Leelas in Praise of Beloved Da.
By Frank Marrero
Chapter One: The First Time
I remember the first time I saw the face of Bubba Free John, noble, happy, and beautiful. His face was prominent in an advertisement in the East West Journal in 1975, promoting a book humorously entitled Garbage and the Goddess. I liked the free feeling he presented and I liked the deco artistry. I didn't order a copy, thinking, Well, if I were the dependent, guru-ing type of person, I could hang with him, at least he looks happy, and I seemed to forget about it.
But I loved to console myself with ideas about spirituality, graduate of the sixties that I was. Sure enough, soon it came, down the pike of my casualness. In February, 1976 a lovely lady I had convinced (like myself) that my enthusiastic, casual egoic style was spiritual, asked me to read a book she had just read, but didnt understand. Sure, I'll read it and tell you what I think about it, I remember saying to her and subconsciously congratulating myself on my spiritual/intellectual act.
It was the same book I had seen and not bought. It was a chronicle, a record of events and conversations surrounding a several month teaching demonstration called Garbage and the Goddess. With passion and precision, Bubba submitted to play with and instruct devotees. Plus, the book intimately described fantastic spiritual transmissions of great force.
Garbage and the Goddess communicated a freedom and brilliance that I was unable to comprehend entirely. The sections I did understand were penetrating beyond anything I had ever read, but I?remained without understanding when Bubba spoke about himself. Bubba Free John not only spoke as an Enlightened Master, he referred to himself as the Divine Person, as God Himself Speaking. I did not buy it, I did not believe it, and I was critically suspicious. But I also had to doubt myself, since many of his other observances and teachings were breath-takingly brilliant. I was in a quandary between these two sentiments.
In ten years of reading philosophical and spiritually oriented literature, I had never read anything like The Garbage and the Goddess before. I told the lovely lady that I would have to read the other two books by this wild Master before I could give her my definite opinion.
Not only did my intimate partner Denise Getz and I consume the other two books, The Knee of Listening and The Method of the Siddhas, but everything else we could find.
We ran and owned a successful hardware store and had a large circle of friends. We told our friends of our interest in the Teachings of this God-man, and made it known throughout the general community that we wanted to share this interest.
One late Spring evening, 1976, we heard a knock at the door and opened it. Standing there, in roaring twenties attire, with a giant feather sticking up from his wide brimmed hat, and a dark, cardboard suitcase in his hand, was a sweet and desperate man. I hear youve been asking about Bubba Free John. We invited him in.
My name is Jimbeau Walsh, and I have seen this person, Bubba Free John. He came right to the point. I sat with Bubba at Persimmon, His Sanctuary in the mountains in northern California. I cannot describe it, but I can tell you that afterwards, when I came back down into San Francisco, I would look at all the people, but only could see their dreams. It began to drive me crazy. While it was the greatest thing ever, it was too much for me to handle and so I must divorce myself from it. Please take this, he handed us the suitcase. Its got every magazine, every tape, every booklet. I believe you will enjoy it very much, but it was too much for me. We accepted the suitcase with wide eyes.
Seeing our response, Jimbeau postulated correctly, You have not heard His voice, have you?
Denise and I both prepared ourselves to hear the voice of a divinely enlightened being. I imagined deep, rested, and loving utterances and readied myself. From the suitcase, Jimbeau selected a tape and put it in our player. Free laughter filled the room; deep, long, free laughter the Master was playing with one of His devotees. As I listened to the recording, I was delighted with His obvious freedom, utter kindness, and radical fullness. This was no other-worldly philosopher. He cared. He was so rested He penetrated everyone around Him with scintillating humor; He was full of life and laughter. I?was relieved He wasnt all somber, but free, humorous, and obviously loving.
When Jimbeau left that evening, he gave us his picture of Bubba. Denise and I put the picture on a chest of drawers and began to consume every tape, booklet, and magazine in the suitcase. His potency began to grow in our lives, but soon the force was uncomfortable.
Denise and I looked at each other one day and both agreed that the power we were dealing with was too much; it threatened our entire living. We put the picture down, put everything back in the suitcase and shoved it, like pornography, way under the bed. We tried to ignore the whole subject.
Three days later, cleansed of our pornographic approach and drawn beyond our discomfort, we agreed to open the suitcase again. It was a serious moment when we did. We knew it was a great force we were dealing with, for it threatened our secure little lives.
