Tong has been a devotee of Adi Da Samraj since 1989. He is one of the founders
of this website. You can read his biographical information in the About
are all heart-full tonight. But you must become heart-broken.
Adi Da Samraj
gathering with devotees, June 23, 1992
since Beloved Adi Da spoke those heart-moving words to us all that night, my daily
prayer to Him at Paduka Mandir (at the time, one of the Temples at Adi Da Samrajashram) was
that He find a way to break my heart. And the great Avatar found a most extraordinary
and intimate way to answer my prayer.
"Club Rat" (Hymns To Me)
Club Rat was a "place" Adi Da had conceived one Friday (July 3,
1992) on Naitauba, in this way: We were to turn Hymns To Me (the
music building) into Club Rat. It was to have an extraordinarily
refined atmosphere and the finest food and drink. It was to have
the finest place settings, china, crystal, etc., and the most exquisite
dishes (caviar, clam on the half shell, lobster, fillet mignon,
It would have meal servers and the very best live musical entertainment.
All attendees and entertainers would be completely outrageous
("skanks and whores" in Adi Da's words), and made up to look the
part: as "exaggerated" as possible in their appearance. (Consequently,
many of us would have our faces painted in the wildest ways, thanks
to Linda Oppenheimer, Trea Mekel, Marcelene Alexander, and a number
of other make-up artists working over-time in the art room.)
|Marcelene: I was lucky enough
to be one of the artists putting make-up on whoever
showed up needing it. One of the things I learned (by
watching it done by another devotee) was how to get
hair to do whatever you wanted it to do by spraying
it with removeable adhesive!
And . . . Club Rat would have its opening in two days.
Adi Da was never one for wasting time! Even though it would be
an extraordinary challenge for all of us to make this happen in
the allotted time, it was also clear to us that Adi Da was creating
a novel circumstance through which He would work with us in some
new and unique way, perhaps for an extended period of time (like
the Indoor Yajna, or any of the other extended periods
of His gathering with us), and so naturally we were all quite
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was visiting Naitauba (on retreat) at the time, but was recruited to be part of
the musical entertainment, in an otherwise "Naitauba resident only" gathering
— we had heard Adi Da wanted light jazz music, and I was able to play that style
of piano. So Jonathan Condit and I stayed up until the early hours of the morning
working on various jazz pieces, some for the dinner (where Jonathan was to be
a piano bar-style pianist), and some for the after-dinner entertainment. But when
Saturday morning came, we heard that much of that effort had been in vain because
the after-dinner entertainment was now to be "raunchy" rock music instead (with absolutely
no classical music). I chalked up the night's effort (which we now tossed
away) to sadhana, and we began again, throwing pieces together
because the dinner was now to be that afternoon. As it turned out, the dinner
party was postponed. I breathed a sigh of relief for the extra time we had to
Sunday arrived and we heard the party was on again, and would probably
occur Monday. So we worked late into the night again, trying to polish our act.
I wrote an upbeat song called "Club Rat", that attempted to reflect in a rock
song the moment that Adi Da was creating. I rehearsed the song with Abel Slater;
he'd be singing, I'd be playing keyboards.
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and I completed our rehearsal of "Club Rat" and finished our preparations
Monday morning just as we heard Adi Da was about to arrive in the residents' village
and come to the party at Club Rat. (The "Hymns To Me" building was in Qaravi, the residents'
village.) We were suddenly informed that plans had changed: the material Jonathan
had prepared for his piano bar was far too tame and I would probably have to improvise
jazz some or all of the time during dinner! My heart leapt into my mouth, but
I surrendered all my fears to Adi Da and got to work. The dinner began, accompanied
by taped jazz music. I sat in the next room, soundlessly "playing along" on a Yamaha keyboard
in time with the taped music, to get the creative juices flowing. Peals of laughter
erupted again and again from Adi Da and His family next door, and their humor
set my heart at ease.
