Lawsuits, Media Circuses, and Anti-Adi Da Sites > Brian O'Mahony Interview

An Interview with Brian O'Mahony

October 11, 2006

Brian 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.

Chris 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?

Brian O'MahonyBrian 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 live with.

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".

Chris: 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?

Brian: 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.

So, 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?

Well, Beverly 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.

Chris: Did the allegations in her "complaint" have any basis in truth?

Brian: 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:

No one has ever in my life forced me to have sex with anyone, including Franklin Jones. I have always been completely monogamous, and was never pressured, encouraged, coerced, etc. to have sex with anyone but my husband when I was in the community.

I can't think of anything the Master ever forced me to do. There were times I was given an instruction which I considered spiritual lessons at the time, which I attempted to follow. I was never given a personal command or order that comes to mind.

The only physical contact I have ever had with Da is a few hugs, and when I was very pregnant, he touched my belly in a gentle and soothing way. That is it.

I would have never filed a lawsuit, or even thought of filing one, if it weren't for [the men who were at the focal point of the attacks on Adi Da and His Work in 1985]. They came to me, and told me they had a lawyer, and they would take care of everything. I was in a very vulnerable place (single mother with three small children) and I let them take charge. Had I known it would turn into the media circus it did, I wouldn't have taken that route. I enjoy my privacy.

"The media, both TV and newspaper, distorted everything. I was interviewed by a reporter for one of the S.F papers I can't remember if it was the Examiner or the Chronicle and I couldn't believe it when I read the article. It had very little to do with anything I said. It was at that point that I lost faith in news, journalism, reporters, etc.

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.

I 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 ensued.

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 "expose" (so-called), 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 and everyone.

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.

Well, 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 truth!

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.

Unfortunately, because 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 the process.

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.

So, 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.



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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