After what could be called nothing less than a NOT so successful foray into a more formalized Zen practice under the venerated Japanese Zen master, Yasutani Hakuun Roshi, followed then by a stint in the Military and more study practice under my own spiritual guide and Mentor and the somewhat obscure American Zen master Alfred Pulyan, I ended up living on the island of Jamaica. Because of the continuous sultry heat and overwhelming humidity typically encountered along the lower coastal plains of the southern part of the island I chose to set up housekeeping above the mosquito zone somewhat absconded high among the cliffsides of the Blue Mountains, nearly a mile above the island's capitol city, Kingston, facing out over the Caribbean.
One day a young girl living in the small village close to where I lived got hit by a car on the mountain road. The vehicle took off leaving her injured and unconscious in the scrub brush of a muddy ditch alongside the weathered asphalt. The girl's parents, like most of the locals, were poor. Being poor they were not able to afford a regular doctor, so instead they opted for a less expensive, local solution. That solution included me, because I knew the parents, and another village member making a sling hammock suspended between two poles placed on our shoulders and carrying her slung front-to-back between us on what turned out to be an all day rugged journey high into the mountains of Jamaica. Our goal, to find a nearly hermit man of spells called an Obeah.
Some things I recall seem as though they just happened, others are blurred and long lost. One thing I remember for sure about that night was, even though I helped carry an injured girl up perilous trails high into the mountains, because I was a white man, the Obeah would not let me enter his hut...and at first refused to have anything to do with me. I sat outside in the dark basically just poking the fire with a stick and watching the light flicker amongst the trees. As the night wore on something in the light off my eyes must have caught his attention because I felt him staring at me. Eventually he came over and tipped my chin up looking into my eyes glowing dimmly in the flame-lit darkness. Mimicking almost the exact same thing that happend to me as a ten year-old boy at Pendejo Cave with the Native American spritual elder, the Obeah squated down without changing or losing eye contact, peering at me with an astounding set of eyes that seemed to shine deeply from within with a mysterious, intense light of their own, and said, in his heavy Jamaican patois, "You have felt the breath of the Dark One." "Yes, once," I said, "many years ago," refering to an incident in the military when I literally felt the boney fingers of the Shadow of Death brush across my soul. "Why didn't he take you with him," the Obeah asked? "I don't know," I responded, shrugging my shoulders. Then the Obeah said:
"In ancient times far away a young maiden came upon a starving prince sitting beneath a tree. Bringing him gruel, he lived. You see what he sees. There are other things planned for you."
The Obeah poured a warm tea-like broth into two small bowl-shaped cups without handles. He took one and gave me the other, gulping down the liquid while motioning me to do the same. (see)
He asked me what I liked about Jamaica. I told him things like the weather and the people. Then he asked again what I liked about Jamaica. But now I wasn't able to answer. It was like my mind had grown so huge that trying to focus on something as minuscule as a few words to string together into a sentence had become an impossible hardship. As I struggled to form something at least semi-comprehensible the Obeah asked, "What about the old man in a far away place a long time ago that constructed bird-like contraptions in order to fly even as you did as a child?" Da Vinci was the answer, but I couldn't form the words. Finally I told him about my Totem Animal, Cathartes Aura, the huge six-foot wingspan condor-like vultures Jamaicans call John Crows, that glide and soar for hours, riding the thermals, never flapping their wings.
That the Obeah seemed to like. Soon a cool breeze fell across my face even though it came from a direction from across the fire. The Obeahman took a vessel of water and tossed it onto the flames. A huge cloud of steam burst forth followed by a thick cloud of smoke. I jumped back and turned away, stumbling to the ground while covering my face and eyes. Then it got cold, very cold. The breeze began to blow harder and I could no longer feel the ground underneath me. It felt as though I was moving very fast, yet as far as I knew I was still on the ground by the fire. I moved my arm away from my face just barely squinting my eyes open. For an instant I was still in the billowing white smoke, then suddenly I broke through to clean, fresh air. The smoke was no longer smoke, but clouds high in the night sky. I wasn't on the ground, but hundreds of feet in the air, soaring through the night, arms along my side, wind in my face, stars over my head.
