“A biography of the spiritual leader, Rama, this book details the life and teachings of a man who not only brought his followers to a keener awareness of mysticism, but also urged them to take an active role in the contemporary world, urging participation in activities such as digital software development and even presidential politics. The book provides varied stories from students, family members and associates. Some recount seeing light flow from his hands, others saw him levitate, and yet others tell of his practical nature. Rama, whose legal name was Frederick Phillip Lenz, cautioned his students not to view him as a teacher, but to see everything in life as a teacher.’”
U.S. Review of Books
___________________________________"This fascinating biography captures the wisdom of a genuine, compelling teacher who combined absolute miracles with humor, fun and adventure. When you read this fast-paced book, you feel you are there, learning and transforming. This is an original and exciting read."
Lynn V. Andrews, author of The Medicine Woman Series
"This book is full of heart and wisdom. It is a clearly written, fascinating story of an extraordinary individual, the lives he affected, and the potential he showed the world for waking up. It was a wonderful read."
Yael Shy, Director of The Mindfulness Project at New York University
A vivid account of Liz Lewinson’s personal relationship with the dynamic contemporary yogi, Rama. Born Frederick P. Lenz, this elusive young man leaps off the pages of her book, showing that magic and enlightenment are available to everyone, right here, right now. She shares the twists and turns of his remarkable journey with warmth, detail, and openness. This book sheds new light on an untold chapter of American Buddhism.
Judith Simmer-Brown, Professor of Religious Studies, Naropa University
“I enjoyed this book immensely! I read it in one sitting. Just couldn't put it down. My mind went back to the day in an obscure village in Costa Rica (well over a decade ago) when I picked up a dusty copy of Surfing the Himalayas while vacationing. Although Rama had already transitioned, I received a direct transmission from him! Shortly afterward, I searched for a teacher and began the Buddhist path, ultimately becoming a monk. Currently at a crossroad, I have again received insight and encouragement. The Dharma, through Rama's biography, spoke clearly to me.”
Venerable Dr. Pannavati, Bhikkuni, Co-Abbot, Embracing Simplicity Hermitage
“I was fascinated, moved, and inspired by this clear and compelling biography of Rama. I found myself very drawn to this true Crazy Wisdom guru who offered so much to his students and who, like all great gurus, also suffered at the hands of those who could not recognize the value of his bodhisattva offerings.”
Margaret Wheatley, author of Leadership and the New Science
“Blue Skies Buddha by Liz Lewinson is a passionate, moving, and experiential glimpse into a remarkable teacher who helped his students discover a better life and enlightened awareness while they lived in the everyday world. A page-turning book to be read again and again.”
Leslie Harris, Executive Coach
”I truly enjoyed this book. My husband and I knew Rama for a long time as a friend, not a teacher. This book was an excellent read and I learned so much more about Rama's physical and spiritual being and more about his Buddhist history. It's very fast reading, moving and so interesting. I truly recommend it!
'Rama' in this case is one Dr. Frederick Lenz, American Buddhist and teacher; and the biography of Dr. Lenz is recommended for any who want greater insights into his life and Buddhist belief in general.
It's a spiritual, transformational biography that surveys his life and uses the results of over a hundred interviews to build a wide-ranging consideration of his many achievements. (And for novices to Buddhism, 'gaze in my direction' is a meditation instruction having to do with focus and being open to inner messages and beliefs.)
An introductory chapter tells how the author came to meet Rama while searching for a new spiritual teacher, and how her own ability to 'gaze in his direction' immediately revealed his 'siddha' ("In the literature of Buddhism and Hinduism, a siddha is a magical or mystical power attained by an advanced practitioner of meditation.") Months went by before she was to become his student and embark on a journey that would lead to an understanding of different perspectives on American Buddhism and Eastern belief systems.
Dr. Lenz's actions in promoting his teachings and mission and expanding his students are documented in a vivid account based on the author's personal interactions and those of others involved in Rama's circle: "This year, in 1982, what we’re doing together, besides just having a generally good time, is trying to get you to walk through the doorways to eternity. Because each time you walk through those doorways your perfection will manifest in a new and exacting way. . . . What I’m trying to do is to have you not be pedestrian or plebeian with this study. That is to say, we’re not simply studying how to get high in a new way. You’re studying existence itself, to become it.”
From his journeys across the country to spiritual revelations, social challenges, and changes, this is filled with insights on Rama's perspectives and approaches to spiritual growth: "He likes us for the being that he sees can emerge after our layers are peeled back. He does not expect us to be holy, just honest."
It is this blend of Rama's wisdom and his life journey in teaching groups and individuals across the country that makes this biography so unique: part travelogue, part spiritual reader, and part biography, it's a celebration of his life and perspectives as much as it is an account of how American Buddhism spread across the nation.
From musical projects to dance, lectures and meetings to meditation encounters, Rama's wide-ranging influence powers not only his life and those of his students (including the author), but becomes the focal point for the evolution and dissemination of Buddhist belief across the country.
Any interested in accounts of Eastern religious thinking and growth will find this biography filled with unique, perceptive insights.
Diane Donovan, Midwest Review of Books
I found Blue Skies Buddha (formerly called Rama Gaze in My Direction) a fascinating read about the man that Dr. Frederick Lenz turned out to be. Author Liz Lewinson provides an insider’s view of the man - the development of his values as well as his personal highs and lows in the transmission of his teachings. There are amazing stories of natural phenomenon, his sense of humor and love of music to help transform human consciousness. He spoke a lot about meditation and I loved his description of advanced meditation as “Having a wonderful sense of humor, particularly about yourself and your own situation, yet not simply laughing but working to change and improve things, even though, at times, it seems impossible.” Well worth reading!
June Ryushin Tanoue, Co-founder of Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago
If a fully self-realized being walked the streets of America today, would anyone take notice? What would such a being undergo to reestablish their Enlightenment in this life? Blue Skies Buddha provides a riveting investigation into this complex Koan by chronicling the life of Rama – Dr. Fredrick Lenz. The product of hundreds of well-documented interviews of firsthand eyewitnesses, Blue Skies Buddha is the most complete written record I have seen describing the research-and-development aspects of Buddhist Vajrayana and Zen. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the living-breathing-evolving dynamics of the Self Discovery process.
Mo Howes, Author of Three Storms of Tantric Zen
If you are genuinely interesting in Buddhism, Vedanta, or mysticism this book is a treasure of thoughtful quotes by the Ph.D. Guru Dr. Frederick Lenz. If none of that stuff interests you, it is still a great journey through the spiritual self-help renaissance of the late 20th century. Rama once predicted that Liz Lewinson, the author, would be his biographer. I think her detailed and driving storyline would have exceeded his expectations. So if you want to escape all the worries of the modern age, let this book transport you to the vibrant core of new-age America and beyond.
James Forgy, President, Relational Database Consultants Inc.
This biography of Frederick Philip Lenz, III, Ph.D., also known as Rama and Atmananda, is written by a woman whose spiritual practice was profoundly formed by him. It traces the first part of his life, including his youth and his time as a follower of Sri Chinmoy as well as the founding of his own institutions.
Rama taught what he termed American Buddhism with a mix of Zen, Tibetan, Vedanta, and other forms of mysticism. Among other things, Lewinson recounts miracles witnessed by various individuals and has interviewed many people for their take on Rama.
There was controversy surrounding Rama, but you can find that easily enough on the web. Essentially, this is a biography of a fascinating human being who claimed–and is believed by many – to have been both an enlightened teacher and the culmination of many past lives.
-- Meredith Sue Willis, Books for Readers
“This book presents an honest look into one of the most intriguing and controversial spiritual movement of the 80’s and 90's. Rama was a very unconventional teacher and his teaching often caused people to rethink their basic assumptions on spirituality. In a way, he reminded me of my other idols of our age - Bruce Lee, Michael Jackson and Steve Jobs. They were all not only filled with crazy passions about their lives, but were so unconventional in their approaches that they caused major disruptions in traditional values. They were people who believed in themselves, walked their own paths and did not compromise.”
-- Francis Wang, CTO, Xtelligent Inc
Through interviews, quotes, and personal experiences, Liz Lewinson offers a seat as she takes you on an epic journey of an American bodhisattva and his students. It’s a hero’s adventure of wonder, impossible odds, self-discovery, and like many great tales, full of love.
The book recounts Rama’s life as a teacher of enlightenment. Through the years his teachings would take many forms but the underlying lesson was always about absolute love, not unlike another great teacher’s. Rama and Jesus were (are) very different men, in very different times, facing very different circumstances yet they shared a common thread: that Perfect Love, or Divine Grace to be more specific, transforms and transcends all. It is the ultimate power; the ultimate lesson to be learned...
In John’s gospel, Christ speaks to his disciples, “…love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13) Like Christ, Rama was well aware of the limitations of the human condition; that an ultimate sacrifice had to be made in order to liberate those he loved. It would be a crescendo of a lesson. Poetically, Rama left the body during Easter weekend 1998.
-- Rev. Mary-Rose Engle, Interfaith Minister
Blue Skies Buddha will take you back to your first moments of bliss in pursuit of higher consciousness. Remember, and smile. Remember, and renew your passion for the present moment of power.
-- Rev. Linda Martella-Whitsett, Unity Church of San Antonio
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