As things turned out, no live music was called for
during dinner after all. After dinner, though, the island residents and two retreatants
(myself and Anthony Costabile) gradually migrated into the main room of Club Rat
(Hymns to Me), where everyone joined Adi Da in watching several Michael Jackson
videos. Adi Da wore a funky black derby hat with colored feathers, a gold earring,
super cool shades, and two tiny braids in His beard. His torso was adorned with
a black leather vest emblazoned with a large silver scorpion. He had mock tatoos
on His arm and cheek. Every once in a while, in the coolest manner, He would lower
His shades slightly and give a penetrating Look at a particular devotee. He looked exquisitely and
after the video ended, Adi Da called for the live entertainment. That was our
cue, as the first rock band on the program. We took the stage: Abel Slater, lead
vocal, Steve Hagerty on guitar, myself on keyboards, and Anthony Costabile on
"drums". Well, actually, they were what we referred to as "piss buckets"
(used for the "bathroom breaks" at the gatherings, on a South Pacific island whose
facilities didn't include enough toilets nearby to handle our numbers) — piss
buckets turned upside down and miked! And, as I recall, Anthony's "drumsticks"
were long wooden spoons from the kitchen across the green. The vision of this "drumset"
sent Adi Da into
spasms of laughter, between which He struggled to get out the words, "Does he
. . . know he's . . . . playing on . . . PISS BUCKETS?" [Uproarious laughter
from us all.] "He probably thinks they're laundry buckets or something."
How Anthony managed to get them to sound like ordinary drums I'll never know.
Anthony: Under ordinary circumstances, I would have
been delighted. I spent several years playing drums professionally
before entering the Communion. But my equipment . . .
I mused, "How can I possibly lose face like this — banging on these plastic
buckets in front of my Sat-Guru?" (And Adi Da was right — I hadn't made any
association between the buckets and their possible function.) But there was so
much energy and humor in the incident that I could not be deterred any further.
I forgot myself and began experimenting with sound possibilities on the buckets.
"Not bad", I said, laying down what was intended to be a rather funky
rap beat. Everyone agreed. . . I was hired for the gig!
Abel introduced the first number to everyone ("Club Rat", the rock song I had written for the occasion), and with a "1-2-3-4" we were
off and playing. In keeping with the guidelines for the evening, Abel sang the
words in his raunchiest voice. To give you a feeling for it, here are some of
The funky place where God is at.
Only skanks and whores
through its doors.
When the Lord's in town
Everyone "gets down".
Steve played some wild licks on the electric guitar.
As they listened, Adi Da and His family looked amused, but He also gave us a humorously
perplexed look which made me think "He probably can't really hear the words".
The Master Critic very Graciously allowed us to finish the song, after which He
told Abel not to sing anymore — He literally had Abel pulled off the stage! (Abel
later confessed to me that he felt he was receiving a lesson all night about wanting
to be the center of attention; Adi Da would later praise Abel for all his off-center-stage,
behind-the-scenes work in organizing the party.)
Then Adi Da totally surprised
me by asking, "Can Tong do it solo?" Again, my heart leapt into my mouth; although
I enjoy performing (and as a former professor, had no problem standing in front of classes),
I am actually a shy person by tendency. But in that moment,
I felt such love and trust in my Guru that I immediately responded to Him, "Yes, Lord". Thus
began a most personal, intimate, and extraordinary dialog with my Beloved, in
which I spoke to Him in the language of music, and He responded to me in (and enveloped me in) the language
of the Heart.
Dan Bouwmeester held the microphone for me, I played and sang the song again.
This time the words were clearer and they got some laughs from Adi Da's family,
but at a certain point, Adi Da made a cutting gesture across His throat and said,
"Cut the singing. Just play." So I continued to play, but after a while He had
me stop again.
He said, "I hear you play jazz. Play your favorite jazz
piece. Your very favorite jazz piece." These spontaneous and rapid-fire changes
of pace were totally blowing my mind away (which was exactly right, as the Divine Heart-Master was after my heart), but somehow at this point I was, by
Adi Da's Grace, free of self-consciousness about the whole situation and just
resting in the asana of submission, open to whatever He might next
ask of me. I started playing Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me", because
a couple of nights before, I had prepared a reworked version of that song to sing
way You wear Your hat.
The way You hold Your knee.
The Revelation of all
No, no, they can't take that away from me.
The way Your smile just
The way You sing so free.
The way You haunt my dreams.
they can't take that away from me.
But it didn't go very
well. It would have sounded much better on a full-fledged piano, but all I had
was a tiny synthesizer, and it came out sounding very weak (particularly since
I couldn't sing the words that moved me so much, since Adi Da had specifically
instructed me to play and not sing).
