A Core Principle of Practice: Pleasing the Guru
This admonition, "Do whatever pleases your Guru", appears in all the great traditions of Guru-devotion around the world. Adi Da Himself referred to it repeatedly over the years as primary instruction for His devotees. The devotee focuses on "what pleases the Guru" not for the Guru's sake or to satisfy some arbitrary whim the Guru is already the perfectly free Divine Being but rather, for the sake of the devotee's own liberation, and the liberation of all beings. It is a relationship, and cultivating that relationship involves pleasing one's Guru.
In strong contrast, the primary principle of the ego is the exact opposite:
To Realize God, one must let go of that limited ego identity, including letting go of its limited preferences, and instead adopt and support the "preferences" of one's True Self. Hence (because the Guru is the human incarnation of one's True Self), a primary counter-egoic practice is:
And what pleased our Guru was our truly practicing the Way of Adidam, and our doing those things that served the growth of Adidam in the world and the practice of other devotees. Thus "pleasing the Guru" was never a childish matter, like "pleasing mommy" or "pleasing daddy", but a demonstration of human and spiritual maturity and competence, and a real contribution — however small — to the Divine Guru's Work of liberating all beings.
So how to actually please my Guru in the very specific context of an upcoming Mummery Book performance was my primary question to myself when I found myself on retreat at Naitauba, on a particular day in January of 1995.
Writing Music for The Mummery Book
Here's how that came about.
The annual performance of Adi Da's The Mummery Book was soon to take place, as it did every January. While The Mummery Book often is performed (in part or entirely) at this time of year by devotees in various places around the world, this particular performance on Naitauba would be attended by Adi Da Himself. At that time (1995), it was a four-hour performance , and much of that performance was to be accompanied by music, in the same way that much of a movie is accompanied by music, greatly augmenting its emotional force. The devotees producing and directing The Mummery Book had been relying on a particular devotee musician to arrive with the music he had composed for this year's production, and who came every year to direct the music (and who would personally perform some of it). But at the last minute, that devotee had gotten sick, and was not able to come, and his musical notes were in a form that only he could make sense of.
So on this particular day in January of 1995, the devotee directing The Mummery Book came to me and said, "Can you do it?" and handed me a copy of the book, which was not thin. As I skimmed the pages, I thought: Four hours of music. Four days to compose it. It felt completely overwhelming! But there was no one else who could do it that was available, and there was no way to "cancel" or "postpone" it, so I said: "Okay!"
* * *
I learned many lessons over the next four days! These included lessons about the music of Adidam (and the music of Adi Da's The Mummery Book, in particular), some of which I'll now pass on, and trust that readers who are not musicians (or appreciators of music) will still find this part of my story interesting.
(If not, you can always skip to the last section. . . but you also will be missing most of the story.)
As Adi Da instructed us many times (when it seemed our competence in some area was lacking), "pleasing your Guru" is not just a matter of being "good-hearted" or "devotional" (although that certainly has to be there too) it's all in the details of the particular task at hand . . .
One really has to be competent at the task, whether the task is making one's Guru a bedspread, serving the Adidam Mission effectively, raking leaves at a holy site on one of the Empowered Sanctuaries, or writing Adidam music.
If your service is writing Adidam music, then you really have to have mastered the craft of writing music — and beyond that, have a very conscious awareness of the differences between writing conventional music, writing Adidam music, and — in this case — writing music for The Mummery Book.
So here are some lessons I learned about creating music for Adidam, and, more specifically, for The Mummery Book.
One form of chanting devotees engage is swadhyaya chanting: the setting of often lengthy sacred texts to music. While at first that may sound quite formidable, it technically is not hard, because Adi Da has given us a pre-established musical form, a few lines in length. We just repeat that same melody over and over again, fitting the words to it in a particular, artful manner.
Creating music for The Mummery Book is at the very opposite end of the Adidam musical spectrum from swadhyaya chanting. The repetitive melody in swadhyaya chanting allows one to enter into a deep contemplative state as one contemplates one's Guru and the words to the sacred scripture. But The Mummery Book is a high-energy, multi-dimensional, theatrical spectacle, purposed by Adi Da to expose the entirety of conventional (egoic) life as a completely unsatisfying mummery, a bunch of games people play to avoid Reality. (And indeed, that is one primary reason why Adi Da has devotees participate in watching The Mummery Book each year: to serve as a powerful mirror of.) It impacts the participant in the audience using a very different modality than contemplative chanting.
It is intended not to calm and Reveal, but rather . . .
So the music of The Mummery Book must come up to the same level of high theatricality and energy that is demonstrated by every other element of the performance (not necessarily by being loud and raucous, but by being emotionally penetrating). The music must reflect and communicate the incredible emotional range of the various scenes. And the music must be true to the striking language Adi Da uses, that makes The Mummery Book a "Book" a unique contribution not only to theater but to literature.
