is said that laughter is the universal language of humankind.
There is that old cliché that when a man truly laughs, the whole
world laughs along with him. When it comes to infectious laughter,
there is no one more contagious than Avatar Adi Da Samraj. Therefore,
if I were to tell you the feeling course of my life has been altered
by one man's laugh, would it really seem so strange?
In June 1960, I walked away from UC
Berkeley with a degree in Chemical Engineering, and within two
days I'd been hired as "Engineer in Charge" of a nuclear reactor.
Not bad for an upstart, you might say. But after two years, my
interest in this significant position began to wane, and returning
to San Francisco State for a Master's degree, I soon ended up
on the faculty.
Seven years passed. Once again, my interest in what I was doing
waned. My life had been unfolding according to plan, but whose?
I took to the inner life, and having quit teaching, I began to
study Sanskrit and Vedanta. In due course, I was a bonafide monk
in a local San Francisco ashram (up at 5:00 a.m., pedal across
town, meditation at 6:00). Then alas, with the rising cost of
sandals, incense and organic brown rice, my money ran out, and
I became your neighborhood yogi-carpenter and built a house in
Potola Valley for a friend. Living in seclusion there for six
months, I tried to practice the yogic approach to diet, asana
(posture), breathing and meditation. But it soon became evident
that my yogic incapacities were exceeded only by my aversion to
poverty. And my interest waned.
Whatever consolation others might have taken in the active worldly
life, or in the passive spiritual one, I had found little sustenance
in either, and August of 1974 found me living in San Francisco
with my wife, four children, and five dogs. Both my outer and
inner aspirations had more or less fallen by the wayside, and
I had found a job as a computer operator at REA Express. It was
a simple living. I was coasting. However, there existed one night
radio program, "Meeting of the Ways." My habit was to switch on
the set and listen to the first five or ten minutes to see if
anything or anyone could penetrate my boredom. The radio never
remained on for more than ten minutes until one particular Saturday
night when I heard the voice of Adi Da Samraj for the first time.
I had no idea who or what he was; there was simply this voice,
which seemed to possess a life of its own. So much so that the
radio itself appeared to be animated with speech. Then suddenly,
the voice laughed and laughed, and laughed! I was awestruck with
His laughter was free of all irony, and seemed to pierce directly
to the core of my being. It communicated the fullness and depth
of someone who knew all about death and life, suffering and joy.
The experience proved a literal baptism, for in that moment an
old way of life ended and a new one was initiated. Whoever owned
that laugh was intimately familiar with the down side of life,
yet still he seemed to shake with the unrestrained hilarity of
a laughing Buddha.
As the program continued, I did a very uncharacteristic thing.
Vibrating with excitement, I bolted through the house shouting,
"He's here! He's here!" — stampeding kids and dogs in the process.
I had never acted in that way before, and I have never acted in
quite that way since.
A few days later, I drove to the Dawn Horse Bookstore on Polk
Street in San Francisco to learn more about this man. Doing so
was extremely out of character for me, but I felt inexplicably
compelled to go. I still knew nothing about Adi Da Samraj. Had
he written a book? Was there an organization connected to him?
I was informed only by the reverberating guffaws caroming off
the walls of my mind.
The Polk Street bookstore was high up on the second floor. No
less than a hundred steps barred the way. Reaching the top, I
entered and found someone who said his name was James crouched
down behind a desk, poring intently over an imposing disarray
of books and papers. By this time, I was feeling terribly foolish.
Had a wayward belly laugh that past Saturday taken possession
of my psychic funny bone? In any case, I asked James, "What do
I do now?"
James responded ironically, "Fill out this card and we'll be
in touch with you."
I filled out the card, bought a magazine and a book and headed
In the magazine, there were two photos of Adi Da Samraj. I spent
a lot of time gazing at them and listening to the tape I had made
of the radio broadcast. But the days became weeks, and James never
called. After three weeks, I returned to the bookstore and made
the ascent once again.
This time I felt really foolish. James was there, buried
under mounds of papyrus, just as I'd left him. I couldn't help
wondering if he ever called time out for bodily functions. Introducing
myself again, I said, "Do you remember me? I filled out a card
three weeks ago but no one called."
James replied, "Yes, I remember you. We lost your card! We were
hoping you'd return. Here's another card. Fill it out and we'll
be in touch with you."
In that instant, as in so many moments since, the feeling behind
that mind-stopping laugh welled up inside of me, making it clear
that Humor was being restored to my world!
Well....someone eventually did
call, with a place to go to for pre-student class, and I went.
I actually did everything that was asked of me: tithed,
married my live-in partner Anna, changed jobs, fasted, lived the
form of devotional practice exactly, attended every Adidam event,
and went to the Mountain Of Attention Sanactuary every weekend,
but everything I had been doing and everything I said seemed to
be wrong. It seemed that I might never actually see Adi Da. Finally,
at last, after six months, one Wednesday afternoon, in January,
1975, we heard that He might be gathering with His devotees, so
we drove to Lake County, got there late, went in after midnight,
and Beloved Adi Da Greeted me, Calling out over the crowd packed
in front of His Feet: "Where have you been???"