Adi Da and His Voracious, Abusive Personality Cult
(c) Copyright by Timothy Conway, 2007
"The true guru will never humiliate you, nor will he estrange you from yourself. He will constantly bring you back to the fact of your inherent perfection and encourage you to seek within. He knows you need nothing, not even him, and is never tired of reminding you. But the self-appointed guru is more concerned with himself than with his disciples."
--Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981), I Am That, Dialogue 83, Dec. 18, 1971
Over the years I have often been asked my opinion of (as eyewitnesses have alleged) the fiercely flamboyant, voraciously addictive, and alarmingly abusive spiritual teacher grandiosely calling himself “Adi Da” (meaning Primordial Divine Giver). Born Franklin Jones, he later re-named himself Bubba (Brother) Free John, then Da Free John, then Da Avabhasa, then Adi Da, and so on, with other self-given, self-exalting titles such as “Heart-Master,” “Kalki” (a Hindu name for the prophesied Tenth Divine Incarnation of Hinduism's Lord Vishnu), etc., and, most recently, “Ruchira Avatar Adi Da Samraj.”
[--UPDATE ON ADI DA'S PASSING: At approximately 5:10 PM on Thursday, November 27th, 2008, without any prior warning, Adi Da suddenly fell over and within 1-2 minutes died of a heart attack while sitting in the presence of devotees at his private ashram on Naitauba Island in Fiji. He was 69 years old. Known according to different reports to have been an avid drug-user over many years, in the last decade or more he was evidently often using Viagra—a known danger to cardiac health—to fuel his chronic sex addiction.]
Numerous former Da students and devotees from his "Daist" church—in more recent years known as the Adidam community— have gone on record (see Adi Da Archives website here) to describe their experiences with Da, reporting both their positive experiences and, more importantly, their negative experiences, which give one great pause before calling Da the only true “God-man” or Avatar (Divine Incarnation) for our era or any era, the claim made by Da himself and by his devotees and their Church. Some ex-devotees have written spiritually cogent and psychologically insightful essays on what might simply be called Da’s “shadow side.” Much in their critical analysis can be usefully applied to other dysfunctional cult leaders, too.
The sagely tradition warns us not to "mix up levels," namely the Absolute Truth level (Paramarthika Satyam) and the conventional, pragmatic truth-level within the life-dream (the Vyavaharika Satyam). In other words, while clearly intuitively knowing WHO WE ARE as Absolute, infinite, boundless, birthless Open Awareness, in the every-day, experiential or phenomenal life of relativity and multiplicity, there are certain necessary and healthy distinctions to be made between, say, "appropriately helpful" and "inappropriately harmful," in how we are behaving. To put it another way, while all phenomena are ultimately (seen from Eternity) the "perfectly" manifesting, unfolding play of the Formless Divine (wherein all souls will eventually awaken to God), there are, meanwhile, matters of right and wrong, justice and injustice.
The evidence from eyewitnesses strongly suggests that through the years there was some VERY problematic behavior on Da's part, and this merits critique as a "public service" for those who have little training to discern functional from dysfunctional forms of leadership. Furthermore, for over three decades Da tried to posit a sophisticated but spiritually subversive and monstrously egocentric model of himself and his work as being uniquely far superior to all the sages of our sacred traditions--and this authoritarian claim, patently false, simply cannot be allowed to stand.
The tale of Franklin Jones (b. Nov. 3, 1939, Jamaica, New York) is a comic-tragic one, starting off rather promisingly but later degenerating into abuse of himself and of others. After a few years studying with the American renunciate Swami Rudrananda in NY beginning in 1965, Franklin made a few trips to see Rudi's guru Baba Muktananda in India (1968-9) and to experience the potent Shaktipat energy that Muktananda channeled from his guru, Bhagavan Nityananda. Franklin then underwent some Christian seminary training and assorted inner experiences, as well as a year of studying and working for the dysfunctional, exploitative cult group, Scientology (1968-9). He claims to have then enjoyed in 1970 a "final awakening" to the Goddess and infinite Beyond in the Los Angeles Vedanta Temple. He began publicly teaching out of a bookstore in Los Angeles in 1972 and gathering students, before moving within a couple of years to Northern California with his growing entourage of close associates and devotees.
Showing promise of becoming a great spiritual adept and brilliant teacher of self-inquiry and Self-realization (with a strong emphasis on grounding this realization in heartfelt relationship and “enlightenment of the whole body”), very quickly, within less than two years of public work, all evidence indicates that Franklin Jones / Da Free John fell deeply and dangerously into monstrous ego-inflation, abusively toxic relationships towards his disciples and wife/wives, and heavy addictions to personal power, sexual debauchery, drugs, and extravagant material possessions. We have here the sad story of a gifted and highly educated young man endeavoring for spiritual mastery who became, instead, an unknowing egocentric slave to aspects of a very needy, sick, “shadow” part of the psyche. If the many eyewitness reports are to be believed, he then exploited his trusting disciples and turned them into his own serfs in a slavish cult--often descending into a nightmare--that pretended to create a heavenly scene around the “Incarnate God,” Adi Da.
Many of us longtime spiritual teachers and aspirants enjoyed Da’s books of often quite brilliant talks and writings from his earlier years— e.g., his spiritual autobiography The Knee of Listening (which was later strategically re-written to delete certain things, amplify other things, and add lots of self-serving mythology), Method of the Siddhas, The Paradox of Instruction, The Enlightenment of the Whole Body, Nirvanasara, his book on death and dying, Easy Death (lauded by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross), and his book on sexuality, Love of the Two-Armed Form which argues (against anything that Da himself ever practiced!) for a sexuality rooted in and permeated by Divine Love, thereby cutting a middle path between indulgence and suppression of sexual drives. Much of Da's language and schemas have greatly influenced pundit Ken Wilber, as Wilber himself has acknowledged. It is bizarre that Wilber still remains a big fan of Adi Da, along with another abusive "bad-boy" teacher, Andrew Cohen (who has been exposed by several formerly-close disciples for repeatedly abusive behavior and finally in 2013 resigned from his "teacher" position).
But this webpage will indicate why many of us do not find Da a commendable figure. Read his early books, if you wish; much (not all) of the material in them is quite excellent. But be here forewarned about becoming personally involved with Da's seductive cult. As stated in 1996 by Jim Chamberlain (a devotee of Da for eight years from the mid-1970s to early 1980s): "Many of those familiar with his 'crazy wisdom' teaching style and personal behavior have concluded that he is as dangerous as he is brilliant.... I would no more recommend that anyone go further than studying his teachings by becoming his devotee than I would recommend skydiving without a parachute while on LSD." (bewareofthegod.blogspot.com).
Author Robert Augustus Masters has written a cogent, critical yet sympathetic eulogy for Adi Da:
THE DEATH OF ADI DA
by Robert Augustus Masters (Dec. 2008)
Adi Da died last week. It did not appear to be an extraordinary death, a graceful exit, a death consciously entered into and clearly foreseen — as has been the case with many great spiritual realizers — even though his devotees of course referred to it not as his death, but rather as his mahasamadhi, meaning the passageless passage that a fully Enlightened being makes at death. Many of them apparently did not even see it as including physical death, hoping and praying en masse that he would somehow “reassociate” with his body, thereby once again conferring upon him the superhuman status in which he had been held by them — and by himself — since the early 1970s.
In any case, he has died, felled by a heart attack. Those who adulate him will likely continue to do so, and those who vilify him will just as likely continue to do so, with very little overlap between the two camps. For one [the devotees], he was the greatest spiritual realizer of all time, and for the other [the vilifiers], he was spiritualized narcissism and megalomania rolled into one exploitive package. Both are, however, missing the essence of the man, either excusing his excesses or overrelying on them in evaluating him. There is much that bothered me about Adi Da and his terminally enthused cult, but at the same time I am grateful for what I got from him, however long ago that was.
I came across his autobiography, The Knee of Listening, in 1974, and was struck by it. At that point, he was going by his birth name, Franklin Jones, looking very young and soft, which only made his eyes stand out more. And what eyes! Clear, balanced, full of energy and presence, unusually steady. I was, however, not drawn enough to go seek him out, but he had definitely entered my psyche, and more.
His third book, Garbage and the Goddess, really got my attention. The year was, I believe, 1976. Much of the book chronicled his interactions with his community, featuring obviously spontaneous talks by him that I found not just invigorating, but dynamically alerting. There was a sense of powerfully embodied wisdom, however roughly articulated, mixed with a not-so-subtle arrogance and a wildness with which I resonated. He was clearly a star in his world, surrounded by an audience that hung on his every word.
Everything he did was presented as though it only arose in the context of spiritual awakening; if he, for example, took another man’s wife to have sex with him, that was, of course, for that man’s benefit, giving him the gift of an in-your-face lesson about attachment. Etcetera, etcetera. I didn’t know about such activities at the time, but nonetheless intuited that they were happening. Still, this did not stop me from reading everything that he — now calling himself Bubba Free John — wrote. His presence grew stronger, and his capacity to transmit a very forceful awakening energy continued unabated, as did his remarkably eloquence. But as much as he shone, I still did not feel much of a pull to meet him, which would have required of me that I become his devotee.
A few years later he, with characteristic drama, changed his name to Da Free John — and would continue changing his name and stretching it out up until the last decade or so. Not surprisingly, things got more and more cultic around him, even as he waxed eloquently against cultism. And he grew increasingly isolated, eventually making his home base on a relatively remote Fijian island. Along the way, he gathered some heady praise, especially from Ken Wilber, and seemed to be taking his place among many as a legitimate, even exemplary, spiritual realizer, a great adept. This was in no small way helped by having over a thousand people who were totally focused on — and arguably obsessed by — every move he made, every word he said, every wish he expressed.
Da did not handle this very well. There was a cult of, yes, personality, forming around him, and he didn’t address it nearly strongly enough to blast through it. Over-the-top grandiosity set in. When he began capitalizing the majority of his words, as well as repeating his teachings over and over and over, I lost interest in him. He had lost his freshness. He kept complaining about how his devotees were falling short, without ever, ever holding himself at all responsible — after all, he was the Godman! And not just the Godman, but THE Godman.
I lost touch at this point with his teachings, aided by the change I saw in him, both in his photos and in his videos. Gone was much of the spark, the clarity, the vitality in his face, especially his eyes, replaced by a dullness, a flatness, with more than a trace of sourness. He had, it seemed, stopped evolving. He was still playing the feudal lord, attracting only those for whom gurucentrism was immensely appealing. When he began stating that he was not only fully Enlightened, but that he was more Enlightened than anyone else who had ever lived — at best, they were what he termed “Sixth Stage Realizers” and he was the only “Seventh Stage Realizer” ever — I completely lost interest in what he was doing. Delusion, it seemed, could manifest at any stage of development.
Still, I appreciated, deeply appreciated, his earlier work, however much it was tainted by his arrogance. When I was invited to sit in darshan with him several years ago near Los Angeles, I agreed to go, but when I arrived at the L.A. airport, Diane and I got a message that her daughter was about to give birth, and so we went in that direction with not much fuss. [...] My link with him had weakened that much. And all the mythology with which he surrounded himself did not help.
Earlier today I was looking at some YouTube videos of Adi Da, including some that showed him simply gazing at those sitting in darshan with him. In places his love was obvious, his presence compelling, his gaze far from ordinary, reminding me of how he was at his peak. At that time, I was admittedly much younger — and not just in years — but his impact on me was considerable, spurring me into deeper spiritual practice, both in waking and dreaming states. He also mirrored my own arrogance, legitimizing it as something other than arrogance, something of course spiritual! So I look back and see him shining bright, and I see myself there too, also shining, hiding my weaknesses behind my strengths, assuming that I had attained something that I, in fact, had not, namely a truly integral maturity of being. Just like him.
So thank you, Franklin, Bubba, Da, Adi Da. May you dethrone your unacknowledged egoity. May you complete what you left incomplete. May you openly face whatever harm you did in the name of Crazy Wisdom. May you reclaim and fully heal your humanity. May you awaken beyond what you took to be Full Awakening. May you get on your knees before Ramana [Maharshi, 1879-1950, India's renowned saintly sage, whose teachings were a big influence on the early Franklin Jones]. You once said, “While we’re alive, we make mind. After we die, mind makes us.” I wonder how this is for you, as you attempt to navigate the Kosmic Mandala’s more challenging zones. Easy Death — or so it seems.
[End of Robert Augustus Masters' eulogy for Da.]
IN SUM: There are numerous far more commendable spiritual adepts and teachers to help you come HOME to your own intrinsic Divine Nature—real Love, Freedom, Truth, Peace, Bliss and Grace. One does NOT need Adi Da / Franklin Jones as one's intermediary channel of access to God.
Therefore, as a public service to those who might endanger themselves by becoming involved with Da's now discarnate energy and his church group, which I and many others consider to be dysfunctionally cultic, I present the following materials: 1) links to essays, blogs and emails from his former devotees, including some extensive excerpts from "Elias" (Tom Veitch) one of the most spiritually and psychologically insightful of these former Da associates; 2) excerpts from professional religion scholar Scott Lowe's 1993 essay and 1995 addendum recalling time with Da and the community in 1974, a crucial transitional time; 3) my response to a letter from a former "reluctant" Da devotee whose spouse is still enmeshed with Da; 4) my recent correspondence with a staunch Da devotee, with a long critical assessment of his even more lengthy apologia for Da; and 5) a closing brief email confirming the terrible dysfunction permeating Da and his Adidam cult, by a 25-year-long former member.
Insightful essays and written or spoken revelations have poured forth from former Da students and devotees including “Elias” (Tom Veitch), “Alice” (one of Da's ex-wives), Mark Miller, Conrad Goehausen, Scott Lowe, Connie Shaw, Jim Chamberlain, and numerous others (including persons who chose to remain anonymous except to the persons to whom they have revealed their personal testimony).
For several years, the most all-inclusive link for much of the revelatory material on Da was the large "Daism Research Index" at Lightmind.com, a veritable library of revealing documents on Da assembled by Tom Veitch, a former close devotee calling himself "Elias." (The URL was http://lightmind.com/library/daismfiles/.)
That Lightmind website in early 2008 was replaced by the crucial ADI DA ARCHIVES website at www.adidaarchives.org, which inherited almost all of these revelatory materials, added many new materials, and instantly became our best overall collection of articles about the dysfunctional cult leader Adi Da / Franklin Jones. At some point in recent years, that website ceased to become operational, but almost all of its contents were archived and are presently available at the Archive.org website:
*** Adi Da Archives ***
Beyond its opening homepage (well worth reading as an introduction), the Adi Da Archives contains over 100 essays and reports grouped by topic at several different sections, entitled “Claims to Divinity,” “Sex, Violence & Women,” “Adi Da’s Psychology,” “Rationale for Abuse,” “Adi Da’s Teachings,” “Media Coverage of Da,” “[Mark] Miller Criticisms of Da,” “1985 Lawsuits,” “Money & Labor for Da,” “Da’s History [e.g., with Muktananda & Scientology],” “Ken Wilber & Adi Da,” and “Observations & Stories” (by many ex-devotees).
Among other materials at the Adi Da Archives website, one can find the following notable items:
• Ex-wife "Alice's" brief but eye-opening revelation about just a few of the various forms of sexual abuse enacted by Da/Bubba.
• Various other reports of sexual violence, not just upon women by Da, but also upon men, such as forced anal rapes by other men (at Da's command) to humiliate and demasculate them.
• Reports of Da's heavy abuse of a wide range of drugs (amyl nitrate "poppers," alcohol, cocaine, pot, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, viagra, etc.).
• Connie Shaw's revelations of documented abuses and crimes, entitled "Adi Da in the Media: A 1980's Summary: Twisted Examples of 'Crazy Wisdom' From Adi Da's Fantasy World."
• Jewel's revelatory article, "How Devotees Became 'Dissidents' in 1985", naming lots of Da's closest disciples and how they began to wake up from the nightmare of his cult.
• Mark Miller's several very insightful and richly detailed revelatory articles from 1985 (start with Mark's succinct "Letter to the Mill Valley Record--May 9, 1985," and then his more in-depth and well-organized "Letter to a Questioner"; his "Letter to Family Member of a Daist"; "An Open Letter"; and the legal text of his 1986 lawsuit against Da for fraud and infliction of emotional distress). These Miller essays are grouped under the special sections sub-linked at the Archives.org site as "Miller Criticisms of Da."
• The reports of the "Poaching Posse Leela," for a third-person account of how Da/Bubba went after Mark's girlfriend by criminally plying them both with excessive amounts of alcohol, an exploitative strategy also used on other couples.
• Reports of Da's insatiable demands for the money and labor of his devotees, an example of "getting the servants to pay you!"
• Reports by former long- or short-time devotees like Scott Lowe (with Da in 1974, later a professional scholar of religion), Conrad Goehausen, Sri Bob, "/m," Jo (who was with Franklin in the early 1970s) and others, of what life was like in the early years and transition periods with the seductive but increasingly dysfunctional and demanding Da and his community. (See especially the "Observations & Stories" section at Adi Da Archives for all this.)
• Jim Chamberlain's 1996 booklet and blog story, "Beware of the God," at bewareofthegod.blogspot.com/, also posted at the "Observation & Stories" section of the Adi Da Archives. This contains some useful biographical elements on Da/Franklin, lots of revelatory anecdotes, and much insightful analysis after his 8 years with Da from the mid-70s to early 80s.
• For those who claim that all dysfunction around Da ended in the mid-1980s, there's an article by "Hatley" about her experience of a fear-ridden, chronically manipulated, creepy cult-group when she visited Da's Fijian "communal paradise" in 1991, "Life on the Island" (Naitauba, Fiji), at the aforementioned Archives.org site.
• Last but not least from the critical side, many extremely revealing and astutely analytical articles by "Elias" (Tom Veitch) from his older Lightmind website and also from his (now defunct) web-log at lightmind.com/blogs/adiblog.html. Most of these are reproduced at the "Adi Da's Psychology" section of the Adi Da Archives website. (One can also read the earlier written book, Knee of Daism, co-written by Tom/Elias and Sri Bob.)
• There are numerous adulatory websites by Da's devotees that will give the "other side" of the controversy, i.e., the view that Da was and is God Fully Incarnate, the "greatest spiritual Master and Teacher who ever lived," such as the website for Da's church group: www.adidam.org. I have allowed a large amount of space further below in this long webpage for one ardent devotee's extensive presentation of these super-positive views about Da. But having just listed so many websites critical of Da, for the sake of some semblance of editorial "balance" (which you will NOT find at the pro-Da websites), I provide readers here with one more extremely positive website on Da, one which, moreover, tries to address the critics (albeit quite inadequately, as many of us would evaluate).
So here's a positive view of Da: www.adidaupclose.org
Note the link at the bottom right of that website to a page defending Adidam from "dissidents" and the claim that most ex-members are positively or very positively disposed toward Da and Adidam. This claim was based on a "pilot study" by James Lewis, with a terribly non-random, heavily-biased sample of a mere 33 former members suggested to Lewis by the Adidam community itself.
That imbalanced pilot study has been severely critiqued here by Conrad Goehausen, aka "Broken Yogi": http://brokenyogi.blogspot.com/2009/10/academic-pilot-study-of-fomer-adidam.html
Extensive criticism of Da and his exploitation and denigration of sacred tradition, by Tom Veitch
Tom Veitch / "Elias" in his various articles and posts has generated, even beyond the major contributions by Miller, Goehausen, Chamberlain, Lowe, et al., a wealth of cogent observations about Franklin Jones / "Adi Da" and his cult, which grew ever more slavish over time. Especially relevant are Tom/Elias' keen observations of Franklin or Da's "archetypal possession," his psychic "vampirism," his "self-apotheotic inflation," his raging Oedipal and Narcissus complexes, his complete lack of scruples in exploiting other persons for his own pleasure and privilege, his incessant defining of devotees and students as beneath him, and his chronic put-down of truly great spiritual masters as also beneath what he perceives to be his own entirely unique and exalted spiritual "stature," a not-so-veiled attack on the Great Tradition of authentic adepts and sages.
UPDATE Dec. 2010: For the sake of balance, it must be asserted that in the last 18 months or so, at his "New Lightmind Forum," Tom/"Elias," on the basis of some continuing dream-contact with the post-mortem Adi Da, has expanded his view to include not just his prior heavy criticism but also a larger view of Da as an event in Awareness meant to shake people up. (See www.lightgate.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=512) However, he admits in a P.S. to one of these posts: "Some people will say that Adi Da wasn't anything like I am claiming or suggesting. They will say I am inventing a new Adi Da, a version of him to lay to rest the inner contradictions I feel about him. Could be."
Here are just several relevant samples from Tom/Elias' many earlier very critical writings, and I would declare that most of his insights can pertain to numerous other dysfunctional cult figures, not just to Adi Da. Here and there i've added emphasis via italics:
"There are certain signs that point to archetypal possession (as opposed to a real integration and transformation of the archetypal energies). One of them is haughtiness and pomposity. For some reason those who suffer the inflation of an archetype almost always lose the quality of humility and start 'lording it over' [others].... The quality of real compassion that is a large part of our humanity, goes right out the window... having been replaced by an archetype. Buddha is about the inspection, penetration, and transcendence of the archetypes. Buddhism in its purest form is about the absolute negation of archetypal possession as a spiritual path.... Christ too is about Realization through sacrificing the 'old gods' of Rome and the archetypal possession of the Emperors.... Franklin Jones/Adi Da, on the other hand, is about the return of the old gods and of the days when the frowning archetypes ruled the earth. In my opinion, 'Da' is a 'walk-in,' a spirit who pushed aside the original karmic inhabitant of the bodily vehicle 'Franklin Jones.' Franklin the man allowed this, in a moment of weakness, in a moment of inflation, in a moment of pride, in a moment of wanting to be a Guru...and in a moment of breaking his connection to his humanity.... In spite of all their pomposity and 'airs,' the archetypes are of a lower order than Man." (--from "Adi Da and Archetypal Possession," by "Elias," 1997)
"Early on Frank [Franklin / "Da"] got into minor siddhis (yogic powers), and he has continued to push in that direction, becoming somewhat adept at manipulating mindforms in the field of psychic awareness that includes himself and other people. In the process he developed a yogic ego -- an enlarged self-sense that feeds on the adulation of weaker human beings. Over the years Frank has become extremely skillful in the use of intimidation, coercion, and manipulation -- and once you have capitulated to his 'power' (and signed 'vows'), he will ruthlessly exploit and drain you. Once you are used up he will discard you like the rind of an orange. Liberation? Daism has nothing to do with liberation.... I have a snippet of old video tape (which I may transcribe at some point) where he rips apart the whole idea of a unique avatar [Divine Incarnation], and puts down 'these gurus who start thinking they are the one and only messiah.' It's just a marvelous and accurate critique of the madman he later became!" (--from Elias' 2000 essay, "The Daist Inquisition.")
"Adi Da's agenda is simple, and ultimately life-denying-- he draws all value to himself, and he leaves his victims feeling utterly worthless and hollowed out.... To justify this vampirism, Frank accuses his followers of an interminable sin of 'ego'--a mysterious unhealing disease which he also finds afflicted Jesus, Gautama Buddha, Ramana Maharshi, and every other spiritual teacher since the beginning of time. In other words, Frank finds all human lives, except his own, to be unredeemed, and utterly without value. ('The five billion slugs' he called us.) If you want to heal, if you want to be redeemed, all you have to do is fall down and worship 'Adi Da,' the embodiment of all value and all possible perfection.... It is a terribly seductive message to the weak-minded and to those who are given to project all value upon the expectation of a great messiah who will surely come to lead us out of this world of interminable suffering." (--from Elias' 2001 essay, "The Forbidden Planet.")
"Among the 'ex-Daists' who actively critique Adi Da and his dharma, I see most as being completely faithful to the practice of relationship without separation or contraction [a central tenet of Da's early teaching]. That is to say, we do not separate ourselves from Frank -- rather we bring all our spiritual feeling and insight to bear upon whatever reality (or lack thereof) that he represents. Speaking personally, I have NEVER closed my heart to the guy. My sense of the mutual dynamics is that over time he has continually run away, hidden, and walled himself off from myself and others -- even all others -- and he does this on many levels. He appears to have made an overwhelming commitment to the neurotic mechanism -- common to those who suffer from a deap-seated self-loathing -- of acting aloof and pompous and domineering. Such behavior is an attempt to control relationship by making others feel small, dominated, and even guilty.... The whole psyche that Frank animates is the mind-game of pomp and power. After 'the seduction phase' (using half-truths and false promises) he moves rapidly into 'the domination phase,' in which the person whom he seeks to control is pushed toward a contracted state by every means possible. (He even asks them to sign a 'contract'!) Separation is enforced in Adidam [the Daist community], not melted. Purported 'One-ness' is claimed for the ornamented facade of the 'guru' -- but any testimonies of full and unobstructed relatedness by the student or devotee are invariably criticized as egoic, unlawful, 'targeting,' delusional, and so forth. That said, I have no qualms about making the claim that ex-devotees are still holding up their end of the original promise. We are not avoiding relationship -- Frank is avoiding relationship. In fact, as his increasingly bitter rants reveal, he just can't hack relationship! (He has said it makes him physically ill to sit with 'beginners,' i.e. the entire human race.) The great Indian guru Ammachi [Mata Amritanandamayi] has hugged twenty million people world-wide [now some 28 million people by 2007], all the while remaining in the pink of health [beyond the orthopedic damage to her spine from the chronic torqueing by human bodies pulling on her], and Franklin Jones gets sick just sitting in a room with a few dozen Americans who have taken vows to worship him!" (--from Elias' 2000 blog "Always Already in Relationship with Frank.")
