About Richard Rose

(1917-2005)

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Richard Rose

Memories of Ashram Life with a Zen Master

Gary Harmon

July, 2008

Source: TAT Forum

Having had the good fortune of knowing and living in Richard Rose's ashram I am compelled to write a little bit about how that has affected me. What Rose termed an ashram I later learned is an ancient term used by Buddhist schools and Zen monasteries where a student can come and go as they please though must abide by the rules of the ashram and that is difficult enough. It is an age-old tried and tested method of helping spiritual aspirants assist each other. I lived with Rose a couple of times in Benwood off and on due to my fickle nature. One of the times Dave Gold inherited my bunk after I moved out as mentioned in his book After the Absolute.

Living with Richard Rose was intense and his very presence charged the room with an energy that was extremely noticeable; most of the time in Benwood there were men and women living in the house which was a tension in itself. Sitting in the kitchen with Rose and the others was something that I remember fondly considering the kitchen talks were some of the most helpful in recollection. He often made something to eat while he talked so we ate and conversed late into the night. There was a TV that received one channel and was only on for the news of the day then turned off so that we were one-on-one with each other. There are many memories from those times but it is the later period that I remember most and had a transformative effect. I tried again and again working along side Mister Rose and always bolted after a time due to the intensity and maintaining a singular focus on definition. I have heard some people say that they noticed little increase in energy by maintaining a containment of sexual energy, while I noticed a profound difference. In my own experience a subtle shift occurred that allowed for grasp of the inner working of the lattice of the worldly desires and programmed curiosities. At the same time more and more clever things would appear that tempted drainage of that transmuted reproductive energy. Living with people that are going through the same intensified condition is helpful as you end up seeing the others as they are becoming restless and about to succumb to nature's programming, which is something that you and your ashram friends have agreed to avoid.

In 1984 I lived at the farm ashram for about three months. The structure of ashram life is designed so you end up trusting your fellows with your life because we often were doing dangerous work and you trust your teacher with your very sanity. In the 2000s it might be impossible to live this type of life but never the less it is the structure of traditional Zen. The main thing is for you to trust you, and I failed at that while at the ashram. The farm was an intense challenge and developed into the most extreme confrontation I was ever given by Rose. He asked me to leave which was the ultimate rejection but turned out to be the correct action and not rejection but deliberant choreography by a Zen master. By doing that he forced me to fend for myself, go to electronics school and start a career. I needed to experience success to have a chance of letting go of something that I had created. We remained in touch after the initial shock had worn off and I again returned to the farm meetings and looking for my definition – which never stopped – though now I had a good job that I had earned by hard work and discipline. I had matured and the "kicked off the farm" was understood as the ultimate koan which either you saw through or took personally and declared failure and ended the search while blaming the teacher. Trust is essential to continue for many have given up.

Having people working with you is extremely advantageous though the tendency to predict what people might "confront" you about and then developing explanations to avoiding real introspection is difficult to triumph over. Your sense of identity is at stake and becomes cleverer. There reaches a point that you are ready to look at your own vanity and see what is really there; and having people that are willing to work with you adds new perspective to your often unrealistic view of yourself.

 

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