"It just so happened Bhagavan Das was originally from Laguna Beach and, even though it was known on an underground basis locally, because of his stature given him in the Ram Dass book, had become a growing sort of hero amongst the local LSD crowd associated with the Mystic Arts World and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love."
BHAGAVAN DAS: the Wanderling
"Allen's interest in Laguna Beach was amplified by his discovery of its outlaw past when he read the book 'ORANGE SUNSHINE: How the Brotherhood of Eternal Love Spread Peace, Love and Acid to the World,' about a group of hippies and surfers who lured Timothy Leary to Southern California, ate lots of acid and smuggled hash from Afghanistan. He was so interested, in fact, that he set up a secret Facebook group, open only to former members and associates of the Brotherhood, called the Church of the Sleeping Angel, which is what they almost called themselves. Allen also tried his hand at editing the Brotherhood's Wikipedia page, but because he based his updates on conversations with actual members of the group, the website's self-appointed administrators locked the entry and banned Allen from the page."
WARREN ALLEN: Laguna's Troubadour
A question, oft asked by readers of my page on Bhagavan Das, like people such as Warren Allen cited above for example, regards Bhagavan Das' Laguna Beach origins. Most want to know, since I make reference to it so often in my works, if it is something I just heard in passing, read elsewhere, or whether I have some substantial basis for believing that Bhagavan Das was either born in or grew up in Laguna Beach?
For most people the answer to the question is a given. It has been stated and repeated over and over so often, true or not, it has taken on a life of its own and become the standard. For people like Allen and others who fine tune the intricacies they see potential cracks, they just want to know. Actually the question is a valid one and I have pondered it many times myself. From my own perspective however, the answer is multi-fold. If it is meant have I searched down and have in my possession or seen a certified copy of his birth certificate, with no intention of being facetious, the answer is no. For me the grounding source for Bhagavan Das having come from Laguna Beach has its starting point in the same place as the starting point for Bhagavan Das himself --- Dr. Richard Alpert and his book Be Here Now (1971). Alpert writes:
"I was in the Blue Tibetan with my friend and these other people, and in walked this very extraordinary guy, at least extraordinary with regard to his height. He was 6'7" and he had long blonde hair and a long blonde beard. He was a Westerner, an American, and was wearing holy clothes -- a dhoti (a cloth Indian men wear instead of pants) and so on, and when he entered, he came directly over to our table and sat down.
"Now, up until then, I had found this interesting thing that I don't think I could have labeled until that moment. Once, when I had met Gesha Wangyal at Freehold, N.J., I knew I was meeting a being who 'knew,' but I couldn't get to it because I wasn't ready, somehow. We were very close -- we loved each other extraordinarily, but I hadn't been able to really absorb whatever I needed to absorb. Now here was this young fellow and again, I had the feeling I had met somebody who 'Knew.'
"I don't know how to describe this to you, except that I was deep in my despair; I had gone through game, after game, after game, first being a professor at Harvard, then being a psychedelic spokesman, and still people were constantly looking into my eyes, like 'Do you know?' Just that subtle little look, and I was constantly looking into their eyes 'Do you know'?' And there we were, 'Do you?' 'Do you'?' 'Maybe he ...' 'Do you ...?' And there was always that feeling that everybody was very close and we all knew we knew, but nobody quite knew. I don't know how to describe it, other than that.
"And I met this guy and there was no doubt in my mind. It was just like meeting a rock. It was just solid, all the way through. Everywhere I pressed, there he was!
"We were staying in a hotel owned by the King or the Prince, or something, because we were going first class, so we spirited this fellow up to our suite in the Sewalti Hotel and for five days we had a continuing seminar. We had this extraordinarily beautiful Indian sculptor, Harish Johari, who was our guide and friend. Harish, this fellow, Bhagwan Dass and David and I sat there and for five days high on Peach Melbas and Hashish and Mescaline, we had a seminar with Alexandra David Neehl's books and Sir John Woodroffe's Serpent Power, and so on. At the end of five days, I was still absolutely staggered by this guy. He had started to teach me some mantras and working with beads. When it came time to leave, to go to Japan, I had the choice of going on to Japan on my first class route, or going off with this guy, back into India on a temple pilgrimage. He had no money and I had no money and it was going to change my style of life considerably. I thought. 'Well, look, I came to India to find something and I still think this guy knows -- I'm going to follow him.'