"Aham Da Asmi [a recent work] is the first volume of the '23 source texts of Adi Da Samraj.'... [Herein,] he delivers a 'prophetic' tirade condemning anyone and everyone who fails to believe in him, respond to him, and fall down and worship him: [Quoting Adi Da from this book:]
'Those who Do Not heart-Recognize Me and heart-Respond to Me-and who (Therefore) Are Without Faith In Me -- Do Not (and Cannot) Realize Me. Therefore, they (By Means Of their own self-Contraction From Me) Remain ego-Bound To The Realm Of Cosmic Nature, and To The Ever-Changing Round Of conditional knowledge and temporary experience, and To The Ceaselessly Repetitive Cycles Of birth and search and loss and death. Such Faithless beings Cannot Be Distracted By Me -- Because they Are Entirely Distracted By themselves! They Are Like Narcissus -- The Myth Of ego -- At His Pond. Their Merely self-Reflecting minds Are Like a mirror in a dead man's hand. Their tiny hearts Are Like a boundless desert, where the mirage of Separate self is ceaselessly admired, and The True Water Of My Constant Presence Stands Un-Noticed, in the droughty heap and countless sands of ceaseless thoughts. If Only they Would Un-think themselves In Me, these (Now Faithless) little hearts Could Have Immediate Access To The True Water Of My True Heart! Through Devotional Surrender Of body, emotion, mind, breath, and all of Separate self To Me. Even Narcissus Could Find The Way To My Oasis (in The True Heart's Room and House) -- but the thinking mind of ego-"I" Is Never Bathed In Light (and, So, it sits, Un-Washed, Like a desert dog that wanders in a herd of flies). The "Un-Washed dog" of self-Contracted body-mind Does Not think To Notice Me -- The Divine Heart-Master Of its wild heart and Wilderness. The "Wandering dog" of ego-"I" Does Not "Locate" Me In My Inherent "Bright" Perfection -- The Divine Heart-Master Of Everything, The Inherently egoless Divine True Self Of all conditionally Manifested beings, and The Real Self-Condition and Source-Condition Of All-and-all. If Only "Narcissus" Will Relent, and heart-Consent To Bow and Live In Love-Communion With Me, heart-Surrendering all of body-mind To Me, By Means Of Un-Contracting Love Of Me, Then -- Even If That Love Is Shown With Nothing More Than the "little gift" of ego-"I" (itself) -- I Will Always Accept The Offering With Open Arms Of Love-Bliss-Love, and Offer My Own Divine Immensity In "Bright" Return. Therefore, whoever Is Given (By heart) To Me Will Be Washed, From head To toe, By All The True Water Of My Love-Bliss-Light, That Always "Crashes Down" On All and all, Below My Blessing-Feet. My Circumstance and Situation Is At the heart of all beings -- where I Am (Now, and Forever Hereafter) Avatarically Self-"Emerging" As The One and All-and-all-Outshining Divine and Only Person (Avatarically Self-Manifested As The "Radically" Non-Dual "Brightness" Of All-and-all-Filling Conscious Love-Bliss-Light, Self-Existing and Self-Radiant As The Perfectly Subjective Fundamental Reality, or Inherently egoless Native Feeling, Of Merely, or Unqualifiedly, Being).' (Aham Da Asmi, pages 77-78)
[Tom/Elias resumes:] "What can we say? What can lowly unwashed dogs like ourselves say before such awe-inspiring megalomania? Well, first of all we can point out the 'them vs. Me' aspect of it -- the mountainous duality of the claim of his rule over all imaginary others. Secondly we can point out that he is, in fact, mimicking the prophetic voice, stealing words and phrases from the inspired speech of Spiritual Adepts, and recycling them into bombast.... What is the purpose of that kind of speech except to intimidate and push the mind of the listener into a conflicted state? And who would want anything to do with such a man, except to see that he is properly cared for in a State Institution? [And Elias contrasts Da's ridiculously self-exalting verbal style of the 1980s onward with Da's older message from books of the 1970s like the long-suppressed early text, Garbage and the Goddess, wherein Da plainly stated, on pp. 335-6, an exactly opposite message: 'The world is the Avatar [Divine Incarnation]... It is humanity as a whole that is the Avatar in human form, not some specific human individual. No apparent or exclusive manifestation is in itself the Avatar........ But people want the Guru to be the Avatar. They want that exclusive God image, whereas God doesn't exist in the exclusive sense. God is absolute.'] [Elias resumes:] A careful study of Frank's 30-year evolution of speaking about himself will show this: Throughout the years there has been a relentless expansion of the claim of 'Divine Me' and an equally relentless contraction of the admission of the divinity of 'the entire human race.' In 2001 Frank fully believes he is the exclusive avatar, the exclusive God image, the unique (for all time) manifestation of the Absolute." (--from Elias' 2001 blog, "The Gathering Madness of the World-Teacher.")
"My criticism of Adi Da really began the moment he began to trash the [great spiritual] traditions -- 'demoting' Gautama the Buddha and [India's great modern-era sage] Ramana Maharshi [1879-1950] to '6th stage.' My criticism accelerated the moment Frank proclaimed himself the First, Last and Only 7th stage Realizer-adept. Frank-ly I was content to cut Frank a lot of slack, for years after I disconnected from his whacky community. But at some point it became clear that his agenda was nothing less than the 'political overthrow' of the Great Tradition -- a tradition that, for thousands of years, has perfectly expressed the native state of enlightenment, and a tradition that has liberated many thousands to Self-Realization and Buddha-Nature. When the Lankavatara Sutra [of early Mahayana Buddhism, along with texts like the Vedanta works Ashtavraka Gita and a few others] gets downgraded to a document created by ego-bound '6th stagers,' by a teacher who previously proclaimed the same text an ultimate example of 7th stage teaching, something is terribly terribly wrong. (And I can easily discern that wrong by reading the Lankavatara Sutra and then reading something of Frank's own writing. With rare exceptions Adi Da's own texts, IMHO [in my humble opinion], are laboriously turgid mentalizations and prime examples of self-apotheotic inflation.)" (--from Elias' 2001 blog, "Adi Da, Defamer of the Great Tradition.")
"Far from honoring and bowing to 'the Great [Spiritual] Tradition,' Franklin Jones and his followers have conducted an ongoing campaign of belittlement and character assassination against the most honored spiritual teachers in history." (--from Elias' 1999 blog, "Refutation of Daist fabrications regarding Ramakrishna.")
"After 1991, when he demoted Ramana Maharshi from 7th stage to 6th stage, Franklin Jones began promoting the idea that Ramana's realization was an 'exclusive inversion' upon the witness consciousness, and a 'developmental phase' in the life of the ego.... Daist apologists, who previously looked to Ramana as the very pinnacle of spiritual realization, now began pointing to Ramana's periods of silence and apparent inactivity as a sign of this 'exclusive inversion.' Adi Da, they pointed out, has fully expressed the Divine through his insatiable appetites for sex, drug use, and hard drinking. Adi Da is immersed in life, they said, his body radiating the Divine in a way that no previous master ever did. According to Daists, Ramana Maharshi represents the weak, the ineffectual, and the castrated state of withdrawal from life. Ramana 'hides in the cave of the heart,' dissociating himself from all others in egoic identification with the samadhi of [mere] 'witness consciousness.' In their statements about Ramana, Frank and his minions demonstrate that they do not yet understand that the Heart-Realization Ramana described is truly all-inclusive.... In living contradiction to many of the great teachings he has mimicked, Frank's 'realization' is in fact not realization at all, but the self-apotheosis of an egoic 'doer' --an exaggerated fifth stage yogic answer to the 'problem' of getting by in this world as an isolated genius in a crowd. [Da's strategy is this:] You spend a weekend with a well-known guru like Muktananda, letting him possess you with his 'shakti force' until you are 'God-Realized.' He gives you a name and an official letter granting you permission to hang out your shingle in his lineage. A week or so later you go into business as a 'Spiritual Adept,' and this is how you will make yourself rich, acquire properties and expensive toys, and take coup on thousands of young women. From the point of view of Maharshi's realization, no such self-apotheosis or yogic siddhis or worldly ambitions are needed. Simply find out 'who' you are, as Being Itself, and then you will completely understand the world from the position of Being, in which no separate subject exists, and in which the 'problem of the doer' has utterly vanished. Contrary to how Ramana is painted by Daists and others who have seen a few photographs of him lounging about, Maharshi was fully engaged in the life of his ashram. According to reports he was the first one up every morning, going immediately to work in the kitchen, directing the kitchen workers and cutting up vegetables for the day's meals. He was the most unpretentious of men, i.e, a true realizer, who made himself constantly available to everyone. He had no illusions that you can 'teach' people anything by parodying (or 'reflecting') their sins [as Da has done so abusively]. And whereas Frank has always claimed that people 'can't see' his real purity due to their egos, Maharshi made his purity visible to all.... He was a powerfully attractive being, who drew thousands upon thousands of people to him, year after year. He sat in the communion hall and conversed with visitors day after day, right up until he died.... If Frank had anything even close to Ramana's power he wouldn't need to carry on like a clown the way he does, endlessly mind-gaming, endlessly changing his appearance, endlessly trying to distract people from noticing 'the man behind the curtain' [like the impotent "wizard of Oz"]. He also would not be such a whiner and a scold. Frank is a clear example of 'the ego standing apart' -- the mad subject that thinks it can swallow God whole. Put the writing of this [so-called] spiritual genius' aside for a moment and see how he runs: he wants all of existence to revolve upon his physical needs and desires, exactly like a baby whose primary adaptation is to impulsively demand all the food and attention it can get. If it is fed, if it gets 'Big Gifts,' then the infant is 'happy' (or at least satisfied) for today. If gifts are not forthcoming, he throws a tantrum. The honest fact is that Frank is a prime example of the very worst trait of Americans who go the East seeking the ultimate: he literally believes that 'God realization' can be owned by the ego and amplify the ego to cosmic proportions. The proof of this statement is the unfolding of his life since his possession by 'the goddess' in the Vedanta Temple in 1970 [in Hollywood, CA]. From that day forward he embarked on a megalomaniacal (yet sophisticated) program of transforming himself from a human being into 'The First Last and Only 7th Stage Adept Realizer,' the one man in all of history who could claim to be wiser and more compassionate and spiritually fruitful than Buddha, Krishna, Jesus...and Ramana Maharshi." (--from Elias' 2001 blog, "The Daist Attempt to Pigeonhole Maharshi.")
"Elsewhere I have argued that Frank's 'seven-stage' system is false dharma [false spiritual teaching]. However, for the purposes of this discussion I will generally assume that it has some validity. In his conceptualization of the spectrum of spiritual awareness, Adi Da (Franklin Jones) has placed himself and no one else at the pinnacle of achievement—the so-called '7th stage of life'.... In his early development of the system, a few rarified beings were allowed to share the '7th stage' with Frank. Now—at least since the early 1990's—everyone who ever existed is arrayed below Frank, in the lesser strata of consciousness. For instance, Frank has said very plainly that he considers Gautama Buddha and Ramana Maharshi to be '6th stage realizers.' Jesus Christ is 5th stage. Ramakrishna is somewhere between 4th and 5th stage. And so forth. For decades critics have pointed out that after 10, 20, 30 years of teaching a 'Way' to enlightenment, not a single one of Frank's students had been declared to be realized beyond the '4th stage.' According to Frank's own evaluation of his followers, most seem to be permanently mired in the second and third tiers of his system. Perhaps in response to his critics, or for other reasons, Frank has now announced that one of his wives -- Bonnie Beavan, aka Quandra Sukha Mai -- is practicing in the 6th stage of life. That is to say, according to her guru and husband, she has attained the same level of realized spiritual practice as Gautama Buddha and Ramana Maharshi. (Jesus Christ only gets to be 5th stage in Frank's system, so now one of his wives is more realized than Jesus!).... Frank, of course, has an agenda of keeping everyone locked at some 'stage' below himself. So Jesus, Buddha, Ramana, et al are still, in his view, '6th stage'...forever. This in itself is pretty interesting -- to imagine, as a Daist, that all the Realizers who have gone before are not responding to Frank's presence, in their living state, but remaining locked in egoic isolation in the '6th stage'! In conclusion, no one in Adidam has ever demonstrated, by word or action, any of the traditional qualities of the 6th stage. And their photographs (as published in the Daist literature) betray the obvious -- they are not Realizers in any sense of the word, but people practicing at the 3rd and 4th stage of life. Perhaps Frank has created a 'new kind of 6th stager' -- an ordinary bloke who lacks the originality and profound access to Truth of all the old-time 6th-stagers. In fact, that is probably what Frank intends with his invention of the 'murti guru' [who will never function outside of the Daist community with his/her own disciples, but must always show adherence to Da]. As for Adi Da -- because he demonstrates such a powerfully resilient yogic ego, Frank Jones is clearly awake at the 5th stage of life. Good for him, I say. That's quite an achievement for a spiritual seeker." ;-) (--from Elias' 2000 blog, "Has Any Daist Attained '6th stage' Realization?")
"I am well aware that Frank has said 'There is no separate person.' And yet his is a path of interminable accusation and abuse of this non-existent separate person! Unlike Ramana Maharshi, who made it obvious that 'no separate person' exists, Frank's conflicted teaching posits and reinforces the existence of this 'separate person' at every turn. Daism is a dark and ego-based view of the human condition. Great Spiritual Masters like Maharshi and the Dalai Lama teach that human beings are essentially good, and already living from a core of purity and divinity. The infamous 'self-contraction' [of which Da relentlessly accuses other people] is, [as described by Ramana, the Dalai Lama and the literature of the great nondual spiritual traditions] for most people simply a matter of ignorance or wrong view. Once human beings taste the nectar of real wisdom, they tend to respond like bees to honey.... Frank is unable to deliver the nectar that would attract real devotees, so he falls back on blaming the whole human race for 'failing' him!... I would go further to say that Frank himself represents a mode and process of self-contraction upon the formless divine. This has become fairly obvious to everybody except those who have been blown over by his sales talks about himself or bought his brutal description of themselves as 'loveless assholes.'... The humor and sense of self-worth of the healthy ego flows effortlessly into the ecstatic I AM of the ocean of divine Self. The guilt-ridden ego of Daists is simply neurotic and forever stuck in a psychic-loop that orbits the frowning authoritarian archetype of the Da-guru." (--from Elias' 1999 essay, "Daism and the Betrayal of Human Innocence.")
"The idea of transmission-of-state from Guru to disciple [turning the disciple into an authentic Guru] is ancient and venerable. However, transmission is unlikely to occur if the disciple is continually defined to herself (even after decades of service and surrender) as failing to please the guru. (And disciples’ failure to please the Da-Guru is the Daist mantra.) Ongoing approval-disapproval is one of the hallmarks of Daist ideology. Every action (and every thought) of every disciple is continuously vulnerable to judgment and evaluation by the Da-Guru, his subordinates, the community at large, and the disciple herself (through the internalization of the Da-Guru's demands). In Daism the authoritarian quality of the guru-disciple relationship caused it to long ago reached a stasis in which no awakening-transmission occurs. Year after year the Da-Guru only compounds the situation by endlessly berating disciples for failing to live up to his demands, and 'failing' to release the self-contraction! And so Daism developed not as a transmission of the Realization, but as a circular teaching of culpability.... Narcissus (a name for the ego or self-idea [and one of the central ideas in Franklin Jones' early teachings]) is defined then as an adversary of the Da-Guru and his Grace. The ego is defined as Da-Guru's self-contracted opponent, struggling in vain against the radiant transmission of the Perfect Liberation of Divine Realization. Throughout the Daist rubric there are numerous variations on this theme. However, in the earliest books, one finds the suggestion that the ego 'can be allowed to rise and fall, without awakening the motivating sense of dilemma.' In this regard, the earlier teaching is closer to the ancient [Perennial Wisdom] idea that Liberation is the natural state of existence which has been covered up by an error of view -- or, as Franklin Jones used to put it, 'the failure to Understand.' However, in its emphasis on Narcissus, even early Daist ideology is a philosophy of blame, which assigns a negative value to the conscious state of virtually all human beings (except, of course, Franklin Jones). As such, in the view of this commentator, the Daist ideology is not and has never been a teaching of Liberation, but a teaching of culpability, or sin, not that different from ancient patriarchal systems in which guilt was assigned (and forgiven) from a central authority." (--from Elias' 1999 essay, "Some Notes on the False Teachings of Daism")
[Here's another gem about Da/Franklin Jones' own colossal narcissism:] "The natural setting for a narcissist is a situation where the attention of other people is focused on him or her. The famous moment by the pond -- the moment of preening in front of the mirror -- is just the setup for the moment in the spotlight. Psychology tells us that narcissists, in general, have a distaste for solitude, and feel lonely and uncomfortable by themselves. They are enamored of their own image, for sure, but the proof and justification of their self-love is not in solitude -- it is in seeking the notice and attention of others.... Narcissus' greatest fear is that he does not exist, or that he might not be remembered. So Narcissus builds monuments to himself, temples -- even religious cults. Narcissus wants to be a Star, and he wants to be remembered as the Great One in a story of his own devising.... Traditionally the spiritual hero -- everyone from Buddha to Ramana Maharshi -- expressed humility, discouraged adulation, and turned the attention of listeners away from himself to his message, which was that Truth is found not outside yourself, but in your own heart.... Some of us have noticed that Frank is not content to wait for history to honor him -- he does the whole show himself. He builds the statues, erects the religion institutions around himself, and accumulates and spends the wealth. He looks for sycophants as disciples, and practices well-worn psychological techniques to control their minds and gain their hysterical adulation. He has given himself the honorific of 'The Liberator of All Beings,' and yet we don't find any liberated or enlightened people around him -- NONE. We do find people worshipping him according to his rules, and bowing to photographs he ordered taken. Virtually all his 'recognition' is self-generated. He owns the printing press and he prints the books. He micro-manages the magazines, he chooses the photographs, and he controls the lives of the community of devotees from morning to night. (I remember, as an employee of Dawn Horse Press, hearing him screaming on the telephone to my supervisor about the most minor details.) By the standards of traditional society, Frank is like the man in the madhouse claiming to be the Second Coming of Christ who has taken control of a few other patients and convinced them that he is in fact the Messiah. People walking around outside the walls of the asylum say 'Yes, you think you are Jesus Christ, but we don't think so. You claim to be the Most Enlightened Being Who Ever Was and Ever Will Be, but it just doesn't add up. Your behavior doesn't add up. Your pomposity and your self-important declarations do not add up. By even the most liberal standards, you are quite insane, totally nuts, absolutely bonkers, a real nutcase...' Frank is one man against the world...and less than a thousand people have bought his tune. Like the rats of Hamlin they have followed the mad piper into the mountain of doom." (--from Elias' 1998 essay, "Narcissism and Franklin Jones.")
"Frank's endless talking [about himself] can also be viewed as an attempt to prove something about himself to himself. His complicated self-justification includes reading all the classic spiritual texts and then emulating them, writing his own Gita, writing his own Upanishads, writing his own Buddhism, writing his own esoteric Christianity... Reading him I get the feeling I am being argued into believing in something and somebody...some hypothetical 'Liberator' who has come down to earth to 'save' me from myself. (I also get the impression of a man with a terrible Father-Complex, who is arguing his case before the Highest Court in the Universe.) What's missing in his endless rationalizing? The simplicity of truth. Where's the simple direct and spontaneous heart-speech of a Ramana [Maharshi]? I am sure Frank has tried to simulate that at times, just as he once tried to simulate the Christ of the Gospel of John. But to my knowledge he has never succeeded, because Truth cannot be simulated." (--from Elias' 2000 blog, "What Isn't Enlightenment?")
"Frank's self-apotheosis may be the most outlandish example of psychic-inflation in the history of yoga and transcendence spirituality. According to him, the One Divine Person has never been born or completely Realized until now, in the person of himself, and, as he has said in See My Brightness Face to Face (page 144), 'It is neither possible nor necessary for another seventh stage Adept to appear anywhere.' By his bizarre logic all previous 'Realizations' and 'Enlightenments' have been in some sense incomplete, and therefore dualistic. One Divine Person (Adi Da) existed--but was never Realized! Therefore for all Buddhas, avatars, spiritual masters, and ersatz 'realizers' until now, there must have remained a separation in Consciousness! Further, it follows from Adi Da's statements about himself, that all recognized Buddhas and Realizers -- including Shakyamuni, Krishna, and Jesus Christ --were 'mistaken' about their Realization and their Avatarhood.... There is a river of pure water and there is a madman standing by the river selling glasses of dirty water from his latrine. He tells you he is the only one who has ever really sold pure water and the only one who ever will sell this water and if you want this water you must bow down to him and give him all your earthly possessions. Frank's statement of his timeless and 'all-time' exclusiveness is not meant to be metaphorical. It is an unequivocal declaration of the primacy of the body-mind of Franklin Jones, born 1939.... It is the dualistic mental knot of yogic-ego upon which the entire bizarre psycho-drama of 'Da' turns. Daism, the worship of 'Adi Da' as an idol, is in reality a 'perfect' expression of a man who psychologically and sexually abuses others, who indulges his bodily cravings to the point of damaging his health, and who has sucked endlessly on the financial tit of his followers, until they are left impoverished and desperate." (--from Elias' 1996-8 essay, "The Self-Apotheosis of Franklin Jones.")
"Frank [Da] has skillfully pushed away the realities of life as it is lived by 99.99999 percent of the people on the planet, preferring to act out the age-old myth of a pampered god-king, his every want and desire fulfilled by willing sycophants. OK...that's old news. That aspect of Daism has been soundly trashed from all sides. What came to me now was the thought that Frank is a descender-- he escapes from reality (including spiritual reality) by descending into the vital. It's funny, because the man has always criticized '5th and 6th stage saints and yogis' who escape from this world by ascending into the spiritual realms of the sahasrar ["crown"--for yogic release into formlessness]. Even a good old fashioned nirvakalpa samadhi ('formless ecstacy') is, in Frank's view, 'limitation'--a contraction from the Real, and self-indulgent unenlightenment!... But if you examine how Frank has 'moved attention' after his own 'enlightenment,' a pattern of descent emerges--the manipulation of the body-mind into a conditional manifestation of infantile mental-physical self-gratification. That is to say, his 'spiritual' journey is one of seeking ever-more isolation and enclosure in a womb-like environment, where he will feel protected and cared for by others. The instruments of his search have been unvarnished greed, lust, thievery...and all forms of seduction and mental violence.... Frank and his mates' manipulation of the minds and lives of others to acquire a conditional heaven for themselves is, more than anything else, the definitive statement about what Frank is and what he is doing. Frank has written a few interesting philosophical tracts, which at one time or another impressed Ken Wilber, Georg Feuerstein, and several other religious scholars. Practically speaking, the books mainly serve as consciousness-traps for the young and the weak-minded -- once you enter their mental labyrinth, extrication can take years. But the lionshare of Frank's pitifully selfish existence has been spent on his own comfort and self-indulgence. In my view, he has given nothing of lasting value to the human race." (--from Elias' Oct. 1999 essay, "Frank's Escape From Reality.")
"The financial situation for most Adidamites is pretty scary. Their obligations to their guru include the following:
--15% of gross income tithe
--the Congregational Services fee
--the 5% Treasures support
--regional support fees
--book prepay (you buy books before they are printed)
--magazine and Internet subscriptions
--fundraisers and auctions
--financial gifts 'over and above established agreements.'
Curiously, after all these years, Adidam has never been able to develop a really successful community business -- one that would free devotees from the exorbitant drain on their personal incomes...." (--from Elias' 2000 article, "Daism Report #4: The New Pattern.")
"The funds raised to support Adi Da's 'circumstance' go for many other things besides his expensive hobbies [in Disney art, nude photography, and even more expensive paperweights, such as the collector-item he paid $159,000 to get at a Sotheby's auction in 1998]. He also regularly lavishes expensive gifts on his wives and children [e.g., vast sums for jewelry and sexy lingerie for his wives]. Large amounts are allocated to each person on Frank's gift-giving list -- sources say between $20,000 and $30,000 per person, for birthdays and Christmas. Expensive jewelery will be purchased, designer clothing -- the gifts of a King to his Consorts and his Princesses. These gifts are never reported to the community at large. And the recipients are generally careful not to wear the gifts in the company of devotees. One of the complaints of the so-called 'dissidents' who left Adidam in the mid-1980's was that the guru spent wasteful amounts of money on his own whims and personal appetites. All indications are that Frank's prodigal spending of devotee's money has never moderated, but over the years grown to grandiose proportions." (--from Elias' 2000 article, "Daism Report #3: Adidam Fundraising.")
"Sources paint a quite different picture of what goes on behind the scenes [than what most devotees think about him]. When the veil is pulled away, and 'the man behind the curtain' is revealed, Frank comes across as incessantly foul-mouthed, petty, nagging, totally self-obsessed and controlling. His life is a constant stream of decision-making about his hobbies and his possessions. He obsesses about money, and he micro-manages virtually every detail of ashram life. Among his intimates he often refers to the devotees as 'dummies,' 'damn phonies,' 'kiss-ass retards,' and 'high-faluting egos' who 'diddle me with their crap.' (And those are only a few of the nice things he says about his followers.) His private conversation is laced with obscenities.... Anybody who dares to stand up to his bullying is quickly sent packing.... Sources report that he has to be handled with kid gloves at all times. He will begin to ruminate obsessively about some detail and be unable to get off it, until one of his wives skillfully directs his attention to something else -- sort of like the way you treat a child or a mental patient....." (--from Elias' 2000 article, "Daism Report #4: The New Pattern.")
"One of the most bizarre characteristics of Daism is the facade of 'authority' it tries to present.... Like Scientologists, Daists are programmed to communicate a patronizing sense of their own superiority in all matters, spiritual, psychological, intellectual, etc etc...you name it, they are smarter than you or me in just about every department! This they learn from Frank, whose interminable 'one-upping' masks a profound inferiority complex. The purposes of this false front are to control the language of discourse and to grab the 'chair of teaching' away from the genuine sages. The 'mask' of Daism is also intended to push the interested observer's mind into a pre-determined shape below the threshhold of consciousness. Studying the scriptures of Daism is thus not simply a matter of meditating on a teaching and finding insight -- but a matter of being assaulted by rhetorical bombast and larger-than-life imagery.... In using these methods, Daism is much like any autocratic political movement -- it puts on the the dress, the uniforms, the symbols, the grand imagery, and all of the stage-props that will hypnotize an audience into submission." (--from Elias' 2001 blog, "Posturing and Intimidation in Daism.")
