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This is the first piece I wrote for the website, a few days after Rama's death.

Rama was as enigmatic as the desert. He was as closed to scrutiny as a falcon. He was as open and as vulnerable as a baby chick. His life was veiled in mystery, but only if you allowed yourself to be wrapped by the flash, and failed to look beneath the surface. He died this week.

Rama - Dr. Frederick Lenz - was to some a spiritual teacher, a Prisoner Of Light who told tales of power with power. To others, he was a cult leader who took advantage of his students financially, sexually, and psychically. Me, I don't know. I was his student for fourteen-odd (very odd) years, and I still don't know. But even though I have not been his student for several years now, I cannot sit silent in the face of the predominantly negative media coverage and Usenet gossip. I beg your pardon for interrupting your ongoing conversations, but I think there are lessons to be learned from the life - and certainly from the death - of this extraordinary man, not only for those who studied with him, but for anyone on a spiritual path.

I can't blame the media. The sensational nature of his death and life fairly scream for Geraldo. I mean, the guy dresses up in his best suit and tie, in his million-dollar house by the ocean, and hosts a pill-popping party with the few individuals he feels close to - some Scotties and a young woman whose physical beauty is rivaled only by the obvious purity of her heart. Around his neck, under his shirt and tie, he wears the collar of his closest friend in this incarnation, a beloved Scottish Terrier named Vayu. Details are unclear, but it seems that he intended to take one last walk down to the ocean and fell in, floating away on his back into the Bardo. Like I said, I can't blame the media. It's a story made for them, a veritable Movie Of The Week.

But I think that's only part of the story, and since I know they aren't going to tell the other part, I will attempt to do so, in as few words as I can.

Rama was outrageous; that's a given. He lived to fuck with people's preconceptions about enlightenment, the spiritual path, and spiritual teachers. He was a mass of contradictions, driving a Porsche Turbo yet spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on tapes and publications and music to be given away free. He was an absolutely shameless marketer, putting a 'resume' of his past incarnations on a poster advertising his talks.

And the man had an ego on him. Big-time. At his talks, the first ones to flee were the folks who believe that enlightenment means egolessness. Me, I'm not so sure any more. One of the benefits of having a veritable Zaphod Beebelbrox as your spiritual teacher is that it makes you think about enlightenment, what it is, and what it is not.

Think about it. If you flashed out today, would you be so drastically different tomorrow? Would you suddenly transmute from who you know yourself to be into a perfectly good, perfectly compassionate, perfectly holy holy man or woman? I think not.

I think each of us, when it happens to us, will be pretty much who we are and have been since Day One, but with light added to the mix. We will still get up each morning, meditate, and then go out into the world to make decisions. And even though the light is there, the decisions are still there as well, and all of our samskaras are still there, and we are still there, and the decisions must of necessity reflect and unify all of these disparate parts.

Was Rama enlightened? Beats the shit outa me.

I know a lot of people who believe he was, based on the flashy stuff he could do. Siddhis and the like. Was it real? I think so. I have seen the man step up off the desert sand and into midair, then hang ten and surf the sucker. I have sat two feet in front of him and seen him go invisible, to the point of seeing stars through his barely-present body. I have seen him fill rooms with golden light and the sky with light shows that make my days at the Avalon seem tame by comparison. Some folks see this as a 'signpost' of enlightenment.

My reaction to such phenomena? Since the first day I met him, I think you would have to characterize it as, "Big whoop! Show me the mindset!"

But, since the first day I met him, he did. I was never there for the flash. I was there for the consciousness. Meditating with Rama was simply the best. Whatever else you can say about him - and there is a lot to be said - the man could crank in meditation! Sit with him, close your eyes, and fwham! - you found your Self sitting in absolute silence.

The sex thing?

The man liked women; that's a given. Can't blame him, myself. In my opinion, they are the single greatest piece of evidence for the existence of God.

The money thing?

A matter of perspective. I sunk a great deal of money into my study with Rama. Many folks, hearing the amounts, would believe me crazy and him a charlatan. Both may be the case.

But, sitting here in my house in the desert on a fine, sunny Saturday afternoon, I can't feel sorry about a penny of it. If he had not pushed me to achieve some semblance of my potential, I would not be where I am today, living in one of the best places on earth, working only a week or two a month to support my lifestyle. No regrets here, Chucko.

Especially when I review some of the moments I got for my money. Sitting on the sand in Carrizo Gorge, lost in eternity and worlds of light. Teaching meditation for free in the red-light district of Amsterdam. Standing with him at the summit of Haleakala, watching the sun set into infinity. Having dinner with him and a small group of fellow students in Nirvana. No, not the mindstate, the restaurant overlooking Central Park. (Then again, maybe there's not that much difference between the two.) Sitting on a high mesa in the desert, lightning and rain all around us, but the group of us high and dry and rolling on the sand laughing as Rama told jokes so bad that no one with an ounce of ego would ever, in a million lifetimes, admit to even knowing them.

No, I have no regrets. Up until the day I walked away, I always felt that I was getting more than my money's worth. And in the time since, I have uncovered enough wisdom in what he showed me and enabled me to experience that I would gladly pay double the price. As the lead character says in a fine film called City Of Angels, in answer to the question, "Was it worth it?," it would have been worth it for one such moment. One.

And now, if you'll forgive me, I must go out and watch the sunset. Sunsets are an artform here, as is living, and some of them are actually signed in the lower right corner by God. I sense one of those brewing, so I am going to put on my hiking boots, slot Zazen's Mystery School into the Walkperson, and take a walk in the desert. Fortunately, where I live, it's just outside my door.

Fortunately, wherever you live, it's just outside your door as well. It's a lovely evening. Why not go for a walk?


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