My mother was a true pioneer. After spending ten years in a Catholic convent as a nun, she decided that it wasn't truly the spiritual life she had longed for . . . she hadn't found God there, just a group of well-intentioned but rather ordinary women, and the egos that tend to butt up against each other whenever communal living is attempted. So she left the convent and entered the graduate program in mathematics at Columbia University in New York City, where she met and then married my father, who was a brilliant young professor of mathematics there. With his help, she completed her Ph.D. and became the first woman professor of mathematics at Columbia University in the late 1950's.
Her specialty, which she taught undergraduate students in her classes, was "transfinite numbers" the study of different kinds of infinities. Little did she know that an Infinity of a very different kind would enter her classroom! Many years later, she would tell me she had a student named Franklin Jones, who stood out in her memory because, after class, He would always be down at the front of the classroom with a crowd of students gathered around Him. In 1988, Franklin Adi Da would give a talk that drew upon this curious notion of "different kinds of infinities" that my mother taught, and, as was His way, turned it into a profound lesson about Spiritual Realization.
I was born in June, 1957, while my mother was teaching at Columbia. She would sometimes take me with her into class during my first year of life, which was rather unusual for the time but, as I said, my mother was a true pioneer. Adi Da began His studies at Columbia in September, 1957. When I asked her about it years later, my mother said she certainly would have brought me into the class He took with her.
So, even though I cannot remember it directly (and even though I will never know the full nature of its impact on my life and its course), any story about finding my Guru must begin with the earliest time He Graced me with His 12]! (He would have been 17 or 18 at the time.) [
The happiest moment of my early life occurred in 1970, when I was thirteen. My family had just moved into a new house in a new town. I was setting up and cleaning my new room, and was listening to a song on the radio, when an overwhelming Revelation of the inherent Happiness of Reality washed over me. I was incredibly happy! And that moment was imprinted on me, to the point where, whenever I would hear that song in later years (even now), I would reconnect with that moment and that Happiness. Naturally, having no greater understanding at the time, I attributed the experience to the circumstance itself. But, these many years later, I can look back and know (with much more life experience under my belt) that just being in a new house and listening to a particular song can be pleasurable, but it doesn't send me into an overwhelming, ego-dissolving state of ecstasy!
It would only be years later that I would make the connection that the day I had that Revelation September 10, 1970 was the day my Spiritual Master, Adi Da Samraj, re-Awakened to Divine Enlightenment. And it was clear in retrospect that His Realization washed over me and many other beings on that day, like an immense explosion spreading outward across the entire cosmos. I was not yet His devotee, of course He would not begin formally accepting devotees until 1972. But from that moment on, He began meditating His future devotees, and so I'm very happy to be able to describe what it was like to be on the receiving end of that Great Meditation that He described in His autobiography, The Knee Of Listening:
Adi Da once said that His impact on His devotees' lives was so profound that it could even change their past.
I wonder a little about that possibility as I write this story of "finding" Him in this lifetime, and recall these various moments that suggest He was in my life long before I ever "knew" of Him! But perhaps it is just as He once said to another devotee: "When are you going to learn that our relationship doesn't depend on time and space?"
Whatever may be the case, it certainly makes writing this story much easier! since it is not merely a conventional, egoic story about "my" life, but the story of the Divine (in the living form of Adi Da) in my life from the very start. . . and then over and over again.
Former nun that she was, my mother taught her children simple, heart-felt devotion to God. Among other things, she would lead our family in praying the rosary together. Our home was full of books about the lives of the saints, and we had all the volumes of the Catholic Encyclopedia, to familiarize ourselves (should we so choose) with the fine points of Catholic theology. I also served for several years at the local church as an altar boy.
I would carry that Catholic faith with me until I was a young man, attending Columbia University in 1975 (like my father and mother before me) and the extensive and rigorous education process there ripped that faith from me, leaving me in a profound crisis of doubt.
While at Columbia, I was exposed to a great variety of new influences the ones considered most influential in shaping "Western civilization" . . . from the ancient Greek writers, to Hobbes, Hegel, Darwin, Marx, and Freud. While a few of these sources (for example, St. Augustine and Dante) were religious, most were materialistic in their philosophy and secular in their focus, and the fact that all of these new viewpoints seemed to have a grain of truth to them shattered my childhood simplicity.
Adi Da's description of His time at Columbia University fit my own experience there perfectly:
That profound crisis of faith changed the course of my life, and sent me searching in new directions. I ceased to be a practicing Catholic, and began instead to value and explore psychology as a means for gaining self-knowledge: my unconscious motivations, the reasons why I was not completely happy, and what I could do about that.
