It 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?
A few decades
ago 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.
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 bona fide monk in a local San
Francisco ashram (up at 5:00 a.m., peddle 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.
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 awe struck with delight!
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?"
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 home.
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."
"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!