by Dan Spencer
I first met Rudi when I was 23 and had just gotten out of the Army. I had served in Vietnam and in Germany. I was going to go to school in Bloomington, Indiana, mainly because my sister was there.
I first met Michael Shoemaker (now Swami Chetanananda) in 1971. He had just come back from a visit with Rudi in New York City and was giving a talk on September 10 in a little church in Bloomington. I went to that talk, and I was so impressed that I just kept coming to programs. At that point I couldn’t move into the house on 14th Street—my sister had gotten the last space. But I got a cabin about 10 miles outside of Bloomington, and came to class and dinner every evening.
Rudi came to Bloomington in December 1971. I remember the fireworks well. Then he sent Buford Pippin to the ashram to do tantric class, and I felt a real connection to that also. I knew that this was the work that I wanted to.
In the summer of 1972, I visited the ashram in Big Indian for a week, and then went to Rudi’s in New York City. Rudi would teach eyes-open class in the evening and then those of us who were staying at his house would go upstairs with him. He would continue to work with us, and I think I bounced off every wall in his apartment. So there I was, blissed out. After a week, Rudi told me that spending more time with him would burn me out, and that I should go back to Indiana and work to expand my chakras.
I returned to New York several times after that. There were a few students who lived in the house with Rudi, and those of us who were from out of town slept on the floor in the meditation hall. Rudi’s mother was often there in the evenings after meditation. I was a little afraid of her. She would sit there with her dark glasses just looking at us and rarely said anything.
On one visit, Rudi gave Michael sets of tantric implements—a bell, a dorje, a phurba, tingshas, bone mala, and a skullcup—for those of us who were with him, and, during the trip home in a small plane, we had to decide which ones belonged to each of us. We put the plane on auto-pilot while we passed the implements around the cabin. By the time we had decided which ones belonged to each of us, the autopilot had become totally scrambled and we were headed to Canada. The energy was that strong.
Another time, Rudi took a group of students to an art show in Connecticut that featured work by one of his students. Rudi was dazzling—working with us the whole time and giving us shaktipat, while everyone else was looking at the art.
I worked hard when I was in New York with him. I painted houses, sanded floors, put up dry wall, and did other kinds of construction. Rudi said it was important to work physically to process the energy he was transmitting through shaktipat. So all of the students from Bloomington worked very hard. That was one of the reasons Rudi had a special affection for us.
Eventually I ended up living at the ashram in Oxford, Ohio, and Rudi started calling me “the Cincinnati Kid.” My sister Patricia, her husband Larry, and I were the teachers in Oxford. Rudi visited Bloomington and Oxford several times before he died.
I went to Rudi’s birthday party in New York in January 1973. The last time I saw Rudi was on February 3, 1973, during a trip he made to the Midwest. During those last months he told me to make sure I had a connection with Michael.
Rudi was enormously loving and, at the same time, he could be like a tiger. Being with Rudi always changed me. Each time I went to visit him, I came back a different person. I felt new, completely different.