Monday, December 01, 2008

More on the Death of Adi Da

Discussion about the death of Adi Da continues at the Nonduality Blog. (Adi Da is the controversial guru who has also been known as Franklin Jones, Bubba Free John, Avatar Adi Da Samraj, etc etc.) About 60 comments have been made to that blog so far; below is the comment I added there this morning.

Part of my comment is a reaction to the debate over Adi Da as a "Realizer." It's often seemed to me that Da and his followers put lots of time and energy into his claims as a "Realizer" (this includes the gushing praise that Ken Wilber gave Da in the past). Is "Realizer" just a piece of jargon with no clear plain English meaning... a fuzzy word for devotees to project all sorts of fuzzy ideas onto?

Hell, it's happened to me more than once that I've left my apartment and realized that my fly was undone. That makes me a realizer. I don't see the point in making grandiose claims and comparisons about that realization (even though it was quite useful when it occurred). Isn't it enough that I simply zipped up and kept walking?

Anyway, here's what I wrote:

Former Follower and Critic Says:
> Criticizing Da is claimed to be the same as criticizing all
> great Realizers–but it is ok for Da to claim only he attained
> the so-called highest stage not other Realizers who were not
> fully enlightened according to him. The truth is it is only Da
> that is being criticized as not being Realized, not these great
> Realizers. Da is not widely recognized as a great Realizer

I've done lots of work with computers (as an MS Excel expert). When people come to me with their computer problems, I don't waste time telling them that I'm a great Expert, or comparing myself to other Excel Experts, living or dead. I just fix their problems, and once they see that it works, then they're happy.

Some spiritual teachers operate like this also. People come to them wanting to understand themselves, and explore how to live their lives and relate to others. The teachers point them to practices and inquiries, and encourage them use these pointers to find truth for themselves. None of this requires the teacher to make any claims about their own greatness, what a wonderful "Realizer" they are, or to judge any other teachers living or dead.

So the important issue to me is... what, if anything, about Da's life, words, actions, and death... is helpful to any of us as we live our actual lives just now? I see that as a useful line of inquiry, and everyone can try and see for themselves whether they find any of Da's words etc to be useful. The whole issue of what a "Realizer" is, of whether or not Da was one, of what other living or dead teachers were superior or inferior... all of this is a different issue entirely (and for me personally, not the issue I find interesting).

Also... we can exercise care re how much weight we put on whether or not a teacher is "widely recognized." Following a crowd, believing in things because they're widely recognized by others, can sometimes be a useful strategy. But we can also look into things independently, seeking whatever's most helpful to our particular life situation. In that case, we examine what best works for ourselves, and it becomes irrelevant whether or not masses of other people recognize it.

NC Says:
> I think it’s natural to grieve our loved ones for a time

I don't see any problem with grieving. Some people have the idea that life ought to be non-stop bliss. They try to ignore or deny grief and sadness in themselves, and criticize it in others.

All of this is rooted in the initial idea: "I want to be happy all the time." That want can be questioned also. Maybe it's possible to keep a clear mind, in which it's no problem to be happy sometimes and grieving sometimes, healthy sometimes and sick sometimes, alive for a while and then dead. A clear mirror reflects each moment as it is, beautiful or ugly, without making it into a problem.

In addition to the conversation at, there's also in-depth open discussion of Da's death at the New Lightmind Forums. Another great resource is the Adi Da Archives, a critical site with extensive info, stories, and reflections by ex-devotees. Further posts on the topic, including the "succession" issue, appear on the Forest Wanderer blog.


\m said...

Hey Stuart -

I had to laugh (out loud even) when I read your Excel analogy. I've been a computer programmer for 20 years and early on got a rep for being somewhat of a "genius" (at least in regard to computers). At first I was flattered that everybody and their brother would call me up for (free) advice. After a while, it became a nuisance and I discouraged such behavior (unless I got paid to render the needed advice, of course)

As to Adi Da, clearly he was interested in furthering his rep as an unparalled mukty-muk of the highest order. I just have to think there's gotta be some kind of severe ego-pain that goes along with that kind of reputation-maintenance. On the other, he had his devotees doing that for him.

yomamma said...

The way people talk about the realizing races and the various levels of it, it sounds just like another state of mind, very dual and divided.

Da's body certainly looked like a picture of pain to me ( and this is where i claim my expertise, being in the body work biz) but i don't think it takes an expert of any sort to see these things. He wouldn't tbe an example I would like to model myself on in any way.
I guess Ken Wilber had to stay with Da's realizer status?, even though he questioned his sanity, because to do so would blow holes in his hierarchical system of mapping spiritual evolution.
Obviously there is enough information and example out there, that makes it easy for any charismatic lulu to set themselves up as a "realizer". They get some momentum behind them and then god help us! so i agree with Stuart that it's best to use your own experience and sense to gage this kind of thing but, If you meet Da in the road and you still don't want to kill him , well that's a karmic load of unbelievable proportions.

