Looking For Magic In America, Or, How I met The Dalai Lama of Tibet
Copyright 1997-2009 "Magic Mike" (Unpublished
The Birth of FM Radio and the Dalai Lama
With highest marks in Geometry, Chemistry, and Physics, they seemed like fun puzzles to solve, I thought science was a place for my career. It was a hard choice between MIT, Princeton (I drove over after my sixteenth birthday to check out Einstein's old office), Drexel, and Penn State.
and would one day meet The Dalai Lama, Ken Kesey, Tom Robbins, The Grateful Dead, The Firesign Theater, Arlo Guthrie, and a bunch of other celebrities. I told this to friends in Pennsylvania, I had know since childhood, in the 50's, that I would one day meet The Lone Ranger, too! By the way, Some of these things I knew ten, twenty, thirty years in advance somehow. I'm getting ahead of myself, but four years and 3000 miles later I found Ken Kesey standing next to me at a February 1976 concert in Oregon, three years after that I met The Dalai Lama in Seattle, after driving 300 miles from Oregon to meet him.
This picture below was taken by a Seattle Buddhist photographer an hour later and is typically
I am in the top right corner with a white hat, beard, and purple shirt, behind the girl in white pants. He gave me a copy of this photo when we became friends after I moved to Seattle the following week, when I learned that the Dalai Lama's brother-in-law, another high Lama lived in Seattle. I traveled from Colorado to the Pacific Northwest in 1975, living in a 1947 Silver Streak camper that I had named, in large letterers on the back, "The Non-Vibrating DoDo Dome Spectacular", from Tom Robbins "Another Roadside Attraction." A ten years later I met Tom Robbins at a book signing. I made sure I was last and I did some magic for him and had him sign my treasured copy of "Another Roadside Attraction." He signed it, "To Magic Mike, who blew my mind." I met him two more times at a bar and we got to talk for a half hour over some beers. I met The Grateful Dead at their backstage door and hotel room, The Firesign Theater in their dressing room, and The Lone Ranger, in the mid 80's, in Las Vegas at a Cable TV Trade show where we both were booth attractions. I have found that I can meet anyone I want to by focusing my mind! You can do it too, if you practice.
However, I didn't know where any of this would happen, began dowsing, decided it was time to leave Pennsylvania in the last week of March 1974, and drove across the country with $400, and what fit in my car with a cat. I arrived in Colorado on April Fools Day and got a job three days later, in the emerging FM radio market, pioneering a mix of rock, blues, fusion, country swing, jazz, acoustic, bluegrass, and Firesign Theater. I helped start KTCL a new FM station in Fort Collins, which quickly became the most listened to station in Northern Colorado. Then I left for Oregon, doing the night show on 100,000 watt KZEL-FM in Eugene from 1975 to 1976, which Billboard Magazine voted the county's best progressive rock station while I was there. I began including a lot of Blues mixed with Rock. The phone rang constantly. I'd get off at 1:00AM and rush over to a local pub to listen to Robert Cray Band (when they were just a local group) and perform magic for the band and closing stragglers.
I left that summer and camped 4 months my my cat in Washington, Utah, and Colorado's Rocky Mountains. While visiting family in Scranton in December of 1976, I accepted an offer to sell for WEZX-FM, another start-up station. I was made sales manager the next year. While I was gone, John Belushi came to Eugene, met the Cray Band, and stole my look. In the summer of 1978 I again felt that I needed to be in the Northwest to meet the Dalai Lama when he came, so I took a job as sales manager of KIDO AM/FM in Boise. I left when the owner killed it for a tax write off, and decided to move back to Eugene and wait. Everyone thought I was Belushi. I began to perform magic for a living, and
I saw the total solar eclipse in the Spring of 1979. at the replica of Stonehenge, along the Washington Columbia River. The eclipse's totality was at 7:50am, and it was supposed to be a cloudy morning, but I deduced that it might be clear on the east side of the Cascade Mountain Range if most of the clouds would be held back by the cold of the morning peaks, so I left for the two hour drive and got there at 7:30am. The stone monuments were in a field on a western plateau overlooking the Columbia River. There was one big cloud covering the sun. I tried to start mentally burning a hole in the cloud and saw that a small break might drift over in time to see totality. I started to smile as a man saw the "I Believe In Magic" button I had, with stars and a comet, and said, "If you believe in magic, get rid of that cloud!" I said, "I'm working on the problem!", and just 15 seconds later that hole broke, just as totality totaled!
