Like a plant bathed in Divine
D.B. Sleeth, Ph.D.
What follows is the story of my meeting Adi Da
It was a difficult winter for me. Someone very dear spent the months with me
considering whether they should commit suicide. In the end, they didn’t do it,
and I was glad. But we were not unalike, and I had to face the unwelcome truth:
there was no way that I would survive.
Life simply wasn’t set up for me. At the
time, I was a returning student; confused, alone, and just about completely fed
up. I was a little too old for college life and didn’t fit in very well. But
then, I had never fit in anywhere all that well. I was used to being alone; it
was my choice, in fact. I had arranged for it. Life had not treated me kindly,
in my estimation, and I was paying it back.
However, this arrangement was not proving to be all that satisfactory. Things
were not working out well and, worse, I couldn’t find anyone to take the blame.
In fact, the world seemed indifferent to my strategy. That was the truth of it:
the effectiveness of my revenge was that no one seemed to notice. But I was not
about to give in.
Yet, life made no sense. I had become a success…at suffering.
I was consumed by loneliness, precisely because I was having things my own way.
Life suddenly seemed so tenuous. Little appeared to stand between me and a bad
end. I could feel life slipping through my fingers. Even more than the pain, my
suffering frightened me. I could see where it was headed. I knew I had to
So, I quit smoking, just to prove I meant business. And I developed my physique
by working out, to improve my self-esteem. And I returned to school—to study
religion, philosophy, and, later, psychology. It was my intent to benefit from
the wisdom of my culture. I was turning to it for answers. I even thought that
it might save me. But there was no remedy for what ailed me.
I had always taken
it for granted that our lives were founded on truth. It never occurred to me
that anyone would settle for less. But so much had been written of no use. A
staggering edifice had evolved, in fact—the gesture of our genius. And it kept
me busy! My mind throbbed with points of view.
Yet, no matter how ingenious,
very little of it was convincing. In fact, it seemed there was a good chance the
argument itself was all that mattered. Complexity and obscurity passed hands
like a ritual. As much as I needed to believe in them, this much was painfully
clear: they were only guessing.
This discovery left me shaken and at a loss. I felt betrayed by ambiguity, and
abandoned by ambition. There was so much to consider. Looking back, the
situation seems perfectly suited to ripen me, prepare me for the spiritual
encounter that was to come. The first half of what Adi Da calls the
dual-sensitivity had firmly settled into place. He speaks as follows about
dual-sensitivity, which stands at the origin of spiritual life:
If you were not preoccupied with all the things you use to console and indulge
yourself…you would inevitably become sensitized to your real situation…you
would, necessarily, become aware that you are afraid…. Of course, you do not
want to experience fear, you do not want to experience loss, sorrow, and
separation, you do not want to experience any lack of pleasure at all—you do not
want to suffer. Yet, really, all of these unwanted conditions are inevitable.
However, you are also more than merely afraid—you want True Happiness. To want
True Happiness is inherent in your heart, in your deepest disposition of
body-mind. Yet, what you are always doing in this mortal circumstance is
effectively (and, altogether, experientially) cutting you off from yielding to
your inherent and great heart-Impulse (and from the fulfillment of that
Impulse)…. I Affirm and Confirm to you, on the Firm Basis of actual (and
Eternal) Realization, that There Is the Infinite, Satisfactory, Unchanging,
Eternal, Divine Condition, and that It Is the One and Only True Happiness…
At this point, I was deeply, irrevocably convinced of the first prong of the
dual-sensitivity. I also believe the ordeal of my life thus far served two
purposes: to soften me up and disentangle me. There is a real sense in which a
spiritual aspirant must be an outlaw, that is, willing to live outside the
constraints and polite contracts of society.
If the first part of the
dual-sensitivity leads to the second part, Adi Da calls it positive
disillusionment, because it dispels the illusions imparting suffering—and allows
the reality of love and happiness to be the case instead. So long as one is
hardened against this possibility, actively pursuing love and happiness in a
realm where suffering is inevitable, the outcome is inherently futile and
self-defeating. What could be more clear? Only a lifetime of ignorance, faulty
advice, and bad choices stood between me and this realization.
