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 supplement what is written here with the
story of my first meeting with Adi Da, in which I became
convinced of His Enlightened State, as well as the
story of 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 take
the tiger by the tail and directly address the issue underlying
your challenge: some do not take Him seriously. Let me start
with my mother. First of all, I must say that she has passed
away, about ten years ago. For some time, unbeknownst to
our family, cancer had developed in her lungs from a lifetime
of smoking. Ironically enough, she had recently quit. From
there, it spread through her body, ultimately penetrating
her brain and impregnating it with a slew of tumors. As
is always the case with cancer, it insidiously replaced
living tissue with its own. Finally, she had to give up
her last-ditch efforts toward treatment with chemo and radiation.
Surprisingly easefully, she resigned herself to the fact
that it had been a good life, and it was now her time.
One of the remarkable, certainly unexpected side-effects
of this process was a sudden personality change right before
her passing. As the brain atrophies, so do certain of its
functions. It was as if she had adopted a shocking mantra
of honesty: "Out of the mouth of babes." That is, she no
longer possessed any kind of filter to the remarks she made.
Whatever appeared in her mind quickly came out through her
mouth, often to the humor — or more likely, horror
— of an unsuspecting audience. As I sat with her on
her bed during our last visit together, we reminisced over
our lives together. I had brought a recent picture of Adi
Da that was noticeable for a peculiar 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!"
Of course, critics of Adi Da do not know my father; still,
I'd say this pretty well sums up their sentiments toward
Adi Da. As you might expect, I was quite taken aback, as
is usually the case with conclusions so contrary to my own.
As things turned out, this was to be the last coherent statement
I ever heard from my mother, for I was literally on my way
out the door. Needless to say, this is a bittersweet 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 another chance for
closure on this matter. However, there has been no shortage
of similar incidents over the years. Indeed, not unlike
the encounter you and I are having now. Consequently, I
would like to use this as an opportunity to address my mother's
concerns at last, and, hopefully, put her mind at ease.
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
the truth, the whole truth, and nothing
but the truth;
the truth that sets the heart free;
the truth that explains every aspect of
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 story
of my first meeting with Adi Da. Since that time, I
have completed two master's degrees and a doctorate degree
in the field of clinical psychology. In between these bouts
of academia, I have also seriously studied in the area of
comparative religion, while engaged in my spiritual practice
with Adi Da. Over this period I have read hundreds of books,
many of which are steeped in their respective spiritual
or psychological tradition, as well as in 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,
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 that is either erroneous
or irrelevant. Redundant, yes! (I'll get back to that in
a moment.) But in no way erroneous or irrelevant. 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. I have not always understood everything
He says. (This was especially true early in
my study of His work.) 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 later to the topic
of His Divinity again. 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. You find
that you have to repeat yourself over and over again. 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:
If so, then drawing attention to Himself as He does makes
perfect sense — such is simply the nature of worshiping
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 supposition, 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, click
here.) Although the language of certain premonitory texts, such
as the Lankavatara
Gita, and Tripura
Rahasya, sound similar, they can be distinguished
from the Revelation of Adi Da in three significant ways:
No historical text mentions all aspects
of the seventh stage realization.
Certain aspects of the seventh stage realization
appear in no historical texts at all.
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
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
[N]one 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.
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
did technology and affluence allow 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.
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
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 three propositions introduced earlier
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 of the three propositions
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
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 — why was this legitimacy ever
called into doubt? What would possess anyone to do so? 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 wreaking a kind of spiritual
havoc. Objections to Adi Da come down to a two-fold account
of the teacher:
claims on His part to be the incarnation
of God , and
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. Surely this captures
the objection to Him perfectly — His critics simply
don't like the idea of Him being Divine. 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? 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.
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. Never mind the obvious contradiction, there can be
only one exception. Indeed, he assured me I was in the grip
of the Devil and should take care, for the sake of my soul
— as you [referring to Dan's correspondent]
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 the pastor and
myself. 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. 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.
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. 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 of the pudding is in the
eating. I have practiced the way of life Adi Da 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 principal 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,
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 my elderly mother, 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. 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.
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 suggestion of impropriety.
Lurking on the darker side is the abuse claimed to be heaped
on His devotees, whereby they have not merely sustained
losses but have 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:
personal: devotees failing to take responsibility
for the excesses and liabilities of their own egos; and
social: devotees imposing these excesses
and liabilities on each other.
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. 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.
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.
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. I worked with young people who were ages four through
twelve, and more recently, with 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 — and 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.
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 confrontive 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 about which Adi Da's critics complain are
always intended for their most auspicious benefit. In fact,
there are spiritual traditions, referred to as "Crazy Wisdom,"
in which practices such as these are revered. 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.
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. 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!
No matter what the experiences underlying the criticism
against Adi Da, the larger context in which they have taken
place is almost always overlooked. 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. 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. 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.
Spiritual practice is serious business, requiring real
commitment and perseverance throughout the entire course
of its process. 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. 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:
it is difficult and demanding beyond belief
to be in the Guru's direct company, yet
all the difficulty and demand is done
for a single purpose: awaken the devotee to the same spiritual
Realization as the Guru.
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.
Quite the contrary, in fact! Having been abused growing
up, believe me, I would know. 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. 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.
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 leader. 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 any 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 within Adidam:
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.
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. For that, we own Him everything. Unfortunately,
Adidam members have not always been sophisticated and graceful
in their interpersonal relations, 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
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. 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.
No other spiritual tradition embodies these benevolent
ideals so explicitly, at least as far as I can see. 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 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.
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,
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 the rejection of my mother. No simple feat, as you
might imagine. And why should I not do the same in relation
to Adi Da's critics? I see no reason to let discord come
between you and I. 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.
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. 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?