Stuart said...

\m said...
I had to laugh (out loud even) when I read your Excel analogy. I've been a computer programmer for 20 years

Thanks for commenting, \m, good to virtually meet you.

I've always seen some connection between computer work and meditation practice. When I do programming, I often need to first work out a problem in my head, and then watch my own thinking with great care, so I can see the mental strategy at such a simple level that it can be translated into computer code.

Also, when I'm writing the code, all that matters is doing my job, trying to make it work. My personal opinions, wants, and expectations don't matter. The mind-computer is like the external computer. first you gotta press the clear button and return to zero; only then will the calculation turn out correct.

yomamma said...
If you meet Da in the road and you still don't want to kill him , well that's a karmic load of unbelievable proportions.

My Zen teacher spoke the old dictum this way: "Being attached to something, making something is always a problem. Many Christians become attached to 'God.' 'My God and your God are different.' So you make your 'God.' Zen means put it all down. Don't make anything. If you meet God, kill God. If you meet Buddha, kill Buddha."

If we put down all our other ideas and attachments, but still cling to a particular teacher or ideology or special experience etc... it may seem like a relatively tiny exception. But that hair's-breadth of clinging is enough to create the karmic load, enough to set heaven and earth infinitely apart.

(Years ago, I did computer work for Hawaiian Punch. We had this advertising character called "Punchy," who'd ask his hapless friend, "How about a nice Hawaiin Punch?" and then slug him in the face. The corporate management decided to change the ads so that Punchy never actually hits anyone. Y'know, because they didn't want to promote violence.

(So maybe someday we'll have to find a different way to express "Kill the Buddha." But whatever metaphor we use, the meaning behind it is vital: question strongly and sincerely, question everything.)

yomamma said...

yah, I miss Punchy, it's like retiring Mr. peanut. Well at least Mr. Bill has made a comeback. Do you think Punchy is in some back alley, drinking mad dog 20/20 and telling anyone who will listen his story? " Hey me and Speedy AlkaSelzer used to pick up broads together!" Its so sad!

Doug said...

yomamma, I spent the better part of an hour looking through the results of a google image search for Adi Da. Your summary is a good one. :)

I have a sort of morbid curiosity for these "authoritarian guru" types, as Stuart calls them. The tales that come from the people who grow disillusioned over the years seem to dovetail nicely with the anxious intuitions I get when reading excerpts from their spiritual works. Makes me glad my only encounters with them have been from a safe distance.

When I first read the "kill the buddha" expression, it was in the context of the koan Joshu's "mu" from Mumon's collection. For several weeks after that I would get images in my head during meditation of a little "mu" Samuri chopping down bamboo with his sword. Fortunately that didn't last very long. :)

yomamma said...

Doug,I have a fascination with authoritarian gurus as well as a fascination for true crime. I guess they are both extreme examples of people believing what their minds tells them they are. So you can actually see yourself in there! Yikes!

Steven Sashen said...

You may not claim to be better than others, Stuart, but your participation in the "conversation" at shows me that you are definitely a better man than I.

There's no way I could continue to engage in the irrational, jargon-weighted, cognitive bias-laden, projection fest that's going on over there nearly as gracefully as you have.

Bowing to the feet of the master,


yomamma said...

Stuart sticks to his guns, so to speak. I can't even participate in the Non -Du blog because it' s kind of their special little memorial or wake , a scene that does'nt really welcome outsiders, but kudos to Stuart non the less. That steady drip of sanity may reach someone! Stuart, ambassador from Sanityland!

Stuart said...

Stephen and yomamma, many thanks. I've gotten plenty of grief for things I've written over the years, so it's nice to have it balanced with your kind words.

Adi Da followers haven't been so fanatically hostile to me, compared to other groups I've encountered. My dataset is too small to draw conclusions... but I've found Hare Krishnas to be more fiercely irrational than the Daists. The Muktananda/Gurumayi people can be worse, the Hugging Ammachi devotees moreso, and the "Anti-Cult" cultists worst of all.

Whatever. As yomamma commented earlier, it's all like a discussion in my own mind. I know I've been a bit blind in following authorities and groupthink in the past, and have to be vigilent about dogmas that could pop up in my own thinking. It's a non-stop job, and my urge sometimes to engage with Daists and the like may be an outside refelection of the inside dynamic.

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