blue-eyed gardener is sitting on the edge of the couch aboard.
Watts´ old houseboat the S.S. Vallejo in Sausalito. He is in his
nineties, but the exotic, rather turban, matching kurta and white
vest looks far younger.
look at that!" he chuckles, bouncing a little on the couch, his
long fingers fluttering like birds.
"An utterly simple gardener
had escaped "headucation" asked to – come to
India to teach Silence!?"
you teach Silence, Sunya?" asks one of the fifteen or so people
gathered aboard the Vallejo for the weekly Tuesday evening darshan.
are sitting on pillows lotus posture. Some in chairs. A few sprawled
on the plank floor. The candles circling Sunya flicker,
stillness takes birth. Finally: "You make me talk-talk-talk,"
Sunya whispers impishly. I don t know what to do . . .
and I don’t
care either." He makes a mock-face and shrugs his shoulders.
"What can you do but play’ with words?"..."But
is not what I say but what l am…. that sometimes gets
across," declares the turbaned figure.
tide has come in now. The houseboat rocks as the bay water slaps
against the sides. The candle light has cast patterns of moving
shadows on the walls and ceiling of the Vallejo. In the distance
comes the lone sound of a fog horn.
finally coughs. Another re-adjusts his chair Sunya murmurs: "You
are so mental here in the West. All the time
thinking-thinking-thinking, wearing out the little brain. In, India
there is the Intuitive language, the language of Silence, the
language of Being.
winks at the bald fellow who always asks intellectual questions.
"Where is the wisdom we have lost in "nowledge"
wonders Sunya and then launches into a recitation from Sir Edwin
Arnold’s poetic translation of the Bhagavad Gita:
the Spirit was born;
shall cease to be
was time it was
beginnings are dreams!
Birthless and deathless and changeless
tells now about his going to India following Tagore's: invitation.
He had never found a kindred consciousness in the West except in
books. Ibsen, Chekov, Shakespeare and the Oxford Book of
English Mystical Verse were his constant companions, his
"book friends." But he had read, too, the Light of Asia,
the, Gita and the Upanishads and while he had no
problem or question, he was interested to see if the consciousness
he met in these books "was a living thing still."
was my great asset"
so the gardener goes to India, visiting Tagore at his home,
Shantiniketa, the Abode of Peace, and then wandering about by
himself. Being alone doesn't bother him. "I am never more
myself than when I am alone," says Sunya.
finds the Indian setting very congenial and his three month holiday
stretches into eighteen. "My simplicity was my great asset in
India," he explains. "I could be at home with anyone. They
would sometimes say, "We don’t feel you are here."
Imagine an Indian saying that about a Westerner." His other
assets were his adaptability and non-critical attitude. "My
mind was not deve1oped, enough to be of any trouble’," Sunyta
says,. purposely preening a bit before his audience, many of whom
are highly educated.
goes back to the West to tie up some loose ends and then returns to
India, this time for good. He builds a stone hut, Turiya Nivas, at
Kalimat, on a ridge about three miles above Almora, a hill town on
the Nepalese border looking out on the vast Himalayan mountain
ranges one hundred miles to the north.
name then is Emanuel Sorensen and he is known as "Brother
Emanuel." But some call him "Sadhu,"
"Saint," and even "Bhagavan." In Bombay an
Indian boy sees him in a market and calls out: "In the whole
world there is nothing but God!"
is 1936. At the ashram of the great gnani, Ramana Maharshi in
Tiruvanmalai, South India, Paul Brunton, author of Search in
Secret India, notices an unusual westerner in Indian garb
squatting by the ’wall. He motions him forward to introduce the
westerner "gone native" to India’s greatest living sage.
Later Ramana Maharshi tells Brunton that Brother Emanuel is "a
rare born mystic."
have done us the greatest honor by becoming one of us"
Danish mystic returns a year later and, having taken his customary
place by the wall, suddenly from out of Ramana’s Silence five
English words are thrust upon him: We are always aware Sunyata.
has had the phrase, ’Awareness is All, but it is not until
this moment that the’ Viking bhai realizes that whether there is
consciousness or unconsciousness -
to his Almora hut, where he lives with no electricity or running
water, he puts a second sign on his gate. Below Silence is
now the word Sunyata meaning "full, solid emptiness."
becomes a friend of many: the Jawaharlal Nehru family, Krishna Prem,
Sri Anirvan, Lama Govinda and, in actuality, anyone who is open to
him. In 1953 he becomes an Indian subject, now taking the name of
"Sunyata." Jawaharlal Nehru tells him: "You have done
us the greatest honor by becoming one of us."
