Meeting Zen Master Rama
would like to welcome you to a world in which nothing is as
it appears to be. A world in which enlightenment is a good
conversation starter, and words like nirvana, samsara, dharma,
Samadhi, tantra and yantra are spoken along with standard
world in which movie stars and computer programmers, fashion
models and housewives, rock stars and college students learn
to approach their lives with a Zen Mind.
world in which the fifty-six year old executive in the three-piece-suit
strikes up a conversation about karma with the nineteen year
old dance student with the green hair.
world in which relative concepts of space, time and self are
replaced by multiple planes of consciousness, reincarnation
and advanced psychic networking.
is this world in which the Rodeo Drive and Park Avenue crowd
mingle freely with the trend setters from Soho and West Hollywood?
Looking around the seminar room it's hard to find a common
denominator. Their ages span from the teens to the eighties.
They sit for the most part quietly, chatting in low tones
broken by occasional laughter. Some meditate with eyes closed
and backs straight focusing upon some unknown thought. In
the background the smooth sounds of contemporary electronic
music charge the atmosphere with high frequency energy.
lights dim slightly and Zen Master Rama appears at the front
of the room. He climbs the three steps leading up the platform
in a single stride and gracefully settles down upon a white
couch folding his legs under himself in a cross legged position.
seems to hesitate, as if surveying the tone of the audience.
Perhaps he is silently repeating some mystic phrase or Zen
incantation known only to himself.
begins to speak, showing us how to do a systems analysis of
our energy flow. Next he explains how to spot the "holes"
where we lose energy in our thoughts, day to day activities
and in our interpersonal relationships. Then he speaks of
ways to increase and direct energy to become more conscious
conversation shifts to a play he recently saw, Eugene O'Neil's
"The Ice Man Cometh." He talks about Hickey, the protagonist
of the play, and what happens when he tries to slay the illusions
of his friends. Then it's off to the movies for a discussion
of what's new at the box office.
draws examples from contemporary American life, film, theater
and literature which he blends into a Zen dialogue about the
nature of existence. At first his comments about Sally Field's
performance in her recent film "Murphy's Romance," a funny
story about experiences with Michael Jackson, a discussion
of the effects of negative astral entities, comments about
Halley's Comet, local area computer networking and a Tibetan
meditation technique seem unrelated and nonsensical.
feel slightly uncomfortable and I wonder what the point of
all this is. He doesn't look the way I think that a Zen master
should look, and why isn't he talking more about self realization
and telling anecdotal stories about ancient Zen Masters?
as the hours of the seminar melt away I begin to notice that
there is an undefinable method to all of this Zen madness.
Without quite realizing that anything at all has "happened,"
I find that I am in a very different state of mind than when
I first walked into the room.
hits me all at once. I'm high as a kite. The entire room has
taken on a bright glow. I feel as if I'm not really here even
though I am more acutely aware of everything in my environment
than I normally am.
did he do it? I'm not sure but I have an idea. He is speaking
to us in Zen Koans in the form of extended dialogues.
a koan is short, like "the sound of one hand clapping." The
Zen Master repeats the koan and everyone meditates upon it.
idea is that by thinking about unrelated concepts a perceptual
shift occurs that brings you out of your usual state of mind
and into a Zen state of heightened awareness.
what his dialogues are, elongated koans. As we all sit here
listening to him he's got us meditating without us even noticing.
is teaching us and entertaining us at the same time. I am
aware that I am effortlessly learning to think in new ways,
to draw connections where I had formerly not seen that interrelationships
existed, to use circuits in my mind that I didn't know I had.
perceive that there is a highly sophisticated method to all
of this. At first his comments seemed random and unrelated.
But by the end of the evening they all came together for me
into a synthesis that was a catalyst to a new state of mind.
he drinks from a crystal tumbler and then introduces a meditation
technique, the "Aura of Fire". After explaining and demonstrating
how to practice the Aura of Fire, he slides a music cassette
into the small black tape player that rests on the rosewood
end table next to him.
music is electronic, vibrant and kinetic. For ten minutes
everyone practices the Aura of Fire. When the music stops
and we open our eyes he is still meditating. Several heart
beats pass and he looks up. A slight smile darts across his
face as he begins to talk again.
speaks with two distinct voices. One voice, whom he identifies
as Willie, asks questions that most of us would be too embarrassed
to think. His second character, and old Irish Zen Master,
has a brogue so thick that I could swear I'm sitting at a
pub in Dublin. "Zen Master O'Flannagan" responds to Willie's
questions with stereotypic inside out Zen answers that are
so funny that tears of laughter stream down the faces of those
mood shifts to a bitter sweet poignancy as he answers a question
about life after death from a young man who has recently been
told he has a terminal illness. Rama tells him that he is
simply one step ahead of the rest of us. He explains that
from his point of view, there is no such thing as death. He
speaks of reincarnation and the timeless cycle of cosmic evolution.
in the evening the couch is removed from the platform and
he dances, spinning and moving with abandonment in a Zen ballet
of his own creation.
seminars have a distinctly Western flavor. On the first night
the registration process, orchestrated by a good looking group
of men and women in their thirties, was efficient and businesslike.
