A few weeks ago, with Derry, Erik, Ruth, and Fiona, I went to an introductory program for Adi Da at the Berkeley Public Library. Adi Da is that guru who keeps changing his name. He was originally Franklin Jones, around the time he was with my old guru Baba Muktananda. Then he became Bubba Free John, Da Free John, Da Kalki, Da Lovananda, Adi Da, whatever. Here's a page of pro-Da propaganda.
Around the 70s, Da built a following in northern California and elsewhere, but for over a decade now he's been cloistered on an island in Fiji (bought from Raymond "Perry Mason" Burr) where adoring devotees flock to worship him.
I wouldn't go out of my way to visit a spiritual teacher, particularly one like Da, whom I expect to offer little but weirdness to goof on. But this program was free, and included high-class tea and dates for snacks, so what the hell. Since they weren't allowed to sell anything in the library, they even gave away a CD or book of Da's talks. There were over a dozen attendees; the program started promptly with a few minutes of intro talk, followed by a 45 minute DVD showing Da speaking and doing his thing.
Inexplicably, famous commentators like Ken Wilber and Alan Watts have gone ga-ga for Adi Da (here's Wilber gushing over Da). As I travel the spiritual underbelly, I keep bumping into people who have strong ideas or stories of Da. So now at least I've heard him talk. I explored the free book and CD a little bit, so I've got some sense of what he's about.
Today I shared my experience with the folks at the Daism Forum, where some of his longtime students (mostly ex-students?) hang out. Here are the 2 posts I've made so far.
I got a response from someone named friend, prompting my Post #2:
Hi, I'm new to the forum. I've got only a little knowledge or experience of Da, but I'm an old timer with lots of similar stuff, see my site http://home.comcast.net/~sresnick2/socalled.htm
Till recently, I only knew of Da because a friend told me I'd love his books; gave them a try, and gave up before finishing "Knee of Listening." I should mention that I was with Muktananda's group for 5 years, so Frank's name came up. And I've had interest in Ken Wilber -- again, friends told me I'd love his books, but I didn't -- and was intrigued and suspicious by Wilber's praises of Da.
Then about a month ago I went to a local program thrown by Da people, and for the first time saw a video of talks etc. I've joined the forum to express the lack of coherence I picked up, and to see if anyone who's more familiar with the trip can shed light on it.
At this program, the guy who was running it started off with a teaching something like this. This moment is already IT. There's not some divine thing that's going to descend on us; there's not some divine thing that we need to ascend to; it's all right here right now.
I listened to most of the CD of Da's talks that they gave away, and right at the beginning, the teaching seemed the same: pointing to the clarity and completeness of just now. So yeah, cool, I'm fine with that. Perfectly good teaching. But at this program, next thing I know, they're talking about Da as if he's something special. As if he's got something other people don't. As if there's some need or reason for me to go to Fiji or something.
And it completely struck me as incoherent, inconsistent. If it's always and already as it is, perfect and complete, then it's here in this moment as I type on a laptop. It's incoherent to say that Da has something special if each moment is already perfect. Where's the need to go to Fiji etc if truth has already appeared in my just now situation?
My way of resolving the contradiction is to not swallow the ideas about higher and lower, about Da or anyone being more advanced in a meaningful way. My understanding of people who do present Da as a higher being or something is that they parrot the words about "always and already complete" without ever really believing it, or they believe it theoretically without ever putting it into practice.
I dunno. Can anyone who's been seriously involved in the group give me a hint about how anyone can sustain this obvious contradiction?
Hi, friend, thanks for your response. Yeah, I'm the same guy who's posted to Guruphiliac and What Enlightenment??! Please drop me a line if you ever have suggestions about what I should include on my own page; I'll definitely look into the blogs on the sidebar that you mentioned.OK, enough for my first blog.
From my time with Muktananda... I recall that I had my own experience, and then there were these beliefs that everyone around me seemed to accept as true. And then there was this particular moment when I made what seemed like a tiny leap over this invisible line. Rather than sticking with what I actually experienced (and what I could logically conclude from it), I started to think, "Well, if *all* these nice happy people believe that Muktananda transmits a magical energy, and has special knowledge and powers, I might as well assume it's true..."
So now I've leaped back across that line in the opposite direction, and don't plan to make that innocent-looking assumption again. The process is interesting, though. Kind of amazing how when you're in a group of people all believing the same way, it's so easy to blur the line between direct experience and 2nd-hand beliefs.
In the Da intro program I spoke of, they said something like this: If you're in Da's presence, you'll definitely get these amazing and wonderful things happen to you, and you don't need to do anything. Except, oh yeah, just one little thing, you do have to accept that he's enlightened.
And I thought, Jeez, of course! Even if you accept that a rock is enlightened, you'll get amazing experiences in the presence of that rock (as in a Hindu temple, or a vortex in Sedona). But why pretend to accept something just because you're told too? It seems like a tiny thing at first, but then it's a slippery slope to no end of non-sense, based on the one little act of pretending.
[Addendum: 7 months after I blogged this, a commenter recommended the site Adi Da Samraj Archives, which holds extensive information critical of this guru.]