Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Fruitless Search for the Real Adi Da

A lot of activity in the comments sections lately. A current devotee of Adi Da's is opening up about his thoughts and feelings about all manner of things: this blog, yours truly, other devotees, Adi Da in general, and giving good evidence of more people "speaking openly in Adidam" in the years following Adi Da's bodily demise. He's left so many comments its a little hard to respond to all of them, but I'll give it a general shot here.

But first I want to start with a comment by Elias over at his forum, regarding the last two posts I made in response to his Facebook conversations with another Da devotee (that didn't go quite so well).

The one thing he [Broken Yogi] doesn't get into is the apparent opposition between early and late Da. (I believe he has talked about that elsewhere.)
My view (after a good deal of intuitive mulling) is that the "two Das" are the same Da. And what you see in the last decade or so is actually a projection created by the cult, which he took on like one of those hats he used to wear.
The Da I know is still LHAO without the impediment of his overweight and rather sickly body.

This is what I really want to address, and maybe that will bleed into the devotee-commentator's many questions.

Asking "who is the real Adi Da?" is a bit like asking "who is the real ego?" One can search in vain for a "real person" behind any of our many personas, and wind up only confused and even heart-broken. (Which, incidentally, isn't a bad outcome). The ego is a slippery character precisely because there is no "real person" behind it, and in the search to find one we encounter nothing but frustration. This should tell us something very important about the nature of life, of people, even of Gurus. There's no "there" there. And looking for a "there" to hang our hats on is what drives us batty.

I mentioned before in my last post that real spiritual life pretty much begins and even ends with the First Noble Truth of Buddhism - that conditional life is simply unsatisfying (dukkha). This is a core reason why this feeling of dissatisfaction is so universal - it applies even to the very notion that we are a person, an entity, a being with an identity, and that others around us are also, including God and Guru. This is why the Buddhist doctrine of anatta (no-self) flows so directly from the fact of dukkha and points back at it. Being an apparent self is like being a hungry ghost who doesn't even know he's dead. There's simply no possible satisfaction given that situation. It doesn't matter what we try to "eat", or seek, the very core of what we presume ourselves to be - a "self" - isn't even there to feed, much less anything viable to feed upon. The heart of a hungry ghost isn't so much closed as simply dead and empty.

The problem with trying to figure out who the real Adi Da is, is that once we start looking behind the masks and attitudes and words and teachings and experiences, peeling back layer after layer to get closer to the truth, we find nothing there at all. Just a bag of wind. And maybe some devotees then go "yes!" and say this only proves what a Divine trickster he was, what a perfect Divine Incarnation he was and so on. But the same could (and should) be said for any of us, and the result will be the same as well.

Who is the real Broken Yogi, as the commentator seems to be asking? Am I the child growing up in a weird dysfunctional family in crazed suburbia? The teenager who called upon Ramana to come, and was overwhelmed in his Presence? The guy who left home at sixteen on his spiritual quest? The one who stumbled into Poonja Swami without knowing who he was and whose mind fall into the heart? The one who found Da and discovered in his living room that nothing ever happened? The one who fell through a hole in the universe a year later after falling in love with Da and came out on the other side in a transparent world of pure God? The one who left to go to college, who came back to give Da another shot, who left again to wander the world, who came back for still more, who got married, had kids, vascillated again a number of times, became Da's astrologer, defended Da on the internet, criticized Da on the internet, and then left Da? The one who returned to Ramana, who practiced self-enquiry, and now writes here today? Who the hell is that guy?

There really isn't a good answer to that question, except to say "none of the above". If you are in a series of dreams, wondering which dream is the real one, you are not going to find a satisfactory answer. There is no real dream. There is only awakening. And in awakening, all the dream identities fall away, leaving nothing to identify with at all. Whatever we think ourselves to be, we are not. Whatever we think Adi Da to be, he isn't. It's not that this applies only to really special mystical realizers, if that's what we think Adi Da is. It doesn't. It applies to everyone and everything. So I really don't have a lot of patience with the notion that there are some aspects of Adi Da's life that are "really him", and others that are not. As if only the latter years of his life are a reflection of other people's influence on him, whereas there was some earlier period where the "true" Adi Da shown through. This is just nonsensical thinking, hungry ghost thinking, I'm sorry to say. Imagine a hungry ghost trying to eat some "real food" after getting fooled by "fake food". This is just more comedy, and tragedy, waiting to happen.

