"At the Mount Baldy Intensive two people worked on death, and one, the venerable Ken Fry, attained a state of immortality. Well, not immortality really, because no one is saying his body won't die eventually. But he has the conviction that HE does not die. He goes on. This has left him without any Fear of Death, and without any fear of how life will turn out. He has forever to work it all out. He said to me, 'How would you define enlightenment?' I responded with something pretty lame, and he replied, 'Well, for me it's knowing you never die.' This left quite an impression on me."


"For Buddhism, the dualism between life and death is only one instance of a more general problem, dualistic thinking. Why is dualistic thinking a problem? We differentiate between good and evil, success and failure, life and death, and so forth because we want to keep the one and reject the other. But we cannot have one without the other because they are interdependent: affirming one half also maintains the other. Living a 'pure' life thus requires a preoccupation with impurity, and our hope for success will be proportional to our fear of failure. We discriminate between life and death in order to affirm one and deny the other, and, as we have seen, our tragedy lies in the paradox that these two opposites are so interdependent: there is no life without death and--what we are more likely to overlook--there is no death without life. This means our problem is not death but life-and-death."


The Big Fake-Out

by Ken Fry

Death is the spice of life -- the reason for living -- the ending that makes a life meaningful. Whether it is a good life, a bad one, or mediocre, we come to our just reward -- justified by ourselves. The term "Grateful Dead" makes sense.

Recently I thought a good intensive question might be "What is Death?" Friends rejected the idea. I tried to abandon it, but it would not relent. I found a book about Death and Dying by Philip Kapleau, author of Three Pillars of Zen. Citations indicated "Death?" was, indeed, a highly respected and rather fine meditation. Additional research discovered similar opinions. I discussed it with Ed Riddle. He later reported someone used that question and was pleased with the results. I resolved to try it at his next intensive.

Thinking continued. I thought, "There's nothing to it." Death is an event, not a suitable 'object' of contemplation. There's nothing to learn. I decided to go for it anyway.

At the Mount Baldy Zen Center, whose head master at the time was Joshu Sasaki Roshi, with Ed's agreement, I did it.

The first day, nothing happened until the afternoon. Then, I had an insight -- "Death is an illusion." No surprise, I'd thought that before the intensive, but now it was more real.

I consulted the master. Perhaps this was all of it. Perhaps not. I wavered, but I knew what was right. I carried on.

The next morning, I arose full of ambition, energy and interest. There was more. It was quickening. I know the stages you go through with a question -- this was normal.

Late morning, the second day, life, and death became far more interesting. Something occurred, that thing that occurs -- from time to time -- that thing that intensifies the meaning of my life, this life. Then, the world is different. I know, I am home, I am who I am. All is right with the world. It seemed I could tell the difference between temporal, organic life, and . . . transcendent consciousness.

The body, with which I am so exquisitely, intimately identified, love it that I might, the fat ugly slow thing it is, it dies. The end of that life; that personhood, that name, those relationships -- a child, a sibling, a spouse, a parent, the end of all that, that is the end of this life. That is death. All those things I like about myself ,and those things I don't, all the things that tell me who I am, the roles, the identities -- gone -- all gone, all dead, all over -- forever.

What a pleasant surprise: something isn't dead. I'm still who I am, and I have lifetimes of work ahead, but I got work.

Doing "What are You?" at another intensive, I had a flash that seemed like a prior death. It was the flash of realization, "Wow, that's my body! It's dead, but, . . ." It's like jumping out of the hot tub and rolling in the snow. It gets your attention.

With the earlier experience at hand, I used it. It was like "What Am I?" from the other side of the looking glass. It is effectively the question "What am I outside of life?"

The second afternoon, I got hot on "all is illusion." Life was illusory. Death was illusory. Was there more?

Near the Zendo are a few acres covered with large rocks, shards of a fallen granite mountain. I watched these rocks every day, during walking meditations, morning and evening, a massive storage of the energy of the physical world. I fell into the vision of these boulders, the shards of the mountain as the illusion, smashed to bits, laying there before me. I threw rocks, smashing the illusion with each one. With each I cried , "Get thee behind me Satan!" (I love to wax biblical.). The lure of the illusion is seductive, so fully desirable. I reveled in a brief view beyond the veil. Each stone I threw empowered my vision of separation from the cycle of birth and death. Every attachment I had to life fell into relief. I am not the illusion. I use it. I hope this vision will grow.