As a dedicated health-food nut, I decided to open a restaurant and soon attracted a team of my best friends to pull it off. Many of them joined me in my appreciation of and amazement at Bubbas wisdom. We named our restaurant, The Laughing Man one of Bubbas appellations and the name of the ashram magazine.
Denise and I decided to visit the community of students surrounding Bubba and check it out in person. We contacted the Dawn Horse Communion and let them know we would be coming to San Francisco in January 1977, after the Christmas season at our hardware store. Everything was set. Then, just after Christmas we got a letter that asked us not to come, due to conditions beyond their control. We were in the midst of packing to leave for one month in California.
We called the Polk Street bookstore in San Francisco and found out that Bubba had just taken everyone through another long, wild teaching demonstration, like Garbage and the Goddess, known as Indoor Summer and they were not in the position to receive anyone. Plus, Bubba was on retreat in Hawaii. We wanted to see the Community as much as Bubba. I protested that the books encourage readers to visit the Community of devotees and got handed off to a Peter Helicopter. Helicopter explained how Bubba had just taken everyone through a major event and all were exhausted in purification and recovery. He told us that Bubba was gone to Hawaii and warned that Denise and I would not find an energetic reception.
When I explained I understood that, he relented, Well, its a free country, if its here you want to be, no one is stopping you. Tell Steve Leto at the bookstore I sent you.
My thanks to Helicopter forever, for not only that moment of cutting through it, but many ones thereafter just like it.
I remember walking up the steps of the Polk?Street bookstore, San Francisco, January 3, 1977 knowing I was about to meet people who had danced intoxicatingly with an enlightened, spiritual free-man. Yet a formality and a seriousness went along with a humorous freedom in most everyone, despite their exhaustion and beyond each egoic bent. Good news, I?thought, the center of the hive must be truly sweet.
We offered our services entirely. Denise was given service with the office crew, but I offered my help in the book ordering department. It took way too long to get books from them, and I knew I could help. I was escorted to a large, windowless room filled with books, a file cabinet, and a desk. I was introduced, Frank Marrero, Lynn Houghton. Frank wants to help us with our book ordering.
Oh good, Im late for a job interview now, Lynn grabbed his coat, and darted for the door, but paused as he came to the threshold. Oh, let me show you how its done and gave me a 70 second accounting of how to fill book orders; three by five cards, shoe boxes, orders, and pointed out the shelves of books.
It was strange: I worked alone for three weeks. Lynn must have gotten the job. There was no one in charge in the usual way, no one I could go to and ask anything. They simply trusted I would do the service well, and I guessed they were glad to have me. I decided on a new accounting system and the adjustment freed many of the books. I was able to work eight hours a day. Twice a day, I went to the post office with as many books as I could carry.
Three weeks later I had cleared the table, set up a reasonable system, and relaxed into the society with dinners and pillow fights. The biggest surprise I had about the Community (of about 800 people worldwide, 500 in Northern California) was its forewarned unfriendliness: there was no welcome, no isnt Bubba great, no wow, its so great here. No one saying, Im so glad you found the truth. Far from it; it was closer to What are you doing here? Who do you think you are? My doubts were even encouraged rather than dismissed or glossed overand no one played with me in my usual personality games. It was so refreshing.
Denise and I stayed with various households in San Francisco and attended community gatherings to hear communications and watch films of Bubba. We were very impressed when we saw him move and speak. Bubba was finishing two new books and early versions of both were being received by the Community. Precursors to The Paradox of Instruction and Breath and Name inundated us in fresh wisdom.
Near the end of our stay, I came upon an ordinary devotee, David Patten, who was friendly, lively, and passionately spoke of the teaching in a way resonant with my own sensibilities. Through him, I could see that the culture of enlightened consideration was indeed alive and not just at some inner circle.
Denise and I were told that we could go visit Persimmon Sanctuary, Bubbas nearby ashram, 110 miles north of San Francisco.
Persimmon was established in a former turn-of-the-century spa and health resort. The spa buildings and complex had been built upon the sacred grounds of the Native Americans who had previously revered the hot springs. I didnt understand that it was a great gift to visit the Sanctuary, but instead went in the mood of a spiritual tourist.