The valley below began to ripple and shimmer as rarefied light, sparse rays escaping between the mountain peaks of the moon, played with the land and our minds. I remembered stories of the past, as the pale yellow glimmer rekindled old tales and genetic memories. I felt Antiquity! And I knew it signaled a big change about to happen.
That September I heard on the radio that The Fourteenth Dalai Lama had arrived in the country for the first time (there have been fourteen reincarnations of the Ocean of Wisdom and Compassion Lama, found and reinstalled as the greatest teacher of Tibet). I followed the news for two weeks until I tracked the closest city on the tour. I didn't still think it would happen, and I was having an ad agency trying to sell some ideas for TV commercials to a bank. Should I leave, and will I get through to him, and do I really want to go now, if it's just a situation of seeing him from afar, IS IT WORTH IT? I decide to throw the I Ching, which I do rarely, so it's meaning isn't diluted. I got a hexagram that was also the same hexagram of that week of the Taoist calendar, beginning his first day in Seattle, AND had the explanation "Cosmic Grace Incarnate", which I took to mean His Holiness, so I said to a friend, I'm going to meet the Dalai Lama, do you want to come along? And I knew ONE person in Seattle, that I hadn't seen for two years since going East, who gave me his address in our chance encounter at The Oregon Country Fair, and lived blocks from Seattle's Sakya Dharma Center.
We drove to the first scheduled event, got out of the car, and met Tibetan lamas coming out of a building where The Dalai Lama was holding a press conference. The lawn and hill in front of the building was the one I had seen in his mind's eye for seven years.They asked, "Would you use our camera to take our picture with The Dalai Lama? He's just coming out now." I said knowingly, "That's what we're here for". We drove back to Sakya Dharma Center and where earlier there was no one, a few hundred people were in the street. We listened to him over a speaker, blessing the Dharma Center in Tibetan. A blanket was spread out because people were leaving offerings of flowers and incense. I left a tape of Pink Floyd's 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' and the Firesign Theater's 'W. C. Fields Forever', after making sure, by asking if he would definitely receive it.
The next day the crowd was large at the public talk on Buddhism and Compassion. We couldn't get in, and had to listen in a building over a speaker. Outside I saw a man in robes, did a magic trick for him, and related a little of my seven year hunch that I was supposed to meet the Dalai Lama. It turned out to be Dr. Ajari, The Dalai Lama's host. I was invited to a private session with Tibetans in exile, meeting The Dalai Lama just before his departure. The morning of the 9:00am meeting, my friends slept in, as we were up Friday night until three in the morning talking about everything. I ran out at 8:30am, and found my keys locked in the car. Subaru's are impossible to get in. It happened a week earlier to me and took two hours to figure out. You need a curtain rod, to go across the inside of the car, to push the latch of the door on the other side. I ran into the kitchen where we stayed the night, grabbed a curtain rod, ran back out and opened it in one minute. Now I found the ignition and the dome light on all night, and the tank on empty. I prayed. It started. I wasn't sure of where I was going. And there was a heavy fog, and I didn't know where a station was, I had fifteen minutes, so I just drove. I found my way there and sat down.
During the meeting, in which he spoke entirely in Tibetan, I just said in my mind, "Hi. Can you hear me? Was I meant to be here? Hello!" Suddenly, everyone got up. A line formed and to my wild glee, there I was in it, shaking his hand. Everyone had been giving him white scarves, and I didn't know what they were, or where they came from. When I got to him I said, "This is an unexpected blessing, and I don't have anything to give you, so may I just say, may your light shine forth, for a long time." I found out weeks later, that has been his long life prayer for 700 years. It just seemed what to say.
As I walked away I felt like all the atoms in my body were vibrating at a high rate of speed, and I felt tingling all over. I was in shock when the monks from the other day came over. I said I was sorry my friends slept in and did not come, thinking there would be no contact with him. They said that those who are to meet him, do. Mentioning that I wish I had a scarf, the monk mentioned he was sorry he had missed me as he gave them out. When a few moments later I said it again, he pulled out a beautiful silk scarf with gold tassels, saying to go back in line and give it to him. I felt that would not be proper, but he insisted. A bodyguard looked at his watch, and said I'd been in line, and they had to leave for the airport. An old Tibetan man and family, who had been been talking to past family and friends, unseen for years, got in line behind me.
