THE DIARY OF AN AMERICAN GURU
Robert St. Clair
When I first wrote the story of Robert St. Clair, it followed a logical progression, in that his life in Shambala would end after he published the results of his 30 years of spiritual study. His book was titled Many Gods – One Heart. Although it is all fiction, I needed to write parts of this book, mostly diary entries and parables taught by his teacher. I wrote enough for it to stand alone as a fascinating 150 page book.
This book contains several parables about a Tibetan man named Shamar, pictured here.
What you’re about to read came from an out-of-print book titled Many Gods – One Heart, which a man named A. J. St. Clair found high on a dusty shelf, in an old metaphysical bookstore in Long Beach, California. He had searched everywhere for this book, in order to finally verify a very far-fetched story his older brother, Robert St. Clair, had once told him, about his life as a young guru, missing for thirty years in the mystical valley of Shambala, in Tibet.
A. J.’s heart lifted when he read the tiny print on the publishers page: Thank you Robert St. Clair, aka Chogyal Da Rinpoche, for the wisdom of your words.
Returning to Portland, he presented the book to his then nearly eighty year old Robert, just prior to his stroke, which left him in a coma for several months. After he recovered, knowing A. J. was retired, he encouraged him to reformat and edit Many Gods – One Heart, and republish it. Robert then moved into a gated Portland, Oregon dementia facility called Happy Acres, though A. J. was sure his mind was still as sharp as a tack.
Many Gods – One Heart told the remarkable story of an American couple, their parents, who had traveled to the Portola in Lhasa, Tibet in 1937, prior to World War II with their five year old son Robert. Once there, the not long for this world venerable master teacher proclaimed Robert to be a “golden child,” his future replacement in a long lineage of Rinpoche’s. They renamed him Chogyal Da Rinpoche and kindly asked our parents to leave Tibet.
The book substantiates that for the next thirty years, until Robert disappeared in 1967, he was taught by a very wise man named Chopa Tenzin, in this mystical valley of Shambala, which remains hidden to this day, somewhere in the Himalayan Mountains. This is what A. J. initially couldn’t believe to be true. Shambala was a supposed to be a myth.
After Many Gods – One Heart was published in 1966, the Shambala lama’s decreed that the young Master was ready. Chogyal Da Rinpoche would be their American Guru His teacher Tenzin scheduled a 1967 tour of the United States, during which the thirty-five year old guru “disappeared.”
The book was filled with religious philosophy; a woven compilation of Buddhist, Hindu and Christian teachings, with curious references to quantum mechanics. The theme was that there are “many Gods,” many spiritual teachings, but we are all connected with “one heart.” Unlike most Buddhist texts, the young guru used the word God throughout.
The 250-page book included passages from his personal diary, a few of his poems, and short parables about a Tibetan man named Shamar.
During A. J.’s last conversation with Robert, he told him that after Many Hearts – One God was published, he continued with his monastic lifestyle, even as an American businessman. He apologized for them never being close. After Robert returned to Portland in 1967, he helped their parents in their grocery business, and eventually built it into the Shambala Natural Foods Empire it is today. A. J. was twenty years old and away to college at Stanford when Robert returned to Oregon. After receiving his MBA, A. J. did well in real estate financing, becoming wealthy on his own. Robert never asked for him help or advice, which he now regretted. He told A. J. he was tired of regretting.
Robert told A. J. that on the day he woke from his near-death coma, he made a plan to return to Shambala with Maggie, the woman he secretly loved, his best friend Howard, and Sopi, a dying woman whom loved Howard. Since he owned Happy Acres, which he insisted was a secret, he took a room there to gain their trust. A. J. said that after he healed Howard and Maggie of dementia, he talked his three friend into returning with him to his mystical paradise called Shambala.
In that final meeting, Robert re-gave A. J. his blessings regarding this book, with some instructions: He was to go ahead and edit his book and give Robert the credit of being the original American Guru.
In finally acknowledging his inability to write and edit, satisfied with his wealth and in no need of recognition, A. J. relinquished his rights to the book, and gave me, David Dakan Allison, creative license to edit, format, prepare, print and distribute this book, with my name on the cover.
