Having gone through the 60s and more, I had occasion to witness what I shall call for now, the rise of guruism as part of the great, cosmic transformation of spirit many of us were expecting. It was not always associated with Indian gurus, although there were a few very popular ones in the West. During the 60s and early 70s, my generation was always looking for the new but not just ordinary new or a superficial new (and there was plenty of that). It was new in the sense of being transformative like the time I saw the Led Zeppelin in 1969 at the Fillmore West in San Francisco. These guys weren't the Beach Boys. While the music was powerful and beautiful to listen to, it took off on hidden orders from something deep inside of you that always wanted the music to uplift your spirit! It was like Richard Wagner had discovered electric guitars.
Looking hard for the right guru, many of us wanted to join in the cosmic transformation. But our youth and immaturity gave us a lot of ordinary charlatans and some really not so good ones. It seemed to get worse after the Vietnam War. The transformative new seemed to be dipping back down into the superficial new, more and more, as time went on.
Buddhism, in light of all this, was pretty much the same and conservative. Even Zen was, which had only passed its torch onto a few Westerners—a torch as big as a lighted match as I look back. But what Zen lacked our imaginations filled in. My imagination did that for me to the point where I was credulous. My teacher, a Western Zen abbot was an interesting fellow who had a wife and a daughter. He was also gay. In those days, because of the stigma of being gay, many gay men married and stayed in the closet. They tried to look straight. Usually, being a Western Buddhist monk in San Francisco meant that some of the monks were gay. I didn't mind it. I figured that it had nothing to do with Zen.
Others found Indian gurus like the Lord of the Universe, Balyogeshwar Paramhans Satgurdev Shri Sant Ji Maharaji. Or sort of Indian gurus like Subramuniya and Franklin Jones, an American master. There were many more. The way I saw it, even if some of these gurus were close to being charlatans what they lacked my generation's great imagination could fill in the holes. We could find wisdom in stupidity and ignorance in wisdom all because of our imagination. I know this because I owned a commune in Oregon by a little place called Takilma. I usually hung out at the gas station (see painting upper left). I had occasion to meet some truly noble characters and some downright idiots. Still, we had a lot in common from our drugs of choice like LSD to music.
It didn't take me too long to conclude after enough human samples at Takilma that the transformation we were hoping for was closer to, how to feel enlightened without really trying. To try, that is, to earnestly seek for the truth, was not something my generation believed was necessary. Besides, it was too much of a hassle. No, instead, the transformation many of us were hoping for would come from some Jesus-like dude or Maitreya. Just seeing this guy would be all that it would take. He or she would make us feel enlightened. And if you feel enlightened ain't it the same as being enlightened?