the Wanderling

"The woman held what appeared to be a gold necklace stretched between her hands. Hanging midway along the necklace was a small Chinese character. Basically grabbing the necklace from her hands I asked where it came from and how she got it. She turned facing a general group of barely discernible figures sitting and drinking toward the back of the barroom in the shadows along the darkened wall, telling me that one of the men, a burnt man, had paid her to put it on me. When I asked what she meant by a burnt man, using her hands in a swirling motion in front of her face combined with a sneering facial expression to indicate scars while gasping for air as if the man had a tough time breathing, said in broken English, 'burnt man, burnt man.'"

Paragraph Four Below

My first two years of high school I had a job running errands a couple of days a week and sometimes on the weekends for a badly burned, heavily scarred, barely able to move ex-merchant marine. During World War II the merchant ship he was serving on was forming up into a convoy and was positioned among the other ships in the rear corner on the starboard side that he called "coffin corner," said by experienced hands to be the most easy picking location for submarines in a convoy. Before the convoy even formed up let alone got underway members of a U-boat wolfpack began striking at the edges of the still loosely associated ships with my friend's ship torpedoed. In order to save himself he had no choice but to jump overboard, landing in an area with highly flammable naphtha and oil burning along the surface of the water, the fire scorching his skin and heat scorching his lungs as he plunged through and returned for air.


Months later he was found in the north Atlantic strapped by heavy ropes to a large piece of debris hundreds of miles from the attack, and although he himself said he did not recall ever being on a submarine, German or otherwise, let alone any other type of sea-going vessel, everybody told him it could possibly be the case because he was, after all, severely burned and months had passed before he was found. The conjecture was that he must have been attended to on a submarine --- although all agreed subs had limited facilities and will to do so, especially for any extended period of time. It is on record that an hour after the attack the U-333, the submarine that launched the torpedoes against the Halsey, came alongside the lifeboats and offered assistance, but it was declined, which is another thing he doesn't remember, being in a lifeboat. He, however, held to the belief that other things were in the works.

He spent months in recovery and rehabilitation. One day in the hospital while being given a sponge bath he was looking in a hand mirror at his burn marks when he noticed he had the necklace around his neck. He never had a gold necklace in his life. When he asked the nurse where it came from she said as far as she knew he came in with it as it was found among the few personal effects he had with him. She said typically they would not put any jewelry on a patient but some of the staff thought that since he was so scarred by the burns that he might like a little beauty in his life so someone put it around his neck. He told me he had no clue where it came from or how it came into his possession, but for sure he didn't have it on before he was torpedoed. He said everybody always admired it and it appeared to be very ancient.

Several years after I saw the necklace for that very first time found me in the Cholon district of Saigon gulping down a large amount of a seemingly never ending supply of of alcoholic beverages. From out of the smoky milieu of mostly horny and inebriated GIs, unsolicited, what was affectionately tagged in those days as a Saigon Tea Girl, attempted to sit on my lap and tried to put something around my neck. Pushing back I could see the woman held what appeared to be a gold necklace stretched between her hands. Hanging midway along the necklace was a small Chinese character. Basically grabbing the necklace from her hands I asked where it came from and how she got it. She turned facing a general group of barely discernible figures sitting and drinking toward the back of the barroom in the shadows along the darkened wall, telling me that one of the men, a burnt man, had paid her to put it on me. When I asked what she meant by a burnt man, using her hands in a swirling motion in front of her face combined with a sneering facial expression to indicate scars while gasping for air as if the man had a tough time breathing, said in broken English, "burnt man, burnt man." In just the few seconds it took me to work my way through the crowd to the back wall pulling the tea girl with me the burnt man, if there ever was a burnt man, was gone. Nor could anybody at any of the tables remember seeing or talking to a heavily scarred man, burnt or otherwise, sitting at any of the tables --- although some of the GIs were fully able to recall the girl.

