1. Why Adi Da Should Be Taken Seriously

Dan Sleeth, Ph.D.

This is Part 1 of Dan Sleeth's three-part correspondence, An Open Letter in Praise and Testimony of Adi Da Samraj.

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 colloquial propositions:

  1. the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth;
  2. the truth that sets the heart free;
  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 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, 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 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:

Is Adi Da really God? [1]

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 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 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.
  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.

[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.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, The Seven Stages Of Life

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 is unsurpassed:

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 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 — 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 [2], 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,[3] 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, certainly admirable.

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 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. 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, 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 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.[1] 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?


  1. See also: The Offering of Perfect Happiness: The Divine Incarnation, Life, and Work of Avatar Adi Da Samraj.

  2. See also: The "Evil Superman" Form of Misunderstanding Genuine Crazy Wisdom.

Quotations from and/or photographs of Avatar Adi Da Samraj used by permission of the copyright owner:
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