Sadhana at the Point of Death

The Dawn Horse

Number 6 (Volume 2, Number 4) 1975

Sadhana at the Point of

May 8 of this year, Bubba Free John and his devotees were
enjoying a celebration at a large community house in San
Francisco. Late in the evening, Lynn Schmidlapp, an Ashram
member, slipped and fell off the edge of a third story sun
porch. Glancing against a second story ledge, he fell onto
the sidewalk, some forty feet below.

One of the first people to reach
Lynn after his fall was the Ashram doctor, Bill

When I first saw him, he was
crumpled on the sidewalk on his left side, limp like a rag
doll. It only took a minute of examination to determine how
serious his condition was. There was blood all over his
head, he was barely breathing, and there were gurgling
sounds in his throat. As ‘I felt his skull, it was rippled
and sunken in a couple of places. I turned him over and
cleared his throat, pulling his jaws forward to keep it
_clear for air.

Just a few moments after I
arrived, Bubba arrived. He asked if Lynn was conscious and
after trying to get him to respond to pain, I said no. While
I worked on him, Bubba placed his left hand on Lynn’s neck
and his right hand on his chest. Others have said Bubba’s
face showed that he was having yogic manifestations. Later I
asked Bubba what he was doing when his hands were on Lynn.
He said he was giving him about 50,000 watts of energy. He
said Lynn’s “apparent entity” was temporarily disassociated
from his body. The physical shock caused an emotional shock
in him-emotional upset, hallucinations, temporary insanity.
Bubba was providing a calming influence. He said the energy
he provided would not necessarily heal the physical body. A
choice would be made as to whether it was worthwhile to
continue in that body. He said he had to remind Lynn to do
sadhana even in that circumstance.

Lynn’s condition was very serious.
The neurosurgeon who was in charge of him described his as
one of the worst head injury cases he had ever

He was unconscious, but was moving
all four extremities. He had fractured both arms and his
right leg. In the operating room we found that he had a very
severe skull fracture involving the entire forehead. Bone
fragments had been driven into the right side of the brain.
He could easily have died, but I felt there was an outside

After Lynn was taken to the
hospital. Bubba spoke to everyone present at the Baker
Street house. he didn’t say anything new or different, but
his teaching that night had a special impact because of the
immediate presence of death. At the time Bubba gave the
following talk, no one knew whether or not Lynn would


Baker Street

BUBBA: Is this the first time you
were reminded of your mortality? Death is not the great
event you know. It’s a relatively minor incident in the
midst of things. If you throw it on the street, you’ve got
to be willing to pay your dues.

DEVOTEE: What if you are

BUBBA: Nobody is unconscious.
(Pause.] What do these doctors do when the skull is
caved in?

DEVOTEE: The first thing they do is
wait for the vital signs to level out,

BUBBA: They won’t touch that kind of
a fracture then?

DEVOTEE: No, they insert pins into
the skull bone and pull it off, after there is some vital
stability. There can’t be any pressure put on the brain

SECOND DEVOTEE: It all depends on
his power, his will to live.

THIRD DEVOTEE: Bubba, what is that
struggle, that desire to remain in the body? What is

BUBBA: Nobody’s in a body. There are
just bodies. There’s no one in a body. Consciousness is of a
transcendent Nature and That is aware of all these
modifications, these different levels of function. The
conventional assumption of the usual man is that he is in a
body. He makes a lot of assumptions, but none of them are

DEVOTEE: Who’s making the

BUBBA: No entity is doing it. The
assumption is being made.

DEVOTEE: It’s just an

BUBBA: Right. These conventional
assumptions are simply an apparent implication of
experience. Some people imagine that they are a body and
that they are mortal. Other people imagine that they are a
psyche and that they are immortal. It is the same imagining.
There is that one Nature and all that arises is its
modification. That Nature is not inserted in

There is nothing happening, you
know. Somebody has impressed you with something which, from
a human point of view, is a very serious incident. So all of
a sudden you get very serious. Why weren’t you serious two
hours ago? That was the time to be serious. The time to be
serious is when you’re walking down the street eating your
banana. That’s the time to look at it. Karma is simply the
machine of the universes. There are tendencies,
inclinations, and they set things in motion. These things
tend to keep moving unless you divert them. So every
appearance is tending to produce a certain destiny. In the
case of a human being, destiny is very complicated. It is
the result of karmas moving on many different functional
levels. So every human being is tending to realize a certain
destiny, which may seem good or bad, but it is just the
universal machinery. The matter of Truth is not a matter of
escaping karmas and manipulating your destiny. It is a
matter of realizing the Nature of this condition in which
you appear to suffer and enjoy, and in which you are
motivated and all the rest. Then you make this whole affair
obsolete, and that very Nature which is your condition,
reassumes its own position without convention, without
illusions. That Nature is what a man truly is.