"I was watching a video somebody sent me from around 1997. There were three things on the video-- a Q-and-A [Question & Answer] talk by Frank, a walk through Fear-No-More Zoo [with footage of him trying to handle a squealing pig], and a darshan occasion [an audience with Da, wherein the "shaktipat" energies are flowing]. The talk he gave was one of those berating ones, about failure to practice etc. I was struck by the darkness in the man. All the light that had seemed to be there in former years was gone out of him. He had an aspect that was both disdainful and cruel.... OK, then [in the video] we cut to the darshan occasion. There was a purposeful editing juxtaposition here, because the devotees [under the influence of the Pentecostal-like shaktipat energies] were all making grunting and squealing noises, just like the pig. In fact, it sounded like a damned barnyard in the darshan hall! Frank had that slightly cruel look of amusement he is famous for.... At one point the camera pulled back, showing the crowd getting really worked up, all shouting and hooting and holding up their hands, and there was this sudden wave of inhuman sound, and you could feel their souls just leave their bodies, all at once, and go into him. I was stunned. I hadn't realized how retrograde the thing had become in the last 20 years. Back when I was involved there were some very intelligent and complicated people around, including people who had spent years studying and practicing under Eastern teachers. The group I saw on that tape were simple, average folks, the kind of people who easily accept being controlled and 'owned' by beings more powerful than themselves...and they were being eaten alive." (--from Elias' 2001 essay, "Adam Gave Names to All the Animals.")
"It has always been a 'paradox' that Franklin Jones criticizes [his guru] Muktananda's realization and yet relies heavily on Muktananda's naming-letter for his own claim of legitimacy as a 'guru.' In fact, according to Frank's current '7-stage' system, Muktananda isn't even a realizer-- he's at best a 5th stage yogi, an ego suffering self-limitation and contraction from the Divine Self.... Later came rebellion, when he didn't receive the support that he wanted and expected from Muktananda [or from his earlier teacher, the American-Hindu renunciate Rudrananda / "Rudi"].... Neither of them... was even close to true Realization. Both of them were curiously unfinished men... And these are the teachers [Muktananda and Rudi] that Frank chose, because of their perceived weaknesses, because they were 'pushovers' from whom he felt he could easily obtain the authority to teach a form of the Hindu religion. The result -- Daism -- is a teaching without a real foundation in tradition, and a teacher -- Franklin Jones -- whose central 'heroic-myth' is that of supplanting the father. In fact, there's the nub of Frank's psyche -- he 'kills' the father and 'marries' the mother [the Goddess, whom he claims to have 'fucked' and merged with in a culminating experience in the Vedanta Temple in Hollywood, CA, in 1970]. Frank has always been in an Oedipal rivalry, not only with his teachers, but with his own devotees. As many have testified, he is in competition with every male member of his community. He sleeps with their wives, strips their sense of self-worth, and systematically castrates them, both psychologically and spiritually. Most importantly, he is at war with every apparent masculine manifestation of the Divine, from Buddha to Ramana. In this ultimate Oedipal statement of having supplanted the father, he devalues all gurus except himself -- there is not one ounce of devotion or respect in him for those who came before. He is, quite simply, Oedipus the father-slayer." (--from Elias' 2001 essay, "Frank's Oedipus Complex.")
And one last observation from Tom/Elias on Da: "One good way to think about this is to ask yourself what you would expect of others, if you could, by the grace of God, show them their divine nature. Would you use your transmission as a means to acquire wealth and power? Would you use your siddhi [paranormal power] as a seducer of young women? Would you acquire a thousand slaves to do your every bidding? I'm willing to wager that the answer is 'no' to all of the above. And IMHO [in my humble opinion] only a psychologically undeveloped person would combine 'spiritual transmission' with the lust to acquire countless sexual partners and vast amounts of money, real estate, and material things.... According to Frank and his cohorts you and all the rest of us are 'totally bereft of Divine Truth,' hopelessly mired in illusion, and walking around seeking answers we will never find except by complete surrender to the Da guru. Then you sit with Frank, he shows you his extrordinary consciousness, and all of a sudden you owe your life to him-- he owns you." (--from Elias' 1999 essay, "For a Man Who Had a Vision of Frank.")
There's much, much more insight and revelation from Tom Veitch / Elias (see his posts from 2000 forward on the continuing insane dramas of Da and his minions) and from other former devotees on the strange phenomenon of Franklin Jones / "Adi Da."
If you or anyone you know is involved with Da's organization, please read further at the aforementioned Adi Da Archives site.
I have received a number of supportive and informative emails reinforcing what i have shared here from Tom/Elias and others who have written about their strange times with "crazy Da." I would add a bit more detail to all of the above with the following report. Anonymous source-persons (who have remained anonymous because they are concerned about reprisal if they speak openly), have informed me that Adi Da is a heavy abuser of diverse drugs, some for the sake of his sexual escapades.
As one correspondent wrote me: "The core of Franklin is very simple: drugs. An addictive personality, he has always lied about using drugs, made free use of them while he has proscribed [forbidden] them for others. LSD, poppers (i.e. butyl nitrate, very big), amyl nitrate, cocaine, lots of pot, and other stuff including anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants. So the self-declared Lord of all the worlds and his Sahaja Samadhi has to have his meds to maintain equilibrium? He uses lots of Viagra these days to fuel his sex addiction in addition to periods of non-stop pornography and sex parties. That's what the 'higher levels of practice' considerations are, and why they are so hush-hush. It's basically about sex abuse of adults. His fund raisers for 'art' and other causes -- the money is used to pay for the parties, drugs and lavish lifestyle. He thinks absolutely nothing of screwing his students over financially and physically. In what is left of his mind, others exist [only] for his pleasure and use."
Brief Biographical background on Franklin Jones / Adi Da, quoted from Wikipedia:
According to Adi Da's autobiography, The Knee of Listening, he was born Franklin Albert Jones [in Jamaica, NY, on Nov. 3, 1939] and raised in the New York City borough of Queens. He attended Columbia College, where he received a degree in philosophy, and Stanford University, where he completed his M.A. in English literature with a thesis on Gertrude Stein. In 1965, Adi Da became a disciple of Albert Rudolph, also known as Rudi or Swami Rudrananda. He describes that period as one of human maturation, extensive disciplining of the body, and his first acquaintance with "spiritual transmission" from a human teacher. Following Rudi's instruction, Adi Da married his girlfriend Nina Davis. (They later divorced; she was then and has remained his devotee.) Adi Da described how he reached a point where he had exhausted what he could learn from Rudi, and in 1968, became a disciple of Rudi's Indian teacher Swami Muktananda, whom he first visited in India in early April of 1968, and who, he wrote, gave him extraordinary spiritual experiences and realization. For approximately one year, in 1968-1969, Adi Da was involved with Scientology (mention of which was omitted from subsequent versions of his autobiography, which say that during this period he did not meditate, but "simply listened"). He returned to India in August of 1969 to see Muktananda, who subsequently gave Adi Da a letter acknowledging his yogic realization and authorizing him to initiate others. After a period Adi Da describes as including visionary experiences wherein he was guided by both Muktananda's teacher, Bhagawan Nityananda, and "the Goddess", Adi Da wrote that he re-awakened (as a divine incarnation) to his original divine state of full enlightenment, on September 10, 1970.
Adi Da founded his own group in April of 1972, operating out of a bookstore in Los Angeles, California. Initially known as the Dawn Horse Communion, the movement founded by Adi Da has been through several name changes: previous names have included The Free Primitive Church of Divine Communion, The Johannine Daist Communion, and Free Daism. It is now known as Adidam, or The Way of the Heart. Adi Da permanently broke with Muktananda after a meeting in India in 1973 in which Adi Da and Muktananda engaged in a discussion wherein it became clear they each had very different notions of what the highest, or most enlightened, spiritual state is, and that Muktananda would not acknowledge his enlightenment. Adi Da would later say, however, that he still regularly "connected with" Muktananda (and Rudi) in subtle planes, and that he always held a great love for his former gurus....
[Here is an abridged version of religious studies scholar Scott Lowe’s 1993 essay and 1995 addendum about Da and his community during a time of growing dysfunction, entitled THE STRANGE CASE OF FRANKLIN JONES (Adi Da Samaraj), posted in full at www.adidaarchives.org/scott_lowe_case_da.htm]
[Scott Lowe writes:] When I was asked by [Professor] David Lane [creator of the Neural Surfer website in the mid-1990s, the Internet's first major site to expose dysfunctionally cultic forms of alternative religions] to write an account of my brief period as a member of the community centered around Franklin Jones, I was initially reluctant, for several reasons. I had been involved with the guru for only a few months back in 1974….
[Sacred traditions] understand that… the distinctions modern persons make between spheres of action--physical vs. mental, spiritual vs. material, academic vs. personal, intellectual vs. moral, etc.--are both arbitrary and inappropriate when considering spiritual teachers. As these teachers usually claim, there is no spiritual world divorced from everyday life. The preceptor, or guru, claims the entire life of the disciple as his/her field of action; there is no area of the disciple's life free from the scrutiny and correction of the guru. Taking this claim at face value, it only follows that every aspect of the guru's life is also open to the critical examination of the disciple; there is no life of the spirit divorced from everyday human interactions and mundane concerns. The intellectual work of an English professor may be separate from his sex life, but a guru's is not. Given the inseparability of spirit and matter, the cosmic and mundane, what more relevant way is there to evaluate a teacher than by his or her relationships with persons, possessions, and the environment? While I will do my best to avoid all questionable, unsupported allegations, I will not hesitate to discuss actions taken by Da Free John that seem to bear directly on the question of character. It is my belief, or bias, that spiritual liberation does not free one from all rules of conventional morality.…
My experiences of Da Free John, though brief, occurred at a time of unusual openness. Although the guru has been extraordinarily reclusive for many years now, when I was in the community he was relatively accessible, and his activities were in plain view. With hindsight, it is clear that in 1974 Da Free John was planting the seeds of behaviors that would grow into luxuriant, noxious weeds in [his Northern Calif. community and in] the tropical isolation of his Fijian hideaway.…
In March of 1974 when I arrived in San Francisco, the Dawn Horse Communion [later known as Free Daist Communion/FDC and later as Adidam] was in a period of rapid change and growth.… The guru had no reservations about experimenting on his followers [in matters of diet, alcohol/drug use, sexuality, spiritual practices].… Members of the community were required to write spiritual journals in which they recorded their experiences in meditation, doubts, hopes, growing love for the guru, feelings of surrender, etc. These journals were collected weekly and read by a "big brother" or "big sister," assigned to each member by someone higher up in the organization.... It quickly became apparent that honesty in our journals was not a virtue to be rewarded; any expression of doubt, confusion, or uncertainty led to long, unpleasant probing from the higher-ups and the suggestion that perhaps we were not "mature enough" as disciples to deserve the experience of spending weekends in the master's presence. Our entries soon became formulaic and unrelentingly enthusiastic, loaded with the jargon of surrender and grace….
Overall the mood was exciting, fraught with anticipation of the profound spiritual revolution beginning before our very eyes. There was a strong sense that we were on the vanguard of a new spiritual order, that personal transformation was occurring all around us, by the grace of the guru. Since Da Free John worked his transformative magic by means of a mysterious process of osmosis, or transference of enlightenment [called shaktipat in Sanskrit], the highest priority of everyone was to gain access to the guru. This led to utterly embarrassing attempts to ingratiate ourselves with those in power. The greatest power lay with those who controlled access to the master, so nearly every member of the community vied to please these sternly right-thinking individuals by appearing to be the most surrendered, pious, obedient, hard-working, etc., devotee of all time….
Probationary members were expected to maintain celibacy, while full members were allowed to engage in "mature, responsible sexual relations" (apparently a euphemism for exuberant promiscuity)….
Between jobs, commuting, housekeeping, hygiene (remember the enemas!), meditation, and work on the bookstore, our days were very full; most of us had little time for sleep, and I recall that I was hard pressed to do the reading and writing demanded of a new community member. … [P]ossibly Da Free John wanted his followers to be too busy to think.…
His most intimate associates were roughly his age or perhaps a bit older. He appeared to be especially close to two men [including Sal Luciana, his friend from 1968; the two had been students of Scientology and later planned their own new religion centered on Bubba/Da]; the core of the inner circle seemed to be formed by the three men and their wives, though even members of this tiny elite were not immune to periodic banishment into the outer wilderness of the rank and file. In addition to this core group, there were usually several single men, notable mostly for their arrogance and expensive sunglasses, who flanked the guru like bodyguards when he went out, and a half dozen or so attractive, ethereal younger women, collectively known as the "gopis," making up the inner circle. The members of the inner circle did not appear to work, at least not at the heavy demolition and construction that occupied most weekend hours for the rest of us, and were greatly envied by everyone else. However, it appears that they paid a heavy price for their relative ease.
Like many gurus, Da Free John worked to undermine all attachments between individuals; ultimate allegiance is to the guru alone…. To this end, Da Free John ruthlessly separated couples he deemed too attached to one another, sometimes dissolving marriages or dictating that new relationships be formed. The guru also had sex with a large number of attractive women. This was hardly a secret, especially since many of the women so favored had no qualms about telling others the details. It was my distinct impression that Da Free John was already physically abusive towards women, pushing and slapping them around on occasion. [See earlier cited reports on Da’s sexual violence toward these women, some of whom needed to be hospitalized, one of whom needed to have her genitals medically sewn back up by an in-house doctor on more than one occasion]…. [The] abuse was always interpreted and reported in the context of shaktipat, the imparting of divine energy or grace through physical contact….
When he was scheduled to speak in the ashram's lecture hall, we would assemble early, most people struggling to get as close to the guru's chair as possible, several of us with attitude problems sitting in the back row, as if still in school. We would usually meditate quietly until Da Free John made his dramatic entrance, encircled by the fluttering gopis. The effect was often startlingly electric. These were strange days, even by ashram standards, and the shakti, or spiritual energy, seemed wild, almost uncontrolled. Individuals would writhe or cry out with eerie animal voices as waves of delirious exultation swept through the room. Suddenly, Da Free John would quiet the crowd and, seating himself on his elevated throne, begin his discourse….
During his lectures, Da Free John repeatedly, eloquently, and humorously attacked the narcissistic self-absorption that he claims has overshadowed our original enlightenment and become our habitual state of consciousness. Only by understanding and transcending our petty attachments, dropping our egos, and free-falling mindlessly into the sheltering arms of God can we recover the ecstatic, unreasonable happiness that has been our true condition all along. The way to reach this state of supreme happiness is to surrender to the guru at all times and in all situations….
When he had finished speaking and answering questions, he would abruptly rise and walk out, followed by his scrambling entourage. The rest of us would slowly collect our wits and trickle out into the warm, dark night.
Although Da Free John was most impressive, he was not at all approachable; he had no friends. Everyone was his student and everyone needed to be prodded, poked, cajoled, tricked, and even tortured into surrendering the attachments that prevented them from living the blissful enlightenment that was their true, already existing state. At the time I wondered what it would be like to have no peers, to be beyond correction, to admonish others but never to be admonished oneself, and concluded that one could only remain sane if one were "fully enlightened." Anyone less than a "perfect master" would be certain, I reasoned, to end up like one of those looney, sadistic pedophile emperors from the declining years of Rome. In retrospect, I suppose that Da Free John was already [by 1974, three years after starting his public “ministry” or “career”] losing his balance; he certainly seemed to enjoy stripping persons of their "attachments" with an enthusiasm that might seem cruel….
Towards the end of my stay [in 1974] I began to realize that Da Free John was gradually asserting a claim to be an avatar, an incarnation of God on earth. He actually sets it out in his first book, The Knee of Listening, when he describes his childhood experience of basking in "the Bright," his childhood term for the divine light that he experienced from birth…. [The] claim is that little Franklin Jones was uniquely enlightened from birth and is, in fact, God in human form. An avatar does not need the imprimatur of a mere swami or a western yogi....
While establishing his status as an avatar, Da Free John claimed to produce a number of miracles…. In retrospect, the "miracles" and, most importantly, individuals' reactions to them may provide a key to interpreting the group consciousness that Da Free John was constructing in his community. It seems most likely that no one actually saw the marvels the guru claimed to have produced, but the erstwhile devotees' responses to Da Free John's claims provided a litmus test to determine who had or had not fully surrendered to the guru's version of reality, thereby giving a reliable criterion for weeding the ranks of the rapidly growing community.
Although Da Free John was vociferous in condemning "cultic" behaviors and blamed his ashram members for repeatedly falling into the trap of blind guru worship, the entire organization of the community was designed to inculcate and enforce the very behaviors the guru ostensibly despised. Our "spiritual journals" provided an efficient means for monitoring individuals' attitudes and spotting ideological or behavioral deviations as soon as they arose, in addition to their previously discussed value as tools of self-imposed indoctrination. While it is possible that a controlling, totalistic ideology, with an accompanying "brain police," is almost certain to develop at some point in the life of any tight, committed religious community, it is my opinion that Da Free John was fully conscious of the intense, self-regulating socialization taking place in his community and was most likely the principal author of the systems of control. It seems that there were few areas in the management of the ashram that fell outside the guru's scrutiny. No matter what he said about the spiritual pitfalls of the "cultic mentality," Da Free John insisted upon a community that embraced the most slavish and unquestioning traditions of Indian guru worship….
Da Free John could not imprison anyone; rather than holding individuals against their will, he made them plead for admission. Given the constant scrutiny directed upon new members, it is fair to suggest that we were intensively socialized, but the pressure to conform came from within at least as much as without. The guru claimed to offer access to profoundly ecstatic spiritual realization, and the only way to gain access to that experience was by playing his game. The better you played the game, by showing your devotion and obedience, the greater your contact with the guru and the more frequent your opportunities for grace. We were all willing, ardent competitors in this game, though some of us came to resent the rules….
Obviously, the community had an absolute focus on the person of Da Free John, and he figured in nearly every conversation; members became saturated with an atmosphere of devotion and idol-worship, but there was little more coercion in this than one would find among a group of Elvis worshippers on a charter bus pilgrimage to Graceland. … [M]ost of the socialization I experienced was the product of my own will and desires; Da Free John was a splendid salesman, to be sure, convincing hundreds of us that he was the only true master of our time and the only route to liberation, but we coaxed, enticed, and cajoled ourselves and each other into accepting his claims. We are responsible for that choice….
The portrait that emerges from the  San Francisco Chronicle articles is disturbing and plausible. Da Free John appears to have become a reclusive, binge-drinking misogynist, still brilliant and charismatic, but violent and sadistic towards his most committed and dependent followers. That one of the two men closest to him in 1974 was, in 1985, contemplating a lawsuit for "seventeen years of emotional stress" does not bode well. At the very least, it suggests that Da Free John is an ineffective teacher, since seventeen years of discipleship ought to be long enough for a follower to achieve some of the positive results of meditation, like stress reduction. It is even more alarming to realize that the guru's closest long-term followers felt that they had been manipulated and abused. After all, these are the persons who have been most intimately involved in Da Free John's work of transformation over the course of several decades. If in this time they have not benefited spiritually, could anyone else have?…
The only individuals who could possibly curb Da Free John's excesses are those who most believe in his divinity, and they blame themselves for their lack of understanding when his behavior seems unreasonable. Ironically, the self-obsession that he has diagnosed as the basic human predicament is reflected in everything he now writes; he has become the Narcissus he so forcefully critiques….
His first book, The Knee of Listening, has grown from an original two-hundred seventy-one pages to a mammoth six-hundred five page text. Not only have new prefaces, appreciations and appendices been added, but the descriptions of early phases in the Guru's life and spiritual search have been significantly rewritten.… It is hard not to get the strong feeling that, even more than before, Da is busily creating his own hagiography [holy mythology]….
Despite Da's many attempts to bolster and augment his "spiritual genealogy," it is clear that his later, most powerful realizations, the ones that have convinced him of his unique status and destiny, have never been publicly confirmed by any other living master….
In traditions where the belief in, and search for, a final realization is a dominant motif, there seem to be marked tendencies towards self-deception, grandiose ego-inflation, and antinomian excess--in short, all the problems that appear to be manifested by Da Free John….
In an excellent unpublished paper on Da Free John, the well known author, editor, and consciousness researcher John White makes a simple, obvious point about "service" that struck me with great force. What White notes is that our planet is in desperate straits… there are still vast numbers of vexing social and economic problems that need to be addressed, the sooner the better. What then is the focus of the selfless service promulgated by Da, a man supposedly in profound harmony with the entire spectrum of suffering life forms? The answer is straightforward and simple-minded: all service, from beginning to end, is to be dedicated to satisfying the personal needs of the Guru…. Can't the devotees serve Da Free John through serving the needy, much as Mother Theresa serves Jesus by helping the poor? How do the devotees serving Da differ from those Evangelical Christians who pay lip service to Jesus while doing absolutely nothing to alleviate the suffering of those around them? … [C]atering to the sexual, financial, and emotional needs of an avatar is [considered by Da and Daists] of greater cosmic significance than helping the homeless and hungry….
His message now is more clear than ever: despite the fact that we are all one and all equally enlightened in our true nature, we should worship only Da, think only of Da, and serve only Da….
… Adi Da spends most of his time being worshipped by a handful of especially devoted followers, while he lolls about half-naked in a tropical paradise. This gives the impression that the Guru is pursuing a rather oblique approach to enlightening the planet. The video footage of devotees bowing at his feet provides images more appropriately associated with medieval royalty than selfless saints. One can imagine Da in a previous lifetime as a minor European nobleman, exploiting his impoverished serfs, sleeping with their wives and daughters, and living a splendidly dissipated life of luxury, all in the name of the divine right of kings.
Letter from a former "reluctant 'devotee'" (and my response comment):
----- Original Message -----
From: "Danielle" [name changed to protect anonymity]
Sent: Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Subject: Adi Da
I came across your wonderful web page regarding Adi Da. I was a reluctant “devotee” of his for about 13 years, as my husband was, and still is, a devotee of his. Thank you for stating so clearly what I feel and felt for so long. I have not been able to put into words my “opinion, doubts, etc.” I felt much like the child watching the Emperor with no clothes. No one else seemed to notice. I must have been at fault.
We moved away from the ---- community [location deleted to protect anonymity] and I began to get some perspective on it all. Through much searching, I found Amma [Mata Amritanandamayi] (actually She had me in her clutches for probably many life times), my wonderful hugging mother and I am so happy. My husband feels I betrayed him. But we seem to be getting through it all. We shall see.
I find it so interesting how the Adi Da community is constantly asking for money for Adi Da’s “toys” as you put it, while Amma asks for money to build homes, hospitals, save women from prostitution, [adopt] orphanages… [etc.]. She wants nothing for herself and is actually disturbed if a devotee spends money on her when it could be going to someone who has real needs.
My husband sneers at the fact that I am a devotee of a mere 4th stage teacher. Oh, my!!! To be 4th stage!!!!
Anyway, thanks again for your wonderful work.
--"Danielle" [name changed to protect anonymity]
Thank you for your email and kindly appreciative words. I'm sorry to hear of what you've gone through with Da (and your husband's attachment to Da), but i am so happy that you found Amma, or vice versa (yes, no doubt she's been your guide in other lifetimes and soul realms).
>My husband feels I betrayed him. But we seem to be getting through it all. We shall see.
Your husband some years ago likely became very "identified" as a Da devotee. He assumed that you were, too. When you broke the identification and the hypnotic fascination with the Da cult, it is predictably going to be perceived by your husband as an implicit threat to your mutual "oneness" and "comfort level" and "familial togetherness" with Da. Your husband is likely unconsciously experiencing cognitive dissonance, a deep-down lurking suspicion that he has not made the right choice but the wrong choice in identifying himself with Da and his cult. The fact that you have broken away from this identification and can now articulate how Amma is a much more "divine" manifestation (by all reasonable criteria [though see Gail Tredwell's 2013 book Holy Hell on how even Amma possesses an occasionally dark side, likely due to her abusive upbringing, that began to emerge in private with Gail/"Gayatri," who was Amma's longtime personal attendant from 1980-99]), all of this disturbs what was for some years an unchallenged, complacent identification in your husband's psyche. So, on a subconscious or preconscious level, your husband most likely strongly resents both you and Amma. Hence his irrational emotional expressions of sneering resentment toward Amma and feeling "betrayed" by you--an emotion much more appropriately merited by Da, who has betrayed all his devotees by lying, manipulating and voraciously taking their money, energy, time and devotion all these years.
>My husband sneers at the fact that I am a devotee of a mere 4th stage teacher. Oh, my!!! To be 4th stage!!!!
Great line, Danielle! And yes, it's sad how some people can be so bamboozled by false schemas and negative spin from some of these deeply disturbed individuals like Da, et al., who always want to put themselves over others and hype themselves as "the highest." That is a mental/emotional disorder, not an expression of "divinity"!
Well, may Da and all beings be healed and genuinely liberated from the "me"-dream, ASAP, by Divine Grace.
And may your husband come to see that being fully conscious and loving in relationship with his wife is where most of his real spiritual work lies, not in going any further into the complicated web of duplicity and manipulation with the voracious pseudo-godman, Da, whose misuse of certain minor powers will, alas, one day or aeon come back to bite him in the bum. As for those "awesome powers" that Da and certain other pseudo-godmen are said to have (the shaktipat "energy-transmission" theatrics and fireworks), folks can realize that there are all sorts of seemingly powerful souls running around the multiple planes of the Kosmos--often showing a mix of karmas including deva (shining celestial being) and asura (callous demon); these complicated souls may appear to have very laser-like minds and powerful energy bodies (zapping you with animal magnetism and apparent charisma), and such souls usually try to impress and seduce other souls/persons with these formidable deva-asura karmic personalities. But there's nothing impressive about such figures when they take a human birth and, instead of clearing up their own samskaras or vasanas (selfish tendencies), play oneupsmanship games on other human beings. If your husband were truly clear, he would see Da for what he is--a complicated mix of deva, asura as well as ghost and hell-dweller samskara-tendencies (look at all those pathetic addictions to drugs, sex, and toys) pretending to be "free" and "Divine." As it is, your husband, like a number of folks, likely has some old karmic connections with Da that are being played out in this lifetime. Maybe they were once part of a tight group of soldiers or bandits or religious cult members hundreds or thousands of years ago and want to stay connected in this life.