On a practical (and karmic) level, I excelled in my academic studies, following in my parents' footsteps. By now I also had a string of "accomplishments" to add to my resume. In sixth grade, I had placed third in a New England-wide public speaking contest. As a high school junior, I had been awarded a research grant from the state of New Jersey for new research into the origin of life. As a sophomore at Columbia, I received the Professor Van Amringe Prize for "best freshman or sophomore mathematics student". As a junior, working during my summer break at IBM's Thomas Watson Research Center, I developed a new algorithm that was considered a breakthrough in the area of system stability. As a senior, I was the narrator of Columbia University's annual Varsity Show, for which I was interviewed by New York City's Channel 5 News — and, for one evening (my "15 minutes of fame"!), was recognized everywhere I went in Greenwich Village because of a cover story and picture that had appeared in New York City's "cultural" newspaper, The Village Voice.
I graduated from Columbia summa cum laude with a 4.0 grade point average and a degree in computer science in 1978. I then moved to California to attend Stanford University for my graduate studies, because it had a reputation for being the best graduate school in the world in the area of computer science.
It all "made sense" on the level of the practical. But on another level, it also was simply another sign of my Guru's presence and influence in my life a kind of "synchronicity" or "psychophysical resonance", as I (unknowingly) followed in His footsteps, and attended the schools He had attended (Columbia, then Stanford) seventeen years earlier.
In contrast with the frenetic (and, at times, even harsh) urban life of New York City, I experienced California as a great relief a place where I could relax psychically, and focus on personal growth. Again, Adi Da's words about His own move from New York City to Palo Alto, California, describe very well what I was feeling, as I began my new life at Stanford University, and in northern California altogether:
Perhaps because the very psyche of the land supports and nurtures it, California is always giving rise to new "personal growth" movements and spiritual experiments. And so it was natural that, while I was pursuing my graduate studies in computer science, I also made time to explore human and spiritual potential. I participated in an EST-like organization called Lifespring, whose "encounter group" experiences  helped move me beyond the limitations of ordinary psychology into a larger view of reality, that included the possibility of "Enlightenment" as the greatest human potential. I started reading the literature of Eastern spirituality, and began personally experimenting with the notions I was reading about. I began having energy experiences of various kinds. For the first time, I read about the Guru-devotee relationship in the various spiritual traditions of the world; and I experienced the tangible spiritual transmission of two Gurus: Jiddu Krishnamurti, while reading one of his books; and the shaktipat guru, Yogi Amrit Desai, as he drove past and looked at me.
It was all excellent preparation for finding my Guru.
In 1983, Adi Da's books were in the spiritual literature section of virtually every bookstore in northern California. Through that Graceful means, I was able to find and read His book, The Dreaded Gom-Boo. On a couple of visits to my favorite local bookstore, I picked the book up, but put it down again shortly after, because the picture of Adi Da that I saw when I opened the book did not match my notion of a "Spiritual Master". (For one thing, He was American, not Indian.) But the third time I picked the book up and opened it, I made it past the picture and actually started reading it. I instantly recognized that Adi Da's communication was on a completely different level than that of any other book I had ever read: His Teaching only communicated from the viewpoint of Ultimate Truth, and only supported the Realization of that Ultimate Truth. It was uncompromising in its refusal to let the reader lapse into a lesser view or become fascinated by a lesser Realization. Even so, it accounted for all those lesser views and Realizations (and what was "fascinating" about them), at the same time as it clearly identified their limitations.
This was what I had been groping for, in the dark, for years — but had only been finding little grains of "truth" here and there, which I had tried to piece together, like a jigsaw puzzle, into a meaningful portrait of the nature of reality. Suddenly, here was the entire Truth, given all at once (all the pieces already fitted together into a coherent whole), and over and over again, described from every possible vantage point truly the richest possible Treasure that can be expressed in words!
I immediately began reading everything Adi Da wrote. My practical life continued its course I completed my Ph.D. at Stanford, and, at 26, I became a professor of computer science at a major university (Rutgers University in New Jersey). I supplemented what I was learning from Adi Da by driving up to Connecticut once a week, to the home of Alexander and Leslie Lowen (the creators of bioenergetic therapy) , and engaging in bioenergetic therapy with them. But all the while, I was studying Adi Da's teaching and being re-oriented to (and re-organized by) His radical viewpoint of Truth Itself.
