Interview with Brian O'Mahony
October 11, 2006
O'Mahony has been a devotee of Adi Da Samraj for many years. The one major
lawsuit against Adidam was brought by Beverly, Brian's wife at the time (1985).
In this interview with one of our editorial staff, Brian speaks candidly about
that time, the lawsuit, the media circus that ensued, and what to make of it all
more than twenty years later.
Tong: There are people interested in spiritual life who discover Adi Da and
consider approaching Him as their Spiritual Master. Some of them run across negative
websites that make much of a couple of lawsuits back in 1985, and the "media circus"
that followed, and hesitate in approaching Adi Da or Adidam. What would you say
to these people?
O'Mahony: Recently I was among a group of devotees who spoke to a very reputable
Intellectual Property attorney who has represented many religious organizations
in matters of copyright protection. She is intimately familiar with the affairs
of many well-known mainstream and alternative religious organizations in America,
and she is also a student of history. We related to her the events of 1985 and
the very negative impact that they had on Adi Da's Work. She replied that "spiritual
interventions" are always met with a backlash. The greater the intervention, the
greater the backlash. A cursory look at history provides many examples. She said
also that there are always going to be people who disagree, misunderstand, become
disaffected, and even attack what they once held dear. And she cautioned us that,
based on her own observations of the history of religious movements, the more
Adidam grows, the stronger the backlash will tend to be, and the more the ranks
of the disaffected will tend to grow. She admonished me and my friends to be strong,
to remain focused in our service to Adi Da's Spiritual Work, to expect backlash
and disaffection, and to not make the mistake of trying to overcome it. Just tell
the truth and serve our Master.
I found that conversation very heartening.
It reminded me that Adidam is not unique by any means in being attacked. No matter
how great Adi Da's Work is, it is likely to always have its detractors and critics.
There is something in humanity that likes to tear down what is great. In my 34
years as a devotee of Adi Da, I have seen that ugly motive in myself on many occasions.
I have seen it played out on the Internet by many others, and collectively by
the media. It is sobering and disheartening, but it is a fact that we have to
To anyone discovering Adi Da, I say you are encountering the
Truth and a great shining Beacon of Brightness and Love. But only you can
find out what really attracts you. As Adi Da said, "Adidam is for those who will
choose It, and whose hearts and intelligence fully respond to Me and my Offering".
Other people have discovered Adi Da through His work in the area of art
or literature, and may be interested in forming professional
collaborations. So their concerns, when they read about the lawsuits and negative
publicity, may be a little different. What would you say to them?
On the occasion of the premier public exhibit of Adi Da's Divine Image-Art
in Los Angeles a few years ago, the gallery owner encountered all of the negative
content on the Internet. He was quite sanguine about it all. He pointed out that
almost everyone who has any kind of fame has both supporters and detractors, and
both sides seem to use the Internet to promote their ideas. So, he was not at
all deterred in his collaboration with Adi Da and Adidam. The exhibit was quite
successful, and there was some media attention, with the usual negative references
to the past. But they were not the point. The Art was the point. It was also interesting
to note the lack of energy for the negative content. A lot of what is said on
the Internet is simply rumor, gossip, and personal opinion. Anyone can say whatever
they like. People feed on the constant "conversation" that occurs.
what I would say to professionals is that Adi Da's Art (or literature, or theater
works, or wisdom about global cooperation) speaks for itself. Come and experience
it. And do what you are moved to in response.
Chris: Let's focus
on the lawsuit filed on Beverly's behalf. My understanding is that it was dismissed
by a judge for lack of sufficient legal basis. But what led to the lawsuit? Some
have suggested this was a marital spat that got blown up way out of proportion,
a kind of "tempest in a teapot".
Brian: Yes, absolutely this was
a marital spat that got blown way out of proportion. And yes, the Marin County
Superior Court dismissed the case. So, what actually happened?
and I broke up in 1984, about 8 months before the lawsuit was filed. I was incredibly
stupid, dense, insensitive, and selfish in the manner in which I handled our break-up.
We had been married for 7 years, and our relationship was extraordinarily difficult.
