Saturday, November 29, 2008

Adi Da dies

Controversial 70s guru Adi Da (aka Bubba Free John etc etc) died on Thanksgiving. My main connection to him is his strong early influence from my erstwhile guru Swami Muktananda. I have a little familiarity with Da from attending programs run by his devotees here in Berkeley; these included some readings from his books, and watching him on video.

I've always been intrigued by how Da was accepted as a super high-class teacher by major writers and philosophers like Ken Wilber and Alan Watts... since his teachings on the whole had so little resonance for me. I've previously posted about Wilber here and here. It was this curiosity about Da's popularity that inspired me to start this blog with a post about Adi Da over a year ago.

I've joined some discussion about Adi Da at the Nonduality Blog and elsewhere. may be the most lively forum on the topic; Guruphiliac has also added a Da post.

Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say "A bad situation is a good situation." If someone is attached to money, and it's working out well for him, it's very difficult to see and examine and question the underlying attachment. But when a financial crisis hits, the bad situation is an inspiration for inquiry, for looking to the roots of the suffering in our own thinking. Likewise, when a guru dies, the bad situation may be the best time to wonder about our tendency to seek external authority above believing our own experience. That's generally what I've been saying in those discussions.

I happen to have been present in the Ganeshpuri India ashram when Swami Muktananda died. As I saw the devotees scrambling for a new way to project their belief and devotion during those days, it made me wonder about how the needs and wants and expectations of the followers may be the most fundamental part of the equation. (If authoritarian gurus didn't exist, we'd have to invent them.) I've always thought that being in the midst of Muktananda's death-drama was a key experience in pointing me toward a more independent path, which is likely why Da's passing is interesting to me today.


MysticalSociety said...

I feel sure we will be hearing of more and more Guru's death because in the end... EACH PERSON must find SELF as THE ONE....ALL IMAGES must fall away for a brief moment... a breath.. so All masters find SELF... and then yes, they do respect ALL OTHERS... but the WORSHIP becomes SELF-WORSHIP...

I love the essence of Swami Muktananda's message...

"Honor yourself, Worship yourself, meditate on self. God dwells in you as you." Swami Muktananda

Doug said...

The dispatches to the inner circle as printed on non-duality are interesting. I see some parallel's to the experience of the sudden demise of a friend of mine in a car accident a few years back. There were definitely a couple days of initial disbelief before the grief kicked on in full. I wanted very much to believe that he would show up to work on Monday morning just like he always did. Wonder if delusions like these are an evolved emotional defense mechanism, something akin to going into shock after experiencing physical trauma?

Stuart said...

Doug said...
> There were definitely a couple
> days of initial disbelief before
> the grief kicked on in full. I
> wanted very much to believe that
> he would show up to work on
> Monday morning just like he
> always did.

This reminded me that back when my father died, there was a full year in which he'd appear frequently in my dreams. It made me appreciate how my relationship with my father was a phenom that existed in the mind, and that it was very much alive after the death of his outside body.

There's a sense in which everything returns to the original mind, the mind that's always present. In the midst of all this appearing and disappearing, there's one Pure and Clear thing that doesn't appear or disappear. None of this should be misconstrued to suggest that I expected for a second that my father would re-animate.

Doug said...

It's a cognitive dissonance. I knew with a fair degree of certainty that my friend had died, but I didn't want to believe it. The suddenness of his death probably contributed to the difficulty of accepting it.

Death is a vital line of questioning for me... if everything returns to the pure and clear that does not arise or disappear, then where did my friend go? Why the painful sense of loss? Another cognitive dissonance to be investigated...


Anonymous said...

If you have a guru yourself, and actually followed his teachings, you'd have a little more respect and compassion, and understanding of what Gurus are, rather than slam Adi Da. That shows me you're not practicing.

Stuart said...

Anonymous said...
If you have a guru yourself, and actually followed his teachings ...

Hi, anony, thanks for your interest in my blog. If you want real conversation, it's better to use your name, real or made-up. Anonymous posting is best used when you only want to "blow off steam," but avoid actual communication.

In any case: There are thousands of people around the world who call themselves "guru," and they're all different. If you declare yourself a "doctor" without having certain standardized qualifications, you can be arrested. But anyone can call themselves a "guru," and no one can stop them.

This means that when you talk about "having a guru" and "following his teachings," the guru could be anyone, and the teachings could be anything.

you'd have a little more respect and compassion

There's a little experiment that anyone can try for themselves. Go around in your everyday life for a while, making claims like Adi Da made. Y'know, just slip into ordinary conversation the assertion that you're the Highest Level Adept and Realizer in History, and encourage people to worship you as the Supreme Beloved.

