Singing as a Mindless and Ecstatic Contemplative

Crane Kirkbride

Crane Kirkbride is a long-time devotee and patron of Adi Da Samraj. You can read more about him on his website.

Crane KirkbrideI was born Ronald deLevington Kirkbride, Jr. in New York and into "old money."

My 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 Francisco businessman.

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.

I 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 of orgasm.

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 prisons.

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.

* * *

One 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.

In 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 ago.

Crane singing the words of Adi Da Samraj:
I Am Who You Are
RealAudio, MP3
composer: JoAnne Sunshine
producer: Ray Lynch
(3 minutes, 22 seconds)

I Am as One Who Left His Home
RealAudio, MP3
composer: Ray Lynch
pianist: John MacKay
words adapted from Adi Da's poem
(5 minutes, 53 seconds)

* * *

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 State Itself.

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.

The 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.

Adi 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.

This article appears in two sections:
the Crazy Wisdom section and the Adidam and Music section

Quotations from and/or photographs of Avatar Adi Da Samraj used by permission of the copyright owner:
Copyrighted materials used with the permission of The Avataric Samrajya of Adidam Pty Ltd, as trustee for The Avataric Samrajya of Adidam. All rights reserved. None of these materials may be disseminated or otherwise used for any non-personal purpose without the prior agreement of the copyright owner. ADIDAM is a trademark of The Avataric Samrajya of Adidam Pty Ltd, as Trustee for the Avataric Samrajya of Adidam.

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