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Leelas in Praise of Beloved Da.
Avatar Adi Da Love-Ananda, Samraj, Eleutherious.
The Bright Ruchira Buddha
By Frank Marrero
Chapter 3: The Secret Place
Denise and I were living in San Anselmo, California when on January 27, 1982, I received a phone call from a friend who was taking care of Church business. “Hey Frank, how would you and Denise like to go to Free Standing Man, the Hermitage retreat in Hawaii and take care of it? It’s six acres, cut the grass, keep the place nice?”
It’s a kind of precious phone call you only hear about, but it was happening to my wife and me. We could live a life of retreat and service, full-time. We called back after a very brief discussion and said yes. All I wanted to know was how many hoops we would have to jump through. Neil cautioned us, “You know how these things go, I’d move on this quickly, if I were you.” In three days, we had sold or stored everything we owned, sold my car and business, gotten out of our lease, and made our way to the Mountain of Attention for a Sacred Sitting with Master Da on my 29th birthday. It might be the last time we’d see the Master for a long time.
A few hundred of us lined up outside Master Da’s living room in His house, The Manor of Flowers. About 20 people could sit intimately around His chair at one time and offer a gift at His Feet. Along with the line of people waiting for their turn, I could watch the proceedings through the large glass wall and could see Master Da motionlessly staring one-pointedly to His right and off into the distance.
Slowly people cycled in and out of His living room. When it finally came my time, I was ushered into the farthest left point from His Gaze; He hadn’t moved an iota. He knew Denise and I were going to Kauai to take care of His sanctuary, and I offered my flower to Him with every intent and sympathy of giving my life to Him. I bowed as sincerely as I could practice.
When I came up from my bow, He had turned 120° from His Stare and His Face was pressing towards me. I jumped, stunned, and yielded again to Him as deeply as I could, then bowed.
Four days later, on February 4th, we touched down on Kauai, everything we owned was stored or sold. As we touched down, the high council decided we were not mature enough to be taking care of a sanctuary, which we weren’t, but we were already there. Must be.
But it was true: I had no idea how to take care of a holy place. I thought I’d just be my usual expansive egoic self, giving positive energy to everything. As I entered the sacred grounds of the ashram, I did not bow or say a formal prayer; I flew like the wind, running freely the circumference. Others bowed and offered gifts, I ran like an animal. I did not understand the dance of ceremonial worship or formal regard. Instead, I explored the jungle and river surrounding the sanctuary with boundless enthusiasm.
My only real obligation was to keep the grass cut and trimmed, and keep the jungle trimmed back with a machete. Denise and I built new flower beds, planted perimeter trees; I discovered a bamboo forest where I was able to harvest downed bamboo and made handrails from behind the Master’s house down the long path to the swimming hole and small falls at the river. We took on expansive projects with no money and accomplished much.
Being a skilled rock climber, I even found a way to the secret waterfall. It wasn’t really secret; everybody knew it was there. You just couldn’t get anywhere near it, so deep was the canyon, so sudden the precipices; it could not be visited and only seen from the air.
You know that scene in the first Indiana Jones movie where the giant ball is rolling at him and he escapes that only to be surrounded by natives with spears, but somehow he manages to dive in the river and swim to the airplane? That’s the river, it’s the largest in Hawaii, and Tumomama Sanctuary (Now Da Mahal) is on the north fork.
Deep in the steep “impassible” ravine down from the Sanctuary, there were three consecutive waterfalls, a small 11 foot one that dug out a dark, deep pool shaped like a 25’ long black banana, then it spilled gracefully through a silvery V thirty two feet into a beautiful swimming pool 50-90’ across; a tropical paradise of dearest imaginings, then the river collected again, serpentined past a giant rock, and then gushed another eighty feet into a vast canyon. Breath-takingly, archetypically beautiful.
When I first went there, to the ‘secret’ place between the falls, I said repeatedly, “This is the most beautiful spot I’ve ever been to.” Thing was, getting there was physically easy, really. Of course, one mistake and you’re dead.