Ultimately there is nothing to worry about--all souls, including your husband and Da, will eventually wake up from the dream and come back to Awareness as Brahman [Reality], because there is only Brahman. Alas, this may take aeons, but time is really nothing in Timeless Divinity. In the meantime, i do hope that all goes well for you and your husband, Danielle. I'm sure you realize that you can always penetratingly see through his (and your and everyone's) ego-tendencies, and lovingly view him and everyone as transparent for the Self-shining Atma-- Absolute Awareness-Aliveness-Isness-Emptiness-Openness-Fullness!
Love and Liberation for all beings (the One Alone)...
Om Namah Sivaya
Aum Amriteshvaryai Namaha
Featured for most of the rest of this long webpage is my correspondence with a Da devotee, a published psychologist with a clinical practice, whom I will here call “David” to protect his anonymity, with extensive point-by-point critical comments on his lengthy case for promoting Da.
The following can be read in the context of the very old tradition of debate in India, Tibet, China, and other sacred cultures, lovingly arguing the merits or demerits of a certain position. While it can be taken seriously on the pragmatic level of justice and injustice, right and wrong, healing and harm, on the ultimate level of Divine Consciousness all of this is but hilarious "dream-play"! I thank David for his passion and, yes, his devotion to spirituality in the context of his ardent relation to his beloved guru, Adi Da. I leave it up to the reader to decide whether the object of David's devotion is worthy of being worshipped or not, and to assess what might be the real cost of this devotion...
For what it's worth, i'll preface here (and repeat at the close of this rather long correspondence), the comment from a reader, a former member of the Da cult starting from the late 1970s for the next 25 years, someone who knows "David," who wrote to me after reading the following correspondence between myself and "David":
...Yes it [Adidam] is a cult and much more of a cult than you know. You were being nice to "David" but scholarly and relational—however, much nicer than I would have been... responding to his very deluded position. He regurgitated the same spiritual babble that all members of Adidam have brainwashed themselves with—simply repeating Franklin's language and reinforced constantly by and with each other. Folie a deux—more like "folly at 1000." And by the way, the Adidam cult has never been much more than 1,200 or so since 1982—exaggerated at 1,500 at times. It has never grown since 1982. And real practitioners: I'd say a handful—less than 100 worldwide—whatever "real practitioners" would be in Adidam. And I can tell you that Adidam is one complete delusion—bogus from beginning to end. And Franklin is also bogus from beginning to end (even before 1970 as revealed by studying his early unpublished writings).... Yes, a lot of misery Franklin has created—and yes, there is no demonstration [of God-Realization] at all in their community—much less 7th stage Realization (whatever that is). [It's] more like a community of childish immature 2nd stagers.... If you knew what I know, all of your insights would be further validated by 1000%.... To sum up: If you are an Adidam member, you've got your balls cut off. Franklin makes sure of that.
----- Original Message -----
To: Timothy Conway
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 9:52 AM
Subject: Integral Therapy
> Dear Timothy:
I have completed a website recently oriented toward integral therapy, based specifically on the "Radical" Non-Dualism of Adi Da Samraj. You might be interested to see the therapy I make of nondualism, especially "Radical" Non-Dualism. […]
> I have been a devotee of Adi Da Samraj for over 25 years. Recently, I completed a doctoral program in which I based my dissertation on a comparative study of the ego in Freud, Jung, and Adi Da. I have several pieces from this work published at this time (The Humanist Psychologist and The International Journal of Transpersonal Studies).
> Several more are submitted to other journals. Perhaps you would be interested in having some of my articles appear on your website. Please take a look and see.
> Also, I am including a links section on my home page. Would you like me to link to your page? I would certainly like yours to link to mine, if you are so inclined. Let me know, and all the best to your success. Warm regards,
June 1, 2007
Thank you for your email. I'm really glad to know that you've gone deeply into therapeutic Radical Nondualism and are writing and web-publishing your work.
It's fun for me to hear of your longtime Adi Da connection. What a wild and crazy character is this dear soul Da! I loved much of his early writings and talks--except when he would write or talk so narcissistically about himself! I read almost all the printed material back in the mid- to late-1970s, and even seriously thought of joining the Daist Communion (or whatever it was called back then) around 1978, had lots of dreams of Da, blasting me with Saktipat and then asking me why i wasn't renewing the subscription to the Daist journal (!), and so forth. [After a long trip to India in 1980-1] I was living in S.F. attending grad school when the major controversy over the legal suits erupted in the mid 1980s. Around that time i also had occasion to have some in-depth talks with former longtime very close associates of Da, who all painted him as a megalomaniac and sociopath.
A few years back i made use of the power of the internet to find a ton of sensitively-written, sophisticated stuff by former close devotees painting a very sour picture of Da, not just during his bad-boy "Crazy Wisdom" period in the 1970s and 1980s, but all the way into recent years (there are good posts on this by "Elias" and there's also a good post by one woman devotee about her time recently spent at Da's Fijian island in 2005--a classic description of a very dysfunctional cult, rife with fear and manipulation).
The bottom line, David, is that one of these days i'd be interested to read your work, but there's no way i can promote at my website anything having to do with Da or his organization without a big, big asterisk and caveat. Have you seen the "warning signs of dysfunctional cults" at the "Healthy Spirituality" section of my website? Da evidently is a classic case of the "authoritarian personality" who has abused lots and lots of people. And if you've never seen my distinction between 1) authentic gurus, 2) authentic crazy wisdom adepts, 3) good spiritual friends, and 4) pretenders, you can
read an essay
i drafted on this.
And, David, if you've not already done so, you might really wish to read the very intelligent, heartfelt, and even remarkably fair-minded set of articles and essays written by several longtime ex-members ("Elias," Mark Miller, Jim Chamberlain, and others) to see why i've come to these conclusions. I've attached the Word files with this email.
Please know, David, that I always like to be fair and i myself remain quite open-minded to hearing some good things from the "pro-Da" camp, but it better be coming from a place of real integrity and honesty, not slavish devotion, heavy conditioning and brainwashing--like some of the unconvincing stuff i've heard from Daists over the years. :-)
It's not enough that Da (like a number of famous/infamous authoritarian cult leaders) is tremendously loquacious, well-read, insightful, and has certain siddhis [powers] and tons of animal magnetism and knows how to set people up with immense and fervent expectations.
So, David, you seem like an intelligent, sensitive person--do you want to make the case for me that Da is someone any of us should still take seriously, despite the trail of wreckage and what clearly looks like a violation of everything Da himself warned about in the 1970s--narcissicism, [and egoic involvements with] sex, food and money?
Here's wishing you everything wonderful, David!
Love to you, to Da, and to all beings (the One)
----- Original Message -----
To: ""Timothy Conway""
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 2:25 PM
Subject: Re: Integral Therapy
> Dear Timothy:
> Fascinating! I've read considerably from the various sources you've mentioned, among others, which object to Adi Da in one way or another. But you are the first person I've read whose commentary was in the least bit compassionate or tolerant. What a treat! Of course, I have come to the opposite conclusion than you having been exposed to pretty much the same sources, but what a relief to have the conversation not come down to withering polemics.
> I believe I will take you up on your offer. Since you are so busy, I'll keep it as simple as possible, although I get the feeling your curiosity might be somewhat piqued at this point. Anyway, let me mull it over and consider what might be the best way to convey how I reached the exact opposite conclusions from your own. Should prove to be interesting!
From: Timothy Conway
Sent: Friday, June 01, 2007 2:25 PM
Subject: Re: Integral Therapy
Yes, David, i would welcome anything you have to contribute my way on this "matter of Da." What a great lîlâ [Divine Play] in a dream-world made of pure Awareness! :-)
One thing i forgot to mention in my earlier message is that i feel quite optimistic that there have been countless cases of individuals who brought such sincerity, devotion, and dedication to their spiritual process that it almost really doesn't matter who the object of their devotion is--in other words, even around some very dysfunctional figures, some disciples have become genuinely God-realized. It seems that the Divine One uses some of these strange, spiritually-unfinished characters (naturally, i'm thinking of Da here, along with many other figures) as an "occasion" whereby others can awaken from the dream.
My point, therefore, is that i would never want to sway you from your life of devotion to Da within the Daist Communion group (or whatever the current name is), if it really serves you.
A question, though: have you ever enjoyed the darshan [company or "sight" or audience] of any other real masters other than Da? Did you ever meet Amma Amritanandamayi, Anandamayi Ma or Anasuya Devi (i wrote a book on women spiritual luminaries that includes chapters on all three)? How about Master Hsuan Hua, the illustrious patriarch of the most powerful lineage of Ch'an Buddhism from China (he settled in his centers in S.Francisco and northern Calif. from the 1970s onward)? There are numerous other figures i could mention, but these should serve for starters....
I find so often in life that people will hang out with a teacher for decades without ever even having seriously checked out to see if someone else might really be the one best meant for their Heart. In the old days and even into the present era within authentic sacred traditions, spiritual aspirants would travel around visiting different saints, sages and adepts, always realizing that the Divine One is ever within the Heart. Authentic gurus and ch'an/zen/son buddhist masters would send their disciples off to study with other masters for a time. One simply doesn't see any of this graciousness among the authoritarian gurus, who cling to their disciples out of great neediness.
As Nisargadatta Maharaj [d.1981] told a group of us, "external gurus are just dream figures telling you to wake up from the dream!" And, as is well known, the great Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi [d.1950] would say, to anyone obsessing over him as an "external guru," "There is only the Inner Guru.... The external guru says: 'There is only the Inner Guru'!" :-)
Best wishes to you, dear David
Om Tat Sat Om
[David then wrote back a couple of weeks later with a long defense of Da and David’s own experiences in first being drawn to Da and then experiencing a profound healing with his chronically "cowering" physical-emotional posture after a major “shaktipat” energy-empowerment experience with Adi Da at the latter’s Fiji island retreat center.]
----- Original Message -----
To: Timothy Conway
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2007 3:12 PM
Subject: Re: Integral Therapy
I appreciate your inquiry into my relationship with Adi Da and the scope of my spiritual search outside of his company. The testimonial I've written [see below for entirety of document] to address the issue of why Adi Da should be taken seriously will no doubt answer these questions. To put it simply, since I don't share the view that Adi Da is lacking as a guru, the motivation for me to "look around" for other gurus is pretty much non-existent. Yet, on the other hand, I have surveyed the landscape over the years and have some idea of who's who out there.
By the way, the testimonial is 14 pages long. I've run it by a few of my friends for the sake of editing and making it an easy read for you. I decided the issue you raise is not only essential for my own spiritual process, but would make a good framework for a more general piece on my website. That is, I plan to put the testimonial on my website as an open letter to critics of Adi Da, to help them appreciate the reasons why they might take Adi Da seriously too. Hope you are O.K. with that.
I should mention that I have found your correspondence to be
compassionate and enlivening. Some people would be offended by the off-hand manner in which you dismiss Adi Da as a legitimate guru. But, as you'll see in my testimonial, even people deeply intimate and caring toward each other can still honestly disagree. All the best to you and thank you for this stage of my sadhana! The attached file on leelas is intended to be read after the testimonial, to share even more insight into the reasons why I take Adi Da seriously.
*** Timothy's critique of "David's" case for recommending Da:
Thank you for sending along the "Leelas" document, with its very interesting report on your first encounter in college with that photo of Da [the one depicted on the cover of Da’s first book, The Knee of Listening] and the healing of your posture and your various "shaktipat" type energy-experiences at Fiji on the first retreat. I wrote my master's thesis on the "Phenomenon of Energetic Empowerment," a crosscultural study of shaktipat, pentecostalist "Holy Spirit," baraka and latihan type experiences worldwide, ancient and contemporary, and experienced directly in myself and others some of the phenomena, so it's great to read this account from you. One day I hope to get the time to turn the M.A. thesis into a book; your description is so detailed, well-written and heartfelt, I may ask to include it in the book, with your permission. It's an amazing phenomenon when this intelligent energy/Energy comes through, and, of course, the phenomenon is hugely under-reported and generally ignored by almost every scholarly writer on religious movements and religious history.
I appreciate all the time and energy you've put into writing the testimonial, too, and I agree with some of what you say, for instance, certain general spiritual insights and principles. Predictably, I found much to critique--but as I said in a previous email, in essence, if your own connection with Da you find he is serving you and authentically awakening you to God and to real freedom in love and peace and empathetic caring for all beings, then by all means stay with him, and treat all my remarks as "dream-like" and "illusory," if you so wish. But please be aware that it is because of these many concerns I have that I myself CANNOT recommend Da to others, and, alas, nothing you've written here even begins to persuade me.
If anything, hearing a lot of the rationales and justifications and violations of "good spiritual sense" give me even more pause for concern. [David, I really dislike having to say that!]
I've taken the extensive time to go ahead and made bracketed, boldfaced remarks after some of what you've written. I've also highlighted some of your words for clarity, so you know exactly to what words I'm responding.
Please excuse the apparently very harsh tone here. All of this commentary really does come from a place of love and the realization that "whatever happens is meant to happen, otherwise something else would be happening" and that, fundamentally and ultimately, ONLY GOD IS HERE, the One Actor playing all the parts, including the Da-role.
But what I've just said in that prior sentence is an "absolute level" teaching, and sometimes we need to make "pragmatic/conventional level" judgments for the sake of justice and remedying ills. Otherwise, if we only constrain ourselves to speaking absolute level teachings ("advaita-speak") and deride pragmatic concerns as "mere illusion," we make a mockery of everything stood for by M. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and leaders of the abolitionist, suffrage, economic rights, environmental rights, and many other justice movements. Surely, as someone who works with abused populations, you will understand my concern, David, not to "mix up truth levels."
My point is that the criticism here of some of what you have written has to be more *blunt* than normal, because for so many years it appears that Da has consistently placed himself above criticism and used every trick in the book to keep others "one down" to his "oneupsmanship" tactics. And it seems that many of his continuing devotees don't see this. As your essay indicates to me.
Again, David, please be aware that, as I might have said, I am hugely busy in terms of my earthside schedule, usually working 80-90 hours a week (I see it all as adventure and divine play, not really "work"), so I probably won't have the time to continue on with a dialogue on this. You're welcome to respond to whatever I write, but I may not be able to communicate anything back. Ah, these earthside time-space "limitations."
Atma-Brahman [Divine Self-Reality] freely, infinitely abides!
David, my final introductory point to my critique of your essay is this: ***may your time and experience with Da continue to grow and blossom and bear abundant, wonderfully rich fruit!!***]
[David writes a long post on behalf of Adi Da. My critical comments, given in boldface print, begin to appear after David's opening several paragraphs; I have frequently inserted his name "David" as a term of address, just to distinguish for the reader that it is my voice, not his, making the point:]
So, we have both had dreams of Adi Da, pursued our own spiritual paths, and have had encounters with many of Adi Da’s devotees, past and present. Yet, we have each come to diametrically opposed conclusions about Adi Da based on these events. Amazing! At best, I can only hope to paint the picture of my own story. To help serve this purpose, I have attached a file describing my first meeting with Adi Da, in which I became convinced of his enlightened state, as well as another incident in which I was the beneficiary of a miraculous healing at his hands. These stories go a long way toward explaining my gratitude and deeply heart-felt appreciation of this remarkable Guru. As you will see when you read them, I have good reasons.
Since you have challenged me to make the case that Adi Da is someone who should be taken seriously, I will do my best to explain at least why I do. I think it best to directly address the issue underlying your challenge: some do not take him seriously. Let me start with my mother. [NOTE: David reports to me of her poignant death ten years earlier from cancer.] I had brought a recent picture of Adi Da that was noticeable for a particular quality: given the lighting and the angle of his face in this particular photograph, he was the spitting image of my father! I found it really amusing. Unfortunately, my parents had divorced a long time ago, under acrimonious circumstances that had never fully healed. In pointing out the similarity to her, she held the photograph in her hands and pondered it for many moments. Finally, she announced her recognition of my comment, offering this insight: “They’re both bastards!”
[...] As things turned out, this was to be the last coherent statement I ever heard from my mother.[...] Needless-to-say, this is a bitter-sweet memory. Although the innocence she had fallen into made her comment amusing and endearing, even so, it went through me like a knife. Unfortunately, we never had a chance for closure on this matter. However, there has been no shortage of similar incidents over the years [with critics of Da], indeed, not unlike the encounter we are having now. Consequently, I would like to use this as an opportunity to address her concerns at last[....] You could think of this exercise as a catharsis for me, whereby I exorcise some of my demons. I hope you don’t mind.
In considering my reasons why Adi Da should be taken seriously, it was surprising to discover how simple they are to state. Given the acrimony appearing on the internet, I had expected the matter to be far more complicated. But the legitimacy of Adi Da’s work can be summarized rather easily, in three colloquial propositions:
1. the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth;
2. the truth that sets the heart free; and
3. the truth that explains every aspect of reality.
If you were to stop right now, you would have all you need to understand why I hold Adi Da dear. But, in that case, you would never know the reasons why I came to these conclusions.
I have been a devotee for nearly twenty-five years, starting in the early eighties. At that time I was a returning student, flush with the effort to finish college, as you can see from the attached story of my first meeting with Adi Da. Since that time, I have competed two master’s degrees and a doctorate degree in the field of clinical psychology. I have also studied seriously in the area of comparative religion in between these bouts of academia, while engaged in my spiritual practice with Adi Da. Over this period I have read hundreds of books, many of which steeped in their respective spiritual or psychological tradition, as well as scholarly rigor. As a result of this study, I have come to the conclusion that even the best books are mostly untrue. Unfortunately, conventional wisdom is inevitably compromised by a triumvirate of attributes, which limit it in this way: redundant, erroneous, or irrelevant.
Even on its own, the first of the three propositions of truth mentioned above establishes that Adi Da is someone to take seriously. I have yet to find a single sentence in his astoundingly vast corpus of work either erroneous or irrelevant. Redundant, yes! (I’ll get back to that in a moment.) But in no way either of the other two. More to the point, the nature of his work makes this accomplishment that much more astounding, for he is not speaking of relatively simple matters, as might be said of one’s hobbies or current events. Rather, his work addresses the most sublime and profound nature of existence possible, such as nondual reality. Indeed, his work is utterly confirmed in the most eminent scriptures and doctrines mentioned throughout the history of the nondual spiritual traditions. Especially early in my study of his work, I have not always understood everything he says. Nonetheless, everything that I have understood has in each case been confirmed in my own experience and by my studies. I’ll never understand why this alone is not sufficient to impress his critics. Truth is held in the highest regard in the sanctum of the courtroom, the standard by which testimony is considered both admissible and meaningful. It ought to have at least as much significance in discussions such as ours.
In fact, the only legitimate complaint in this regard that I can see is the redundancy of his writing. Virtually every paragraph says the same thing! And it can all be boiled down to essentially a single statement: there is only God, and Adi Da is that One. Some people find this claim narcissistic and egoic, which is certainly ironic, given his relentless criticism of exactly these qualities. I’ll return to the topic of his divinity again later. As for redundancy, I have finally come to realize how important it is. After all, the ego is a formidable aspect of our nature. It simply won’t go away. In my clinical practice, I work with people with mental disorders and find that most people don’t change very much, even despite years of constant, sincere effort.[...] It seems like you are always talking about the same old issues—and you are! And so is Adi Da, precisely because we, too, are geniuses of resistance. Indeed, the ego can make even our greatest help look like evil. It is often said that the greatest evil ever done by the Devil was to make it appear he doesn’t exist. But this is not true. The greatest evil was to make it appear that God doesn’t exist—especially in human form. To my mind, the crux of our discussion comes down to this: Is Adi Da really God? If so, then drawing attention to himself as he does makes perfect sense—such is simply the nature of worshiping God.
Of course, one could dismiss Adi Da’s utterly profound utterances on nondualism as merely abstract formulations, inapplicable to ordinary human life, or perhaps even derivative of other sages and of no great consequence. But this would represent a false reading, especially in the case of the latter statement, for his work is remarkably original and innovative within spiritual literature. Indeed, the scope of his revelation on the seventh stage of life and “Radical” Non-Dualism is unprecedented. (For more information on the seven stages of life, visit Adidam.org.) Although the language of certain premonitory texts, such as the Lankavatara Sutra, Avadhoota Gita, and Tripura Rahasya, sound similar, they can be distinguished from the revelation of Adi Da in three significant ways:
1. no historical text mentions all aspects of the seventh stage realization,
2. certain aspects of the seventh stage realization appear in no historical texts at all, and
3. no historical text mentions only the realization of the seventh stage.
Again, this alone sets Adi Da apart as someone to take seriously. Existing texts represent primarily what Adi Da calls the sixth stage point of view of “Ultimate Non-Dualism”—with only certain passages within them suggestive of the more profound and all-pervasive realization of seventh stage “Radical” Non-Dualism. Adi Da explains the difference between his unique revelation of the seventh stage of life and the seventh stage intuitions of these premonitory texts this way:
The (always potential) seventh stage Realization and Demonstration did not Appear until I Appeared, in order to Fully Reveal and to Fully Demonstrate the seventh stage of life.… Therefore, relative to the seventh stage of life, the Great Tradition of mankind (previous to My Avataric Divine Appearance here) produced only limited foreshadowings (or partial intuitions, or insightful, but limited, premonitions), in the form of a few, random philosophical expressions that appear in the midst of the traditional sixth stage literatures.
None of the traditional texts communicate the full developmental and Yogic details of the progressive seventh stage Demonstration (of Divine Transfiguration, Divine Transformation, and Divine Indifference). Nor do they ever indicate (nor has any traditional Realizer ever Demonstrated) the Most Ultimate (or Final) Demonstration of the seventh stage of life (Which End-Sign Is Divine Translation). Therefore, it is only by Means of My own Avataric Divine Work and Avataric Divine Word that the truly seventh stage Revelation and Demonstration has Appeared, to Complete the Great Tradition of mankind.
[NOTE to David from Timothy: Da can talk all he wants about the 7th stage, but his own approach to his students and demands of them have certainly NOT been 7th stage (i.e., in Da's own way of describing 7th stage teachings/texts: the free presumption of the inherent Divinity of everyone, not requiring any methods or strategems to overcome ego and "realize God"). Rather, it is the case that most of Da's writings from the last three decades are in fact obsessed with the “dilemma” of his students not having realized his Divinity, not having given enough love and tangible gifts to him, etc., and he makes worship of himself the means—a 5th stage “methodology”—for these students to realize God. In other words, no one else is allowed to have 7th stage realization, and Da demands that everyone succumb to him at a "5th stage" level of practice, which only tends to reinforce the idea that they, not he, are still afflicted with the bogeyman of "ego." Da always gets to be "right" and everyone else is perennially "wrong."]
To this point, all spiritual masters have necessarily worked within the cultural constraints imposed by their particular time and place. Only in the last half of the twentieth century has technology and affluence allowed for the creation of a true world community. Consequently, the conditions have only recently occurred whereby the provincialism of local customs and loyalties could be overcome, and the world’s great spiritual literature completed in a single and all-inclusive revelation. A world teacher could not have appeared before this time—the conditions simply were not right for it. Adi Da has incarnated precisely for the fulfillment of this purpose, to be the greatest possible aid to humanity. His revelation of seventh stage wisdom is not intended to fulfill the objectives of any particular sect or denomination. Rather, it is intended to be a comprehensive culmination of the entire Great Tradition of the world’s religions. To my mind, this too is more than enough reason to take Adi Da seriously.
[But David, the famous "Hugging Mother" Amma Amritanandamayi is fulfilling this World Teacher function much more impressively than Da, who, with all his P.R. campaigns and stratagems and boasting, has never been able to effect such an impact on the world and multitudes of individual spiritual aspirants as Amma has done. (For example, many, many gurus in India and spiritual teachers abroad have lauded Amma and her work, she was invited by the Sri Lankan government after the Asian tsunami to come to that island nation and heal the trauma of the people with her healing hugging marathons, the UN awarded her its Gandhi-King award and made her the keynote speaker at its first ever "Women's Religious Leadership Conference," and tens of thousands of people have spontaneously stepped forth, without demands on them, to help her amazing international humanitarian mission involving the building of a huge state-of-the-art hospital in S.India for providing free services to the poor, vocational colleges, countless medical and relief clinics, schools, orphanages, etc.)]
Of course, one could simply disagree with Adi Da’s assessment of his role relative to humanity and the Great Tradition, and in that case remain unimpressed. But to do so would be to discount the objectively measurable nature of his spoken and written word, as well as his more recent enlightened expressions in the form of photographic art. Indeed, not everyone is willing to overlook him this way. For example, despite being an uncompromising critic, Ken Wilber has always maintained that the nature of Adi Da’s spiritual revelation is unsurpassed:
[But Ken Wilber is also mightily impressed with abusive, dysfunctional cult figure Andrew Cohen!]
Do I believe that Master Adi Da is the greatest Realizer of all time? I certainly believe he is the greatest living Realizer.… And I have always said—and still say publicly—that not a single person can afford not to be at least a student of the Written Teaching.… I affirm my own love and devotion to the living Sat-Guru, and I hope my work will continue to bring students to the Way of the Heart.… I send my best wishes and love to the Community [of Adidam], and a deep bow to Master Adi Da.
Yes, in a word, Adi Da is to be taken seriously. But, as you say, this is not what very many of his critics are doing. Consequently, I can only conclude the issue is being adjudicated elsewhere—that is to say, in the domain where the measure of Adi Da is not objective, but subjective. To my mind, two of the above propositions can be addressed objectively: the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and the truth that explains every aspect of reality. It is the second proposition that is troublesome in this regard: the truth that sets the heart free. That is, whereas the objective is about beliefs and essentially intellectual, the subjective tends to be emotional, pertaining to one’s deepest values. It is precisely in this latter domain that the sparks begin to fly.
All things considered, given the overwhelming evidence in Adi Da’s favor, I can draw only one conclusion: the real question is not whether Adi Da should be taken seriously at all, but rather another—why was this legitimacy ever called into doubt? What would possess anyone to do so?
[NOTE: Because he was abusing people right and left and displaying all the classic signs of an out-of-control authoritarian personality, with strongly narcissistic and ego-inflated tendencies.]