To actually become Adi Da's devotee and fully take up the Way of Adidam, one also has to go through a process Adi Da calls "14] We are born here with karmic patterns and forces that powerfully drive us to continue in our ordinary destiny, lifetime after lifetime. In order to participate in a Greater Destiny, we must not only find the Guru, who makes such a Greater Destiny available (and recognize Him as a "Spiritual Transmitter" of such a Destiny); we must also become dis-illusioned with our ordinary destiny and whatever keeps attracting (and binding) us to it. Without going through such a dis-illusionment process, we might formally become Adi Da's "devotee", but we won't actually progress in the Way of Adidam, because, as Adi Da once put it, we'll have one "foot" in spiritual life and one "foot" in the world, and the bigger "foot" will be the worldly one.".[
I remember a particular moment which epitomized that process of positive disillusionment in my own life. I was at "the top of my game". It was 1989. I was a world leader in my special area of Artificial Intelligence (AI). I was an award-winning teacher, and I and my Ph.D. students were making breakthroughs in the hot new area of knowledge compilation. We had papers in all the major AI conferences, and I was constantly being called upon to lead workshops, edit books about my field, be on the editorial board of major journals, etc.
In short, from a spiritual perspective, it was the kind of worldly success that could keep me karmically bound for lifetimes!
I recall an afternoon when I found myself heading toward a bar in a classy hotel in Orlando, Florida. I was the "program chair" for all the science and engineering papers being presented at one of the major annual AI conferences. And I was joining my fellow conference organizers for a pre-conference drink. I felt like I had "made it", and was meeting up with the members of a very "elite" club that afternoon and was now one of them.
I entered the bar, and saw the chairman of the program committee sitting there. We waved and smiled at each other across the room, and then I sat down at the bar with him and joined him for a drink. We made small talk for a while about the conference, and our lives altogether, and then fell silent, sipping our drinks.
I sat there and, in the deepening silence, I was able to take a good, long look at the man. I suddenly realized: he was miserable! And his face mirrored my own unhappiness. For all our accomplishments, for all our success, we weren't happy. Not very. Not really. In all those years, there were a few pleasurable moments when we basked in the recognition of our peers, or, outside our careers, we shared some enjoyable times with our family and friends, or were blessed with some relatively rare personal moments of peace or illumination.
But, as the old song goes: is that all there is?
I knew from my study of Adi Da's Teaching, and my growing intuition of the nature of Reality based on my growing response to Him, that the answer was a resounding NO! But, even knowing this, how easy it would be to let my life continue to slide by rapidly, in effect (if not by intention), just settling for the modest pleasures and successes of conventional life, and never actually Realizing anything greater . . . and then we die.
That moment, and what that man's face revealed to me about my own limited, karmic destiny, were the culmination of a longterm process of positive disillusionment with conventional life that had been going on for years, ever since the crisis of faith I had experienced at Columbia. I would eventually leave the academic world a few years later, when Adi Da invited me to do so, to serve His Work instead. But in some sense, my emotional and psychic departure began in that moment.
That dis-illusionment with the karmic path of my life was "positive dis-illusionment" in exactly the sense Adi Da meant that phrase: it freed me up for a Greater Alternative. . . becoming Adi Da's devotee and practicing the Way of Adidam.
I would soon become Adi Da's devotee — but not before He Gracefully gave me an extraordinary Revelation about the nature of Reality as a Unity that transcends the apparent split between the subjective and the objective.
I had been reading Adi Da's autobiography, The Knee Of Listening, a book filled with Revelation. One of its many extraordinary Revelations is described in the chapter, "The Understanding on the Beach".
In this chapter, Adi Da describes a period and process He went through early in His own life (while living on a beach in Northern California). The sense (and action) of "separate self" is the source of the apparent distinction between "inside" and "outside": internal, subjective events (like feelings, thoughts, dreams, etc.) and external, objective events. Begin to transcend that sense of separate self, and the wall between "internal" and "external" — which we ordinarily presume is a given — starts to crumble.
The Unity between the internal and external worlds was the Revelation Adi Da received during His time on the beach through profound, and — simply through reading His account — I Gracefully was given a form of this same Revelation.
I have already mentioned some amazing synchronicities that gave my life the feeling of a dream or, to use Adi Da's phrase, a "mythic form" (that was almost like a fairy tale, organized around Him): being in His physical company (at Columbia University) when I was an infant and He was still a teenager; being meditated by Him on September 10, 1970, the day of His Re-Awakening; going to the same universities as Him — Columbia University (for undergraduate studies) and Stanford University (for graduate studies).
But over the course of the summer of 1989, I began to have extraordinary experiences of synchronicity non-stop, in the way Adi Da had described in His autobiography. I'd have a thought, and then something in the "external world" would complete the thought, or complement the thought. It might be something on a billboard on the side of a road; a song on the radio; a newspaper headline; something someone else said to me; etc. It took many forms, but, in these synchronicity experiences (which would happen many times each day), whatever was "outside" would resonate with a thought or feeling I had just had "inside".