With absolutely no effort I was able to swoop down the darkened mountain gullies and high into the air, eventually passing above Bamboo Lodge recognizable along the mountain road even in the dark because of a large empty swiming pool. Then, just barely above the treetops I picked up speed and headed toward the lighted streets and tall buildings of New Kingston. Soon I was even higher in the air over Port Royal, Lime Cay, and the Caribbean. Then somehow the exhilaration began to fade. I turned back toward the mountains as a creeping apprehension seeped into my thoughts. Then nothing.
Around ten the next morning a couple of Jamaican kids found me unconscious in a ravine about a mile from Bamboo Lodge and miles from the Obeah's hut, naked, all scratched up, and in the bushes, as though I had crashed through the trees or something. The kids apparently went to their parents or adults and told them there was a naked white man in the gully all beat up. Since I was one of the few white men in the area the adults must have assumed it was me and told Benji, the Bamboo Lodge groundskeeper. After discovering for sure who it was, he brought some shoes and clothes and took me home. Everybody in the village area knew what had happened. (source)
The shaman-sorcerer and author of a dozen best selling books, Carlos Castaneda, in his first book, THE TEACHING OF DON JUAN: A Yaqui Way To Knowledge (pp. 127-8), cites his own momentous taste of flight, of which some is presented below. Notice the similarity in Castaneda's personal experiences and outcomes to those presented previously, above, by the Wanderling:
"My legs were rubbery and long, extremely long. I took another step....and from there I soared. I remember coming down once; then I pushed up...and glided on my back. I saw the dark sky above me, and the clouds going by me. I jerked my body so I could look down. I saw the dark mass of the mountains. My speed was extraordinary....suddenly I knew it was time to come down...and I began descending like a feather with lateral motions....the next thing I remember is the feeling of waking up. I was in my bed in my own room. I sat up. And the image of my room dissolved. I stood up. I was naked! The motion of standing made me sick again. I recognized some of the landmarks. I was about half a mile from don Juan's house, near the place of his Datura Plants."
Almost everything about Castaneda is rife with controversy. He has both strong advocates and strong detractors. Whether what he wrote is true or untrue, whether he made it all up or some of it up, experienced it himself or described the experiences of others and attributed them to himself, the controversies do not seem like they are going to go away any time soon. I can, however, speak for myself and to my own personal experience. My experience was quite similar in scope to how Castaneda presents his and BOTH of our experiences are similar in extent to the Zen and Buddhist related experiences cited below. However, while the end results of both of our experiences are closely related to the outcome of the Zen and Buddhist experiences (i.e., ability to fly), they are quite different in their initial execution --- as neither were ever contingent on the more spiritually instilled supernormal perceptual states of Siddhis mastered at the level of an Arhat like the Buddhists and others are. Both Castaneda's experience and my experience were initiated in a "non-siddhi" like fashion: a "warm tea-like broth" in my case and Sacred Datura in Castaneda's case, applied rather than drank after being mixed thereof into what could be called none other than a Flying Ointment similar to what is found in witchcraft and other ancient occult practices.
Even though an analogy is drawn --- as well as differences outlined --- between the various Zen, Buddhist and other experiences below and the ones presented above regarding myself and Castaneda, it should also be noted there is a HUGE but glaring difference separating my experience and any cited by Castaneda. In THE TEACHING OF DON JUAN, pp. 172-74, Castaneda relates that through an indoctrination process totally guided by the shaman-sorcerer Don Juan Matus, who had learned his art from a Diablero, Castaneda's human form gradually gave way to a crow's body, which inturn, as a crow, gave him the ability to fly.
"I could repeat every word don Juan had said. I followed each one of his directions. He said that my body was disappearing and that only my head would remain...; the head is what turns into a crow. He ordered me to wink...; I must have winked, because he said I was ready...; . He commanded me to feel the legs and observe that they were coming out slowly. He than said that I was not solid yet, that I had to grow a tail, and that the tail would come out of my neck. He ordered me to extend the tail like a fan, and to feel how it swept the floor...;. There was one last thing I had to change...; to accomplish it I had to be docile and do exactly as he told me. I had to learn to see like a crow...; it was not until don Juan directed me to see laterally that my eyes were actually capable of having a full view to the side."