"What Am I?" is an inclusive question. It's easy to invest a great deal of time with the effective question being, "What am I identified with?" The question works fine, but it's slow. Broad, but slow. It's like moving a mountain with a teaspoon. Asking, "What is death?" is like using a jackhammer.

"Life?", "Other?" have the same drawback.

"What is Death?" throws all of life into relief, as in looking at a photographic negative rather than a print, or seeing a sculpture, rather than a photo. "I am a (bricklayer)" is a seductive and, at some level, legitimate answer to "What are you?" In life, in this life, it's true, you are a (bricklayer). Life is sweet -- we dare not let it go too easily. We polish and polish these questions, getting every nuance.

Life is that complex of ideas, thoughts, roles, relationships, titles, names, all those things it seems to you that you are. But if you ask "What is Death?" everything that is life is automatically eliminated from consideration. Only that which is left when life is over, is subject to the inquiry.

That night, when I retired, sleep would not come. I was fraught with visions of my own death. As in, right now, right here, this instant. What would that be like, really? Really!

I was devastated. I could give up most of it, my education, roles, names, being smart, being clever -- that was a loss, but the loss of my family, my sons -- that was devastating.

Nevertheless, in good form, I threw myself into the breach. The way out was through.

I realized it really didn't matter very much if I died. I would miss my loved ones and they me. But life would go on without me. This is a "What am I" experience. I kept having brief recollections of past deaths and re-experiencing the moment when I'd realize, "Holy Cripes! I'm not dead! That body there, it's dead, but 'I'm' not!" (so to speak).

The third day, it got even better. I got the sense that "it's us, all together" that keeps the "illusion" going. It's not a charade. It's the United Nations with a zillion members. This is a "What is Life?" experience. I am sure there is more. I expect a "What is Another?" experience follows, then perhaps an experience of universal (or unitary) consciousness. Or maybe, that is the "What is Another?" experience.

Death is the big fake out, the grand illusion, the thing I feared, with nothing to fear at all. It's a vacation, a recharging, a new start. Death is passing Go and collecting $200. Death is a grand and a wonderful thing. We live our lives, each one of them, like beads on a string. When we've learned what we can from one life, we cast it off like an old shoe, and take another. It organizes life into discrete, manageable, comprehensible units. It also means death is no escape from responsibility for life. "What is Death?" sounds like a scary question, and it is. Fear is one of the major barriers. For me, fear has been a substantial factor in many of my decisions. I felt the fear, let it be there and went on anyway. and it has faded. In its place is a sense of calm, an enhanced sense of the wonder of the everyday world.

I plan to continue the question at another intensive. I suspect most anyone who has done a few Intensives might profit from it and enjoy it as much as I have. I never kept count, but I've been to a few Intensives over the last thirty years or so. This one was the easiest, the most fun, and the most rewarding of all.(source)

In a similar vein the Wanderling writes in the quote below regarding his encounter with the death experience. Now while it is true the incident occured while in the military laying beside the road in a ditch bleeding to death rather than the confines of a forest surrounded Zen Center high in the mountains and being tapped occasionally on the shoulder with a kyosaku, the physical pain that had been inflicted was still so intense and severe that while in a sort of removed, but still semi-conscience state, a decision was made to just give up, that is, let go of the life force. That letting go brought about a Flatlined state:

"In my case, except for the flatline of the EEG (Electroencephalogram) signals which was duly noted by a number of outside observers and medical attendants, for me, IF the less than gossamer-thin membrane between the still alive and the that which becomes the now-not-alive was actually crossed or breached, it is not known because no difference was remembered if detected.

"In what would appear to be an almost diametric opposition to such a scenario, (that is, NOT breaching the gossamer-thin membrane between the still alive and that which is the not alive even though the EEG seemed to indicate otherwise) any previous or residual 'fear of death' after being brought back or coming back as the case may be, seemingly dissipated along with the ego. Loss of both ego and fear it is surmised stemming from the experience in which 'I' was in a totally unflawed flatlined state (or non-state) for close to thirty full minutes, and, except for maybe not being totally zipped up, put into a body bag even longer and stacked in a row along with other corpses." See Footnote [1]

ALFRED PULYAN: Richard Rose, My Mentor and Me

No dolt this Ken Fry guy. Ronald Boutelle in Chapter III of Krisna and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance writing of H. Charles Berner, also known as Yogeshwar Muni, now deceased but onetime of the Institute of Ability, presents the following:

"One of them, Ken Fry, proudly described himself as one of the first hippies in Riverside, California. While attending the Institute of Ability, he read a newspaper ad, seeking people to take psychological tests at the University of California at Irvine. When Drew and Ed heard from Ken about this chance to make a few extra dollars, all three signed up.