We drove our van three hours north of San Francisco to Persimmon (The Mountain of Attention). There, we were received by the residents, who gave us service assignments and directed our activities. The sanctuary was temporarily for sale and the guardedness that surrounded the holy sites was significantly loosened. I didnt get it at all; I didnt understand the gift I was being given. All I knew was that it was January on a cold mountain in northern California and I was raking the lawn around Bubbas house. I was more perturbed than appreciative. Yucky weather matched my self-possession.
After dinner, we swam and floated luxuriously in Ordeal Bath Lodge and I began to relax into the feeling of a fundamental Mystery that permeated the baths. Luxuriously restored to our naturalness, we were then invited for evening chanting occasion in a communion hall, Laughing God Hall. This was later known as Temple Eleutherios and His First Sukra Kendra, or Transmission Room.
I liked the chants. They werent the nauseating sing-songy, affectively over-amped emotionalism I had feared. With simple repetitive melodies, I remember sitting in Bubbas pure space, chanting, God only, God only, God only, only God. God only, only God. God only, only God.
As I sat in the temple, I noticed the usual punkish internal chatter fall away as a mysterious feeling pervaded us all, with instants of far-reaching vision. It was the first time I experienced being transparently immersed in His Feeling by a place He Potentized.
The next day, my usual egoic mind returned. When I thought about my experiences the night before I surmised, Very impressive, fascinating even. I think Ill send this Dawn Horse Communion $100 a month.
I took a movie of Bubba named Laughter back to Tennessee to show my friends, driven partly by the vain fact He humorously countered a naïve question with the parody, The divine is also like a hardware store.
Back in Nashville, I began loaning books and talking very positively about feeling the divine and adapting to the mood of service. It was little more than my egoic shine inspired by Bubba. I rented a film projector and Denise and I showed the movie Laughter to a large group of our friends. Many devotees came through that room that night.
One day Denise and I were reading the dharma, the liberating word of the Enlightened One, when she bolted upright and blurted out, When youre ready to move to California, I want you to know thats fine with me.
Our luxurious life was no obstacle to spiritual life. I protested, The Teaching is not about seeking, its about feeling and serving in place . . blah blah blah . . .
She calmly listened and agreed, I know, I just want you to know its OK if we move; I am profoundly struck, totally taken, stunned even by Bubbas enquiry, Avoiding relationship? I dont know, but I have been struck to my very core. I understood it intellectually and psychologically, but not radically; this enquiry was a part of the Teaching I did not really understand in depth. She saw Him first. I saw her glimpse Him. But I stood firm in the part of the teaching that suited me, serving in place, feeling the divine here and now especially if the here and now was so nice.
Several of my friends had turned on to the Teaching by this time; we began to meet and regularly discuss it. We were so full of promise, despite Bubbas criticism that Happiness is not at the end of a calendar of wants.
Our financial success with the hardware store and restaurant gave us great latitude; Denise and I planned a trip for late November: Portland, San Francisco/The Dawn Horse Communion, New Orleans, Barbados. We were prepared to travel, then we got a call: Bubba will be sitting and we were invited on a certain date, November 20th, 1977; the exact date we had already set aside for a Northern California visit. We even had plane tickets already in hand. Hmm, how lucky.
By this time, Denise and I had been studiously applying ourselves to the Teaching for a year and a half. I was amazed by the brilliance and insight, but remained troubled by the Masters proclamations of his own divinity. Christian mythologies and my own egoic disbelief that another person could be proclaiming absolute divinity raised my doubts were to a high level. And rightly so, for how a person turns to the infinite is the most sacred act.
I dearly wanted to lay my eyes upon Bubba; I had a deep feeling that before death, I would like to gaze upon a magnificent divine person. He was a prime candidate.
We sat in a large hall at Talking God Seminary in Clearlake, California with 400 other students. Bubba answered questions for a couple of hourswhich was the basis of the Change Your Action published talk.
The first time I laid eyes on him, I scanned Him like a hawk, looking for subtle abuses of His position, trying to catch where He got off on it. I watched and listened intently for two hours.
Clean, I?thought. I was actually surprised; I was sure I could catch a moment where he would steal some attention, relish in some egoic reference, but only loving and brilliant service was observed. That didnt mean he was God, maybe really true, maybe a god, a perpetually creative genius, but God in Person?