No such transformation even came close or remotely transpired to me under the auspices of the Obeah, a difference that slides my experience directly into the Zen and Buddhist camps of Siddhis and away from any aspects of the areas touched on by Castaneda.
So how could all of this come about? In the opening quote found in AUSHADHIS: Awakening and the Power of Siddhis Through Herbs, it is written:
In theYoga Sutras of Patanjali, Chapter IV, verse 1 it is stated that the supernormal perceptual powers of Siddhis CAN be reached through the use of certain herbs, replicating on the short term a mind-strength ability and potential execution of powers similar to or equal to that of a person versed in Siddhis garnered via the highest levels of Spiritual Attainment.
According to the precepts as presented by Patanjali in his sutra, although the Wanderling was NOT versed in Siddhis or their application at the level necessary to produce the results that transpired at the time of the incident, the warm tea-like broth brewed and administered by the Obeah had within itself, via the experiece and ritual of the Obeah, the capability to act in its stead. For further clarification on the Wanderling's experience, how all of it can come about and how it is related to Aushadhis as well as the supernormal perceptual states of Siddhis please see:
DID THE WANDERLING FLY?
TALON AND SCRATCH MARKS FROM THE GIANT BIRD
Throughout Buddhist history there have been many instances of Buddhist and Zen adepts that have exhibited the extraordinary capability of flight, most often cited through the use of a Siddhi power known in Sanskrit as the Vayu Gaman Siddhi.
Utilizing the latent power implied within the context of the Vayu Gaman Siddhi it is reported a person can become capable of flying in the skies and traveling over great distances in very short durations of time. The Jain scriptures speak of Jain ascetics who could fly from place to place in a few seconds. Swami Divakarsuri and Swami Pragyasuri have been such accomplished ascetics. Although there are several occasions of individuals flying reported in the Sutras of classical Buddhism and Zen, the Venerable Pindola Bharadvaja and the Zen monk Ying-fung, both cited below, are probably the two most commonly mentioned.
Not all are males, however. It was only AFTER her full Realization that Queen Chudala first began to observe any manifestations of Siddhis within herself. It is written that prior to Attainment she would often see women Siddhas (perfected masters) moving through the sky on the way to rendezvous with their sage husbands. It was only post event, during her fully Enlightened state that she began exploring the various potentials of Siddhis and perfecting her own ability of flight.
Swami Vishuddhanandji (d. 1937)(sometimes spelled: Vishuddhananda, Vishudhanandaaka; aka: Gandha Baba, Perfume Saint), although not Buddhist, is well-known for his supernatural powers related to the use of Siddhis. The Swami is said to have been an adept associated with the mysterious Gyanganj (Jnanaganj) hermitage somewhere in Tibet -- a secret place of great masters. He demonstrated his abilities, apparently siphoning his powers from the grounding source of the Vayu Gaman Siddhi, in Varanasi in front of hordes of people on several occasions during the 1930s. In doing so it became readily apparent to both the spiritual and laypersons alike that it is not a myth.
Some time ago twenty-two western Buddhist teachers met with His Holiness The Dalai Lama to discuss a variety of Buddhist related issues.
The conference was organized by Lama Surya Das, a native of New York who is now a teacher in the Tibetan Nyingmapa tradition. Each of the teachers had practiced for at least a dozen years in either Japanese or Korean Zen, the four major Tibetan schools, Thai or Sri Lankan Buddhism, or the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, a Western school based on Great Britain. There were laypeople, monks and nuns, psychologists, scholars, essayist, translators; some had meditated in caves, others had Western doctorates. Most were actively teaching Buddhist meditation, not only in the West, but in Asia, Russia, and countries like South Africa and Brazil.
