Club Rat

Chris Tong

Chris TongChris Tong has been a devotee of Adi Da Samraj since 1989. He is one of the founders of this website. You can read his biographical information in the About Us section.

You are all heart-full tonight. But you must become heart-broken.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj
gathering with devotees, June 23, 1992

Ever since Beloved Adi Da spoke those heart-moving words to us all that night, my daily prayer to Him at Paduka Mandir (at the time, one of the Temples at Adi Da Samrajashram) was that He find a way to break my heart. And the great Avatar found a most extraordinary and intimate way to answer my prayer.

Club Rat (Hymns To Me)
"Club Rat" (Hymns To Me)

Club Rat was a "place" Adi Da had conceived one Friday (July 3, 1992) on Naitauba, in this way: We were to turn Hymns To Me (the music building) into Club Rat. It was to have an extraordinarily refined atmosphere and the finest food and drink. It was to have the finest place settings, china, crystal, etc., and the most exquisite dishes (caviar, clam on the half shell, lobster, fillet mignon, ...).

It would have meal servers and the very best live musical entertainment. All attendees and entertainers would be completely outrageous ("skanks and whores" in Adi Da's words), and made up to look the part: as "exaggerated" as possible in their appearance. (Consequently, many of us would have our faces painted in the wildest ways, thanks to Linda Oppenheimer, Trea Mekel, Marcelene Alexander, and a number of other make-up artists working over-time in the art room.)

Marcelene: I was lucky enough to be one of the artists putting make-up on whoever showed up needing it. One of the things I learned (by watching it done by another devotee) was how to get hair to do whatever you wanted it to do by spraying it with removeable adhesive!

Linda Oppenheimer
Linda Oppenheimer

Trea Mekel
Trea Mekel

Marcelene Alexander
Marcelene Alexander

And . . . Club Rat would have its opening in two days. Adi Da was never one for wasting time! Even though it would be an extraordinary challenge for all of us to make this happen in the allotted time, it was also clear to us that Adi Da was creating a novel circumstance through which He would work with us in some new and unique way, perhaps for an extended period of time (like the Indoor Yajna, or any of the other extended periods of His gathering with us), and so naturally we were all quite excited.

Jonathan Condit
Jonathan Condit

I was visiting Naitauba (on retreat) at the time, but was recruited to be part of the musical entertainment, in an otherwise "Naitauba resident only" gathering we had heard Adi Da wanted light jazz music, and I was able to play that style of piano. So Jonathan Condit and I stayed up until the early hours of the morning working on various jazz pieces, some for the dinner (where Jonathan was to be a piano bar-style pianist), and some for the after-dinner entertainment. But when Saturday morning came, we heard that much of that effort had been in vain because the after-dinner entertainment was now to be "raunchy" rock music instead (with absolutely no classical music). I chalked up the night's effort (which we now tossed away) to sadhana, and we began again, throwing pieces together because the dinner was now to be that afternoon. As it turned out, the dinner party was postponed. I breathed a sigh of relief for the extra time we had to prepare.

Sunday arrived and we heard the party was on again, and would probably occur Monday. So we worked late into the night again, trying to polish our act. I wrote an upbeat song called "Club Rat", that attempted to reflect in a rock song the moment that Adi Da was creating. I rehearsed the song with Abel Slater; he'd be singing, I'd be playing keyboards.

Abel Slater
Abel Slater

Abel and I completed our rehearsal of "Club Rat" and finished our preparations Monday morning just as we heard Adi Da was about to arrive in the residents' village and come to the party at Club Rat. (The "Hymns To Me" building was in Qaravi, the residents' village.) We were suddenly informed that plans had changed: the material Jonathan had prepared for his piano bar was far too tame and I would probably have to improvise jazz some or all of the time during dinner! My heart leapt into my mouth, but I surrendered all my fears to Adi Da and got to work. The dinner began, accompanied by taped jazz music. I sat in the next room, soundlessly "playing along" on a Yamaha keyboard in time with the taped music, to get the creative juices flowing. Peals of laughter erupted again and again from Adi Da and His family next door, and their humor set my heart at ease.