Clues to the answer, as might be obvious, come not from the teaching, but the teacher. Unfortunately, it is at this point that the water gets particularly murky. Bear with me as I sort out the issues, for the undercurrents we are about to enter are rarely what they seem.
To begin with, Adi Da is thought by some to have crossed the line as a Guru, thereby wrecking a kind of spiritual havoc. Objections to Adi Da come down to this, a two-fold account of the teacher:
1. claims on his part to be the incarnation of God, and
2. claims by others that he abuses his devotees.
The latter especially is thought to detract from his credibility, which I’ll get back to momentarily. The former, on the other hand, will probably never be resolved except as a matter of faith, although being the author of such a profound and scintillating teaching certainly suggests something similar of the teacher. Indeed, I have to express my great surprise in this regard. After all, the teaching did not fall from the sky. How could such a profound and superlative teaching possibly occur if not for an equally profound and superlative teacher? As with us all, his words are a product of his own being, an expression of his own nature.
But therein lies a major clue to the mystery: if his words suggest divinity, then he must be divine.
[David, surely this logic cannot be accepted. Just because someone has a good verbal rap does not make them “God.” For over 18 years I’ve had many hundreds of students in classes and satsangs hanging on every word I’ve uttered—I have a bit of the poet in me, am a Gemini, am of Irish ancestry (even kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland), and, most importantly, I’ve read well over two thousand wisdom works from the sacred traditions and have integrated this into what might be called a “7th stage teaching” in Da's schema. But that does not make me the Lord God Incarnate (in the narrow sense of "I'm God, you're not"), merely a “good spiritual friend/helper,” or kalyana mitra, as Buddhism calls it.]
Surely this captures the objection to him perfectly—his critics simply don’t like the idea of him being divine.
[David, are you really serious about this claim? I fear for your sanity. If Da was not such an abusive, scheming, strategizing, manipulative, narcissistic, megalomaniac, I might be able to begin to entertain the idea that he was an authentic spiritual adept, perhaps one of many “incarnations” of God. I and others have no problem with the idea, per se, of a Divine Incarnation. It’s just that Da doesn’t seem to fulfill any of the criteria for that. He thinks he does, and he’s convinced a number of other people to think that he does, but this does not make it FACT.]
Consequently, the underlying issue of our discussion can be spelled out like this: if Adi Da is God incarnated in human form, all criticisms are pretty much rendered moot, for who is in a position to question the acts of God?
[David, you’re on a very slippery slope here. I’ve already had extensive conversations on this topic with some of the Sathya Sai Baba people in 2001. They, too, have a formula: “Sathya Sai Baba is God; therefore, whatever he does is divine activity.” They’ve not established the premise and are woefully begging the question.]
Needless-to-say, the very notion sticks in the craw of most critics, who are not inclined to worship Adi Da. On the other hand, if Adi Da is not taken to be God, than nothing he says or does will ever make any sense. All of his work relies explicitly on the fact of his divinity. There’s no getting around it; this conundrum represents the heart of the dispute.
[And David, the “fact” of his divinity has NOT been established. You might want to read the essay I have posted at the Science & Spirituality section of my website about adjudicating truth claims. There’s a big difference between 1) idle conjecture/speculation; 2) plausible possibility; 3) fair degree of likelihood, based on empirical evidence (not opinion!); and 4) strong degree of likelihood, ranging up to such a strong degree of likelihood that a vast majority of reasonable persons would call this a “fact,” the “truth.”
Da has had over 35 years to make the case or display the fact of his divinity, and he’s had a lot of sycophants to help make the case, too. But very few people buy the idea. On the other hand, Ramana Maharshi, Mata Amritanandamayi, Anasuya Devi, Anandamayi Ma, Ramakrishna, Meher Baba, and a number of others didn’t have to convince anyone, and millions have accepted them as genuine Avatars.]
In Western society, the idea of a human being claiming to be God is anathema to prevailing spiritual sensibilities, indeed, even blasphemy in certain quarters. I once worked for a foster family agency and was looking around for a suitable place to host our annual dinner. One possibility was a church nearby in the community. To secure the facility, I interviewed with the pastor, who was a personable and outgoing advocate of his faith. As I listened to his praise of Jesus and unabashed devotion, I became more and more impressed by a commonality between us: I love my Guru too! Finally, I could stand it no more and announced how wonderful it was to meet someone so similar—we each loved a Guru as our Lord and Savior, the very presence of God alive in human form! Unfortunately, he did not share my enthusiasm. Indeed, he was aghast by my confession, to the point it appeared he might even leap across the desk and throttle me. Slowly, painstakingly, he pointed out how inappropriate the comparison was, for no human being could possibly be God. Nevermind the obvious contradiction, there can be only one exception. Indeed, he ensured me I was in the grip of the Devil and should take care, for the sake of my soul, as you likewise appear to be doing.
To me, this is bald-faced discrimination, pure and simple. Why Jesus but not Adi Da? Or any other spiritual masters, for that matter? No incompatibility exists in this at all. Even worse, in my mind, was the destruction of something loving and wonderful taking place between us. Whenever I go home for the holidays, a similar pattern invariably occurs. I know my family worries about me. My father is a devout Christian and cannot for his life figure out my conviction that Adi Da is the incarnation of God, although he does accept and appreciate the fact that I love God. But we understand God in very different ways: in his case, a discrete being, however extraordinary and immense; and in mine, the very nature of reality, which includes us all.
[And David, what is so dysfunctionally cultic about Da is that he so often seems to want to make sure—as I hear it from ex-devotees and just reading so much of his own talks and writings—that devotees’ focus is specifically on him, the form, the personality, rather than on the Formless-Formfull, Transpersonal Divine.]
This is the heart of nondualism—not only is there no separation between self and others, but no difference between self and God either. So long as this conviction is in doubt, much will remain inexplicable. One thing I know for sure: my father wants his God dead; it is too much for him to face God alive. And I don’t blame him. The confrontation from a living God is a demand for love and intimacy far beyond anything any other human being will ever ask. To paraphrase a great existential theologian, it not only takes courage to be, but it takes courage to love unconditionally. Probably no other axiom more succinctly summarizes spiritual practice than this.
[So why is Da chronically demanding more than just love and intimacy? He wants gifts galore, he wants people to be slavish and hard-working on his apparently quite selfish behalf in a way that violates the whole idea of “love.” The bottom line: anyone who is always demanding others’ love is a TAKER not a GIVER. Someone like Amritanandamayi has frequently over the years, when asked about her nature, spoken of it in terms of giving and serving. That is what she is here for, she says, to love, give and serve, spontaneously and freely and without reward. The contrast with Da’s frequently witnessed and well-documented “gimme, gimme” approach is so stark here.]
Again, this brings up a crux point in our discussion: the vision of Adi Da that his critics paint is a caricature, created solely for the purpose of a straw man argument. It bears no resemblance to the loving, caring, deeply sacrificial spiritual being that I know.
[Okay, David, this highlights it: Da is rather “two-faced,” no? He behaves one way toward some people, but quite another way with so many other people, many of whom realized something was definitely dysfunctional and they left and some of them have talked or written about it.]
Indeed, when it comes to truth setting the heart free and taking Adi Da seriously, I can think of no better way to put it than the old homily—the proof is in the pudding. I have practiced the way of life he recommends for nearly twenty-five years. How could such a wealth of testimony be discounted? I have also sat in his company numerous times, including occasions in which he has carried on lengthy discourses with others, a principle means by which I have come to know him personally. At no time have I ever observed him to be other than utterly brilliant spiritually, often uproariously disposed toward humor and mirth, and never without deeply moving compassion, even at times in which discipline and honesty are dispensed uncompromisingly. This suggests that the character of Adi Da is impeccable, certainly admirable.
[Yet David, I read most of the earliest literature and much of the mid-phase literature from the 1980s, and I often found Da unbelievably condescending and excessively self-referencing. He pulled stunts like declaring four women (I think they were among his wives) to be 7th stage realizers and then later “revoked” it. L.Ron Hubbard and Sathya Sai Baba and other authoritarian figures pull this stunt, too, of raising people up then tearing them down. I’m not impressed with Da’s presentations—I have some audio tapes and I’ve seen video tape. The way his eyes darted around when he spoke reminded me of someone in a trance-channel state, not someone who had fully integrated and lived what he talked about. (NOTE: This remark makes even more sense in light of the essay by "Elias" wherein he posits the notion that Da's is a case of "archetypal possession.")]
In reading the various accounts of Adi Da’s critics, on the other hand, I find little in the way of positive attributes to extol. Instead, they are routinely sensational, exaggerated, and lacking any sense of a loving or forgiving tone (in particular, the website by Elias, for example). I think of an elderly woman, unsophisticated in spiritual matters, sitting slumped at the edge of her bed, at the edge of her life, really, speaking bluntly for no better reason than her own mental incapacity—yet, even so, with love for me; the words intended, ultimately, for my own good. I can find precious little to suggest the same with most of Adi Da’s critics. The tone of their words is not loving, but often merely bitter and mean.
[David, some of them have, upon reflection, realized that Da had been taking advantage of them over the years in very serious ways—even in some cases, CRIMINAL ways (such as sexually abusing and bodily harming the women he “screwed”—I can’t call it “making love”).
Be aware here, David, that the discourse of announcing and protesting injustice will always seem more “sour” and “negative” than someone who is carrying on the status quo. I find this all the time, for instance, with political discourse between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans have been screwing this country for years, stealing massive resources from the poor and middle class to give to the .01% mega-richest Americans who fund their campaigns (the elite investor/corporate-boss crowd), they have ruined the environment, gutted regulations and oversight on big business, driven us into massive and expensive deficits (Reagan and Bush from 1981 to 1992 and W. Bush since 2001) that are ruining our economy and bankrupting badly-needed social welfare and environmental welfare programs, etc. etc.
So every election time, Democrats and progressives have to tell the American people about how very bad and really ugly things have gotten under the GOP (Greedy Old Plutocrats). But the Republicans, who serve and obviously benefit from the status quo of “business and pleasure as usual,” only have to put on big smiles for their campaigns, look happy and confident and successful, wave the American flag, spout slogans and clichés, and all of this behavior strongly appeals to the psyche of the average (uninformed) voter. After all, if you are the average, dumbed-down American, who would you rather vote for, a happy-looking person or an angry-looking person?
It’s why rapists and sociopaths and Nazis and others can appear to the uninformed to be so “attractive” and “successful” and “inspiring.” They’re not suffering, at least on the overt, conscious level! Those who suffer under these callous brutes always will look far more “unhappy,” “unsuccessful,” “unwell” by comparison.
So—shall we blame the victim/survivor here, or put the blame where it rightly belongs: on the perpetrator?]
My mother was disappointed in love, the reasons for which I know only too well. I imagine something similar must be the case for many of the critics of Adi Da. In fact, I know this to be true. As a result, their response is essentially unwarranted and over-reactive, at times even guided by ulterior motives.
[David, I’m a critic of Da, and I’m not “disappointed in love,” because I feel the clear, full presence of God within and all around. My criticism of Da, unlike Elias and Mark Miller and others, cannot be accused of being “over-reactive,” and it is not guided by ulterior motives. Again, I was interested, like Wilber and others, in the man’s teachings. Then I simply saw that Da's behavior and his organization were not transparent for love and generosity and real service. I moved along and stopped giving him any of my time or energy. As a student of comparative saints and mystical traditions, especially nondual traditions, I can think of many dozens, if not a few hundred people I consider far more authentically enlightened and awake and God-realized than Da. It’s that simple.]
As far as claims of impropriety are concerned, my mother summed up her take on it this way: “He’s living the life of Riley, living off the fat of the land.” I’m not sure that this technically even makes sense, but it was always clear to me what she meant. In her mind, Adi Da was guilty of exploiting devotees for his own gain. Yet, even this is only one side of the coin of the impropriety. Lurking on the darker side is the abuse claimed to be heaped on his devotees, whereby they have not merely sustained losses but even been injured along the way. However, as it turns out, these claims do not actually say anything about Adi Da at all. Quite the contrary, in fact. Indeed, a perhaps surprising culprit is implicated: devotees themselves. Although this appraisal can be hard to accept—I assure you, speaking on my own behalf!—nonetheless, I must acknowledge it is true. In fact, the nature of this appraisal takes two parts overall:
1. personal: devotees failing to take responsibility for the excesses and liabilities of their own egos; and 2. social: devotees imposing these excesses and liabilities on each other.
[David, I’m sure that many of Da’s former devotees would find both these points quite debatable. Even if devotees have had their culpabilities, a really crucial question here is this: has Da ever been accountable to anyone? Has he ever, ever “failed to take responsibility” for his behavior? It seems that he likes to dish it out, blame others, punish them, and demand total accountability and servility, but he does not ever turn the pointing finger toward himself.
A very interesting comparison is Meher Baba. He, too, was alleged to be “the God-Man of this age.” Interestingly, at various points in his spiritual career, he would invite disciples to leave him if they felt they had not become genuinely God-realized. Baba had a very tough, strict and demanding style of working with his many mandali-disciples. But he was even tougher on himself, and openly asked for feedback on numerous occasions. Once he slapped a disciple very hard, and then insisted that all the other male disciples present come up and slap him (Meher Baba) strongly on the cheek for having to be so physical in disciplining the first disciple and mitigating his karma thereby. Baba knew that the man needed to have a forceful intervention from him, but he knew that it would probably look abusive, and, moreover, it appears that he also wanted to take on some of this karma himself, so he told everyone else there to hit him. There are many other interesting and unusual ways that Baba worked with the mandali, but what is so impressive about Meher Baba is how severe he was on himself—e.g., long, long fasts, long walking tours where he would austerely lead the disciples, and those many years of incredibly arduous work seeking out and finding and washing and interdimensionally “working with” the Holy Fools or Masts, the “God-mad” folks who were stuck in between the planes. Meher Baba was definitely often manifesting the authentic Crazy Wisdom tradition, but in a way that I find much, much more impressive than Da.]
There is no question that some ex-members of Adidam are disgruntled, upset over the way they have been treated—in certain cases with good reason. Yet, these reasons go both ways. That is to say, the whole purpose of spiritual life is to transcend the ego and, thereby, reside in the native rapture of the divine. But doing so is no easy matter. Indeed, it is fraught with perils of all kinds, not least of which the devotee’s own egoic nature.
[So another big question: yes, the purpose of spirituality is to transcend the ego, but has Da fully and authentically transcended the ego such that he can presume to “play Guru” and demand that others be his “disciples/devotees”? Moreover, isn’t your wording of the above matter precisely the definition of a “non 7th stage teaching”—i.e., one that presumes a problem, makes a bogeyman out of the ego, and makes “transcending the ego” a dilemma that then requires a “method”--predictably, utter devotion to the God-Man Da!]
According to Adi Da:
The crisis [the Guru] serves in the individual does not negate. It illuminates, perfects…. I have often used this image of the sunlight over the well. When the sun shines directly into the well, all of the creeps that hang around deep under the water start coming up the sides. Then a few minutes after noon they quiet down again. As soon as they can find a little shade, they quiet down again. The time you spend in Satsang [the company of the Guru] is like time spent with the sun directly over the well. The more time you live in Satsang, the more these slithering things arise, the more you see of your egoic self, the more you must pass through the crisis of personal self-understanding. [Here ends the quote from Da.]
However, the irony is this: whereas it is true that the creepy-crawlies only emerge in the presence of sunlight, and their emergence thereby thought of as caused by the sunlight, the sunlight did not create their existence—they were there the whole time. To put it somewhat differently, the accusations and complaints brought against Adi Da are partly true and partly false. In the presence of the sublime, spiritual sunlight of Adi Da, creepy-crawlies are, indeed, stirred noticeably into life. That much is true; and an extremely unpleasant truth it is, too. Yet, that is the whole point of spiritual practice in the company of a Guru. Devotees bring their creepy-crawlies with them into the Guru’s presence, as part of who they are—for the purpose of being purified. But the presence of these creepy-crawlies is not the Guru’s fault, nor is the excitation that brings them to the surface. To blame the Guru is to be ignorant of the true nature of the spiritual process, and irresponsible for the role you play in it. Truly responsible men and women own up to this. It’s as simple as that.
[David, sincerely, do you see what you and all of Da’s other arch-defenders are doing? It’s a longstanding pattern of “blaming the victim,” those who’ve been abused by Da, by talking in metaphors about “creepy crawlies” and “resisting love,” and “not being fully present for the Guru,” etc. Does not Da have some creepy crawlies? What was that story I read about him abusing one of the women he forcibly screwed with a soft-drink bottle or something, damaging her insides so badly that she had to be taken to an emergency room. Is that “her resistance” or “his abuse”? If you say “both,” I’m not satisfied and I fear for your clients’ welfare in the psychotherapeutic situation.]
The situation for this aspect of the criticism reminds me of the years I have spent working with abused children in group homes and in my clinical practice, early in my career ages four through twelve, more recently adolescents and young adults. The elements of the kinds of situations about which they complain come down to this: the nature of the incident, over against the purpose to which it is put. In a word, children scream bloody murder at bedtime, or when they are asked to clean their room, or share their toys, or even wait their turn—especially under certain conditions: whenever they don’t want to. Getting ready for bedtime is disappointing for any child, almost always eliciting gripes and ungracious mumbling. But for a child who feels unloved, the demand appears particularly arbitrary and unreasonable. And for the child whose abuse actually took place in their bed, well, the idea is practically unbearable.
As can be seen, the nature of the incident is wildly different in each case, along a continuum of ever increasing frustration and threat. Perhaps I have been jaded by my experience with children who have been the subject of real atrocities, that I find the disgruntlement of Adi Da’s critics so particularly unmoving. Although I know it is politically incorrect, what his critics call heinous and exploitive hardly raises any hackles for me at all. The reason for this is simple: interpreting the intentions and behavior of Adi Da in this way is mistaken. And this point is pivotal, for explaining why Adi Da should be taken seriously has a surprising, and perhaps unwelcome, collateral effect: his critics cannot be taken seriously, or at least taken at face value. The situation is far different from what they represent it to be. In a word, the spiritual master is a sacrifice for the sake of their devotees. In return, the devotee is required to sacrifice to the spiritual master—which the devotee is, generally, only too happy to comply. It is a profound love, going both ways. It is obvious to me that the Guru/devotee relationship is the single most auspicious intimacy that a human being can have.
[David, how, precisely, has Da ever really sacrificed for his devotees? He appears to be quite well-compensated for whatever efforts he’s made--which seem mainly to consist in giving talks and being a vehicle for certain energies to come through. So what? I’ve also been doing that for 25 years; I’ve never charged a dime for any spiritual talks or counseling sessions I’ve ever given. People have made donations, but I never solicit them. Da seems to have led “the good life,” by most people’s standards. I don’t see him being nearly as available, as serving, as sacrificing or as giving as Ramana Maharshi, Amritanandamayi, or any of the others I’ve mentioned here, BY ALL OBJECTIVE CRITERIA.]
Members of Adidam sometimes speak of the improprieties attributed to Adi Da euphemistically as “spiritual theater.” However, a better analogy would be “spiritual therapy,” for these gestures on Adi Da’s part are direct interventions into the devotee’s own unenlightened state, simply occurring in the form of what is known clinically as confrontative technique.
At other times, devotees receive supportive technique, or perhaps even interpretive technique, as when they study his spiritual instruction. Although not what you might expect, the interactions of which Adi Da’s critics complain are always intended for their most auspicious benefit.
[Yes, yes, David. I’ve heard the same tired old rationale around the Sathya Sai Baba camp, the L.Ron Hubbard camp, and so forth ad nauseam. Incidentally, we can note that Da became a Scientologist under Hubbard and his cronies earlier in his life, where he learned a lot of Hubbard's power-grabbing tricks.]
In fact, there are spiritual traditions, referred to as “Crazy Wisdom,” in which practices such as these are revered.
[Dear David, you don’t need to tell me about the “Crazy Wisdom” tradition. There is NO SUCH “formal tradition.” Da invented the concept of 'crazy wisdom' to justify his own behavior and theatre. I’ve read all the original tantric and zen and other texts which show such behaviors. No serious scholar takes most of these stories as actually having happened (e.g., Tilopa’s interactions with Naropa). Most of these fabricated accounts come from hagiographies written hundreds of years later. I’m not denying that there are, in fact, Holy Fools / Yurodivye /Majdhubs / Avadhutas—I’ve met a number of them and written about them, too. But no authentic “Crazy Wisdom” figure openly talks about being a “Crazy Wisdom” figure and organizes institutions for self-benefit, makes demands for gifts and money, etc. The bottom line: the idea of a “Crazy Wisdom” tradition to justify Da’s actions is a rationale, and it does not actually establish him as being a God-realized Guru, let alone a Divine incarnation.]
[David resumes:] (For more information on Crazy Wisdom, visit Adidam.org.) Certain spiritual traditions put the situation this way: suffering can be likened to burning coals, scorching in the depths of one’s being. If they are kept buried deep enough, perhaps one only feels the sizzle remotely, or else coughs and gags on the smoke, merely suggesting the presence of fire. However, to be truly relieved of the coals, one must reach down and grab them. To throw them out, one must pick them up first. Although being shocked, even dismayed at the touch is easy to appreciate, nonetheless, it only serves to abort the healing. More to the point, it represents poor understanding.
Adi Da is extraordinarily gifted as a Guru, wielding interventions perfectly suited for each person. He knows them far better than they know themselves, and even has more concern for their spiritual well-being than they usually have for themselves.
[But David, is this nice-sounding talk really true? Yes, we can hype and rationalize his actions this way. But what about all the other sociopaths out there who’ve come up with the exact same rationalization. If you grant such hype as being true for Da, you’ve equally got to grant it for them. And that’s why I earlier spoke of this being such a "slippery, dangerous slope."]
Yet, his divine intervention is easily misunderstood. This is because the ego lives for only one purpose: self-fulfillment, driven to insane proportions in the West by affluence and leisure.
[And my impression is that Da lives for self-fulfillment, with a heavy attachment to affluence and, it seems, leisure. I dare him to do for one week what Amma Amritanandamayi has been doing most every day since her early twenties holding darshans for 8-22 hours a day.]
Certainly, some members of Adidam have been subjected to intensely difficult and trying circumstances—I among them. But I know about the continuum. I know one size does not fit all, and circumstances are experienced very differently in each case. I also know something even more pertinent to the issue: more than anything, the ego feels unloved and is desperate for someone to feel sorry for them because of it. But this only creates a difficult and unenviable situation: as long as you retain any sympathy for the ego, Adi Da will inevitably offend you—precisely because everything about him exists for a single reason: obliterate the ego!
[David, this sounds so high and groovy, but again notice how all this talk is exactly the opposite of the “7th stage teaching” that Da and his followers strongly fetishize and use as a legimitization device to elevate him above all other teachers and texts. Moreover, it’s a very easy and safe stance for any dysfunctional cult leader to adopt: “All of you have ego-problems; I am beyond ego; therefore I can do whatever I want to you and you must play the game, never questioning me and never demanding of me whether I am authentically beyond the ego.”]
No matter what the experiences underlying the criticism against Adi Da, the larger context in which they have taken place is almost always overlooked.
[David, I have trained myself to always look at larger and subtler contexts, and different kinds of contexts, and it is in these larger contexts that I find much about Da that simply does not “measure up.”]
But the purpose toward which incidents are put makes all the difference. The whole point of spiritual practice is to relieve one of egoic attachment. If it is clearly understood that the manifest world is no more than an illusion, it loses the luster of its deluding power—replaced by the joyful and sustaining splendor of divine love.
[I agree, David, with your words about Divine love. But, as far as the status of the world goes, be careful with your wording here. The towering 7th-century Vedanta sage Sankara and earlier Buddhist sage Nagarjuna and other eminent sages clearly stated that the world is illusory from the Absolute level of truth-teaching (paramartha satya) but is relatively quite real from the “conventional/pragmatic” level (samvriti satya; vyavaharika satya). In fact, Sankara stated that “world as world is false; world as world is Brahman.” Sure, the world is easily deconstructible as a DREAM; and modern physics shows how all states of matter are made of molecules made of atoms made of subatomic mystery (99.9999999999% empty space). But the world also has a conventional, practical reality as appearance and as a matter for empirical experience. And just look how Da himself treats the material world as very real--he's always demanding from his devotees lavish, expensive gifts for himself and his wives, and he is evidently quite fascinated with these worldly gifts!]
Yet, it is easy to get confused. No one is denying the circumstances of the grievances brought against Adi Da but, rather, this: that they warrant grievance.
Perhaps better said, the issue is not so much whether the circumstances are true, as the whole truth. Consider a surgeon operating on an arm, using local anesthetic so that the patient is awake during surgery.
[Yes, David, all of us who’ve been around the block spiritually know this cliché metaphor. The issue here is that there are also sociopaths who don’t mind cutting people up for the fun of it and then rationalizing that it was good for them.]
Suppose the patient looks over and notices their arm, suddenly aware of the open wound, the severed tissue, the blood leaking out. That they should be shocked by the sight is understandable. But nobody in their right mind would leap up from the table and bolt from the room, in the middle of surgery, leaving not only the wound undressed but even the original injury intact. Unfortunately, this is precisely the case for certain former members of Adidam. That their wounds are terrible is not the issue. Of far greater concern, they have not finished the healing.
[So, David, we can legitimately ask: did Da do everything he humanly (and “Divinely”) could to help them in their healing? It seems like in many of the cases Da definitely should have been the one to make apologies and amends, but it appears that he could only “act out” and blame his victims. I’ve seen the same thing, the same lack of accountability and basic decency, with Sathya Sai Baba, L.Ron Hubbard and many other abusers.]
Spiritual practice is serious business, requiring real commitment and perseverance throughout the entire course of its process.
[Yes, David, quite serious. Which is why people should think twice about committing themselves to someone like Da. Some people will surely benefit from their association with him and all the “dues paying” and what appears to be dysfunctional cultism that is involved in the approach to him. If one has su-karma, good karma, with the man, one will probably have an overall good and fruitful time associating with him over the decades. But for many other people, there have not been and will not be such happy times.]