The necklace, which I still have and continue to wear to this day, from what I could remember, looked exactly like the one my merchant marine friend showed me and said to be mysteriously wearing out of nowhere the day he was found floating in the sea after his ship was torpedoed. The only problem is, by the time the incident in the Saigon bar occurred my friend had already been dead some ten years, having passed away during the summer between my sophomore and junior years in high school. At his memorial service I was told by family members, following a death bed request on his part, that in an effort to rejoin his fellow seamen he wanted to be cremated and his ashes tossed at sea near where his ship was torpedoed and, along with the ashes, the necklace returned to the sea as well. As far as I know those wishes had been complied with.

I was in the Cholon district of Saigon not because of the beer or being a Birkenstock festooned world traveler hitchhiking through Asia seeking spiritual awakening, most of whom at the time such as Richard Alpert and Bhagavan Das and later Steve Jobs were way to the west in India or Nepal seeking out their guru du jour Neem Karoli Baba, but because of the draft. And I'm not talking draft as in draft beer either, but draft as in the military, better known as the Selective Service System. The SSS draft was the way it was for a vast number of young men growing up in America around the same time I did. True, there were any number of young men of similar ilk as me who apparently smarter in some fashion than I was, sought avoidance of that same draft I was caught up in by going off to Canada, seeking out college deferments, or, if already having received degrees, going on to graduate school or joining the then newly formed Peace Corps or the National Teacher Corps. But, if that wasn't in the cards for you, you were uprooted from wherever you were or whatever you were doing and plunked down in the military. The military meaning in most cases, the U.S. Army.

And so it was for me. Following a crowded ruckus-filled overnight 400 mile train ride from the induction center in Los Angeles to Fort Ord I, along with several hundred other potential GIs, at 4:00 AM in the morning, was herded into one of a whole line of cattle trucks and taken to what they called the Reception Company Area. Then, after being issued two pairs of too large boots along with several sets of too large olive drab shirts and pants, and having the good fortune of completing eight weeks of basic without incident I was sent to the U.S. Army Signal Corps School in Fort Gordon, Georgia for what they called Advanced Individual Training, or AIT.[1]

Following completion of AIT, except for a short detour to Fort Benning, Georgia, I was sent to Fort Riley, Kansas. From Riley, on TDY, I continued participating in an never ending series of so-called covert related training activities. One day, traveling light and wearing my Class A uniform per verbal orders, I boarded a train to Los Angeles, California, with the luxury of my own sleeping compartment and eating in the dining car before the hoi polloi got to. In the dark of the early morning hours, after the train stopped in Needles, I was told to shed my uniform and taken off the train by civilians as a civilian to Norton AFB near San Bernardino and from there flew to Travis AFB. A short time later, after rout-stepping around Tan Son Nhut Air Base for awhile and visiting Saigon a few times, nearly always by myself and never having been officially assigned to a unit, found me in Long Tieng, Laos with nobody knowing I was there having bypassed basically all military paperwork and protocol.

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Following a series of encounters in the court of the Southeast Asian warlord that ran Long Tieng, encounters of which were initially put into place by others well beyond my control, later found me miles and miles away high in the mountains of the Himalayas outside the confines of any warlord, in one of those ancient monasteries truly beyond the reach of time.

One morning in the fields outside the monastery walls I was taking care of business when I was approached by three heavily armed military irregulars. In what could be called nothing less than a blatant out-and-out forced kidnapping, having little or no option, against my will and with no real chance of making it back inside the monastery walls without being followed in by men with guns, I returned with them to Chiang Mai. The following will pretty much clarify what it was about the necklace that makes it so important in the overall scheme of things:

"On the return trip we stopped for a couple of nights at a military encampment or compound of Khun Sa. At first I thought we had been captured and taken to the camp, which for all practical purposes, we were. However, once we were inside the perimeter of the compound it was quite obvious the Australians and Khun Sa knew each other. He wanted to see the man under the protection of the Lord Buddha. After a quick introduction I was told I was under HIS protection now. Everybody laughed. Then Khun Sa motioned me closer, almost immediately dropping his eye contact from my eyes to that of the the small gold Chinese character dangling around my neck. Reaching forward he softly took the tiny medallion between his thumb and index finger, looking at it very carefully and rubbing it for what seemed the longest time. The background noise and the overall din of the soldiers in the camp became quiet and the air stilled. As a man who could have and take anything he wanted I thought he was going to yank the chain from my neck. Instead he allowed it to gently fall against my skin and stepped back and the sound returned to normal. Basically a tribal person seeped in superstition, Khun Sa, and no doubt along with a good part of his camp as well, knew that for the necklace to have the intended power vested in it, it had to either be given freely and without malice or found after having genuinely been lost. Otherwise, if taken or stolen, its intent would be reversed and what would befall the person so involved would be quite the opposite of the protection it provided."


As it was, the merchant marine I knew and worked for while I was in high school was actually a major celebrity or sorts. At least he was when it came to the loose knit west coast merchant marine community where he lived, carrying a huge high level of notoriety and prestige ahead of himself. That notoriety and prestige, as focused as it was, emanated from the mysterious events surrounding his survival, including the necklace, after being lost at sea and found alive so many months and hundreds of miles away from the spot his ship was torpedoed. So said, because of the close proximity of his home with two major world class seaports, Long Beach and Los Angeles, both crawling with merchant marines and other seafaring folk, it wasn't unusual in those days for any number of merchant marines and fellow seamen to drop by his house and pay him homage. Three that I met were highly notable in their own way. The first of the two was Guy Hague, who was known for his studies and darshan in the ashram of the venerated Indian holy man the Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi before the war, with second of the two being Truman Bethurum, who actually lived only a few blocks away, and was at the time becoming famous in some circles as a "contactee." The third man was a former merchant marine, who had known my friend in the past by the name of Bob Kaufman.

Not long after Kaufman showed up in the general Los Angeles area than he began visiting my merchant marine friend. On one of the days Kaufman was visiting he noticed the necklace around the merchant marine's neck. After asking him about it, then asking if it was OK to look at it, my friend, in that his hands were not nimble enough, had him remove it. Kaufman examined every minute detail. When he was done he handed the necklace back and told the merchant marine he was sure he had seen the exact same necklace once before. The merchant marine, so stunned it took what little air he had anyway away, gasping while searching for more air to respond, told Kaufman that was impossible because as far as he knew it was one of a kind, there was no other like it on our side of time. Kaufman told him some ten years before, during the early part of 1944, with the war still raging, he had sailed out of Philadelphia on board a Liberty ship headed toward India, ending up in Calcutta. He was stuck in Calcutta for about a month before being shipped out, sometime he thought, around the middle of May, 1944, albeit on a completely different ship than he came in on, called the S.S. Harold L. Winslow.

Kaufman said he had arrived in Calcutta on the S.S. James E. Eads, but missed shipping out because of a toothache. However, even before the toothache and the Eads leaving he said a man around 25 years old claiming he was an American soldier, although dressed in civilian clothes, came to the ship looking for him. The man that claimed to be a soldier told him he knew that he, Kaufman, would be arriving in Calcutta onboard the Ead. Kaufman also said the soldier told him that the two of them had a mutual friend, another merchant marine, which just happened to be the same merchant marine he was visiting. Since Kaufman missed his ship and was stuck in Calcutta for who knew how long, he and the soldier, who he said, was waiting for a CNAC flight out over the "hump" to China, got together several times. It was during one of those times Kaufman first noticed the necklace and during one of those times he asked to see it, examining it very closely. He said, even though many years has passed since he had been in Calcutta and seen the necklace, it was so unique that there was no doubt that the one he saw that the soldier had and the one that he, the merchant marine was wearing, were exactly the same.

"When I first met Kaufman it was at my merchant marine friend's home in Redondo Beach while I was in high school and Kaufman had only just left the merchant marines some time before. In Calcutta I was in the military and a ten year older G.I. while Kaufman was a ten years younger merchant sailor. I remember well the day he was at the merchant marine's house. I had only just started high school by a few months and working for the merchant marine when Kaufman showed up for maybe the second time and truly took notice of the the necklace my friend always wore. Kaufman went over it the same way he went over it the day I was wearing it in Calcutta. It was easy to see as carefully as he marveled at the necklace in the second case that from both cases he determined it to be the same necklace, although from his perspective it couldn't possibly be."


