7 stages of life – Seven stages of life – Laughing Man Magazine



In the seventh stage of life, all the liabilities of Man
are transcended through radical Intuition of the Radiant
Transcendental Consciousness, the Free Condition of the
world and the body-mind.
The Way of Translation of Man into God –
7: The Enlightenment of the Whole

The seventh stage(s) of life must become a laughing
matter, along with all the rest of your body and all its
stages of growth. You must get the seven(th)… joke(s),
which is the body itself, the last laugh. That joke is
eternal and its Humor is infinite Bliss.


Whereas the sixth stage of life is characterized by
inversion upon the essential being or, inherence in the root
of the self, the seventh stage coincides with what Master Da
Free John calls perfect self-transcendence, the Awakening of
the Eternal Self in the Total Field of Being
Consciousness-Happiness, the all-pervading “Is.” This
all-inclusive Realization characterizes the enlightened
disposition of all Great Adepts.

Master Da describes this Awakening as the transcendence
of attention. The first six stages represent a play on, or
fixation of, attention either to external or internal
objects or, as in the sixth stage, upon the root of
attention or individual consciousness (“atman”).

In the following aphoristic essay, Master Da delineates
the nature of this ultimate seventh stage Awakening in and
as the omnipresent, omnitemporal Divine Self.

The Divine Self or Radiant Transcendental Being is not
a center or a point, nor is It in a place or location. It is
the Condition of all centers, points, or locations.

Attention is the primary convention of manifest
identity. It is always associated with a center, a point, or
a locus, whether it is turned without or within. Realization
of the Divine Self-Condition is a matter of the
transcendence of attention, or all the conventions of
centers, points, and locations. It is a matter of
recognizing all conditions of attention in the prior
Condition of their arising.

Attention is tending to fabricate and identify itself
with (or over against) a center or centers or points or
locations inside or outside the body-mind. The process of
the Way is a matter of transcending the effects, or the
limiting power, or the tendency of identification associated
with the conventional activity of attention.

First of all, there must be a reestablishment of
equanimity, or freedom of energy and attention from the
binding power and illusions due to the contracting tendency
that is the ego (or the presumed self-center of the
body-mind). This is the occupation in the developing stages
of the Way. But, ultimately, there must be recognition of
the self-center itself and of all the arising perceptions or
conceptions of centers, points, or locations of awareness.
In such recognition, which is fundamental to the disposition
of the seventh stage of life, there is native abiding or
inherence in the Condition of Radiant Transcendental Being,;
prior to all identification or limiting association with the
conventions of attention. Such is the Bliss-Freedom of
Radiant Transcendental Being, or Ultimate Identity. And that
Bliss-Freedom Outshines, Transfigures, and Transforms even
the bodymind when there is no contraction upon the separate
and illusory self-principle of the


Master Da often refers to two phases of the ultimate
Awakening of the Self in God, to which he applies the
technical terms “Sahaj Samadhi” and “Bhava Samadhi”
respectively, which he defines more specifically as

Sahaj Samadhi is the inherently Free State. There is
no ultimate struggle in that State. All seeking has been
transcended in Realization. Therefore, action is no longer
bound to the conventions of seeking and mortal dilemma.
Action becomes either remarkably spontaneous (and,
therefore, particularly in the case of “Crazy Adepts,”
sometimes unconventional) or at least expressive of prior
Freedom (even though it may be devoted to an apparent
creative struggle in the world, for the sake of apparently
un-Enlightened beings, and even though it may take the form
of relatively conventional or conservative

But Sahaj Samadhi itself is perpetual recognition of
self (and all selves) and notself (or all objects,
conditions, cognitions, states, and experiences) in the
Radiant Divine Self or Transcendental Reality. Therefore,
because the Radiant Divine Self or Transcendental Reality
inherently Outshines or Transcends all conditional
modifications of Itself, the eventual (or even sudden)
transition into simplicity (or apparent renunciation) and
Bhava Samadhi (or no-noticing of self and not-self) is


In this section of the magazine we present three
articles. The first, entitled “Avadhoots, Mad Lamas, and
Fools: The. Crazy Wisdom Tradition,” describes for the first
time in the West the full tradition of Crazy Adepts, who, by
virtue of their spiritual Realization, act and teach
spontaneously, free of all conventions of behavior. As a
broad tradition the school of Crazy Wisdom encompasses not
only seventh stage Adepts but also adepts of the lesser
stages who have likewise adopted unconventional behavior as
part of their spiritual transformation. These wild and free
beings have appeared in every major religious and spiritual
tradition and, when viewed together, they comprise a unique
lineage that transcends any provincial view of Man’s
religious and spiritual heritage.

