FAQs about Adi Da & Adidam > Adi Da's Teaching Over Time > Scientology

Scientology and The Knee Of Listening

Question: I heard that there was a chapter in the original Knee Of Listening in which Adi Da described the time he spent in Scientology, and that this was later removed. Was this because He didn't want anyone to know about His association with Scientology?

Short answer: No. The actual history of Knee Of Listening makes this clear.

The Knee Of Listening: 1972
The Knee Of Listening: June, 1973
The Knee Of Listening: April, 1978
The Knee Of Listening: July, 1984
(CSA Press)
June, 1973
(Dawn Horse Press)
April, 1978
July, 1984
The Knee Of Listening: April, 1992
The Knee Of Listening:  September, 1995
The Knee Of Listening:  May, 2004
April, 1992
September, 1995
May, 2004

The first edition of The Knee Of Listening was published in 1972 by the CSA Press. It contained a chapter in which Adi Da described in detail His experiences with Scientology. The second edition published in June, 1973 contained a much briefer summary of that time (only a few paragraphs long: see below), in which Adi Da wrote how He eventually came to realize that He was learning nothing new from Scientology: it was a repeat of lessons about the mind that He had learned long before during His "sadhana on the beach" in California.

He obviously hadn't reduced the description of Scientology from a chapter to a few paragraphs because Scientology had a good reputation in 1972, and a bad one in 1973! Scientology didn't have the reputation it now has back in 1973.[1] The reduction to a few paragraphs was because Adi Da felt the communication was redundant in the overall organization of the book, which was intended to be a highly focused series of lessons. He would eventually remove the references to Scientology altogether in later editions (from the April, 1978 edition on). But that first editing down (from the 1972 edition to the 1973 edition) makes it clear that the reason behind first the reduced description of Scientology, and then the later complete removal, was editorial.

It should be obvious that, if someone really wanted to hide their connection with Scientology, they wouldn't write about it (let alone write about it in great detail) in the first place! Even if one had second thoughts about having put one's association with Scientology in print, one doesn't then put out a second edition of the book in which the reference is still there, but briefer; one instead would remove the reference altogether in the next edition. The actual sequence of editions of The Knee Of Listening makes it obvious that the author had no qualms about describing His association with Scientology, and that the reason for the eventual complete removal was editorial.

Detailed answer

There has never been anything problematic with Adi Da's association with Scientology. Like every other adventure described in The Knee Of Listening, when Adi Da experienced (and transcended) the limits of that adventure (and its associated viewpoint on the nature of Reality), He moved on and would later write in detail about those limits, making it clear that He Himself was not willing to submit to, or be bound by them. During His sadhana, Adi Da's focus was always on Ultimate Realization nothing less, as every chapter in The Knee Of Listening makes clear.

You can read the original Scientology chapter here. The Knee Of Listening was intended to be a series of lessons, in which all the various major spiritual "problems" and spiritual realizations of humankind would be touched on, via Franklin Jones' personal experience, only to conclude that, while these realizations were indeed real (and revealed important details about the nature of the greater-than-material dimensions of Reality and the human esoteric anatomy), none of them were Ultimate Realization; and that seeking to address the various spiritual "problems" (such as how to quiet the mind, or how to surrender) never led to Ultimate Realization:

"Franklin Jones" is a series of lessons. . . . The Knee Of Listening is about "Franklin Jones", the one who has a spiritual adventure, who goes through transformations, who has learning experiences, and all of that. . . . My life was lived as a series of lessons, over and against the cult of this world.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj
"Franklin Jones Is A Fictional Character" (1974)

In this book, I have had to confront a most difficult means of instruction. I have had to fully illustrate my course of life, even in order to demonstrate the factuality of the extraordinary phenomena that mankind is presently in the habit of denying. But, in the end, in order to speak the Truth, I have had to argue against the ultimacy of many of the very things I have proven in my life. . . .

Both the search for ego-based Spiritual effects and the ego-based exploitation of life on a sensual and mental level are traps. The search for experience and the search for liberation from the bondage to experience are the same activity born out of the absence of "radical" self-understanding, the un-"creative" movement that is not Reality. Reality Itself is the only unique matter in the entire adventure of life, and It stands prior to all egoic efforts and all less-than-most-perfect discoveries.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, The Knee Of Listening

So The Knee Of Listening was never intended to be an autobiography in the conventional sense of the word. Based on Adi Da's purposes for the book, The Knee Of Listening had a very specific structure:

  • Purpose 1: Because most people are only aware of the material dimensions of Reality, the book should take readers on a tour (at the universal level) of all the greater-than-material dimensions of Reality, and also take readers on a tour (at the personal level) of the human esoteric anatomy (the body, the mind, kundalini and spiritual ascent, consciousness, etc.). The book should make readers aware that these dimensions of Reality and components of esoteric human anatomy actually "factually" exist.