I began to enjoy looking around to see just how the universe was going to reflect some thought or feeling I was having. . . and often would laugh at the humorous form of the universe's "response"!
For example, on one particular day, moved by Adi Da's Teaching about "egoity as the avoidance of relationship", I was exploring the nature of relationship. I would "try" to be relational with everyone I met, but — it didn't matter how I chose to express or not express myself — the very effort of trying to be relational seemed to undermine actually being relational, and reinforce the feeling of being separate.
However, the next day, I woke up in a very happy state, and throughout the rest of the day, I was effortlessly relational with everybody, beaming at every person — I couldn't help myself! And the response was extraordinary: everyone beamed back at me. It all was completely effortless, completely spontaneous, on my part and theirs. So this was the secret: to be relational, you just need to be already happy. You can't start from the position of being separate and do something strategic to become non-separate or relational; you simply have to be already non-separate — initially through Grace, and ultimately, through Realization. The key, then, is to be "linked up" with a steady, relentless source of Grace — like Adi Da.
At the end of the day (of work at my university), I walked out to my car, feeling exuberant at having received a great lesson. I stepped into my car, sat down, turned on the radio, and my mouth dropped open as I listened to Frank Sinatra singing, "When You're Smiling, The Whole World Smiles With You". I burst into long and loud laughter. If I had been watching my life turned into a movie, no one could have picked a more perfect (and perfectly delightful) song for the soundtrack to accompany that particular "scene" in my life!
* * *
I was able to document another miraculous synchronicity that summer, through a series of photographs.
I had set up a simple altar in my room, with a photograph of Adi Da in the center, and a vase of fresh cut flowers on the side, which I replaced every couple of days.
One day, one of the flowers began to move!
It was too slow for me to see the movement simply by watching. But, after leaving the room for a few hours, I came back and could swear that that flower had changed position!
So, to persuade myself that I wasn't seeing things, I began taking photographs every few hours, to capture what appeared to be a miracle in progress. . .
Here is the result.
The whole time, just that one flower moved. All the others remained stationary.
Many years later, I would discover that there were other occasions when flowers miraculously turned toward Adi Da (when He was physically in the room), or, in this case, toward His picture. For instance, Hellie Kalogeros tells of one such occasion in her story, The Turning of the Flowers. Tom Closser describes another occasion in his story, Everything Bows to the Divine Lord.
Perhaps there is a unique context or significance for each such miracle. On this occasion, synchronicity was the significance. Even as I turned toward Adi Da that summer (in preparation for becoming His devotee), so did this flower.
* * *
In the manner of all good fireworks shows, this entire Graceful, Revelatory summer culminated in an extraordinary finale: a dazzling display of synchronicity upon synchronicity.
My girlfriend and I decided to spend the weekend travelling. We had no particular plans, just the impulse to spend some time away. From New York (just north of New York City), we drove down to Washington, D.C. We took in the sights of the city, and then stopped for a late dinner in a little restaurant in Georgetown, a historic section of the city. Without any idea of what to do the next day, we took a look at the map. There were so many possibilities: spend more time looking around D.C.; visit the Shenandoah National Park; head east to Assateague Island; on and on. We finally decided to visit Luray Caverns in Virginia, a couple of hours drive west. My family and I had visited the caverns when I was a boy, and I remembered being delighted by them.
So we started driving. After a couple of hours, we were almost to Luray. We passed a lot of motels, and then we turned into the parking lot of one of them, for no reason other than we were both exhausted. We checked into the motel, and got the key to our room. After unpacking, I began to settle in, but my girlfriend (who had a heightened sense of smell) was bothered by the mold in the room, so we went back to the office and fortunately were able to get another room.
Next day, we spent the entire morning exploring the vast, subterranean chapels and cathedrals of stalactite and stalagmite formations in Luray Caverns, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Then we drove home.
The following weekend, I visited an old friend in New York City. I hadn't seen her in years, and we greeted each other warmly. We started "catching up" each other on our lives. At some point, the conversation came round to the previous weekend.
She and her boyfriend had decided to get away from the city and go travelling.
I smiled, thinking: "Sounds familiar."
She described how they just got in the car, and with no plan in mind, headed down to Washington, D.C.
I sat up in my chair a little straighter, and began to pay close attention to her every word.
After spending a full day in D.C., they ended up in Georgetown for dinner.
Now there were over a hundred restaurants in Georgetown. . . and while nice, the restaurant my girlfriend and I ate at was nothing special so I thought to myself, "No way they would have eaten at the same restaurant!"
Even so, I waited in anticipation.
