Thursday, September 7, 2017

Some earlier life's memories

Recently, on his Facebook page, D.R. Butler (Ram) has been sharing some memories from his earlier life.  What follows is the first 4 posts of memories.  We'll share more in the comments as the month goes on:

I grew up in Vicksburg, Mississippi and I loved it there. In my teens, I thought it was the greatest place on earth. I liked my friends, and we had fun during those years. Somehow I came upon yoga and meditation there, which, looking back, is a great mystery to me. It seems like if I was to go in that direction so early, I should have grown up in California or something.
 
I went to Millsaps College in Jackson, which at the time was the liberal stronghold of Mississippi. We had the first ever mixed marriage in the state in our chapel when I was there. I majored in English Literature and Philosophy. Somehow, I also became the manager and agent of a very good rock band, all college students, and on weekends we traveled all over the South. This paid my living expenses while in Jackson. I graduated from college and was just hanging around, going on gigs with the band and writing. I sold my first short story when I was 20, and sold a couple more before I left the state.
 
Three members of the band, after graduating themselves, were going to New York City, for different reasons. I was still with the band, which was now mostly replacements, and it wasn't the same. I wasn't sure what to do with myself. Then out of the blue, a fellow from Vicksburg who had recently graduated from Harvard called me and told me his roommate was leaving and if I wanted to move to New York to be there within a week. This was totally unexpected. I don't know what prompted him to do that, and talking about it with him in later years, he had no idea either why he called me.
 
I left the Jackson airport and flew to New York for the first time. In the summer of 1968, it was like going to a different planet. It turned out my new apartment was in a wonderful neighborhood in Greenwich Village, on 12th street between 5th and 6th avenues. And it was bustling. And there were flower children everywhere. The movie The Graduate had just come out, and Dustin Hoffman lived on the same block, and I saw him several times. He always smiled and waved. What an amazing new life I stumbled into.
 
This is getting long, so I am going to jump ahead to 1974 when I met the physical Guru in Manhattan. He was visiting there from India, and I looked forward to meeting him. His reputation was that he was a very powerful man, and that he could spontaneously awaken spiritual energy in people through a process known as Shaktipat. I wasn't disappointed. I sat on the floor in a room with about 20 other people, waiting for him. I heard the door open from behind me, and I turned to see if it was him. Then the palm of his hand hit my shoulder so hard that it knocked me over, somewhat off-balance. He laughed and strode to his chair in the front.
A strange thing began to happen. I started feeling this euphoric energy in my spine, and it went all the way up to my head and out the top. I knew about Kundalini and the chakras, so I knew intellectually what I was experiencing, but it was like nothing I had ever experienced before. Then the room filled with white light and disappeared. I could barely make out the forms of the other people sitting there, some of them in chairs, but it was very diaphanous. I could see through the world, and there was a formless homogeneous white light on the other side. The energy running up my spine gave me an ecstatic experience. I remember thinking to myself, "Oh, this is why people have a Guru. He can cause things to happen in me that I cannot cause in myself."
 
We were all allowed to go up to him, one by one, and ask him a question. As I sat in front of him, it seemed to me that no one was in his body, like he was being operated by remote control. When I looked into his eyes, there was no self-consciousness stopping me, like what happens with most people, and it was as though I went all the way through and came out the other side. It felt very strongly as though he and I were the same one in two different bodies. I had no idea what to ask him, and I blurted, "How can I be aware of God every moment of every day?"
I still remember his answer vividly. "Why do you want what you do not already have? If you get something you don't already have, you might lose it. When you see what you always already have, which you can never lose and which can never be taken from you, you will be aware of God every moment of every day."
Unknown to me at the time, this was the beginning of a whole new life, containing experiences I had never before dreamed of.

Being with Baba in Manhattan in 1974 was a wondrous time in my life. All of these new energies and insights stirred from within me, and I intuited that life never 'could' be the same, even if I wanted it to, which I didn't. As interesting as I thought my life was, it was humdrum compared to what I was experiencing now. Baba's energy, or, in Sanskrit, Shakti, awakened a new awareness in me of who I actually am. It was as though the previous 29 years I had suffered an identity crisis, where I had forgotten who I actually am.