And yes, that's what most of us are up to most of the time when we are trying to figure one another out, or figure Adi Da out. It's best to simply stop trying to look behind the mask for something "real", and instead simply accept the mask itself for what it is, and what it isn't.

That's pretty much what I went through as I was leaving Adidam. Yes, I had been deeply involved, and I'd "recognized" Adi Da very early on. I had what to me were transcendental recognition breakthroughs of an extreme kind the first two times I met Da at the age of seventeen and eighteen. It's no use trying to explain them or categorize them. I was thrown out of myself, and really, I never quite got back in. It wasn't the first time that had happened to me, but it was incredibly powerful and it cemented my relationship to him, even though no one else seemed to much notice or care. It was more powerful than anything that came along in the latter years, even when I served him directly and was more "mature".

And so when Da began talking about the central importance of "recognition" of him in the late 1990s, I knew very much what he was talking about. But a strange thing occurred over those years, in that by then I no longer felt that was my primary interest, even when it came to Adi Da. The more Da talked about recognition of him, the less and less I cared. I found that I just wasn't terribly concerned with who Da was, that it really didn't make any difference to me. I was more and more interested in who I was, not Da. I came to the recognition that the only thing that really mattered was my own understanding of myself, not of Da. And so the whole issue of what Da was, what his realization was, and what I should do on that basis just fell away like a childhood game. I just wasn't interested in playing that anymore.

So I began to drift away from Adidam in an odd sort of way. I wasn't really sure where I was going. I wasn't even yet an open critic, I was just trying to find my own way. I was more interested in the process I was going through than in what Da was going through. His whole dramatic theater didn't matter to me much anymore. When the whole Translation thing happened up in Seattle, I really couldn't care much. Da personally invited me to come visit and see him and spend time with him, and I just declined. I sent my wife instead, since she'd stayed home and cared for things many times when I'd taken off to be with Da before.

When I became an open critic of Da's, one of the issues people were constantly asking me about, and I was not able to answer, were things like "so do you still think Da is enlightened?" or "Did Da change over the years?" The simple answer was that I didn't really know. Maybe, maybe not, to both. The real answer is that I simply didn't care, and I don't see that the question even matters. To people in Adidam, this is the ultimate heresy. They think that if one concludes that Da is enlightened, one has to accept everything else about him as true and all of his teachings as Divine Revelation, and all is excused and even Divinized by this "recognition". I found this to be sheer bullshit, to put it bluntly. I didn't feel the need to excuse or recognize anything, because none of that was going to change my own experience, which was of "me", not "Him". What I was interested in was penetrating this "me", and not of endlessly trying to recognize "Him".

So I found myself drawn to Ramana, and to self-enquiry, to this basic question "Who am I?" I didn't really care who Adi Da was. Fine, maybe he's a realizer of unprecedented power and depth. Maybe he's a fraud, a con man, a hypnotic manipulator. I really didn't care. I still don't. To the degree that I was interested in those questions, I was interested in how I came to be involved with either aspect of that whole Da-phenomena. I was interested in understanding myself, my attraction and involvement in all that, and not what Da-in-himself was or is or will be. What he was to me wasn't necessarily even about him, it was about me, my life, my mind, my fears, my projections, my ego. I knew tons of devotees who claimed to recognize Da, but they were the same dumb shits they had always been, and no different from me. This applied even to the Kanyas, who I knew and could see were deeply delusional even about their own recognition of Da, because they didn't know who they were.

To me, recognizing Da doesn't really mean shit. What matters is recognizing who "I" am. And as far as I'm concerned, that applies to everyone else also. I don't really care about some devotee's recognition of Da, if they don't recognize themselves. That's pure cultism as far as I am concerned, and that's all Adidam seemed to be by the time I left. A parade of clowns miming their recognition of Da, with no clue as to who they were. And I was a bozo who desperately needed to get off that bus.