"But there was also the counter thought, 'How absurd -- who's writing this bizarre script. Here I am -- I've come half-way around the world and I'm going to follow, through India, a 23 year old guy from Laguna Beach, California.'
"I said to Harish and to David, 'Do you think I'm making a mistake?' And Harish said, 'No, he is a very high guy.' And so I started to follow him -- literally follow him."
For Bhagavan Das' take on the same meeting above between the two click HERE
The only thing Alpert says about the person called Bhagavan Das other than his height and the color of his hair is that he was "a 23 year old guy from Laguna Beach, California." As it appears to us the reader it sounds as though Alpert learned during that first meeting Das was from Laguna Beach. While it was quite apparent Das was an American, where in America he came from is another thing. Alpert and Das traveled together many months, so actually it could have been anywhere between the time they first met and they eventually parted and Alpert wrote the book that he picked up the information regarding where it was Das came from specifically. If it was Bhagavan Das himself that told Alpert or someone in their immediate circle that heard it from Das then passed it on to Alpert, is again not known. If Alpert ever questioned the accuracy of Laguna Beach or confirmed it is not known either. Although both individuals are still available and reachable through their websites, neither is really talking. True or not, it was the explosion of Alpert's book in the counter-culture that spread the word of the existence of Bhagavan Das and thus then, where he came from.
Alpert has been interviewed many times and he always sticks to the same story. Most interesting on the subject is a personal interview printed in an article in the Harvard Crimson by one Anne DE Saint phalle and dated April 23, 1969, two years before his book was published. In the article Alpert states, and the earliest reference to such publically I have run across, the following:
"David, the Hindi guide and Alpert sneaked the boy into their hotel room that night. They stayed there for a few days smoking and talking. David and Alpert postponed their flight to Japan. They found out that the boy was 23. He had left high school in Laguna Beach, California, at 17 and thumbed across the world. He was a kid with thin karma. His name was Bhagawan Dass."
In the 1969 article Anne DE Saint phalle says that it was during the few days they were all together in the hotel room and 'found out' Das was from Laguna Beach, quoting Alpert as saying Bhagavan Das was 23 years old and had left high school in Laguna Beach at age 17. Had left high school, not it would seem graduated. However, other reports have Das saying he left because of the state of things in the U.S., especially so after the assassination of JFK. JFK was shot November 22, 1963, which opens up the question, did Das graduate in June 1963 then leave five or so months later, or was he in his senior year and just up and leave in the middle of it?
Warren Allen, cited in the opening quote at the top of the page, in his interest and investigation into things Laguna Beach and its 1960s drugs connections soon ran into one Eddie Padilla, who, he himself being no slouch, and for sure a major onetime big time mover within the Brotherhood(see). In general conversation Allen apparently brought up Bhagavan Das and his LSD background as well as being from Laguna Beach and a potential connection with the Brotherhood. Padilla said he never heard of him, which by inference would seem to imply there was no connection, at least from Padilla's perspective. In an email to me Warren Allen writes:
"I asked the aforementioned Edward Padilla about Bhagavan Das today, and he told me he'd never heard of him, and this was after he'd read through your story about him."
Rest assured Padilla's knowledge regarding Bhagavan Das are right on because Das, time-wise, would have had a tough time having any sort of active role or formal connection with the Brotherhood. Das left Laguna Beach --- or wherever he was --- in 1963 and did not return to the U.S. until showing up on the east coast in the early 70s then wending his way to Santa Fe and the desert southwest by July 1972. To my knowledge he never went to Laguna Beach after his return to the states, so in essence he totally missed all of the goings on that the Brotherhood was involved in, start to finish.
In my article on Bhagavan Das of which Padilla is said to have read through, I write:
"It just so happened Bhagavan Das was originally from Laguna Beach and, even though it was known on an underground basis locally, because of his stature given him in the Ram Dass book, had become a growing sort of hero amongst the local LSD crowd associated with the Mystic Arts World and the Brotherhood of Eternal Love.
"Because of number of vague similarities, real or imagined, but mostly imagined, between me and Bhagavan Das in the eyes of some of the more strung out Laguna Beach crowd, it wasn't long before he was brought to my attention."