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As to the necklace itself and where it came from, my Merchant Marine Friend told me that when he was around my age (i.e., my age then, the first two years of high school) he had become driven, actually obsessed with the lost continents of Atlantis and Mu. As soon as he could he began traveling the world to find or substantiate both places. But, the more and more ancient places he visited and more and more educated he became the more and more he became convinced neither place ever existed. In his quest, both pro and con, besides all the Atlantis and Mu books in his library, he had collected reams and reams of books, material, research and explanations that debunked nearly every single aspect of either continent or their civilizations that anybody could ever pose.

So said, even though I heard him say many times that he had long since lost faith in the existence of either of the lost continents, through inference he often related the origin of the necklace back to one or the other or both. However, the grounding source for the origin of the necklace usually falls back to Gyanganj, AKA Shambhala or Shangri-La.

Bob Kaufman, after leaving the merchant marines would become very big in the Beat movement. Like Kaufman, most of the major Beat poets, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Carl Solomon, Gary Snyder, and Herbert Huncke served in the merchant marines at one time or the other. Actually, because of Kaufman, in a roundabout way Ginsberg gets caught up in this necklace stuff too. See:


How the necklace itself fell into his hands in the first place is still not known with any amount of certainty, although there are those who seemed to think he got it after being picked up by a German U-boat. He attributes it more to what is found in the story High Barbaree and The Shipwrecked Sailor.






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.







(please click)

Footnote [1]


The following is from an article that appeared in The New Yorker dated July 20, 1968 Page 56:

There are several ways of deferment and exemption legally open to college graduates. The surest is to be a medical student. The Peace Corps, VISTA and the Teacher Corps are other means by which seniors may salve their consciences without breaking the law. They earn a man a deferment for a year. Teaching leads to deferment in most cases. Two other major paths out of the armed services are conscientious objection and physical disqualification. There is the possibility of emigration to Canada or other countries The latter is not popular. It means the young man cannot come home for a visit without risking arrest or perhaps 5 years in jail. Few want to cut themselves off forever from American girls and American jobs and their families.

DRAFT DODGER 1944--------------------------DRAFT DODGER 1960s
(click image for respective year)




"Within the members of the relatively small search team, Chinese all, was a Buddhist or Zen Buddhist. When they came across me, not knowing if I was the one they were searching for or not, the Buddhist amongst them noticed the small Chinese symbol hanging around my neck. The team was just going to abandon me, but the Buddhist, after seeing what I had around my neck told them I was under protection of the Lord Buddha and to leave me in such a state and in such surroundings would be bad Karma --- that nothing but bad fortune and and bad luck would follow them if they did not take me with them." (source)

The necklace, which seems to manifest an almost mystical aura about it, has interceded in my life in a positive fashion more than once as attested to in the above quote. However, my merchant marine friend and myself are not the only ones to find similar or like attributes ascribed by others to similar or like entities. During roughly that same period of time throughout the same region I ran into a number of similar attitudes as the above up and down the scale. Although you wouldn't know it from what has been put forth by or about them, three of the highest profile believers were in leadership positions over hundreds, possibly thousands in their roles of being warlords. The following is the take from the former Vietnamese Air Vice Marshall Nguyen Cao Ky:

"Many times death has taken those closest to me, but I was spared. No matter how great the peril I have encountered , I have emerged without harm. I am Buddha's child, and until my purpose in this life is fulfilled, Buddha will protect me."

His counterpart in Laos, the warlord Vang Pao is on record regarding the following:

"Their conversation turned to Buddha amulets of the kind Thong had worn. Joining in, Vang Pao explained that one kind of Buddha amulet protects from all bullets, and another attracts all bullets but causes them to ricochet."

Both of the above quotes and their sources as well as the view of the third of the three warlords, the Shan state drug warlord Khun Sa can be found at:


Many people take issue with the saying: "under the protection of the Lord Buddha" --- especially so in how it relates back to the Buddha and Buddhism --- and then in turn, how it relates back to me specifically.

