WHO IS "HAN" (aka Bob Bishop)?
And What Does He Know that Might be Worth Learning?
I was born in New York City and lived most of my early life in an Irish-Italian working class neighborhood. Of my local gang, I was one of very few to go beyond high school. Attendance at Hunter College in the Bronx and CCNY in Manhattan gave me a life long interest in learning.
Two years after college, in the mid-60s, I joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to India where I worked in small industry development, and the training of science teachers to improve their ability to teach. Strangely, the whole time
I lived in India, I had no interest at all in the great tradition of Indian Spirituality. I returned to the USA completely ignorant, until a few years later when I experienced a spiritual life crisis.
This occurred when I was in graduate school at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. I was completely on scholarship, enjoying my studies immensely, in excellent physical condition and health, and my girlfriend looked like she just stepped out of Playboy magazine. What more could a young man want?
But, somewhere in the midst of all this, I started feeling there must be more to life than what I was experiencing, and where it seemed to be leading. This feeling became stronger and stronger until I began to feel that life lived as I was living had no meaning whatsoever. One evening, in my bedroom with my lovely lady,
I began to cry uncontrollably. She became quite concerned, and tried to console me in all the ways a beautiful woman can, but to no avail. All I could do was weep and wail about the meaninglessness of life.
Over the next few weeks, my spirit continued to darken, until a friend of mine invited me to attend a lecture on Transcendental Meditation. This lecture fascinated me with discussions on the meaning of self-transcendence and techniques to attain enlightenment (or "cosmic consciousness", as it was called by the founder of TM, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi)
I learned to meditate as soon as possible, and this initiation opened my doorway to spirituality. Subsequently, I devoted most of my adult life to the pursuit of spiritual growth and ultimate awakening.
Some months later, I met Maharishi at a retreat in northern California. As he entered the meeting hall, I gave him a flower, as was the custom in that gathering. He looked into my eyes deeply for a moment, and I experienced a feeling of peace and love unlike anything I had ever experienced before.
I About one year later I attended a six week retreat with Maharishi in La Antilla, a little town on the Andalusian coast of Spain, and became a certified Teacher of Transcendental Meditation. After graduate school, I moved to Aspen, Colorado where I taught TM for several years. From Maharishi I received the gifts of opening my consciousness to eastern spirituality, and the first experience of an enlightened being's capacity to transmit love directly from heart-to-heart.
However, it was not my destiny to find fulfillment with Maharishi, and I began to extend my search to other Indian teachers which included some brief time with Swami Muktananda while living in Aspen.
At that time, I was also seriously involved in the practice of Chinese martial arts, and I became one of the founders of the Aspen Academy of Martial Arts. During the summer months each year, we brought well known martial arts masters from China, Korea and Japan to teach at the Academy. Shortly after meeting Swami Muktananda when he came to Aspen, I invited him to visit our school. He accepted, and after the visit he gave me the spiritual name "Arjuna" (after the warrior-sage of the great Indian spiritual epic "Bhagavad Gita").
Shortly after my time with Mukhtananda in Colorado, I went on a solo retreat into the mountains. During this time, I was reading the Swami's biography "Chitshakti Vilas: The Play of Consciousness"). One morning, I was hiking on the side of a mountain and, inspired by my spiritual readings, I began to invoke having an actual vision of God. I hardly began the invocation, when I was startled by a whooshing sound overhead. I looked up, and hovering directly over me was a huge, magnificent Golden Eagle with his great wings spread widely. He gazed directly in my eyes, and I into his. I felt no fear, only the presence of pure consciousness. Then in a moment he was gone, disappearing over the mountain ridge as quickly as he had appeared. I was stunned and profoundly grateful, as I knew my invocation had been granted. God is present as consciousness in all living things.
Not too long after this, while visiting my family in New York, with the mother of my unborn daughter, I heard a radio interview in which a recording of the American-born spiritual master, Bubba Free John was played. One line from his talk penetrated me deeply, "So now you are a yogi, eh? But everything has to be given up to awaken - even that, even being a yogi".
The next day, I went to a bookstore on the lower East side and purchased his book "Garbage and the Goddess". Reading this book, I was completely taken by Bubba's outrageous and often hilarious criticism of traditional religion and spirituality, and his own radical approach to the awakening process. I knew I had found my next teacher, and I resolved to visit him and his community in northern California as soon as possible.
I did so alone the following summer. After my visit to Persimmon, as the community sanctuary in Lake County, California was known at the time, I was sold. And so in September, after the Martial Arts Academy closed for the year, my family and I drove to San Francisco to join the spiritual community of Bubba Free John (now known as Adi Da Samraj).
I remained in his community for the better part of 20 years. Many remarkable events occurred during that time including great teaching demonstrations and marvelous displays of yogic, spiritual powers. I could certainly write a book about all that happened, but suffice it to say that I learned several most important lessons there – spiritual discrimination, discipline of the body-mind, generosity, and service to others. I also experienced more powerfully than ever before, the spiritual transmission of an enlightened being, and the profound effects such transmission produced in the lives of those who received it. I am forever grateful for what I was given during this time.
