow into a great teacher. I was there like the village idiot making lots of noise, reflecting anything but spirituality, dancing wildly above the flames of my own torment. It was not, perhaps, what he expected, but our relationship lasted for a long time.
In my early twenties, I began to feel as if my head were being torn apart day by day, and especially on weekends. I suffered endlessly, not knowing what was occurring. I thought I must have a brain tumor. It was only after many years that I began to understand that the week-end was the release of tension from my ordinary week. Seeing the relation allowed me to be more conscious of the pain. I was almost like an animal who has had its skull crushed in. It became my day, bad as it was, and I learned to live with it, as somebody does with a club foot or a hunchback.
After about five years of torment, I began to awaken at night and hear the clicking of metallic instruments. I would see a circle of very bright lights exactly as in an operating room. At times, I would see people dressed in white with gauze masks standing over me and talking to each other. I would fall asleep, wake up, fall asleep, wake up, sometimes six to seven times a night. I must have had fifty of these kinds of experiences a year for about eight years.
After some time, these operations became more prolonged. It was almost impossible for my mind to accept the extraordinary nature of what was happening to me. But I was grateful to have a tangible expression of the sheer brutal pain. It was the difference between being strangled in the dark, not knowing what was attacking you, and at least being able to see a human figure. Gradually, a pattern emerged. After a very deep spiritual experience, or an intense energy exchange, an operation or series of operations would follow. I began to under-stand that it was the result of a large intake of energy that necessitated an internal rewiring to increase my capacity.
It was not different from looking at a city in which the streets are torn up. Preceding any major building, it is always necessary to expand the wiring and sewage systems to carry the essential facilities for the large increase in population. Our personal growth is only supported by the ability of our inner psychic digestive system to develop and expand the capacity of the nourishment that is flowing into us. It is like a plant that must increase the size of its root system in order to support the stem that feeds it.
It is not until people accept within their mind that growth does not take place without internal renovation, that it is possible. Usually they retreat as soon as the pressures produced by growth begin to express themselves. It is only conscious suffering that allows for the endless potential of a human being to manifest.
Each human must pay for himself. It is a true democracy. It is possible to avoid some of the pain by not repeating patterns and having the consciousness to detach from coarser and less profitable relationships. But you must still pay.
There are many signs that occur to warn a person of the imminence of a spiritual operation. I remember once when I had returned from India and was visiting Japan for a week. I awoke the second night smelling a medicinal odor. It was impossible for my mind to accept the fact that this had anything to do with me. I walked to the door and looked out into the corridor to see if anyone was being taken to the hospital. That I had had hundreds of experiences close to this one in no way gave me the security to accept the fact that I was being worked on by higher forces. I awoke the next night with the sense of bandages around my head. My head felt very sore. At that point, I began to understand what was happening. The next night, I awoke and found myself under operating lights and heard the endless clicking of steel instruments for some hours. The next day I had to receive injections for shock.
I awoke one night dreaming I was a reclining Vishnu, dreaming the world into existence. It was very shocking to feel myself in that partiicular position. It certainly would have been easy to accept the image of God and creation, but I have always been deeply suspicious of identifying with dreams. I surrended very deeply for half an hour and finally a new image of myself began to appear. I was lying on a large steel crater over which a white sheet had been placed. My head was on a pillow and it was almost completely bandaged. Over me there was an enormous light, as one sees from an operating table. From every muscle a tube entered me and a tube left. From every major organ, a larger tube also brought in energy and took out the by-product. I was overcome with a frightening feeling of my own nothingness. It was as if I were some kind of a mechanism transforming the energy that was fed into my body and having it be used for a purpose that was unknown to me. I was more or less in a coma in this state. I was dreaming I was Vishnu, who was dreaming the world.
(These have been some of my earlier memories, before becoming a teacher.)
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