January 12, 2014, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
I arrived here in Bali from Manila very early morning of January 4. I mean at 2 am. After Immigration, baggage claim and customs, it was 3 am and by the time I got home it was 4.
The training started the next day. A long introductory meditation by David Verdesi on samsara, emptiness, spontaneity, taboos and the Self. You can read about him in my website in the essay “Thunder Path in Huangshan.” He is a phenomenal teacher and a great friend.
The seminar finishes on January 16. I am scheduled to leave on the 18th. But I thought of staying longer, perhaps until the end of the month. I am supposed to teach seminars sponsored by INAM Philippines again. No date has been set yet although I have been thinking of February 8, 9 and 10. One day for Chi Nei Tsang Internal organs review, one day for Tai chi review and one day of qigong empowerment for the INAM acupuncture staff. These are preliminary and introductory seminars. We will have more and longer seminars in August and September involving the visually impaired, battered/stressed women, homeless “street kids,” Tai chi chuan practitioners, and therapists, acupuncturists and healers.
We will send out requests for donations in a month or two to support these seminars. How and where to house the participants, feed them, and bring them to the venue are questions INAM is addressing right now.
The first week of David’s seminar is done and now we’re starting the second phase: a training with mirrors (one for each of us) and candles, with David Verdesi starting the session with chanting and invocation with a ritual phurba in the darkness. It was quite hypnotic and mystical and shamanic.
To me, the training is a great departure from earlier seminars that, more or less, dealt with the development of power. Well, they had aspects of self-cultivation and spirituality, but they were essentially focused on
developing abilities. This time around David is zeroing in on consciousness and the Self and freeing the Mind from cultural, moral and religious restraints, many of them self-inflicted, and taboos.
There is also something else that’s different in the seminars. David is not charging tuition. Payment is on a voluntary basis. He is also taking in students as long a they are interested to learn. There is apparently no prior screening. A woman from Australia whom we met at a restaurant joined the group. An Italian woman who teaches yoga and Pilates joined us, too.
I have just bought a copy of and seen the Emmy Award-winning “The Ring of Fire” DVDs of Laurence and Lorne Blair. If there’s anything as a must-see travelogue, this is it. The narrative is moving and touching, it is difficult to find one like it. The brothers brought to the world the unbelievable Magus of Java film clip, now a part of youtube.com and seen by thousands of viewers. The Ring of Fire they refer to includes countries and places that are volcanic – from Hawaii to Indonesia, Japan to my country the Philippines. There are several active volcanoes on the island where I lived for 30 years – Mayon, Pinatubo and Taal. Mayon is one of the most beautiful volcanoes in the world. Taal is probably the most picturesque of the three: it is a lake within a volcano within a lake within a volcano. You can see some of the photos in my website blog, too. Pinatubo was arguably the most destructive: its lahar buried towns (like my hometown Bamban) around a 100-mile perimeter and belched ashes into the atmosphere that drifted as far as California to the west. It is now a place of desolation, its inferno somehow, in the meantime, tamed to sulphuric landscape.
What is it in Bali that draws seekers and pilgrims (and bums, tourists, and explorers) to her? Down the street and in temples (5000 according to one statistic), you’ll see tourists with their flip-flops, New Age clothes, pendants and tattoos along with pilgrims in native garb. No, I did not see any notices of channeling or promises of ascension and rapture anywhere. There are yoga studios, vegie and detox retreats, Tai chi training and massage centers, Tarot cards and astrology readers. There is the Falun Gong advert inviting everybody to a free lesson.
During my first visit here, I had just come from Java where I saw the famous Magus, John Chang. I had first read about him in a book “The Magus of Java — the Training of a Taoist Immortal” by Kostas Danaos when I was teaching in Amsterdam about 13 years ago. The author said that the Magus could burn paper, move objects, emit electricity from his body. Five years later, I was in Istanbul as the guest of David and I heard him talking to somebody on the phone. “Shifu, Shifu,” David was saying. I asked him, “Who is that?” David said, “The Magus.” “I want to see him,” I said.