Every individual tends to realize a
certain fate apparently. A couple of hours ago I looked at
Lynn and noticed something about him. But Truth is not a
matter of saying, “Lynn, you’re going to fall off the roof
two hours from now,” so that it won’t happen. As a matter of
fact, it is not even necessarily good for it not to happen.
What must be realized is the conscious process. This event
of life and death should make you serious. It should make
you sick of your romantic bullshit life. Instead of trying
to get it together and become spiritual, really see what
life is. See this machinery of destiny that’s always tending
to work itself out and become moved to the point of
realization, Truth, understanding.

DEVOTEE: In that sense, then, is it
important to become realized or is it just fun?

BUBBA: It depends on your point of
view. I personally have no stomach for birth and death and
this mediocre enjoyment. But if that’s your interest, then
of course, it may seem pleasurable to get enlightened. Maybe
it doesn’t mean anything to you. It depends entirely on your
point of view, your position relative to this realm of

DEVOTEE: What interests you,

BUBBA: Who cares what’s interesting?
What is true? What is the case? What is this condition? What
is our nature? Realize that and you realize what is of a
transcendent nature, which has no qualification associated
with it, no destiny, no birth, no death, no function. And it
cannot be described from the human point of view. It cannot
be described from any point of view within a universe. It is
utterly free. In human terms, Bubba Free John walks and
talks and has apparent human form like everybody else, so
you can ascribe interests to Bubba Free John. But Bubba Free
John is not here to represent some personality. Bubba Free
John is simply the agent of this communication, this
Satsang, which is beyond complications. You, on the other
hand, are complicated. You will all die. You will all
suffer. You will all get old, if you live long enough. You
will all be confused, you will all live in mystery. You are
suffering at this moment. If the movement of things means a
great deal to you, then you will identify with that process
and realize its destiny. But if it seems somehow absurd to
you, insane, fruitless, if it begins to wear itself out and
no longer grabs you, then you may become involved in that
conscious process in which the Condition of all of this is
realized perfectly. It is not a matter of spiritual
experiences, of adjustments in your nervous system, of
blissful bodily sensations, or of visions. It is a matter of
absolute unqualified freedom from all possible destiny. If
you realize such freedom, then you can say what you like
about it, and you can engage in life itself in whatever way
you like.

DEVOTEE: Is it possible for an
individual who is not a Siddha to realize the freedom of a

BUBBA: The devotees of the Siddhas
realize the same freedom. Otherwise there would be no
purpose for Siddhas. They would never be known. Siddhas are
simply a function within the manifest worlds for restoring
other living beings who do not come originally out of that
dimension of the perfect. The Siddhas do, and they serve
those who are karmically determined. Through various and
humorous methods they try to move individuals out of the
affair of karmic life into
the conscious process of Truth. Obviously, that is the
effort this Ashram represents. That is what you’re all
supposed to be engaged in.

Even so, you are all going to die.
Every last one of you is going to die. And you will all have
to fulfill your obligations in life. Those obligations may
be transformed,
not because you
can do something to them, but by virtue of your
participation in the Divine Reality. In that case, the
grosser dimension of karmas tends to be reduced and become
subtler. Rather than having to pass through a very difficult
destiny on a sheer physical level, an individual’s dreams or
his life circumstances may represent the fulfillment of that
karmic movement within him. On the other hand, nominal
involvement with a Siddha, and mere conventional fulfillment
of spiritual programs does nothing to one’s karmic life. To
start talking about karma involves talking in something like
fire-and-brimstone terms. “If you don’t get straight, your
karmas will kill you.” Certainly, from the point of view of
karma, it is true., In fact, it is by visiting his own
karmic life and truly perceiving it, directly knowing it,
reading his own destiny in the midst of things, that an
individual becomes involved in spiritual life. Take a look
around you. Listen to the news and walk down the street.
This is not heaven.