In response to questions on PSYCHIC POWERS SUCH AS FLYING His Holiness concluded:
"As far as I know, zero Lamas today can do that. Some meditators living in caves around Dharamsala areHIGHLY REALIZED and possibly capable of such attainments." (source)
My own Mentor and spiritual guide studied in India under the grace and light of the Enlightened sage Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi. Although throughout his life Ramana never exhibited even the slightest interest in Siddhis, occult abilities, or psychic powers to outsiders, he had a fully conscious bilocation experience he rarely discussed wherein he was translocated from his ashram in a matter of minutes to a devotee many, many miles away. Arthur Osborne, Ramana's biographer writes in Ramana Maharshi And The Path of Self-Knowledge (York Beach: Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1995, pages 96-97):
About a year after his first meeting with Sri Bhagavan, Ganapathi Muni experienced a remarkable outflow of his Grace. While he was sitting in meditation in the temple of Ganapati at Tiruvottiyur he felt distracted and longed intensely for the presence and guidance of the Bhagavan. At that moment Sri Ramana entered the temple. Ganapathi prostrated himself before him and, as he was about to rise, he felt the Maharshi's hand upon his head and a terrifically vital force coursing through his body from the touch; so that he also received Grace by touch from the Master. Speaking about this incident in later years, not Ganapathi Muni, but the Enlightened sage HIMSELF Sri Ramana Maharshi said:
"One day, some years ago, I was lying down and awake when I distinctly felt my body rise higher and higher. I could see the physical objects below growing smaller and smaller until they disappeared and all around me was a limitless expanse of dazzling light. After some time I felt the body slowly descend and the physical objects below began to appear. I was so fully aware of this incident that I finally concluded that it must be by such means that Sages using the powers of Siddhis travel over vast distances in a short time and Appear and Disappear in such a mysterious manner. While the body thus descended to the ground it occurred to me that I was at Tiruvottiyur though I had never seen the place before. I found myself on a highroad and walked along it. At some distance from the roadside was a temple of Ganapati and I entered it."
A second equally interesting incident, cast in in a similar vein, and involving the Maharshi but a little too long to put here, can be found by going to: THE MEETING: An Untold Story of Sri Ramana as well as it's prelude page, SRI RAMANA MAHARSHI: The Last American Darshan.
Ying-fung was a Zen monk who had received instruction from Zen master Nan-chuan. From his meditative practice, Ying-fung attained some supernatural powers. Once he saw two armies fighting each other. In order to stop the fight, he FLEW over the battlefield and the soldiers became so distracted looking at him flying they forgot to fight. He did many unusual things like this. To show his miraculous power, he died standing on his head and nobody was able to overturn him. His sister was a nun, who came and scolded him, "Old brother, when you were alive you did not behave according to the rules. Now when you died, you still want to show off and confuse people." After saying this, she touched the body lighly, and it fell down immediately.
Venerable Pindola Bharadvaja is one of the Buddha's sixteen disciples named in The Amitabha Sutra. Under the Buddha's auspices he attained the holy fruit of Arhat. Once when in a jubilant mood, he said to the faithful, "Do you think flying in the sky is magical? I will show you some spectacular acts."
He then jumped up into the sky, FLEW all around and performed many miraculous acts. The faithful were all impressed and praised him without ceasing. The Buddha was very displeased upon learning of this incident. He asked the Venerable to come forth and admonished him, "My teaching uses morality to change others and compassion to save living beings. It does not use magic to impress and confuse people. You have MISUSED magic today. As punishment you to stay in this world to work for more merits and to repent for this misbehavior." The Venerable did not in his lifetime enter Nirvana.
By the age of twenty-five, Kunga Legpa had gained mastery of both mundane and spiritual arts. He was accomplished in the arts of prescience, shape-shifting, magical display, and the PSYCHIC POWER OF FLYING. Returning home to visit his mother in Ralung, she failed to recognize his achievement and judged him merely by his outward behavior.
'You must decide exactly who you are,' she complained. 'If you decide to devote yourself to the religious life, you must work constantly for the good of others. If you are going to be a lay householder, you should take a wife who can help your old mother in the house.'
Smashing The Black Lacquer Barrel
PEACE CORPS ZEN