My Guru, Rudi


by Swami Chetanananda

I spent only two years with Rudi, and they completely transformed my life.

Rudi was complicated.  He was engaged in the world, and part of his teaching was that we should be engaged in the world.  He was not engaged in the world for any worldly purpose or for any worldly goal, however.  He wasn’t engaged in his business life to make money or to get rich.  He was engaged in it to support himself so that he could really do his practice. He had no interest in working hard and accumulating a great amount of money, although it turned out that he did, in fact, do well in his business. In the process, he made a tremendous amount of Asian art available to collectors, and particularly museums and the public, that otherwise would probably never have seen the light of day.

On a personal level, Rudi's complication allowed me to understand that teachers are human beings—human beings who confront and accept and transcend their humanity, with a kind of incredible fearlessness that requires that every defense mechanism within us be disassembled, and that we completely open ourselves to our Self. Rudi’s complexity allowed me to accept my own self, and to be joyful in the life that I was presented with—not trying to change my life, but trying to change myself by dissolving my tensions and misunderstandings, and coming to a place within myself that is completely honest and true and loving. In that way, I could live in the life I had, joyfully and peacefully, and communicate that peace and joy to all those whose lives I share.

Rudi was also a teacher who had been blessed by a very great siddha, a  highly realized being named Nityananda.  He had been in the company of some other  powerful people, like Shaligram Swami and Swami Muktananda.  In that environment, he had come to understand that spiritual work is different from meditation.  Meditation is a very important practice, and its importance cannot in any way be diminished, but spiritual work is not meditation.  Spiritual work is consciously making contact with our energetic mechanism every day, and deeply dissolving any of the tensions that we encounter in our mechanism as we make contact with it. In doing that, we are clearing away all of our attitudes and judgments, as well as our desires and our agendas, and clearing away all of our ego trips so that we can allow the finest and the purest and the richest dimension of our own life, our own wholeness, to express itself in the field of our own experience.

Rudi’s spiritual work, which he trained us in, is a conscious effort, based on a sense of personal responsibility and personal commitment, to a finer dimension of quality of life experience that is present within us. This experience is available to us if we take responsibility for it, if we’re committed to it, if we’re disciplined in our conscious effort to make contact with and bring forth from within ourselves a richness that is the deepest quality of our own life. It is also a profound wisdom and a profound compassion that is life itself expressed in the form of this mind and this body. 

Rudi really worked.  Unlike so many of the Indian teachers that he was exposed to, and many of the Indian teachers and other teachers that I’ve met, Rudi actually taught people. He gave them a tremendous energy, he transformed their lives, and he trained them to function in the highest dimension of themselves.  He certainly presented that opportunity for transformation when lots of other people out there are simply manifesting some illusion and getting people to chase after it. 

Rudi was not interested in a following; he wasn’t interested in money; he didn’t need any recognition.  He was simply interested in growing himself and liberating himself from his own limitations, and in the process serving those people who connected in and shared his life. 

Rudi was completely, totally focused—without any reservation, without any holding back—he was totally focused on opening himself and continuously finding the deepest dimension of ultimate truth that was present in him, and endlessly facilitating the expression of that truth in his life.  He had nothing to sell anybody, and he definitely was not interested in snake oil from anyone.

Rudi’s teaching was about conscious effort, every day.  It was about dissolving the tensions of this life, and dissolving the tensions of all of our past lives, all of the disappointments of all of our ancestors, and liberating ourselves completely from our entanglement in this world, to exist, to be fully present, fully aware of our ever-present communion in God. 

Rudi was my guru. His presence in my life facilitated a transformation that is indescribable.  To have somebody in our lives who is a human being, fully a human being, who is fully connected in themselves and fully present in their own lives, who makes their own life force available to another person for the purpose of releasing them from all their limitations and finding that same dimension of clarity and nourishment and beauty in their lives, is really just unbelievably, amazingly rare and fortunate. 

You can think of a guru as a “guiding light” or a tuning fork—a resonance, operating on the deepest frequency there is, creating a possibility for you to tune into it so the deepest frequency in you can be awakened,  and awakened, and awakened, and awakened, ten million times, awakened every time you fall asleep, so that finally all the tensions will dissolve and the light of your own deepest inner truth will shine out. 

Life around Rudi was very amazing.  He had some astonishingly accomplished people who sought out his company, and he had some unbelievable lunatics.  Rudi didn’t care. He admired and appreciated every kind of person.  He found some creative flow in everyone that he connected to and he nurtured, and he had no interest to limit the range of creative expression that might happen.  There were things he clearly wasn’t comfortable with, but he wasn’t judgmental of anybody, ever.  

To have somebody who can completely accept us, with all of our limitations and all of our angles and all of our needs, and be present for us in a profoundly open and loving way, and serve us as an example of how a human being needs to navigate our human limitations and arrive on the shore of the highest potential within ourselves, is really an amazing thing. 

Rudi was a true and great teacher whose company I am profoundly grateful to have had the opportunity to share, and whose greatness, whose fineness I have tried to honor with as much devotion as I could muster over the last forty years. I have tried to honor him in the form of this place in Portland and all the energy and activities that go on here.  What we are doing individually and together, in all the things that we do here, is about cultivating and expressing a devotion to that deepest, finest place within ourselves, and an appreciation for the people who have supported us in that most meaningful and important of human activities.

Swami Chetanananda at Rudi's Shrine at Big Indian, 1984

Swami Chetanananda at Rudi's Shrine at Big Indian, 1984


Michelle Valentino