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Uncle Tantra  

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The Image: The background of the card is hard to get a fix on, because it keeps shifting. One moment it is the desert, the next a Dilbert cube an office building, the next a sidewalk cafe in Amsterdam, and the next, the Bardo. The graphics are excellent; there is never a boring moment. The foreground, on the other hand, is far more predictable, and never seems to change. In it I am standing, looking down at my open hand, which contains a jewel.

In the dream, I was no longer a student. True, I found myself in a large, white hotel which I intuitively grokked was an astral hangout for Lakshmi students and probably even Rama himself. But I had somehow come into this particular dreamplane very aware; I knew immediately that this was a dream, but a real dream, and that I had somehow awakened in it. I also remembered, as I looked around and saw old friends from Lakshmi, that I was no longer one of them.

Pursuing me into the dream was the full knowledge of having received a letter from Rama a couple of months earlier. It was a lovely letter, full of the grace I had come to expect from this fascinating gentleman, but leaving no doubt that I was out, on my own, no longer in the Center, be on that last stage out of town, fini, over, kaput. I was history.

I had brought with me into the dream plane the ambivalence of my feelings about this. Intellectually, I never had any trouble with Rama's decision to ask me to leave; had I been asked to make the decision myself, I would have come to the same conclusion. I relied heavily on this intellect when dealing with my friends, attempting to inspire them and myself with my stoic acceptance. Emotionally, however, I was a churning morass of guilt, self-pity, and helplessness, with no clue as to where to go next. My life felt like a necklace which has been broken, a jumble of sutra-selves with no thread of light to connect them.

So as I wandered through the ornate, glistening lobby of the Hotel Lakshmi, naturally I couldn't help but wonder why I was there. But no one stopped me or suggested that I was as out of place as I felt, so finally I stopped wondering and decided that, since I was there, I might as well take the two-dollar tour.

The hotel was an astral version of those old, classic Grand Hotels of Europe. Neither space nor quality had been constraints for whoever built it. The main lobby was immense, paneled in the finest woods, lit by crystal chandeliers that resembled the mother ship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. It was impeccably maintained, of course; housekeeping must be a high art in this particular dreamplane. I walked about, trying to keep a low profile, wearing the caretaker personality of a tourist taking in the sights. In reality, I was much more interested in the students from Lakshmi than in their astral abode, because I missed them.

Although I encountered many people I knew, we exchanged no words, only an occasional smile or nod. I remember being somewhat surprised that the confusion of emotions which surrounded Purge I for both students and ex-students had not found its way into this particular loka. There was a distance between me and my former friends, but it felt physical, not social. The students I encountered seemed to relate to me as if I were less corporeal than they were. People saw me and smiled, but felt no compunctions about discussing me among themselves in my presence. I felt they were seeing through me, as if I were less physical than they, a dream-wraith within a dream.

As I turned from the lobby and climbed the first of many wide, carpeted staircases, I encountered two Lakshmi women I knew mainly by sight. They smiled warmly, and one said to the other, "Oh, there's Uncle Tantra. Why hasn't he been around lately?" The second replied, as she walked past me down the stairs, "You know...he didn't ask."

I continued my poignant tour, walking through hallways and drawing rooms and libraries, easily in awe of the hotel's beauty. I thought I was wandering at random until I climbed one last flight of stairs and found Rama. He was in an upper salon, laughing and joking with a small group of students. I drew closer and determined that he was telling their fortunes. It had been so long since I had seen him that at first I was content just to watch. He gazed at each student's palm, or placed his hand on their foreheads, and then said something to each one that sounded as if it came from a Zen fortune cookie.

The words didn't seem to gel, to come together into coherent sentences. Most of the students merely looked confused, and Rama would poke gentle fun at them and laugh and turn to the next one. A few, however, managed to pull off a higher transaction. Somehow they made sense of these nonsensical words, and their faces transformed before me into things of beauty. These faces had seen the veil of maya part for just an instant, and they radiated the knowledge of what they had seen on the other side.

This was too good an opportunity to pass up, even for an astral interloper, so I turned my chutzpah knob up to 11 and walked up behind the couch Rama was standing next to. He turned, noticed me and smiled. If the others found me dreamlike or translucent, Rama had no such trouble. He saw me as clearly as if we had been face to face in the waking state. He indicated that I should sit on the back of the couch, and reached out for my hand.