As things turned out, no live music was called for during dinner after all. After dinner, though, the island residents and two retreatants (myself and Anthony Costabile) gradually migrated into the main room of Club Rat (Hymns to Me), where everyone joined Adi Da in watching several Michael Jackson videos. Adi Da wore a funky black derby hat with colored feathers, a gold earring, super cool shades, and two tiny braids in His beard. His torso was adorned with a black leather vest emblazoned with a large silver scorpion. He had mock tatoos on His arm and cheek. Every once in a while, in the coolest manner, He would lower His shades slightly and give a penetrating Look at a particular devotee. He looked exquisitely and Divinely BAD.

Right after the video ended, Adi Da called for the live entertainment. That was our cue, as the first rock band on the program. We took the stage: Abel Slater, lead vocal, Steve Hagerty on guitar, myself on keyboards, and Anthony Costabile on "drums". Well, actually, they were what we referred to as "piss buckets" (used for the "bathroom breaks" at the gatherings, on a South Pacific island whose facilities didn't include enough toilets nearby to handle our numbers) piss buckets turned upside down and miked! And, as I recall, Anthony's "drumsticks" were long wooden spoons from the kitchen across the green. The vision of this "drumset" sent Adi Da into spasms of laughter, between which He struggled to get out the words, "Does he . . . know he's . . . . playing on . . . PISS BUCKETS?" [Uproarious laughter from us all.] "He probably thinks they're laundry buckets or something." How Anthony managed to get them to sound like ordinary drums I'll never know.

Anthony Costabile
Anthony Costabile
Anthony: Under ordinary circumstances, I would have been delighted. I spent several years playing drums professionally before entering the Communion. But my equipment . . .

I mused, "How can I possibly lose face like this banging on these plastic buckets in front of my Sat-Guru?" (And Adi Da was right I hadn't made any association between the buckets and their possible function.) But there was so much energy and humor in the incident that I could not be deterred any further. I forgot myself and began experimenting with sound possibilities on the buckets.

"Not bad", I said, laying down what was intended to be a rather funky rap beat. Everyone agreed. . . I was hired for the gig!

Abel introduced the first number to everyone ("Club Rat", the rock song I had written for the occasion), and with a "1-2-3-4" we were off and playing. In keeping with the guidelines for the evening, Abel sang the words in his raunchiest voice. To give you a feeling for it, here are some of the lyrics:

Club Rat.
Club Rat.
The funky place where God is at.
Only skanks and whores
walk through its doors.
When the Lord's in town
Everyone "gets down".[1]

Steve played some wild licks on the electric guitar. As they listened, Adi Da and His family looked amused, but He also gave us a humorously perplexed look which made me think "He probably can't really hear the words". The Master Critic very Graciously allowed us to finish the song, after which He told Abel not to sing anymore He literally had Abel pulled off the stage! (Abel later confessed to me that he felt he was receiving a lesson all night about wanting to be the center of attention; Adi Da would later praise Abel for all his off-center-stage, behind-the-scenes work in organizing the party.)

Then Adi Da totally surprised me by asking, "Can Tong do it solo?" Again, my heart leapt into my mouth; although I enjoy performing (and as a former professor, had no problem standing in front of classes), I am actually a shy person by tendency. But in that moment, I felt such love and trust in my Guru that I immediately responded to Him, "Yes, Lord". Thus began a most personal, intimate, and extraordinary dialog with my Beloved, in which I spoke to Him in the language of music, and He responded to me in (and enveloped me in) the language of the Heart.

Dan Bouwmeester
Dan Bouwmeester

While Dan Bouwmeester held the microphone for me, I played and sang the song again. This time the words were clearer and they got some laughs from Adi Da's family, but at a certain point, Adi Da made a cutting gesture across His throat and said, "Cut the singing. Just play." So I continued to play, but after a while He had me stop again.

