aka Swami Rudrananda, Albert Rudolph
I was living in New York in the summer of '65. I was interested in Japanese art, particularly prints, and one day walking down 7th Avenue I saw this antique shop. This was in the Village, close to Charles Street, not far from the Village Vanguard. It looked small and not much from the outside. I walked in and couldn't believe my eyes - the place was full of oriental art, antiques, paintings, sculptures, jam-packed floor to ceiling, Big pieces, small pieces, and an overpowering smell of incense. There was hardly room to turn around.
There was a guy inside and I told him what I was after. He had nothing of what I wanted but there was so much stuff that it wasn't hard to get a conversation going. Rudi was medium height, stocky, bordering on corpulent, shaved head, round faced, tanned, affable, talkative, welcoming. He sat behind a small display table. The conversation quickly turned to meditation somehow and at one point, turning to a life size statue of a Buddha, he knocked on it with his knuckles and said - "I have been one of these many times...". I didn't know what to say. Behind him tacked to the edge of a shelve was a collection of photos of Indian yogis, all robes, beards, staring eyes and skinny legs. He pointed to some of them and explained that these were his teachers. He also said that he taught yoga - kundalini yoga - and invited me join his group.
I was living in the Village with my girlfriend and not far from his house it turned out. We lived on Greenwich St. corner of Charles and his house was on Hudson Street, just south of Christopher. Practically a stone throw away. I guess he must have owned or rented the entire house - a narrow, brick house with a storefront. I don't remember just how now, but I started to go his house for those gatherings. I think it was twice a week. We met downstairs in a big room. There were chairs for maybe 20-30 people. At one end there was raised platform where Rudi sat during the "sessions". There were rugs, draperies, and a background of oriental bricabrac.
During an ordinary evening about twenty people would show up. Rudi would say a few words to start things off, using language of "surrender", "opening" and such, and then we would start. Rudi would establish eye contact with each person in turn and sort of "channel" the energy or whatever into you. Each person would have a few minutes of that. The whole thing lasted about forty minutes. At the end there would be a bit of small talk, hugs and warm goodbyes. I was completely new to any of this, mildly skeptical, but liked it. Some very unusual things happened to me during those sessions - frightening replays of horrible childhood nightmares. Makyo. Twenty odd years after. I was amazed, but somehow the "meditations" reawakened it. It was so terrifying that I couldn't deal with it and stopped going altogether. Some months afterwards I ran into Rudi on the street. He was so nice and warm that I decided to start going again. As soon as I sat down on my seat again I could feel the "makyo" start right in. Extraordinary. This time however, in spite of my fear, I decided to "enter" it. It was a horrifying experience, my heart began to pound, and I was sure I would drop dead. After some minutes it eased up and went away. Then I experienced a feeling of most extraordinary well being and blissfulness. My whole body "buzzed" as if electrified. The makyo never returned.
Rudi made an effort to socialize with the students and make get them to know one another. On Saturdays he would invite people in for breakfast which he would serve himself, in an atmosphere of talk, laughter, conviviality, etc. His house was extraordinary. Just like his store it was filled top to bottom with oriental art. There was hardly place to sit down. The quality of the pieces was very high, even to my young eye. Rudi knew I was interested in Japanese prints and paintings and would take me downstairs to the basement where there were endless shelves, boxes of scrolls, rugs, and every imaginable stuff in huge piles. On occasion I would buy something. On occasion he would make me a present of something. It was obvious that he enjoyed people. He had a New York, Jewish way about him. Gregarious, talkative, charismatic, successful. My girlfriend who was also New York Jewish felt right at home. On occasion he would just grab a taxi and take us out to Chinatown for a good dinner. He enjoyed being nice to people. Found me work when I was unemployed. I had a vague feeling that Rudi was gay, though couldn't point to anything specific. He was living with some guy, an actor, I believe.
We left New York at the beginning of '67 for California and my contact with Rudi ended. When I was passing through NY in 1970 he had a new location for his business, this time in a large store on 4th Avenue, off 8th street. Much, much larger and again filled to the brim with things. But we didn't meet. I lived in Europe during the next couple of years but was back in California when I heard that Rudi was killed in a freak airplane accident, where everyone came out with minor bruises, but Rudi was killed. That was 1973.
I still have something he gave me. A large, bronze chinese coin with a square hole in the middle. I have it attached to my key chain.
Things I remember him say:
When he heard someone blame his problems on his parents - "I can match MY mother, against anybody's
When I was about to be drafted to go to Vietnam - "It will do you good", or something like that which just shows he could be wrong.
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See also Satsang Reports,
a related series of impressions of satsang
providers on tour, ie in a more "formal" setting.