I played on anyway! With Adi
Da making humorous remarks the whole time. "Now, My babies" (He said — speaking in the manner of Teacher — to His children, who sat by Him), "there's good music, and there's
bad music. "This" — He said, pointing my way — "is bad music." He gave
me a big smile. "Nonetheless, I'm letting My Tongue [His name for me, playing with my birth name] continue
to play, so that you can learn discrimination." I continued to give His
daughters lessons in "discrimination". (Happily, I might add! In the spirit of
He then made as though He were drawing on a bow and the
Divine Archer shot two arrows into my heart from across the room. I pressed my
hands to my heart, literally feeling the Wound of Love. Then He said to me with
great power and humor, "Tong, I just slapped You. Feel it." I did. (And
for several hours after, I had a kriya in which my face suddenly swung to the right.)
And I thought with a sinking feeling that, certainly this time, the Divine Hook
would pull me off stage. But Grace leaned profoundly that evening.
some whispers to Adi Da from His family, He spoke to me again. "I hear what
you really are is a classical piano player. Play classical music for Me.''
I was stunned. He had specifically forbidden classical music to be played in Club
Rat! But He broke His Own Law, and I recalled Words of His that always had moved
me deeply: "Some Realizers do whatever is within the bounds of propriety
to help liberate their devotees; I will do anything, whether within the
bounds of propriety or not, to liberate My devotees.''
He went on: "Play
classical music for Me, and play it so that the tears stream down your cheeks
as you are playing! Cry all the way down to the bottom of your feet.'' These last
admonitions were spoken with great force, and my heart sunk even further . . .
How I could I possibly do this? I hadn't the slightest idea.
replied, "Lord, I began writing a classical piano sonata for You which I'd
love to play for You, but it's unfinished." The Lord raised His eyebrows,
and smilingly roared back in mock anger, "UNFINISHED? You should NEVER bring
Me unfinished business." 
was only one response the devotee can make in such a moment, and so I made it,
from the heart: "I will finish it right now, Lord!" His smile widened and He replied,
"Good!" I asked Him if I could use a piano instead of the tiny synthesizer, and
He Gracefully nodded His Blessing.
while Megan Anderson, as one of the entertainers, did a dance routine to Michael
Jackson's "Beat It" (receiving such pragmatic instructions from her
Divine Dance Instructor as "Put more 'stupid' into it; loosen up the hips!"),
several men wheeled the piano onto the side of the stage. Adi Da continued instructing
Megan in how to transcend her self-consciousness, and her dancing became devotional
contemplation of her Guru.
"Be careful with that piano! That's My Naamleela's piano." Adi
Da said to the piano movers, referring to His youngest daughter,
who was sitting next to Him.
"Perhaps we should shoot the piano
player. . ." Adi Da mused, looking in my direction.
He already had.
He nodded for me to begin. I began playing Him my sonata . . . and after only
ten seconds I completely forgot where it went next!
Damn! I thought.
I musically improvised to get back to the beginning of the piece, whereupon I
tried to play it through and . . . forgot it again!
At that point, I looked
at my Beloved Heart-Master before me. He looked back at me. And I just surrendered
everything to Him. I never looked at my hands again and just kept my feeling-attention
And He began to play through me.
Chris "in costume" and playing
He said "Allow yourself to feel your sad clown face" (my face was made
up with white and red paint) — and the music became very sad.
Then He drew
something different out of me and said to everyone: "Now the music is very sweet."
And so it was.
He made me express everything I was through the music. "My
Tongue is a gentle man", He said, initiating the next strand of music. I nodded
my head to Him. "Gentle is good. I like gentle."
He turned to everyone
and said, "My Tongue signs all His cards to me, 'Your Chris.' You know, I notice
these things, and I know just what he means by that."
And He kept playing
the piano, using my hands.
"I call him 'My Tongue'." He pointed to Ruchiradama Quandra Sukhapur Rani who sat next to
Him, saying, "I call her 'Mother Tongue'."
As my heart opened ever wider,
He nodded, saying "That's it. That's right!" and He kept Blessing me to continue,
drawing my unfinished sonata out of me in the most intimate way.
was in waltz time, we were in an enchanted ballroom, and the Master of the Dance
swayed back and forth, incredibly Beautiful and Timeless as He looked lovingly
at me, and I at Him. I danced with Him, swaying back and forth, lost in His Embrace,
seeing and feeling nothing but Him.
My friends told me after that everyone
in the room was swooning and moved to tears by His Love and His Music. We all
had been transported to our Master's Divine Domain.