As for what is being said by me is that it was the groupies, end users, and the more strung out Laguna Beach hanger-ons who were affiliated only as consumers through the endeavors of the Brotherhood that made a connection to Das --- NOT those within the inner workings of or day-to-day operations of the Brotherhood. It was because of the avowed LSD advocate Alpert and his book having such sway in the growing counter-culture community that they, the LSD user crowd in and around Laguna Beach, became aware of Bhagavan Das, then escalated him into one of their own.
My Stepmother, now deceased, had for years, owned a small weekender or summer-type cottage in Laguna Beach a short distance south of Main Beach on the west side of PCH, a weekender or summer-type cottage that would be considered a regular house these days, of which my Uncle and I used regularly in my youth --- my uncle having ties with the art colony long before the rise of the Brotherhood. However, my uncle, who lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico and long since gone from the Laguna Beach environs, for whatever reason during the exact same years as the Brotherhood, maintained or had access to a post office box in town. Every once in awhile after my first hand delivery of a package to Leary, a package would come to me from my uncle through a variety of means, hand delivered, etc., that I would then take down to Laguna Beach and put into the post office box.
There was never any mail in the box when I was there and the packages I placed into the box were always gone when I put in another one. It is my belief the packages, because of their small size and light weight, contained Peyote buttons for someone's private or personal use. My uncle had strong connections to a number of southwest Native American groups and considered the use of Peyote as spiritual or religious in nature and not breaking any fundamental law. He was, however, very familiar with the federal statutes and the penalties behind them, and made stringent efforts to cloud the issue as much as possible between himself and any recipient thereof. For some mysterious reason not long after the Brotherhood ceased operations the delivery of packages mysteriously stopped as well.
Me accessing the post office box for my uncle put me into Laguna Beach during the same period of time the Brotherhood was operating more than I otherwise normally would have been. One day, because of the heavy summertime traffic and continuous lack of parking spaces, I parked out of town and rode a public bus in. After going to the post office I was waiting to catch the OCTA #1 on PCH when a local surfer carrying his board up from the beach got stuck at the light at the same time I was waiting at the bus stop and during the interval, for what ever reason, we took up conversation. He said his name was Lionel Train and worked for the nursery in town --- in those days all surfers used to have handles and I figured Lionel Train was his. One of the things he told me was he had graduated from Laguna Beach High in 1963, so the first thing I asked him did he ever know a really tall surfer who graduated around the same time. Now, in those days I could not have asked him about Kermit Michael Riggs, because nobody at the time, including me, knew Bhagavan Das was named Riggs --- and nowhere in Alpert's book is the name Kermit Michael Riggs mentioned. It wasn't until Bhagavan Das' book It's Here Now (Are You?): A Spiritual Memoir (1997) came out did it really become known. I did know Alpert said Das was blond and 6 ft 7 (actually more like 6 ft 4). Laguna Beach High School has notoriously small senior or graduating class sizes, a person with the stature of Das would have had to have stood out. Lionel Train told me the only person he could think of was a guy they called Big Rig, but he wasn't a very good surfer. Years later when it came out that Bhagavan Das was named Kermit Michael Riggs I figured the handle Lionel Train gave me, Big Rig, was a play on his last name --- adding for me a certain credibility as to who Das was and being from Laguna Beach.(see)
On the very back cover of the Bhagavan Das book It's Here Now (Are You?): A Spiritual Memoir right next to the 'bar code' the following blurb can be found:
"Bhagavan Das was born in Laguna Beach, California. He is a frequent speaker and performer at gatherings around the country. He lives at Harbin Hot Springs in northern California."(see)
Please notice at the start of Chapter 1 is what appears to be a passport photo signed by Michael Riggs.
BHAGAVAN DAS: OFFICIAL SITE
OF COBRAS, SCARABS, MASERATIS, AND ZEN
Fundamentally, our experience as experienced is not different from the Zen master's. Where
we differ is that we place a fog, a particular kind of conceptual overlay onto that experience
and then make an emotional investment in that overlay, taking it to be "real" in and of itself.
ON THE RAZOR'S
As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.
Bhagavan Das remembers the experience between he and Alpert's first meeting somewhat different. In HIS book It's Here Now (Are You?): A Spiritual Memoir (1997) Das writes of the same meeting events with no mention of Laguna Beach:
"I woke up one morning with my girls and my cows and found a Danish hippie standing over us. He said, "There's this guy in town giving everyone LSD. Everybody gets eight hits. His name is Richard Alpert."
