I grew up in
a very small town in northern Illinois, living mostly on farms.
I first felt the problem of life when a friend of my two brothers,
a star on the football team, was killed during a game. His funeral
was held in the high school gymnasium. Seeing him, I exploded in
tears — not so much because this was someone I missed, but because
of the very fact of death. After graduating from high school in
1969, I went to the University of Illinois.
During my second
year, I began to use psychedelics. On the first trip on mescaline,
taken in a forest, I was overcome by tremendous energies and blisses,
energy exploding up my spinal line and pulsating into the crown
above my head. I spent the next couple of years trying to find my
way back to this experience. But this search led me to a final "trip"
in which I was clearly instructed that I wasn't going to get what
I sought through drugs. And so I began to read. I began with Ouspensky,
and Gurdjieff and moved on to the Eastern traditions. I got a job
at a metaphysical bookstore so that I could read anything that attracted
me. I remember picking up a book called The
Knee Of Listening by Franklin Jones (now known as Adi Da
Samraj). Attracted by it, I looked it over, but put it down, thinking,
"He's an American. He can't know what it is."
from college, I started to work, but continued my spiritual studies.
One day, I picked up a hitchhiker. The first thing he said to me
was, "Have you ever heard of Ramana Maharshi?" (a great Indian Realizer
of the 20th century). Naturally I felt I had found a kindred spirit,
and took him home. His name was "Cloud"— a name he had given himself,
of course — and he was such a strange and exaggerated character
that he actually frightened my parents and my sisters. I visited
"Cloud" in Wisconsin several times and then he disappeared. After
Christmas of that year, I decided to move to Florida. On the way,
I stopped in Myrtle Beach, North Carolina, to spend five days at
the Meher Baba center where, for the first time, I met devotees
of a Spiritual Teacher. One of them in particular, who had served
as Meher Baba's secretary, greatly impressed me as the most "alive"
person I had ever met. I went on to Florida and settled in Hollywood,
just north of Miami.
On my first
afternoon there, I went out to the beach. Suddenly, Cloud appeared,
walking up the beach! It turned out he was living with his mother
in a condominium nearby, and he told me he had a book I had to read.
It was a paperback titled The
Method of the Siddhas. I recognized the American author
of The Knee
Of Listening and immediately took the book back to my apartment.
I tried to read the first chapter that evening, but couldn't understand
it. In fact, it took me about a month to get through that first
chapter because it ran counter to everything that I presumed about
life and God and Reality. In those first pages of the book, which
is the first public talk Avatar Adi Da gave, He speaks about what
He calls the "self-contraction" (or the ego) and the Divine Condition:
is a disturbance, a feeling of dissatisfaction, some sensation
that motivates a person to go to a teacher, read a book
about philosophy, believe something, or do some conventional
form of Yoga. What people ordinarily think of as Spirituality
or religion is a search to get free of that sensation, that
suffering that is motivating them. All the usual paths —
Yogic methods, beliefs, religion, and so on — are forms
of seeking, grown out of this sensation, this subtle suffering.
Ultimately, all the usual paths are attempting to get free
of that sensation. That is the traditional goal Indeed,
all human beings are seeking, whether or not they are very
sophisticated about it, or using very specific methods of
Yoga, philosophy, religion, and so on.
I still felt
that I was somehow "succeeding" with my seeking — that "I" was going
to find God and be made happy and satisfied. The idea that seeking
itself was motivated by my suffering, created by my own presumption
of separation from everything and everyone, and that seeking would
never attain perfect happiness, just didn't make sense to me. I
kept putting the book down. But somehow I kept coming back to it.
In the meantime, I got a job working for a construction yard, and
found a house with Cloud and his brother.
One of the first
nights at the new house, while I was attempting to study The
Method of the Siddhas, I found myself becoming completely
disturbed — upset, unhappy, totally focussed on myself. Cloud and
his brother seemed so connected, and I felt like an outsider, completely
cut off, sad, alone — then angry. I tried to study, but I just felt
more and more upset, in a kind of anguish that I couldn't explain.
Finally, I fell into a tormented sleep, and had a dream that my
mother had died. The dream seemed meaningless at one level, but
at another, I felt that it had something to do with moving beyond
my initial (and, it seemed to me, rather childish) resistance to
hearing what Adi Da was saying about my suffering. I began to sense
something about the fact that all of this torment was the "self-contraction"
that Adi Da was talking about. His "argument" about how the ego
is dissatisfaction and unhappiness was beginning to make a lot of
sense to me.