Further, it is truly demanding. No one who has ever received a hug from an abused child at bedtime—about to enter what should be their sanctum, but so often the site of the worst atrocities—and felt the welcoming, grateful squeeze of their little arms will ever doubt that, today, you have done your job. It still brings tears to my eyes to think of a child who can go to bed without incident, not because they are docile or obedient, but because they feel loved and safe, finally—and you are the reason why. No one can ever take that memory away from me. Nor can they take it away that I freely and happily embrace Adi Da the same way.
[David, I am sincerely happy and grateful to God that you have had this kind and quality of experience and ambience with Adi Da. Again, as I have said, I have no doubt that he has helped some people. But I just have to put up a big asterisk, given the not-so-seemly side of the picture.]
The only crime of which Adi Da can rightly be accused is this: loving his devotees enough to set some limits—even when they scream bloody murder. There is no doubt. I know intimately, incontrovertibly, the loving compassion within which I live my life.
It seems that the confusion surrounding the criticism of Adi Da stems from the fact that the Guru/devotee relationship is so difficult for people, both to accept and to understand. Overall, it can be summarized this way:
1. it is difficult and demanding beyond belief to be in the Guru’s direct company, yet
2. all the difficulty and demand is done for a single purpose: awaken the devotee to the same spiritual realization as the Guru.
[So a big question at this point in 2007: has Da ever authentically, fully awakened anyone? Has he acknowledged that anyone is now an enlightened spiritual master on his same level, who has the authority to grant transmission or be a conduit for the transmission of Divine Grace as he is supposed to be? Again, I remember back in the mid-1980s when he acknowledged a handful of people, but then, in a classic oneupsmanship manner, he revoked the claim.]
This is a good thing! At no point in my twenty-five years as a devotee have I ever attributed fault or blame to Adi Da for the exercise of his skillful means—except, of course, those times in which I have been overwhelmed by my own creepy-crawlies. More importantly, at no time while a member of the community of Adidam have I ever been abused or exploited by Adi Da.
[I am so relieved to hear this.]
Quite the contrary, in fact! Having been abused growing up, believe me, I would know.
[And, dear David, I’m so very sorry to hear this. You have my deepest, sincerest good wishes, may any residual pain or trauma from this be healed.]
And my saying this means something. To ask why Adi Da should be taken seriously but dismiss or refuse to accept the accounts of current members who are thriving in Adi Da’s company—especially because their praise is thought to indicate something slavish about their devotion, or perhaps even more sinister, like brainwashing—is simply misguided and improper.
[Okay, David, I’ll grant again, as I’ve already done, that some people benefit from Da’s company and association with his organization. But there are enough serious caveats to lead the rest of us to be quite discerning and careful about how we present Da to others. In no way can I or others recommend him to most other spiritual aspirants.]
This gives no respect to the capacity of honest people to make intelligent decisions, based on their own discrimination and sensitivity. No one has the right to take that away from them.
But, of course, this is merely the personal side of the abuse issue. Those you come into contact with will have creepy-crawlies of their own, and many atrocities are committed for their sake. Of all the accusations and complaints of Adi Da’s critics, this is the only issue that has any validity, as far as I can see: some things have been handled poorly.
[David: in light of what people have documented—usually witnessed by numerous others—it would seem that what you have stated here is massive understatement of the problems.]
Yet, even the legitimacy of this criticism is exaggerated, for his critics go too far in wrongly accusing Adidam of being a cult—and even more absurdly, accusing Adi Da of being a cult figure.
[David: I always only use this word “cult” in a neutral manner. I qualify it with whether it is an empowering, “functional” cult or a dysfunctional, disempowering one. The very word “cult” comes from the Latin term, cultus, simply meaning any social group around a “charismatic figure.” By this definition, Da is a cult figure. So were the Buddha and Jesus and Mother Teresa of Calcutta. So are George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And, whereas there may be a number of “empowering” aspects of the Da cult, there are, as a matter of record, many “dysfunctional aspects.” And, he’s not alone in this!]
Although newspaper headlines can get away with malfeasance, reducing entire communities and their way of life to a single word, reasonable men and women are unable to be so callously dismissive. Such appraisals are too simplistic. The situation is far more complex than this. More to the point, Adi Da is without doubt the most fervent, dogged, uncompromising critic of cultism taking place within Adidam. From the very beginning, Adi Da has warned of the dangers and inevitability of cultism among any gathering of human beings—including Adidam:
[Yes, I used to read about these things in the old talks and writings by Da. And then I would hear of Da doing some very dysfunctional cultic things himself. Andrew Cohen, likewise, has done in his talks and writings lots of criticism of cults. And I witnessed him in person at two public gatherings that I attended at the behest of two of his disciples, perpetuating some “dirty guru tricks” of manipulation, condescension, and so forth. And for the last few years, his former What is Enlightenment? magazine publisher Hal Blacker has run a big expose site, “What Enlightenment?”—documenting a massive amount of evidence of serious, serious abuses by Andrew and his minions.]
[Quote from Adi Da:] "Over the years you have all heard me speak about cultism in negative terms. I have criticized the cult of the Spiritual Master, as well as the cultic attachments that people create with one another…. In other words, when there exists a certain hyped enthusiasm to which people are attracted, and when those people accept all the dogmas with which that particular group makes itself enthusiastic, they maintain themselves as opponents of the world and lose communication with the world in general and with the processes of life…. I have seen you all do it. To me, that enthusiasm is bizarre. There is something about the capacity of individuals for that kind of enthusiasm that makes my back tingle. It is a kind of madness. It is a tolerable neurosis as long as people do not become destructive…. I have had to spend a great deal of time and energy over the years trying to break down this form of approach."
[And yet Da has so obviously also promoted this thing, too! All the demands that he be worshipped in such and such ways (and complaints and whining by Da when he doesn’t feel "sufficiently loved" and adored), lavished with gifts, etc. Da has gone on record talking about how he wants more people in the world to know about him, and demanded that devotees put out more P.R. and do more and more work in this direction. If that isn’t promoting a personal cult, I don’t know what is! Look at all those “Worship me” messages in so much of the literature, having people view him like Krishna in the Bhagavad Purana and Bhagavad Gita or calling him “Kalki” [Tenth Avatar of Lord Vishnu]. The cult of Avatar Da is first and foremost always being promoted by Da himself. Have you not seen this yourself, David, over the many years?]
Simply put, the worst that anyone can rightly say about Adidam in this regard is this: members of Adidam have tried to make it into a cult—but Adi Da has prevented them from succeeding.
[I would say, au contraire, that he has heavily “aided and abetted” the process.]
For that, we own him everything. Unfortunately, Adidam members have not always been sophisticated and graceful in their interpersonal relations,
[Neither, it appears, has Da himself!]
being in a steep learning curve involving the spiritual subtleties of love and intimacy. Indeed, the whole point of spiritual practice is to induce crisis, for the sake of purification and transcendence. To be sure, it can get the best of you. A little forgiveness is not unreasonable in this context, for a sincere effort is being made. Besides, precious little exists to suggest greater accomplishment in society at large, if one were to gauge the display offered by TV, movies, internet, and media anyway.
Adi Da goes on to say: “This [cultic] tendency is present in everyone, not only in you and members of other religious groups, but in the form of every group that exists, from political organizations to begonia fanciers.” Obviously, this humorous aside is meant to include even the cult of Adi Da critics.
[David, I’m glad that you—and Da—see this! Now, how seriously has there occurred some conscious, mature “group processing” and “inventory” of the Daist Communion’s social and organizational dynamics? Would they ever be willing to work with an in-house team of consultants, wherein everyone, Da included, comes in for honest, open feedback without recrimination? Can the group be self-critical? This is one of the big criteria separating healthy, functional cults/groups from unhealthy, dysfunctional ones. By way of example, some of the American Buddhist communities have engaged extensively in some of this self-reflective and self-examining work to root out what their own psychologist-members know are mild or major dysfunctional tendencies. Every healthy organization does this—including certain corporations, universities, small businesses, church groups, etc. If the Daist group has never done it, in a way that also includes Da himself and any “upper level” folks, something is seriously wrong. Especially since the cult is so strongly focused on him.]
The essence of the problem with cults is we are taught to assign the truth, and the realization of it, exclusively to certain individuals, often a particular individual. The center of the cult—whether a worshipped person, image, or idea—is considered of ultimate value, possessing a status that no one else can attain. People are then encouraged to be in awe of that one, perhaps even worship them, usually in order to receive benefits of one kind or another. In this way, you can kill two birds with one stone: feel superior to everyone else, while getting your deepest needs satisfied. And worse, it means you can criticize others, while remaining immune in return—and, thereby, above learning anything in return either. But this is a childish orientation to life, common as it is, which Adi Da goes out of his way to criticize, instructing us to avoid. He admonishes: “You must not believe in me.” Rather, we are encouraged to find out the truth of reality for ourselves—even as we use his instruction and example for a guide.
[David, this is a great message. He expressed it this way sometimes in the early days, as well—the early 1970s. But look at all the self-promotion, etc., since then, that I have mentioned here and which has been documented elsewhere.]
No other spiritual tradition embodies these benevolent ideals so explicitly, at least as far as I can see.
[David, you simply haven’t looked around enough at other spiritual movements to be able to make these claims.]
Indeed, quite the contrary usually. Even nondual spiritual traditions, espousing no separation between self and other, often espouse segregation among different nondual spiritual traditions—thereby necessitating the need for Adi Da’s work. In every talk, essay, book, poem, photograph, and work of art that Adi Da has ever produced, a common thread of tolerance and compassion for all living beings is present, human and nonhuman, and a lively admonishment to transcend the limitations of the egoic condition that prevents nondual God-Realization. Not only is every point of view on wisdom included in his vast oeuvre, but also the means whereby ordinary individuals might share in the same divine rapture that he continually enjoys. Adi Da calls his work of commentary on the history of spiritual ideas The Basket of Tolerance, precisely because this is his orientation toward the Great Tradition of spiritual practices.
[David, I’ve always liked and really appreciated, in the “dumbed down era” of TV, mediocre consumerism, etc., Da’s insistence that his students really read and study the Great Traditions. But notice, too, how he then sets up this evaluative scheme of the “7 stages” and then excludes all works from the 7th stage, and by implication or explicit statement puts himself above truly awake sages like Ramana Maharshi.]
In conclusion, I have one final comment to make. When I heard my mother for the last time, I reached over and held her in my arms. It wasn’t so much that no words were necessary for our parting embrace; no words were possible. We simply, deeply disagreed. When I was younger, I approached her once to resolve something in our relationship whereby I felt unloved. But it was, as it turned out, a part of her nature to which she was committed, and answered this way: “Do not try to change me! I am going to my grave just the way I am.” And so it happened. Yet, we loved each other anyway. It is a mystery. If for no other reason to take Adi Da seriously, consider this: only because of his instruction and spiritual presence am I capable of loving through rejection—indeed, even that of my mother. No simple feat, as you might imagine. And why should I not do his critics the same? I see no reason to let discord come between us.
[David, I feel the very same way. You and I are two embodiments, “enmindiments,” and personifications of the One Self-Shining Self, infinite, eternal, empty and full, always free and radiant as Love and Light and Bliss and Peace. There need never, ever be any “disconnect” for us at the heart cakra or in the Spiritual Heart (Hridayam). We are, truly, the same Being, made of each other’s love, kindness, compassion, and sweet bliss.]
In my mind, there is only one way to end this testimonial: the presence of love is the reason to take Adi Da seriously—for He Is that Very One.
[So are you, so is Ramana Maharshi, and yes, so is W. Bush, et alia ad gloriam Dei. Obviously, some are more “thickly disguised” with samskaras or vasanas, the binding likes-dislikes or attachments-aversions. May all beings be awake to THIS, may all be frolicking and flying in the real freedom of ego-free Love and Compassion.]
Interestingly, the crux of the discussion seems to come down to this: everything can be taken two ways, depending on whether you understand Adi Da to be God or not. In the end, only the heart can decide.
[And the karmic connections. As I’ve often told folks over the decades who ask me for my opinion on this guru or that teacher, XYZ, “one person’s Sadguru is another person’s ‘turkey’ or nemesis.” So: find out who really is an occasion to help you wake up. As Nisargadatta Maharaj told a group of us, these “external gurus” are just “figures in the dream, telling us to wake up.” He and Ramana Maharshi always insisted on the ultimate validity only of the Inner Guru, not the outer, external guru, the dream-figure, the bodymind personality.]
For me, the matter is resolved this way: I am attracted to Adi Da like a flower moving toward the light, for the simple reason that love recognizes its own source. What else is there to say?
[Beautiful, David, and there I will give you the “last word.” Be well, dear Friend!
--your loving friend and brother, Timothy ]
David included in an email to me his account of first coming to Da, which began with being riveted by a photograph of Da that David saw posted on a telephone pole next to a bus-stop at the college he attended. To shorten this long webpage, i've deleted here David's long account of being initially repulsed, then fascinated, then enraptured by Da's photographic image. I'll only reproduce these remarks I made to David about his being attracted by this photo:
David: there's a certain amount of projection here. I mean, young people idolize and feel amazing energies coming from their favorite actors and rock stars, too. But I grant that your experience may have been higher than this. But then, it is certainly not unique. Many people have been struck in very similar manner by the old “Welling” photos of Sri Ramana Maharshi, and photos of Amma Amritanandamayi, Anandamayi Ma, Nisargadatta Maharaj, and certain other figures. And those photos were NOT accompanied by any outlandish claims or hyperbole by these masters or by their disciples, unlike with Da and his slavish followers.
"David" also includes here an intriguing, illustrative account of a classic and dramatic "energy-awakening" experience and a healing that occurred at Da's Fiji island retreat center. Many of the unusual phenomena that "David" describes are encountered in certain lineages of Hindu Shaktipat gurus, Christian Pentecostalist and Charismatic "Holy Spirit baptism" circles, Muslim Sufi baraka transmissions, latihan experiences in the Indonesian Subud religion, and so on. I discussed these "energy" phenomena and their significance (and limitations and caveats) in my M.A. thesis, "The Phenomenon of Empowerment / Gurukrpa / Saktipat in the Indian and Other Traditions," for the California Institute of Integral Studies, 1983, which i may one year expand into a book.
What follows is the story of my miraculous healing [performed] by Adi Da Samraj:
It is common for devotees of Adi Da Samraj to go on meditation retreats in his company. Especially auspicious are meditation retreats that take place on the Hermitage Sanctuary of Adidam in Fiji, an island we purchased many years ago. On my first retreat to Fiji, I felt unprepared. I never thought I would even have the opportunity to go on such a retreat, feeling so unqualified a spiritual aspirant. Growing up, I even scoffed at religion, regarding it to be a crutch, if not, as Freud said, “a regression to infantile wish fulfillment.” Yet, there I was, on a bus crossing the island that would finally bring me to our Hermitage Sanctuary, and to my Beloved Guru’s Feet. I had certainly come a long way to take this ride.
Looking out the window, I considered the enormous demand of spiritual practice, especially relative to the impending personal encounter with my Guru. I saw the rolling jungle hillsides off in the distance [....] I looked up into those hills and imagined my Guru waiting for me there—specifically to impose an inhuman regime of purification and transformation, a rite of passage into a greater sense of maturity and humanity. Yet, I was not frightened. I was elated! And I was oddly relieved. For once, no one could see through me as an imposter. I knew I was unqualified and undeserving—consequently, there could be no expectations. None of that mattered. It was simply my time to confront the Divine. In the end, we all must take our turn. I made a commitment to submit myself to whatever awaited me, and receive whatever was Given. No matter what it would be perfect for me, I reasoned, if for no other reason than I was given over to receiving it.
Many events occurred before the healing actually took place. But the spiritual encounter with Adi Da is the focus of this story. I was in a room built especially for the type of spiritual transmission I was about to receive. It was a Darshan hall, where the Guru sits and can be viewed by their devotees. However, in this process, the Guru is not merely put on display, such that others can look at them. Rather, Darshan involves the process of spiritual transmission, whereby the Guru’s own spiritual realization is momentarily imparted to the devotee.
The modern mind tends to conceive of energy as channeled through complex, inanimate objects, like orbiting satellites, electric generators, automobile engines, and similar devices. Every household abounds with knobs and switches by which people manipulate the invisible power transmitted through these conduits. However, what makes spiritual transmission special is that it can be directed through living objects, such as human beings. Adi Da describes the significance of this process as follows:
"There may be all kinds of spontaneous psycho-physical phenomena that arise in response to My Descending Spiritual Invasion—dance, kriyas [spontaneous movements], mudras [spontaneous gestures], weeping, laughing, speaking, profound speechlessness, profound mindlessness, profound blisses, and so on. Such phenomena are not My Divine Truth (Itself), but they are purifying. In any case, they are not something to either seek or hold on to. Their great significance is not even in the purification of the body-mind. Their great significance is, simply, in your devotional Communion with Me. In this heart-opening to My Spiritual Fullness, you will feel Me Pervading your entire body, and many things may happen (in your body-mind, and in your daily life) as a result (or as an effect) of My Spiritual Blessing-Invasion of your body-mind."
The point of the Guru/devotee relationship is the awakening of the devotee to a heightened sense of spiritual reality. It is a physics of transformation. The Guru literally enters the devotee, via their spiritual transmission. As a result, the Guru and devotee share in a mutual ecstasy. It is an intimate, auspicious bond between them, through which the Guru’s blessings pour.
To enter into the company of a realizer is to be in the presence of one active at every level of their being. They are literally a composite being, vibrant and radiant. In their company, odd quirks and skips can take place in one’s feeling, in dimensions of one’s being they might not have known even existed. Surprising little percolations begin to burble, indeed, often spilling over and saturating one’s ordinary categories of understanding, perhaps even forcing them to scramble to keep up. It is undeniable! Step into their sphere and, suddenly, amazing things begin to happen. It is more than just merely coincidental, not to say incidental. The spiritual master intends for it to happen, offering themself precisely in this way for the benefit of their devotees.
Sometimes, the nature of the spiritual invasion is pure, radiant bliss, which I have also experienced at the hands of my Guru. But on this occasion, the spiritual transmission took the form of a miraculous healing, in which profound purification unexpectedly took place. Often, there is chanting and recitations in preparation for Darshan. Pujas [worship ceremonies] are also frequently performed in advance of the Guru’s arrival, whereby the presence of the Divine is invoked through the waving of lights and incense in front of the dais and the Guru’s chair. On this occasion, a devotee was particularly immersed in the activity of invocation, circling a candle around the chair with wild exuberance, beside herself with adoration of Adi Da and lavishing his name in praise. I was utterly taken by her devotion and closed my eyes, attempting to immerse myself in the same abandoned worship.
I could feel Adi Da’s extraordinary spiritual presence enter my body almost immediately, even before he actually arrived at the hall. I noticed unusual sensations occurring in my hands. A tingling feeling began to take place, like the scruffy prickling of bees crawling over my fingers. Before long the intensity of this sensation increased, such that the swarming energy extended out beyond the surface of my hands. It was like wearing mittens made of bees. And more than that, they were stinging me all over in the most unusual way—their little punctures imparted intense bliss! An utterly exquisite pleasure came over me, undulating on my hands in a startling and rapid boil. And it was preposterous, located in my hands, of all places! For some reason, I found this hilarious.
Soon, the sensation expanded even further, enveloping my belly. It was like being afloat in an inner tube, buoyed in a swarm of bliss-rendering bees, all of whom mingling in the bulge around my torso. I thought of myself as the Michelin Man, the cartoon mascot of a famous tire manufacturer, and found this imagery amusing too. Caught up in this ecstatic pleasure, I was unable to focus attention on any other activity taking place in the hall. In fact, I never even noticed Adi Da arrive at the hall or enter the room and take his seat on the dais, even though it was no more than a few feet from where I sat.
After awhile, the sensation died away and I was again able to notice events taking place in the room. Others were having similar experiences, judging by the weeping, moaning, and various whoops of laughter and joyous exclaims of praise to Adi Da. However, a series of grim events quickly followed. All at once, an intense sorrow welled up within me. I had no idea what might be prompting this incredible grief, but I was heart-stricken with deep longing and loneliness. I was utterly beside myself, like one might see on the news of peasant women in war ravaged countries, overcome by the sight of loved ones either maimed or destroyed.
I began to wail out loud, at the top of my lungs, out of the most desperate and overwhelming loss. It seemed to me that I was directly experiencing the true state of my being, as lived in this body. A horrific image suddenly appeared in my mind: my heart was a still-born baby, buried deep inside my chest like a corpse. I wailed over this death like a tormented mother, caught in the clutch of a brutal world dragging off her young. I threw my arms toward the sky in supplication. And I bowed to the floor, again and again, utterly yielding myself to the anguish. Toward the end of the sobbing, something began to squirm in my belly. At first, it felt like cramps, but the clench quickly became more active than that. It began to squeeze repeatedly, like a pile of miniature pistons churning in my belly. And more—it began working its way up through my torso, eventually into my throat.
Suddenly, I was howling with utter abandon. However, it was different from the previous supplicant wailing. I was more indifferent, like an innocent by-stander to the guttural howling suddenly emerging from within. Yet, at the same time, it was intensely personal. The sounds felt torn from my intestines, and sent scuttling out through my lungs in a gruff and horrific shriek. It was obvious to me that something was being pulled out from of the depths of my being, perhaps even demonic. I could literally feel the blackness, coarse and oily, like a mechanic’s rag, passing through my throat. Beyond any doubt, I was being purified of some horrible foulness which I could not even name.
Shortly after that, I was sent into a convulsion of uncontrollable spasms. I began to flop around on the floor like a fish on the dock, my arms and legs flailing, which was unfortunate for the devotees around me. The spiritual energy that moved through me was a dynamo, recklessly twisting me askew, like a sheet in the wind. But I was oblivious to any possible repercussions. Anything other than the spiritual transmission seemed irrelevant, utterly beside the point. I had come to “go the distance” with my Guru, no matter what. I refused to back out, determined to hold up my end, nevermind having no idea what this might entail.
At some point the intense seizure passed, leaving me spent on the floor. Yet, I was inexplicably transfixed in calm and serenity. Despite being exhausted, a surprising equanimity came over me. At last, I was able to pull myself from the floor and sit upright. I looked at my Guru. Watching him in that moment was probably the most deeply in love I have ever been. I was overwhelmed with the most heart-breaking, ecstatic intimacy with him. There was an unspoken, tacit understanding between us that we were in this together, each doing our part: him granting the most exquisite spiritual transmission imaginable, and me doing everything in my power to keep up. Even as the room was erupting on all sides in a bedlam of spiritual purification, he sat unperturbed and serene, overseeing the event with sublime mastery. It was amazing to consider how his direct encounter with the spiritual aspects of our beings allowed him to so dramatically influence us, while remaining so peaceful and at ease, seemingly without even moving a muscle.
I was so happy. It was utterly unimaginable. It was the happiest, wildest bedlam in all the world. I felt relieved of burdens beyond my wildest imagination, all the while bobbing in a menagerie of other spiritual transmission equally blessed. While giving Darshan in this manner, Adi Da would scan the room with his eyes, turning his head slightly in order to look at each and every devotee. When his eyes met mine, I gazed into them intently, hoping to communicate in some way my heart-broken love. I felt so innocent and vulnerable, like a baby ready to be gathered into his mother’s arms. There was no question he had saved my life—and while simply sitting in his chair! As I gazed lovingly into his eyes, I noticed that his own gaze lingered. And then it became obvious: as long as my love for him persisted, he could not withhold his own regard. Clearly, this was the secret of spirituality: the devotee giving love to his Guru—not only unabashed, but unabated—in supreme gratitude for the Blessings that have been received.
Finally, it was more than I could bear, and he looked away. Some time after this event, I began to notice something very strange in my posture while I was walking. All my life I had maintained a posture that was slightly bent over, in deference, I had always presumed, to the abuse received while growing up. Simply put, I had grown up wary and quick to cover, so as to deflect any blows coming my way. Although not always that conscious of it, I was aware of a grip clenching in my belly—not my physical torso but, rather, my etheric belly, or naval chakra. Yet, now I could walk upright, without cowering. It was amazing! All my life I have felt the presence of this contracted sensation, in the manner of a lesion or a scar, literally sucking my body downward like a twisted rag. But, now, it was gone. Its absence was a stunning revelation. I felt free, unburdened of enormous stress and anxiety. The lesion had been purified and healed. It was a blessing beyond any comparison—certainly beyond anything I have ever received by human hand.
It is only from the point of this miraculous healing that I can honestly say I have finally been able to love. Throughout my life I have struggled with entering into and sustaining relationships. In fact, my daily experience had been one of intense anxiety and loneliness, with the certainty that even my best efforts would come to no result. Consequently, I lived a life of ever increasing despair, finally reaching proportions that honestly scared me. Simply put, my Guru healed me. I bow my head at His Divine Feet, ecstatic to worship Him. He is the most Beautiful and Sublime Vision I could ever possibly imagine. There is no question in my mind that I am among the most fortunate of people, somehow sifted out of humanity to be Blessed by His Company. How something so wonderful could happen is a pure mystery. Make no mistake: Adi Da Samraj is the Divine Being, alive among us in human form. Like a plant bathed in Divine Light, it is only toward Him that I turn.
On June 20, after being out of town for a few days, I wrote "David" a kind of "P.S." note:
Namaskaram, Sri David,
I hope you took everything i said the other day as a lîlâ-play of love, and intended only for your well-being, not just some strident "gotcha" maneuver. That's not my style.
I forgot to send you the other day another attachment file, a long analysis of Da by another one of his longtime former disciples, Jim Chamberlain. It's notable, among other things, for reporting a conversation with Saniel Bonder who confirmed that Da is an authoritarian with a colossal shadow side, and absolutely NO accountability--thus a confirmation by one of Da's longest time "right hand men" of what some of the other ex-devotees have said, and also what i asserted in my feedback to you.
After your casual dismissal of the many cogent points in the many insightful articles by Elias and Mark Miller (on Da's insidious inflationary tendencies, the greed, the oneupsmanship strategems, the voracious appetite for more and more goodies, the carping and whining about the inferiority of his devotees, the pomposity and boastfulness, the put-down of other truly GREAT Mahatmas, etc.), i doubt you'll budge from your position after hearing either Jim's or Saniel's opinions. But it's worth sending along anyway.