Indeed perhaps the greatest challenge (for all involved in producing The Mummery Book, including the composers of music for it) is that the book with all its length and linguistic innovations is used verbatim in the stage production. It's possible to do this, but very difficult. Even James Joyce's lengthy Finnegan's Wake has been produced on stage . . . but in much reduced form (and not as a musical). Generally, whenever a book is re-envisioned for screen or stage (e.g., James Michener's Tales of the South Pacific adapted into Rodgers and Hammerstein's Broadway musical, South Pacific; or J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings adapted for Peter Jackson's movies), a major re-write and major reduction in size takes place, to make sure the end product can fit into the usual time allotted for a movie or a play.
If one preserves the original book's length and language (as Adi Da did), thus requiring a production that is many hours in length, then an even greater-than-usual burden is placed on the production and the music to make the language and the "plot" accessible, and to keep holding the audiences' attention for the extended period of time. And so the music (along with everything else) has to
Composers of popular musicals like Rodgers and Hammerstein made breakthroughs by accomplishing both (a) and (c) at the same time with the songs in their musicals. (Before them, musicals tended to be collections of catchy songs and dance vaudeville but with no added requirement to also advance the "storyline" of the musical or reveal the characters — if there even was much of a storyline or characters.) But so far as I know, apart from The Mummery Book, no musicals or other forms of stage or movie production have had to accomplish (b) as well as (a) and (c). So to set The Mummery Book to music is truly is something like having to produce Finnegan's Wake: The Musical! 
Consider, for example, these lines from the 1995 version  of Adi Da's The Mummery Book:
Just those first two lines, "To Me?" "Yes!" illustrate some of the challenges. It requires the communication of a powerful question followed by a powerful answer, and set apart as two different musical "thoughts". Even though, by themselves, they're each too short for a typical musical line, you can't just combine them into a single longer line of music, and still do justice to the striking language. Musically it still has to be broken out as a very short question, and a very short answer which is a relatively unusual "problem" in the craft of setting words set to music (whether one is writing a popular song or an operatic aria).
So the musical form is going to have to be a little unusual in its "punctuation", because of the striking language.
Then there's the musical expression. The passage builds in excitement (communicated between the lines), with the force of one who senses He is on the verge of a great Discovery, and then . . . the Discovery Itself:
So the music has to reflect that building excitement and then crescendo with the Discovery. Here is the final musical "solution" I came up with for this brief passage, so you can get a more concrete feeling for all this:
The music is "punctuated" just like the words. ("To Me?" "Yes!") Each line of text is set to music with a different chord, and the chords are sequenced so that the listener can feel the musical tension (reflecting emotional excitement) building. The lines corresponding to the climax are repeated three times for emphasis, with the instrumental accompaniment building each time.
I would find this same kind of challenge again and again while setting different parts of The Mummery Book to music: one must completely conform both the form and the expression of the music.
One must subordinate the form of the music to the Words:
and let the unique "shapes" of Adi Da's language dictate the shape of the music. This is not as difficult as it may sound. Once one lets go of trying to impose conventional musical forms on the language and one lets the language "invent" the musical form, the form very naturally flows out, because Adi Da's language has its own inherent and unique musicality and rhythm. And occasionally, His language may very naturally suggest a conventional musical form, as in the repeating, songlike form of "The Blue Ointment of Her Hands":
But this comes from the structure in Adi Da's language, rather then the composer superimposing a conventional structure on His language such as the pre-determined structure used in swadhyaya chanting; or an unconsciously limited structure (that stands a good chance of clashing with the structure of Adi Da's Words) if one ends up projecting one's own "form" onto the composition. Conversely, the instant a temporarily appearing structure in Adi Da's text comes to an end, the composer has to resist the temptation to keep that form going in the music (whether because it is less work and one is feeling intellectually "lazy", or because one is attached to the melody, or whatever).
It should be clear from my description of what is required that one must bring one's practice of the Way of Adidam (one's devotional recognition of Adi Da and response to Him) into the activity of creating music in a very effective way. Not projecting one's own mind-forms onto the music, and truly subordinating the music being created to Adi Da's Words requires a significant degree of self-understanding, self-forgetting, and devotional submission.
Just as the musical form must be subordinated to the language of the text, the composer must also subordinate the expression of the music to the One Who is communicating those words, and the emotional expression He intended for the particular passage, whatever it might be:
As an illustration of "Epic Revelation", here is the first part of "The Last Hallucination":
The context for the Revelation "on the beach, ships can be counted in thousands" was indeed epic: all those thousands of "ships of possibility" needed to be transcended. And the preparation required for the Revelation "lying in the fire" was heroic.
