Adi Da > Dan Sleeth
My First Meeting with Adi Da
Dan Sleeth, Ph.D.
has been a devotee of Adi Da since 1983. He has worked for many
years in the field of human services as a mental health provider.
Dan earned a MA in general psychology and in counseling. After
receiving his Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, he wrote The
Integral Ego as a vehicle
for considering the non-dual perspective possible in the clinical
therapeutic setting. Dan has served Adi Da in many different capacities,
including public outreach, regional manager, and ashram manager,
as well as through his writing and advocacy.
was a difficult winter for me. Someone very dear spent the months
with me considering whether they should commit suicide. In the
end, they didn't do it, and I was glad. But we were not unalike,
and I had to face the unwelcome truth: there was no way that I
would survive. Life simply wasn't set up for me. At the time,
I was a returning college student; confused, alone, and just about
completely fed up. I was a little too old for college life and
didn't fit in very well. But then, I had never fit in anywhere
all that well. I was used to being alone; it was my choice, in
fact. I had arranged for it. Life had not treated me kindly, in
my estimation, and I was paying it back.
However, this arrangement was not proving to be all that satisfactory.
Things were not working out well and, worse, I couldn't find anyone
to take the blame. In fact, the world seemed indifferent to my
strategy. That was the truth of it: the effectiveness of my revenge
was that no one seemed to notice. But I was not about to give
in. Yet, life made no sense. I had become a success . . . at suffering.
I was consumed by loneliness, precisely because I was having things
my own way. Life suddenly seemed so tenuous. Little appeared to
stand between me and a bad end. I could feel life slipping through
my fingers. Even more than the pain, my suffering frightened me.
I could see where it was headed. I knew I had to change.
So, I quit smoking — just to prove I meant business. And
I developed my physique by working out — to improve my self-esteem.
And I returned to school — to study religion, philosophy,
and, later, psychology. It was my intent to benefit from the wisdom
of my culture. I was turning to it for answers. I even thought
that it might save me. But there was no remedy for what ailed
me. I had always taken it for granted that our lives were founded
on truth. It never occurred to me that anyone would settle for
less. But so much had been written of no use. A staggering edifice
had evolved, in fact — the gesture of our genius. And it
kept me busy! My mind throbbed with points of view. Yet, no matter
how ingenious, very little of it was convincing. In fact, it seemed
there was a good chance the argument itself was all that mattered.
Complexity and obscurity passed hands like a ritual. As much as
I needed to believe in them, this much was painfully clear: they
were only guessing.
This discovery left me shaken and at a loss. I felt betrayed
by ambiguity, and abandoned by ambition. There was so much to
consider. Looking back, the situation seems perfectly suited to
ripen me, prepare me for the spiritual encounter that was to come.
The first half of what Adi Da calls the dual-sensitivity had firmly
settled into place. He speaks as follows about dual-sensitivity,
which stands at the origin of spiritual life:
At this point, I was deeply, irrevocably convinced of the first
prong of the dual-sensitivity. I also believe the ordeal of my
life thus far served two purposes: to soften me up and to disentangle
me. There is a real sense in which a spiritual aspirant must be
an outlaw, that is, willing to live outside the constraints and
polite contracts of society. If the first part of the dual-sensitivity
leads to the second part, Adi Da calls it positive disillusionment,
because it dispels the illusions imparting suffering — and
allows the reality of love and happiness to be the case instead.
So long as one is hardened against this possibility, actively
pursuing love and happiness in a realm where suffering is inevitable,
the outcome is inherently futile and self-defeating. What could
be more clear? Only a lifetime of ignorance, faulty advice, and
bad choices stood between me and this realization.
During this time, I would catch the bus home a couple of blocks
from the University. Home was down the street from the main avenue
of the university district, which was a popular viaduct for the
swarm of students busy with their own budding careers. A covered
kiosk nestled at the bus-stop, out of the way and sheltered. It
was a favorite spot of mine. After the demand and disillusionment
of school, you could take it easy until the bus came. It was a
place to catch your breath, to stand and lean up against the wall,
maybe just glance around.
Outside the kiosk there was a telephone pole, clearly visible
through the window. One day I noticed a poster tacked up on the
pole. It displayed the photograph of a lively, younger man. His
face was boyish, round, and soft. He was leaning forward, intense.
His expression was lavish, full of anticipation. He held up a
clenched fist that was positioned in the photograph exactly at
the level of his chin, which created the impression to me of thoughtfulness.
He seemed both having just transgressed some secret boundary and
on the verge of doing so. He was an outrageous contradiction,
and immensely attractive. He seemed so happy. I wanted to know
the reason why.
Intrigued, I stepped out from the kiosk to get a better look.
But what I discovered was completely unexpected and discordant.
I read the print beneath the picture, which contained quotes and
a description about him. I learned about his self-proclaimed enlightened
state and discovered that he went by the name of Da
Free John — which was apparently his choice. It was
appalling. I was offended, not only by the magnitude of his claims
but also the sheer preposterousness of his name. Looking back
at his picture again in disbelief, I noticed the boyishness and
the longish, casually brushed back hair. I immediately felt duped
and wondered why I hadn't seen it from the start. Obviously, he
was just another Californian beach-boy on the take, trying to
make it by passing off his hustle with good looks and charm. It
seemed so obvious. I couldn't believe I had almost fallen for
Everyday I would return to the kiosk to catch my bus and reprise
this ritual. Catching a glimpse out of the corner of my eye, I
would instinctively lean toward him, immediately attracted. But,
then, I'd catch myself. I'd shake my head and look at his picture
again. "Who was he trying to kid?" I'd ask in amazement. For days
this went on. I'd look over at his picture, again and again. It
started to get annoying. "Who was he trying to kid?" I'd ask myself
in disbelief. I was not fooled.
But, I was followed. His image began to appear in my mind, away
from the kiosk. On the bus home, I could see his face out the
window. It was an image in which he was beside himself with joy
and laughing, but I had no idea why. In class, I couldn't concentrate.
I would think of him, forget about the professor. But I knew this
wasn't normal. I wondered what his intentions were. It started
to go beyond annoying. I began to really worry and wondered what
I should do. Finally, I developed a plan. Committing myself, I
made a decision: right after class, I would have it out with him.
I bounded down the steps of the University and headed toward
the kiosk. I felt relieved, my course firmly in hand. I approached
confidently, eager to put this episode behind me. When I arrived,
I strode directly up to his poster, determined. There was no turning
back when we squared off: eye to eye, body to pole.
I scanned the boundaries of his face first, but found nothing
there, nothing to indicate the incredible fascination he held
for me. I overlooked his smile intentionally, not to be so easily
undone. I was determined to learn his secret, knowing that any
fool can spread his mouth, and many do, but this was too important
to take any chances. So, I was careful, and scrutinized his eyes.
I was not about to be denied. Something was going to be revealed,
certain that you can't hide lies in the eyes.
At first I was puzzled. His expression conveyed a wildness and
unrestraint that didn't seem revealed in his eyes alone. The lids
were arched and poised around his pupils in serene curves, exactingly
precise. They laid upon the arc of each eyeball unconcerned, almost
indifferent. No effort was present to suggest the intensity that
radiated from them. On the one hand, they appeared flung open,
unabashed, wildly tossed asunder. Yet, at the same time, they
seemed rested, immaculate, in repose. No mistake: there was much
paradox in those eyes.
Standing there, I was perplexed for some time. The sheer fact
that it was enjoyable was curious. After a while, a realization
occurred that was completely unexpected. It suddenly struck me,
their cause. Those eyes were open! Not just lifted, or raised
— but open. No pinch of skin in them showed a trace of suffering,
as the sag of a tent canvas suggests, pulling against taut ropes.
No, they were open, unfettered and aloft, devoid of aversion.
I was captivated by a remarkable activity taking place in those
eyes. Tissue spread, soft and fluid. Passing through this opening,
the eyes emerged, rising like bubbles, unrestrained, forcing the
water at its surface — suddenly free. Like secrets on display,
abrupt and naked, they came pouring out. Their innocence was shocking,
relentlessly shouldering their way in mystery, explicit as birth.
I stared in amazement. Such odd eyes could not happen by chance,
I was certain. Eyes that open happen, not by force or effort but
by the sheer courage and unimaginable suffering that will see
anything — immune to preference, vulnerable, exposed. In
the presence of eyes like these, all is revealed, there could
be no doubt. These eyes had to have looked upon truth. They were
welcoming, earnest, uncompromised. No doubt or fear had settled
in, serving to occlude them. Rather, they were unwary and at ease,
forthright, wiped clean. Without the slightest hesitation, they
yielded. They accepted the world implicitly, with no regrets,
willingly shaped in the phases of its vicissitude.
I marveled at these eyes, even happy to be amazed! Then a startling
realization came. Clearly, he had seen — in fact, was seeing
now. The face in the poster seemed to literally come alive. I
could feel his presence, a person standing in front of me —
looking at me. His eyes were a gauge of regard, rapt with notice.
I felt gripped in their gaze. They were insistent, assertive.
They would not go away. And the implications of this realization
were enormous. Allowed into his sphere of sacrifice, I felt a
profound debt: to share the company of one so great requires greatness
in turn. I was overwhelmed. But there was no way to resist. I
was taken over by the sheer capacity that had been accomplished
in those eyes. They broke in on me, relentless with integrity.
I stepped back. This was far more than I had bargained for. Casting
about, I sought any crease or fold, any misplaced edge of feature
with which to question what I had just seen and clearly perceived.
I tried, but it was a wasted effort. Undaunted, his face dared
the truth. Having endured so much in his ordeal of honesty, I
could not deny him now. I saw his smile anew, dimpled, a dent
of inquiry hanging in anticipation. There was so much to understand.
Laid open and impertinent and vulnerable as a wound, his mouth
waited, ready, crooked by the easy delight of the obvious. Full
of warmth and quizzical whimsy, he gave the secret away. And that,
too, was the secret — that it was given away. It was a mouth
playing songs of laughter, formidable and sweet.
At this point, the second prong of the dual-sensitivity came
clearly into focus. My awareness was in a swirl, sifting me out
of any sense of my usual frame of reference. All I could notice
was the gentle intensity of this face, reaching out to me from
the poster. It was the same as a living being, and that relationship
brought with it certain responsibilities. There was no way I could
be casual about it. Something inexplicable and ecstatic was taking
place. I deeply felt the presence of love, lifting me out of my
place in this world, transporting me to another domain entirely.
And in it, all was relieved. I was utterly beside myself with
gratitude and delight! Nothing remained, except the willingness
of my surge toward its embrace.
Startling and exquisite, the truth is clear: God is here, alive
and among us, realized in His human form as the Sat-Guru, the
World Teacher of the Heart — the Ruchira Avatar, Adi Da
Samraj. No honest man could deny those eyes.
Out of intimacy, integrity; out of integrity, truth. The mind
casts its shadow, but the Heart shines; it has its own reasons.
The mind is a fool; yet, even so, love is not fooled. Truth leaves
its trail. No mistake: I say it now, as I said it then,
"Those are the eyes of an Enlightened man."
* * *
Below is the picture that appeared on the poster, the original
cover of the first book written by Adi Da Samraj, The
Knee Of Listening, which is His spiritual autobiography.