OK, I thought, he may not be God, cause I think I would know, cause I'm cool, right? I mean, wouldnt Absolute Divinity be noticed, or be somehow Self-Evident? But I couldnt tell. Damn. But at least he seemed clean, and I got this good feeling about him. Like I'm from Brooklyn and he's from Long Island, I checked the guy out.
But I never saw my angular notice, my conventional presumptions, my true lack of understanding about how to relate to an enlightened person, nor my over-doubting, nor anything other than goodness and radical notions. I used to say, It's real bright, and knew it felt different than anything else, including being outdoors, which was the next best thing for me. I didnt find Bubbas personal company overwhelming like I had hoped, but I could tell something was working, and it felt true.
In addition to sitting with Bubba, there was a very moving presentation by Peter Helicopter on Bubbas consideration of What is Truth? from the new book, The Paradox of Instruction. His New England, street-level manner of talking combined with exquisite discrimination and explication about Bubbas enlightening words carried Bubbas transmission of God- realization. For a flash, I was given enlightenment/realization and the certainty that I would forever grow in the Light. That was impressive.
Two of my best friends, Elliot Gordon and Isabel Roche had also traveled to Bubbas sitting occasion. They announced that they were dropping their lives in Tennessee and moving to California. Shit! I thought. I hadnt expected to be confronted with that! The man-divinity issue flared unresolved in me, but I surmised that this brilliant man was certainly free, simple, and loving and it was obvious from David Patten and Peter Helicopter that it would be wise to live closer within His sphere. I thought, At least they dont worship his picture or wear white or beads or wave lights or anything. It was the Way of Understanding and Bubba was certainly conducting some kind of enlightenment.
I considered distant ownership of my businesses as the hardware store could run essentially without me, and Scott Morrow had taken over The Laughing Man. But that was not the moment. It was the time to weigh a privileged life with eternal life.
Denise and I ended up leaving a very comfortable lifestyle, our businesses, our beautiful 1910 country church-home, and most of our friends and dearest relatives to go live where there were other people living nearby this Bubba Free John. I was conflicted about it; it was a great risk. If the teaching was no seeking, why was I moving? If service is the Way, why was I moving?
I couldn't really tell you why at the time, except I'd say it seemed like I had been truly given an invitation, wide open. We arrived in Santa Rosa on February 23rd, 1978.
My biggest disappointment was that I was not as emotionally impressed by Bubba as I?had hoped. Thankfully, His Teaching arguments impressed me whole-heartedly. His Call for enlightened self-understanding and radical responsibility has always touched me.
Understanding is re-cognition, direct seeing of the fundamental and always present activity that is suffering, ignorance, distraction, motivations, and dilemma. When this activity is thus known again, there is spontaneous and unqualified Enjoyment of What it excludesThat Which is always already the case, always already there.
His radical understanding cut to the very essence of suffering and illusion and clearly revealed the Ground of Being.
What is it that you mean, that you are signifying and pointing to, when you say or feel you are suffering, unhappy, not at ease? You are pointing to your own action and finding it is the experience of separation, contraction, pain. But it is the compulsive and
presently not-conscious avoidance of relationship, relative to the Divine Presence, and relative to all arising conditions. When this action becomes your responsibility, then these experiences and concerns will become obsolete by degrees in the action of God- Communion, and then in the intuition of your true Condition.
While Bubbas teaching was elaborated in exquisite detail, it could also be very simple.
No practice realizes truth. Truth is realized through the inspection of experience to the point of realizing that experience has no obligatory force and that none of it is the purpose of spiritual life. The point is this single responsibility, this single principle, this single inspection of your state in this moment, of your Narcissistic self-concern, of your contraction toward fear. Be responsible for that contraction so that you exist instead as Love or God-Communion. That is everything. That is the whole teaching.
There is nothing to be attained. There is a single principle for which we may become responsible and that is God Realization. Not the way to God Realization. It is God-Realization itself. It is the disposition in Truth. It is the Way of life. Once it is Realized, nothing else obliges us.
There is only one discipline: to become responsible for the contraction of feeling-attention by moving beyond fear in every moment into the disposition of love. It is the only discipline. If you hear this, you do not have to do anything else. It does not change or grow. It is simple, direct, absolute. Live this process with Me and it is always the same.
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"The perfect among the sages is identical with Me. There is absolutely no difference between us"
Tripura Rahasya, Chap XX, 128-133
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