DECEMBER 16, 1947
The very next day Teacher told me the first Shamar story. I was surprised when he gave me a hand printed copy. “Put this in your diary,” he said. It was titled:
A parable of Shamar by Chopa Tenzin
When Shamar was in his early twenties, he decided to leave his village and make his fortune in Lhasa, by far the biggest city in Tibet. As fate would have it, we met the day he arrived. I warned him that he would have some very difficult challenges here, that in such a big city as Lhasa, with no money or a job, that it was quite possible that he would find himself in some deep dark place with no way of getting out.
Shamar’s life had always been good and he didn’t believe that such a thing could ever happen to him. Nevertheless he asked for advice in case he stumbled into one of these dark places.
“We go into the darkness in order to find the light. Never stop searching for the light,” I told him.
Shamar lived on the street in Lhasa, doing small jobs in exchange for basic food and occasional lodging; his hope to find a good job making lots of money never materialized. His forever before secure life turned into insecurity, his days with plenty to eat and a clean bed to sleep on turned into going to bed hungry some nights, sleeping on cardboard in an street alcove, or in a bed infested with fleas and roaches. During this time he was often depressed, lost in a darkness that was nearly impossible to embrace. The light wasn’t welcomed in the back alley shadows of the city, or so it seemed.
Shamar wasn’t alone in his darkness; it was mirrored in the people around him; in those experiencing poverty, addictions, depression and hopelessness. He saw how easy it was for the better-off people to judge those without money and means. As a street person he felt dishonored, ignored or avoided. Nobody offered a helping hand.
Shamar was drowning in the sea of depression.
As a former monk, Shamar had been trained to exemplify the attributes of the Buddha, to adhere to the teachings in order to escape the suffering inherent in samsara; to be free of depression and other worldly emotions. Regardless, in Lhasa he was not exempt from the darkness of his existence. By the end of his first month he felt trapped in a hopeless situation. He continually wondered how the people who were better off could be judging him, when they had no idea who he really was? How could they pronounce him as inferior? How would they know? How could they possibly think Shamar was a detestable soul forever lost deep in darkness?
One day Shamar woke up and realized that people saw him that way because he was that way. He went to a cafe and ordered some tea and contemplated on why he had decided to be a bum, and not a Buddha, why he had chosen to be depressed and sink into a deep dark hole; one he decided he couldn’t possibly crawl out of.
Shamar realized that he was free to change. He didn’t have to stay in Lhasa, or remain in the hole he was in. He decided to speak to me, as if to get my permission to do what he knew was right.
He told me all about the darkness he had experienced in the big city, and how far he had traveled away from the light. I asked Shamar. “What has upset you the most?”
“The judgments of other people toward me,” the young man answered.
“Judgments received are feedback for judgments given,” I began. “Please understand that you Shamar don’t have enough information to judge another; that you would have to know everything about this and every other lifetime of that other person in order to even ignorantly understand why they say or do anything. To attempt to second-guess what another is thinking about you, is a waste of your energy. Love the life you live and allow others to do the same. Perhaps then people will see you as a beautiful light-filled loving master walking the streets as a living Buddha. Perhaps?
“Be the best you that you can possibly be, Shamar. And let others live their lives as they do. We really cannot be sure who is privileged, and who is destitute. Those with the most perfect seeming life could be in the biggest pain; those who seem to be suffering could have hearts filled with joy. Often the rich are poorer in spirit than the poor without money. The Masters watch each soul in equal measure,” I told him, “as they walk their awkward path to self liberation.”
I reminded Shamar that he was given a unique and precious life to live, and how that plays out is according to his person’s master plan. “Your destiny isn’t about where you are. It’s about what you’re inspired to do while you’re there. It is as simple as that.
This made sense, so Shamar decided to return to his village. He would get to know all the people. He would love everyone.
He was glad to be going home.
They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will arrive. Sometimes the teacher is the student. Upon returning to his village, Shamar was kind and loving to everyone he met. He told stories of his experiences in the big city, and what he had learned about life. It didn’t take long before quite a few people were beginning to see him as their teacher. Although he always denied being a teacher, he would help as he could and was always grateful to receive offerings of food and money.
Shamar became a happy man.