I would come up with questions for Baba, and as soon as I had them clearly in mind, I would hear very satisfying answers to them. This happened a few times, so once I told Baba what was going on and asked him if I should consider that the answers I heard in my mind were from him. He liked this and emphatically said, "Yes!"

Before he left Manhattan he told me to open a Meditation Center for him in my home. I asked, "But what if they have questions?" and he said, "You will answer all questions perfectly." This is something I have remembered all my life, as it seems to be my fate for questions to come my way. In the 25 years I traveled and led weekend workshops, people always said that their favorite part was the question and answer sessions.

The primary 'commands' the Guru gave me were to teach people about the Self, or the Truth of Being, and to teach people what a Guru is. Oh yes, he also told me to learn the Course well. He also told me to learn Kashmir Shaivism perfectly. I have to admit that I understand it experientially and practically, although not scholarly.

Later I learned that when an authentic Guru says something, or gives even a hint of a command, he also gives the Shakti to do it, or for it to come true. I do not believe this as a mere concept, for everything he ever said to me eventually came true in my life. He is the one who authorized me to function as a teacher--for many years for him and later for his successor.

Let me say that there are many more false gurus than real ones, for an authentic Guru is rare. A Guru must be Self-Realized and completely free from ego. He must have been trained by his own Guru, and commanded by his own Guru to function as Guru. According to Sanskrit scriptures, the Guru is primarily the grace-bestowing power of God.

In the East, people go to a Guru for four main reasons: For prosperity, for a marriage partner, for children, and for spiritual enlightenment. The first three are the more common reasons people see a Guru. As Sai Baba of Shirdi said, "I give people what they want in the hopes that they will one day want what I have to give."

One of my favorite movies is Elizabethtown, and one of my favorite soundtracks is the one to that movie. I love the feeling in the movie, and the feeling it leaves me with. I guess I mention this because I am listening to that soundtrack as I write this.

A primary reason I began writing the story of my life is to take one last look at it, to see what really happened, rather than what I might have thought happened at the time. At the same time, it feels rather presumptuous to talk about myself at all. I mean, get over yourself. As my daughter Sara once said to me, "You teach meditation don't you? Transcend already."

As a teen, I somehow came across yoga and meditation in Vicksburg. A teacher in the 9th grade gave me some magazines (I guess she saw something in me even then) and through the ads I came across books and courses. I was actually able to find some books in Vicksburg, although I had to send away for Paramahamsa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi.

I learned very quickly that such things were not to be shared with others. I tried talking to one supposedly like-minded friend about it, and he said, "Yoga, that's where you lie on a bed of nails, right?" So in high school I kept it pretty much to myself. The only person who really took a sincere interest in it was my mother. She was always so open to what I was learning outside of school. She understood me in some deep and inexplicable way. Truly, she was my first student.

In college, I took a course in Eastern Philosophy. I was amazed that the students could learn about it and pass tests on it, and that the professor could speak knowledgably about it, and yet none of them saw any point in practicing any of it in their own lives. This, at the time, was one of the strangest things I had encountered. How could people learn about such amazing knowledge, and yet have no interest in actually applying it for practical purposes?

Even today I often wonder how some people can 'know' such pristine knowledge, and yet are unable or unwilling to practice it in their daily lives for practical results. You know that I make almost daily postings here on Facebook, open to the public--anyone in the world--reminders on how to enjoy a happier and more fulfilling life. And I am willing to answer all sincere questions, in any thread, and verbalizing questions is one of the easiest and quickest ways to learn. Even Socrates knew that. (In college, on the basketball team, the guys called me 'So-crates.') Anyway, it is actually painful to me sometimes when someone dear to me is in pain, and yet they have no interest in learning what I have spent my entire life studying, understanding, and finally passing on to those who are open enough to receive it.

Today's post doesn't seem to have progressed the story of my life very far. I guess I am still in the process of seeing and understanding what all it is. In a sense, this is also the 'life story' of Consciousness Itself. If someone were to ask me to describe the nature of our Course in one word, I would say that, in the long run, it is about Consciousness.