his bird and tree friends the rare born mystic continues to live in
peace in his stone hut, walking the three miles down to town twice a
week for his mail and groceries. But because of Ramana Maharshi’s’
words, Sunya’ now begins’ focusing, on his childhood. He had
always had a mystic awareness but had been, "’mature enough
not to shout about it." But he didn’t have the expression
either. Now words begin to bubble up. Words and phrases he will
later call his "Wu language."
ease, delightful uncertainty, innerstanding, ego conceit of agency,
affectionate detachment -
Wu language begins to appear in the voluminous ’us correspondence
he carries on with Evans Wentz, Miguel Serrano, Gerald Heard and so
many others not as well known but just as mature. He calls it his
"scribble," or "mystic clear Viking rhunes."
is not a dog"
many visitors come that he builds other huts for guests but his most
favored companions are two dogs. The first is Lady Yami, and
when she dies Sri Chow Chu Wuji. A plucky little black-and white dog
brought from Tibet in a sack with a tiger cub, Wuji quickly learned
to sit on his hind legs to give namaste (blessing) to the local
grocers (in exchange for a morsel of meat)
Sunya is Invited to sit in ’the silent room " with the Great
Mother of India, Ananda Mayee. Wuii goes right along inside too.
Ma's disciples rage at the doggish imprudence but Ma waves them off.
She gives Sri Wuji careful spiritual scrutiny. Finally, she
announces: "Wuji is not a dog." But as Sunya recounts it
"She never did say what he was
"hippie heads" finally find their way to Almora along with
the "chief hippie, Timothy." With them come a lot of
"tantric tricks,’ ego fuss and shakti business." Sri
Wuji eats some poisoned meat and departs for what Sunya calls "the
invisible Real." Now the droll and wuful observations of Sri
Wuji begins to bubble up in Sunya’s writings. "Ramana
Maharshi is Himalayan. The others are only mole hills!" says
November, 1973. A fateful time as a group from the Alan
Watts Society suddenly bursts into’ his sanctuary. They have been
visiting Lama Govinda, Sunya’s neighbor on what is known as "Crank’s
Ridge." On their way down their guide has mentioned the, rare
born mystic - "He lives what so many of the Masters talk about."
The "Yankee guys and girlies" are fascinated. They implore
him to visit the States. The group returns to America to find Alan
Watts had died the very month they saw Sunya.
they want him more than ever. Sunya warns he has "nothing to
teach, nothing to sell." The society sends a letter written,
not to Sunya, but Sri Wuji saying:
why we want you." And so 1974 the rare born mystic flies to the
New World for a four month visit, giving darshan at Esalen,
Claremont College, Palm Springs, etc.
to gurus having dazzling intellects, iron wills or abundantly
flowing kundalini, very few know what to make of the Silence’ of
Sunyata’s full, solid emptiness. Fortunately, some do "see"
him and realize what a rare being he really is. And so in 1978 the
Alan Watts Society brings Sunya - who is now eighty-eight years old
but looks more like a young sixty - to California for good. "California
is where the new intuitive, silent race is being born," says
Sunya. "And Silence is my specialty."
doesn’t mean outward silence but inward; a silence of desire,
willfulness, ego antics. A very high place to begin, to be sure, but
Sunya knows nothing about more
approaches. "The method is to be still" he says. He favors
Ramana Maharshi's selfenquiry of "Who am I?" to come to
he doesn't want to change anyone unless they wish it. "Such
beautiful differences!" he exclaims, looking through
the faces of those who have come aboard the Vallejo to experience
can be quite trying for mental egojis. For he often repeats himself
or seems to talk about nothing. Personal questions he often answers
by talking about his own experiences. Many go away exasperated,
asking themselves, "Is this guy crazy?" "Did he hear
me?" An experiencing of Sunya can call up a lot of anger,
distain, or boredom. "He can bore you to death", said one
girl hastening down the gangplank, never to be seen again. But for
others the answer is there. In the Silence In inner thoughts. In his
radiant smile. In Sunya's words.
year in April Sunya makes a six-week. "Viking raid on the
gangster city of Chicago" to give darshan The Chicagoans call
him, "'Mr. Nobody." "Beneath his rainbow-colored
shawl, he takes to wearing a big blue badge with that name boldly
emblazoned on it. Wuji loves the nobody badge and two or three times
during a meeting lifts the shawl to display it.
Chicago," exclaims the ego-free mystic to a roomful of egojies,
all wanting to be somebody, "they call me 'Mr. Nobody!'"