We were both very volatile and strong-willed characters, we were very different,
and we were in constant conflict. We had gone through two separations in the years
before our final breakup in 1984. Even though we loved each other, and had three
small children, our marriage simply could not sustain the constant struggle and
anger and real anguish we caused each other. We split up, and I soon became involved
with the woman whom I married a year later and with whom I have had a wonderful
intimacy for the last 22 years. Beverly was left single with the three kids. Even
though I did everything to stay involved with the kids and maintain my support
of them, there was no way to get around the fact that Beverly and the kids felt
alone, while I was happy. That formed the heart-breaking emotional background
to what developed into a lawsuit in early 1985.
Did the allegations in her "complaint" have any basis in truth?
Perhaps the best way to answer this question would be
to quote from a letter written to me by Beverly on February 4, 1997. The
letter was written in response to my asking Beverly if she could help set the
record straight about what actually occurred in 1985. Beverly and I reconciled
many years ago, and have continued to stay in touch, mainly around our mutual
love and service to our three children, all now grown-up and leading happy and
productive lives. Last year Beverly and my three kids
and their intimates joined my wife and I for Thanksgiving.
Anyway, in 1997,
I told Beverly that a Dutch magazine was writing an article about Adi Da and His
Work, and resurrecting all the old stuff from the '80s, and I asked her if she
would help us tell the truth of what actually happened. She said that she would,
and said "I agree that 99% of what I have seen of any reporting on the Community/Guru
is horseshit". She went on to say:
The lawsuit was very deliberately crafted to make Adi Da and Adidam look like
a destructive cult. It had no basis in fact. At her deposition, which I attended,
Beverly testified under oath and point-by-point shredded the case that her attorney
had built for her. The entire affair was eventually settled out of court by our
insurance companies to avoid the incredible expense of an extended court process.
And, as mentioned earlier, the court had dismissed the case.
remember my own feelings of pain and anguish when Adi Da, my friends, and I were
attacked by the allegations.
Beverly's lawyer was entirely cynical in his
participation from the beginning. He approached me personally at Adidam's offices
several times during the legal process to encourage me to settle the suit and
"end this ugly affair". He knew that there was no basis for a lawsuit, but he
also knew that, by playing the "destructive cult and cult leader" card, he could
get what he wanted. And he especially knew that the allegations he wrote in the
complaint became public record, available to the media and everyone else. I think,
however, that even he was surprised at the magnitude of the media circus that
To the surprise of no one involved with the drama of that time,
the lawyer was disbarred some years later.
Chris: One of the things
that is striking when we read the sensationalized newspaper articles or listen
to the Today Show, is how much the "leaders" in Adidam and Adi Da Himself, are
"caricatured", almost in a cartoon-like
fashion, as faceless, feelingless "bad guys", and how the media made out the
people filing the lawsuits to be the "victims", the ones deserving of the reader's
or viewer's sympathy. However, when I talked to Lynne Wagner, who was named as
one of the defendants in the lawsuit, I was struck, not only by hearing the other
side of the story, but in realizing that it hasn't really been told. She was shocked
by the lawsuit, at how the media had turned things like her friendly recommendation
to Beverly to stay a week longer on retreat in Adi Da's Hermitage into "Beverly
was held against her will", etc. Can you say a little bit about what the whole
period was like for you? I'm sure it must have been incredibly difficult for you
Brian: Well, I was personally devastated and in shock
during the whole time, and I felt absolutely terrible for Adi Da, for my friends
and intimates, and in particular for my children. I had never been involved with
the media before and I was astonished at the "feeding frenzy" that occurred. I
can honestly say that my former wife, Beverly, was just as devastated. But the
media phenomenon took on a life of its own and actually drove a lot of the events
that occurred after the lawsuit was filed.
As is typical in a situation
like this, our attorneys advised us not to speak to the media. However, we felt
we had to defend ourselves and get the truth out. So, we spoke to everyone. And
the more we spoke, the worse it seemed to get. After a few weeks, the Today Show
contacted us, told us that they wanted to do a balanced piece on the story, and
guaranteed that our side would be fully represented in their piece. We were ecstatic.