He said, "I hear you play jazz. Play your favorite jazz piece. Your very favorite jazz piece." These spontaneous and rapid-fire changes of pace were totally blowing my mind away (which was exactly right, as the Divine Heart-Master was after my heart), but somehow at this point I was, by Adi Da's Grace, free of self-consciousness about the whole situation and just resting in the asana of submission, open to whatever He might next ask of me. I started playing Gershwin's "They Can't Take That Away From Me", because a couple of nights before, I had prepared a reworked version of that song to sing to Him:

The way You wear Your hat.
The way You hold Your knee.
The Revelation of all that.
No, no, they can't take that away from me.

The way Your smile just beams.
The way You sing so free.
The way You haunt my dreams.
No, no, they can't take that away from me.

But it didn't go very well. It would have sounded much better on a full-fledged piano, but all I had was a tiny synthesizer, and it came out sounding very weak (particularly since I couldn't sing the words that moved me so much, since Adi Da had specifically instructed me to play and not sing).

I played on anyway! With Adi Da making humorous remarks the whole time. "Now, My babies" (He said — speaking in the manner of Teacher — to His children, who sat by Him), "there's good music, and there's bad music. "This" He said, pointing my way "is bad music." He gave me a big smile. "Nonetheless, I'm letting My Tongue [His name for me, playing with my birth name] continue to play, so that you can learn discrimination." I continued to give His daughters lessons in "discrimination". (Happily, I might add! In the spirit of the occasion.)

He then made as though He were drawing on a bow and the Divine Archer shot two arrows into my heart from across the room. I pressed my hands to my heart, literally feeling the Wound of Love. Then He said to me with great power and humor, "Tong, I just slapped You. Feel it." I did. (And for several hours after, I had a kriya in which my face suddenly swung to the right.) And I thought with a sinking feeling that, certainly this time, the Divine Hook would pull me off stage. But Grace leaned profoundly that evening.

After some whispers to Adi Da from His family, He spoke to me again. "I hear what you really are is a classical piano player. Play classical music for Me.'' I was stunned. He had specifically forbidden classical music to be played in Club Rat! But He broke His Own Law, and I recalled Words of His that always had moved me deeply: "Some Realizers do whatever is within the bounds of propriety to help liberate their devotees; I will do anything, whether within the bounds of propriety or not, to liberate My devotees.''

He went on: "Play classical music for Me, and play it so that the tears stream down your cheeks as you are playing! Cry all the way down to the bottom of your feet.'' These last admonitions were spoken with great force, and my heart sunk even further . . . How I could I possibly do this? I hadn't the slightest idea.

I tentatively replied, "Lord, I began writing a classical piano sonata for You which I'd love to play for You, but it's unfinished." The Lord raised His eyebrows, and smilingly roared back in mock anger, "UNFINISHED? You should NEVER bring Me unfinished business." [4]

There really was only one response the devotee can make in such a moment, and so I made it, from the heart: "I will finish it right now, Lord!" His smile widened and He replied, "Good!" I asked Him if I could use a piano instead of the tiny synthesizer, and He Gracefully nodded His Blessing.

Megan Anderson
Megan Anderson

So while Megan Anderson, as one of the entertainers, did a dance routine to Michael Jackson's "Beat It" (receiving such pragmatic instructions from her Divine Dance Instructor as "Put more 'stupid' into it; loosen up the hips!"), several men wheeled the piano onto the side of the stage. Adi Da continued instructing Megan in how to transcend her self-consciousness, and her dancing became devotional contemplation of her Guru.

Naamleela Free Jones
Free Jones

"Be careful with that piano! That's My Naamleela's piano." Adi Da said to the piano movers, referring to His youngest daughter, who was sitting next to Him.

"Perhaps we should shoot the piano player. . ." Adi Da mused, looking in my direction.

He already had.

Then He nodded for me to begin. I began playing Him my sonata . . . and after only ten seconds I completely forgot where it went next!

Damn! I thought. I musically improvised to get back to the beginning of the piece, whereupon I tried to play it through and . . . forgot it again!

At that point, I looked at my Beloved Heart-Master before me. He looked back at me. And I just surrendered everything to Him. I never looked at my hands again and just kept my feeling-attention on Him.

And He began to play through me.

Chris Tong
Chris "in costume" and playing the keyboards

He said "Allow yourself to feel your sad clown face" (my face was made up with white and red paint) — and the music became very sad.