The men at the registration tables dressed in slacks, blue
blazers and open collared dress shirts. The women wore black
incense burned inside the seminar room. Judging from the way
that most people dressed I could have been attending a fund
raising event for the local art museum. Throughout the course
of the four evening seminar I was never approached by anyone
to join anything, save the whales or eat sushi.
way through each evening there was an intermission. Seminar
participants spilled out into the halls conversing and laughing.
Somehow I had expected a more somber group of people with
"knowing" expressions on their faces instead of a high energy
crowd who were obviously having a good time.
the intermission the Zen Master walks among us chatting and
smiling as if we were old friends he had invited to a private
party. Watching him closely while he is involved in his conversation
with others, I sense that another part of him is very far
away roaming in some distant world of light.
people I met were friendly yet reserved. About half of them
had seen Rama before. The rest, like myself, were attending
their first Zen seminar.
the first evening I spoke with a couple who regularly travel
from Australia to attend. They told me that they had first
heard about him in India. They spoke about their quest for
enlightenment and informed me that Rama was a very unusual
no pretense," the woman told me. "He is fluid Zen." Her husband
explained that there were different degrees of enlightenment
and that Zen Master Rama was the most advanced teacher they
had met so far.
first evening I also spoke with a Los Angeles attorney who
has been attending meditations with Rama for some time and
a pair of giggling teenage girls from Colorado who looked
like they had just stepped out of an MTV rock video.
subsequent evenings I met a number of other individuals: a
Sanskrit professor from Berkeley; and osteopathic surgeon
from the Midwest, a topless dancer from LA, a karate teacher;
two computer programmers, a university student, several people
from the film and television industries and a photo journalist
who had just returned from Africa.
do they come, many traveling from distant states and continents,
to spend four consecutive nights in a seminar with him? What
is the attraction to the curly haired 6'3" American Zen Master
dressed in the black silk shirt and pants? Enlightenment?
The wisdom of the ages? From a Western Zen Master who speaks
in parables of freeways, computer software and Ferraris?
Australian couple told me that when the Zen Master meditates
they see the room fill with an unearthly light reminiscent
of scenes from Steven Spielberg's film "E.T.". They explained
that this was the light of Samadhi and one of the signs that
a Teacher was enlightened. Others told me that they experience
a stillness in his presence that makes it easier for them
to stop their thoughts and enter into deep states of meditation.
Still others talked about positive changes that had occurred
in their careers and personal lives since they have begun
to practice the methods that he teaches.
is he? We will probably never really know for certain. His
life is shrouded in mystery.
he a guru? No. Does he have an organization you can join? No. He appears at seminars, meditates, listens, answers questions,
eloquently engages your attention in his Zen dialogues, explains
basic and advanced methods for attaining enlightenment and
then disappears. In addition to his every other month four
evening Zen seminars in Los Angeles, I have been told that
he also hosts quarterly two day desert seminars in mysticism,
and yearly Zen seminar trips to Japan, Hawaii, Europe, and
a Zen ski seminar in the mountains of Colorado.
one knows where he lives or what he does with his time. Occasionally
people talk of chance encounters with him at a movie in Los
Angeles of New York. A few have seen him biking in the deserts
of Arizona or roaming among the cherry blossoms in Kyoto in
seminar with Zen Master Rama has had a profound effect upon
my daily life. Most of the "changes" that I have experienced
since meditating with him did not occur immediately. So much
happened over the course of the four evenings that in retrospect,
it is difficult to remember what specifically he said or did
that caused my awareness to change in such a positive way.
have surprised myself by my use of the meditation techniques
that I learned at the seminar. I must confess that in spite
of Zen Master Rama's recommendation to start meditating the
day after the seminar ended, I didn't try for several weeks.
Now that I have been practicing more or less regularly for
several months I have been able to return to some of the states
of consciousness I experienced at the seminar.
is still a mystery to me why I had never heard of Rama before.
To see him practice his art is like attending fine ballet
or watching an Olympic athlete on the balance beam. A definite
light of some higher order emanates from him and he uses it,
along with his crazy koans, to create a profound awakening
within the minds of his audience.
art, like many of the best moments in life, is subtle and
we don't realize how deeply it has affected us until long
after it has passed. In an age filled with so much that is
pre-packaged, rude and crude it seems incongruous that he
even exists. His eccentric manner of dress, the "hip" electronic
music he plays, his Zen dance, his humor and the knowledge
and light that emanates from him makes it difficult if not
impossible to categorize him and the service that he provides.
is a true Zen Master in every sense of the word. I think he
breaks all of the conventions of how we think a Zen Master
should dress, speak and live just to prove to us that our
conceptions of a Teacher are too limited.
Master Rama and his art of Tantric Zen Meditation stand outside
of time and fashion. Meditating with him at one of his seminars
is an experience not to be missed on your visit to the planet