"A month later Professor Hart called the Institute, wondering just who these three fellows were and what the Institute of Ability was all about. It turned out that the tests they had taken were also I.Q. tests and amazingly they had received the top three scores in the entire university. They were not even enrolled students and even more curious, each had mysteriously given the same address as their place of residence: The Institute of Ability." (source)

On my own, as a young innocent and sometime well before Fry, seeds of a similar kind were being sown:

A year or so before I started high school and unknown to most of my peers and me, a semi-bohemian literary movement began taking root in various parts of the U.S. that eventually grew to such a point that by my second year in high school I had become more than peripherally aware of it. The movement, given the name The Beat Generation, was mainly centered in and around San Francisco's North Beach, Venice West in Los Angeles, and Greenwich Village in New York City. Two of the top movers, both of whom would become renowned poets in their own right, were Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso.

"In the South Bay just around that same time, but mostly after graduation, and even though Allen Ginsberg read 'Howl' there, and although never reaching anywhere near the level as the other aforementioned Beat places --- and me not really knowing a whole lot about it in those days --- I started hanging out at the Iconoclast Coffee House just a few steps east up the hill from El Paseo and the Horseshoe Pier on Wall Street in Redondo Beach and/or the Insomniac on Pier Avenue just across the street from Howard Rumsey's Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach hoping to be or at least think I was 'cool' and possibly even absorb or learn some of the movement trends. The best part for me was taking home to my place an extraordinarily fabulously beautiful young redhead, an Iconoclast regular, regularly. Or at least once in a while, or on occasion. Or maybe just once or twice, by the name of Jolene. Unfortunately Jolene loved speed and sadly, dead from Bennies before having even reached the end of the 1960s."


It should be noted that the aforementioned Gregory Corso's primary female companion if not outright girlfriend in the early stages of the Beat movement was non other than the infamous so-called "Beat Generation's Missing Woman," Hope Savage.

For more on Ken Fry including correspondence between the Wanderling and Fry please click HERE.




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.










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Ed Riddle (Edrid). Published by Self & Other. Article presented through publisher general permission disclaimer at original site ENLIGHTENMENT NEWSLETTER: SELF & OTHER Volume 4 Number 1 First Half 1996 (i.e., "right to copy granted as long as it is not altered and not copied for profit $$$").


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I was found by a onetime bottom-of-the-line GI everybody called "the Cat" (a play on his name). The Cat, who went on eventually to receive a bronze star, was a former or to-be 1st Air Cav medic on TDY doing routine corpse duty when he came across my partially unzipped body bag. In the process of closing the bag we BOTH somehow discovered I most likely no longer fell into the specifically dead catagory. Months later he told me that sometimes shift workers, when they find that a person has died on their shift, will put the body in the shower and let hot or warm water run on them --- sometimes for hours --- then, just before they go off shift, put the body back where it belonged for the next shift to find and deal with. The only thing is, in my case, this time the GIs who did it were caught. Even though my body had dropped quite a bit less than normal temperature, if not "warm" (because of the hot running water of the shower), my body was still at least supple. In the fact that I had absolutely no vital signs that anybody could tell --- and it had been previously noted that I flatlined --- I was hastily stuffed into the body bag without further checking. Hours later the Cat came across me no longer DOA and helped me out of the bag. (source)



Joshu Sasaki Roshi arrived in Los Angeles from Japan on July 21, 1962. His sponsor took him to a small rented house on Mariposa Street in Gardena, where he took up residence. He immediately began conducting Zen meetings on weeknights and Sunday mornings, initially using the garage as a Zendo. Because of the increase in his popularity, by 1966 the Mariposa site had outgrown its quarters, so the Roshi started holding Zazen in a nearby donated office space.

In January 1968, under the Roshi, what had now become a legal religious organization, bought its first property, the Cimarron Zen Center, formally dedicating it on April 21, 1968, the same day I stumbled across the Zen Center.