That led me to think, "Evoke feelings similar to the music of Lawrence of Arabia: the grandness of that movie's main theme (starts at 0:39) by Maurice Jarre for the opening words; and the intense, delirious quality of the music associated with Lawrence's crossing of the desert (when he is burning with literal heat), for when Raymond is 'lying in the Fire'."
But then the ending, with the seventh stage Revelation Itself breaking through, needed to correspond musically more to a balloon deflating, a "last hallucination" being punctured, than to a "ride off in the sunset", or "ultimate fulfillment of the search" kind of musical ending since, in Adi Da's Teaching, searches do not (and cannot) lead to ultimate fulfillment.
Hence the music grows quiet, and the accompanying instrumentation was chosen to have a falling quality to it, to match the return to ordinary (but now Enlightened) life:
Now the grand "ships of possibility" are merely "boats", with no higher status accorded them than the salad of one's lunch suggesting the complete ordinariness of everything in the Enlightened State.
Here is the complete version of "The Last Hallucination".
* * *
On and on, the musical challenges! Four hours worth . . .
One thing that did afford a certain degree of simplification was my use of a practice often adopted by composers of movie soundtracks and Broadway musicals: the creation of recurring, easily recognizable musical themes or motifs for particular characters, like Maurice Jarre's "Lara's Theme" (from Dr. Zhivago) or John William's "Darth Vader" theme (from Star Wars). So while the main plot-advancing scenes required music specifically crafted to musically communicate and highlight that plot advance or breakthrough, sometimes the music could simply be a variation on a theme designated for the specific character who had just appeared on stage. So for example, sometimes when Raymond was thinking about Quandra, I'd play a version of the "Raymond and Quandra" theme.
Or when Meridian came on stage, I'd often play some variation on the "Meridian Smith" theme (a tune with an Irish lilt, meant to suggest a "leprechaunish" playfulness, written in "always off balance" waltz time ).
After two days (with another two days before the performance), I had many key pieces created, and musical sketches for many more. (Thanks to Adi Da's daughter, Naamleela, for letting me use her music studio to compose, and to perform I couldn't have completed it otherwise.)
* * *
Now came the next part of this adventure: Involving (and writing parts for) other musicians, so it wouldn't be just me singing and playing on the keyboard (although Naamleela's synthesizer a gift from Billboard Award-winning composer and devotee, Ray Lynch did have an impressive range of instrumental alternatives, which I took full advantage of during the actual performance). And in the remaining two days, I also had to train a "male choir" to sing a number of these pieces. (The Mummery Book explicitly refers to this choir as an essential element of the performance, performing a role something like the chorus in the ancient Greek plays.)
As it turned out, the first part was easy. Another devotee on retreat was a professional harp player. And one of the residents on Naitauba, Leroy Stilwell (one of the co-founders of this site), played the shakuhachi (a traditional Japanese bamboo flute). Their accompaniment would greatly enrich the musical performance.
As for that "male choir" . . . Among the retreatants to Naitauba and the residents of Naitauba, I was easily able to find ten willing volunteers. It was a time of celebration, and residents who normally would not be available because of their services were free during this time to fully participate. Now not too surprisingly, most of these guys had no professional musical experience whatsoever . . . (For example, two of them spent most of their time tending the farms on Naitauba.) But what impressed me was how, despite the lack of any training, they came together in this task over the next two days.
This is something I've seen over and over again among Adi Da's devotees, especially in those who served Adi Da closely for many years: they were now able to take on anything for the Guru, and usually do a credible job at it, even if they had no training. And the reason was because they were trained personally and repeatedly, by Adi Da in laying their egoic reactivity aside, and thus having 100% of their energy and attention available for the task at hand, whatever it might be. And so I gave each man a copy of the rehearsal tape with the songs they were to sing as a group. It was truly delightful to see them over the next two days walking across the village green, with earphones in, players on, and looks of studious concentration as they sang the pieces to themselves! And each time we met to rehearse, we got better at it.
The recordings I've posted are from the rehearsal tape I gave each of them (with just me singing on it). I wish I had a recording of those men singing, for you to hear! They had much heart and little self-consciousness.
* * *
"Do whatever pleases your Guru". Would these musical creations please my Guru? I hoped so, because, to the best of my ability, I had fashioned them to conform to His text and His purposes for the performance. I had rehearsed the choir and musicians as much as was possible in the two days available. But we would just have to see what His response would be.