So when Elias asks if I think the latter Da is a projection, I'd say yes, definitely. But so was the early one. And by the way, so is "Elias", and "Tom", at every age and stage of his life. And yes, Da's a projection of the egos of devotees, because there is only projection, everywhere, on and through everything. It's a world of glass mirrors everywhere. No "real world" to be found. No "real people" either.

Okay, I don't want to confuse the issue by category jumping or mixing duality with non-duality. But this is the nature of duality and identity. Da as a human being had a lot of problems at every stage of his life, and he was constantly trying to solve this by creating a new identity. Did he know who he was in the ultimate sense? I don't know. Maybe, maybe not. Did Jesus? Did Buddha? Did Ramana? I don't know that either. The only thing I do know is that no one else knows either. Da devotees love to bring out all kinds of conceptual creations Da gave them to play with, and put people into little boxes of various identities and stages and how they all add up to Da being the greatest most infallible super-identity ever. And not an ego at all, of course. But how would they know if they still think of themselves as egos? As long as they keep thinking the thought "I,I,I"? And what good comes from any of that? It's just the blind leading the blind, because no one knows who they are, they are so busy trying to know and assert who Da is.

I first met Da in 1975, when he was Bubba, and I last saw him around 2003 when he was Adi Da Samraj. Was he the same guy? Of course not. But that didn't matter then or now. I was there because I needed something from Da, and by the time I left, I didn't need anything from him anymore. At the end, I made a conscious decision not to judge Da on the basis of whether I thought he was enlightened or seventh stage or anything like that, even on the basis of my own mystical experience of him. I simply asked myself what kind of way was he relating to me and to others and what had he created here as a vehicle for practice, and did that work for me or anyone else? And was any of that useful to me anymore? The answer increasingly came back that no, this wasn't useful to me, it was actually harmful and destructive and something to stay away from. It was rather easy to see that I'd excused Da earlier simply because he was useful to me for a time, and once he was no longer useful, I could see his activities in a clearer light.

Now, I'm not sure what that says about Da in any ultimate sense. Those who still need Da are of course going to see him in a certain light, and those who don't will see him differently. Leroy Stillwell I'm sure sees Da in the light of someone who desperately needs him and can't imagine anyone having anything negative to say about him at all, unless they were demented or resentful and so forth. It doesn't make Leroy a bad guy or a fool or an accessory to fraud that he thinks this way. It just makes him relatively blind to anything outside himself and his own needs. Having been in both places, I have a bit of distance on both views, and also a lot of sympathy for both views. I could no more ask Leroy to see things differently than I could ask my younger self to. I was at least as needy and in love with Da as he was and still is. But I'm not anymore. Is that a progression, a regression, or a just an impression (samskara)? God only knows. One thing I can say is that I'm free of the need to care either way.

Real freedom to me isn't about identifying with a particular view, and being free to indulge in that view and gain victory over all other views. I don't think it's possible to be free and to hold onto a particular view of Adi Da, any more than it's possible to be free and to hold onto a particular view of oneself. Who am I? Whatever I answer, it's not freedom. Who is Da? Whatever I answer, it's not freedom. So I don't answer. Self-enquiry isn't about getting an answer to the question "who am I?" It's about seeing that there really is no answer at all, because there is no ego at all. There is no separate self, no closed heart, no dead self, no hungry ghost, and no true self either. There's just freedom.

I've had arguments with devotees of Ramana about this even. Some of them are quite attached to the notion of the "Self" or the transcendental substratum underlying the self and world. I try to point out that these are not "real things", they are just verbal and conceptual pointers that are useful to some for guidance in their sadhana. They help point us in the right direction, and that's their only real purpose. Calling our true identity "the Self" is merely a directional pointer, in that by examining the subject, the ego- self, and following attention to its source rather than outward towards objects, we can penetrate the illusion of the ego. That's important and necessary and thus a good teaching tool. But to turn that into a reified "real thing" is to defeat the whole purpose of the inspection, which is to destroy the ego-mind and its concepts and ideas and projections and leave us free of them.