And then she said the name of the restaurant — it was exactly the restaurant we had eaten in!
This was beginning to feel like a dream. . .
I asked her the time she was there, and it turned out that she and her boyfriend arrived a half hour after we did. All of us were in the restaurant at the same time, but unaware of it.
When I made my friend aware of these remarkable coincidences, she too began to get very excited.
Now we were racing to get the words out, speaking over each other in our hurry.
They too had decided where they should go next, among all the many tourist attractions in the area!
They too had fixed upon Luray Caverns!
They too had headed out on the highway toward Luray!
They too had passed many motels, and then had turned in at random to one of them — our motel!
They too were given (by the same office clerk) the key to the very same (moldy) room. But neither of them particularly noticed the moldy smell, so they took the very same room we had moved out of. . . as it turns out, only ten minutes before!
They too had a wonderful time the next day, as they spent the morning in Luray Caverns — no doubt only a few feet away from us much of the time. . .
And then they too headed home.
* * *
We both sat in silence for a good long while. What else can one do when Reality reveals one of its great Mysteries in such an extraordinary and dramatic way?
At last, at the end of this summer of synchronicity in 1989, I became Adi Da's devotee, in a formal initiation ceremony in New York City in which I felt His Spiritual Force crashing down on my head and through my body with great power. One of my devotee friends who was in the room (Jackie Hogan) recalls the occasion. "I was there at your initiation on that hot summer night . . . I remember feeling Beloved Adi Da's powerful descent that night. It felt like He took over all of New York!"
Later that same night, as I was contemplating Him at home (in New Jersey), I was suddenly shifted into a state of 9] But it turned out to be very disorienting for me. I was not ready to make fullest use of that gift at the time. Consequently, the state dissipated after a day. Nonetheless, it was a Grace-given glimpse of the Enlightened State., where (as Adi Da puts it) "you do not know what anything is". It is not "ignorance" in the sense that that one ceases to know anything or is unable to function. Rather, one's sense of familiarity with anything is completely stripped away. Normally that sense of familiarity serves as a consoling force but as such, it also tends to work against ultimate Realization. So to have that sense removed can be a great gift in one's spiritual practice.[
The most important thing that was revealed to me by that experience was this: in direct response to my becoming His devotee, Adi Da had immediately let me know that He was my Spiritual Master in a very real and powerful sense, and He had revealed the kind of tangibly Graceful relationship I was now entered into! And a sense of what practice of the Way of Adidam was capable of Realizing. This was a Way of immediate (and ongoing) Revelation, in which the only limit was "oneself".
I was profoundly grateful for that.
That the Way of Adidam was not a technique but a relationship — whose centerpiece is mutual gift-giving — was a lesson I would learn again and again. I gave Adi Da a gift by becoming His devotee, and that allowed Him — on the basis of a spiritual law:— to give me His gift of Divine Ignorance. And in some sense, that ongoing process of mutual gift-giving is the focus and "lesson" of this story. (Hence the title, "The Devotee Feeds the Guru, and the Guru Feeds the Devotee".)
The tangible reality of that eternal relationship between Guru and devotee was made apparent over and over again in my life. Soon after becoming Adi Da's devotee, I was invited to give a talk about Artificial Intelligence at a major U.S. company, so I took a plane flight down to the company's corporate headquarters in North Carolina. Shortly after I got in my seat on the plane, an Indian man came down the aisle, looked at me, and asked if he could sit next to me. It was a little odd, as it was a mid-day commuter flight, with plenty of empty seats; but I nodded yes. After the plane took off, he turned to me and exclaimed, "You're either a priest, or the devotee of a very great Guru!" I was somewhat taken aback this was a fellow I had never met before, making a rather personal statement! But I was also amused by his very dramatic pronouncement (which was clearly seeking my corroboration), so I replied: "Yes, a little of the first, and a lot of the second!" He laughed, satisfied. "I've always had a psychic ability to read the core of what a person is, and the communication about your core was very clear. Your Guru's Presence is all around you!" I went on to tell him all about Adi Da and my relationship to Him, and showed him pictures of Adi Da and read him passages from Adi Da's masterpiece, The Dawn Horse Testament, which moved him deeply.
My wife tells a related story. She had been seeing a shaman for years, for therapeutic energy work serving the integration of her mind and body. At one point the shaman said to her, "I can't do any more work on you. Your Guru just instructed me to stop and told me that He alone will be working with you from now on!"
Through experiences and accounts like these, it became clear that Adi Da's relationship to His devotees is tangible, eternal, and primary. As the non-separate, all-pervading Divine Person (the Source of our very existence in every moment), He is always with each of us in the most Real sense, wherever we are, whether we ourselves are aware of it or not in any moment. And so part of our practice as devotees is to remember that, presume it, and become ever more directly aware of that Reality in every moment.