"I knew what LSD was because I'd heard of Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert. News about these two renegade college professors with a mysterious new mind-altering drug had made it all the way here, to the seventh century. I was excited because I'd always wanted to try LSD. I knew I had to meet this guy.
"I got dressed and headed into town. There was a restaurant called the Blue Tibetan where foreigners often hung out. People would go in, roll hashish cigarettes, and connect with each other. I sat at a table against the wall and ordered some tea. I'd been in there for about ten minutes when this big, gangly, bald-headed American walked in the door. Another Westerner and a short Indian man followed. All three had on brand-new, freshly pressed, clean clothing. They stood out like color characters in a black-and-white movie.
"They looked at me as they walked by and then sat down at the back. Richard Alpert had his back to me and a tape recorder on the table next to him. Beside him sat Harish Johari, the Indian man, and across from both was David Padwa, the other American. They kept staring at me, so I got up and walked over.
"I sat down next to Richard, who was fiddling with his tape recorder--checking the batteries, popping them in and out, pushing the buttons--and never acknowledging me. He seemed so nervous. I thought, "This is truly one of the most uptight persons I've ever met."
"Harish, who looked like Hanuman, the monkey god, said that he'd heard about me. Folks in that area called me Dharma Sara, my Buddhist name. I mentioned the LSD, and they invited me back to their room for a hit. They were staying at the five-star hotel in Kathmandu called the Soalti, built by one of the king's sons. Fifteen stories tall, it was the largest building in Kathmandu, and it overlooked the entire valley.
"My hosts offered me room service. I could have anything I wanted, so I ordered a peach Melba.
"And so we began the "forum": a male power head trip. Talk about male bonding. It was this incredible ongoing philosophical talk that went on all day and night. It was so intense! Harish would roll hash cigarettes to keep things flowing. We discussed what was going on in America, kundalini and sexual energy, God, and the Divine Mother. It seemed as though we talked about everything. Richard and David were two intense Jewish intellectuals. It was an unbelievably diverse dialogue among the four of us about the mysteries of the universe, including Hinduism and Buddhism. We talked about The Tibetan Book of the Dead and about different states of consciousness. Then there was the book Serpent Power, which dealt with kundalini yoga. What did it all mean? We were all over the place in our conversation.
"But the crown on the queen was LSD. Richard was convinced that LSD was the spiritual soma, the nectar of immortality, the spiritual substance that comes through alchemy. In that alchemical state, the drug produces an incredible vision, a heightened awareness, a sense of timelessness, and an opening into another dimension. Richard had come to India to find out about this soma and what came after it.
"The next day, Richard offered me hits of LSD and STP, another psychedelic drug. I took them both and was launched on a forty-eight-hour trip.
"Right away I started getting paranoid. I felt that I had to get out of the building. I couldn't deal with the sheetrock walls and the thick carpet. I was too far from the earth. My soles needed to touch the soil. Richard and I took the elevator downstairs to the bar area near a swimming pool. I sat down at the end of the pool and watched the sunlight reflect on the water. The water turned into the Ganges, and I started feeling happy.
"Suddenly, all my energy flew into the sky. My legs locked into the lotus position, my back straightened, and the sun worship I'd been doing kicked in."
The following quote, which is pretty much self explanatory, came from a page called Meeting Warlords, Et Al. What is described within the paragraph, that is, meeting up in Orange County, California with two former southeast Asia warlords from the Vietnam war era that I personally interacted with during that same Vietnam war period, both deeply involved then with drugs on the international level, came about almost exclusively because of me being in Laguna Beach --- which is in Orange County --- dealing with the post office stuff for my uncle. To wit:
"All during that period from meeting Warhol to a variety of minor interactions to a couple of major ones with the Brotherhood in Laguna Beach to leaving for Jamaica in 1977 I was in and around or through the Orange County environs on a regular basis. So saying it wasn't long before it came to my attention that two people that had a one time played roles in my life had moved to Orange County and for no other reason than I could, I sought them out. One was onetime Air Vice Marshal come vice president of Vietnam, Nguyen Cao Ky. The other was the Laotian warlord General Vang Pao."
MEETING WAR LORDS, ET AL
KHUN SA: THE SECOND WARLORD
LIONEL TRAIN MYTINGER
(please click image then scroll down to back cover)