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 then 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 [Adi Da's birth name]. Attracted by it, I looked it over, but put it down, thinking, "He's an American. He can't know what it is."
After graduating 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[a great twentieth century Spiritual Realizer in India]?" 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:
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 to me.
Shortly after 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 and devotee.
Several months later, having become a formal devotee of Adi Da, 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 absolute light.
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.