2. On Only Legitimizing "Kinder, Gentler Gurus"

Dan Sleeth, Ph.D.

This is Part 2 of Dan Sleeth's three-part correspondence, An Open Letter in Praise and Testimony of Adi Da Samraj.

Dan: Our correspondence continued. Here was my next reply.

Again, I can feel compassion and regard in your words, despite, as you say, "the apparently very harsh tone" of them. However, some of your reply is based on mistaking what I said, so we actually agree on more than you might realize. But there's no point in addressing any of that, so I will focus on the areas in which we are really at odds. Of course, your time constraints require that my comments be brief, so I will only address what seems essential.

I would like to note up front the extraordinary polarity of our positions. How odd that we have come to wildly divergent conclusions from exactly the same conditions. Surely something is amiss. Of course, your comments are quite unsparing in this regard: Adi Da has "used every trick in the book" to blindside His devotees in the pursuit of their exploitation, making Him "an abusive, scheming, strategizing, manipulative, narcissistic megalomaniac," as you put it. But, in my mind, this kind of language could only be intended for rhetorical effect, for such an assessment is grossly exaggerated and cannot be supported. It is as if we are not even talking about the same person. Indeed, in nearly twenty-five years of being in Adi Da's company, as well as the company of many of those whose testimony you are drawing on, I can find no evidence to corroborate the claim you are making. Therefore, I can draw only one conclusion: you are skewing the evidence for some reason, unfortunately, in the direction of damning Adi Da.

In my original correspondence (Part 1 of this piece), the focus was on why Adi Da should be taken seriously, at least why I take Him seriously, at any rate. Disappointedly, you did not find my confession particularly compelling. However, it seems to me it was not the testimonial that produced your response so much as the way in which you are related to it. I know the possibility of this is not likely to entice you to read further, but since it appears to be true, I must comment on it. To begin with, I believe my testimonial correctly identified the crux of the matter: the dispute comes down to whether or not Adi Da is best regarded to be God — and can be augmented further: whether or not Adi Da is best thought of as being a good Guru. It would seem that the latter is contingent upon the former. That is, you really can't have the former without the latter. So, the question remains: is Adi Da really God? And the answer could be put this way: it all depends on the criteria. In other words, according to your criteria, the answer is a resounding "No!" Consequently, the discussion must now shift to a new focus: how valid the criteria you're using actually are.

It is apparent to me that you employ a double standard in the selection of your criteria, in fact, in two different, but similar ways. First of all, despite the generosity with which you have expressed appreciation for the benefits I have received at the hands of Adi Da, it is hard to believe your comments are entirely sincere. After all, my testimony does not merely report that my state has improved, even thrived. More to the point, it has done so precisely because of Adi Da's direct intervention. In other words, you seem willing to accept the former, but not the latter. Consequently, you are not validating my entire confession, and not giving Adi Da proper credit therefore. Rather, you are filtering the evidence, indeed, skewing it in the direction of accusation and complaint. This is the first double standard — accepting only some testimony, but not others.

Literally thousands of people are devotees of Adi Da, and many thousands more support his work in some demonstrable way, even if they elect not to practice the spiritual life He has given. But they are all marginalized, given short shrift by your comments. The disparity can be put this way: their testimony in behalf of Adi Da is found inadmissible, because of incapacity in their judgment; but this incapacity is held to result precisely because of their high regard for Adi Da. Clearly, this is circular reasoning. If presence on the internet is any indicator, I can count serious critics of Adi Da on two hands. Even accounting for those who have decided against appearing on the internet, or elsewhere in the media, the numbers for and against are in no way comparable. To put it bluntly, you are fudging the data — emphasizing one, at the expense of the other.

And the manner in which you are filtering this data is not arbitrary, but appears directly related to the two fundamental aspects of any Guru: what Adi Da calls the "beauty foot" and the "power foot" — or more commonly, the nurturing, mothering force and the challenging, father force. I'm sure you must be familiar with these two concepts, and how both are necessary for growth and development, employed in concert as a kind of dance. With this in mind, your comments appear to filter the data toward a specific purpose: favoring one foot over the other. In other words, the second double-standard could be put this way: whereas good Gurus are those who employ a high percentage of nurture and beauty foot, bad Gurus are the exact opposite: those employing a high percentage of challenge and power foot.

That you should prefer kinder, gentler Gurus over challenging ones is certainly your prerogative. God bless! After all, one size does not fit all. Gurus who are confrontive are not for everyone — by any means! However, you cross a line of impropriety when you go beyond labeling Gurus merely those you don't like, to labeling them inherently evil or to be avoided. This suggests an agenda. Besides, not only is such an assessment pejorative and prejudicial, it isn't even true. Confrontive Gurus are not the same as bad Gurus. They simply reside at the high-end of the spectrum of demand. In other words, all genuine Gurus are demanding — that's their job. It's just a question of how much. Given this, the second double-standard could be rephrased as follows: the unwillingness to acknowledge that high-end demanding Gurus are just as legitimate as low-end demanding Gurus.