There are good and useful teaching tools in Adidam also. That most of them are taken from sanatana dharma or Buddhism is not such a bad thing, whether Da acknowledges that or not. It actually adds to their authenticity. But there are also delusions in Adidam and bad teaching tools and traps one can fall in. That is true of sanatana dharma also, of course. It's important to recognize that all spiritual teachings are dukkha. They are unsatisfying. They are frustrating and ultimately useless. Most of spiritual practice is just the down to earth process of finding this out. And unfortunately we really do have to find this out, we really do have to suffer our illusions, our projections, our relationships, and come to the point of knowing them as dukkha. That is how we gain liberation from them. That is why the First Noble Truth is the truly liberating principle of spiritual life. That is why we have to keep that truth in mind throughout the spiritual process, so that we don't become enamoured of whatever spiritual path or teaching or teacher is temporarily seeming to fulfill our needs. That too will pass, and we will be left with our dukkha.

Da is no different in that regard from anything else we have pinned our hopes on. One can claim till he is blue in the face that Da is different and this time it's really going to work, but no one has any evidence of this. None of Da's devotees demonstrate much of this in anything but the most ordinary ways, and even there not so much. I say this not out of disrespect or cynicism, but only because it's the tragic truth. And if there's any value in the whole Adidam experience, it's in coming to the point of accepting this, and feeling the full force of dukkha, of our dissatisfaction, even in the midst of whatever profound truth we think is going to save us.

Not that Da didn't bring anything true to the table. The Da commentator talks about the Atma shakti, or as he calls it the "Atma nadi Shakti", as if there's some kind of difference. This is just another example of the dualism that haunts so much of Da's teaching. As if there is any difference between the Heart (Atma) and its own Light (Atma Nadi, or Amrita Nadi). The whole point of non-dual teachings such as Ramana's is that the Heart is everything, and that all seeming forms and light and energy are simply the Heart. The idea that there is some form of separation between the two is a bizarre idea of Adi Da's, something he came up with to insist that he's the only genuine realizer of the Atma Nadi (despite borrowing the name and description from Ramana) and that all other realizers only got as far as the "exclusive heart". As if, again, there is such a thing.

And that's the problem with Adidam in a nutshell. There's no doubt that Da could feel and communicate to others this feeling for the Atma Shakti, this beauty that is at the heart of all experience and all beings. But then he has to always make a subtle differentiation in this Atma Shakti, as if what he is "giving" is actually separate from the Heart, because it's the "Amrita Nadi". That distinction runs through his whole teaching, and it creates subtle separation whenever his devotees try to put it into practice, which is where this whole cult phenomena comes from, the whole us vs. them mindset and all its attendent delusions and fantasies of victimized martyrdom.

This is funny to me, actually, because one of my latter experiences with Da was a vision in which Da gave me the full instruction on Amrita Nadi, in every possible yogic form, in an infinite dimension beyond all forms and limitations. (And don't ask, because there's literally nothing to say about that whatsoever). So in a strange sense I actually do know something about this, and I can say that there is no distinction whatsoever between the Heart and Its Light, and no distinction between Atma and Amrita Nadi, that any distinction is entirely conceptual in origin. So while there is some kind of value in Da's teaching about not developing an exclusive orientation around the Witness, and thus excluding phenomena strategically, it has virtually no bearing on the actual nature of the Divine Shakti, the Heart, or Its Light. There are not two or three or ten kinds of Shakti, there is only one. Or, One. The reality of the Shakti is the reality of the Heart. There is no need to differentiate it. The differences only come at the level of the mind of experience and its bifurcated madness.

One of the points I made careful note of when leaving Adidam was that discrimination wasn't just about making subtle distinctions. It was also about not making distinctions that don't actually exist. And the distinction between Atma Shakti and Amrita Nadi Shakti is a distinction without a difference. It's important not to introduce distinctions into the mind that have no basis in reality, especially about something so central.

Now, as for Elias' mention that Da is not the same character now that he has no physical body to worry about, well duh! I mean, the same is true for all of us. These physical bodies and brains are a huge drag, and they make us all seem so dumb and shallow. Every one of us, when we shuffle off this mortal coil, is going to know himself in a far better light. Much happier and less burdened by bullshit. Or at least seeming to be. That's the nature of the subtle worlds. So I'm sure that Da is feeling a helluva a lot better and is just laughing at those of us here who are taking what he left behind so damned seriously, both devotees and dissidents. But that's pretty much the reaction of most souls when they die. As Einstein said, when we die the first thing we probably ask ourselves is why we took this life so seriously.