I'll share with you a personal tale. Among the several Mahatmas i greatly respected and loved (Ramana Maharshi, Annamalai Swami, Nisargadatta, Ammachi, Anandamayi Ma, Bhagavan Nityananda, et al.) was Sai Baba of Shirdi. I was especially fond of one of his apparent manifestations, Sathya Sai Baba of South India, around whom i experienced all sorts of amazing dreams and synchronicities and energies. I've assembled a very long webpage of critique of SSB and his lackeys who have covered up a range of his crimes and shenanigans, starting with the longrunning serial sexual molestation of male youth, a fact that the organization successfully covered up for some 30 years. I experienced a certain amount of shock in hearing about all this in early 2001, since i used to attend the local SSB meetings and lead bhajan-singing, give talks on spiritual awakening, share in service work with them for the Santa Barbara community (feeding the homeless, etc.), and so forth (i also led an Ammachi satsang here in Santa Barbara the last 12 years). In classes i taught, i sometimes mentioned Sathya Sai Baba along with the other Mahatmas as a true "God-man."
But there was enough maturity here to be able to simply realize in early 2001: "there's a lot of good in Sathya Sai Baba and his movement, and there's an awful lot of not-good, not-Dharmic behavior in the case of SSB and his organization, and the bad is terribly criminal and corrupt and massively outweighs the good, so it's time to sever all connection with SSB." I've not attended a SSB meeting since Feb. 2001; I lost some dear friends in the process, who are still slavishly devoted to SSB and try to rationalize away all his ugly, exploitative, deceptive behavior "because he is God." Bless their souls! May they be fully awake to the Divine One in all.
The point is: it takes a bit of courage to stand on your own Divine "feet" (the Infinite-Eternal Groundless Ground) and not stay involved with certain groups and persons who are locked in a dysfunctional dream. There's a certain coziness and ongoing excitement and pleasure being part of that dream-group, but it cannot compare to REAL FREEDOM in the REAL DIVINE BEING-AWARENESS-BLISS.
So, David: you've got a big choice here. You can stay devoted to Da and rationalize away everything i'm sharing with you and from those who've left Da and his strange movement, and i DO SUPPORT YOU if you were to make this decision and stay with Da. As i said in an earlier post, i firmly believe sincere, dedicated aspirants can awaken to God, no matter how flawed their teacher may be. As i also said, i recognize that you've got some kind of "su-karma" or good karma with the man. That's fine. That would explain the positive experiences you've thus far had up to this point. But karmas get "exhausted" and/or can change. I hope you remember this if or when anything becomes too weird in your experience of Da. You don't have to stay tied to him. You could "break on through to the other side" and realize "the Truth that really sets you free."
Either way, dear David, i wish you all love and light and peace and real joy.
In Divine friendship....
On June 27, 2007, "David" wrote to me about my critical comments on what he had earlier written back on June 15.
----- Original Message -----
To: Timothy Conway
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2007 7:39 AM
Subject: Re: Integral Therapy
[…] The attached reply is much smaller than the original correspondence. I'm only commenting on things that didn't get said originally. By the way, this exercise has been utterly insightful for me, as you might imagine. It really forces you to consider your position when you have to spell yourself out this way. In fact, I feel so strongly about how well I've laid out my testimonial and advocacy of Adi Da that I've decided to post my part of our correspondence on my website as an Open Letter to critics of Adi Da. Of course, I do not have any references that would identify to whom the correspondence was directed. Thank you so much for being the catalyst of this sadhana [spiritual practice]!
All the best,
And that same day on June 27, Timothy responded:
Thank you for sending what you wrote as an attachment file [see below]. I'm glad that what I earlier wrote for you was useful for your purposes of being a devotee of Da. I couldn't resist responding to what you have just written and sent to me, since there are some very mistaken premises and assumptions in some of what you write. Our correspondence has also been "useful" in a certain way for me, too, that is, for my website readers, for i'll be posting our correspondence (changing your name for your anonymity) at my website. I am posting your correspondence with me in full, including most of your two essays wherein you spoke about your first experiences with Da's photo, and your experience of the shaktipat experiences you had with Da, so that people have an idea of the "positive" side of your interaction with Da.
I hope that in whatever you post at your website of our direct back-and-forth correspondence you will not censor any of my remarks, just as i plan to include everything word-for-word of what you've written to me about why Da should be taken seriously.
Interesting exchange. What a Divine lîlâ! Two viewpoints and two life-histories playing out as "waves frolicking on a vast Ocean of love, peace and bliss!"
Hari Bol! [Praise God!]
So David, here below are my comments to your latest post:
You wrote (and my responses are in separate paragraphs enclosed within brackets [ ] and boldfaced, often emphasizing your name to highlight the fact that it is my voice, not yours, speaking):
[David writes:] Again, I can feel compassion and regard in your words, despite, as you say, “the apparently very harsh tone” of them. However, some of your reply is based on mistaking what I said, so we actually agree on more than you might realize. But there’s no point in addressing any of that, so I will focus on the areas in which we are really at odds. Of course, your time constraints require that my comments be brief, so I will only address what seems essential.
I would like to note upfront the extraordinary polarity of our positions. How odd that we have come to wildly divergent conclusions from exactly the same conditions. Surely something is amiss. Of course, your comments are quite unsparing in this regard: Adi Da has “used every trick in the book” to blindside his devotees in the pursuit of their exploitation, making him “an abusive, scheming, strategizing, manipulative, narcissistic megalomaniac,” as you put it. But, in my mind, this kind of language could only be intended for rhetorical effect, for such an assessment is grossly exaggerated and cannot be supported. It is as if we are not even talking about the same person. Indeed, in nearly 25 years of being in Adi Da’s company, as well as the company of many of those whose testimony you are drawing on, I can find no evidence to corroborate the claim you are making.
[But, David, others have experienced this side of Da, used exactly such words about him, and presented the evidence—i.e., their documentation of outrageous, often harmful or exploitative things that he has done or said or demanded, usually witnessed by more than one person.]
Therefore, I can draw only one conclusion: you are skewing the evidence for some reason, unfortunately, in the direction of damning Adi Da.
In my original correspondence, the focus was on why Adi Da should be taken seriously, at least why I take him seriously, at any rate. Disappointedly, you did not find my confession particularly compelling. However, it seems to me it was not the testimonial that produced your response so much as the way in which you are related to it. I know the possibility of this is not likely to entice you to read further, but since it appears to be true, I must comment on it. To begin with, I believe my testimonial correctly identified the crux of the matter: the dispute comes down to whether or not Adi Da is best regarded to be God—and can be augmented further: whether or not Adi Da is best thought of as being a good Guru. It would seem that the latter is contingent upon the former. That is, you really can’t have the former without the latter. So, the question remains: is Adi Da really God? And the answer could be put this way: it all depends on the criteria. In other words, according to your criteria, the answer is a resounding “No!” Consequently, the discussion must now shift to a new focus: how valid the criteria you’re using actually are.
It is apparent to me that you employ a double standard in the selection of your criteria, in fact, in two different, but similar ways. First of all, despite the generosity with which you have expressed appreciation for the benefits I have received at the hands of Adi Da, it is hard to believe your comments are entirely sincere. After all, my testimony does not merely report that my state has improved, even thrived. More to the point, it has done so precisely because of Adi Da’s direct intervention. In other words, you seem willing to accept the former, but not the latter.
[No, David, I have specifically stated that Da helps some people, and you are obviously one of them. How much help is given, and to what degree of authentic spiritual liberation, is another question.]
Consequently, you are not validating my entire confession, and not giving Adi Da proper credit therefore. Rather, you are filtering the evidence, indeed, skewing it in the direction of accusation and complaint. This is the first double standard—accepting only some testimony, but not others.
[Again, David, I am not interested in perpetuating any double standards. I have always been quite interested and open to hearing the positive testimonies about Da, as I have about many other gurus. But such positive testimonies need to be evaluated in the context of the fact that some, but not all, people will have “good karmic connections” with them, and many other people will not have such karmic connections with him. And when there is a substantial amount of testimony in the other direction, eye-witness testimony expressing great concern about behavior on numerous occasions that would appear to any objective observer to be “abusive, scheming, strategizing, manipulative, narcissistic megalomaniac,” one is compelled to conclude that Da is a complex, “two-faced” figure. In other words, like most human beings, he has a considerable “SHADOW” side. Being a psychologist, you must obviously be aware of this shadow side of human beings, and the terrible damage that it can cause to certain other human beings, even while other people experience no damage at all, but only see the “sunny side” of the personality, not the shadow side, even over a period of decades.]
Literally thousands of people are devotees of Adi Da,
[David, I had heard that the figure is just under 1,000 people who belong to his Church.]
and many thousands more support his work in some demonstrable way, even if they elect not to practice the spiritual life he has given. But they are all marginalized, given short shrift by your comments.
[No, David, you have again ignored the fact that on several occasions in my correspondence with you, I have explicitly remarked that Da has helped some people. But given the 35 years or so of his public teaching, and all the concerted and massive P.R. and hyperbole that has been done by Da and his people, it is remarkable that there are only a few thousand persons who take him as their guru. And frankly, it seems that the figures or "demographics" are being inflated by Da’s organization. I personally know of some people who appear on Da website lists as being “supporters” of Da, and all they did was attend a public meeting of his devotees. This is artificially “boosting” the roster for publicity’s sake.]
The disparity can be put this way: their testimony in behalf of Adi Da is found inadmissible, because of incapacity in their judgment; but this incapacity is held to result precisely because of their high regard for Adi Da. Clearly, this is circular reasoning.
[David, you are again making accusations that have no basis in fact, for your premise is wrong: I don’t find their testimony “inadmissible.” I have again and again stated that Da clearly has helped some people such as these. But I do find that one has to balance their testimony with other testimony. You yourself have demonstrated over and over a remarkable incapacity to admit or consider any of the deeply concerned testimony from longtime former devotees of Da about a wide range of abusive behavior. You simply ignore all of this. In our correspondence, I’ve not heard any admission of real, sincere concern for what these people have experienced, and how all of this might be revelatory about a complex, disturbed shadow side of Da. Instead, while ignoring the specifics of what these critics have charged, in your previous long post you unconditionally took Da’s side and engaged in some fancy rhetoric essentially “blaming the victims,” the victims of Da's shadow side, talking about their “egos” and “creepy crawlies.” On the relative level of justice-injustice, good-evil, I find this quite disturbing. And yes, on the Absolute Level, this is all a dream, a play of One Divine Consciousness, "nothing is really happening." But let's honor the relative, pragmatic level of truth, the vyavaharika-satyam.]
If presence on the internet is any indicator, I can count serious critics of Adi Da on two hands. Even accounting for those who have decided against appearing on the internet, or elsewhere in the media, the numbers for and against are in no way comparable. To put it bluntly, you are fudging the data—emphasizing one, at the expense of the other.
[David, various eye-witness reports from longtime former devotees indicate that "thousands" left Da over the first few decades of his oft-changing following; according to Mark Miller over 40 disgruntled people talked to the media when problems went public in 1985. By the era of the Internet, the late 1990s, most former Da students and devotees wanted nothing more to do with him and were not about to articulate their feelings about Da for websites. Nevertheless, it is remarkable that there were still a lot of people willing at that late date to report on Da.
I grant you that this number of "Internet" protestors of Da are outnumbered by the nearly 1,000 devotees of Da. Yet the exact same situation pertains to the critics of most other dysfunctionally cultic groups, including the much larger organizations connected with Sathya Sai and Scientology, et al. This disproportionate internet ratio indicates nothing. The number of people who step forward--with nothing to gain and much to risk—in order to reveal the shadow side of the behavior of a cultic figure and his/her organization is always a very small number compared to the much larger number of people who quietly leave and don't make any noise about it or who stay within the organization, appearing to go along with everything while harboring serious inner doubts.
There’s a huge factor of “COGNITIVE DISSONANCE” here (Leon Festinger’s brilliant concept from social psychology in the 1950s). Anyone deeply involved in an organization has invested a good amount of time, energy and often money. The dysfunctionally cultic figures make sure that anyone approaching them MUST spend a massive amount of time, energy and, yes, lots of money. This then creates a HUGE force of cognitive dissonance should anything become “unseemly” about the cult leader or his/her organization. Having invested so much time, energy and money, most members are not mature enough to reconcile the “cognitive dissonance,” i.e., the conflict between the usual self-perception, “I’m an intelligent, astute, sensitive person not easily duped,” and the new, dawning perception, “I’ve invested a lot of time, energy and money in an organization and its leader who, I now realize, have a very disturbing shadow side.” A mature human being realizes, “hey, sometimes I make big mistakes and get duped by something or someone.” And such a mature person then withdraws from the organization and moves along in life. An immature person cannot feel secure enough about himself in a situation of cognitive dissonance, and so must then go to great lengths to rationalize why the organization and its leader must somehow be extraordinarily "wonderful" and "beneficial." This happens all the time in dysfunctional religious movements, dysfunctional political parties, dysfunctional corporations and smaller businesses, dysfunctional families, etc.
People will usually stay with the familiar, instead of courageously moving on beyond the familiar into the unfamiliar "unknown," simply because they have invested so much time, energy (and, again, often great sums of money), and cannot face or resolve the "cognitive dissonance" in their situation.]
And the manner in which you are filtering this data is not arbitrary, but appears directly related to the two fundamental aspects of any Guru: what Adi Da calls the beauty foot and the power foot—or more commonly, the nurturing, mothering force and the challenging, father force. I’m sure you must be familiar with these two concepts, and how both are necessary for growth and development, employed in concert as a kind of dance. With this in mind, your comments appear to filter the data toward a specific purpose: favoring one foot over the other. In other words, the second double-standard could be put this way: whereas good Gurus are those who employ a high percentage of nurture and beauty foot, bad Gurus are the exact opposite—those employing a high percentage of challenge and power foot.
[David, you’re making another accusation here which is unwarranted, assuming I prefer nurturing, mothering Gurus over challenging father-type figures. But you’re dialoging here with someone who sat at the feet of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, one of the most fiery and challenging gurus of the modern era. I loved the guy! And there was only empowerment around him, nothing dysfunctional. He did not make selfish demands that benefited himself--he only demanded that people visiting him be sincere and really earnest about waking up to the Truth of "No-thing"-like, ego-free Awareness. I’ve also spent time around or read deeply about some other remarkably “father-like” and challenging figures. In my previous commentary on what you wrote in that long post, I specifically spoke in depth and with great appreciation for the case of Meher Baba, who was an extremely challenging figure.
So your argument is not valid here, David. Yet I will say in general, though, that, the “nurturing motherly” guru is a type of figure who, almost by definition, does not create the kind of trouble and abuse that those styling themselves “fatherly, challenging figures” can wind up doing.
Incidentally, as long as you’ve raised the model of “mother and father” figure for the guru, here’s a really IMPORTANT QUESTION: is it at all appropriate for a “father”-figure guru to solicit sexual favors or seduce his female disciples, as Da has many, many times been observed to do? How is this in any way being a “father”?? Or do you support incestual relations? That last question, of course, is in fact rhetorical, because you have told me that you work professionally with children who have been abused by elders, and I know that in this field it is certainly NOT okay for fathers to have sexual relations with their daughters.
So why does Da, "a fatherly figure," go after his female disciples? All professionals in the helping field have it made clear to them by the guidelines of professional ethics, that sexually interacting with clients/students/patients is a VIOLATION OF ETHICS, for the power imbalance in the helping relationship is such as to make it an "unlevel playing field." To sexually exploit a client/student/patient for one's own pleasure or power-mongering thrill is to take advantage of someone for one's own benefit and to violate that someone's trust. To then engage in rationalizations and say that "it was good for the client/student/patient" is acccepted by NO ONE in the helping professions, including many formal and informal associations of spiritual teachers in our society.]
That you should prefer kinder, gentler Gurus over challenging ones is certainly your prerogative. God bless! After all, one size does not fit all. Gurus who are confrontive are not for everyone—by any means!
[There are many things to be said here David, but, as you know, I don’t have the leisure time to go "really" extensively into all of this. But an interesting question—among many—to be asked here is, WHO ever gave Da the right to “play the guru-function” and be so confrontational? Just because he can channel some high-level teachings and a lot of shaktipat energies, what right does that give him to take absolute control over people’s lives, demanding all their allegiance, their money, and so much of their time, and to then violate the widely-accepted ethics of helping professionals? It's one thing to be "confrontive," it's quite another thing to be selfishly exploitative, all the while self-consciously calling it "part of crazy wisdom tradition."]
However, you cross a line of impropriety when you go beyond labeling Gurus merely those you don’t like, to inherently evil or to be avoided. This suggests an agenda.
[David, I have no agenda here. Recall that it was you who approached me with the request that I link your website to mine, with your material that does not at all seriously or with any detail discuss the well-documented shadow side of a figure who has relentlessly promoted himself and made demands on people for some 35 years. It is Da, his devoted followers and yourself who have the big “agenda,” not me.]
Besides, not only is such an assessment pejorative and prejudicial, it isn’t even true. Confrontive Gurus are not the same as bad Gurus. They simply reside at the high-end of the spectrum of demand. In other words, all Gurus are demanding—that’s their job.
[But what are legitimate demands? I can think of some: That disciples love everyone and be as fully present and available and accountable and responsible as they can in their relationships. And that they try to clearly intuit, feel and open up to the Transcendent-Immanent Divine Reality in all situations at all times. And that they engage in "right livelihood" as well as right bodily, vocal and mental conduct for the sake of upholding Dharma in all facets of life. (And authentic Gurus live up to these same demands that they--usually in quite gentle fashion--make of spiritual aspirants who come to them).
Around Da, one gets some of the above same demands but one also, by contrast, gets all these other demands: that one worship, love and serve the personality of Da, that one give most or all of one's time, energy and money toward Da and his organization, that one be obedient to Da and to higher-echelon members of his organization. And also, from the documented evidence, it seems that one is at the whim of Da and his cohorts so that one must do things like procure women or expensive drugs or paperweights or Disney toys for him, etc.
And again, David, i must also ask: who authorized Da to be a Guru, beyond just being a “helpful spiritual friend” (kalyana mitra, as the Buddhists would call it)? If you say “Muktananda” authorized him, you’re wrong, according to the SYDA Yoga personnel and the letter that Da presented in his first book, wherein it is made clear only that Muktananda said to Da/Franklin "you can now initiate others into meditation." This is not the same as playing the Divine Guru role and taking control over devotees' lives and making big demands on people. And, for that matter, what kind of a “Guru” was Muktananda? Have you ever read the material at the website “Leaving Siddha Yoga” by one of Muktananda’s first western sannyasins, Swami Abhayananda (Stan Trout)? Muktananda turned out to be not a very “good guru,” by all objective standards: molesting under-age girls, voyeuristically spying on them while they undressed, lying to and deceiving his devotees, threatening them, having a few of his bullies actually use physical violence to beat up and intimidate some of his critics, charging big sums of money for his “shaktipat intensives,” etc. Gurumayi has carried on a similar pattern of abuse (spying on people, berating and verbally abusing them, making people work slavishly for SYDA yoga while living/sleeping in unhealthy conditions at serf’s wages, thereby endangering their own financial situation and security in their old age if they should ever leave SYDA yoga, etc.) So if Franklin/Da was only given permission to initiate people into SYDA-Yoga style meditation, and by a fallen guru at that, where does that leave Da's legitimacy as a "Guru"?]
It’s just a question of how much. Given this, the second double-standard could be rephrased as follows: the unwillingness to acknowledge that high-end demanding Gurus are just as legitimate as low-end demanding Gurus.
Further, your assessment of Adi Da isn’t true in another, equally revealing way: you are not correctly identifying the percentage of his beauty to power foot ratio in any event. As mentioned earlier, and which can also be seen in countless leelas, the presence of his beauty foot is extraordinary, even exemplary. There are endless accounts of the compassionate, caring, purely sacrificial nature of Adi Da’s love for his devotees—for all beings, really.
[Dear David, this is what I asked to hear from you from the beginning, but you’ve never really told me anything specific. All I heard about was your experience with his photo (not a particularly impressive story, given the “projection factor” and, more charitably speaking, the fact that any number of photos of magnetic personalities have had the same or similar “uncanny” empowering effect on certain members of the public). I also heard from you about Da's being an instrument for certain shaktipat energies that you experienced—but then, Da had been part of the SYDA yoga movement and also the Subud latihan process, both of which easily could have opened him up to this “intelligent Power” of the Spirit or Shakti or whatever you want to call this force or energy that can manifest with "divine" effects or "not-so-divine" effects, e.g., inflating the egos of those experiencing the shakti-power.]
It is just a matter of whether you’re willing to acknowledge it or not.
[So David, why don’t you actually present some detailed stories on how Da has actually compassionately sacrificed and given to others in such beautiful ways? I have now heard, through others’ testimony, so many stories telling of how Da has manipulated, abused and taken from people. Why don’t you balance the scale here with specific stories? I did read a lot of the early Da literature, but I don’t remember anything suggesting an exceptionally courageous, giving, charitable side to Da, unlike Ramana Maharshi, Anasuya Devi, Meher Baba, Amritanandamayi, Shirdi Sai Baba, Padre Pio, Mother Teresa, Hsu-yun, Hsuan-hua, and so many others authentic spiritual masters/incarnations of the modern era.]
This is why I question the sincerity of your appreciation of the benefits I have received in his company, for you are not giving any credence to the fact that Adi Da is the source of those benefits—which, obviously, makes all the difference. You are simply not willing to give him his due.
[David, this is getting repetitive. I have clearly stated that he helps some people—maybe a few thousand people--while abusing quite a number of others, over a dozen of whom have publicly spoken out. This is hardly a good “batting average” for someone who is being claimed to be the fullest Divine Incarnation of our era, especially in light of the fact that someone like Amma Amritanandamayi has clearly helped millions of people, without making any "demands" on them, though it is certainly true that in private she has made some extraordinary demands on her female personal attendants like Gayatri/Gail Tredwell, on many occasions dealing out abuse.]
Of course, it is your prerogative to refuse to recommend Adi Da to others because of your concerns. But I am asking you to reconsider. This seems appropriate, especially in light of a particular aspect of life in Adidam rarely mentioned. That is, there are many different ways to live in Adidam, very few of which actually in Adi Da’s personal company. Indeed, the opportunity of living in his personal company requires one to forcefully assert themself, literally solicit an invitation. This is why alarm or warnings strike me as so absurd. To put it simply, if you find the kitchen too hot, you can always stay in the living room. It is entirely up to you. Or, to put it somewhat differently, you don’t have to have your arm operated on right away. You could put it off until you feel more ready; unless, of course, the deteriorating nature of your injury forces the issue.
Indeed, the metaphor of a surgeon operating on someone’s arm, producing a wound in the process, is not nearly so trite or cliché as you let on. Although it is true that a sociopath could use surgery as an opportunity to slice people up, as you say, this is a disingenuous way of talking about what typically goes on during surgery. Frankly, in saying this, you are playing the maybe game. Maybe Adi Da is a sociopath. Maybe Adi Da is a skilled surgeon. Who can say? As long as you remain hypothetical, you can play it any way you want—which is common enough among critics. However, reality is actually one way or the other. That is why honest men and women take responsibility and submit to the difficult ordeal of determining which possibility is true. And not in a superficial or prejudicial manner, picking and choosing the evidence they prefer. Rather, they entertain all the evidence. Issues as important as this can be rightly adjudicated only under certain conditions: not just truth, but the whole truth.
[Look, David, it’s this simple: For a period of about two years in the latter 1970s I was very interested in Da. I read all the early literature. I subscribed to his church’s magazine(s). I even tithed some money, though I was a penniless student at the time. Then I began to wonder why, compared to so many really beautiful, powerful, profoundly spiritual Guru figures (Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta, Ch’an masters Hsu-yun and Hsuan hua, Tibetan Buddhist masters Karmapa, Dhilgo Khyentse, and others), the “approach” to Da was made so difficult and complex, and why, from all emerging accounts, he was such a “taker,” not a truly selfless giver.
Da clearly had these enormous APPETITES on the level of the "selfish personality" that required “devotees” to chronically and constantly “serve him.” Everything about him began to be seen clearly: he was/is a classic narcissist and megalomaniac with massive self-inflationary tendencies. No one in their right mind would continue going any further in their involvement with that situation, spending more time, energy and money, when, obviously, there were other highly regarded Guru figures very effective in transforming the lives of their followers but without all the selfish demands and complexities and rationalizations.
In 1980-1 i spent a lot of time in Burma and India, meeting authentically God-realized beings like the eminent Taungpulu Sayadaw of upper Burma, Nisargadatta, Annamalai Swami, Mother Krishnabai who were liberating many others into authentic God-realization, characterized by all sorts of beautiful virtues extolled in the literature: loving-kindness, compassion, empathy, solidarity with the needy, a self-sacrificing tendency to selflessly serve those in need without need for compensation, freedom from fear and desire and pettiness, equanimity, simplicity, generosity, and so many other wonderful virtues.
This is REAL SPIRITUALITY; it's not about slavish devotion to a cult personality and experiencing all the "highs" and "energy rushes" being around such a figure. Seeing, meeting and spending time around authentic spiritual leaders made me realize that something was wrong, imbalanced, distorted and artificial in the scene around Da in much of what i was reading and hearing from his "devotees." Many of these "devotees" later left Da's group and told even more harrowing tales. Some of this emerged in the mid-1980s, but much more was only available in the internet era of the late 1990s and beyond.]
Another crucial point must be made in regard to the medical metaphor: not everyone survives chemo. Look at my mother. But does such a grim prognosis reflect against the competency of the doctors? Or even against the patient for taking their advice, for that matter? The negative outcome is simply not their fault. Sometimes the cure has a cost. However desirable, you can’t always have it one way, but not the other. It is not fair to say that a Guru has zero legitimacy, just because it turns out that not everyone realizes the same benefits in their company. That is all or nothing thinking.
[And again, David, I will grant that Da, in Ken Wilber’s old definition of the term, has some “legitimacy.” The real question, to use Wilber's valuable distinction (which he has apparently never applied to Da), is what kind of authentic God-realization happens around Da among his followers? Yes, a thousand or more people are experiencing certain “benefits,” to use your word-- healings, energy rushes, experiences (that apparently come and go and therefore are only transitional) of bliss, peace, rapture, luminosity, clarity. Alright. Yet who has actually fully awakened to God in Da’s presence and been “freed” from the cult of serving Da’s whims and needs?