No amount of running the jazz up
your spine is going to make it heaven. It requires something
entirely different from all that nonsense, all that
envisioning and so forth. Something much more profound than
that is required. A little observation of life will
demonstrate that to you. It takes, more than a peaceful
episode or a distracting vision. All tat is childish
nonsense. What is required is absolute penetration of this
event. That is what sadhana is all about. Sadhana is not
giving you an alternative to the drug culture, or to your
childhood religion. It is a profoundly intelligent life that
requires your whole being. No nonsense. You must feel as
moved by your daily moment-to-moment experience as you are
by this little tragedy tonight. When life itself impresses
you that way, then you will start to do sadhana.

DEVOTEE: Is it appropriate to deal
with the emotions in order to take on that

BUBBA: It will happen in any

DEVOTEE: I feel caught up in my mind
so that I make it all bland and it doesn’t seem like there
is any movement in me which can generate sadhana.

BUBBA: The mind will not generate
sadhana under any conditions.

DEVOTEE: What about the

BUBBA: None of them will. You must
generate your sadhana.

DEVOTEE: It is so paradoxical! We
can’t generate it out of ourselves.

BUBBA: Well, sadhana is the result
of an intuitive movement that takes place in your very
Nature, not your mind.

DEVOTEE: Bill Gray just called and
asked me to tell you that Lynn has a depressed skull
fracture, definite broken arms, definite broken hip and that
he is in very bad shape. From Bill’s superficial observation
he said that Lynn very well might die.

BUBBA: Did he say anything more?

DEVOTEE: No. That was

BUBBA: You do sadhana under the
conditions of your mind, the conditions of your emotions,
the conditions of your body. It is your own Nature that does
the sadhana. That responds intuitively to the communication
of the Siddhi, to the force of Satsang. It is not by looking
at your mind and emotions and body and psyche and trying to
find some reason to do sadhana that you will ever do
sadhana. There are no reasons in the whole universe to do
sadhana. Sadhana is an unreasonable activity that comes out
of the very Nature of all beings and works upon all of these
functions. At some point you stop consulting your mind and
your emotions and your body and your whatever-else for
reasons to do sadhana. And you put all those functions to
the task of sadhana. You stop sympathizing with

stuff and you bring it to the
discipline. Everybody’s mind is so god-damned precious. It’s
time to really get pissed off with where you’re at. I don’t
mean for you to lose your humor. To really get pissed off at
yourself is to regain your humor. Every now and then
somebody dies and you realize that Bubba Free John did not
ask you to come and be immortal with him, but to get
straight. It is by realizing that you are mortal that you
will bring your life to the task.

DEVOTEE: So I’m standing here
wondering just what I can do other than to submit to the
discipline of the Guru.

BUBBA: Submit to the discipline and
always consider the Guru’s argument. When the argument
causes a response in you, then the discipline will become
possible. The discipline doesn’t come first, the Teaching
comes first. Your response to that makes the discipline
possible. Then, the discipline is amusing.

Truth is not the fulfillment of
life. Because life is what it is Truth is significant. Truth
is utterly beyond life. It has nothing whatever to do with
life. What men usually call spirituality is the fulfillment
of life. It’s not Truth, It is simply part of the strategy
to be distracted, to realize some destiny that is more than
man’s usual mortality. Those who realize Truth, secondarily,
may appear to enjoy a greater destiny, but it is not their
accomplishment. It is not their goal. The spiritual seeker
looks for changes themselves. He looks for transformations
to occur. He looks for distractions and fulfillment’s of all
kinds and he hopes somehow at the end of that to realize the
Truth. But Truth was never his object. Truth is realized
without accumulating a single change. It is not a matter of
changes. It is a matter of penetrating the entire affair of
changes. In fact, it is only because you are fitted to this
mortality that you are in the least moved toward anything
like Truth. Mortality serves. But not if you misinterpret
your life and think that you are immortal. You must know
your mortality very well, and then you will do sadhana. Your
very Nature is not mortal, but neither is it immortal. It is
not a “something” that goes on forever. There are some
things about this machine with which you identify that go on
from life to life, but even that is mortal, changeable,

Examine your spiritual experiences.
Of what value are Lynn Schmidlapp’s spiritual experiences
when he’s lying on the sidewalk? The little blissfulness he
could feel in his body, the distracting visions and so
forth? It is all zero at that point.