A year later, in January 2006, David sent me an e-mail. “Come to Java,” it said. I took the next plane. It brought me to Frankfurt, Singapore and finally Indonesia, where I was picked up at the airport by David and Wedha, a friend. The next day David took me to see the Magus. David asked him to do a little demonstration for me. The Magus put up his right arm and said, “Touch me.” I felt this strong, shocking current of electricity. “That’s 5% of my power,” he said. He did a few other demos for me. He also gave me a successful, but painful, treatment for a rotator cuff injury that nothing – acupuncture, herbs, massage, qigong, laser – could correct. Western medicine required surgery, and even that did not guarantee success. You can read about it in the essay “Thunder Path in Huangshan,” in the Writings section of my website. Many readers of my website have asked me, “Where is David? Where is the Magus?” David has a website; he lives in Bali. The Magus is somewhere in Java.
Wedha, the nephew of the Magus, invited me to Bali to meet an old shaman who could transform himself into a monkey. A skeptic, I wanted to see this incredible phenomenon since a friend told me about seeing a shaman change into an eagle right before his eyes. When Wedha called him, he was told the old man was away.
Wedha took me to meet his relatives, a couple, instead. They lived in a huge compound. At the time they were building a library and museum for their antique collection of batik and other Indonesian arts. They were swimming in their pool when we arrived. We were introduced to each other. The man emerged from the water, shook my hand, and said, “Mr. Navarro, it would be an honor to have you stay with us.” I was supposed to stay in a hotel by the beach, but this was a surprisingly generous offer I could not refuse. I stayed with them for a week. They gave me the use of a car and a driver and a house. Wedha was told to sleep in a couch in the library. I said, “He can stay with me.” They’ve invited me to visit a few times but it was not meant to be.
In January 2012 I was here for the second time to train with David. I wrote about it in my website blog. David took me to see an old shaman, 92 at the time. David was initiated into the fold by the shaman himself. David also took me and others to see a Hindu priest of the fire tradition. One day if I can find them, I’ll post photos of myself receiving a fire treatment. It was elaborate but essentially passing a hot burning chisel over my tongue 9 times in one round; 3 rounds were required in one night. A total of 3 nights. It was considered in the lineage as a ritual of purification, healing and cleansing. Seems absurd from a western viewpoint, but in a world of correspondences, it makes sense: the tongue is the opening and extension of the heart. And what else is more cleansing than fire?
Yesterday, David talked about the taboos, many programmed by religion and culture, some self-imposed, attachments that limit the freedom of the Self to grow and explore. There are people and institutions and morals that try to fit us into a box. What/who is the Self? It’s too long and complicated to summarize here. The essence of it is the Self we or others perceive is often not the real Self. It is just a collection of ideas, memories, experiences. He talked about masters who were basically outcasts, extraordinary people who did not conform.
Last week David took me along to see a couple, healers who have a very interesting history. He brought a Russian whose lumbar spine was shattered from an accident. The man cannot walk, is on wheelchair, has had 3 surgeries and wanted to get healed by the couple. The Balinese healers look like ordinary people. The wife is a devotee of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy. I have been one myself since the early 1960s when I studied a Buddhist Shaolin Kung-Fu set called “Fairy Child Praying to the Goddess of Mercy” with an old Chinese master. One day Guanyin (“she who hears everything”) visited her and touched her big toe. From that time on she had this “electricity” she could not control. Was it kundalini? Perhaps yin-yang gong? Then 3 years ago, with this energy under control, she began to do healing. Her husband was of course jealous of her abilities. She prayed that Guanyin would grant her husband this “power,” too. Now they are doing healing together. I have seen only a few people like them with this strong current, one of them in Java (The Magus), two or three in China (the hermits of Huangshan) and of course David. The current runs and feels like electricity, but it is not. David said it is like radio waves. Water that was infused with it acquired an element that made it sweet.
I was privileged to receive treatment with this “yin-yang gong,” so called because it is supposed to marry the positive and negative in the dantian/field of pills. The couple also allowed me to observe their work and to assist them with the Russian patient in the next few days.
A tantric master, a friend of David, who spent 15 years in total isolation in the mountains has been invited to join us for a few days to share his healing work. That means not only additional materials but also additional hours. David said we may have to stay up past midnight. I guess that’s going to radically limit our night life. Not that I have one.
David promised to take us to see more healers. And of course the mysterious Coconut Man, the master who one day discovered his “powers” when a coconut fell on his head!
Love and Blessings from Bali,