But of course that's the whole point of incarnating in the first place. It's to be put into a relatively dreadful situation that we have to struggle with and deal with all kinds of really convincing forms of separation and terror and struggles to survive and fear and anger and so on. And somehow, even in the midst of all that, find some humor and happiness, and above all some love. Otherwise it's really just a waste of time, and we'd all be better off in some subtle world living it up. Coming here is a sacrifice for the sake of sadhana, so it's a real shame to waste time here doing anything less. Those of us who came here with the karmas to get involved with Adi Da were definitely signing on for some serious shit to transcend and find the humor and love in, regardless of how painful that might be. That doesn't mean becoming a brainwashed Da junkie or swallowing the Daist hook, line, and sinker, or defending the bullshit as if it were God's special revelation. Part of the challenge is to break through that form of dukkha as well. That doesn't come except by seeing it as dukkha, even the "spiritual stuff". After all, those higher subtle realms we go to after death, they are dukkha too. It's just harder to see that once you are there. Which is why we come here to these crazy-ass physical worlds where everything is so damned frustrating. That's the whole point. The physical realms carry the concentrated message of all the realms, and that message is dukkha. Being satisfied by Da is to miss the whole point of that experience. We are not here to be satisfied.


Anonymous said...

are comments restricted?

Anonymous said...

You've quoted Mathrumama on Lakshmana Swamy as saying:

"I realized the Self by meditating on Swamy's form. In the beginning I used to do japa of 'Hare Lakshmana' but later I stopped and concentrated on his form alone".

We know too that Lakshmana Swamy's sadhana was more or less an abbreviated version of the same.

Instead of arguing whether Adi Da is worthy of such searchless beholding, and recognizable as OneSelf, is this form of contemplating Brahman one still close to your heart with your chosen, or chosen by, Ishta?

I hope you feel me well enough to know this isn't a trick question. Instead it is from someone who shares being slinged and arrowed with you in this outrageously fortunate facsimile of a place.

Anonymous said...

Broken Yogi,

You've given so much here. The blood, sweat, and tears (Jeremiah was a bullfrog . . .) that show in your effort is obvious. That is fully appreciated, sincerely.

Just finished my forth re-read. Now, how's that for diligent Project Okay Service.

After all these years brother, it astounds me how rarely you cut and paste. Makes you a true Playa.

As you know from having put it out yourself, the effort to respond to your detailed consideration would require at least as much isometric calorie burning as that which went into it.

If I felt you wanted to continue along these lines, protagonistly or antagonistly or both, I might be game. But we both know that's not what you feel.

You've spent so many man years in considerations of this precise kind that I don't believe my entering the fray adds anything of value to your samyama.

For you to even come current on how Adi Da uses language, let alone all it would take to prep for contemplating him in depth -- your stated and unstated reasons for not doing so are as loud and clear as can be -- all the many ways you feel that would be the purest form of useless self-burdening imaginable.

That's just you. You've made it plain what the significant postural shifts are you would find most compelling in those few of us from this camp who have chosen to share in your samyama with you.

And we certainly agree on one thing. Perspectives only change when they are ready to change. The phrase "counter egoic activity" has been expunged entirely from Adi Da's dharma.

It is not absurd exactly, though it is silly, for me to suggest that the Conrad who you describe above (in a way that's compellingly believable) who was most open in recognition of Adi Da be rediscovered by you and brought into the room for the sake of discussion (or perhaps shared joy).

Even as that version of yourself, exactly as he was, is one of your own self-confessed great beloveds.

That "that" you is a you yourself have zero argument with 'cept to say you ain't no longer him.

He is the you that has always recognized the truth when its been encountered. Before Adi Da and after Adi Da, as you say.

And I'm not trying to argue that that version of you is only witnessing Adi Da in the guise of all and All --- even though we've both (deluded or not from any given time's perspective) believed just that at one time or another.

