Rama Meditating


Meeting Zen Master Rama
By Mark S.

I 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 English.

A 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.

A 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.

A world in which relative concepts of space, time and self are replaced by multiple planes of consciousness, reincarnation and advanced psychic networking.

What 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.

The 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.

He 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.

He 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 and successful.

His 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.

He 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.

I 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?

But 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.

It 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.

How 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.

Normally a koan is short, like "the sound of one hand clapping." The Zen Master repeats the koan and everyone meditates upon it.

The 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.

That's what his dialogues are, elongated koans. As we all sit here listening to him he's got us meditating without us even noticing.

He 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.

I 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.

Pausing, 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.

The 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.

He 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 present.

The 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.

Later 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.

His 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 evening attire.

No 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.

Half 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.

During 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.

The 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.

On 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 teacher.

"There's 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.

The 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.

On 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.

Why 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?

The 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.

Who is he? We will probably never really know for certain. His life is shrouded in mystery.

Is 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.

No 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 the spring.

My 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.

I 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.

It 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.

His 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.

He 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.

Zen 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 Earth.


Reprinted from "Meeting Zen Master Rama" © 1986 Dr Frederick Lenz
Photo © 1986 Harry Langdon