The author of the second piece is Dama Ninth Mary (Nina
Jones), who, as the Master’s first devotee, is singularly
well placed to write about the Adept’s early sadhana in the
days before his great Teaching Work commenced. The article
offers informative and touching glimpses of Master Da’s life
in the period between 1961 and 1964, during which he assumed
the unconventional life-style of an Avadhoot: He would
wholeheartedly submit himself to all kinds of experiences,
letting life itself be the guru, without allowing social
conventions or personal prejudices to confine his spiritual

This section concludes with a tribute to Master Da Free
John by the editorial staff on the occasion of the tenth
anniversary of his Teaching. This and the preceding article
present a sketch of the life and Work of Master Da. In
future issues of The Laughing Man we will introduce the
reader to other seventh stage Adepts in a similarly detailed

1. January 15, 1981, unpublished.

2. January 13, 1982, unpublished



by James Steinberg

Editors’ Note: The editors wish to acknowledge that
the following essay resulted from research inspired and
guided by Master Da Free John’s own critical examination of
the Great Tradition and his designation of a single
tradition of “Crazy Wisdom” comprised of individuals from
many different religious and spiritual schools, paths, and

When there is Perfect
Enlightenment, or entrance into the seventh, or final, stage
of life, all strategies relative to experience come to rest.
The humorless and limited strategies of attention that
characterize the first six stages of life are replaced with
the true humor, or “Crazy Wisdom,”‘ of spontaneous
existence, action, and thought. In this disposition,
phenomenal existence is seen to arise spontaneously. Nothing
is introduced by the being either to limit or exploit the
process of experience. In fact there is no limited being or
experiencer present-only the Radiant Transcendental Being
alive in human form. As Master Da Free John describes the
seventh stage, whatever is arising in consciousness is
simply recognized as a transparent or nonbinding
modification of the Radiant Transcendental Being. There is
only God. All arising experience is known as God and seen in
Truth as only God with no separation possible.

Therefore, the Realized Adepts, or highest Enlightened
Beings, live spontaneously, in the moment, and no convention
binds them. They likewise instruct others toward this same
disposition. Because of their native liberation, many
extraordinary and miraculous powers may spontaneously arise
in the Adepts. But these are only secondary manifestations
of Realization. Primarily what arises is the Great Power,
the “Mahasiddhi,” which moves the Adepts to teach others in
whatever way is necessary to serve them most directly.

Because the Adepts are moved to illumine and instruct
whatever is brought before them, they may appear wild. They
may appear self-indulgent, seem mad with powers, or act like
fools. They may remain silent, or may teach through
discourse or song, may appear angry, or warm, open, and

Historically, no two such Adepts were alike. Some
practiced celibacy, and some were sexually active. For
example, Marpa had one legal wife and eight Tantric consorts
or partners. Yet his disciple Milarepa was naturally moved
to be celibate. Milarepa did not feel that anything was
wrong with sexuality-he recommended it to some of his
devotees. Yet the energy that moved in him made of him a
celibate man. There is no fixed or predetermined behavior.
There is only the Divine movement, spontaneously manifesting
in each individual Adept. The Divine creates the Adept’s
teaching work, and all who come into contact with such a
Being come into contact with the Numinous Power and
Transcendental Radiance of the Divine.

Such Adepts have appeared throughout history and, by
virtue of their perfect alignment with the Divine, they have
brought men and women face to face with the Transcendental
Reality. Adepts have been at the source of every major
religion. Every true spiritual movement has been infused
with the Power of such a Being, if only at its inception.
Even the spiritual orientations of the established
traditions were given renewed impetus by the occasional
appearance of such Godly individuals.

The God-Realized exist in a condition of infinite
Radiance, empty of self. This is their unique and common
Realization. But their expressions of that common
Realization are as varied as the religious traditions of
mankind. Some Realized Adepts are conventional in their
behavior, and the behavior and techniques of instruction of
some appear wild and unconventional. Papa Ramdas of
Kanhangad, South India, for example, was a twentieth-century
God Realized Adept who adopted the more conventional outward
displays of the fourth stage path of devotion. Sri Ramana
Maharshi, who also lived in this century, aligned himself
with the tradition of Advaita Vedanta, although he also
demonstrated the unconventional behavior of the Crazy Wisdom

Two traditions still extant into the present century have
emerged from the influence of the latter type of Adept, the
Avadhoot tradition of India and the Crazy Wisdom tradition
of Tibet. For a period of several centuries in Buddhist
India, a third tradition emerged, that of the Mahasiddhas,
which was also based on the influence of such Adepts. These
traditions had their conventional practitioners, yet in each
of them, Adepts of the highest order regularly appeared to
regenerate Spiritual wisdom.