During this time, I would catch the bus home a couple of blocks from the
University. It was down the street from the main avenue of the district, which
was a popular viaduct for the swarm of students busy with their own budding
careers. A covered kiosk nestled at the bus-stop, out of the way and sheltered.
It was a favorite spot of mine. After the demand and disillusionment of school,
you could take it easy until the bus came. It was a place to catch your breath,
to stand and lean up against the wall, maybe just glance around.
Outside the kiosk there was a telephone pole, clearly visible through the
window. One day I noticed a poster tacked up on the pole. It displayed the
photograph of a lively, younger man. His face was boyish, round, and soft. He
was leaning forward, intense. His expression was lavish, full of anticipation.
He held up a clenched fist that was positioned in the photograph exactly at his
chin, which created the impression to me of thoughtfulness. He seemed both
having just transgressed some secret boundary and on the verge of doing so. He
was an outrageous contradiction, and immensely attractive. He seemed so happy. I
wanted to know the reason why.
Intrigued, I stepped out from the kiosk to get a better look. But what I
discovered was completely unexpected and discordant. I read the print beneath
the picture, which contained quotes and a description about him. I learned about
his self-proclaimed enlightened state and discovered that he went by the name of
Da Free John—which was apparently his choice.
It was appalling. I was offended,
not only by the magnitude of his claims but also the sheer preposterousness of
his name. Looking back at his picture again in disbelief, I noticed the
boyishness and the longish, casually brushed back hair. I immediately felt duped
and wondered why I hadn’t seen it from the start. Obviously, he was just another
Californian beach-boy on the take, trying to make it by passing off his hustle
with good looks and charm. It seemed so obvious. I couldn’t believe I had almost
fallen for it.
Everyday I would return to the kiosk to catch my bus and reprise this ritual.
Catching a glimpse out of the corner of my eye, I would instinctively lean
toward him, immediately attracted. But, then, I’d catch myself. I’d shake my
head and look at his picture again. “Who was he trying to kid?” I’d ask in
amazement. For days this went on. I’d look over at his picture, again and again.
It started to get annoying. “Who was he trying to kid?” I’d ask myself in
disbelief. I was not fooled.
But, I was followed. His image began to appear in my mind, away from the kiosk.
On the bus home, I could see his face out the window. It was an image in which
he was beside himself with joy and laughing, but I had no idea why. In class, I
couldn’t concentrate. I would think of him, forget about the professor.
knew this wasn’t normal. I wondered what his intentions were. It started to go
beyond annoying. I began to really worry and wondered what I should do. Finally,
I developed a plan. Committing myself, I made a decision: right after class, I
would have it out with him.
I bounded down the steps to the University and headed toward the kiosk. I felt
relieved, my course firmly in hand. I approached confidently, eager to put this
episode behind me. When I arrived, I strode directly up to his poster,
determined. There was no turning back when we squared off: eye to eye, body to
I scanned the boundaries of his face first, but found nothing there, nothing to
indicate the incredible fascination he held for me. I overlooked his smile
intentionally, not to be so easily undone. I was determined to learn his secret,
knowing that any fool can spread his mouth, and many do, but this was too
important to take any chances. So, I was careful, and scrutinized his eyes. I
was not about to be denied. Something was going to be revealed, certain that you
can’t hide lies in the eyes.
At first I was puzzled. His expression conveyed a wildness and unrestraint that
didn’t seem revealed in his eyes alone. The lids were arched and poised around
his pupils in serene curves, exactingly precise. They laid upon the arc of each
eyeball unconcerned, almost indifferent.
No effort was present to suggest the
intensity that radiated from them. On the one hand, they appeared flung open,
unabashed, wildly tossed asunder. Yet, at the same time, they seemed rested,
immaculate, in repose. No mistake: there was much paradox in those eyes.
Standing there, I was perplexed for some time. The sheer fact that it was
enjoyable was curious. After a while, a realization occurred that was completely
unexpected. It suddenly struck me, their cause. Those eyes were open. Not just
lifted, or raised—but open.