Further, your assessment of Adi Da isn't true in another, equally revealing way: you are not correctly identifying the ratio of beauty foot to power foot. As mentioned earlier, and which can also be seen in countless leelas, the presence of his beauty foot is extraordinary, even exemplary. There are endless accounts of the compassionate, caring, purely sacrificial nature of Adi Da's love for His devotees — for all beings, really. It is just a matter of whether you're willing to acknowledge it or not. This is why I question the sincerity of your appreciation of the benefits I have received in His company, for you are not giving any credence to the fact that Adi Da is the source of those benefits — which, obviously, makes all the difference. You are simply not willing to give Him his due.

Of course, it is your prerogative to refuse to recommend Adi Da to others because of your concerns. But I am asking you to reconsider. This seems appropriate, especially in light of a particular aspect of life in Adidam rarely mentioned: that is, there are many different ways to live in Adidam, very few of which actually in Adi Da's personal company. Indeed, the opportunity of living in His personal company requires one to forcefully assert oneself, literally solicit an invitation. This is why alarm or warnings strike me as so absurd. To put it simply, if you find the kitchen too hot, you can always stay in the living room. No one makes you leave it! It is entirely up to you. Or, to put it somewhat differently, you don't have to have your arm operated on right away. You could put it off until you feel more ready; unless, of course, the deteriorating nature of your injury forces the issue.

Indeed, the metaphor of a surgeon operating on someone's arm, producing a wound in the process, is not nearly so trite or cliché as you let on. Although it is true that a sociopath could use surgery as an opportunity to slice people up, as you say, this is a disingenuous way of talking about what typically goes on during surgery. Frankly, in saying this, you are playing the "maybe" game. Maybe Adi Da is a sociopath. Maybe Adi Da is a skilled surgeon. Who can say? As long as you remain hypothetical, you can play it any way you want — which is common enough among critics. However, reality is actually one way or the other. That is why honest men and women take responsibility and submit to the difficult ordeal of determining which possibility is true. And not in a superficial or prejudicial manner, picking and choosing the evidence they prefer. Rather, they entertain all the evidence. Issues as important as this can be rightly adjudicated only under certain conditions: not just truth, but the whole truth.

Another crucial point must be made in regard to the medical metaphor: not everyone survives chemo. Look at my mother. But does such a grim prognosis reflect against the competency of the doctors? Or even against the patient for taking their advice, for that matter? The negative outcome is simply not their fault. Sometimes the cure has a cost. However desirable, you can't always have it one way, but not the other. It is not fair to say that a Guru has zero legitimacy, just because it turns out that not everyone realizes the same benefits in their company. That is "all or nothing" thinking. The metaphor of surgery is far more profound than this. Indeed, it even provides a means for resolving the matter: if it actually turns out that Adi Da is a skilled surgeon, then His critics must be misunderstanding and over-reacting to the sight of the wound, thereby aborting the healing process.

Besides, you cannot simply make the assertion that Adi Da is a sociopath and leave it at that. Clearly, the appeal of this kind of assessment only exists by stacking the deck against Him, admitting certain kinds of evidence — those that support kinder, gentler Gurus — while excluding the Guru that Adi Da happens to be. To cut through the rhetoric, Adi Da is not a sociopath; He's just more demanding than you would like Him to be. And the nature of the demand is exaggerated in any event, precisely by virtue of reducing Him to a single foot. Although I can only guess at the reasons why you are doing this, I am definitely in a position to observe it: you are doing this. But, for having done so, you only end up with a straw man. What a tremendous loss, and so unnecessary.

It is true that Adidam is a difficult spiritual path, and Adi Da a "high-end", demanding Guru, but to go on from there and undercut his legitimacy because of that is unfair and inappropriate. It has been said that Adi Da's manner is hyper-masculine. But the truth is actually far more formidable than this: Adi Da's "feet" are each hyper: hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine. That is, they are extremely intense. And not surprisingly, for He is God incarnate — not merely human. In a funny kind of way, you could think of spiritual life in Adi Da's company like boot camp. Perhaps you prefer meditation retreats or workshops to boot camp. But preference isn't the same as legitimacy. Either approach is legitimate, all depending on the individual. However, you don't merely issue the warning, "If he's not right for you, stay away," which, in my mind, would be honorable. Rather, you go on to condemn, "Stay away, whether he's right for you or not." I can see no propriety in this appraisal. Again, I am asking you to reconsider.

Perhaps whether or not Adi Da is a good Guru isn't as appropriate a way to put the issue as this: good for whom? I am certainly one. And there are others. Even if you feel that you cannot recommend Him to most spiritual aspirants, surely you can recommend Him to at least some — those for whom He happens to be the right one.

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