  • Purpose 2: However, the book should also conclude, over and over again, that none of those dimensions, realizations, or aspects of esoteric human anatomy were "It", the Ultimate Realization. Only Reality Itself was the Ultimate Realization, or Most Perfect Enlightenment or Freedom.

Because of these unconventional, greater purposes for the book, Adi Da included not only a part (called "The Life of Understanding") that resembled conventional autobiographies in its telling of the story of His life to date, but also further parts ("The Meditation Of Understanding", "The Wisdom of Understanding", and "The Man of Understanding") that concentrated on the details of the wisdom learned in that "Life" and the Way of Realization for everyone, that was suggested by that "Life".

So from an editorial standpoint, whether Adi Da decided to include (or not include) some event or period in His life in The Knee Of Listening (and many interesting events and periods were not included) was largely a matter of whether that event or period served either of these two purposes. The title of that original chapter "The Search for Release From the Mind: Scientology" makes clear the role Adi Da had intended for that chapter in the book, in serving purpose 1. It was to cover some aspects of the nature of mental patterning and techniques used for trying to transcend these mental patterns (as illustrated by the techniques provided by Scientology).

Here is the entire shortened, June 1973 version of Adi Da's description of His time with Scientology, that makes that point:

Now the mind itself, apart from any particular content, appeared as the source of our dilemma, and I wondered by what means the mind should pass and let me be.

From the spring of 1968 until the early summer of 1969, I attempted to resolve the problems of radical consciousness by a concentrated effort to dissolve or disarm the ongoing, limiting effects of the mind. For the time being, it seemed that the stream of thought and the automatic pattern of motivations arising moment to moment was the primary obstacle to real consciousness.

I spent the year working in an organization called Scientology, which is a quasi-religious movement devoted to the systematic liberation of man from his conditioned mentality. My attention was drawn to every kind of pragmatic recovery of the memories and subliminal reactions that enforce patterns of thought and behavior. But the more I pursued these means, the more endless the content of the mind seemed to be. And I began to realize that I had already produced this experiment in myself during my period of writing in California.

Thus, in time, the impetus behind this experiment revealed its own fruitlessness, and the energy behind it simply wore down and disappeared. The result of this quieting and disinterest in the problem of the mind was a simple, effortless return to the state of awareness I had enjoyed at [Swami Muktananda's] Ashram, and in the dramatic moments of exhilaration and understanding I had known in seminary, in college, and in the natural clarity of my childhood.

One evening, while I was relaxing after a day of concentrated work in some of the Scientology exercises, there was a sudden, unexpected abandonment of all my resistance to the internal operation of the "Shakti". All the centers of my being relaxed, without apparent cause, perhaps only because there was no absorbing motive to contract or concentrate them. All tasks, all efforts, all problematic approaches to the realization of existence simply ended in me. Then the Shakti, the natural power of conscious existence, moved freely through me, taking the mind and all my reasons with it.

This event took place in Los Angeles in May of 1969. I quickly returned to New York and arranged my separation from Scientology.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj
The Knee Of Listening (September 1973 edition)

In going from the much more detailed description of His time with Scientology to this much shortened and edited version, Adi Da cut out a lot of material that He obviously deemed a distraction from the main purposes of The Knee Of Listening, such as the details of the Scientology "cosmology" (of Thetans, extraterrestrials, etc.). But in paring down His description of that time to the bare essentials (for the June 1973 edition), He also exposed the fact that the whole Scientology period of His life was redundant with earlier periods in His life that He had already described in great detail.

Scientology wasn't the only thing I did during that year. It was a year of return to a particular approach to the mind, the internal life, the internal tendencies. So during this time I began to research and approach the mind again, the content of the inner life as a dilemma in order to overcome it, and Scientology is a particularly obvious, symbolic approach to life from this point of view in which the mind and its memories and subliminal forces are approached as a sort of concrete and finite mass of data or influences and the attempt is to get rid of all of that. It is a form of the search like many others, a very common one, its essential principle is that of deconditioning. But the reason it seemed like a possibility at all, or that I became sympathetic to it at all is because I had returned again to a form of my earlier sadhana in which the mind as the dilemma became the pertinent focus of attention, quite spontaneously. And Scientology was just made available at this time. And essentially these activities duplicated an earlier period of time of my writing on the beach. It was a spontaneous, regeneration, reawakening of the mental dilemma, and I lived it not from its point of view, not as a search specifically, but as a spontaneous event. And just as it arose spontaneously, it disappeared spontaneously.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, The Life of Understanding
(Adi Da's 1973 course on The Knee Of Listening)

Also, unlike the other chapters in His life story that He included in The Knee Of Listening, the time spent in Scientology didn't actually serve Adi Da's process of Re-Awakening in any way, and didn't represent any kind of progress in it:

The year of Scientology seemed to have been vacant space in time, a moment turned aside from the current of my life.

