"Several years before found me in a red-darkened strobe light lit bar sitting around with a handful of para-military types and close Army buddies 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, a tea girl attempted to sit on my lap and tried to put something around my neck. Pushing back I could see she 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 pointing toward a 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 snearing 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 scared 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 sophmore 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."
THE ABOVE BRIEF EPISODE REGARDING SAIGON TEA CAN BE FOUND IN CONTEXT AT IT'S TWO PRIMARY SOURCES:
THE SHIPWRECKED SAILOR
CARLOS CASTANEDA: BEFORE DON JUAN
See as well: High Barbaree
MOVING ON FROM SAIGON TEA TO THE USE OF OPIUM:
"If you have had the opportunity to go through my various online offerings you will find located in a variety of places that I have studied under, met and interacted with many highly respected teachers and members of the Enlightenment community --- including of course, my own spiritual guide and Mentor, as well as Sri Ramana Maharshi, Franklin Merrell-Wolff, Swami Ramdas, Yasutani Hakuun Roshi, Shunyata, Alfred Pulyan, and Wei Wu Wei. Most of it has not been of my own making but somehow came about on its own. For what reason or why I cannot say as I do not know. However, meeting the teacher of Pulyan was an extraordinary experience.
"A few years before my mentor sent me to Pulyan's compound I found myself in the court of a Laotian warlord. I was requested to participate in, without many options to opt out or do otherwise, a ceremony that circled around the heavy use of opium. Dressed in local garb I layed on the floor on my side with a thin, three-foot long pipe, attended to by an ancient man that assisted me through the various paces. A couple of times afterwards, on my own and with others, I partcipated in a much less formal ritual called "chasing the dragon," but instead of a pipe, using a matchbox. That was ages ago. Those days, as well as any other such youthful indiscretions, are long gone and long over. The thing is, when the effects of the opium took over, it was like I had disappeared or no longer existed, having melded into the larger whole. Yet my eyes still took in, in a very high super-clear intensity, all of my surroundings. Where or what my eyes were connected to or how they were able to work or record my environment --- and for me to still know about it I don't know --- as there did not seem to be a back of my head or even a head.(see)
"Early on I can remember engulfed and removed from everything, but still looking down and seeing my toes barely sticking out of what seemed to be a wavering silver or mercury surface spreading out before me with a shimering reflection almost mirage-like with me somehow floating without weight or body. It was warm, embracing, enticing, and euphoric.
"When I first met the mysterious female that was Pulyan's Teacher that was the way it seemed to me. Warm, embracing, enticing, and euphoric --- with no back to my head and what there was of me, if there was a me, melded into the whole."
British author and playwright William Somerset Maugham, who authored the book titled The Razor's Edge that chronicled the life of the person that eventually became my Zen mentor, relates the following regarding his own experience using opium:
(Maugham) describes the experience after smoking opium by saying that the mystery of life, of creation, and of the transcendental was within his reach – but that the pleasure of knowing that it was within his reach was so great that he could not be bothered to stretch out his hand to grasp it.
THE ABOVE BRIEF EPISODE REGARDING THE USE OF OPIUM IS FROM ALFRED PULYANSee as well: Enlightened Individuals I've Met.
AWAKENING AND THE POWER OF
SIDDHIS THROUGH HERBS
The link so sourced just beneath this paragraph cites how now-declassified but one-time Top Secret documents speaking specifically to events in the country of Laos during the time period we are talking about here. The documents make testimony to an "ill-defined group of U.S. Army personnel who happened to be on the ground with radio contact" and because of which, following a series of extenuating circumstances, all or most of which are fully articulated in Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery and of which most if not all circulate around the above "ill-defined group" and the aforementioned "several select members of those ground teams" and "appropriation for other duties" scenario, with me having met all of the criteria big time, found me first in the court of a major up-and-coming Laotian warlord, then the drug infested wide-open railhead city of Chiang Mai located in the far northern reaches of Thailand.
In a footnote on another page, refering to my stay at the warlord's compound, I explain how I was initially brought to his attention in the firstplace because of my volunteer efforts to assist some local tribespeople. From that I was invited to join in a rather large gathering for dinner which lead to the opium ritual:
"(W)hile other low-ranking members in the military contingent I was with were off trading cheap hand-mirrors and pocket combs for favors with the local tribeswomen, in that we were all Sheep Dipped I had gone off on my own volition passing myself off like somePeace Corps volunteer rather than a heavily armed GI, to lend a hand in repairing and building an irrigation ditch and fresh water conduit that supplied drinking water to one of the villages."
What is laughable about it all is my youthful naivete. Here I was, being said by others (and possibly thinking so myself) I was like some Peace Corps volunteer lending a hand building a fresh water conduit to supply drinking water for one of the villages --- when actually it came out later that the increased water supply offered by the conduit was just exactly what was needed for the successful operation of a newly established heroin refinery, including the ability to increase the output level of product.
Not many days following my meager efforts to build the conduit, found me arriving in the then wide-open railhead city of Chiang Mai located in the far northern reaches of Thailand and, because of extenuating circumstances, having armed members of the aforementioned warlord's military contingent on my trail not far behind in full pursuit.
Somehow after arriving in Chiang Mai I ended up separated from my comrades and, unable to execute a viable escape because of the previously mentioned extenuating circumstances and not knowing the city, I inadvertently met a Buddhist monk from China who immediately grasped my predicament. Without words passing between us he, along with a few of his fellow travelers, secreted me out of the city just footsteps ahead of the warlord's contingent. Then the two of us, on foot and sure of not being followed, continued north high into the mountains through Laos, Burma, and on into the even higher mountainous regions beyond that nobody knows who they belong to.