Please be specific here in answering my question. This is a really big issue, David. If “Da is a Divine Incarnation,” as you and others of Da’s still-faithful devotees maintain, he should be able to promote God-realization or authentic spiritual realization in a small throng or a large multitude of people. And by God-realization or spiritual realization we can specifically mean the set of factors or criteria that I gave above for real spirituality; i uniquely identified these and other criteria in the world’s great spiritual literature for my doctoral dissertation, which are posted in brief at my website in the Healthy Spirituality section. Thus, saying that “someone fully loves Da” or "someone has given all his time, money and energy to Da's church" or “someone is having highly unusual experiences around Da” would NOT be criteria for authentic God-realization by any objective standards. I’m not interested in how many people get “high” around Da on shaktipat experiences. I want to know who is actually getting really clear and liberated—that is to say, liberated from their own samskara tendencies and, equally important, liberated from the self-serving cult of Da.]
The metaphor of surgery is far more profound than this, indeed, even provides a means for resolving the matter: if it actually turns out that Adi Da is a skilled surgeon, then his critics must be misunderstanding and over-reacting to the sight of the wound, thereby aborting the healing process.
[David, after someone has caused you to have to go to the ER hospital because he has damaged your female sexual/reproductive organs by violently jamming or slamming a soda bottle up your vagina, or deliberately defecated and urinated on you during sexual intercourse, or stolen your spouse for sexual relations, or demanded that you give him all your money for his marijuana parties and expensive paperweights and Disney toys, or demanded that you work night and day for satisfying his every fickle whim about this and that, or in various other ways made senseless, irrational demands that always seem to have the same bottom line--you lose and Da wins (he experiences pleasure at your expense)—I hardly call it “misunderstanding and over-reacting” when people finally leave the Da circus or nightmare or whatever they might want to call it. Be rational here, David, not irrational. Yes, some/many of you Da devotees have "benefited" in being around Da and his followers. Many have not benefited or only partially benefited and have then left, no longer able to rationalize away all the shenanigans and strange, spiritually deviant elements they witness in Da and his church.]
Besides, you cannot simply make the assertion that Adi Da is a sociopath and leave it at that. Clearly, the appeal of this kind of assessment only exists by stacking the deck against him, admitting certain kinds of evidence—those that support kinder, gentler Gurus—while excluding the Guru that Adi Da happens to be.
[Is he, then, a true Guru? A true Guru fully enlightens people and, in turn, transmutes them into Gurus with their own disciples, liberated from an endless cult wherein they must always only honor him as the Guru and work slavishly within his organization. We have a number of people who have left the organization charging that Da is NOT providing this real service of true liberation, but only running a voracious self-serving cult of the massively inflated ego. Yes, I repeat, some people are experiencing a variety of unusual, positive, “blissful” experiences and benefits (healings of different psychosomatic kinds, boosts in confidence, greater understanding of certain spiritual principles and teachings). But this does not necessarily make Da a true Guru. The same things happened around Jim Jones of Guyana infamy; or Sathya Sai Baba; or L.Ron Hubbard of Scientology.]
To cut through the rhetoric, Adi Da is not a sociopath; he’s just more demanding than you would like him to be.
[Given some of the callous, sadistic behaviors reported of Da, witnessed by others, i venture to say that Da apparently does have some degree of "sociopathic" tendencies lurking in his shadow side. Do you deny that he has a shadow side that "acts out" from time to time? Don’t give me the tired rationale used by so many other cultists that rationalizes whatever the cult leader does is “good” or “suited” for the devotee’s “spiritual growth.” That won’t wash.]
And the nature of the demand is exaggerated in any event, precisely by virtue of reducing him to a single foot. Although I can only guess at the reasons why you are doing this, I am definitely in a position to observe it: you are doing this. But, for having done so, you only end up with a straw man. Such is a tremendous loss, and so unnecessary.
It is true that Adidam is a difficult spiritual path, and Adi Da a high-end demanding Guru, but to go on from there and undercut his legitimacy because of it is unfair and inappropriate. It has been said that Adi Da’s manner is hyper-masculine. But the truth is actually far more formidable than this: Adi Da’s feet are each hyper, masculine and feminine. That is, they are extremely intense. And rightly so, for he is God incarnate—not merely human.
[David, again and again I have asked you to demonstrate this point of his divinity with actual convincing evidence, not bald statements that “beg the question.”]
In a funny kind of way, you could think of spiritual life in Adi Da’s company like boot camp. Perhaps you prefer meditation retreats or workshops to boot camp. But preference isn’t the same as legitimacy.
[Okay, David, why is a “bootcamp” structure and format necessary for Da’s organization and the approach to him? After all, we use the “bootcamp” term primarily to describe an entry-point into the armed forces, e.g., the US Marines. Military bootcamp is an extremely authoritarian organization, not at all egalitarian or democratic—though one can imagine a different kind of military that might run on more “enlightened” principles in order to train and mobilize and prepare troops for national self-defense and battle with violent enemies. But given the present nature of our society, I suppose the bootcamp structure and set of dynamics is most feasible for accomplishing certain ends. And yet look at all the atrocities and barbarous forms of behavior that have “inadvertently” occurred because of the authoritarian mindset that is engendered, from the Mylai massacre in Vietnam to the many documented horrors of the quagmire in Iraq (Abu Ghraib, etc.). Look at all the atrocities that have been committed throughout Latin America over the last 50 years by soldiers from those countries who have been trained at the U.S. Army’s “School of the Americas” (originally in Panama, in recent decades at Fort Benning, GA), a bizarre bootcamp for the militaries, paramilitia forces, and death squads of the right-wing dictators that the U.S. has for far too long maintained as a way of insuring that U.S. business and political interests will be well-served by a series of “hired thugs” that we help put into office in those countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, etc.). The result? Over a million dead, murdered or assassinated in Latin America, countless more injured and terrorized, and 80% of the people in those countries living in dire, obscene poverty.
David, I’m not at all sure we do well to use the “bootcamp” model here for spiritual training. What battle is being fought? With the bogeyman of ego? And, as I said in my last post to you, is this not a major violation of his “7th stage” model of what he claims to be teaching as the highest revelation ever given on this planet? Moreover, is Da himself altogether beyond ego-tendencies? Is he entirely samskara-free? If not, what gives him the right to be the dictator-general to run such a bootcamp? He certainly looks and behaves like he has lots of binding samskara ego-tendencies in certain areas of his life. So why is someone who is not entirely free claiming to be free, and, further, claiming that he can entirely free or liberate other beings, and then in the process demanding the right to treat them in the sadistic fashion of a hierarchical bootcamp?]
Either approach is legitimate, all depending on the individual. However, you don’t merely issue the warning, “If he’s not right for you, stay away,” which, in my mind, would be honorable. Rather, you go on to condemn, “Stay away, whether he’s right for you or not.” I can see no propriety in this appraisal. Again, I am asking you to reconsider. Perhaps whether or not Adi Da is a good Guru isn’t as appropriate a way to put the issue as this: good for whom? I am certainly one. And there are others. Even if you feel that you cannot recommend him to most spiritual aspirants, surely you can recommend him to at least some—those for whom he happens to be the right one.
[David, you are my friend--yes, despite our vastly differing views on Da, I see you as the embodiment of the Beloved Divine, as I also see Da likewise, despite his shadow side, which is “perfect,” in the ultimate schema of the Divine Comedy (not a tragedy, for all beings will eventually spiritually awaken). Therefore, dear friend, I will say yet again that Da has certainly helped some people who have had the great good fortune and “good karma, su-karma,” to experience lovely benefits around him.
You ask of me, “surely you can recommend him to at least some—those for whom he happens to be the right one.” Unfortunately, we cannot know from the outset “who is the right one,” the right kind of disciple who will unconditionally benefit from Da’s company, and not wind up being exploited or abused by him, or simply “not served” by Da at the highest level possible. Therefore, because of the disturbing complexity of Da’s personality and history, and the exceptional, severe and suspicious demands that he and his organization require for “approaching Da,” I simply CANNOT, in good faith, recommend him to anyone.
I am certain that a number of people, by the power of “good karmic connections,” as well as “bad karmic connections,” and a mix of both kinds of karma, will, by karmic law and Divine Will, find themselves joining Da’s organization and eventually sitting at his feet, experiencing all sorts of energy rushes and states of consciousness.
I sincerely hope that these people and all beings will awaken to the Infinite, Eternal Divine Awareness before/beyond all such finite energies and passing states, and before/beyond all fascinations with the personality of Da, a dream-figure like you and me.
May all be awake to the glory and beauty of the One Divine God-Self.
Om Tat Sat Om.
July 8, 2007
From "David," with Timothy's responses in brackets and boldface:
Again, I’ve found your correspondence both challenging and compassionate. Although the conclusions we’ve reached are diametrically opposed, I find your thought process remarkable for its honesty and intelligence, especially given the type of harangues that usually attenuate criticisms of Adi Da. But, as you say, we are starting to go around in circles. Yet, one or two new points have emerged, keeping the dialogue enlivened. The first is your objection to my characterization that you are engaging in a double standard—accepting the testimony of critics over advocates of Adi Da. You point out that you have repeatedly stated something along these lines: “Da helps some people, and you are obviously one of them. How much help is given, and to what degree of authentic spiritual liberation, is another question.” Another comment goes like this:
'So "David," why don't you actually present some detailed stories on how Da has actually compassionately sacrificed and given to others in such beautiful ways? I have now, through others' testimony, so many stories telling of how Da has manipulated, abused and taken from other people. Why don't you balance the scale here with specific stories?'
Comments such as these make me wonder if my interpretation of your remarks pegged you right. Perhaps you are not actually engaging in a double standard after all, despite what your remarks seem to indicate. Perhaps you simply have not heard the leelas of Adi Da’s devotees and are relying too heavily on his critics as a base for your conclusions. This thought did not occur to me before because your original correspondence warned me up-front: “Please know, 'David,' that I always like to be fair and i myself remain quite open-minded to hearing some good things from the ‘pro-Da’ camp, but it better be coming from a place of real integrity and honesty, not slavish devotion, heavy conditioning and brainwashing—like some of the unconvincing stuff i've heard from Daists over the years.”
[David, I did read a lot of the positive material in the 1970s, and some material from the period in the 1980s, as well as some more recent materials, including of course what you sent me about your darshan and healing. I have to say, honestly, that I did not find it as impressive as positive reports concerning other spiritual leaders who are not so darn “complicated” in the way that dear Da is complicated.]
See, to me, this is the crux of the double standard: it is so easy for one person’s heart-felt devotion to be another person’s slavish brainwashing. That is why I mentioned my mother so prominently in my original testimonial. She didn’t believe me either. You say you are open-minded, yet, I can’t help but wonder—after all, my own mother wasn’t! However, your repeated comments in behalf of acknowledging that I’ve benefited from Adi Da certainly seem sincere, and I am grateful for your willingness to acknowledge that. If it is true your research doesn’t include significant data from the advocacy side of the ledger, I suggest this sampling of material to consider: Love and Blessings: The Divine Compassionate Miracles of Avatar Adi Da Samraj and The Master Dancer are both books of leelas pertaining to Adi Da’s work with devotees. These are all available at our internet bookstore at Adidam.org, if you would like to take a look. Likewise, there is a website devoted to leelas by Adi Da’s devotees: Adidaupclose.org. In addition, Beezone.com has considerable commentary on Adi Da, including many leelas.
[David, any readers of my webpage on Da are hereby informed by you of these resources on Da’s leelas, and I have boldfaced and italicized your words for greater emphasis. I would only note that there are hundreds if not thousands of books on other great sages, saints, adepts and avatars, male and female, ancient and contemporary, from other sacred traditions, that feature amazing miracles and wonders, i.e., leelas—in more recent times including St. Seraphim of Sarov, Padre Pio, Maria Esperanza of Venezuela, Fr. Solanus Casey, Brother Andre of Canada, Sai Baba of Shirdi, Meher Baba, Nityananda, Anandamayi Ma, Anasuya Devi, Shyama Mataji, Dadaji of Calcutta, Amma Amritanandamayi, Hsu-yun, Hsuan Hua, and others. Obviously, many of the stories from the distant past and even some of the stories from the recent past are suspect, given the human tendency to “hype” and inflate their own experience or misreport and inflate the experiences of others. Yet genuine miracles (anomalous “wonders”) do occur. I wrote an essay on such paranormal powers in the appendix to my book, Women of Power & Grace, that essay now available at my website in the Science & Spirituality section of the website.]
One final remark is necessary, I think. You also made this series of comments:
[Timothy wrote:] 'But what are legitimate demands? I can think of some: That disciples love everyone and be as fully present and available and accountable and responsible as they can in their relationships. And that they try to clearly intuit, feel and open up to the Transcendent-Immanent Divine Reality in all situations at all times. And that they engage in “right livelihood” as well as right bodily, vocal and mental conduct for the sake of upholding Dharma in all facets of life. Around Da, one gets some of the above demands but one also, by contrast, gets all these other demands: that one worship, love and serve the personality of Da, that one give most or all of one’s time, energy and money toward Da and his organization, that one be obedient to Da and to higher-echelon members of his organization. And also, from the documented evidence, it seems that one is at the whim of Da and his cohorts so that one must do things like procure women or expensive drugs or paperweights or Disney toys for him, etc.'
["David" resumes writing:]
It seems to me this summarizes the abuse issue pretty clearly. Hopefully, the material I mentioned above will indicate sufficiently that the legitimate demands of Adi Da are in ample supply! If not, I could easily show you thousands of pages of transcripts of talks and gatherings in which he demonstrates precisely these qualities, in spades, many of which I have attended personally. Again, many of these talks are available on video or DVD at our internet bookstore, so that you can see for yourself. By the way, if you’ll notice, the first sentence in the second paragraph already undermines this legitimacy by stating: “one gets some of the above demands…” On the contrary: one gets all of these demands—and in every single encounter. Of that I can speak with authority, based on each and every experience I have had with Adi Da over 25 years.
[David, I’ll grant you that!]
As for the second paragraph, of course, here things get a little sticky. All I can say is in 35 years there has only been one incident, involving two court cases, in which anyone has ever come forward with any kind of formal complaint or accusation. That incident took place 20 years ago, was settled out of court, and no further incidents of this kind have occurred since. You make the following statement: “You yourself have demonstrated over and over a remarkable incapacity to admit or consider any of the deeply concerned testimony from longtime former devotees of Da about a wide range of abusive behavior. You simply ignore all of this.” To be honest, what I know about any of this is what I read on the internet. After all, it’s not as if these individuals and I travel in the same circles, especially now that they are pursuing lives outside of Adidam.
[Okay, David, to make it easier for you, I have included as an appendix here at the end of this exchange some substantial excerpts from “Elias’” website articles and blogs on Da’s abusive behavior and personality.]
However, what I have read on the internet is so overwrought and exaggerated that it smacks of sensationalism, even mean-spirited gossip in some cases. Significantly, despite certain legendary claims making the rounds, the “documented evidence” you refer to is not substantial enough to prompt anyone to actually act on it. This ought to give you pause. In my mind, if any legitimate cases of real exploitation had ever taken place—as opposed to situations in which one is simply confronted with more demand than they expected or wanted—much more would have been made of it after all this time. Of course, you say that coming forward in this way represents a difficulty for any victim, as they must relive the trauma in order to address it. Something very much like this happens in the case of rape victims, who literally get blamed for the crime while they are on the witness stand. Yet, I also know something about emotionally disturbed children who routinely accuse their counselors and providers of sexual abuse, when nothing of the kind ever happened—simply because they’re mad and want payback, using whoever happens to be near at hand. In my experience, people genuinely pursuing a therapeutic course of action are humbled by their trauma, desperate for only one thing: healing, not revenge. In all honesty, I find no evidence of the former in anything I’ve seen on the internet.
[David, part of their healing seems to be to speaking out honestly about certain injustices. A similar forum for airing injustices was created, for instance in South Africa after the apartheid regime had fallen. This is considered by almost all mental health experts to be very much a necessary part of the “healing.” So Elias’ webpage provides a similar “healing forum.” If there appears to be bitterness or harshness of rhetoric in the way some of these people express themselves, you must consider, David, that many of them feel that they lost vast amounts of their precious time, lots of energy, and significant sums of money in being part of Da’s group, resources that could have been "better spent" elsewhere. Some of these people were personally violated in different ways, the entire thing being callously rationalized as part of “the Crazy Wisdom tradition.” They see Da as having been the one who "benefitted," not themselves. Again, we can "spiritually rationalize" all of this and say that everyone is having their prarabdha karma unfold the way it is "Divinely destined" to manifest. But it is heartless to tell this to those who feel they have been exploited and victimized by someone who's grinning all the way to the bank, with his luxuriously-clad consorts and wives and adulating devotees.]
As for claims that Adi Da is getting rich off of his devotees, my mother used to call this “living the life of Riley.” This is perhaps the most difficult issue, for more than anything else, understanding the relationship between the Guru and liberation from our attachment to money, food, and sex requires a difficult acknowledgement: it is all our choice. Without this understanding, it is easy to get confused. To put the matter bluntly, nobody has to give a dime to Adi Da if they don’t want to. Or give themself in any other way either, for that matter.
[Ah, but David, realistically, there are so many peer pressure dynamics and unusual cultic factors at work here. Most of these people have been, I will repeat, “brainwashed” or heavily conditioned to believe the “groupthink” hyperbole that Da is the only true Avatara for our era, that he is their ONLY conduit to God-realization, that “because he is God, whatever he does is Divine,” and that, if they are to spiritually awaken under his Divine influence, they really DON’T HAVE A REALISTIC CHOICE about giving to him, surrendering to him, putting up with his demands and “tests.” At a certain point, Reality may finally break in with a surge of inner confidence and daring to try to snap out of the groupthink and break away, and many people have obviously been able to do this breaking away. But look how it took some people many years, even decades, to do so! Ah, the bewitching power of enchantment and expectations.]
So they have no reason to complain if they do. Being in the exact same situation, I believe I am in a good position to say this. It is hard to take such complaints seriously, when I am involved in the very same process myself, and find it absolutely necessary for healing and liberation—even if difficult and demanding.
Besides, I have better reasons than this for withholding sympathy, which I learned while being a child care provider working at a group home. ["David" next tells a long story of an emotionally disturbed young girl who threw a temper tantrum toward the end of a field trip, and who was given "tough love" treatment by one of the experienced woman caregivers.]
[David, this is a great story... It’s interesting to note, though, that in this case, it was the girl who was acting out, not the teachers. What do we do with all those stories where it was Da the teacher who appears to have been acting out?? I.e., taking other men’s wives for his own sexual pleasure, taking considerable amounts of devotee’s money for his own wives’ and consorts’ sexy lingerie and his own obsessive hobbies—the paperweights and Disney toys. I mean, beyond “esoteric” rationalizations and excuses, why was Da so ardent in grabbing lots of dough to be able to “triumph” at the Sotheby’s auction in scoring that $159,000 collector’s item paperweight, that he obviously took so much personal pride in getting? Elias’ several reports from loyal insiders around Da writing their observations in 2000 shows that Da is like an obsessive, fixated, “childish” figure (not childlike), quite disturbed in the way he “acts out.” The overarching point here is this: did Da ever receive from anyone the kind of “tough love” that he “needed” to break open what appears to many of us inside/outside observers that authoritarian personality and narcissism and megalomania?]
It is for this reason that I refuse to feel sorry for anyone, under any circumstances. I know something utterly pertinent at issue: more than anything, the ego feels unloved, and is desperate for someone to feel sorry for them because of it. But why do that? Haven’t they suffered enough!? Without imposing that on them too? Besides, there are good reasons to make the kinds of sacrifice in the direction of Adi Da we are talking about, rendering the complaints against him all the more untenable. What makes all the generosity perfectly reasonable is the prior giving that Adi Da does, in which he is involved at all times. You do not appear to be aware of or else appreciate this prior giving, the dramatic exercise of his beauty foot, involving the transmission of darshan and hridaya-shakti,
[But, David, other sages, saints, adepts and real avataras give the “beauty foot” without all the complications and demands.]
[…] the scintillating nature of his teaching and dharma, the way of life designed specifically for spiritual growth and practice, even his work with the world on subtle levels of spiritual reality we can only guess at. Of course, it is easy to dismiss this latter claim, especially if you are not conversant with these levels of spiritual reality such that you can see it for yourself. Needless-to-say, few people are.
You repeatedly state Adi Da is a taker, not a giver. But, once again, the double standard rests on stacking the deck against him, not allowing the giving he actually does admission to the conversation. Perhaps reading the leelas I mention above will change that.
[Again, David, I have boldfaced for emphasis your earlier-given list of these resources for anyone reading my website.]
Devotees stay in his company precisely because of the extraordinary gifts they continually receive from him. Indeed, out of love, his devotees are utterly grateful for the opportunity to gift him in return—and in all kinds of ways: personal service, as well as financial contributions to support his great work liberating all beings.
[So, David, I must ask the obvious: for all those who serve Da and for that other category of “all beings,” how many have actually been fully liberated by Da? This is one of the salient charges that Elias and others have made—that Da doesn’t really liberate anyone so that they can stand independently in Divine Self-Realization “on their own” (in God, of course, the Formless-Formfull Self). The “murti-gurus” designated by Da in the past or future (are there any at present besides Bonnie Beavan?) are simply puppets, it would appear, of Da’s energy and cultic scenario. They are not fully, freely Realized beings, liberated by the true Inner Guru or Ever-Free God. There has to be, at Da’s insistence, a “slavish” attachment to his form, even among those he might claim to have liberated.
A very interesting and important contrast here, David, is the case of the late Mother Krishnabai, a disciple and devotee of the great “parabhakta” sage-saint, Papa Ramdas (d.1963). At one point after years of her faithfully serving him, he called Krishnabai to him and told her that she was never going to become fully liberated until she transcended his own form and was no longer attached to it. The great Ramdas thereupon helped her to release his form, which had been so deeply impressed on her heart-mind, at the deepest psychic layers, so that Krishnabai could independently realize the all-pervasive, formless-formfull Self. She did, and became renowned as one of India’s great mahatmas.
Who, around Da, has ever undergone this complete liberation? Who has ever been set completely free, so that they could now, as an independent “living flame of love” help light other people’s “candles” of enlightenment? You may know the way it works in a Russian Orthodox Cathedral on the night of the Easter vigil…. The multitude is assembled in relative darkness, each holding an unlit candle. Then the elder cleric comes in with a lit candle, and, one by one, he lights several other people’s candles, and they, in turn, light several other people’s candles, and soon a “contagion” of candle-lighting has ensued from the one priest’s original lighting of several other people’s candles. In a very short while, several minutes at most, the cathedral is lit up with the gorgeous, dazzling light of over a thousand candles!]
What often gets overlooked in criticisms of Adi Da is an obvious financial reality: it costs a lot of money to do this kind of work!
[David, Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna, Anandamayi Ma, Anasuya Devi, Bhagavan Nityananda, Swami Shivananda, Swami Gnanananda of Tirukoilur, Dadaji of Calcutta, Amma Amritanandanamayi (before the start of her world tours) and a number of other figures with very large followings did NOT need “a lot of money to do this kind of work.”]
And it takes considerable sacrifice to pry ourselves loose from our egos, which only one as strong and persistent in his demand as Adi Da could possibly be effective in serving. Perhaps the entire dispute comes down to a single confusion: not realizing the altruistic nature of the work Adi Da actually does. In the end, I believe the proper closing remains the same as before: if you truly believe that some people have benefited from being in Adi Da’s company, it only seems honorable to encourage similar people to find their way into his company—precisely so that they might benefit too.
[Dear David, I will let you make that point yourself at your website, for I am utterly UNABLE to know just how to identify ahead of time those “similar people” who may truly benefit from Da’s company and cultus. Finally, I will only reiterate the point that, yes, Da has helped a number of people in certain ways with his gift or talent for arousing and amplifying kundalini energy, and for channeling certain spiritual teachings and insights, but his “Way” is simply too complicated and convoluted and costly and, yes, harmful, to generally recommend to anyone.
I can leave it at this: whoever is meant to be drawn into the circle around Da will be so drawn, by Divine Will. I simply have to be one of those voices countering all the PR hoopla and propaganda by Da and his church and folks like Ken Wilber praising him to the skies. Sorry, but one has one's "svadharma" or "own Way" to follow, as Lord Krishna enjoins in the Bhagavad Gita.]
Again, David, i sincerely wish you and all Da-lovers everything wonderful, and the fullness of authentic God-Realization.
We're all made of each other's Divine bliss and love and light. It's really only one single Party going on here in the Supreme Âtma-Self of all!
Enjoy thySelf, O Self of us all!
(--your loving brother, timothy)
V. Final note: a reader, a former member of the Da cult starting from the late 1970s for the next 25 years, someone who knows "David," wrote me after reading the above webpage material:
...Yes it [Adidam] is a cult and much more of a cult than you know. You were being nice to "David" but scholarly and relational—however, much nicer than I would have been... yet I could feel your intensity at times responding to his very deluded position. He regurgitated the same spiritual babble that all members of Adidam have brainwashed themselves with—simply repeating Franklin's language and reinforced constantly by and with each other. Folie a deux—more like "folly at 1000." And by the way, the Adidam cult has never been much more than 1,200 or so since 1982—exaggerated at 1,500 at times. It has never grown since 1982. And real practitioners: I'd say a handful—less than 100 worldwide—whatever "real practitioners" would be in Adidam. And I can tell you that Adidam is one complete delusion—bogus from beginning to end. And Franklin is also bogus from beginning to end (even before 1970 as revealed by studying his early unpublished writings).... Yes, a lot of misery Franklin has created—and yes, there is no demonstration [of God-Realization] at all in their community—much less 7th stage Realization (whatever that is). [It's] more like a community of childish immature 2nd stagers.... If you knew what I know, all of your insights would be further validated by 1000%.... To sum up: If you are an Adidam member, you've got your balls cut off. Franklin makes sure of that.