Then He drew something different out of me and said to everyone: "Now the music is very sweet." And so it was.

He made me express everything I was through the music. "My Tongue is a gentle man", He said, initiating the next strand of music. I nodded my head to Him. "Gentle is good. I like gentle."

He turned to everyone and said, "My Tongue signs all His cards to me, 'Your Chris.' You know, I notice these things, and I know just what he means by that."

And He kept playing the piano, using my hands.

"I call him 'My Tongue'." He pointed to Ruchiradama Quandra Sukhapur Rani who sat next to Him, saying, "I call her 'Mother Tongue'."

As my heart opened ever wider, He nodded, saying "That's it. That's right!" and He kept Blessing me to continue, drawing my unfinished sonata out of me in the most intimate way.

The music was in waltz time, we were in an enchanted ballroom, and the Master of the Dance swayed back and forth, incredibly Beautiful and Timeless as He looked lovingly at me, and I at Him. I danced with Him, swaying back and forth, lost in His Embrace, seeing and feeling nothing but Him.

My friends told me after that everyone in the room was swooning and moved to tears by His Love and His Music. We all had been transported into our Master's Divine Domain.

At last, as the music got slower and slower, He indicated for me to stop. "This is the best way for this piece to be unfinished", He said very quietly.

I ran from the piano bench and threw myself at His feet in a full prostration. When I looked up at Him, He tossed a flower to me with an incredibly sweet smile. And I gave Him back the gift He had called for tears streamed down my face, my heart broken open, in gratitude for the Miracle of His Presence, and His Grace, and the Gift of this most profoundly direct and intimate relationship with Him.

* * *

Stanley Hastings
Stanley Hastings

There were further events that night, some in which I participated.

At one point, I played the keyboards for a hip-hop number that Stanley Hastings wrote and sang, and for which Arthur Andrews played electric guitar. Both were young devotees familiar with this (at the time) new style of music, and Adi Da was amused by the trio: "Stan and Arthur I can understand, but . . . Tong?" I was a bit older than my bandmates, and had zero experience with hip-hop.

But I was gone in my Beloved Guru, and these further events were like a waking dream which I only vaguely remember, superimposed upon the more fundamental Divine Reality in which I was immersed. As Adi Da quipped about the evening at one point that night, drawing laughter from all of us: "It had its moments. . . though I can't seem to remember any of them right now."

At one point, as "Club Rat" continued, I returned from the gathering back to our retreat quarters whereupon all my fellow retreatants made me tell the story of what had just happened, which I did ecstatically. We then went to sleep.

Later that night, around 2:30am, the "Club Rat" gathering ended, and Adi Da was driving home. The road took Him past our retreat quarters. As had been His habit for several nights, He granted the retreatants a "Wake-up Darshan." A couple of us heard our Beloved Guru's truck rumbling around the corner. We jumped out of bed, shouted to everyone else that Adi Da was here, and raced through the door just as His white truck pulled up next to the retreat quarters.

We all pressed close around Him, touching His arm, which rested on the window sill of the truck. He had a wonderful play with retreatant Michael Bennett, where He humorously lit into Michael (a minister), saying that Michael had a look that took an entire lifetime of study to cultivate. Adi Da associated that righteous look with social morality. He went on to say He Himself had gone to a theological school but it didn't make His face look the way Michael's did! He went on and on . . . penetrating Michael deeply, but with great humor and sweetness.

And, the whole time, little by little, Michael's face melted.

At last, Adi Da hugged and kissed Michael, and said, "Aren't you glad you're on retreat?", and Michael's unspoken response was evident in the shine of his eyes.

Then Adi Da asked, "Where's My Tongue?"

"Right here, Lord." I was right next to Him, looking into His most extraordinary eyes, with tears running down my face, so glad to see Him again. He turned to the other retreatants and said (as He had to those at the Club Rat gathering), "Do you know he signs all his cards to Me with 'Your Chris'?"

"Yes, Lord, Chris was just telling us the story of the gathering a little while ago."

I spontaneously kissed His Hand in gratitude for His Regard.