No pinch of skin in them showed a trace of
suffering, as might be said of the sag brought on by taut ropes, pulling against
a tent canvas. No, they were open, unfettered and aloft, devoid of any sense of
aversion. I was captivated by a remarkable activity taking place in those eyes.
Tissue spread, soft and fluid.
Passing in this opening, the eyes emerged, rising
like bubbles, unrestrained, forcing the water at its surface—suddenly free. Like
secrets on display, abrupt and naked, they came pouring out. Their innocence was
shocking, eagerly shouldering their way through mystery, explicit as birth.
I stared in amazement. Such odd eyes could not happen by chance, I was certain.
Eyes that open happen, not by force or effort but by the sheer courage and
unimaginable suffering that will see anything—immune to preference, vulnerable,
exposed. In the presence of eyes like these, all is revealed, there could be no
These eyes had to have looked upon truth. They were welcoming, earnest,
uncompromised. No doubt or fear had settled in, serving to occlude them. Rather,
they were unwary and at ease, forthright, wiped clean. Without the slightest
hesitation, they yielded. They accepted the world implicitly, with no regrets,
willingly shaped in the phases of its vicissitude.
I marveled at these eyes, even happy to be amazed! Then a starling realization
came. Clearly, he had seen—in fact, was seeing now. The face in the poster
seemed to literally come alive. I could feel his presence, a person standing in
front of me—looking at me. His eyes were a gauge of regard, rapt with notice. I
felt gripped in their gaze. They were insistent, assertive.
They would not go
away. And the implications of this realization were enormous. Allowed into his
sphere of sacrifice, I felt a profound debt: to share the company of one so
great requires greatness in turn. I was overwhelmed. But there was no way to
resist. I was taken over by the sheer capacity that had been accomplished in
those eyes. They broke in on me, relentless with integrity.
I stepped back. This was far more than I had bargained for. Casting about, I
sought any crease or fold, any misplaced edge of feature with which to question
what I had just seen and clearly perceived. I tried, but it was a wasted effort.
Undaunted, his face dared the truth. Having endured so much in his ordeal of
honesty, I could not deny him now. I saw his smile anew, dimpled, a dent of
inquiry hanging in anticipation.
There was so much to understand. Laid open and
impertinent and vulnerable as a wound, his mouth waited, ready, crooked by the
easy delight of the obvious. Full of warmth and quizzical whimsy, he gave the
secret away. And that, too, was the secret—that it was given away. It was a
mouth playing songs of laughter, formidable and sweet.
At this point, the second prong of the dual-sensitivity came clearly into focus.
My awareness was in a swirl, sifting me out of any sense of my usual frame of
reference. All I could notice was the gentle intensity of this face, reaching
out to me from the poster. It was the same as a living being, and that
relationship brought with it certain responsibilities. There was no way I could
be casual about it.
Something inexplicable and ecstatic was taking place. I
deeply felt the presence of love, lifting me out of my place in this world,
transporting me to another domain entirely. And in it, all was relieved. I was
utterly beside myself with gratitude and delight! Nothing remained, except the
willingness of my surge toward its embrace.
Startling and exquisite, the truth is clear: God is here, alive and among us,
realized in His human form as the Sat-Guru, the World Teacher of the Heart—the
Ruchira Avatar, Adi Da Samraj. No honest man could deny those eyes.
Out of intimacy, integrity; out of integrity, truth. The mind casts its shadow,
but the Heart shines; it has its own reasons. The mind is a fool; yet, even so,
love is not fooled. Truth leaves its trail. No mistake: I say it now, as I said
“Those are the eyes of an Enlightened man.”
The following is the picture that appeared on the poster, the cover of the first
book written by Adi Da Samraj, The Knee of Listening, which is his spiritual
autobiography. The Knee of Listening has been revised and is available in print
What follows is the story of my miraculous healing by Adi Da Samraj:
It is common for devotees of Adi Da Samraj to go on meditation retreats in his
company. Especially auspicious are meditation retreats that take place on the
Hermitage Sanctuary of Adidam in Fiji, an island we purchased many years ago. On
my first retreat to Fiji, I felt unprepared.