I rushed and told Denise that I had found a way to the secret waterfall and took her there. The swimming area and crown of the giant waterfall were spectacular, flowers from the jungle were everywhere with petals floating down into the ravine like snowflakes, white cranes soared in the canyon below and above. Primeval paradise.
Denise had a hard time getting back up the 80’ cliffs though. She kissed the ground and prayed thankfulness all afternoon, but agreed it was the prettiest place she had ever been to.
Our ashram mates were Bill and Krysia Roesler and later others, but Bill was the ashram manager. He was unlike me: rigid, abstract, followed the rules, and insisted those around him follow them too. Not my idea of a good time or even a wise friend, but trustable and sincere. I was not aware how much I detested him, since I was still a child relative to my own darkness. Later Ron and Joanne Mied came and I remember the day when Ron blurted out after Bill left us, “Man, I hate that righteous mother-fucker!”
I thought spiritual people didn’t do that. Thank you Ron forever! I grew six inches that day and gained a life-long friend.
Late August 3rd afternoon, six months after we first got there, a most serious Bill Roesler picked me up from Lihue, the island’s main town, looked me right in the eye and said, “Guess who’s coming to dinner tomorrow?”
The Master and surrounding staff would occupy both buildings on the Sanctuary and even the house we rented down the street for support. On our (ten person) 24-hour to-do list was five acres of manicure, paint and clean Master Da’s entire house, also known as “Free Standing Man”, prepare a small dormitory, locate other housing, move five families, and arrange transportation for the incoming group.
I thought it was fun. There was so much that could be done, there was certainly no time for sleep or bad attitudes. He would appreciate every fraction, see details no one else would ever see, notice every gesture.
Indeed He did.
Immediately everyone in the support group was told to find jobs and prepare to support the Renunciate Order. But when they walked around the Sanctuary and saw the works we had done, many questions were asked, “Who did this? Who did that?” Denise and I were told to stay. In addition to maintaining a life of retreat and service, I knew we would probably glimpse the Master from time to time. This was a grace supreme.
A few days after the arrival of the holy storm, I was walking the perimeter of the Sanctuary with Udi, aka Morton Whiteside, the renunciate who took care of Free Standing Man
before. He mentioned that nearby was a secret 80′ waterfall deep in an impassible ravine, but no one had ever gone there because it was impossible.
I loved it. I told him of the place between the waterfalls and said it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen; I had even taken Denise there (failing to mention of course it was also the most harrowing experience of her life). She agreed it was indeed the most beautiful place she’d ever seen, and I announced that I wanted to take the Master there.
Well, Udi told the Master that I wanted to take him to this dangerous place and the closest renunciates begged him not to go, telling Him of my reputation as being somewhat crazy. The Master told Udi to go with me and evaluate it himself.
Udi and I went off into the jungle as I hacked a path through the thickets with my machete. We came to a crest and descended 45’ down a very steep and muddy wet incline towards a 60′ precipice. The edge is impossible to approach except at one spot where vines and trees have grown up in a small crevice.
We approached the precipice and I took hold of a tree limb for our descent (please note the lack of ropes) when Udi slipped and went off the edge toward certain death. He grabbed a branch and saved himself. We got about a fourth of the way down this cliff, when Udi flipped out. “They are right. You are crazy!?What in the world would ever make you think that I would let the Master come down this cliff? The only reason I’m continuing is that I might as well!”
After a swim in tropical splendor, we sat on the great rock. Udi sighed. “This is the most beautiful place I have ever been.” He paused and looked back up the treacherous route we had descended. “So just how were you going to get the Master down here?”
Of course, I hadn’t the slightest idea, but proceeded to bullshit. I indicated stairs, platforms, and ladders here and there, made it seem almost sensible. I must have made some sense, for I learned later that Morton Whiteside possesses excellent design capabilities.
“OK” he said in amazement at his own words, “I’m going to recommend it.”
It was the next day when Master Da wanted to know when His ladder was going to be ready. Soon three men were working on it full time. Designed by a real carpenter, Ron Mied, it looked like the Bridge over the river Kauai when we were done. Four flights of stairs were carved into the side of the canyon, forming a tunnel through the thick jungle to a 60’ drop. Railings out of native stock adorned and fortified the creation. Off the edge, a two story ladder down to a 16-inch gang plank, across six feet to the main ladder, another four-story descent to a small platform, anchored by a massive root of 120’ tree, then a final fifteen feet to top of climbable cliffs, near the top of an 80’ drop into a vast canyon.