Rama took my hand and turned it over, palm upward. Cradling my hand in both of his, he gazed into my palm like a gypsy fortuneteller and then raised his eyes to meet mine. When he spoke, the words had a power unlike anything I had previously felt from him. What he said felt like a koan, a jumble of incoherent words on the surface which undoubtedly made perfect sense on some higher level of reality. I obviously did not live on that plane. I could feel the life and power of the words, I could feel them probing my being, looking for a home, but they just weren't connecting.

Rama smiled and tried again, with a different set of words. Again they didn't connect. I could feel them, pregnant with energy, alive, as if they were magical beads waiting only for the proper thread to bind them into a necklace of power. But I just couldn't come up with that thread. I reached and reached inside myself, trying with all my being to come up to the level necessary to make use of this gift, but I just couldn't. I felt the words start to fade, to grow tired of their search for understanding, and finally Rama smiled one last time and turned away, releasing my hand. My audience with Rama in the dream plane was obviously over.

Disappointed and defeated, I turned away and started down the stairs. I had gotten about halfway down when I suddenly stopped, and without thinking about it or even realizing that I had made a decision, turned and climbed back to the salon. Rama was still there, sitting on the couch now, joking with the same students. I walked up behind the couch and waited.

He sensed I was there and turned, and I saw him start to form his patented "What...you again? Don't you know when to quit?" smile. Before I could wimp out, I stuck out my hand one more time. He shrugged, shifted a little on the couch so he could reach my hand more easily, and once more took it in both of his hands. He gazed into my palm again, then raised his eyes to mine and spoke.

It was another koan, and for a horrible half a second I thought that I couldn't make sense of this one, either. But then with an almost audible snap! it came together for me. The words had the same power as in the previous koans, but something in me was on this time, and allowed them access to my inner being, where they started to do their stuff. I felt the koan surge around inside of me, playing a kind of spiritual reveille. In the space of a few seconds, more new selves woke up and came to life inside me than I had previously even conceived of. Whatever the power behind the words was, its effect was clear. It raged through my system like a crazed electrician, flipping switches to activate circuits which had never been used before. I felt like a man on fire.

The psychic effect of Rama's words was so intense that it took me a few seconds to realize that they had meaning as words. From my new vantage point, they were completely comprehensible to me, conveying exactly what our present relationship was, and exactly what I had to do to bring it closer. They were personal, so I won't go into it; suffice it to say they had to do with my corpulent ego.

All of this could have taken place in two seconds or thirty seconds or ten minutes - I had checked out of any world in which time seemed to operate, so I can't tell you. When I came back to an awareness of the dream, I was still standing behind the couch, my hand cradled in Rama's. The epiphany caused by Rama's koan had been so intense that it only now occurred to me that I was once again standing in front of my teacher, and that he still was my teacher. My heart chakra went into meltdown.

Rama continued to smile and gaze into my eyes for a moment longer, and then he did one last thing for me. Slowly, with infinite tenderness, Rama shifted my hand in his and gently began to close it. The grace of his movements completely transfixed me; if the Madonna in Michaelangelo's Pieta could move, this is how she would move. Rama closed my hand as if he had placed something precious in my palm, and wanted to make sure I didn't lose it. As my fingers continued to close, I felt for a moment as if the entire scene - the dream, the hotel, Rama's koan, my reaction to it, everything - collapsed inward into itself and folded into a tiny jewel, resting in my outstretched hand. I could almost see it shining there. Then my fingers closed over the jewel, and Rama gently held my closed hand between his for a few more moments. When he released my hand, I awakened in my own bed, crying over the exquisite beauty of one small gesture.

Today, the words of Rama's koan have faded. I doubt if I could remember them if I tried. But it doesn't matter, because the memory of that gesture is intact. Everything Rama ever stood for or taught me was captured in that simple motion - his hand gently closing my hand over a precious crystal of knowledge, visible and meaningful only to me. The gesture meant, "This is important - remember it and treasure it."

Rama's gesture was an act of grace, in every sense of the word. It reaffirmed my connection with him and with light; it reminded me that the lightthread which binds together the momentpearls of my life had never shattered. It touched me deeply enough in the dream to loose a flood of tears that followed me into the mundane world when I awakened. They pursue me still, as I write this.

Time is funny stuff. It amazes me that this one frozen moment in dreamtime kept me going for almost a year and a half, until time and karma led me back to studying with Rama again. It amazes me that it continues to inspire me today. And it amazes me even more to see, with crystalline clarity, that when I die, and am groping through the Bardo for a clue as to what my essence is, it will probably be this moment, this simple gesture, which I will remember and will follow as a beacon to lead me Onward Into Light.



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