was born Ronald deLevington Kirkbride, Jr. in New York and into "old money."
father was a Bohemian writer who quickly tired of the life and society of our
Fifth Avenue duplex and fled to London when I was 6.
My mother was trained
as a concert pianist. After my parents divorced, a Greek operatic tenor became
her lover for a time. He had a marvelous voice! My mother would often accompany
him on the living room Steinway. I would fall asleep listening to the great arias
of Puccini or Verdi being performed in the living room of our house in New York.
I became enamored of it, addicted to the blissful place this music opened in me.
Whenever I ran into bad moments in life, I would turn to great music for
consolation. However, I eventually noticed that such "highs", no matter how induced,
are neither permanent nor transformative. That is when I became a spiritual seeker.
In spite of the ease and affluence of my childhood, I was never content
with the vision of life touted at home, at Yale, in the U.S. Army, or as a San
And so I dropped out of a life based on conventional
expectations. In the mid-1950s, I began to investigate spiritual life. I turned
to yoga, and eastern forms of meditation. At the same time, I took up classical
voice studies, participating in various amateur recitals and performances.
began to observe and rely on an essential relationship between the blissful transport
given by a great opera or concert performance and the states I enjoyed early on
in my search for Truth in meditation.
The common link was ecstasy, and
in a form that was often more interesting (and more mysterious) than the pleasure
The late Swami Prabhavananda introduced me to the philosophy
of the Vedanta in Santa Barbara, Southern California. Then followed a visit to
India, and six stimulating months with various spiritual teachers, among them
Satya Sai Baba and the late Anandamayi Ma.
In 1958, I met the late Sivaya
Subramuniya, and made a deep commitment to his tradition. I exchanged the opportunities
of wealth for celibacy and monasticism. I became a monk for the next sixteen years.
As part of my monastic discipline, I renounced my passion for music. During these
years, I lectured widely on yoga and taught yoga and meditation in several California
However, by 1974, I had begun to feel dissatisfied with my chosen
path. I spent some months in an anguish of unresolved doubt. Late that year, Adi
Da Samraj attracted my attention.
His autobiography, The
Knee of Listening, profoundly affected me and spoke to the specific doubts
and questions I had not been able to resolve in the monastery. He offered a radically
unique description of spiritual practice, vastly different from the techniques
I was used to (and in which I felt stuck). In response to such unique and transcendent
wisdom, I became Adi Da's devotee in 1975.
* * *
day Adi Da invited me to sing for Him. He explained that His form of renunciation
was not about cutting anything away from life, in the manner of an ascetic. Instead,
His form of renunciation was about relinquishing unhappiness! I felt quite unprepared,
not having used my voice for many years, but somehow, it reappeared in time for
the evening event.
During the next several years, Adi Da would call on
me to sing in various kinds of community occasions. He showed me how not only
the voice, but the whole body, could become an instrument of joy and praise. I
discovered the practice (and bliss) of singing as a mindless and ecstatic contemplative.
Patterns of body, mind, emotion, long locked in place, loosened or disappeared.
(Understand, Adi Da is not a voice coach, but a uniquely born Spiritual Master,
capable of bringing light to any occasion or subject.)
When I first began
to sing in the Company of Adi Da Samraj, I was tentative, concerned about technique,
intonation, projection. Then He began purifying my would-be performer's ego. Over
the next several years, I was asked to sing under some rather amusing conditions.
My first "recital" was in a room of several hundred people, all of whom were drinking,
smoking, and generating more noise than I. Since then I have been asked to sing
with no preparation time; while ill with the flu, in the middle of dinner while
Adi Da ran simultaneous commentary; at 4:00 a.m. with no sleep the previous night;
on a wind-swept island beach in Fiji at the end of a ten-hour celebratory gathering
with Adi Da. I have sung operatic arias for years with Adi Da, none of them in
my voice range, and usually with at least several tone-deaf devotee friends providing
full-voiced choral support within inches of my ear.
In retrospect, I can
see that all of this history was part of Adi Da's "Skillful Means" for opening
and entering my heart.
I have sung to and with Adi Da Samraj while He held
his hands on my heart in an unspeakable transmission of Divine Force and Consciousness.
I have often felt sung by Him, whether or not He was singing at the time.
the spring of 1994, my voice disappeared as a result of attempting a performance
with ulcerated vocal chords resulting from an illness. For three years my speaking
voice disappeared almost daily with only moderate use. The medical opinion was
that the damage was permanent, but some improvement might be possible with surgery,
which I declined. During this time, Adi Da gave me detailed health Instruction
and spiritual Instruction,and an empowered pendant to wear around my neck. In
February, 1997, my voice miraculously returned during a three-day period of extraordinary
healing activity in my throat. I gratefully recognize both the three-year purification
period and the resulting return of my voice as the Graceful Work of Adi Da in
my life. His encouragement to sing as a devotional and spiritual practice has
it possible for me to create several
albums of music. Otherwise I would have stopped singing more than 45 years
|Crane singing the words of Adi Da Samraj:|
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* * *
Adi Da used my passion for music to
connect me with the gift of His Enlightenment. I use that word carefully, aware
that all kinds of "programs" are being offered these days which are claimed to
result in "enlightenment". Adi Da's Enlightenment is the Real Thing, the Divine
During the 70's and 80's, Adi Da made great use of musical
occasions in the community of Adidam to instruct students and devotees. In time,
what evolved as "sacred offerings" became opportunities for singers, instrumentalists,
dancers, to participate in a unique practice: contemplation of the spiritual reality
revealed in Adi Da's Presence, in the midst of offering an artistic performance.
This practice is unique to the Teaching of Adi Da, and is to be distinguished
from the technique-oriented methods of many traditional communities.
years in which Adi Da worked with music as a teaching device (popular, jazz, rock,
opera, etc.) ended in the early nineties. He would often comment during these
early years that no attainment, goal, or experience was equivalent to Truth. He
would find (and continues to find) ways to draw me and my friends beyond whatever
temporary state we find ourselves in any moment, and into that Truth.
Da's Work has continued over the years, and it has become increasingly obvious
to me and many others that he is the Pure Divine, incarnate
in human form.
One must be prepared to receive the unique "spiritual
transmission" of Adi Da. When I have been best prepared, I have sat in front
of Him, heart open, even heart-broken, and mind silenced. He transmits the most
extraordinary blessing and intimacy, and awakens a profound devotion in those
who turn to Him.
However, even such sublime moments are not an end in themselves,
and there is no "spiritual status" conferred by them. Such Grace is just the beginning
of an ordeal of self-understanding and discriminative intelligence, which alone
makes submission to the Divine in the form of the God-Man possible.
Adi Da is even more controversial than great masters of the past.
He has broken taboos that others have been unwilling or unable
to confront — but which must necessarily be confronted in order
to free ordinary human beings from the bondage that locks them
in unawareness of God and the Enlightened State. In this sense,
Adi Da's work is heroic in the extreme. He lends sanity, meaning,
and transcendence to the chaos and superficiality of these times.
article appears in two sections:
the Crazy Wisdom
section and the Adidam and Music