The Avadhuta Upanishad, one of the corpus of primary
esoteric scriptures of Hinduism, boldly proclaims the free
relationship of the Realizer to all experience, and the
random nature by which he may assume any outwardly
conventional behavior:

What I wanted to do was precisely what was done, what I
wished I got, this always happens, whatever my action,
whether the one prescribed by Shastras [scriptures]
or custom, is not mine, and it may take its natural course
without interference of my doerhood. . . . Though I wish for
nothing, I might follow the path prescribed by the
scriptures for the benefit of mankind, and what do I



Advadhoot” – from the
Sanskrit word avadhuta-means “shaken off,” “detached,” or
“naked.” It is a term used to describe one who is not
shackled in any way. He or she is fully Awakened and free of
any secular or even sacred attachments.

The term is also used more widely and generally, notably
in the Dattatreya, Nath, Sannyasi, and Tantric traditions of
India, to refer to any spiritually accomplished individual
who lives unconventionally. Typically, the avadhoots are
naked wanderers who eat whenever food is offered to them or
who sleep wherever they can find a place to rest. They have
no fixed relationships. They may teach or simply live by
themselves, or instruct others in cryptic phrases or
discourse eloquently. Their behavior is always

Since ancient times in India, such men and women have
been valued by those who practiced spiritual life. Unlike
other people, they were exempt from the usual social and
behavioral expectations. In the Dattatreya tradition a great
number of famous Adepts appeared. One of them was Sri Swami
Samarth, also known as Akkalkot Maharaj, after a small town
in southern Maharashtra, West India. He was a fifth stage
Avadhoot whose behavior illustrates something of the
unconventionality of many of the seventh stage crazy wisdom
adepts. In the nineteenth century it was said of him:

One in such a condition does not have to observe any
formal rules or regulation of conduct or code of behavior.
His actions have all the spontaneity of a child. He has no
body-consciousness, being very absorbed in the Self. He does
not care for or cater to the needs of the body. If anyone
cares to offer food to an avadhoot, the latter may take.
Otherwise, he doesn’t care for it. Whether it was a royal
feast or a crude bread, he relished them equally; they made
no difference. Such avadhoots might use any means by which
to teach-telling a Vaisnavite to do japa to Krishna, a yogi
to practice pranayama, an Advaitin to engage vichara or
self-enquiry-or break such fixed presumptions in all who
came. What mattered to him was not the circumstance, but the
direct transmission of the transcendental presumption,
power, and perception. Others had to bathe him, too. A
palace or a dung hill, a cushioned sofa or a chilly hard
rock never made any difference to him. Nobody could ever
dare flout Sri Swami Samarth’s wishes even though they would
sometimes appear whimsical and eccentric. He used to behave
like a man of whims and caprices, and was completely
unpredictable in his behavior. Sometimes he was so free that
one could approach him and talk freely as to a mother, but
at other times he seemed unapproachable and stern. Sometimes
he himself talked freely and sweetly; at others, he would
keep silent, uttering not a word for several days at a
stretch. Such moods are beyond our comprehension, because
even though on earth, the like of him are not of it- far
beyond the reach of our understanding.3


In modern times fifth stage
Adepts such as Swami Nityananda of Ganeshpuri, Shirdi Sai
Baba, Sri Ramakrishna, and Sri Rang Avadhoot (all of whom
played a role in the spiritual transformation of Master Da
Free John) displayed this unconventional quality to one
degree or another. They too appeared to have transcended the
stage they seemed to animate.

Some Avadhoots, such as Sri Upasani Baba, consented to
stay in one place and teach. Others were constantly moving,
like the Maharashtrian Hari Giri Baba, who was never in one
place for too long. Many never attracted public attention or
developed formal teaching relationships with others. But all
were given a place of respect within the Indian tradition by
those who comprehended their true nature.

