It was an afternoon in San Francisco in 1970. Not unlike other afternoons. Nothing inner or outer alerted me to what was about to take place. I had stopped by the Mentorgarden between my “split-shift” job as a school bus driver for handicapped and retarded children (as I usually did) just to check in with Murshid. “Are you busy tonight?” he asked in passing. “I have a meeting with my Zen Master, and I need a ride.” I was overwhelmed. Murshid’s Zen Master? I didn’t really know he had one. At least not still alive. All his stories came back to me – involving Nyogen Senzaki, Paul reps & Fra Samangalo. It felt important. I was psyched. “I’m free,” I answered. “What time shall I pick you up, and where are we going?”
“Be here at 7:30,” he answered. “We’re going to the Avenues.”
Well, at 7:15 I was ready and waiting. Murshid came out in his gray Buddhist robe. He rarely wore it, and I felt for the second time that something special was going on. As we drove to that area of San Francisco called the Avenues, Murshid was unusually silent. He fet preoccupied. He still gave me explicit directions on where and how to drive, but in-between directions his usual monologue was absent. I was now certain that something momentous was about to occur.
A little before 8 p.m. we arrived at a modest house and parked the car. “Come with me,” he said, and walked with a purposeful stride into the house. Sun – Mars – Jupiter in action. I followed in anticipation.
We entered the house through a corridor of people with shaved heads in black robes – sitting very straight and staring at the walls. The energy of the space was very focused, almost unsettling. I found myself in a state of nervous reaction. I remember feeling that all this energy was pointed towards me personally. My mind spun out of control. “This feels like its initiatic energy,” I thought hopefully. “I bet Murshid set this up for me.” And, “Why did he get so many people here? This must be a big deal. I wonder what kind of an initiation this will be?” Fleeting visions of Mount Shasta and the Great White Brotherhood spun through my fevered mind.
I followed a very exuberant Murshid into the house. Every space in the hallways was also filled with sitting monks. He rushed towards the back of the house, moving past all the sitting monks as through they were not there. I can see that the room he is heading towards is filled with people in robes sitting in chairs and talking. A short Asian man, also robed, sees Murshid, and runs out into the hallway to greet him. Murshid was very excited. He returns the greeting, and then remembers me. “This is Saul,” he says. “My factotum.” “Saul this is Doctor Sao.” Sao smiles at me. His energy hits me like a padded mallet. I find myself sitting on the floor of the hallway.
I quickly climb up the ladder to my feet and follow them into the room. No one seems to have noticed my loss of center. This becomes just another part of the puzzle.
We are offered chairs. I am so thankful to be sitting. I try to focus my self. I watch my breath. When I am centered enough to become aware of the room around me again, I realize that Murshid has been giving a report, and that Doctor Sao is his living Zen Master. “I’m just back from Lama Foundation,” Murshid says. “There are a wonderful group of young people there, and I led them in the Maha Mudra. It’s the first time this has been done in America.” Murshid is very proud of himself. I feel myself sharing in his glow.
I am finally more grounded and can focus on the other people in the room. I watch their reactions to his report, after all I had heard it all before. But then I become aware of this older couple. They have gray hair and he has a sharply pointed goatee. I could not believe my ears, they were making fun of what Murshid was reporting. And in such a loud voice. Who were these people? I found myself sitting up straighter, and felt my solar-plexus expanding. My bodyguard mentality started to take over. “Who in the hell do they think they are?” I asked myself. “Where do they think they get the right to make cutting comments to Murshid while he gives his teacher a report?” “Maybe I ought to just ‘pop’ him one.” I thought. “That might improve his manners.”
Then I notice that Murshid is smiling, and giving back as good as he was given. I relax. Once I am out of my head, I can see that they are good friends, and just playing with each other. I become embarrassed, and to this day I still feel embarrassed when I remember my reactions to my first meeting with Joe & Guin Miller (my friends and God-Parents for over 25 years), and Doctor Sao.