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  • Writer's pictureRon Brent

14. Baba

Meeting Baba was one of the highlights of my life. It was magical, mystical and remains a major influence in my life today. His first visit to America - with Ram Dass, Rudi and a number of other celebrated personalities - was an historic event. His impact here cannot be overstated.

As seekers here in America during the late 60’s and early 70’s, we had an influx of spiritual teachers representing a variety of different traditions. Like a number of others, I went to see almost every one of them.

Baba was different!

He was cool. He wore shades, even indoors - and almost always wore a different cap on his head - often knitted beanies that were presented to him by devotees and admirers. Ram Dass had said that the first time he laid eyes on Baba he thought he looked like a jazz musician. He had that cool, hip look and vibe.

But most importantly, there was a quality he possessed that immediately endeared him to you. He was so real and engaging. You couldn't help but smile when you were around him. And of course it was his shakti - the spiritual energy that followed him wherever he went and left awakenings in its path.

Being in his presence was intoxicating. Many people experienced an awakening just being around him. Others, during meditation periods or attending one of his talks. He was a storyteller who engaged us with tales that were humorous, yet deeply profound.

And he was a lover of divine poetry. He didn’t just recite poems to his audience, he serenaded us with a deeply rich and melodious voice. He also led us in rousing chants, accompanying himself on ektāra, tambourine or symbols.

Nala and I arrived in Los Angeles the day before Baba’s arrival and went straight to Swami Satchidananda’s ashram to meet Harrison, Ram Dass and other members of the staff. There was excitement in the air as everyone was getting ready for the tour to begin. Ram Dass’ presence added to the excitement. There was a mix of Swamiji’s students, along with those who were recruited (by Ram Dass and others) to lend a helping hand. A mix of individuals from different traditions. There was incredible excitement in the air as we all joined forces in order to serve on this unique tour.

Nala and I spent the first night at Swami Satchidananda’s ashram, then early the following morning we went to the house in Pacific Palisades where Baba will be staying. Pacific Palisades is an upscale community bordering the coastal region of Santa Monica.

Baba’s hosts in Los Angeles are Bob and Markell Raymer. Bob is a retired airline pilot. He was a close disciple of Paramahamsa Yogananda, and authorized by him to teach Kriya Yoga. Markell is a devotee of Anandamayi Ma. They are a warm, loving and generous couple.

As we all wait for Baba to arrive, I sit on a short wall in front of the house. All of a sudden Rudi comes to sit by my side. As he engages me in conversation, he takes my hand in his and I can feel a surge of energy.

Rudi’s a rather imposing figure, with his sizable girth and glistening shaved dome. He stands out among the rest of the crowd - a mixture of young, lean yoga students with shoulder-length hair and loose-fitting apparel or middle-aged folks in conservative dress.

I can’t quite figure out this larger than life individual, with his striking features and unusual mannerisms. If that weren’t enough, his no-nonsense style of speaking with its distinct New York accent sets him apart from the easy California style I’ve grown so accustomed to. Every now and then as we talk, he begins moving his head and neck in a rotating motion, all the time holding onto my hand with a secure grip. His hands seem enormous!

To be honest, at first I’m a little put-off by these head and neck movements. I later come to understand that this technique of rotating his head is employed by Rudi as a means of allowing energy (shakti) to flow in an upward direction.

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