The stories about Realizers are known as lilas (literally
“play,” “pastime,” “amusement”) in the Hindu tradition,
where there is an understanding that the action of the
Adept, who is free of the self-motive, is only play or
enjoyment, free of any binding concern for anything that
arises. Everything that he does is merely an expression of
his Realized Condition and a form of Teaching to benefit
those around him. It is understood that if one contemplates
the stories of the lila of the Adept, one comes into contact
with the Living Divine Influence that is alive in his
action. Thus, the telling of stories of Adepts has been part
of the enjoyment and practice of spiritual aspirants for

Zipruanna was an Avadhoot who roamed naked through the
village of Nairabad in western India. He was fond of sitting
on garbage heaps and mounds of excrement. It is reported
that once a group of English ladies, hearing of his
reputation as a great saint, approached him for instruction.
They were shocked to see him without any clothing. He
immediately put his hand to his penis and, shaking it before
them, questioned them enthusiastically, “What, this little
thing bothers you? It is nothing!” He would ask for a
cigarette, light it, take a few puffs, and throw it down.
Then he would ask for another and another, and do the same.
His mere presence was an affront to the erroneous
supposition that any behavior is per se saintly. Swami
Muktananda writes of a meeting with Zipruanna, “Once I asked
him, ‘Anna! Why must you sit on such rubbish?’ He replied,
‘Muktananda, inner impurities are far more revolting than
this. Don’t you know that the human body is a chest full of
waste matter?’ This silenced me.”, In the following story,
the modern Indian Saint Sri Ramakrishna tells of his
encounter with a wandering Avadhoot:

“Sometimes the paramahamsa behaves like a madman. When I
experienced that divine madness I used to worship my own
sexual organ as the Siva-phallus. But I can’t do that now. A
few days after the dedication of the temple at Dakshineswar,
a madman came there who was really a sage endowed with the
Knowledge of Brahman. He had a bamboo twig in one hand and a
potted mango-plant in the other, and was wearing torn shoes.
He didn’t follow any social conventions. After bathing in
the Ganges he didn’t perform any religious

The Avadhoot is simply free, beyond all qualities. To
quote the Avadhuta Gita, a text written by a great Avadhoot,

I am He who is not only beyond freedom and bondage,
beyond purity and impurity, beyond union and disunion, but
who is freedom itself, boundless like the sky. 4:2

I am neither with a body, nor without a body; I have no
mind, no intellect, no instrument of sense; how then can I
say that I like one thing, dislike the other thing? I am
freedom, full of joy. 4:12

I am that principle beyond likes and dislikes, beyond
fortunes and misfortunes, beyond grief and greed. I am
knowledge of immortality, I am essence of equanimity, I am
like the sky. 3:19

There is no distinction between flesh and blood, no
distinction between muscle and marrow, no distinction
between earth and heaven; these are but convention. I alone
am the ultimate good, the ultimate goal; how then can I bow,
and to whom? 6:24

I know for certain, I am not answerable for my action or
enjoyment, in the past, present, or future. 1:72

There is nothing to think of over and over again; no
cause, no effect; everything is one, no word, no sentence.
Why weep, mind? All things are alone, equality everywhere.



A specific and easily
definable group of Adepts or Agents provided a link between
the Godmen of India and Tibet. These were known as the
“Mahasiddhas,” malia meaning “great” and :iddlta meaning
“fulfilled” or “perfect one.” They were Indians who lived
between the eighth and twelfth centuries in India,
predominantly in Orissa, Bengal, Assam, and Kashmir. It is
said that they were eighty-four in number.

“These eighty-four Siddhas came from all backgrounds
and social positions. . . . [What bound them together
was the fact that they achieved complete enlightenment.]
They often disregarded conventions of the orthodox Sangha
[community of spiritual practitioners] resorting at
times to outrageous behavior as an expression of a
spontaneity that is all-encompassing.”7

Their ranks included Chatrapa the beggar, Tengipa the
rice husker, Achinta the woodseller, Pachari the baker,
Kantali the tailor, and Minapa the fisherman. They also
included Tilopa and Naropa, who are in the lineage that
spread the Way of Enlightenment to Tibet.