Consciousness is forever surveying Itself, exploring Itself and all Its creations and manifestations, and understanding Itself in some way we cannot even fathom. Consciousness is right now surveying and understanding Itself through our own individual lives, as we are all manifestations of Consciousness. It is Consciousness that sees what we see, that knows what we know, and that feels what we feel. Through understanding the true nature of Consciousness, our life starts to feel as though we live in Heaven.

In high school I was very athletic. After being fairly good in high school, I earned a basketball scholarship to college and played there for two years before I hurt my back pretty badly. (It still bothers me today.) This was about the time I became the manager and agent of a rock band. I never dreamed during this time, spending weekends with the band at fraternity or sorority parties or in smoky bars across the South, that I would soon move to New York City and spend the rest of my adult life in the Northeast. I certainly never dreamed I would enter into relationship with an authentic Guru from India.

I might not have left Mississippi at that time if my mother were not killed in a car crash at the age of 43. I had just turned 21, and this was devastating to me, as I was very close to her and emotionally attached. I went for years trying to overcome my grief. At some point the grief subsided, and her early death simply became one of the details of my past. Besides, everything changed when I met Baba.

I supported myself as a free-lance writer those early years in New York, but soon after meeting Baba, I began writing the Course. The first lesson was mailed out in August of 1975.  I quit writing for magazines and devoted my time and attention to the Course. Some might wonder why I capitalize Course. As explained in the lessons of the Course, I capitalize words referring to or leading to the Divine. The process of participating in the Course leads one to his or her own Divinity. This has been my own experience, as well as feedback received from countless others.

The Course eventually moved from New York across the country to Palo Alto. This was after a week-long retreat at Mt Shasta. I loved everything about California. I led workshops in various areas, including San Diego, LA, Carmel, Oakland, and up to Seattle, and eventually to Vancouver. Those were fun days.


Soon my karma took me back across the country again to Sarasota. We lived in a house on Siesta Key between the Gulf and the Bay. It was beautiful there, and we enjoyed long walks on the beach almost every day. I loved Florida, and I thought I would spend the rest of my life there.
 
We spent the summers in the ashram in upstate New York. And some Force greater than my own ideas began drawing me further in, and soon we and the Course moved to the ashram. I spent the next 20 years in the ashram and leading weekend workshops in various cities around the world.
 
It was amazing watching my life change after meeting Baba. Before that, no one really seemed to care very much what I thought about anything. Soon after meeting him, people were coming to me with their innermost questions. I had to remember that he had said I would answer all questions perfectly, and that he always spoke the truth. At least, I have never personally experienced or observed that anything he said did not come true.
 
Oh, my, this had gotten so long, and I haven't even gotten to what I was going to write about. All these details of my life came up, and I am experimenting with what it is like to write the story of my life. I don't like revealing the details of my life. I am a very private person. Yet I feel it is good for me, and hopefully it is good for you, too.

8 comments:

D. R. Butler said...

23 Random Things About Me
1. I started studying and practicing yoga and meditation as a teenager in Vicksburg, Mississippi.
2. I wrote my first course when I was a senior in high school. Participants had to contribute $.50 a month to cover the cost of mimeographing each lesson.
3. I started taking a correspondence course at 15 that I completed when I was 29.
4. I left all 14 years of the treasured lessons in a friend's basement when I went to India for the first time. When I got back I discovered that his wife had assumed they were trash and threw them out. I thought to myself, 'I guess I'll just have to KNOW it.'
5. At 29 I met an authentic Siddha Guru from India who was in Manhattan and received Shaktipat.
6. To understand more about Shaktipat, go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiS8j-GPPYg
7. He said I should open a meditation center for him and teach people what a Guru is.
8. I said, 'I have no idea what a Guru is.'
9. He laughed and said, 'Don't worry, you will!'
10. Before I met him I sold an article to a magazine titled, 'As You Think, So You Are.'
11. The article got such a huge response from readers that they encouraged me to begin my next course (following the one written in high school) in 1975.
12. The article wasn't published until after I met the Guru. So, interestingly, as I began my course, I found myself teaching people what a Guru is, as instructed.
13. Many people received Shaktipat through reading the lessons. The Guru's energy was potent. One of the first students wrote to say, 'When I read the words of the lessons I experience intense and inexplicable jolts of euphoria.'
14. After leaving NYC for India in 1978 and returning after a few months, I travelled and lived temporarily in various places, including Erie, PA, Jamestown, NY, Palo Alto, CA, and Sarasota, FL.
15. In 1981 the Guru suggested I move from Sarasota to his ashram in upstate New York. Probably I shouldn't say how I felt about this move at the time.
16. In 1982 the Guru took Mahasamadhi -- the transition from the physical body to greater life beyond.
17. I became a 'spiritual teacher,' continuing to write the course and traveling around the world leading weekend workshops.
18. While in the ashram, 3 beautiful children were born to my wife and I -- Jnani, Shane/Shri, and Sara/Shubi. All have turned out to be beautiful, special people whom I am honored to have served as their father.
19. In 2002 I resigned my official position with the ashram and the longstanding course came to an end.
20. I moved with Kay, who had been the course office manager for many years, to a village of 90 in NE PA.
21. In 2003 Kay and I were married.
22. I spent 2002-2008 in complete seclusion except for seeing immediate family. I retreated from the world as much as it is possible in today's world.
23. In 2008 I began writing the new course, 'Living in the Truth of the Present Moment.' Now we are up to date, and here we are.

D. R. Butler said...

I haven't seen my mother in 51 years, when she died in a car crash. Why did she leave, and why so young? I haven't seen my father in 25 years, when he died of a heart attack. Where did he go? I'm now the same age he was then. I haven't seen my children since longer than I like to think about, but they are happy in their lives and visit when they can. I haven't seen many friends and loved ones in many years, most of whom I'll never see again, many of whom I'll never even hear from. I wish them all the very best. And who are you that reads this?
I send you all my love.

D. R. Butler said...

The Eternal Serenity of All Things

Not long ago someone said to me: “So these are the things I need to focus on to get my life more on track…” and she started listing all these complicated and irrelevant things that she was going to do to improve her life.

I finally interrupted her and said, “Please forget all of that, for none of it will do you any good whatsoever. All you have to focus on is the eternal serenity of all things.”

We make things so complicated and difficult for ourselves. Sometimes we wonder why life seems so hard, never realizing that we ourselves are the one making it hard. If we changed our attitude, our approach, our perspective of things, and our thoughts and feelings about whatever is happening, everything would be so much lighter, so much more fun.

All we need to focus on is the eternal serenity of all things. Nothing is going wrong anywhere. Nothing bad is happening to anyone. I know that it appears that such things are happening--all we have to do is check out today's news--but maya is very powerful and very convincing, and things are never as they appear to be.

My heart soared when I saw so many writing to say that they never realized how much uplifting activity was going on here, and how such a great feeling of community was in the comments, and promising to make more regular stops here to interact with other friends.

Someone asked how walking and sitting can be spiritual practices. Here is something very important to understand about my approach to sadhana: everything is equally a spiritual practice. Truly, what is not a spiritual practice? It all depends on the consciousness brought to it.

We can sit in meditation and think of all kinds of worldly things. We can go to a movie and experience deep meditation. So which is the true spiritual practice?

Walking and sitting are both ways to meditate. Why sit or walk if you are not going to meditate? This doesn’t mean you have to walk with your eyes closed. Practice open-eyed meditation. This doesn’t mean you have to ignore others during conversation. If you can’t meditate while you’re talking to another, then what’s the point of meditating at all?

Everything is a spiritual practice. Simply carrying around this corpse waiting to happen is a spiritual practice. It simply depends on how we are directing attention.
(continued in the next comment)

D. R. Butler said...

(continued) Who are the ‘spiritual people'? What distinguishes them from unspiritual people, or from just regular people? If we were around certain people whom I consider to be the most ‘spiritual’ of all, there might not be anything about them that anyone would consider spiritual in the least. In fact, from appearances I doubt that anyone just seeing me or being around me might categorize me as ‘spiritual’ in any way whatsoever. So I truly wonder what a ‘spiritual person’ is.