I bet you'll find that people will laugh at you and make fun of you pretty consistently. Complain about that all you want, but that won't change the simple cause and effect. When people inflate themselves, others will deflate them.

Please see this link.


Anonymous said...

I am not a follower but have one of his books...

Wasn't he to be the Promised God-Man and not die?

Stephen Rose said...

Hi Stuart...I finally got around to my own Adi Da post today after receiving a ton of references from one of his followers. This note reminds me of why I first was first drawn to your blog. The self reliance thing. To the point of having lots of interests but finally needing to find your own way. I come to this via Christian roots, you from your more Eastern ones. Glad to have renewed that sense. Cheers, S

Anonymous said...

I was a student of Franklin Jones (Bubba Free John, Da Free John, Loveananda, Da Kalki, Adi Da, etcetera.

My overwhelming feeling when I heard of his death was relief. I had left his community, and him some time ago, and while it was very hard to leave this culture of my friends, in the end I came to see him as dark.

Franklin had a few sober days in his life over the last 30 years. He drank, smoked pot, hashish, took mushrooms, LSD, cocaine. After Maria Hoop, he was fulltime on xanax. This "natural samadhi" guy couldn't maintain without Xanax. In addition to that, he smoked pot, took viagra and had weeklong porn parties. In short, it was BS. Good sounding, for a while, but total BS.

I feared Franklin and the fanaticism of some of his followers.

I am very glad he is dead. Now the community can begin the process of healing, figuring out what they are going to do with their lives, and become a community of people instead of followers of that liar.

The discipline and demands of the community were mostly good for me. For a long time I didn't know what was really going on, or excused it as Crazy Wisdom. Then I didn't want to know. After that there came a day when I realized that everyone who got near Frank got worse. And I saw what his children had become, just weird, spoiled royalty. And I realized that I couldn't hide from it anymore - I didn't like Frank, I didn't like what he did. I liked some of what had been created, but what I liked and believed in was what the community had made, not Franklin.

So I was happy when he died. And there was a time when I sincerely didn't want to be in this world without him in it. That was a long time ago, and a lot of naivete ago.

I wish everyone involved with Adidam well. I hope it grows up at the least, and gets better. I sure do hope Adidam becomes a lot more honest about what Franklin really did. They lie like rugs about him.

Stuart said...

Anonymous said...
I was a student of Franklin Jones (Bubba Free John, Da Free John, Loveananda, Da Kalki, Adi Da, etcetera...

I had left his community, and him some time ago, and while it was very hard to leave this culture of my friends, in the end I came to see him as dark.

Thanks for posting, anony. I'm happy to hear from someone with so much more direct experience of the scene than I.

When I left the ashram, it wasn't so much about seeing the guru as dark. It was about finally questioning the intentions that had led me to being a follower. My wants ("I want to be spiritual and holy and blissful" etc) weren't necessarily so pure and superior and beyond question.

Anyway, living in a community can be beneficial or otherwise, depending upon my intention behind being there. In lots of tight-knit communities like Da's, there's a terrible lack of independent thinking, as everyone supports each other in holding some dogma.

But the benefits of community... the unselfish help that members give each other... will make it difficult to leave, regardless of how painful and silly the doctrines. (In e.g. the Amish community, over 90% of the children choose to remain with the group, even after sampling the freedom of life on the outside.)

Anonymous said...

Dear Friends, If of interest click my story on the website below; it's my respectful account with Adi Da from 1973-77(, named "The Path of No Seeking." Peace, and may Adi Da be in Eternal Love. Abrazos, Morgan Zo Callahan


Anonymous said...