It is good to be impressed by
another’s suffering. It can be a good lesson. But it is just
a moment in most people’s cases. Tomorrow morning the day
returns, and you forget about it. Basically you are not
sensitive to what’s happening. You would be equally
impressed by everything that happens from moment to moment,
if you were really perceiving it. But you wouldn’t become
solemn. Only mediocre men are solemn. They are stuck on some
idea, some event. The really intelligent man sees the
entirety of life. He sees the whole thing and his humor is
restored. His conscious life is initiated. The vision of
mortality and suffering is not grounds for becoming a solemn
asshole. It is grounds for celebration and sadhana and a
mutual life.

I think tonight’s celebration is
basically done.

DEVOTEE: And the solemnity

BUBBA: Right. You all knew Lynn
Schmidlapp was mortal, didn’t you?


Some of Lynn’s close friends were
at the hospital when he regained consciousness after major
surgery the next day. He was able to speak, and he said that
he recognized them, squeezing their hands. But it was
evident that he didn’t understand what had happened. Jane
Gerakin describes that first day:

It felt like he was drunk. He
would try to free himself and he’d make noises of
frustration when he couldn’t get out of bed. Roger and I
told him to lie down. (He was pulling at his oxygen mask and
thrashing at the tubes.) We started getting film and he’d
respond by obeying. All of Lynn’s tendencies were coming out
very blunt and raw.

At one point Roger had to leave
and I was alone with Lynn. He began to react again-he was
totally resistive and negative. I confronted his resistance
and he stubbornly reacted. He told me, “a lot of what you’re
saying is bullshit.” I told him that he was right then face
to face with what he really was and it was time to see that,
and deal with it. Sadhana was being demanded in the most
fundamental way.

Jane’s husband, Roger, returned
while Jane and Lynn were talking:

The entire situation seemed to
have intensified Lynn’s resistance to a ridiculous degree.
His usual vital compulsion and stubbornness had become
acute. Jane was uniquely firm with Lynn, speaking to his
indulgence of these exaggerated tendencies, his truly
incredible resistance, with a kind of ruthlessness that
would have seemed strange to anyone listening, considering
the virtual deathbed circumstances. And Lynn was hardly
passive in this confrontation. But finally he responded to
this forceful communication with a quieting of his

Lynn’s injury relaxed his usual
strategic control over himself. He would have ordinarily
concealed his compulsive tendencies or have adapted them to
socially acceptable forms. Now he was simply displaying the
unconscious movements in himself. It gave others an
opportunity to confront Narcissus nakedly, something which
Jane found extremely disturbing:

It was the most intense
confrontation I’ve had since I’ve been in the Ashram. I went
home and was terrified. The experience had put me face to
face with my entire existence, my separate self, my death.
Fear just took over my body. I trembled under my skin and
had a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. The scene
felt like it was straight out of The Exorcist. The reality
of the whole situation hit me. It was the first time I had
ever really dealt with Lynn, straight, with any kind of
intensity. And with myself.

The next day, Lynn’s recovery
suffered a severe setback, a profound complication and
certainly a life threatening problem,” according to the
neurosurgeon. His right lung had collapsed completely,
threatening the oxygen supply to his brain and other vital

Word of this reached Bubba at
Persimmon, where he very soon involved a group of devotees
in a high energy celebration. Far from becoming concerned
about Lynn’s condition, Bubba mentioned him periodically
with great humor, poking fun at his “karmic realization” and
promising to “ruin his ass” when he got well. While the
party continued, Bubba got on the telephone with Rick Pugh,
who was waiting to see Lynn in the hospital corridor in San
Francisco. At first Bubba demanded to talk to Lynn
personally, “coma or no coma,” but instead he gave Rick a
message to be delivered in person. Rick tells the

