3. The Hero Of Giving

Dan Sleeth, Ph.D.

This is Part 3 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 last reply.

Once more, I've found your correspondence both challenging and compassionate. Although the conclusions we've reached are diametrically opposed, I find your thought process remarkable for its honesty and intelligence, especially given the type of harangues that usually attenuate criticisms of Adi Da. But, as you say, we are starting to go around in circles. Yet, one or two new points have emerged, keeping the dialogue enlivened. The first is your objection to my characterization that you are engaging in a double standard — accepting the testimony of critics over advocates of Adi Da. You point out that you have repeatedly stated something along these lines: "Da helps some people, and you are obviously one of them. How much help is given, and to what degree of authentic spiritual liberation, is another question." Another comment goes like this:

So Daniel, why don't you actually present some detailed stories on how Da has actually compassionately sacrificed and given to others in such beautiful ways? I have now, through others' testimony, so many stories telling of how Da has manipulated, abused and taken from other people. Why don't you balance the scale here with specific stories?

Comments such as these make me wonder if my interpretation of your remarks pegged you right. Perhaps you are not actually engaging in a double standard after all, despite what your remarks seem to indicate. Perhaps you simply have not heard the stories from Adi Da's devotees and are relying too heavily on His critics as a base for your conclusions. This thought did not occur to me before because your original correspondence warned me up-front: "Please know, Daniel, that I always like to be fair and I myself remain quite open-minded to hearing some good things from the 'pro-Da' camp, but it better be coming from a place of real integrity and honesty, not slavish devotion, heavy conditioning and brainwashing — like some of the unconvincing stuff I've heard from Daists over the years."

See, to me, this is the crux of the double standard: it is so easy for one person's heartfelt devotion to be another person's "slavish brainwashing". That is why I mentioned my mother so prominently in my original testimonial. She didn't believe me either. You say you are open-minded, yet, I can't help but wonder — after all, my own mother wasn't! However, your repeated comments acknowledging that I've benefited from Adi Da certainly seem sincere, and I am grateful for that. If it is true your research doesn't include significant data from the advocacy side of the ledger, I suggest this sampling of material to consider: Love and Blessings: The Divine Compassionate Miracles of Avatar Adi Da Samraj and The Master Dancer are both books of stories pertaining to Adi Da's work with devotees. These are all available at our internet bookstore at Adidam.org, if you would like to take a look. Likewise, this website (AdiDaUpClose.org) contains hundreds of stories from Adi Da's devotees. In addition, Beezone.com has considerable commentary on Adi Da, including many testimonials from devotees.

One final remark is necessary, I think. You also made this series of comments:

But what are legitimate demands? I can think of some: That disciples love everyone and be as fully present and available and accountable and responsible as they can in their relationships. And that they try to clearly intuit, feel and open up to the Transcendent-Immanent Divine Reality in all situations at all times. And that they engage in "right livelihood" as well as right bodily, vocal and mental conduct for the sake of upholding Dharma in all facets of life.

Around Da, one gets some of the above demands but one also, by contrast, gets all these other demands: that one worship, love and serve the personality of Da, that one give most or all of one's time, energy and money toward Da and his organization, that one be obedient to Da and to higher-echelon members of his organization. And also, from the documented evidence, it seems that one is at the whim of Da and his cohorts so that one must do things like procure women or expensive drugs or paperweights or Disney toys for him, etc.

It seems to me this summarizes the abuse issue pretty clearly. Hopefully, the material I mentioned above will indicate sufficiently that the legitimate demands of Adi Da as one's Guru are in ample supply! If not, I could easily show you thousands of pages of transcripts of talks and gatherings (many of which I have attended personally) in which He demonstrates precisely these qualities, in spades. Again, many of these talks are available on video or DVD at our internet bookstore, so you can see for yourself. By the way, if you'll notice, the first sentence in your second paragraph above already undermines this legitimacy by stating: "one gets some of the above demands. . ." On the contrary: one gets all of these demands — and in every single encounter.[1] Of that I can speak with authority, based on each and every experience I have had with Adi Da over twenty-five years.