However, I had to leave in order to pass through my own awakening process. One holiday season in mid-December I gathered with several old friends, all of whom had been part of Adi Da's community for various lengths of time. I knew each man well. I was a little shy about attending this meeting, as I was the only one still active as a devotee of Adi Da.
In turn, each man told of his own spiritual process, and I was very moved to hear what had happened for each of them. I was particularly interested in one man's account of what had occurred for him working with a spiritual teacher named Saniel Bonder. I had known Saniel previously when he was also a part of the Daist community, but I was not familiar with his teaching work. In fact, I was very skeptical that he could have anything of value to offer.
Following this gathering, I met Saniel personally one evening. We had dinner together, and I asked him many questions which he answered graciously and to my complete satisfaction. After this meeting, it was clear to me that something very profound had occurred in his life..
I began to read Saniel's spiritual writings with great interest, and all my "yes" buttons began to be pushed. Soon, hope awakened again that I might actually be able to awaken in this lifetime. This was a mind-boggling perception, as I had put all my aspirations of enlightenment to sleep. After all the spiritual work I had done in my lifetime, no conclusive realization had occurred at all. Up until this point, I felt that I was a failure as a spiritual practitioner, and that it would take many more lifetimes before I could actually experience realization.
After spending time with Saniel on several occasions, I started to feel that something great was happening. Saniel had obviously gone through a profound transformation himself, and was doing truly effective spiritual work with those around him. I began to encounter others working with Saniel who were awakened and awakening themselves. This was amazing to me. After all I had been through, it seemed like a miracle. I soon found myself completely attracted to participate in this process, and left the Daist community completely to do what my heart was irresistibly moving me to do.
In Saniel's gatherings, my own process became alive once more in fiery and intense ways. All sorts of changes began to occur in my life – the ending of one love relationship and the beginning of another, marvelous psychic openings, and spontaneous receptions of archetypal energy that moved me to create sacred ceremony for healing and protection of others. During this time I was blessed with visitations by Kali and Santoshi Ma – the former being one of the most terrifying experiences of my life, and the latter being one of the most blessing and blissful. Most importantly, a strong and lasting connection was forged with Hanuman and it was then that I took the spiritual name "Han" in his honor.
During this time, I also made a pilgrimage to India where I attended the Khumbla Meela in Haridwaar, and visited many powerful temples of Kali and Hanuman. It seemed that every time I entered a Hanuman temple – some ceremony was going on, and I would be invited to participate. I also visited the ashram of a revered Indian saint, Ramana Maharshi, in south India. While attending a ceremony there, I realized most deeply that my time working with traditional spiritual practices was over. My spiritual work was now directly linked to the Goddess ("Big She") and to all her human forms which were manifesting in my life. This was proved out some months later, when my own awakening occurred shortly after the painful ending of an intimate love relationship. (see my essay entitled "A Most Profound Event in Austin, Texas").
The occurrence of this most significant event evoked great relief and deep gratitude in the very core of my being. At last I knew myself to be infinite, unchanging eternal consciousness simultaneously in and as a mortal, finite human form. All seeking on the level of spiritual attainment blessedly came to an end. I became more ordinarily human than ever before. But also a profound connection to the Goddess ("Big She") came gracefully alive. I began to be blessed by wonderful encounters with people all over the world. Thru all of this, I am continually guided and instructed.
Saniel once said that this awakening which he refers to as the "second birth" allows the Divine to infuse, inform, and guide one more profoundly than ever before. It liberates one into life, not merely out of it. Then one has the potential to be an awakened servant of wellness and liberation of others. For some, this starts with an irresistible impulse to teach, and for others as in my case, it begins spontaneously when others recognize on some level what has happened, and draw the awakened one into service directly.
My initiation into teaching began in Budapest, Hungary in 2000. I was in Eastern Europe on business, and a Hungarian friend of mine put me in touch with a spiritually oriented group of her friends. Unexpectedly, they welcomed me as a kind of spiritual dignitary, and after initial introductions, the room became silent, and I spontaneously began to talk about my spiritual journey. This led to my doing a sacred empowerment dance ceremony, and leading the group in a gazing meditation. I was quite surprised at the powerful response I received, and the profound effects my presence seemed to have on those who attended this event. Since then, I have returned to Hungary for other occasions with this same group of people.
But mostly, I am drawn to share wisdom with those whom I meet in the ordinary course of life, and who show me signs that they are interested in such matters. When I meet such individuals, I am moved to serve them in all the ways I know how. But I never forget that "those who teach must continue to learn". One never knows who one will encounter just around the next corner of life.
If you are interested in knowing more about my work, please refer to the "Awakened Essays" and "Awakened Services" sections posted on this website.
And if you are interested in learning more about the present work of my own spiritual teachers, you can do so as follows:
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi www.tm.org
Bubba Free John (aka Adi Da Samraj) www.adidam.org
Saniel Bonder www.extraordinaryempowerments.com