It is always possible to do more! For example, I would have loved (and still would love) to have had the time, resources, and ability to score the music of The Mummery Book for symphonic orchestra, like the movie soundtracks of big box office movies; and to make the pieces for the "choir" be truly choral pieces with multiple melodic lines (fully developed) and rich vocal harmonies. The Mummery Book cries out for that kind of monumental treatment, in the same way Adi Da's Image-Art calls for it. Whereas sheer physical size is the means by which Adi Da's Image-Art can be "monumental" (engaging the entire body-mind) by being larger than the body, by analogy, means like a full-fledged symphonic orchestra are part of how the music of The Mummery Book can be monumental in the realm of sound and its effect on the whole body-mind. But it was beyond our capability and resources in the few days we had to make that happen; at best, I could (and did try to) "suggest" an orchestral accompaniment here and there, through careful choices of synthesized instruments.
The Mummery Book Performance
The day of the performance finally arrived. And over the course of the four-hour performance, everything went off without a hitch, from the acting to the music. It is a real "workout" to take part in such a performance (particularly when Adi Da was attending it, as was the case here), both because of the sheer length of it (and the stamina required to keep investing oneself in it and keep putting out the necessary high level of energy), and because of what one has to come up to (and what one must transcend in oneself) in order to give such a devotional performance, in order for it to move all present in the ways Adi Da intended, and Reveal What He had intended. For example, in my own case, I had to play the keyboard, direct the choir, sing solo parts, and improvise extensively in places where I had had no time to create a full score but only had time to sketch a few musical ideas and themes as a "jumping off place" for improvisation. And I had to do all this in direct, devotional relationship to Adi Da, Who was sitting right there before me in the room.
At the end of the performance, Adi Da Graced all the devotees in the room by giving them prasad He had Blessed.
After the performance, the first responses from our devotee friends in the audience were encouraging: they had been moved by the performance. And then the word came that Adi Da Himself was very pleased with the performance (confirming that He too felt that the performance had served the purposes He had intended). So much so, that He invited those of us responsible for the performance to a gathering with Him in His bedroom a couple of nights later.
I was ecstatic.
Gathering with the Divine Guru
But then a perverse thought came up: What if He liked the performance in general a lot, but didn't particularly like the music?
Looking back these many years later, it seems like a completely ridiculous thought, and a not particularly important one at that (in that the performance had succeeded in its purpose). I now understand that "do whatever pleases your Guru" is to be accompanied by a "" disposition: "Do whatever pleases your Guru" guides all one's actions; the occasions of your Guru letting you know your actions pleased Him are truly wonderful ones; but you are not attached to that outcome. The whole point is forgetting "self", and remembering the Guru instead!
But I didn't fully understand that at the time. (As with many aspects of practice, one's understanding of such principles and admonitions is refined with time and experience.) And so I let that question, "Did He like my music? Did I please my Guru?" plague me now and again, until the night of our gathering with Adi Da finally arrived, and we packed ourselves into the truck and drove out to be with Him, in His Bedroom at Aham Da Asmi Sthan.
Of course, once I was with Adi Da, I quickly forgot my "concern", both because of our being in the extraordinary "Brightness" of His Company for such an extended and intimate period of time He Sat on His bed and we all sat around the bed for the next seven hours or so; and because that night, He engaged us so fully in so many vibrant, living considerations that one couldn't possibly hold on to such a small concern.
During the course of the evening, He engaged one devotee in a consideration that led the devotee to make a choice of celibate renunciation, for the sake of that devotee's further growth in practice. He led another devotee through a consideration about his recently deceased intimate and their relationship. He had many more such considerations throughout the night with many of the devotees in His bedroom. And while He was taking His devotees through these extraordinarily personal and substantive considerations (each aimed at growth in their practice), all the while, He was also generating new Teaching that would prove useful for all His devotees around the world.
Here is just a taste from His hours of consideration with us:
You could see why I forgot my little concern in the midst of such profound wisdom about truly significant matters! Even so, that now forgotten question ("Did My Beloved Guru like my music"?) lay dormant in my psyche and had not yet been released or dissolved.
Dawn finally came, and Adi Da ended the gathering so that we all could get some sleep. We stood up and slowly filed out of our Guru's bedroom, each of us thanking Him and saying good night to Him just before we left His room.
Just as it was my turn to leave, Adi Da looked straight into my eyes, and said softly,
My forgotten, buried question exploded to the surface and disintegrated! My heart broke open like a cracked egg, and a flood of love for my Guru poured out. I grabbed His hand and kissed it: "Thank you, Lord!!" And left His bedroom, overwhelmed by the Happiness of pleasing the Guru and being released from "self" and its concerns.
Adi Da had revealed to me, on this occasion and several others, how He could completely read whatever was in my mind and heart, because He was me. But extraordinary as that was, what was just as extraordinary to me was how He never used this arbitrarily. He would always choose (with masterful, even surgical precision) exactly the right moment and the right way of Revealing what was in one's own heart to break one's heart open and release it from self-contraction, restoring it to its Native State of Happiness and to fullest love of its Divine Guru.
In this most direct way,
He repeatedly showed me how He was truly the Heart-Master of His devotees.