As for your second paragraph, of course, here things get a little sticky. All I can say is in thirty-five years there has only been one incident, involving two court cases, in which anyone has ever come forward with any kind of formal complaint or accusation. That incident took place twenty years ago, was settled out of court, and no further incidents of this kind have occurred since. You make the following statement: "You yourself have demonstrated over and over a remarkable incapacity to admit or consider any of the deeply concerned testimony from longtime former devotees of Da about a wide range of abusive behavior. You simply ignore all of this." To be honest, what I know about any of this is what I read on the internet. After all, it's not as if these individuals and I travel in the same circles, especially now that they are pursuing lives outside of Adidam.

However, what I have read on the internet is so overwrought and exaggerated that it smacks of sensationalism, even mean-spirited gossip in some cases. Significantly, despite certain legendary claims making the rounds, the "documented evidence" you refer to is not substantial enough to prompt anyone to actually act on it. This ought to give you pause. In my mind, if any legitimate cases of real exploitation had ever taken place — as opposed to situations in which one is simply confronted with more demand than they expected or wanted — much more would have been made of it after all this time. Of course, you say that coming forward in this way represents a difficulty for any victim, as they must relive the trauma in order to address it. Something very much like this happens in the case of rape victims, who literally get blamed for the crime while they are on the witness stand. Yet, I also know something about emotionally disturbed children who routinely accuse their counselors and providers of sexual abuse, when nothing of the kind ever happened — simply because they're mad and want payback, using whoever happens to be near at hand. In my experience, people genuinely pursuing a therapeutic course of action are humbled by their trauma, desperate for only one thing: healing, not revenge. In all honesty, I find no evidence of the former in anything I've seen on the internet.

As for claims that Adi Da is getting rich off of His devotees, my mother used to call this "living the life of Riley." This is perhaps the most difficult issue, for more than anything else, understanding the relationship between the Guru and liberation from our attachment to money, food, and sex requires a difficult acknowledgement: it is all our choice. Without this understanding, it is easy to get confused. To put the matter bluntly, nobody has to give a dime to Adi Da if they don't want to. Or give themselves in any other way either, for that matter. So they have no reason to complain if they do. Being in the exact same situation, I believe I am in a good position to say this. It is hard to take such complaints seriously, when I am involved in the very same process myself, and find it absolutely necessary for healing and liberation — even if difficult and demanding.[2]

Besides, I have better reasons than this for withholding sympathy, which I learned while being a child care provider working at a group home. I began that job without any previous experience of working with emotionally disturbed children. The set-up of the group home was to emulate a normal home life — a man and woman providing care for up to six children at once, ages four to twelve. The woman I worked with turned out to be an exceptional child care provider, from whom I learned the ropes. On an outing with the children to a nearby state park, we were climbing a hillside on our way back to the van. As it was a pretty steep climb, some of the children struggled a little bit. One of the girls, an adorable, bespectacled tomboy who would sometimes hide under a table or sofa whenever she got really overwhelmed, heard that there was poison ivy along the path. Almost instantly, she began complaining of itches and stinging on her legs. I assisted her as best I could, lifting her by one arm over some of the undergrowth, all the while trying to maintain my own balance.

At the top of the hill, desperate and frustrated, she plopped down in a heap, announcing angrily that she had had enough and refused to take another step. Feeling bad about her plight, I looked toward my partner, who called out over her shoulder: "Leave her! She'll catch up." Stunned, I watched my partner from behind, casually walking away. I was beside myself, thoughts racing through my head. I could barely believe what a heartless bitch she was! So I turned to the little girl, who suddenly began to wail at the top of her lungs, hurling accusations and invectives toward me, seemingly imitating for all her worth Linda Blair from the Exorcist. People who had been milling around, enjoying the view from the hilltop, began to turn and stare in our direction. I didn't know what to do. Every attempt at consolation was rebuffed, indeed, seemingly incited further incrimination. Clearly, I was in way over my head.