I never thought I would even have
the opportunity to go on such a retreat, feeling so unqualified a spiritual
aspirant. Growing up, I even scoffed at religion, regarding it to be a crutch,
if not, as Freud said, “a regression to infantile wish fulfillment.” Yet, there
I was, on a bus crossing the island that would finally bring me to our Hermitage
Sanctuary, and to my Beloved Guru’s Feet. I had certainly come a long way to
take this ride.
Looking out the window, I considered the enormous demand of spiritual practice,
especially relative to the impending personal encounter with my Guru. I saw the
rolling jungle hillsides off in the distance and had a quizzical idea pop into
my head: Geronimo was waiting for me in the hills!
This odd pairing of tropical
jungle and desert mesas seemed a perfect mix, for I had always attributed to
Geronimo an uncanny, even shamanistic ability to outwit his captures and live
off of an otherwise inhospitable land. To me, this was possible because of his
unwavering spiritual integrity, an inviolable submission to truth and reality
that granted him other-worldly powers—exactly what you would expect from a Guru.
I looked up into those hills and imagined my Guru waiting for me
there—specifically to impose an inhuman regime of purification and
transformation, a rite of passage into a greater sense of maturity and humanity.
Yet, I was not frightened. I was elated! And I was oddly relieved. For once, no
one could see through me as an imposter. I knew I was unqualified and
undeserving—consequently, there could be no expectations.
None of that mattered.
It was simply my time to confront the Divine. In the end, we all must take our
turn. I made a commitment to submit myself to whatever awaited me, and receive
whatever was Given. No matter what it would be perfect for me, I reasoned, if
for no other reason than I was given over to receiving it.
Many events occurred before the healing actually took place. But the spiritual
encounter with Adi Da is the focus of this story. I was in a room built
especially for the type of spiritual transmission I was about to receive. It was
a Darshan hall, where the Guru sits and can be viewed by their devotees.
However, in this process, the Guru is not merely put on display, such that
others can look at them. Rather, Darshan involves the process of spiritual
transmission, whereby the Guru’s own spiritual realization is momentarily
imparted to the devotee.
The modern mind tends to conceive of energy as channeled through complex,
inanimate objects, like orbiting satellites, electric generators, automobile
engines, and similar devices. Every household abounds with knobs and switches by
which people manipulate the invisible power transmitted through these conduits.
However, what makes spiritual transmission special is that it can be directed
through living objects, such as human beings. Adi Da describes the significance
of this process as follows:
There may be all kinds of spontaneous psycho-physical phenomena that arise in
response to My Descending Spiritual Invasion—dance, kriyas [spontaneous
movements], mudras [spontaneous gestures], weeping, laughing, speaking, profound
speechlessness, profound mindlessness, profound blisses, and so on. Such
phenomena are not My Divine Truth (Itself), but they are purifying.
In any case,
they are not something to either seek or hold on to. Their great significance is
not even in the purification of the body-mind. Their great significance is,
simply, in your devotional Communion with Me. In this heart-opening to My
Spiritual Fullness, you will feel Me Pervading your entire body, and many things
may happen (in your body-mind, and in your daily life) as a result (or as an
effect) of My Spiritual Blessing-Invasion of your body-mind.
The point of the Guru/devotee relationship is the awakening of the devotee to a
heightened sense of spiritual reality. It is a physics of transformation. The
Guru literally enters the devotee, via their spiritual transmission. As a
result, the Guru and devotee share in a mutual ecstasy. It is an intimate,
auspicious bond between them, through which the Guru’s blessings pour.
To enter into the company of a realizer is to be in the presence of one active
at every level of their being. They are literally a composite being, vibrant and
radiant. In their company, odd quirks and skips can take place in one’s feeling,
in dimensions of one’s being they might not have known even existed.
little percolations begin to burble, indeed, often spilling over and saturating
one’s ordinary categories of understanding, perhaps even forcing them to
scramble to keep up. It is undeniable! Step into their sphere and, suddenly,
amazing things begin to happen. It is more than just merely coincidental, not to
say incidental. The spiritual master intends for it to happen, offering themself
precisely in this way for the benefit of their devotees.