People can read a few books or articles on the Internet and pick up a bit of knowledge and think they have become ‘spiritual’ as a result. Or they might even attend a few yoga classes or meditation classes, learn how to chant in Sanskrit, and go on to practice these things at home on their own. They can do excellent hatha yoga postures, meditate for hours without breathing, repeat a mantra, either out loud or silently, burn incense from the local center or ashram, put up some pictures of saints, wear yoga clothes, dress in white, grow or cut their hair, change their diet and lifestyle, give up their pleasures, wake up in the middle of the night to do their practices before the day begins, and speak glowingly of the fruits of their practice to others.

Yet many of them seemingly know nothing of the creative nature of thought, do nothing to change thought patterns to be more uplifting and cheerful, or to do whatever is necessary to be in harmony with others at all times, or KNOW that their income is commensurate with their degree of CONSCIOUSNESS of wealth or poverty—which alone is the determining factor.

This physical incarnation is like the subtle body having a dream—the dream of the jiva. We never left the subtle world. We live there even now, only most of us are largely focused on the physical world only, like being hypnotized without knowing it, which is usually the case.

So many people comment about how they reach a point in the Course and realize that the Course is a much greater thing than anything they had previously grasped, even though they already loved it and had benefitted so much. As our understanding deepens (“The Evolution of Wisdom”—the title of one of the early sections of the course, and something important to understand) we develop the capacity to see things for the first time that we had never seen before even though they were always present.

You who come here have showed yourselves, shared of yourselves, introduced yourselves, and revealed your thoughts and feelings in these comments. I also recognize that many of you are readers and not posters, and that it is a matter of one’s own nature and preference, and that it is as perfect as everything else.

Being a part of a community, a kula, while totally being yourself, and true to yourself in all ways, will soon reveal how your very presence contributes to the community. It is important to share a sense of community, to know there are others out there just like you and involved in the same process that you yourself are. It creates the possibility for a whole new level of sadhana.
Thanks so much to all the new people who have come forward for the first time and revealed that you exist and that you actually do read these threads. Thanks for sharing in the Love.

D. R. Butler said...

My first Teacher, after elaborating on the principles of prosperity, wrote, in 1958:
"Go it alone and pay no attention to other people--what they think, what they tell you, or what advice they offer. The cheapest thing to be had is advice; and it is invariably 100 percent wrong and useless.
"BUT, be warned--IF you seek money, or wealth, without 'giving' some type of service, or benefit, for what you expect to receive--you destroy your purposes before you get started. 'Something for nothing' is ruinous."

D. R. Butler said...

Rumi wrote:
"I knew, drunk on love, this world is harmony--creation, destruction, I am dancing for them both."

Can we see God, and beauty, in the fury of earthquakes and hurricanes?
There is more of that to come, you know. It is not nearly over.
Can we see the perfect harmony in both creation and destruction?
Can we see beauty in 'death'?
Of course, there is no such thing as death.
There is only a transition from this world to the next, and whenever it happens, the time was set along with the time of birth.
Each of us has the karma to be in this world, in this particular body, for a certain number of years. No matter how we live our life, that number cannot be changed.

It does not matter whether we 'believe' these things or not.
Can we see the beauty in earthquakes and hurricanes?
Can we see God's Love in them?
The answers you come up with might transform your experience of Life.

D. R. Butler said...

Grouch Marx's last words: "Either that wallpaper goes or I do."

D. R. Butler said...


Tom said: "Ram, I've been experimenting with unpredictability... it is fun and freeing!" Ram replied: Well, just so it doesn't become an unpredictable ego-trip.
You know, the ego taking pride in unpredictability.

I sometimes heard people ask Baba what are some outward signs of a Siddha, a Spiritual Master, who not only lives in the experience, but has the capacity to share the experience with others.

The first quality Baba would mention was "spontaneity."

It can be a great sadhana contemplating what true spontaneity must be.
At least it has been for me.