The Mahasiddhas were taught by celestial Bodhisattvas
(Enlightened Beings) or dakinis or devis (“goddesses”). They
revered the Guru, in whatever shape or form he or she
appeared. They understood that all activity is an expression
of the Buddha-nature, and that any situation presents an
opportunity to cultivate an enlightened mind. Thus,
spontaneity and freedom were highly valued in this

The tenth-century teacher Tilopa is noteworthy for never
having had an actual human teacher. Rather, the Divine
itself instructed him in the form of the celestial Deity
Vajradhara. Tilopa was the Master of Naropa, another
Mahasiddha and the former Abbot of the renowned Buddhist
Nalanda University. For a period of sixteen years Tilopa
required his devotee to undergo test after test, and this
sadhana or spiritual practice is illustrative of the wild
approach to instruction that is typical of the Crazy

At one point in his practice, Tilopa gave Naropa the
instruction to “get a girl.” After a period in which Naropa
and his female partner had passed through the basic
difficulties in their relationship to one another, Tilopa
gave Naropa technical instruction in Tantric practice with
his partner.

“When a few days had passed Tilopa came and said,
‘Naropa, how is it that you, who have renounced the world
according to the Teaching of the Buddha, as a Bhiksu
[monk] are living with a girl? This is not a proper
thing, punish yourself.’ Naropa said: ‘This is not my fault,
but that of this,’ and he hit his erect penis with a stone.
When through excessive pain he was near death, Tilopa asked:
‘Naropa, is something wrong with you?”

Tilopa then healed Naropa, but after one year, upon
Naropa’s request for further instruction, asked for Naropa’s
consort as a gift in payment. When she remained faithful to
Naropa, Tilopa beat her, and then asked his disciple,
“Naropa, are you happy?” It was only when Naropa’s
unswerving faith became clear that Tilopa consented to
disclose more of the Teaching.8

Stories like this illustrate the Adept’s demand for
unconditional surrender of everything in order to free the
disciple of all his or her attachments.

The Indian Mahasiddhas looked for instruction wherever
they could find someone to teach them, and thus the course
of their sadhana was spontaneous and free, rather than
determined by a simple formal system of training. In their
stories, full of magic, the Divine spontaneously manifests
everything before their eyes, and their one-pointed devotion
to practice of the Way reveals a world alive in many
dimensions simultaneously. The following passage is from the
traditional life story of Marpa. The founder of the Kagyupa
School of Tibetan Buddhism, Marpa brought the teachings of
the Vajrayana back to Tibet during the eleventh century. He
had contact with a number of Mahasiddhas during his sadhana.
However, his principal teacher was Naropa. In the Vajrayana
tradition it is common to receive Teachings from many
different teachers, often at the command of one’s own “root”
(primary) Guru. The story of Marpa’s visit to the Mahasiddha
Kukuripa (Shantibhadra) at the request of Naropa, gives the
flavor of the world of the Mahasiddhas. Kukuripa’s and
Naropa’s poking fun at one another exemplifies the humor of
the Mahasiddhas and their happy spontaneous disposition.

Naropa [told Marpa], “From here to the Isle of
the Poisoned Lake there is a half a month’s travel. The
poisoned water at first is ankle deep, then up to the knees,
then just above the thighs, then just above the belly.
Finally you must swim. Hang on closely to all the trees you
come across. If there are two, go between them. When you
come to an ashen land, stop. This Kukuripa has a body,
covered with hair. His face seems like that of a monkey. His
color is horrible. He transforms himself as he likes. That
is why without hesitating you must tell him that Naropa sent
you and ask him for the Mahamaya.”9

And he sent him out, armed with these instructions and
with gifts.

And as it was extremely difficult travel, he followed the
orders of Naropa. Along his path he saw no living beings of
any sort, except two birds who flew off.

Finally he arrived at the shore of the Poisoned Lake, and
just as soon, by the black magic of the Asura [demon)
master of the land, clouds grew in the sky, flashes of
lightning and peals of thunder broke with repeated strokes.
A storm of snow and rain beat the earth. In the middle of
the day it was the darkness of night. Marpa felt an anguish
similar to that of existences past and future. He called
Naropa by name, he entreated him, and the sky cleared.

He wondered where Kukuripa was and set off to find him. A
human body covered with bird feathers was at the foot of a
tree, face buried in the crook of its arm. Marpa hesitated,
wondering whether or not this was he.

Marpa asked, “Have you seen Kukuripa?”

The man jumped up with a wide-eyed stare. “Oh my father!
You other Tibetans with flat noses, even such a difficult
trip does not stop you. Where do you come from? Where are
you going? What does Kukuripa do? I am not budging from
here. I have never seen Kukuripa nor heard of him.” And he
plunged his head back into his bent arm.