However, implications or no --- or related to me specifically or not --- the quote is NOT of my own making. Although I have since heard it unsolicited a couple of times under varying circumstances, it first came to me from an apparent underlying belief held by the KMT Buddhist upon seeing the small Chinese character around my neck. Accurate assessment or not, it is what he believed. So too, in his own way, it is what Khun Sa believed as well. I have since run into people seeped in Buddhism that upon seeing the tiny medallion said the same thing.

One day, while still at the monastery, I was in a group of monks that went to the village some miles away. While there I sought out a villager that was able to speak some English. I was able to get him to write, in Chinese, a note to the master requesting information as to WHY the symbol around my neck afforded some sort of significance. Upon return the note was delivered by an intermediary. Some months later I was given a handwritten response --- in Chinese. After returning to the states nobody I showed the response to, who should have had the ability to read it, were able to translate it with any amount of accuracy.

In 1977 I was in Hong Kong to seek audience with the famous translator Upasaka Lu K'uan Yu. The purpose of that meeting was to get a better handle on what the Zen master wrote. The whole story is fairly long and complicated and most do not have the time or interest to delve into it at much length. However, the gist of the translation revolves around one King Dhatarattha, Bodhisattva, one time follower and confidant of the Buddha. Dhatarattha was the Lord of the East. The sun rises from out of the east, that is from the east of Mount Meru, out over the ocean that laps against the eastern shoreline of Meru and that extends continually eastward well beyond the horizon. The King's realm and power oversaw all that the ocean and beyond entailed --- the hidden lands of Fu Sang and all. If you recall, the symbol around my neck originally showed up around the neck of a merchant marine that had been found strapped to a piece of debris floating in the ocean.

In the Sutras, Dhatarattha, in addition to being Lord of the East, he is also King of the Swans, and he above all others was the Golden Swan. The King of Benares heard of the Golden Swan and wanted him. So he built a beautiful lake to entice him to come there, wherein, upon doing so he could capture him. To wit:

Not suspecting anything and trusting the words of the king's proclamation the Bodhisattva and his friends were enjoying themselves among the lotuses of the lake, when the foot of Dhatarattha got entangled in a snare. In order to warn the other swans of danger, he announced by a certain cry that he had been caught and the swans with a cry of terror flew up into the air. Only Sumukha stayed at the side of his Master and would not move.

The Bodhisattva urged his friend to leave him as he could not help him, but Sumukha answered: whatever thy fate is, my Master, that shall be mine also. I always attend on thee in thy prosperity and I will not leave thee in thy distress." The bodhisattva answered: "What advantage will there be of death of both of us?"

Sumukha answered:"The law of Righteousness teaches that one may not leave one's friend in distress, even for the sake of saving one's own life!"

The KMT Buddhist, not unlike Sumukha, who would not leave the Bodhisattva in distress, would not leave me in distress. Now true, we were not friends as Dhatarattha and Sumukha were, but in the overall scheme of things, seeing the symbol around my neck the KMT Buddhist apparently arrived at a kin relationship. As Dhatarattha moved up he became, as in the Atanatiya Sutta, one of the four kings discussing with the Buddha what was called the Atanatiya Protection, hence the relationship to protection by the Buddha. At the end of the Atatatiaya Sutta the Buddha closes with:

When the night had passed the Blessed One addressed the monks: "Learn by heart, monks, the Atanata protection, constantly make use of it, bear it in mind. This Atanata protection, monks, pertains to your welfare, and by virtue of it, monks and nuns, laymen and laywomen may live at ease, guarded, protected, and unharmed." (source)

Now, how it relates back to me and being "under the protection of the Lord Buddha," I have been told, and I have no way of knowing how accurate any of it is, is that it is not from any direct translation of the Chinese symbol that is of importance, but the power invested in the symbol itself, as it harkens back to it being an ancient relic handed down through the centuries and blessed through the Buddha by King Dhatarattha himself.

For more please see:


PARITTA: The Book of Protection