A devotee who was about to leave Adi Da's physical Company for an extended period of time told Him how much she would miss Him. His reply to her: "Don't miss Me! Take Me with you!"
The practitioner of the Way of Adidam makes use of a primary instrument or "muscle": the capability to feel with the heart. (This is one of the reasons why Adidam is also called "The Way of the Heart".) To jump ahead in my story for a brief moment: I remember so clearly a moment a few years after I had become a devotee. Adi Da had His arms around me in an embrace, and He whispered in my ear, "This Way is all about feeling!" Feeling is profoundly important, and so the ability to feel with the heart is crucial.
This capability of heart-feeling is not something that can be merely presumed or taken for granted (or treated as though it were a mere metaphor). It is a capability that is awakened by Grace and cultivated by practice. Here is how it developed in my own case. I had begun formal meditative practices in 1989, sitting before Adi Da's for a period of time each morning and evening. Over a period of months, through this process of meditation on the bodily form of the Master, I began to feel something I had never consciously felt before: my heart. Like all of us, I had felt emotions of various kinds fear, sorrow, anger, pleasure, love, and so on and many of us casually associate "the heart" with such emotions when we speak about them ("my heart was filled with sorrow" — that sort of thing), even though that's not necessarily where or how we feel them.
But despite the suggestiveness of such conventional language and imagery about "the heart" (whose linguistic origins are rooted in esoteric discoveries made by spiritually gifted individuals in the distant past), I had never before consciously felt (or felt with) the heart itself — the actual source of the capability to feel anything, including emotions. That capability awakened through the practice of contemplating my Spiritual Master, as I followed His Instructions (the underlining in the quote below is His):
At first, that heart sensation that "feeling-Place in me" was like a tiny, fiery point whose "fire" I would "fan" by feeling from it to my Spiritual Masters form (as though casting out a "cord" of feeling in His direction). Over time, that flame grew in magnitude to where I could very tangibly feel from my heart, through all the "self" sensations (of body, mind, emotion, and breath), and to my Masters form, or, for that matter, to anything. By "feeling", I mean not emotions or sensations, but something more like the way "a hand feels into a glove" (a phrase Adi Da uses). It is an actual, tangible ability to reach out with the heart.
As you will read (in just a little bit), this heart-capability would serve an important purpose when I finally met my Guru face to face.
In July, 1991, I thought I was going on a ten-day retreat at Empowered Sanctuaries.(in Northern California) my first such retreat at one of Adidam's
Little did I know what was really in store for me!
Near the end of my retreat period, Adi Da decided to hold a simultaneous worldwide Sitting. He was intending to sit inwith devotees at (the island of Naitauba in Fiji), and He invited all His devotees around the world to sit with Him at the same time, wherever they were. At The Mountain Of Attention, we all gathered in at the appointed time (7:30 pm). The plan was for Adi Da to sit for an hour, so that's what we all did, and then everybody left the Pavilion. . .
. . . well, everybody except me. I felt a little odd about staying in the Pavilion after everyone else had left. But strangely, I only felt Adi Da's Transmission intensifying near the very end of the hour. After everyone else was gone, I felt His Transmission like a physical tug on my heart. It literally pulled me to the front of the Pavilion (where His picture was placed on His chair, much as He Himself would be sitting on a chair like that whenever He visited the Pavilion in human form), where I felt like I was entering a very tangible and powerful Force Field. I sat down there, right in front of His picture. Another hour passed, and the Transmission was just as intense. Another two hours passed, and finally the Transmission started to diminish in force. I got up, and since it was now 11:30 pm I went to my retreat room, ecstatic, but also exhausted, and immediately fell asleep.
The next morning, I had my regular meeting with my retreat manager, and I described to him the curious experience I had in the Pavilion. His eyes lit up with excitement. "We just got word from the Island [Naitauba]. You're not going to believe this! We thought we were sitting here at the same time as Adi Da, but it turned out the event there was actually delayed for an hour. Adi Da only began sitting with the residents at 8:30 pm. Then, because not everyone could fit in the small room originally chosen for the occasion, He sat with a second group of devotees for an hour, and then a third group for another hour. So He started and finished exactly when you felt His Transmission!"
My retreat manager called the Island and told them about this. The devotees there felt that I was very much "in synch" with Adi Da, and should come on retreat to Naitauba immediately, to be in Adi Da's physical company.
I hadn't planned at all for a trip to the South Pacific! My university's fall semester was about to begin, and I was scheduled to teach a couple of classes. Fortunately I was able to quickly re-schedule everything, and my professor friends in my department were able to cover my classes for me.
