Meet Tim, a passage meditator who, as a YA in the 1960s, met Easwaran while he was teaching in Berkeley. Here Tim recalls being 24 years old and listening to Easwaran speak at one of the early locations of the BMCM, 285 Lee Street in Oakland, California.
The College Avenue Fifty was a trunk line of the East Bay transit system that ran during the 1960s from the Berkeley marina past the campus of the University of California, and into flatlands of the East Bay. If you were a student then at the university, and looking for spiritual light, you might have found yourself one autumn evening approaching the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation at two-eighty-five Lee Street in Oakland. If you were a student of modest means, you would have taken the College Avenue Fifty to get there.
No sign announced that this graceful, aging home with the columned entrance way and fading stucco, was the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, but you saw that it had to be. Wide red-brick stairs led you up the slope of the lawn to the open front door, and then you were inside. Sunlight fell like netting across the carpet and a sense of comfort wrapped itself around. You might have stepped into the vestry of a country chapel.
The foyer was empty. To its left two sliding doors were partly open, with a row of shoes in front of them. From behind the doors came a low, finely calibrated voice that drew you into the parlor like a hand weaving thread through the eye of a needle.
Easwaran speaking at 285 Lee Street.
The room was in half-light, with thirty or forty people gathered around a formidably striking Indian in his mid-fifties, wearing a teal blue turtle-neck, and gray slacks, looking far more the Berkeley English professor than a teacher of meditation from the inscrutable East. He sat in a straight-backed armchair by the fireplace, reading aloud from a small paper-back. You found a chair along the back wall, trying to look invisible, but noticed that the speaker had somehow managed, between one word and another, to make you feel welcomed.
Of what might he have spoken that first night? What words would draw you back to the elegant old home on Lee Street, again and then again, until your life had begun to form itself around them?
Perhaps he spoke of the inestimable gift of being human – “It’s taken millions of years to evolve this human form!” Or of a goal beyond success and pleasure. Or of the spiritual treasure that lies in the depths of the human personality – beyond the body and the senses and the mind, beyond even death itself.
He would not have judged. “This is a come as you are party,” you would hear him repeat over the years. “Start where you are.” You did not have to quit your job, leave your family, withdraw to a mountaintop. He hadn’t. There would have been no dogma, no injunctions. “Don’t take my word for it. Test it in your own experience.”
At the end he gave instructions in meditation, and then the parlor was darkened, and you would have closed your eyes and tried to meditate for the first time, wondering with alarm at the continuing clatter of distractions you found within.
And when class was over? It is difficult to say. Something had changed. No, you realized, walking through the Oakland streets back to the bus stop – something was the same again. As your bus drifted through the corridor of darkened shops towards Berkeley, you noticed forming within yourself a faint pressure of recognition. Something that had been forgotten for some years was struggling to be remembered. But it wasn’t until you had stepped out under the trees along College Avenue, and started for home, that you found its name.
It was hope. And you began to feel it swelling within you, like spring water rising. The lights of the bus dissolved into the night as you began to understand that this treasure that had been lost, had just been returned.