As to the versions of you (past) that you feel best characterize those of us "stuck in the asylum," whether they are represented by you in the form of you or us -- we would agree, at least as represented, these folks ain't worth anybody's time of day. And yes
as regards some of your claims, the shoe certainly does fit on occasion.

As to the Adi Da's you suggest make up Adi Da. Forty-seven of them are a
product made significantly of your imagination, four are close approximations, and two are perfect Representations. At least as far as I've been able to decipher.

After all this pulping of trees, would you be open to a change of scenery? If Spring can spring why can't we?

Anonymous said...

You've quoted Mathrumama on Lakshmana Swamy as saying:

"I realized the Self by meditating on Swamy's form. In the beginning I used to do japa of 'Hare Lakshmana' but later I stopped and concentrated on his form alone".

We know too that Lakshmana Swamy's sadhana was more or less an abbreviated version of the same.

Instead of arguing whether Adi Da is worthy of such searchless beholding, and recognizable as OneSelf, is this form of contemplating Brahman one still close to your heart with your chosen, or chosen by, Ishta?

I hope you feel me well enough to know this isn't a trick question. Instead it is from someone who shares being slinged and arrowed with you in this outrageously fortunate facsimile of a place.

Apologies, my last two posts got flipped --

Ain Soph Aur said...

You must realize, He is you.

Anonymous said... were lucky - there was something to adi da - he made an effort to study life - what amazes me is that he couldn't see that Self IS an ego - buddhism literally said that self doesn't exist and IS the reason for suffering - the Great Self - or the Universal - may be a different case - but the buddhists like the monks "give up" the self or the ego - adopt a buddhist name etc - if all is dukkha - then giving it up - or giving it away is does not hold on to hot iron for the same reason - one does not bate the poisonous snake etc - if the world is maya - then don't get caught up in it - let it go....

Anonymous said...

...yes - suffering or dukkha...the first noble truth - but there are three other noble truths - one of them - the third noble truth is amazing - the total cessation of all suffering. The fourth noble truth is how to achieve that cessation - the noble eightfold path...|One day I realized how amazing that is - the total end to suffering - an incredible thought..

Performance Notes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Performance Notes said...

Not much point seeking Adi Da.
It's a non-seeking way.

yanbibiyan said...

Interesting and I appreciate your appreciation of suffering as a central experience. Otherwise I'm not sure why it's necessary to place your previous master at such a juxtaposition. Why the entanglement and sigifact musing and emotion or doubt. I undetstand it but I can't see its relevance. Doesn't one just arrive at a position in relationship to something and continue to work it out. Some of your comments probably sound very rude to others who are still in a more positive relationship.

Shouldn't you just bless them and get with your own path?

Anonymous said...

I was involved with a Daist for the last three years and so exposed to the Lake County Adidam community as well as relentless attempts to convert me. I have come to believe that Adidam is indeed a religion of narcissists devoted to the biggest narcissist of them all - Da himself. The narcissism of the devotees is often of the covert altruistic type. Key features are while believing they and he are/were motivated by love, they (and he) are incredibly emotionally abusive and they/he are NEVER at fault and make no errors. Your cogent analysis is on the money. They do indeed defend the most egregious Da behavior by saying “since he doesn’t have an ego” these acts aren’t egregious. There’s a lot of gossip within Adidam and it’s significant that all the horrible things I’ve been told about him were told to me by ex partner, who is an active devotee. The sexual abuse of children by Adi Da’s lawyer, which was tolerated for decades. The teams of women who fellated Da while he wrote. The millions of dollars that went to purchase Rolexes and vehicles and Disney memorabilia and to try to buy Da’s way into the art world through the Venice Biennale. It’s all defended as it can’t be corrupt because Da had no ego. When I pointed out that at base this is a simple tautology: He can’t be evil because he isn’t evil my ex was momentarily confused but then held on tighter to the cult. What I’d like you to address is how the narcissistic abuse of his devotees led them to become abusive themselves. Never have I been around so many high IQ intellectuals who are absolute masters at mind fuckery, even as they are the biggest victims of it. I got out and away. Adidam is a dangerous cult.