A few days later,
I found The
Knee Of Listening again, and read it in two days, unable
to put it down. There was something completely familiar in the story
and the communication, as if it was somehow my own story, in the
sense that it answered the question that had driven my life to this
point. Here was someone who had fully embraced all of the life possibilities
that I was seeking, and had seen "through" them all, and discovered
to the depth the underlying "answer" to all that was still a question
that, Cloud and his brother left for California to see Adi Da. I
was corresponding with Adidam at that time, and looking forward
to becoming a formal devotee, but I remained in Florida and worked.
One weekend, I went to a retreat with Hari Das Baba, a medical doctor
and teacher of hatha yoga and meditation. He had taken a vow of
silence and hadn't spoken in 20 years, communicating with a slate.
At one point in the weekend, I was assisting him by pulling a block
and tackle device he used to get people hanging upside down in order
to do a particular form of body work with them. I told him at one
point that I was studying the teachings of Franklin Jones. He immediately
wrote, "Good, you should go be with Him. He is very good."
That was all
it took. After Christmas, I packed up my car, visited my family,
and headed off to California. I went to the Adidam bookstore in
San Francisco, and was invited to come to see an introductory film
about "Bubba Free John", as Adi Da was known then. At the end of
the film, Adi Da sits in silence for a time with devotees and then
looks directly into the camera for a long period of time. Looking
into His eyes, I received a heart opening that I could not explain.
I simply wept, now certain that I had found what it was I had been
looking for. I realized that there was nothing more to look for,
that Adi Da was exactly the "What" that I had always been seeking
for. The next day I went back to the bookstore, spent the day looking
for a job, and that evening, while having dinner with a group of
devotees, was invited to come with them to the bookstore to sit
with Adi Da. I was overwhelmed, both with surprise about being able
to sit with Him so soon, but also with apprehension. I felt awkward,
not knowing how to relate to Him in this kind of occasion. I did
not yet understand anything about the relationship between Guru
later, having become a formal devotee of Adi Da's, I was invited
to come up to the Mountain Of Attention Sanctuary — a secluded property
in the mountains — to serve. The first night there, on Friday, we
were all invited to come to sit with Avatar Adi Da for meditation.
I closed my eyes and did my best to "meditate". At one point, I
felt a flush of heat over the front of my body, and opened my eyes
to see that He was looking directly at me. In the next few moments,
as I held His gaze, I was drawn completely into a feeling of Light
and Consciousness — total and indescribable Bliss — and I realized
that it was all coming from Avatar Adi Da, and He was drawing me
into this light, into Him. The room dissolved in Light, and I was
swooned into Him. Everything
dissolved, until there was only Him, and "I" disappeared. It was
the most sublime feeling of happiness, like coming to a place you
had always wanted to be, and yet, without any sense of thought,
or conception — just the thoughtless feeling of perfect love and
After a time,
a thought arose, "What do I do now, since I have been given everything?"
and He looked away. The following moments were horrific, as my mind
kicked back in with a vengeance. There was a torrent of unhappy
thoughts and emotions and bodily discomfort. All I wanted to do
was get out of there. I had just been given everything, and, I thought,
I had failed miserably to make use of it. After what seemed like
a very long time, He rose and left the room.
It took me a
few days to understand what had happened. Luckily for me, there
was a class for new students a few nights later, and I shared this
experience there. Remarkably, the same thing had happened to everyone
I spoke with about that particular meditation occasion! Thus, I
was given an initial understanding of the miraculous process of
relationship with Avatar Adi Da. The Gift of His Realization and
State is Given by Him — and is received however it is possible and
appropriate for the devotee to receive it in that moment. Then the
devotee must grow in self-understanding to make use of what has
been Given, and to be able to receive what is Given next. And what
is Given next may not be "Spiritual" in nature. In fact, it is more
than likely that it will take the form of a reflection of what you
are doing as an ego that is a refusal of the Divine.
In the years
since that time, this process of mutual sacrifice, the giving and
receiving of Gifts, has continued. In fact, I am grateful to say
that it is my entire life. I am eternally grateful to have been
drawn into Avatar Adi Da's Blessing Company, to His Wisdom-Teaching,
and to the community of those who love Him as I do. May all beings
be Blessed as I have been Blessed.