It all happened very Gracefully. At last, I was on my way to Naitauba Island to receive the Darshan of my Spiritual Master in person!
After I arrived, I experienced the first couple of Darshan occasions as a time when I was just getting acclimated to being in Adi Da's actual physical Company. They also took place in a rather unusual setting. Adi Da was completing a forty-day treatment of Kaya Kalpa, a traditional, intense regimen designed to serve the rejuvenation of the body. It required Him to be in almost pitch blackness the entire time. And so our Darshan of Him was in a very dark room — His bedroom — with a dim red light where I could barely see Him, and what I could see was rather disorienting: He had something turban- or towel-like wrapped around His head, and He was wearing dark sunglasses in the dark room, because His eyes were exceptionally sensitive to light during this period. In those Darshan occasions, He looked a little like an extraterrestrial! I found it hard to connect with Him in feeling.
However, by the time of the third Darshan occasion for retreatants, Adi Da had completed His Kaya Kalpa regimen, and so Darshan took place in a more normal setting (not that any Darshan of the Divine in Person is "normal"!): the inner courtyard of Aham Da Asmi Sthan, His residence on Naitauba.
In this Darshan, I would begin to learn how much the Guru-devotee relationship was not only devotional and spiritual, but also very human, as long as the Guru was still alive in His human form. I would discover that Adi Da completely depended on my and all devotees' devotion to Him, both for the survival of His bodily human form, and for the survival and flourishing of His Work of liberating all beings.
The greatest God-Realizers are God-Realizers not by having found a way to be "above it all", but rather by constantly abiding in a state of radical non-avoidance: feeling everything, and feeling beyond (and Outshining) everything. They are even physically very vulnerable to (and spontaneously "absorb") the emotions and karmas of all those around them, and thus their bodily health depends on the human and spiritual maturity (and responsibility) of those who enter their physical Company. Indeed, the Spiritual traditions include stories of great Spiritual Realizers who die unpleasant deaths, in part through absorbing the karmas of their devotees, and the world altogether. (This was one of the spiritual reasons why Adi Da lived on a remote island in Fiji most of the time.)
In Adi Da's case, this absorption of His devotees' karmas (and its effect on His physical health) was compounded by His being the bodily incarnation of the Divine: an immense Divine Force was always pouring through His body, intended for the liberation of all beings. Only the strong devotional response of His devotees would draw out that Force from His body. If there was insufficient devotional response, the Divine Force would back up in His body and would start destroying it. Only the constant devotional response of His devotees could relieve that ongoing danger.
On the day of my third Darshan occasion, all the retreatants had been informed that their Guru's health was failing because He was not feeling the devotion of His devotees. The Divine Force was backing up in His body, and unless the situation changed immediately, Adi Da might very well die. It was an extreme moment, in a Divinely animated, sacrificial life. As an incarnation of the Divine, Adi Da endured a lifetime with many extreme and unusual moments, for which there were no analogues in our ordinary human lives.
When I stood before Adi Da in the courtyard that night, I was transfixed. I saw my great Spiritual Master, the Extraordinary God-Realizer, the Divine Incarnate, whose remarkable Teachings and Life-Work were transforming my life and the lives of so many of my friends. But also before me was the most profoundly vulnerable human being I had ever seen; it was so clear that He had made an incredible sacrifice to be fully incarnated here for our sake and that He was now completely dependent on our devotion.
It was like seeing one's child lying helpless in the street, about to be run over by a truck.
My heart-response was immediate and spontaneous: I had to save Him.
My heart opened wide and poured out love for Him. I had practiced feeling with the heart to Him, and now could engage that practice directly in His physical Company — to good effect. And that was the miracle: I literally felt love pouring out of my heart, reaching His Heart, and feeding Him. Then the second miracle began: I felt His Love tangibly transmitted back to me, in a great and overwhelming Wave, which caused my heart to open even wider. I soon found myself totally in love immersed in this circle of love totally animating a most direct relationship (at once, both human and spiritual) with my Master, crying out to my Beloved Guru with tears in my eyes, "Let me feed You with my devotion! May You always feel my devotion, wherever I am!" His Eyes gazed into mine. They were soft and sweet. I became suddenly aware that, beyond a doubt, I was looking at Love Personified, and that Love in Person is a Wound, a Great Sacrifice for the sake of all beings . . . and that I must become similarly heart-broken, totally vulnerable, in order to be fully liberated from the endless round of births and deaths.