The Knee Of Listening (1972 edition)

What actually occurred during this year then, was a period of the regeneration of karmas, and the burning away of karmas. It wasn't anything that I did during that year that did anything to my internal life. It was doing it in the same way that dreams are their own rule, and the interpretation of dreams is only secondary. Just so, nothing I did during that year was purifying. All that I apparently did that year was exploit myself, indulge myself. But the process itself, the awakening of the mind itself was self-purifying, and had a peculiar karmic cause. And so a few months later, about a year after I had left India, there was the spontaneous return [of the prior consciousness free of identification with the mind], but in a much more stable form, and in fact in a form that never lessened again, a permanent form. . . . When this occurred in the Spring of 1969, coincident with it was the true beginning of the yogic activity in me. So I came back to New York, and secondarily got out of Scientology.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, The Life of Understanding
(Adi Da's 1973 course on The Knee Of Listening)

So it was not too surprising that, for both of these editorial reasons that the time in Scientology didn't offer any new lessons, and that it didn't particularly serve His Re-Awakening in the next edition of the The Knee Of Listening (4/78), He would remove the Scientology reference altogether.[2]

* * *

In some sense, the whole notion of Adi Da hiding anything is humorously absurd. The very process that led to His Re-Awakening was all about exposing every aspect of the egoity of "Franklin Jones" and every limit in any approach He was experimenting with, and bringing it to consciousness (through writing, among other means). Anyone who actually has read The Knee Of Listening in detail will be struck by the brazenness and unsparing integrity of its communication. (For instance, Adi Da includes a description of the character of "Franklin Jones" as "crazy, secluded, independent", descriptions of times when "Franklin Jones" cheated on a high school exam, or experimented with drugs, etc.) For this reason, testimonials for The Knee Of Listening sometimes even directly refer to that integrity:

I know of no other teacher who has exposed his life and spiritual journey with such complete abandonment for the teaching of all who pay attention. His story and process are a fascinating portrayal of the ordeal, potency, and blessing of an infinitely expanded spiritual life. This biography is a perfect gift!

Bonnie Greenwell, Ph.D.
author, Energies of Transformation: A Guide to the Kundalini Process
founder and member of the executive board of
the Kundalini Research Network

That kind of honesty is exhibited throughout The Knee Of Listening (and throughout Adi Da's life altogether) not as a demonstration of some kind of traditional "moral value", but as the stance one naturally takes when one is standing as Consciousness Itself, and is no longer identified with a limited character or ego, in need of protecting one's self-image, personally concerned about loss of face, etc.

This article appears in

Questions about Adi Da and Adidam
The Books of Adidam


We tend to associate Scientology with the reputation it has at the present time. But at the time when Adi Da shortened the Scientology references in The Knee Of Listening to a few paragraphs September, 1973 most of the events that would give Scientology its negative reputation had yet to occur. Obviously this was even more the case a few years earlier, when Adi Da spent a year (1968 - 1969) doing the Scientology exercises. The description of what it provided seemed to perfectly match what He needed at that moment in His sadhana. In India, He had Realized Consciousness itself, but then the mind and its contents came rushing back, and what He was looking for was a way to address that mind:

Scientology sought by these means ["auditing", etc.] to relieve a person from the machinery of memory and unconscious reactivity so that he could eventually attain a state called "clear." In the state of "clear" the reactive or unconscious mind was supposed to be entirely eliminated as a force.

The more I listened the more this method seemed perfectly suited to what I now considered to be the essential problem of life. I knew that our essential nature, the Self or Divine Consciousness or Soul, was not something that needed to be created or recovered by effort. It was always already the case. But we are usually identified with an unconscious pattern of mentality that enforces a life of seeking and trouble and prevents a direct awareness of our true state. If a man could only reduce the power of this subliminal mechanism he would stand free, in his original nature.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, The Knee Of Listening (June 1973 edition)


The original chapter on Scientology turned out not to be useful to Adi Da's purposes for The Knee Of Listening. But it contains many valuable insights about Scientology and other similar practices (for example: a focus on "power" rather than "realization" or "wisdom"; one of many practices whose core principle is deconditioning; etc.) that are useful in the same way that Adi Da's essays in The Basket Of Tolerance about one or another tradition in the Great Tradition of human experimentation and wisdom are useful.

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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