I walked toward the Intensive
Care Ward and met up with the neurosurgeon who was in charge
of Lynn’s case. He was on his way to take a look at Lynn and
I asked if it would be possible to see Lynn for just a
second. He shrugged and said, “OK, as long as it’s just for
a minute.” That in itself, I thought, was very unusual. But
I had just talked with Bubba and was very much affected by
that, and I think I was in a peculiar state. So I went in.
He was already in the Intensive Care Ward, and he was in an
extreme medical crisis. People were surrounding his bed, and
they were all making adjustments on the machines and
consulting each other. Lynn was lying on his side and was
obviously unconscious-not present at all in his body. So I
went up and said, “Lynn, I don’t know if you can hear me.
But I just talked with Bubba on the phone. He said that you
should not drift at all and you should be present and put
your attention on him and he’ll take care of everything.”
There wasn’t any response like moving his hands or nodding
his head because he was just totally out of it at the time.
But I had a feeling maybe it was just an emotion, I don’t
know – but there was a feeling that that contact had been
made. Fifteen or twenty minutes later his state improved. He
began to respond to their working with him. It was a very
dramatic point in this whole event.

For Missy, Rick’s wife, this
incident represented a release of anxiety. When she first
heard about Lynn’s fall, Missy had been very

What I really noticed, was the
tendency to rush to the emotions and to pin everything on
the psychophysical entity, like it was what really mattered.
The night of the accident, I reacted like somebody who had
never heard of the Teaching.

But Lynn’s apparent response to
Bubba’s message brought a turnabout in her:

From then on I just let’ go of
something. I wanted Lynn to survive, but there was a
relaxation of that desire. It was more than, “Well, it’s in
Bubba’s hands so everything will be all right.” It had
gotten to be less of a crucial thing whether he did live or

Missy, like most people, had never
felt death as a real element of life, and Lynn’s accident
forced her to feel that, to, see her own

You really had to deal with death
at those crisis times at the hospital. Not for Lynn, because
he was totally unconscious, but for me, death was a very
real threat.

What I saw is how vulnerable we
still are, in this lifetime, unless we really take
responsibility for it and turn to the Teaching and live from
the point of view of understanding. Lynn’s accident was a
demonstration of what happens to someone who doesn’t take
responsibility in life. You just get murdered and that’s it.
He could have gone just like that, in any

After his recovery from the
collapsed lung, Lynn remained in the Intensive Care Ward for
about two weeks. People who visited him at this time
independently reported sensing the Guru’s presence
surrounding Lynn. Jane Gerakin reports one

He began to point his index
finger up and continued to try to get my attention. Finally,
I understood what he was doing. The first night I had put up
a picture of Bubba at the end of the bed and he was pointing
to it. I pulled it down and brought it over in front of
Lynn’s face. I pulled back his eyelid (His eyes were swollen
shut.) so he could see the picture. I asked him if he could
see Bubba and he nodded his head yes. As soon as he saw
Bubba’s face all the tension in his body relaxed, he stopped
squeezing my hand and he seemed to fall asleep peacefully.
It completely undid me. There was no doubt about Bubba’s

Some felt strong spiritual force
surrounding Lynn. According to Missy Pugh, “When we were
standing around the bed, it was like sitting in the Satsang
Hall, the energy was so intense.” Rick, who is a “solid”
person, generally not very sensitive to spiritual energy,
said: “Whenever I was feeling drained, the thing that would
transform me would be to see Lynn for a while, to just stand
by his bed. There would be regeneration of that

Many people made the usual
assumptions about this incident: that Bubba had intervened
to save Lynn’s life, that his touching Lynn’s body, the
celebration and telephone message when Lynn’s lung
collapsed, and the force which surrounded Lynn’s bed, were
all significant signals, evidence of the “really important”
activity which was taking place. Some believed Bubba had
worked a “miracle.” Bubba has spoken many times about how
all such experiential effects are an entirely secondary
affair, not really worthy of special attention. But it is
also important to note that these activities are not
extraordinary or “miraculous” in some mysterious sense. The
manipulation of energies and the use of subtle “spiritual”
influence is a mechanical affair. Bubba can operate in that
dimension as can other persons, and his response to Lynn’s
situation was to exert a life enhancing, “healing”

This, like everything Bubba does,
was an expression of his presence as Guru, but this kind of
behavior doesn’t itself ‘characterize the Guru. It’s only
one of many possibilities. Because it takes place on a level
at which most of us are not conscious, such activity seems
awesome and God-like. So people look at Bubba as if these
mechanical capacities were the same as his radical function
as Siddha-Guru, But these healings are, in fact, an entirely
minor affair. Lynn’s near death can serve as a spiritual
lesson for other people, but the message is not, “See
Bubba’s miraculous demonstration.” The real Teaching is
suggested in Bubba’s comment the night of the accident: “You
are going to die, and considering where you’re coming from,
that’s no joke.”