Greetings & blessings from Los Angeles.
I wrote at length about my personal experience living and learning with Bubba Free John, as Adi Da was then known, between 1973 and 1977. My article, called “The Path of No Seeking,” can be found at, as mentioned. I hope that it offers some balance in the public discussion that has followed his death. Since Adi Da died on November 27, of the year that just ended, I’ve been re-visiting some of my experiences.
I loved the Master and his teachings. I was never a blind sheep who does anything the Master says. I accepted and acknowledged my true spiritual relationship with Franklin Jones as a genuine spiritual teacher.
Franklin, for me, was the person who led me into the practice deep meditation in the Hindu tradition which I had first encountered at the Vedanta Temple in Hollywood. Franklin worked in this tradition with his own teachers and other teachers from India, such as Ramana Maharshi. In those early years, Franklin came to me as a gift, a source of humor, wisdom, yogic initiations into deeper meditation, a delving into the mystical within the varying great traditions, with a respect that there are many sacred teachers & teachings.” Adi Da said “All is Sacred” and St. Ignatius encouraged me to “Find God in All Things.”
I was very close to Adi Da, so when in the mid-80’s the media gave full uncritical coverage to some stories of dissidents in the community—they were only allegations—I was shocked and disappointed. In the 70’s I didn’t feel at all attached to conventional sexuality; I wanted to go with the “free love” currents of those years. Looking back I have to admit it was a failed experiment, but I don’t regret trying to live “in a hippie commune” while doing spiritual practices. I was never encouraged to abuse my wife. Rather I was encouraged to understand the anger inside and addiction to power that wanted “to dominate” anyone. I felt the sexual experimentation was between consenting adults, who always have the freedom to say yes or no. I wasn’t a dissident regarding sexual experimentation, but I was a dissident saying I just don’t believe in everything Franklin, Bubba would say and along with my best friend, Marcus Holly, never felt any compulsion or “thought control.” In the very early days, I felt questioning, even disagreement, was welcome. I openly said, for example, that I don’t believe in reincarnation.
By the time I began to see what I thought were mistakes in the direction that the community was taking. I felt that the attitude “we’re the only ones; I’m God exclusively” got the upper hand. Others felt as I did and several left like I did, but I didn’t leave with feelings of anger from or for the teacher or the community. Rather I felt that the community and Adi Da were forming a cult around the guru that was suffocating the teaching. It was the end of a cycle along the journey of growth.
I’ve never regretted those 4 years with Adi Da—they were great, but by 1977, my gut was telling me to leave. I was able to say good-bye and state my reasons for leaving the community. I didn’t like that the community was closing itself off. For example, one time, fellow former Jesuit Jerry Brown, came to the land to visit with Bubba but was turned away, for some dumb reason. I said this was such bullshit and my buddy, Marcus Holly, couldn’t get it either: “What the hell is Bubba afraid of. People like Jerry and Bubba would mutually benefit from connection.” I said that I didn’t understand why we were starting to get cultish when the teaching was totally against surrounding “anything”—a guru, a teaching, a drug, power—with absolute devotion.
Buddhists sometimes discuss gradual or sudden enlightenment. In early days, it was stressed that all of us share the same enlightenment, to be discovered through spiritual practice. Rumi says it so clearly: “Work. Keep digging your well. Don’t think about getting off from work. Water is there somewhere…Submit to a daily practice…Your loyalty to that is a ring on the door. Keep knocking… and the joy inside will eventually open a window and look out to see who’s there.” A relationship with a spiritual teacher can be authentically devotional, but I think that it is private, humble, not bloated up, and, as in my case, perhaps lived intensely for only a limited period of time. But even in 1977, the community around Master Da was still predominantly about spiritual practice, service, study, community living, yoga & sitting in meditation on a regular basis.
I confess that I loved Adi Da until the day he died, and that love will continue in some form for the rest of my life. He was a special teacher who showed me so much about meditation and the “Path of No Seeking.” At the same time, Adi Da, for me, was always only a human being, like any other guru.
Thanks for allowing me to share with you and your readers. There will be places where we don’t agree entirely, but perhaps others where the similarities of our thinking far outweighs any differences. This may become real conversation. Please feel free to communicate/disagree/encourage/blast me at
Peace to all in 2009! May Adi Da rest in Peace.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stuart,
have u ever read the last few chapters of the Dawn Horse Testament? (dont know about more modern versions, but im referring at least to 1987 version). some very very good stuff there.

your own experience is definitely the final arbiter. though how that plays out in the world also provides important feedback.

Stuart said...

Anonymous said...
have u ever read the last few chapters of the Dawn Horse Testament?

Thanks for the pointer, Anony. I've never read it... though I've been curious about DHT because of Wilber's excessive praise of it.

If you'd like, please share what exactly it is that you find impressive about it. Is it just a matter of poetry? I used to like lots of the Indian Yoga-style writings, from the perspective of nice poetry that made me feel good. That's all fine, but it's a different matter from teachings that have the most practical value in living daily life.

I'm cautious sometimes about beautiful philosophical words that depart to far from anything that's actually functional in daily life. I hear lots of praise for Da's words; I'd be most interested if anyone can explain anything you can actually do with them.

Anonymous said...

Thing is they do did little to help people in there areas, Cobb or Fiji.