Sketches from the Life of Richard E. Lee, continued
Part 2: Studies with Rajneesh, and on Shamanism
In the late 1970s, Richard was introduced to
the teachings of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and through the early 1980s became
his disciple. He adopted the name that Rajneesh had given him, "Deva
Veerendra," meaning "divine courage," and wore orange clothing.
This was a time of significant inner growth for Richard, as reflected
in his poem "Prelude," written
in 1980. During this period of his life, Richard pondered the nature of
his existence, opening himself to new ideas and concepts of life, rejecting
Catholicism and embracing Buddhist philosophies, though not regarding
himself a Buddhist:
Beginnings have no beginnings. Endings
do not end. Fragments. Shards of childhood thrown
against a door. A prayer to a god
who isn't there. Words stutter against
this void, shatter the silence, and yet
the silence is all that speaks, can speak,
all that can or shall be heard. Voices haunt
these shores. In woods along a path strewn
with debris of woods, an old man, I read
to a lost boy. It is not too late
even there in that disturbed innocence....
Time yet to consider....Time, still time....
I resort to memory which is sorrow, which
brings in mind that cuts and severs....
A walk through the woods thus becomes a metaphor
for his journey to the past he contemplates, and the present time
in which he now defines himself:
...The woods creates itself moment by moment.
Fragments of forests that never disappear.
A dark brown path of shredded bark, eucalyptus
berries, twigs, curling leaves. Water forms at
the tips of pine needles, collects, spills off
into the light. Glistening puffballs are
entwined by strands of spidery threads. How
to say this? How to say it even as
I fold into what I see and lose the words
to say it? I walk in this place. I shape
it as I walk. And I am shaped by it....
The early 1980s marked another period of transition
for Richard. While planning his upcoming retirement, he and Savya contemplated
moving from their home in Long Beach. In a letter postmarked on October
12, 1983, Richard wrote: "...We may, Carol [Savya] and I, leave Southern
California, may find another state, maybe a New Mexico. But wherever,
I have a definite feeling we shall be leaving [Long Beach]. Yet who knows?
I have to teach during the fall.... Well, I don't "have" to.
It's time to make changes...."
Richard went into semi-retirement after the end of that year. In a letter
postmarked on December 16, 1983,
...I shall not be teaching again till next
fall. A new life is opening for me, and that takes some getting used
to. I know I will manage marvelously, bravely, but initially it will
take some doing. (Rajneesh knew what he was doing when he gave me that
Veerendra name. Courage. Yes, I need that.) It will be a meditative,
exploratory time, a time to sort through things of my life, make decisions
about them, and move on. Basically it will be a matter of slimming down,
getting rid of unnecessary baggage. There is even a possibility of moving
away from California. I am not sure how many more semesters I shall
teach at State....
...Obviously it is a major change for me. New things will be happening.
I would even like to go back to India to visit some shrines I did not
on my last trips. One in particular is the shrine of a Hindu saint,
Shree Ramana Maharshi. He is dead now, but he means a lot to me. His
enlightenment came when he answered his own question: Who am I? Once
one knows that, then he knows everything that matters. He came to know.
His presence is still felt at his Ashram. So I would like to go. But
physically it is dangerous. It is a pilgrimage, and one has to be in
the best health....
The question "Who am I?" became of
greater importance to Richard now, and his self-explorations and mystical
inclinations led him to Shamanism. In a letter postmarked June 10, 1986, Richard wrote about his and
Savya's move to Joshua Tree, explaining that he would still teach at CSULB,
"but only in the fall. That will be coming up in a couple of months.
Have to rent a cheap apartment down there somewhere near the campus. This
year [Savya] will stay up here and I shall do the traveling down and back
twice a week. I do not mind the drive, rather like it in fact." In
that same letter, Richard also commented on his personal, spiritual development:
I was raised [a Catholic], even studied to
be a priest,
and here I am! I am no longer in orange, rarely use my
Veerendra name, but that time with Bhagwan [Rajneesh] was the most
important time of my life. I do not regret a moment of
it. I even wish I could still be a sannyasin, but the time
has come for me to move on. I have been trained to do
Shamanic work now, and in the process of that I discovered that
I am my own teacher, not a very pleasant fact but nonetheless
true for me at this stage of my development. We have met
many people up here who share our views. I have even
started a Shamanic drumming group that meets every other
week. Very instructive, very valuable work is being done
and will be done....
Richard's studies on Shamanism and drumming
led to the formation of their group, Ceremonial Sounds. [See photo of
Ceremonial Sounds below, taken by me during their performance at the Marina
Pacifica Clubhouse in Long Beach in 1991. Click here
to listen to an excerpt from "Tantric Conclusions (A Celebration
of Life)," from the "Ceremonial Sounds at the Integratron"
tape recorded in 1991.] As the years ensued, after having mastered Shamanism,
Richard made it his own. In a letter dated August
22, 1993, Richard commented:
am not doing much Shamanically these days. I am doing a lot of painting,
drawing, writing in my journals -- that kind of thing. It all comes
together there for me. Playing my pennywhistle, drumming. Like that.
Typing up a story Savya wrote that is so great.... I am painting yantras,
then binding them into signatures as small books or booklets....
...When I said...that I was no longer doing much Shamanism, what I meant
was that I was not doing the kind I studied to do. Now I am my own brand
of Shaman, I guess....
Richard's story continues...click here.
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