Then He said to everyone, "My heart breaks whenever I see his face." He turned to me and said, "Do you know that, My friend?"

That was the end of me. My heart broke completely in that moment. "Yes, Lord", I managed to say, as the tears poured forth.

"How much longer are you staying? You're not leaving this week, are you?"

"No, Lord."

"How much longer will you be staying?"

"I'd like to stay with You forever, Lord."

He smiled sweetly at me, and said in a very soft voice, "I'd like that very much. I couldn't bear the thought of you leaving."

He was silent for a moment.

Then in a loud and humorous voice, He said, "But: this time. . . ?"

"I think I will be staying about another three weeks."

"GOOD! And come back very soon!"

* * *

What I have related here is primarily my own experience of Club Rat, which marked a profound initiation, transformation, and deepening in my relationship with my Beloved Guru, through His "Crazy Wise" play,[2] and through the sometimes heart-meltingly sweet human expression of His infinite Divine Love (which I have tried to capture here, word by word, so that you can get a feeling for it). No doubt many other devotees can add to this story their own extraordinary experiences of Club Rat, and how it deepened their relationship with Adi Da.[3] But from Adi Da's all-encompassing perspective, His final postscript on Club Rat was this: the day after Club Rat's opening, He informed us that, rather than being the start of an extended gathering period, Club Rat was to be "dismantled", because "the events of the previous night could never be equalled".

Club Rat (Hymns To Me): July, 2012
"Club Rat" (Hymns To Me): July, 2012


This story appears in
Crazy Wisdom and
Adidam and Music

For related stories by the author, read The Devotee Feeds the Guru, and the Guru Feeds the Devotee and No Pity for Him!.

[1] Adi Da used the phrase "get down" as a reminder for us to incarnate whole bodily (rather than being a "point" in the head, refusing to "get down" below the head) engaging the practice of conducting energy down the frontal line of the body, among other things. He often would have us dance with each other in front of Him, to engage this whole bodily practice of incarnation, while maintaining our attention on transforming each moment into Divine Communion with Him "Dance for God! Dance for Happiness, not for sex!", He would sometimes call out to us.

"Getting down" was also a reference to a life-positive disposition toward money, food, and sex (oriented toward converting moments involving money, food, and sex into moments of Divine Communion), rather than a puritanical or ascetic disposition.


Read our Crazy Wisdom section for much more about this.

One key point is that Adi Da's use of "Crazy Wise" means to serve His devotees' growth in practice was always a temporary modality He used, on special occasions. "This is not a way of life!" He would often remind us during such gatherings, referring to any accessories (such as alcohol or cigarettes) that He might be drawing upon to help open us to His Transmission. (This admonition was aimed, in part, at devotees who would then continue the use of such accessories outside the special, Divinely transformed context of these gatherings with Him.) Similarly, His play of having us dress in exaggerated fashion, play "raunchy" rock music, or pose as "skanks" and "whores", was a non-ascetic, non-puritanical, life-positive means He used for helping to free up our energy and attention, so that He could work with it. "Dramatization is less mediocre than suppression", as He once put it. But His ultimate intent, through use of this temporary, "Crazy Wise" modality, was to shift us from (1) to (3), via (2):

  1. Complicated, double-minded, egoic characters, whose energy and attention was completely bound up in largely unconscious rounds of self-suppression and self-indulgence. (This description pretty much covers most Westerners.)

    You could direct such a character to take up a practice of contemplating the Divine, but nothing much would come of it, because there just wasn't enough free energy and attention available for such a character to actually locate the Divine in every moment. Such characters' attention and energy was always unconsciously gravitating to money, food, and sex even if you dropped them in an absolutely quiet, dark meditation hall with no stimulation around (not the slightest bit of money, food, and sex in the vicinity), they'd still have visions of money, food, and sex.

  2. Human beings with somewhat freer energy and attention, based on greater self-understanding about their complex of mostly suppressed, occasionally indulged impulses and forms of seeking.

  3. Devotees whose energy and attention were immersed in the Divine, based on sufficient self-understanding, sufficiently free energy and attention (because of self-understanding), and recognition of Adi Da as the Divine.