A couple of years before, near the end of the year 1966, a few members of a then still under the radar loose knit hippie group operating out of Orange County, California calling themselves The Brotherhood of Eternal Love, whose main purpose of existence was advocating the use of LSD, began attending Zen sessions held at the Roshi's Gardena office space. They asked the Roshi if he would be willing to present a meditation session at their then Modjeska Canyon digs, and much to their surprise the Roshi accepted. It was near Christmas of 1966 and somewhere along the way I heard the Roshi was going to be in Modjeska Canyon, so just for the heck of it I attended that session, the first time I came into any real contact with the Brotherhood.

In DON JUAN MATUS: Real or Imagined, I told of meeting with my uncle in Kingman, Arizona, a small desert community located about halfway between where I lived in California and where my uncle lived near the Sangre de Christo mountains of New Mexico, a meeting of which he arranged. When the meeting ended the following transpired:

"(A)s we were parting he gave me a small package to deliver in person to a man in Laguna Beach, California --- and told me whatever I did, NOT give it to anybody else under any circumstances. When I arrived in Laguna Beach I went to an establishment on Pacific Coast Highway called Mystic Arts World as directed by my uncle. There someone took me to the man who was sequestered in a remote cave hidden in the hills above Laguna Canyon Road. The man, Dr. Timothy Leary. The contents of the box not known."

The Laguna Beach establishment my uncle sent me to, Mystic Arts World, for all outward appearances looked like not much more than an early 60s head shop, with racks of tie-dyed shirts, the smell of burning incense, psychedelic posters, and bongs. It was actually the new base of operations for The Brotherhood of Eternal Love after moving from Modjeska Canyon. By the time my uncle sent me to the Mystic Arts World, because of my interactions with the Modjeska Canyon Zen sessions I was known enough not to be viewed suspiciously, so getting the box my uncle gave me to Timothy Leary, and doing so personally, did not present a problem.

The Brotherhood dealt heavily in the movement and sale of marijuana, psychedelic mushrooms, and LSD --- reportedly with upwards of $200 million in sales in the late 60s. The organization began to fall apart shortly after its leader died of an overdose of synthetic psilocybin in August 1969 and the Mystic Arts World building burning to the ground following a mysterious fire that started just before midnight June 4, 1970, a fire widely viewed as arson. By 1974, following an August of 1972 multi-agency government raid, most of the remnants of the organization were dispersed, scattered, or gone.

In 1971, year or so before the government raid, seminal the book Be Here Now by Ram Dass, which Apple Computer mogul Steve Jobs, for example, mentioned as being highly influential in his life before Apple, was published. In the book, which became a wildly popular best seller and almost a bible in the counter-culture, Dass mentioned a deeply respected young white American he met in India called Bhagavan Das, a follower of the venerated Indian saint Neem Karoli Baba, that was fully ingrained into the spiritual culture of India. The two of them traveled around the sub-continent together partaking of a variety of religious and spiritual undertakings as well as indulging in a lot of LSD. It just so happened Bhagavan Das was originally from Laguna Beach and 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. In the milieu of Laguna Beach it wasn't long before Bhagavan Das was brought to my attention and I learned he had returned from India after six or seven years, living quietly as a civilian in the northern California bay area, most notedly, Santa Cruz and sometimes Berkeley.

Before the oncoming summer of 1974, at the request of my mentor who wanted my assist in helping him meet a friend who would soon be visiting from India, I headed north along the California coast slowly wending my way toward Sausalito, all the while crossing paths with a few friends and strangers along the way. One of the people I stopped to see was an old high school buddy who lived in San Jose and worked at IBM. While staying at his place I visited the Winchester Mystery House and, as outlined in what I have written about Steve Jobs in the link at the end of this footnote, I met the future to be computer genius in the garden there.

During our talk that afternoon he told me he was seriously contemplating going to India in an effort to find a guru. I mentioned Bhagavan Das to him saying there was a highly respected holy man just returned from India, now living in the area he should look up, a holy man that could give him all the ins-and-outs of a spiritual quest in India anybody would ever need or want. Jobs remembered Bhagavan Das almost immediately from having read about him in Be Here Now and seemed sort of excited about the prospect. If Jobs ever went to Bhagavan Das I never learned, as neither ever mentioned it as far as I know. However, shortly after our meeting in the garden at the Winchester House, Jobs did go to India.




Joshu Sasaki Roshi, retired from teaching February 2012, it is said, due to illness. However, it saddens my heart to learn of alleged actions by the Center's Roshi and for all who may have been harmed by such actions. See:


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