I got a chill when I saw the word “Tibet” today because it took me back to the late 60s when I was a newly minted second lieutenant trying to make his way in the US army. The words that impressed me then, however, had nothing to do with the military. It had everything to do with life. Nearly 40 years later, I see that the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” called out to me, though I may not have known it then.
I had thirsted for more of an understanding of Life back then. I was not quite 21 years of age.
Eventually, I put the book and all of its teachings aside, and raised no major questions as I got married, went to Vietnam and studied at the university before becoming a newspaper journalist.
At age 30, however, divorce was pending and my life once again begged me to seek a spiritual path. I met a young woman who led me to a Guru, where I felt so comfortable visiting an ashram and listening to the talks in “Satsang” (how did I just remember that term? I haven’t thought of it for decades!) I created a little “altar” with candles, incense and a picture of my guru, as I tried in vain to meditate, and on perhaps one occasion, I lost “my self,” and felt the most energized I have ever felt in my life.
(Spirituality called out to me again, describing in whispers of a state far higher than I had ever dreamed of before!)
But, life, my career and a second marriage led me away from that. I even dreamed of the Guru leaving our Earth in a hot air balloon, drifting up to space, where I truly believed that he was going to perish while touching the outer atmosphere.
I awoke in a cold sweat, looked outside my tiny Pottstown, PA, apartment, and saw that it had snowed for the earliest time in eastern Pennsylvania’s recorded history — Columbus Day, Oct. 12, 1980.
I grew a beard.
For the first time in my life.
I felt I had to rearrange something in my life, perhaps to ward me against some future threat, or prepare me for a new addition to my life style. Less than two months later, I met my future (and current wife, a so-called “Jesus freak”) and she later confined to me that what drew her to me physically was MY BEARD!
Today, I have entered a new phase, where the Tibetan Book of the Dead is appending and writing a new chapter in my life. I will be going to a place called the “Omega Institute” for a retreat to contemplate PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), to meditate, and to study in a library, called the “Ram Dass Library.
Shades of Timothy Leary, LSD acid trips, and a book he and another brilliant young professor, Richard Alpert (a.k.a. Ram Dass), championed, “The Tibetan Book of the Dead.”
Am I coming full circle to something that started all those years ago and only now appears to come to a blossoming?
I would like to think so.
But why has it taken so long, and why did I have to squeeze through so many hoops, overcome so many obstacles, and avoid death and possible disgrace to finally get to “this” place?
I guess this is what one would call a rhetorical question? Maybe. But I still want to know.
(The comment was left Oct. 19, 2009, at the latest post of urbansannyasin, entitled: “Dream Yoga,” which was a follow-up to “The Tibetan Book of the Dead,” Oct. 18, 2009)