July, 1984 Sunya moves into the remodeled home in Fairfax a devotee
has bought for him. He calls her now his ,,Dollar Princess" - a
person in good graces Bhagavan Shree Dollar - and the house his
"palace". He accuses her of "'having fallen in
knee-deep' love with Wuji."
of Sunya's "would be followers" has a vivid dream that
he "has gone his way." When told about it Sunya laughs and
says, "Where would I go to? I' Am' is always
with you." But in the two week heat wave that comes Sunya almost
leaves the body. He calls It a "heatmare" and when asked
what it was like he spreads out his huge workman's hands and says,
"A spreading out.''
of the one eyed goldfish
he begins to write and speak of death of "going Home." He
has always promised to celebrate his 100th birthday with "one
little candle, soma juice, frankincense and celestial music but now
coyly says that attendance may be only for those able to leave the
body. Other little funny things happen. The top branch of a new
sapling in the backyard is broken off. The one eyed goldfish in the
fish tank dies. Still, it seems so unlikely Sunya is in such good
on Sunday morning August 5th Sunya leaves his palace for the last
to the Fairfax police report, it is 9:14 a.m., and Sunya is at the
corner of Azalea Avenue' and Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. A 1972 tan
Toyota approaches from the west. It is travling over thirty miles
per hour. The car's driver is a young girl who, as it
turns out, lives in the same house as a young man who has been a
"Sunyasin" since 1979. The girl is with her boyfriend.
Both claim that the man in the turban runs out into the pedestrian
crossing. She slams on the brakes, slides, and hits him in the
oncoming lane of traffic. The police take Sunya to the Ross Valley
femur bone in his left leg is broken. There are nasty scrapes and
bruises but otherwise nothing serious. However, fatty deposits from
the broken femur have gotten into the bloodstream. At midnight tile
rare born mystic, Mr. Nobody, goes into a coma there are repeated
strokes and visible signs of brain damage.
condition worsens the next day. An attendant in the intensive care
unit says he drew his last breath at 6 p.m., but doctors rush in and
put him on life support equipment. Plastic tubing is running out his
nose; sensors are taped to his body Behind his bed a line of
machines monitor his vital signs. Tapes are played of Sunya reading
a friend's letters telling of having gone into the unconscious and
then returning. The doctor says he expects Sunya to improve. But how
much brain damage will there be?
five days after the accident Sunya is taken off the life
support equipment. Some color has returned to his cheeks and lips.
His condition has steadied. But on Saturday his blood pressure
drops. His breathing is irritated. The nurse says, "It's only a
matter of time now.
and beginnings are dreams
Monday August 13th at 9 27 a.m., it is finished. Alfred Julius
Emmanuel Sorensen, Brother Alfred Sunyata, Sri Wuji Mr. Nobody - the
Viking body that took its birth at Aarhus, Denmark In 1890, draws
its last breath.
Sunya´s body alive has been a blasphemy. "A technological
crucifixion, murmurs a friend of Sunya's. It's been a black comedy
destined to get worse. It seems an autopsy is mandated by State law
in all cases of vehicular death unless the coroner rules otherwise.
The coroner wants full autopsy He can't be stopped. In cutting open
the rare, born mystic who had Spent a lifetime living and
proclaiming he was not the mind, not the body the coroner is "astoinshed"
to find Sunya had the bodily organs of a man half his age."
Declares the coroner: "He might have easily lived until 110 or
115 years of age.
body is cremeted one day after his death and the next evening
memorial services are held in the meeting room of his palace Ashes
are sent to friends around the world: Denmark, Chile Canada, Belgium,
France, Greece and, of course, India. A memorial service is held in
Almora on his birthday and a permanent meniorial garden is to be
planted at Kalimat.
ends the incarnation of our beloved Sunyata. In the writings that
follow, if read intuitively, a glimpse and perhaps more will be
offered of the exstraordinary being who innerstood in joyous ease
and affectionate detachment the mystic wholeness of life, "Trinity
beyond being" , "the translucent darkness" . All Wu!
to his name.
in the Silence there is ever still the wonderous Sri Wuji intoning…
the Spirit was born,
the spirit shall cease to be- never.
Never was time it was not;
Ends and beginnings are dreams.
Birthless and deathless and changeless
remaineth the Spirit forever.
Death has not touched it all.
dead though the form (the house) of it seems!
Himalayan flowers and leaves picked
and presented as a gift to
Bharadwaj and then to me
Sunyata with one of his two older sisters.