At last, as the music
got slower and slower, He indicated for me to stop. "This is the best way
for this piece to be unfinished", He said very quietly.
I ran from the
piano bench and threw myself at His feet in a full prostration. When I looked
up at Him, He tossed a flower to me with an incredibly sweet smile. And I gave
Him back the gift He had called for — tears streamed down my face, my heart broken
open, in gratitude for the Miracle of His Presence, and His Grace, and the Gift
of this most profoundly direct and intimate relationship with Him.
were further events that night, some in which I participated.
At one point, I
played the keyboards for a hip-hop number that Stanley Hastings wrote and sang,
and for which Arthur Andrews played electric guitar. Both were young devotees
familiar with this (at the time) new style of music, and Adi Da was amused by the trio: "Stan
and Arthur I can understand, but . . . Tong?" I was a bit older than
my bandmates, and had zero experience with hip-hop.
But I was gone in my Beloved
Guru, and these further events were like a waking dream which I only vaguely remember,
superimposed upon the more fundamental Divine Reality in which I was immersed. As Adi
Da quipped about the evening at one point that night, drawing laughter from all
of us: "It had its moments. . . though I can't seem to remember any of them right
At one point, as "Club Rat" continued, I returned from the
gathering back to our retreat quarters — whereupon all my fellow retreatants made
me tell the story of what had just happened, which I did ecstatically. We then
went to sleep.
Later that night, around 2:30am, the "Club Rat" gathering
ended, and Adi Da was driving home. The road took Him past our retreat quarters.
As had been His habit for several nights, He granted the retreatants a "Wake-up
Darshan." A couple of us heard our Beloved Guru's
truck rumbling around the corner. We jumped out of bed, shouted to everyone else
that Adi Da was here, and raced through the door just as His white truck pulled
up next to the retreat quarters.
We all pressed close around Him, touching His arm, which rested
on the window sill of the truck. He had a wonderful play with
retreatant Michael Bennett, where He humorously lit into Michael
(a minister), saying that Michael had a look that took an entire
lifetime of study to cultivate. Adi Da associated that righteous
look with social morality. He went on to say He Himself had gone
to a theological school but it didn't make His face look the way
Michael's did! He went on and on . . . penetrating Michael deeply,
but with great humor and sweetness.
And, the whole time, little by little, Michael's face melted.
At last, Adi Da hugged and kissed Michael, and said, "Aren't you glad you're
on retreat?", and Michael's unspoken response was evident in the shine of
Then Adi Da asked, "Where's My Tongue?"
"Right here, Lord."
I was right next to Him, looking into His most extraordinary eyes, with tears
running down my face, so glad to see Him again. He turned to the other retreatants
and said (as He had to those at the Club Rat gathering), "Do you know he
signs all his cards to Me with 'Your Chris'?"
"Yes, Lord, Chris was
just telling us the story of the gathering a little while ago."
kissed His Hand in gratitude for His Regard.
Then He said to everyone, "My heart
breaks whenever I see his face." He turned to me and said, "Do you know that,
That was the end of me. My heart broke completely in that moment.
"Yes, Lord", I managed to say, as the tears poured forth.
"How much longer
are you staying? You're not leaving this week, are you?"
much longer will you be staying?"
"I'd like to stay with You forever, Lord."
He smiled sweetly at me, and said in a very soft voice, "I'd like that
very much. I couldn't bear the thought of you leaving."
He was silent for
Then in a loud and humorous voice, He said, "But: this
time. . . ?"
"I think I will be staying about another three weeks."
"GOOD! And come back very soon!"
* * *
What I have related here is primarily my own experience of Club
Rat, which marked a profound initiation, transformation, and deepening
in my relationship with my Beloved Guru, through His "Crazy
Wise" play, and through the sometimes
heart-meltingly sweet human expression of His infinite Divine
Love (which I have tried to capture here, word by word, so that
you can get a feeling for it). No doubt many other devotees can
add to this story their own extraordinary experiences of Club
Rat, and how it deepened their relationship with Adi Da.
But from Adi Da's all-encompassing perspective, His final postscript
on Club Rat was this: the day after Club Rat's opening, He informed
us that, rather than being the start of an extended gathering
period, Club Rat was to be "dismantled", because "the events
of the previous night could never be equalled".
"Club Rat" (Hymns To Me): July,