After days and days of walking, we ended up going our separate ways, he turning toward wherever he was going, me being left outside the ruins of a somewhat ancient dilapidated monastery perched precariously high up on the side of some steep Chinese mountain situated somewhere along the southern edge of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. And there I sat.
As touched on above but fully articulated in Doing Hard Time In A Zen Monastery, the monk I ended up traveling with along the Tea Horse Road found me in the then wide-open railhead city of Chiang Mai located in the far northern reaches of Thailand, albeit not mentioned in the main text, in the following condition:
"(T)he KMT searching the city came across me, finding me with bloodshot eyes, drooling at the mouth, unbathed, dirty, unshaven, no clothes, sitting in my own urine and defecation, rocking back and forth, and highly unusual for me, robotically repeating over-and-over a mantra from my childhood Om Mani Padme Hum and so mind-numb that I was worthless to their or anybody else's cause."
The KMT were searching for a white American, so when they heard there was a white man, possibly American, in one of the dens, upon entering they were led straight to me. The Buddhist amongst the KMT was attracted to my constant repetition of the mantra, then seeing the tiny medallion around my neck knew I was under the protection of the Lord Buddha and could not be left behind --- no matter if I was or wasn't the one they were looking for. See:
THE CODE MAKER, THE ZEN MAKER
SHANGRI-LA, SHAMBHALA, GYANGANJ, BUDDHISM AND ZEN
DOING HARD TIME IN A ZEN MONASTERY
G.I., FLATLINED AND LEFT FOR DEAD:
"Any army medic could have assisted hundreds of wounded, and in turn, most of those wounded would eventually become not much more than just a blur to him. The opposite would happen to the person wounded. I say so because of my own experience being found in a ditch unconscious with my stomach ripped open. The very second I saw the staff sergeant that found me for the first time after recovering from the incident, even though I knew I didn't 'know' him, I 'recognized' him instantly."(source)
During the period of time that transpired between ending up face down in the ditch only to be found by the sergeant and eventually coming out of the whole thing, for me, except for the flatline of the EEG (Electroencephalogram) signals which was duly noted by a number of outside observers and medical attendants and pronounced clinically dead, 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 Death of the Ego. Loss of both ego and fear 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 in a near Nirodha like state even longer and stacked in a row along with other corpses.
A onetime bottom-of-the-line GI everybody called "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.(see)
THE ABOVE, BY THE WANDERLING AS FOUND IN DEATH HAD A FACE
PEACE CORPS ZEN
THE BEST OF
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When the Cat and I crossed paths for the very the first time he was a fresh-faced GI just turned 19 or so with a medic MOS. I think he was OJT with no real assignment, hence the TDY corpse duty. I was several years older than him and had been around for awhile. Because of the unusual nature of our first meeting we kept in contact in the early days, enough so that he followed me to college, attending the same university. In those days we took several classes on and off together and hung out, but as time went on we diverged in interests and went our separate ways. I've only seen him once in maybe 40 years, catching up with him for a few days in some isolated old mining town in Arizona where he ended up living. I Google him every once in awhile. He still seems to be around, but thats about it.
Because of the March of 1954 French defeat at Dien Bien Phu at the hands of the Vietnamese based Viet Minh, in order to ensure western interests would continue to be maintained in the general greater southeast Asian sphere, the U.S. and/or allies or closely allied mercenaries or surrogates continued to keep their hands in the pie at some level or the other.
One of those closely allied mercenaries relative to American interest was an otherwise minor Laotian warlord that through his association with the U.S. grew much more powerful than otherwise would have been ordained. Through a series of events I found myself in the court of that same warlord, as so pictured below. The downstream outflow from that encounter, an encounter of which was 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.
MAJ. GENERAL VANG PAO
1960's LAOTIAN WARLORD
The unfolding series of events that led to me being in the court of the warlord, actually the first of two warlords I had the good fortune, or bad fortune of meeting as the case may be, was described quite well by a somewhat defunct looking homeless man that I met across the street from the Union Station in Los Angeles many years after the fact. He came out of nowhere one day while I was waiting between trains saying he knew me, with me basically telling him I was sure the two of us had never met. Then he laid out the following that only a person who had been there could have known, as found at the source so cited:
"(W)hile other low-ranking members in the military contingent I was with were off trading cheap hand-mirrors and pocket combs for favors with the local tribeswomen, in that we were allSheep Dipped and I was in civilian garb, I had gone off on my own volition easily passing myself off like some Peace Corps volunteer rather than a heavily armed GI, to lend a hand in repairing and building an irrigation ditch and fresh water conduit that supplied drinking water to one of the villages. An advisor to the warlord, a shaman, informed the general of my actions and the general invited me join him for dinner. Knowing only high-status people were included in such get togethers I asked the now apparently homeless man, who must have participated in the dinner, how it was he found himself in his current situation. Rolling up his sleeve he graphically showed me the scarred up chicken tracks all across the upper inside of his forearm. He told me it started with opium, then heroin."(source)
MEETING WARLORDS, ET AL
THE PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER
AND THE ASIAN WARLORD
KHUN SA, THE SHAN-STATE
BURMESE DRUG WARLORD
KHUN SA: THE SECOND WARLORD
THE BEST OF THE MAUGHAM BIOGRAPHIES:
- WILLIAM SOMERSET MAUGHAM
Good biography. Lots of Maugham graphics, from early childhood to late adult. Link to Maugham's private art collection.
- W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM: A BIOGRAPHY
- LITERARY AMBULANCE DRIVERS
Everybody knows Hemingway drove an ambulance during WWI, nobody knows Maugham did.
- THE ART COLLECTION OF W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM
SPIRITUAL GUIDES, GURUS, AND TEACHERS INFLUENTIAL IN THE RAZOR'S EDGE OTHER THAN THE MAHARSHI: