As we walk out of the courthouse 15 minutes and a few DNA-carrying cells later, I ask Smith how he feels now that it’s all over, now that his life on the run has officially come to a close. Until now, I hadn’t been sure he’d agree to answer any of my questions on the record, but because I’d helped him avoid wasting even more time in the courthouse, Smith allows me to turn on my tape recorder.

“I feel basically the same,” he says. “Not any better, not any worse, just an ordinary day, coming and going, in one door and out the other.” We get in my car for the drive to the airport, and I hand my tape recorder to Smith so I can steer with two hands. He hands it back as he resigns himself to the challenge of buckling his seat belt again. “I really am not used to these safety belts,” he admits.

I try to ask Smith about the Brotherhood of Eternal Love, but he balks. “That’s all in the past,” he says as we leave the courthouse parking structure. “I live in the present.” Finally, Smith agrees to tell me what the Brotherhood tried to accomplish. “It was not about drugs or LSD or anything like that,” he says. “We wanted people to be happy and free and not like what society conditioned you to want to be. Basically, we loved everyone and wanted everyone to find love and happiness. We wanted to change the world in five years, but in five years, it changed us. It was an illusion.”

Jason Edmiston
A closeup of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love's famous 1972 wanted poster; Smith's mug shot is second row, second from left
A closeup of the Brotherhood of Eternal Love's famous 1972 wanted poster; Smith's mug shot is second row, second from left

He still recalls the night Griggs died from his overdose of psilocybin. “He just took some, and as soon as he took it, he realized he had taken too much.” Griggs wandered back into his tepee and asked his wife not to take him to the hospital. “He knew he was going to leave his body that night,” Smith says. “He went into convulsions, and we put him in the car, and by the time he got to the hospital, they pronounced him dead.”

Happier memories include the time the Moody Blues showed up at the ranch to meet Leary, but they dropped so much acid they never got around to it, and how he and another Brotherhood member visited Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in their hotel room in Hollywood. “We smoked and hung out with them that evening and never saw them again,” he says. “They were aware of the Brotherhood but didn’t want to go to the ranch. Mick Jagger was nervous and thought we’d bring them trouble, and he was in enough trouble as it was with the different police departments all over the United States and Europe that wanted to bust him.”

As we reach the airport, Smith rushes to finish telling me how he spent the past 30 years of his life. He met his guru, Lama Kalu Rinpoche, at a Buddhist retreat in Palm Springs, about five years after becoming a fugitive. He followed Rinpoche from California to Maui to Darjeeling, India, where he spent the next 11 years living at Rinpoche’s monastery. Half that time, he lived in isolation, praying, “om mani padme hum” 100 million times. He befriended a quiet Norwegian, a fellow devotee of Rinpoche, who turned out to be extremely wealthy and who offered to sponsor Smith for the rest of his life if he continued to pray for the betterment of humankind.

In the mid-1980s, just as Smith wrapped up his prayers, civil war erupted in Darjeeling as the ethnic Nepali population sought to secede from India. He slipped across the border to Nepal, married a Nepalese woman and raised a daughter, who is now 21 years old. Besides spending time with his family and passing a few unpleasant months in Orange County, he says, he’s led a very quiet life. He says he just wants to give his interview to the documentary crew making their movie about Buddhism, and then go back to Nepal.

I stop the car in front of the terminal where Smith is to board his flight. He shakes my hand and thanks me for my help. “Have a great life,” he says. “This may have been a short interview, but I am a simple man leading a simple life and don’t have much to give. I practice my religion day and night, all the time. I sleep very little, maybe three or four hours a day, and other than that, I sit and pray for the benefit of the world and the people who live in it and my own karma that follows me like a shadow in everything I do. What goes around comes around.”

To learn more about the Brotherhood, look for Nick Schou’s book, Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love and Acid to the World, to be published in March 2010 by Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press.

nschou@ocweekly.com

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