Sometimes, the nature of the spiritual invasion is pure, radiant bliss, which I
have also experienced at the hands of my Guru. But on this occasion, the
spiritual transmission took the form of a miraculous healing, in which profound
purification unexpectedly took place. Often, there is chanting and recitations
in preparation for Darshan.
Pujas are also frequently performed in advance of
the Guru’s arrival, whereby the presence of the Divine is invoked through the
waving of lights and incense in front of the dais and the Guru’s chair. On this
occasion, a devotee was particularly immersed in the activity of invocation,
circling a candle around the chair with wild exuberance, beside herself with
adoration of Adi Da and lavishing his name in praise. I was utterly taken by her
devotion and closed my eyes, attempting to immerse myself in the same abandoned
I could feel Adi Da’s extraordinary spiritual presence enter by body almost
immediately, even before he actually arrived at the hall. I noticed unusual
sensations occurring in my hands. A tingling feeling began to take place, like
the scruffy prickling of bees crawling over my fingers. Before long the
intensity of this sensation increased, such that the swarming energy extended
out beyond the surface of my hands.
It was like wearing mittens made of bees.
And more than that, they were stinging me all over in the most unusual way—their
little punctures imparted intense bliss! An utterly exquisite pleasure came over
me, undulating on my hands in a startling and rapid boil. And it was
preposterous, located in my hands, of all places! For some reason, I found this
Soon, the sensation expanded even further, enveloping my belly. It was like
being afloat in an inner tube, buoyed in a swarm of bliss-rendering bees, all of
whom mingling in the bulge around my torso. I thought of myself as the Michelin
Man, the cartoon mascot of a famous tire manufacturer, and found this imagery
Caught up in this ecstatic pleasure, I was unable to focus
attention on any other activity taking place in the hall. In fact, I never even
noticed Adi Da arrive at the hall or enter the room and take his seat on the
dais, even though it was no more than a few feet from where I sat.
After awhile, the sensation died away and I was again able to notice events
taking place in the room. Others were having similar experiences, judging by the
weeping, moaning, and various whoops of laughter and joyous exclaims of praise
to Adi Da. However, a series of grim events quickly followed.
All at once, an
intense sorrow welled up within me. I had no idea what might be prompting this
incredible grief, but I was heart-stricken with deep longing and loneliness. I
was utterly beside myself, like one might see on the news of peasant women in
war ravaged countries, overcome by the sight of loved ones either maimed or
I began to wail out loud, at the top of my lungs, out of the most desperate and
overwhelming loss. It seemed to me that I was directly experiencing the true
state of my being, as lived in this body. A horrific image suddenly appeared in
my mind: my heart was a still-born baby, buried deep inside my chest like a
corpse. I wailed over this death like a tormented mother, caught in the clutch
of a brutal world dragging off her young. I threw my arms toward the sky in
And I bowed to the floor, again and again, utterly yielding myself
to the anguish. Toward the end of the sobbing, something began to squirm in my
belly. At first, it felt like cramps, but the clench quickly became more active
than that. It began to squeeze repeatedly, like a pile of miniature pistons
churning in my belly. And more—it began working its way up through my torso,
eventually into my throat.
Suddenly, I was howling with utter abandon. However, it was different from the
previous supplicant wailing. I was more indifferent, like an innocent by-stander
to the guttural howling suddenly emerging from within. Yet, at the same time, it
was intensely personal. The sounds felt torn from my intestines, and sent
scuttling out through my lungs in a gruff and horrific shriek.
It was obvious to
me that something was being pulled out from of the depths of my being, perhaps
even demonic. I could literally feel the blackness, coarse and oily, like a
mechanic’s rag, passing through my throat. Beyond any doubt, I was being
purified of some horrible foulness which I could not even name.