As the guard was thinking about what to do, the old man put his hand on my back and propelled me past the obstacle, and there I was again, in front of that smiling person. I shrugged and said, "I have one now." He took it, and put it over my head around my shoulders, giving it back as a blessing and I have it still. Then he left. But someone said not to leave, because he was coming right back! And I thought, "I've overcome every possible obstacle, from a thought in my mind seven years ago, not knowing when or where, my own self doubt, and the external resistance of getting past the red tape of a stranger trying to gain accessibility of the inaccessible, to shaking his hand and saying hello twice in the last half hour and now I'm going to see him again?! A third time in one hour! The magician's mind is blown! Totally!! Totality!!! After the next 20 minute session with him, we went outside to see him off. The Dalai Lama got into his car and waved good-bye to people on the right. In awe of the moment, I stood fifty feet behind his car as it left for the airport. In that crowd of 75 others, I had been mentally saying hello for an hour, asking him if he could hear me and wondering how I would know if he had! I sent him mental good wishes as the car pulled out, and suddenly he turned to look over his left shoulder, out the back window, and waved good-bye to me at the last moment. Numbed, I waved back, as I experienced The Close Encounter of the FOURTH KIND!!!! I went back to my car and the battery was dead, wouldn't even click, and I was almost out of gas. For five minutes I sat there, giggling aloud, because I had managed to get there anyway, and I knew nothing could have prevented it. But I had tapped out all the energy to do it. Some young Tibetans helped me push-start my Subaru, told me a gas station was around the corner, and the car took 11.9 gallons out of a 11.9 gallon tank. I have NEVER seen a better trick.
It was Dagchen Rinpoche's sons push started me. I was invited to a party that night to celebrate the visit, where I met Sakya Dagchen Jigdal Rinpoche, a Lama of great wisdom who I discovered lives in Seattle, and I decided to move there to study with the lamas at The Sakya Monastery and Center for Tibetan Buddhism, and have been in the Seattle area since. Jigdal Dagchen Rinpoche, founder of Seattle's Sakya Monastery, is one of the heads of the Sakya sect and his family were renown Tibetan abbots, so I met most of the main teachers from all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism within the next year in the Seattle area.
I performed magic for the late Nyingma magician Dudjum Rinpoche in the summer of 1980 in Seattle, and got to talk to the Kagyu 16th Karmapa in Portland, in the fall of 1980 before he died. I met many other lamas, such as my friend Sogyal Rinpoche, and the late Kalu Rinpoche (I made salt disappear and Kalu Rinpoche made the salt shaker disappear) and shook hands again seven more times with The Dalai Lama (head of the Gelugpas and all four sects) at initiations with him in Seattle, Madison, Vancouver, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and San Jose. Each of these lamas exuded a natural magic that was wonderful to experience, gave their knowledge freely, and never asked for money. In 1995 I spent time sitting and playing with 4 year old Sonam Wangdu, Seattle's little reincarnated lama. These photos were taken in January 1996, just before Sonam left for Nepal, Katmandu to run his former Tharlam Monastery as Abbot of 39 monks and nuns, since being recognized my former teacher, Deshung Rinpoche, who upon meeting me in Seattle in 1980 said in Tibetan, "Tell him he should do magic whenever I'm around!"
So I try to remember when I can. And I feel fortunate, that my ability to be in the right place at the right time, allowed me this chance to get what I can while they are available. I have also found that other people are wanting to hear something about Tibetan Lamas, or Rinpoches, so if this is some impetus for someone to explore the dharma of karma further, then it is my pleasure to be of service. Check out Deshung Rinpoche's book The Three Levels of Spiritual Perception, Jamyang Sakya's "Princess In The Land Of Snows" (Deshung Rinpoche's niece and Sonam's great aunt), and Bertolucci's movie The Little Buddha. The movie was fiction, filmed at the Seattle Sakya Monastery where Sonam lived at the time, before anyone knew it was real. Unlike the movie, in Sonam's case there were no other candidates, and Sonam's father was Tibetan, the grand nephew of Jamyang Sakya, who was Deshung Rinpoche's niece. Sonam's father died from a bus accident before Sonam was two years old. http://tibet.com/
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