Finally, a national show, respected for its balanced reporting, would tell the
real story! We opened the doors for them. I worked personally with the producer
and the main reporter. We gave them full access to everything and everyone, even
our children. We all gathered around the TV to watch the show when it finally
aired, full of anticipation. The producer had called me the day before to tell
me that he was very happy with the piece and was sure I would be too.
the Today Show was an absolute hit job! No one spoke for a long time after we
turned it off. It was obvious that the show had written the story line before
they even contacted us and that they cherry-picked all our comments and all our
material to reinforce their script. They went so far as to pick the weakest or
most emotional comments we had made and insert them in a way to make us look even
worse. Their storyline was "is this another Jonestown in the making?" Sells a
lot of advertising time, but unfortunately for us, had nothing to do with the
The media maelstrom was capped by another remarkable incident a
few weeks after the lawsuit was filed. The San Francisco Examiner, which
was the first major media outlet to break the original story, asked if they could
send a reporter to Adi
Da Samrajashram, in Fiji, to get the "real truth" and tell everyone the
"real story". Getting a bit wiser to what was going on, we agreed on one condition,
that we have final review of the story from the reporter before it was published,
so that we could rebut any falsehoods. The reporter spent several days on Adi
Da's Hermitage Island, and was accompanied by a senior official from the U.S Embassy
in Fiji. I was present at the San Francisco Examiner's editor's side as
the story came over the wire from Fiji, on a Saturday night. It was slated to
run on the front page of the Sunday edition. As the editor read the story, his
mood turned from happy expectation of a unique scoop to disappointment. He said,
"There is nothing here. It is a bloody travelogue." I read it and, despite the
reporter's obvious efforts to inject some controversy, it was actually a long
account of a perfectly benign and positive Island Hermitage of Adi Da, of the
devotees who lived there, and their families. The editor relegated the story to
the inside pages, and that was the end of that.
of the Internet, all of the other sensational versions of what happened back then
have been constantly regurgitated in one form or another on various websites since
that time. It goes on and on and it has a life of its own.
For me, it is
heartbreaking to feel how my own actions surrounding the ending of my previous
marriage have contributed to the events of over twenty years ago. But I trust
that people will see through the drama of human ordeal and will find the purity
of who Adi Da is and the true Happiness He offers.
Chris: To close
then . . . Do people considering taking up the Way of Adidam today — a couple
of decades later — have anything to fear?
Brian: Was it Franklin
Roosevelt who said: "There is nothing to fear but fear itself"? Well, the practice
of Adidam is about the transcending of the ego-"I". From an egoic point of view,
that sounds scary. But what Adi Da offers is the freedom of Divine Self-Realization
and Liberation from mortality, from the "little self" and its limited, mortal
point of view. That is actually an unbelievably happy process rather than a fearful
one, although it is difficult and requires intense embrace of the Way in His Company.
It is important to understand, however, that all
participation with Adi Da and His Way is voluntary and it is up to each individual
as to how intensely they participate or practice, and how quickly they grow in
For example, I am a professional engineer, a partner in a
successful consulting engineering firm with offices in California and Fiji. We
have 28 employees. I have been very happily married for the past 21 years. I have
a very positive and loving relationship with my grown children, and with my mother
and other relatives in Ireland. I maintain all kinds of professional responsibilities
in the world. In other words, I am a very ordinary person. I am constantly drawn
to a simpler life, a life that will allow more and more time for contemplation
of my Master, Adi Da Samraj, and ultimately, full and complete Liberation and
Realization of Him. I have always felt that if there is room for people like me
in Adidam, there is room for everyone!
Of course, Adi Da is always calling
and urging us to deeper and more profound embrace of the Way. Why wouldn't He?
Our Liberation is His only Purpose. So, I constantly feel the demand to deepen
my practice, to grow more, to contemplate my Master and His Work more seriously
and constantly. I am very grateful for this demand and for Adi Da's Call to move
beyond my otherwise mortal destiny.
But the process is gradual. And everyone
is different in their impulse. Some are rather readily moved to a life of renunciation
and intense practice. Others, like me, move more slowly. Adi Da accounts for everyone
in His Work, and invites everyone's participation. That is why He has offered
different levels of involvement depending on one's impulse. And yet the Way is
instant also. I felt instantly Liberated when I first read His Word, and that
feeling has never left me. I have always felt that Enlightenment was Given in
that very first moment, and my life is just the purification and release of all
obstructions that remain to my perfect enjoyment of His Gift and His Divine Company.
there is absolutely nothing to fear in becoming a devotee of Adi Da Samraj. Much
to transcend, much to embrace, much to practice with, understand, and enjoy, but
certainly nothing to fear. He is the Bright Love-Bliss Radiance of Conscious Light,
Illuminating and Pervading all of us. I am absolutely certain of this.
TO "LAWSUITS, MEDIA CIRCUSES, AND ANTI-ADI DA WEBSITES"