Photos of Kashmir, part 3

As mentioned earlier in this series, I was visiting in Kashmir with friends who imported fabrics made in Srinigar to the states. This enabled them to live there and spend time with their Spiritual Master, Swami Lakshman Joo.

For those of you who would be interested you can find out much more about Lakshman Joo via the internet. It will be more concise and accurate than what I can offer I am sure. I will say he was highly respected and loved in Kashmir by ordinary people, scholars and other spiritual teachers.

Traveling to Kashmir was was not a spiritual oddessy for me. In fact I was rather iconoclastic and ironic in mood. My friends were involved in their path and that was fine. I went over there to experience a change of culture, to break patterns that needed shaking up. However, as it turns out, I did spend a good deal of time around Lakshman Joo, and his ashram., which really didn’t amount to much more than his home and some acreage around it with a gathering hall. It was peaceful and serene. (Qualities that I still treasure in places to this day) and I was happy to occasionally do some simple chores around there, helping take care of the grounds mostly. It helped to balance out my energy and allowed me to come to rest in this area and feel it, versus just touristing around in a consumer costume.

So, I, along with five thousand or so other people who showed up, were invited to Swami Lakshman Joo’s 65th birthday celebration in 1975. The day started early, with Lakshman Joo sitting in meditation for three hours, from five in the morning till eight or so. A smaller group of people had been invited to be there for this, the larger crowds coming over the next three days to pay respects and share in food and good company.

During the occasion, his followers came up to where Lakshman Joo was in meditation and placed flowers before him or on him. There was a number of his male devotees who seemed to be immediately nearby to offer protection ( mostly symbolic) for one who is in a state of deep meditation. In the meantime those who had offered their flowers then sat down and participated in chanting that went on for the hours of meditation.

Later on and throughout the next three days, the temporary mud walled kitchen that was built for the Brahmins to cook in provided rice and dahl and other foods to those who came to visit. There were several occasions where Lakshman Joo would hand out rock candy for hours as a gifts to those who travelled to see him.. Traditionally it is considered auspicious to receive “prasad” from a spiritual master as it represents the blessings he or she offers to all.

So that is what the photos to follow are about.

the temporary kitchen

food servers

blessing the meal

john hughes( on railing) documenting events of the day

Later during my visit I went with everyone to the opening of an either an ashram or a library ( my memory is unclear) in a small village in the Himalayas. Quite the bus ride. Sorry to not have a lot of photos as it was quite beautiful but…..

And so my visit came to an end. The funds I had brought were just about gone, six weeks had passed and it was time to go. I told my friends my departure date and they were suprised I didn’t want to stay and remain with them, possibly becoming a student of their teacher. But I was clear in my feelings, and told them, “No, my heart is in the states”. Don’t know why I said that particular line but it is what came out. They said their goodbyes and told me to go tell Lakshman Joo goodbye as he liked me and that would only be appropriate. So I went down the street, paid my respects and told him that although I had appreciated my time there and felt affection for him, my heart was in the states and I was leaving in a few days. He was quiet for awhile, then said “Fine, I’ll pray for you.” And so I took my leave.

Several days later I arrived in Los Angeles weary from a very long flight. Upon arriving at my friends stateside home in Santa Barbara, everyone took off for whatever reasons and I had the house to myself.
I was stretching out on the couch, about to take a nap, when my eyes caught the only thing laying on a very clean coffee table next to the couch. It was a copy of the “Knee of Listening” , the autobiography of Adi Da Samraj ( then Franklin Jones) who had begun teaching his spiritual path to westerners several years earlier. I had never heard of him.

The photograph was attractive. I remember saying to myself, “This is a bright looking fellow.” So I picked up the book to glance at it. The only words I have for what took place next comes under the heading of being hit by a lightning bolt. Within six pages it was utterly clear to me that this was someone I simply had to study with. His description of the human condition, it’s limitations, patterns and unconscious processes, all spoke to the very emotions that represented many years of turmoil and questioning by me. And those patterns were the very ones I wanted to shake up by traveling to Kashmir. But there was much more to the book than just a description of the human condition. He spoke of what was Transcendent, not limited by the ephemerality of conditional existence and I confess I didn’t intellectually understand a word of it, yet still found it incredibly moving and exciting. There was something penetrating that I could tangibly feel that said this was right for me. Six months later I had moved to San Francisco to begin a relationship with my Spiritual Master that continues to this day.

Needless to say I am grateful to Swami Lakshman Joo. The prayers of a realizer are powerful. I think I got a lot more out of my visit to Kashmir thirty five years ago than just some rock candy.

Thanks for taking some LIP from me,


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