GURU RATING: 2/ 5 (QUESTIONABLE)
Adi Da Samraj, born Franklin Albert Jones on November 3, 1939 on Long Island, New York was an American spiritual teacher, writer and museum curated artist.
During his lifetime, he established a new religion called Adidam, which came to emphasize worship of his bodily and “spiritual form.” Through this worship, Adi Da claimed that devotees could receive his purifying spiritual transmission and awaken to higher states of consciousness.
Adi Da taught and received students from 1970 until his death in 2008, and was known by a variety of self-appointed names, including: Bubba Free John, Da Free John, etc.
Adi Da: a spiritual transmission master
Adidam is based on a tradition of Siddha Yoga, a spiritual path founded by the Indian guru Muktananda. Note that Siddha Yoga as it’s referred to here should not be confused with the spiritual path given by meditation teacher Gurumayi Chidvilasananda – a controversial guru in her own right.
As his teaching changed and evolved over the years, Adi Da came to emphasize spiritual transmission as the only viable spiritual path to enlightenment. But what is this spiritual transmission exactly? It’s in his autobiography, The Knee of Listening, is where we come closest to understanding this transmission he speaks of.
In his own words:
“Even as a baby, I remember only crawling around inquisitively with a boundless Feeling of Joy, Light, and Freedom in the middle of my head that was bathed in Energy moving unobstructed in a Circle — down from above, all the way down, then up, all the way up, and around again — and always Shining from my heart.
And I was a Radiant Form — the Source of Energy, Love-Bliss and Light in the midst of a world that is entirely Energy, Love-Bliss and Light. I was the power of Reality, a direct Enjoyment and Communication of the One Reality. I was the Heart Itself, who Lightens the mind and all things.
I was the same as every one and every thing, except it became clear that others were apparently unaware of the “Thing” Itself. — Adi Da Samraj, “The Knee of Listening”
Adi Da’s teaching methods
Accordingly, Adi Da’s teaching work emphasized the transmission of this energy, or the “Bright,” to individuals in his presence. He was known for being able to induce a range of non-ordinary states of consciousness in both devotees and non-devotees alike.
While his ability to transmit the Shakti was notable, his teachings are similar to many eastern religions which view enlightenment and transcendence of human incarnation as the primary goal of life. But it was his personal charisma and ability to connect with people at a deep emotional level that enabled him to attract a following of devotees from all walks of life.
Even back in the ‘70s, Alan Watts proclaimed, “It looks like we have an avatar here.” And yet, under the surface of Adi Da’s rising star, were the beginnings of a hidden, self-indulgent lifestyle that would become the source of much public criticism and scrutiny.
Adi Da: a master of controversy
Today, a quick Web search will unearth a tranche of websites, links and documents that reveal a side to Adi Da that is less than savory. These sources are rife with accounts of drunken parties, questionable “teaching methods,” and sexual abuse of reluctant participants.
Adi Da often referred to his teaching methods as “crazy wisdom,” an ancient non-sectarian teaching style within Tibetan Buddhism. A teacher of crazy wisdom challenges the stereotypical image of holiness through contradictory behavior.
While he claimed these activities were for the “benefit of devotees,” some on the receiving end have recounted feeling exploited and abused. The jury is still out on this, as some vehemently defend his teaching methods as beneficial and others don’t.
In 1983, Adi Da decamped from the U.S. – and away from the glare of the public spotlight – to the Fijian island of Naitauba, purchased by a wealthy devotee. Although he made several trips back to the U.S. after this, he considered Naitauba his primary home for the rest of his life.
Opinions of Adi Da vary greatly
People seem to be highly polarized in regards to their opinion of Adi Da. Either he’s the greatest Avatar of all time and the most enlightened being to ever walk the planet – or he is a megalomaniacal narcissist, albeit with a genius level intelligence. The truth lies somewhere in the middle.
For those who can’t make up their mind either way, including many devotees who left the community disillusioned, they are often left feeling a deep, unsettling inner conflict about the man they had once loved, or even continue to love on some level.
The dilemma is basically this:
On the one hand, the spiritual transmission and awakenings they experienced at times were undeniable. And on the other hand, they just can’t abide with the facts about Adi Da’s self-indulgent, decadent lifestyle which included frequent drug use and sexual activity with hundreds of women. They are left feeling confused and unable to reconcile the apparent contradictions of Adi Da’s nature as both guru and human being.
Our verdict on Adi Da
Adi Da the man remains a complex puzzle that can’t ever be truly solved. If you’re looking for a spiritual teacher or guru, Adi Da may be a polarizing choice.
His early teachings contain a treasure trove of valuable information and insight into human nature on what it means to live a truly spiritually awakened life as a heart-centered human being. His later teachings are much more obtuse and may only appeal to a very select audience.
And we strongly warn against becoming a full-fledged member of the Adidam community, as it exhibits a disturbingly high level of authoritarian controls towards its devotees. Unless you like being controlled down to the details of what to eat for lunch, your sexuality, your finances and what to think and feel, stay away from becoming a formal devotee.
Perhaps it’s notable to mention that in his later years, Adi Da said that his teaching work had completely “failed,” and that only his transmission was of lasting value. As an ex-devotee once said, Adi Da would give you “just enough rope to hang yourself.” So, don’t even take the rope!
Further, the usefulness of his overall approach of spiritual transmission through guru worship does not seem to have produced any enlightened beings to date.
That said, many feel that their contact with him has been valuable to their spiritual understanding of life and existence. It’s for this reason we give Adi Da a questionable 2 out of 5 rating.
“The true guru will never humiliate you, nor will he estrange you from yourself. He will constantly bring you back to the fact of your inherent perfection and encourage you to seek within. He knows you need nothing, not even him, and is never tired of reminding you. But the self-appointed guru is more concerned with himself than with his disciples.” –Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981), I Am That, Dialogue 83, Dec. 18, 1971