The Master let it all sit for three days and then sent me word late-morning. He’s ready. I raced into the jungle, gathering flowers to line the path. I gathered a safety rope as I was told. I climbed down to the gangplank to assist the high crossing and when I looked up through the tunnel we had cut in the jungle, I saw Him coming. He was grinning from ear to ear. At the bottom of the steps cut into the hillside, Beloved Da looked off the edge, where I was waiting two stories down and still near the top. We see in each other’s eyes. He laughs, He loves it; it most definitely is crazy. His delight of that moment is also forever etched in my heart.
First, the two male renunciates, Bodha and Udi, descended. Da-ji Bodha, aka Peter Helicopter, aka William Tskanis, whispers that I should offer the safety rope to everybody. Soon, the Spiritual Master stepped onto the 16 inch plank with me fifty-five feet in the air. It was my first non-formal time with him, and I was nervous.
I stutter and mumble something about a safety rope. The Person of Love looked at me wide-eyed and smiled. He then puffed his chest out, stuck out His chin in a caricature of macho- ness and growled, “If those guys can do it, so can I!” then broke into a laugh that relieved me of my fear. He is always forever serving His devotees.
Once everyone was down the Master performed a ceremony there with rocks and leaves and water as everyone was still and felt the place and His service to it. Only then did they explore the falls and swim in the quarter-acre pool that was under the 32’ falls.
I was invited into the intimate company of the party and I told Beloved about stories I?had heard about the place: how the 80’ falls underneath us was used as an initiation. Beloved looked right at me and suggested that perhaps He would be asking me to peform this. I?had thought He might ask me to dive, and so I responded that I would rather just bow at His Feet. He accepted my counter offer. I pointed out that we could all sit on the big rock in front of us. Beloved Da instantly stood and commanded, “Show me.”
I jumped up onto the rock, scurried to the top, and turned around to extend my hand. It was a moment I had forever wished for, touching the God-Man flesh to flesh. I remember perfectly the sensation of His flesh against mine, the ordinariness of perfect consciousness.
I pulled Him up, then, one by one everyone else. I don’t remember much else after that cause the Divine Person took us into His Form. Huddled upon the great rock, we all just stared for a long time, mindlessly lost in untremored awareness and beauty.
Another swim was called for and we descended from the great rock. Going too fast, I fell on my butt as I slid off the rock, apropos since I was showing off. I quickly dove into the water because I wanted to show everyone something they might want to try.
In the backwash of the pool, I swam to the left side of the 32′ falls. There, the white-water hits the bottom of the cliff and sprays out across the catch-basin. Just under the battering falls, I had discovered a handhold that enabled me to climb up through the edge of the roaring falls, out of the pool and onto a 5” slot in the rock beside and slightly behind the waters. I stood there for a moment then leapt through the crashing waters into the pool and current below.
The tremendous turbulence of the falls pounds and churns one under for a frightening time, then suddenly spits you out. I swam back and climbed up again. Instantly, Master Da swam over to the edge of the falls and extended His hand. The ledge I was standing on was 18 inches above the pool and very narrow, and ‘just to make sure he was OK’, I threw my arms around Him when I pulled Him up onto the precarious ledge. Since the siddhi or divine force coming out of Him is intense across any distance, touching His body is sacred nectar. So when I hugged him ‘with a good excuse’, everyone laughed understandably. Later I was teased for this. But just there, with my arms around Him, was perfectly natural.
He screamed above the roar of the falls. “Is it safe?” I gestured that I couldn’t hear what He was saying, so loud were the waters. He screamed again and pointed, “Are there any rocks?” This time I understood and nodded, assuring Him that it was clear, and He turned and leapt into the crashing waters, His arms and legs flying, screaming “Whoopie!” at the top of His lungs. The morning sunlight was coming up the canyon and hitting the splashing vibrant white water. I will forever remember His bright star body jumping into white rushing wet sunlight screaming whoopie.
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