At a certain point, the Darshan occasion ended, and devotees began leaving the courtyard, even while Adi Da continued to sit there before us. I will always remember walking backwards out of that courtyard ever so slowly, step by small step, last person to leave, hands raised in ecstatic surrender, my eyes never leaving His, my heart never losing the connection to His Heart. At last, a devotee closed the bronze gates and I could no longer see my Beloved Master sitting there at the far end of the courtyard.
* * *
Adi Da once pointed to His Heart and said, unless there is a devotional approach, this doesn't open:
That night, I had the experience of what it was like to literally touch Adi Da's Heart, and to feel what happens when His Heart opens: a Divine Flood of Love-Bliss pours out! Feeling that Flood myself that night, I could instantly grasp the huge difference in His experience, between having that immense Force backed up in (and destroying) His body, and having It flow out to His devotees, because of their devotional response. (Adi Da never needed reports of whether devotees were truly practicing. It was immediately apparent to Him in His very body.)
Over the next few weeks, Adi Da's health would slowly recover, as, more and more, He felt His devotees' love for Him. On a personal note, I would later find out that my Beloved Guru "really liked the way Chris fed Him energy" and felt that I "fed Him very well." To hear this touched me deeply it was the very reason my heart had opened to give Him my love: to nourish and heal Him in His bodily human form. Other devotees might be in a position to directly serve the well-being of His bodily human form through their personal care; but this was the way that I too could care for my Beloved Guru's well-being, a way for me to feed Him wherever I might be.
And even though I knew Adi Da's human lifetime would come to an end at some point, from that moment on, the very focus and purpose of His life the survival and flourishing of Adidam and His great and ongoing Work of liberating all beings became the focus and purpose of my life, and remains so to this day.
* * *
One day during my retreat, I sent Adi Da a small teddy bear as a gift. Later that day, while Adi Da was spending time with His daughters, He picked up the teddy bear from His desk.
"See this little guy? He's been wandering around for lifetimes. But now I've got him, and I'm never going to let him go."
Thank God for that!
After I attended the last Darshan of my retreat before returning to the United States, my Beloved Guru gave me departing gifts that are seared into my memory forever.
I sat in the outer courtyard of His house (Aham Da Asmi Sthan), in the dark of a Naitauba evening, waiting in delighted anticipation — knowing that, as was His custom with departing retreatants, Adi Da would be sending me "going-away presents" via one of His intimate attendants. On this night, I was alone as I sat, the only retreatant departing the island on the boat that week.
The bronze gates to His house opened.stepped out. She walked over to where I was sitting, and handed me Adi Da's customary gifts, one by one, all of which He had just Blessed: a bottle of holy water; a packet of pressed flowers; and a packet of sacred ash. I prostrated before the gates, extremely grateful to my Beloved Guru for these gifts and the Gift of His Darshan, which had completely transformed my heart and my life.
But then, as I arose, I was totally taken aback when Ruchiradama Nadikanta made a gesture for me to wait. "I have more gifts for you from Gurudev!" she exclaimed, with a big grin on her face and a twinkle in her eyes, taking obvious delight in my surprise. She went back inside, and when she emerged, she had a small bouquet of very delicate yellow flowers. "These are flowers Gurudev had placed in the[Adi Da's most sacred Temple, where, with rare exceptions, only He goes], where He Blessed them for you." I received the flowers from her, and prostrated again, my heart swelling with love for my Heart-Master.
And then Ruchiradama Nadikanta signalled wait! again, and went back inside Adi Da's house one more time! When she emerged, she had a bowl in each hand. She described how Adi Da had just finished His dinner. "Gurudev wants you to have these: this is the water bowl in which He washed His fingers before dinner; and this is the fruit left over from His dinner."
I was completely overwhelmed. I lay prostrate on the ground before the gates of my Beloved Guru's house for a long time, feeling the extraordinary Blessing signified by these Gifts, treasured so much within the Guru-devotee traditions around the world.
I never ate a meal or drank a drink so slowly or consciously, feeling and loving my Guru with each small bite and sip, and feeling His Love, which He so clearly was feeding me.
It was an archetypal symbol of the Guru-devotee relationship: the devotee feeds the Guru, and the Guru feeds the devotee. Through this ongoing process of mutual love and mutual sacrifice, the liberation of the devotee takes place.
* * *
At long last, I climbed in the truck that would take me back to our retreat quarters across the island. As we bounced along the empty dirt road, I looked up at the clear and vast South Pacific night sky, so full of stars, and whispered to myself, "Nothing more could possibly happen to make this day any better!"
And just at that moment, blazing brightly, a large, white shooting star drifted lazily across the sky.
The cosmic sign stunned me into silence, and then laughter and delight. The message couldn't have been any clearer:
Never suggest any limits when it comes to the Divine Heart-Master, Adi Da!