Shortly after that, I was sent into a convulsion of uncontrollable spasms. I
began to flop around on the floor like a fish on the dock, my arms and legs
flailing, which was unfortunate for the devotees around me. The spiritual energy
that moved through me was a dynamo, recklessly twisting me askew, like a sheet
in the wind.
But I was oblivious to any possible repercussions. Anything other
than the spiritual transmission seemed irrelevant, utterly beside the point. I
had come to “go the distance” with my Guru, no matter what. I refused to back
out, determined to hold up my end, nevermind having no idea what this might
At some point the intense seizure passed, leaving me spent on the floor. Yet, I
was inexplicably transfixed in calm and serenity. Despite being exhausted, a
surprising equanimity came over me. At last, I was able to pull myself from the
floor and sit upright. I looked at my Guru.
Watching him in that moment was
probably the most deeply in love I have ever been. I was overwhelmed with the
most heart-breaking, ecstatic intimacy with him. There was an unspoken, tacit
understanding between us that we were in this together, each doing our part: him
granting the most exquisite spiritual transmission imaginable, and me doing
everything in my power to keep up.
Even as the room was erupting on all sides in
a bedlam of spiritual purification, he sat unperturbed and serene, overseeing
the event with sublime mastery. It was amazing to consider how his direct
encounter with the spiritual aspects of our beings allowed him to so
dramatically influence us, while remaining so peaceful and at ease, seemingly
without even moving a muscle.
I was so happy. It was utterly unimaginable. It was the happiest, wildest bedlam
in all the world. I felt relieved of burdens beyond my wildest imagination, all
the while bobbing in a menagerie of other spiritual transmission equally
blessed. While giving Darshan in this manner, Adi Da would scan the room with
his eyes, turning his head slightly in order to look at each and every devotee.
When his eyes met mine, I gazed into them intently, hoping to communicate in
some way my heart-broken love. I felt so innocent and vulnerable, like a baby
ready to be gathered into his mother’s arms. There was no question he had saved
my life—and while simply sitting in his chair! As I gazed lovingly into his
eyes, I noticed that his own gaze lingered.
And then it became obvious: as long
as my love for him persisted, he could not withhold his own regard. Clearly,
this was the secret of spirituality: the devotee giving love to his Guru—not
only unabashed, but unabated—in supreme gratitude for the Blessings that have
Finally, it was more than I could bear, and he looked away. Some time after this
event, I began to notice something very strange in my posture while I was
walking. All my life I had maintained a posture that was slightly bent over, in
deference, I had always presumed, to the abuse received while growing up.
put, I had grown up wary and quick to cover, so as to deflect any blows coming
my way. Although not always that conscious of it, I was aware of a grip
clenching in my belly—not my physical torso but, rather, my etheric belly, or
naval chakra. Yet, now I could walk upright, without cowering. It was amazing!
All my life I have felt the presence of this contracted sensation, in the manner
of a lesion or a scar, literally sucking my body downward like a twisted rag.
But, now, it was gone. Its absence was a stunning revelation. I felt free,
unburdened of enormous stress and anxiety. The lesion had been purified and
healed. It was a blessing beyond any comparison—certainly beyond anything I have
ever received by human hand.
It is only from the point of this miraculous healing that I can honestly say I
have finally been able to love. Throughout my life I have struggled with
entering into and sustaining relationships. In fact, my daily experience had
been one of intense anxiety and loneliness, with the certainty that even my best
efforts would come to no result.
Consequently, I lived a life of ever increasing
despair, finally reaching proportions that honestly scared me. Simply put, my
Guru healed me. I bow my head at His Divine Feet, ecstatic to worship Him. He is
the most Beautiful and Sublime Vision I could ever possibly imagine.
There is no
question in my mind that I am among the most fortunate of people, somehow sifted
out of humanity to be Blessed by His Company. How something so wonderful could
happen is a pure mystery. Make no mistake: Adi Da Samraj is the Divine Being,
alive among us in human form. Like a plant bathed in Divine Light, it is only
toward Him that I turn.