We can also learn by examining what
happened with Lynn following the accident and during his
recuperation. Bubba had told Dr. Bill Gray that Lynn was
temporarily disassociated from his body after the fall. When
he regained consciousness after his 12-hour operation,
Lynn’s unconscious, resistive behavior seemed to indicate
that he was only partially aware of the people around him.
Rick Pugh said that although Lynn was responsive to people’s
presence with him, “I never thought during the first week
that he was particularly conscious of our being there as

After his lung collapse, Lynn’s
mouth was covered by a mask attached to a respirator, so he
was unable to speak for nearly a week. When he began talking
again his voice was deep and raspy, low and “way down.” He
would look at people “as if he was seeing everything
different from all of us.” He would recite poetry, speak
with subtle sarcasms and have “solipsistic conversations,
all from the point of view of subtle dreamlike perception.”
Lynn gave his body very little attention, not even bothering
to try to raise his head, so his visitors would feed and
tend to him, while he would talk with this subtle irony. “He
was like a mad king.” Most of his visitors have said that
they felt he was indulging his subtle perceptions, but he
was, nevertheless, responsive to their demands to do

There were many times when he
would start to ramble about something, and you could
interrupt him, and say something like, “Hey, Lynn, don’t
ramble and drift. Remember Bubba, just keep your attention
on Bubba.” And he would stop talking and nod his

When he was quiet we would often
ask him, “Are you able to keep your attention on Bubba?” and
the answer would always be affirmative. It was obvious that
he could reconnect with that Presence, at least on some

At this time, the people who were
visiting Lynn were unable to engage in their usual strategic
approaches to him. Lynn was needful of attention, of real
service, but he wasn’t playing the usual social games, and
that served to shake those who were visiting him out of
their accustomed social immunity. Roger Gerakin recalls such
as occasion:

A few of us had spent several
hours with Lynn one night, some being entertained, some, I
felt, being intimidated by Lynn’s knowing sarcasm, his eerie
poetry and ghostlike voice, his meaningful looks and
aphoristic statements. Jane and I were about to leave , and
we bent over him to say good-bye. I guess I expected simply
to be dismissed in the offhand fashion he , had lately
adopted. Instead he opened his good eye as wide as he could,
paused a moment to focus, and then, seeing our faces, his
face opened into a beautiful childlike smile. He said, “You
two are my angels.” He said it twice.

Something collapsed inside me in
that moment. I saw Lynn, Jane and I, and all who are Bubba’s
as one body within His consciousness. The sharing of life
was going on as surely as the organs of a body share the
same blood.

Lynn’s “mad king” behavior gradually
normalized over the next month or two. He gained strength
quickly, aided by friends from the Community who brought him
natural foods to substitute for the hospital diet. Lynn was
interviewed about six weeks after his fall, and he reported
that his brush with death had not transformed him at all,
and that he could not even remember most of what had

Essentially it’s just been an
ordinary experience, like going down to the grocery store.
There’s been no dramatic change in my life except a sobering
influence. I just stayed in bed for a few months. After the
accident I don’t really remember anybody. The only thing I
remember is waking up in the midst of some kind of

You would think that I would be
able to see the possibility of death more clearly. But
that’s not the case. So nothing’s changed. I intend to be a
substantial member of the Community and to contribute
whatever I can, but I don’t have specific

I do see my relationship to Bubba
as being more constant, steady and even. And that’s the
demand I feel – to remain present with Bubba, in that simple
relationship. There is the obvious response of gratitude to
Bubba and the Community. I guess the only real response will
be received in God.

Obviously, the event of Lynn’s near
death provided more evident lessons for the people
surrounding him than it did for Lynn himself. People saw the
consequences of karmic life, the real possibility of death,
the fact that death is not necessarily a problem.

Bill Gray describes what he

This whole incident was a good
lesson for me. From a professional and human standpoint,
working on Lynn was a most dramatic life and death matter.
But with the Guru right next to me, I knew with certainty
that there really was no problem – a lesson which Bubba has
been trying to show me, and which undermines all the
assumptions of my professional training.