Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Berkeley

In the fall of 1991, I got word that Guru was going to give a concert on the campus of U.C. Berkeley.

By then I had dropped out of my final semester of junior college and had moved out of my dad's and step-mom's house in Morgan Hill and into a one-bedroom apartment with Elaine in San Jose. My training was going well and I had just a few short months until I was to ship off to Navy boot camp.

It had been almost two years since I'd seen Guru last, and with the prospect of four years in the Navy ahead of me, I wasn't sure when I'd get another chance. So, I decided to make the hour-and-a-half drive north to the concert.

As I recall, there was some concern inside the Center that anti-cult protesters might disrupt the concert because U.C. Berkeley was Sumati's base of operations. I must have heard that information from either my brother or my sister, both of whom were still in the Center. And for all I knew, perhaps Sumati's presence in Berkeley was the very reason Guru was having the concert there -- going right to the belly of the beast, as it were. I don't know.

In any event, except for the noticeable (to me anyway) presence of more disciple guards than usual, the concert went off without a hitch.

Beforehand, I was greeted warmly by a few disciples, who asked me if I was a Navy SEAL yet (no, I wasn't even in the Navy yet). I also had a long conversation with a very prominent disciple that I've yet to mention: Nirvik.

There's no doubt that Nirvik deserves his own post, and probably his own book. (I hope some disciple will take up that work in earnest.) But I know very little about him and I suspect that's exactly how Nirvik prefers it.

In a nutshell, though, Nirvik and his late wife Ila, were among the first San Francisco disciples. They had some past connection with Hawaii, as was apparent from their flowered shirts, ever-present flip-flops, and hang loose attitude. Nirvik was one of the early big wave surfers there and had old home movies to prove it. (To this day, I regret having missed the function when those movies were shown. Someone should get those online.)

Nirvik was Guru's favorite masseuse. During Celebrations, he spent hours at Guru's feet. And when he'd finally get up, he wouldn't get even a minute to himself before a few disciples would be lined up to have the pressure points in their hands manipulated by Nirvik (in part, I'd always thought, because they also wanted to be touched by the hands that had just touched Guru). There was no pretense with Nirvik. He was the most unassuming, low profile veteran disciple in the Center.

In light of my last trip to New York, I was nervous about how I'd be received. I needn't have been. As I walked into the foyer of the U.C. Berkeley hall for Guru's concert, I saw Nirvik sitting there, Buddha-like, smiling at me.

Nirvik's warm and welcoming words to me were just what I needed.

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