Back in 1972, Adi Da tried shifting devotees directly from (1) to (3) with a pure and highly disciplined form of practice, whose focus was contemplation of the Divine Guru, supported by dietary and other disciplines. But He discovered (during the period from 1972 to 1974) that this approach just didn't work for characters of type (1) in other words, all His devotees, at the time. Hence He initiated the "Teaching Years" (from 1974 to 1986), which used "Crazy Wise" means to free up devotees' energy and attention. With His Divine Emergence in 1986, which greatly magnified the Force of the Divine pouring out through His human body, the need for such "Crazy Wise" means, and the "in between" stage (2), was greatly reduced, because the sheer force of the Divine could now serve to un-complicate devotees (or "un-fracture" them — the beautiful word Adi Da uses to describe the power of recognition of Him as the Divine, in the Ruchira Avatara Gita). Nonetheless, because only a relative few devotees were intelligent enough to make good use of the great advantage represented by that Divine Emergence, Adi Da would now and then still engage the "Crazy Wise" modality, to liberate our energy and attention and turn it to Him, as the "Club Rat" story (1992) illustrates.

Nothing Adi Da did when He was in "Crazy Wise" mode reflected on Who He is. As he put it, "What I do is not the way that I Am, but the way that I teach. What I speak is not a reflection of Me, but of you." For example, during Club Rat, he "forbade" classical music, and encouraged "raunchy" rock music. But when alone, He extensively listened to classical music (and other sattvic forms of music) and almost never listened to rock music! His calling for rock music was not for Him but for us to loosen us up, where we really were at. On the other hand, if we cooperated with that "Crazy Wise" process, and entered into Divine Communion with Him, then He no longer needed to be in "Crazy Wise" mode, and could just express the Divine directly (but humanly), as this story illustrates.

[3] Please do send me your stories, so I can add them to this account!

Adi Da was enjoying playing with the phrase, "unfinished business", here. "Handle all unfinished business" was a standing admonition He gave to all devotees. It was a metaphor for everything one must do to most perfectly transcend "self" in God:

You must handle all business. I have known this all my life. I have always worked to handle business with everyone. In fact I have always worked to help other people handle business with one another. I have always handled business with my mother and father, but also worked to help them handle business with one another, however much they could. I have handled business. I insist upon handling business, and always have. You should do likewise. You must handle business. The residual effects must stop affecting you. You must notice what is affecting you. In one fashion or another, through the instrumentality of Truth itself, you must handle business. Even at a later date. You must. You cannot continue to grow, you cannot move on until you handle this business. Until there is nothing left over, nothing unforgiven, nothing unspoken, nothing unthought. You must be physically, emotionally, and mentally purified of memory, of insult, of moments of pain and separation. You must be. You can make great leaps in that process, because Truth is a great force, but nonetheless you must endure it.

Notice everything, be insulted, notice every insult, be sensitive to everything. This has always been my policy. I suffer everything. I relieve myself of nothing. This body will not die with unfinished business, absolutely none, for its sake and I am not even it. For your sake, for the sake of the peace of Truth, for the sake of the inheritance you must receive whole, I will not allow this body to die with any unfinished business. Therefore, I deal with it every day, every moment, am sensitive to every gesture, too sensitive perhaps. But it is not too much, considered from the point of view of Wisdom. One must be sensitive, and do the work.

You kill yourself with it but you must die from something, so die from the work, die from sadhana, die from Truth, die from nothing less than the Truth. Invest yourself in the Truth absolutely. Handle all business. Exhaust yourself in the process. It is better than nothing. It is better than failure, and it is at least on the way to Realization.

The more business you accomplish, the closer you are to Realization. What is Realization anyway but That which is Inherently, and therefore That which is Realized when all business is handled? When there is no more business, then you Stand Free. Until all business is handled, you have business to do. There is no getting around it, no matter how much you idealize it. Therefore, be sensitive, and get down to it every day.

Be mad with it, as I am. You see my Sign every day, my Demonstration, handling business every moment, every day, as if there were no more days.

Avatar Adi Da Samraj, "Unfinished Business"


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.

Technical problems with our site? Let our webmaster know.