At last, I realized I had to trust my partner and throw in with her judgment. Acting purely on faith, against all my instincts, I stood up, told the girl how to follow the path back to the van, and left her sitting on her rear-end, fitfully throwing handfuls of dirt in my direction. As you might have guessed, as I turned the bend in the path and reached a long flight of wooden stairs on the backside of the hill, I could hear her footsteps racing up from behind. She was laughing merrily, full of exuberance, happy to join our group again. Needless to say, this is an example of "tough love". More to the point, especially for this little girl, it was real love. It was the love she needed. Sweet, gentle love was of absolutely no use to her — in fact, an insult and detriment in her case, precisely because it was no use. Obviously, this tactic is not going to work for everyone, much less under all circumstances. A good clinician knows to have proficiency in both of their "feet": beauty foot and power foot. However, when power is needed, no other foot will do. Indeed, some people need a whole lot of power foot! That's just the way it is.

It is for this reason that I refuse to feel sorry for anyone, under any circumstances. I know something utterly pertinent at issue: more than anything, the ego feels unloved, and is desperate for someone to feel sorry for them because of it. But why do that? Haven't they suffered enough!? Without imposing that on them too? Besides, there are good reasons to make the kinds of sacrifice in the direction of Adi Da that we are talking about, rendering the complaints against Him all the more untenable. What makes all the generosity perfectly reasonable is the prior giving that Adi Da does, in which He is involved at all times. You do not appear to be aware of or else appreciate this prior giving, the dramatic exercise of His "beauty foot", involving the transmission of darshan and Hridaya-Shakti, the scintillating nature of His teaching and dharma, the way of life He designed specifically for spiritual growth and practice, even His work with the world on subtle levels of spiritual reality we can only guess at. Of course, it is easy to dismiss this latter claim, especially if you are not conversant with these levels of spiritual reality such that you can see it for yourself. Needless to say, few people are.

You repeatedly state Adi Da is a taker, not a giver. But, once again, the double standard rests on stacking the deck against Him, not allowing the giving He actually does admission to the conversation. Perhaps reading the leelas I mention above will change that. Devotees stay in His company precisely because of the extraordinary gifts they continually receive from Him.[3] Indeed, out of love, His devotees are utterly grateful for the opportunity to gift Him in return — and in all kinds of ways: personal service, as well as financial contributions to support His great work of liberating all beings. What often gets overlooked in criticisms of Adi Da is an obvious financial reality: it costs a lot of money to do this kind of work! And it takes considerable sacrifice for a Guru to pry us loose from our egos. Only one as strong and persistent in His demand as Adi Da could possibly be effective in that effort. Perhaps the entire dispute comes down to a single confusion: not realizing the altruistic nature of the work Adi Da actually does. In the end, I believe the proper closing remains the same as before: if you truly believe that some people have benefited from being in Adi Da's company, it only seems honorable to encourage similar people to find their way into His company — precisely so that they might benefit too.


  1. Indeed Adi Da provides what is arguably the world's most profound wisdom on understanding and transcending one's oedipal patterning — which otherwise makes principles like "Devotees should love everyone" appealing but unattainable. For more, read The Call To Be Love (And To Live As Love In All Relations).

  2. See also our section: Money in Adidam.

  3. Indeed Adi Da's outpouring of Gifts has been so immense, that there has been a real danger of devotees becoming "takers" only, rather than participating in a relationship of mutual gifting: see our article, The Way of the Bone: The Addict's Revision of Adidam vs. the True Way.

Quotations from and/or photographs of Avatar Adi Da Samraj used by permission of the copyright owner:
Copyrighted materials used with the permission of The Avataric Samrajya of Adidam Pty Ltd, as trustee for The Avataric Samrajya of Adidam. All rights reserved. None of these materials may be disseminated or otherwise used for any non-personal purpose without the prior agreement of the copyright owner. ADIDAM is a trademark of The Avataric Samrajya of Adidam Pty Ltd, as Trustee for the Avataric Samrajya of Adidam.

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