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Shamcher often told this story, and wrote this version for the Sufi Order publication, The Message, in 1977.
The Second Teacher?
Pir-O-Murshid Hazrat lnayat Khan came to Oslo and met a seeking soul who had travelled all over India and many other countries in search of a teacher. When the bond and trust were established it seemed a matter of course to this pupil that there was only one teacher in the whole wide world–for him at least. Joining or even listening seriously to anyone else seemed impossible, ridiculous, devastating. He moved from Oslo to Los Angeles, heard of Yogananda, remembered that Yoga was his first love and study, but felt no desire whatever to even listen to Yogananda now. After Yogananda’s passing he studied his papers to understand the many Yogananda disciples–with the blessing of his teacher, he felt.
However, this pupil had a weakness, or at least a trend of thought: wherever he travelled in the world he looked over the landscape–would there be a cave or spot where he could retreat in complete silence–meditation, maybe for the rest of his life? He knew, not by word of mouth but by feel, that Hazrat Inayat Khan would hardly approve of that, but, well, he just looked.
It was in 1923 he first met Hazrat Inayat Khan in Oslo. ln 1959 he was in India, followed the pilgrim trail toward Badrinath. At the last station, Joshimath, he rushed up a mountain trail, along a foaming stream. Its water became more and more refreshing the higher he mounted. At last he felt he was flying. Perfect! … and there, before his eyes, was the kind of cave in which hermits are pictured, right into a steep wall of rock. How could one get in? Was this for him? Sit there for the rest of his life, just meditating? Perhaps, not eating — not needing to?
Then–LO! There was an upper entrance, a shaft down into the cave. Eagerly he lowered himself down through the “chimney.” At the bottom he felt around. It was dark. Dld he feel some furry thing?
BRRROOOM! Soft. What was that? He felt the fur again. This time–BRRROOOM!–thunderous! “I better get out of here,” he thought, and clambered back out. Back to Sufi meetings, universal worship, engineering work on energy, insured full employment, the tasks life had given him.
So, a Himalayan bear was his second teacher. Second? It hadn’t eaten him, not even sunk its claws into his flesh. Why so gentle? Maybe the Himalayan bear wasn’t really “a–second–teacher”. Could its inspiration and behavior have come from the first and only?
Shamcher kept copies of all his correspondence by typing with carbon paper, so we have many of his letters to others in the Archives. As you can see, he could be quite sharp, as in these two excerpts:
I must be alone
Your dear letter is not only glowing with love, it is also more intuitive than any other message I have received lately. "Forgive me for not getting in touch sooner" you write. Do you know why? Because in your unusual unselfish love you, of all people, understand that I am going through a period when I must or should be alone. Also a trip to Egypt and Brazil is in the offing, and I prepare thunderoudly [sic] for the things we have to do on that trip. Other friends come dropping in and keep me away from my task for hours deep into the night. Even when I tell them in advance I really should not see any one, they still come, saying "But I have to see you, Shamcher" not paying any attention to what I have to do or see.
Is it sad or funny how utterly incapable I am of expressing myself in words? That is why I have always hesitated when asked to meet you. For you are so perfect that I feel an urge to add a touch to make you even more perfect. For example, I always tell people who seek my advice, "why come to me? You have far better advice all around you, from the present and departed beings plus from the thousands of agents building and maintaining all your limbs and nerves and beings". Just as you do. And you have within the myriad of spirits with which you are in touch, such stalwarts as Rabindranath Tagore, who are beyond all faiths and rules yet inside them all, and also Sufis and yogis -- and also some less free and easy. It seemed to me that you took from all of them without discrimination, and that bothered me. But perhaps you are right even in that. For myself, I choose and reject. I try to bring order in my sources and keep only those I can wholly respect. I hear the others too but politely listen without so deep impression.
Shamcher very often referred to this text, and if he couldn’t make it to a meeting, he asked someone to read this instead.
Buddha’s Farewell Address
"Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. Rely on yourselves, and do not rely on external help. Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. Seek salvation alone in the truth. Look not for assistance to any one besides yourselves.
"And how, Ananda, can a brother be a lamp unto himself, rely on himself only and not on any external help, holding fast to the truth as his lamp and seeking salvation in the truth alone, looking not for assistance to any one besides himself? Herein, O Ananda, let a brother, as he dwells in the body, so regard the body that he, being strenuous, thoughtful, and mindful, may, whilst in the world, overcome the grief which arises from the body's cravings. While subject to sensations let him continue so to regard the sensations that he, being strenuous, thoughtful, and mindful, may, whilst in the world, overcome the grief which arises from the sensations. And so, also, when he thinks or reasons, or feels, let him so regard his thoughts that being strenuous, thoughtful and mindful he may, whilst in the world, overcome the grief which arises from the craving due to ideas, or to reasoning, or to feeling.
"Those who, either now or after I am dead, shall be lamps unto themselves, relying upon themselves only and not relying upon any external help, but holding fast to the truth as their lamp, and seeking their salvation in the truth alone, and shall not look for assistance to any one besides themselves, it is they, Ananda, among my bhikkhus, who shall reach the very topmost height! But they must be anxious to learn."
Photo: Circle of small stones on the beach
About this newsletter
The Shamcher Bulletin features weekly selections from the Archives of Shamcher Bryn Beorse. These emails touch on all the areas from Shamcher’s vast explorations, from economics and energy to yoga and Sufism. They might be moving, or inspiring, or interesting. What they won’t be is commercial in any way. Always free.
I hope it will be like getting a letter from Shamcher, something just right in the moment.
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Thanks - Carol Sill