Reflections on the spiritual quest,
General Semantics & Buddhism
Ingeborg Sarada Folling Tate (1922-2009)
S S A Y: Reflections
-- To Whom It May Concern
essay explores the mutually illuminating similarities
between Buddhism and General Semantics, particularly
in the way they point out that we tend to live in
the world of our own fixed ideas and labels rather
than in the actual world of ever-changing flow.
O E M S: In Winds
of Time Sarada
reflects on a lifetime of spiritual searching.
O O K: [One woman's spiritual quest in the 20th century]
A Long Letter to a Friend: From one who left to one who remains in the convent
Sarada (Ruth Ingeborg Folling Tate) tells the story of her life, her spiritual adventures and misadventures the form of a long letter. Her yearning
to see into the heart of things led her into the Vedanta Society at age 17 and onward to a
lifetime of encounters with teachers, writers and
psychotherapists such as Swami Prabhavananda, Aldous Huxley, Christopher Isherwood, Alan Watts, Fritz
Perls, Chogyam Trungpa and others.
This journey included seventeen years in a
Vedanta Society convent, a monastic pilgrimage to
India, and several years in
the entourage of one of the more bizarre spiritual
teachers of recent times, the charismatic sociopath,
George Daniel Patrick "Shon" Dubie, (who
was killed in 2006 by one of his estranged followers).
Toward the end of her life, Sarada
was drawn to the gentle Zen of Thich Nhat Hanh and renewed her interest in the consciousness insights of General Semantics (an analysis of how language works
to confuse us, and what lies beyond language).
in PDF format (free)
(from Lulu online printer).
Memorial for Sarada
Rivers -- June 2009
I V E P O R T R A I T S O F S A R A D A
My dear friend Sarada, with whom I have shared
forty years of deep conversations, heated metaphysical
arguments, adventures and misadventures, hopes, dreams,
closenesses and separations, has passed away.
When I think about growing older, it seems to me
that our journey through the seasons of a lifetime
is so enormous, in terms of the amount of
experience we hold, that it is really difficult
to imagine it. In Sarada's journey I catch glimpses
of my own, which is in so many ways invisible to me.
Although we were very different people, Sarada had
a profound influence on my life. For Sarada, life was
always a spiritual adventure, and she became, in the
course of her eighty-six years, an empassioned disciple of
Sri Ramakrishna, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the
charismatic madman Shon Dubie, Jesus of Nazareth,
and Thich Nhat Hahn. She was also deeply influenced by
her friendships with Aldous Huxley and Alan Watts, and
her time spent under the care of Fritz Perls (who tried,
while at Esalen, to entice her into his bed, but failed).
From her I received a tremendous encouragement to "climb
every mountain, ford every stream," in order to awaken to
the indwelling Divine Presence.
Sarada was an amazingly creative person, and in the course
of her life she must have painted several thousand (!) paintings,
and several thousand more little portraits of Jesus on flat
rocks that she dredged up from the shore of Lake Erie. She
lived by the lake in a little converted boat house for the last
twenty years of her life, and a few weeks before she died she
said to me, "The lake has been my teacher; I have learned so
much from the waves, watching the waves come and go." Sarada
broke every mold she tried to pour herself into, even
though she herself was often broken by the process.
When I met Sarada I was twenty-seven and she was forty-six.
At the time I was trying to ease myself into the 9-to-5 life
of a junior budget analyst at a large computer corporation.
In the company of Sarada, newly fled from twenty-five
years in a Vedanta Society convent, and her sculptor/jeweler
friend Arthur Korb, I discovered a whole world of people who
were exploring a life of continual creative aliveness (what a
concept!). It was 1968. Although I have worked (every now and
then) in many offices since that time, I would say that the focus
of my life ever since that year has been exactly to live a life of
continually expanding creative aliveness. That was an encouragement
I might have been able to receive from other people, if I had met
those other people, but the truth is that I met Sarada and her circle
of friends, and my life was changed forever.
In 1969, Sarada and I moved into a little apartment in West L.A.
and she immediately covered every square inch of wall space with
the paisleys and cavorting elephants of Madras bedspreads.
The apartment had a cedar closet so large that we used half of it
as a meditation shine. Before this shrine I placed the three books
that had meant the most to me in my spiritual quest up to that
moment: Nature, Man and Woman, by Alan Watts. Narada's Bhakti
Sutras, a classic of Indian devotionalism, translated by Swami
Tyagisananda in an ashram somewhere in central India. And The
Bhagavad Gita, translated by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher
Isherwood, with an introduction by Aldous Huxley. Three books,
five authors, my path. In our conversations I realized that Sarada
had known all five of the authors, some really well! She had been
living down the hall from Christopher Isherwood at the Hollywood
Vedanta Center during World War II when he was working on what
would become one of the most popular English editions of the Gita
ever published. To meet someone whose life path converged with
mine in so many ways bordered on the paranormal. And like other
paranormal experiences I have had, the meaning of this experience
can't be neatly summed up in words. It was a mystery then, and it
is still a mystery now, forty years later.
Sarada and I did not always see eye to eye, and many times I could
not follow where her adventures led. We were only married about
five years, before the tugs of different horizons pulled us apart, her
into a long study of Tibetan Buddhism and beyond, and me into a
lifetime of protest-as-sacrament, bearing witness to the oneness of
everything by trying to keep everything from being chopped down,
burnt up, or otherwise decimated. But I will always be grateful to
Sarada for racing through my life like a flood, knocking over the
furniture and carrying away my neatly stacked and timid ambitions.
This was someone who, like me, had grown up in Los Angeles, but
unlike me, had already travelled up and down the length of India,
wearing an orange robe and worshiping at all the traditional places
of pilgrimage, and was beautiful on top of all that! After
encountering such a person, how could anyone ever go back to their