Having searched elsewhere without finding him, Marpa
remembered the words of Naropa. He was certain that the man
he met a short while ago was indeed Kukuripa. He returned to
him and greeted him.

“It is the pandit Naropa who sends me. I come to ask you
for the Mahamaya. I beg of you to teach it to me.” And so he
gave him the message.

The man lifted his head. “What are you saying? The
science that Naropa teaches is short. He does not have the
experience in contemplation. I laugh at such pandits.
Relative to the Mahamaya, he knows it. But it is not enough
to teach it and he doesn’t leave in peace those who

After he had said several joyous absurdities, he
continued, “Akya! I was joking. Naropa is a pandit of
inconceivable science and my intention was pure. We exchange
our teachings. Although he knows Mahamaya, it is I who am
chosen. With pure intentions he sent you to ask me. I will
teach it to you in depth. After that, you will ask it of
Naropa and will see what differences there are. Did you meet
two men on your way?”

“I didn’t meet them.”

“You did not see them as men, but as birds.”

After receiving the teaching, Marpa takes leave of
Kukuripa. Then Marpa, knowing the practices of the great
magic, arrived in Phullahari in three days. The great Naropa
was with the monk Ses-rab-sen-ge, giving him alone a mantra.
He indicated to him not to approach. While the ritual
lasted, Marpa remained bowed. When it was over, he went up
to the lama and asked for his blessing. Naropa asked,

“Did you obtain the doctrine?”

“I obtained it.”

“And he, did he make fun of me?”

“He joked a bit.”

“What did he say?”

And Marpa repeated the words of Kukuripa. Naropa then
said, “That’s he, all right. He lives on a desert isle of
the Poisoned Lake, and not out of virtue. But since he has
the face of a monkey on the body of a man, he couldn’t find
a wife and so he lives with a bitch. Who else but Kukuripa
would behave like that?” He laughed and added, “Ah, well!
That’s enough. I was joking. With no one else but him could
I get along: he learning from me the Dgyes pa rdorje
[one of the numerous Hevajra disciplines], and I
asking him for the Mahamaya, of which he is the

These siddhas refreshed and renewed the religion of the
time and had a great influence on Buddhism and Hinduism in
North India. Through contact with them, the full Vajrayana
teaching was spread to Tibet, before the virtual extinction
of Buddhism in India around the thirteenth century.



In the eighth century
Padmasambhava (who himself exhibited unconventional
behavior) stabilized the Vajrayana school of Buddhism in
Tibet for the first time. A master of shamanistic practice,
he and his twenty-five principal disciples established a
tradition that incorporated the ancient magical Bon
practices, which were native to the area, with the highest
Vajrayana wisdom. In this tradition, as in that of the
Mahasiddhas, any “skillful means” necessary to teach others,
even when apparently mad, grew to be accepted. There was a
clear understanding that the Guru was free to use any means
to awaken the devotee, and that in his own action the Guru
was only “mirroring the devotee’s own shortcomings.”” This
understanding of the Divine Teaching role of the Spiritual
Master is beautifully expressed in this poem from the Kagyu
sect of Tibetan Buddhism:

Everything this precious perfect guru does, No matter
what it is, is good. All his deeds are excellent. In his
hands a butcher’s evil work Is good, and benefits the
beasts, Inspired by compassion for them all.

When he unites in sex improperly, His qualities
increase, and fresh arise, A sign that means and insight
have been joined.

His lies by which we are deceived Are just the
skillful signs with which He guides us on the freedom

When he steals, the stolen goods Are changed into
necessities To ease the poverty of all.

When such a guru scolds,

His words are forceful mantras To remove distress and

His beatings are blessings,

Which yield both siddhis,

And gladden all devout and reverent men.

As it is said above, appreciate the positive aspects
of all his deeds.12


Marpa’s instruction of his disciple Milarepa provides a
perfect example of Crazy Wisdom. In the famous numtah, or
“spiritual biography,” of Milarepa, Marpa himself speaks of
his behavior:

I was angered [at Milarepa] and although my
anger recoiled on me like a wave of water, yet it was not
like vulgar worldly anger. Religious anger is a thing apart;
and, in whatever form it may appear, it bath the same
object-to excite repentance and thereby to contribute to the
spiritual development of the person. Should there be any one
amongst you who are seated here, who, not understanding the
religious motive, feeleth shocked at these things, I exhort
him not to be shaken in his faith and belief.


Marpa continues to describe the spiritual purpose of the
eight tests to which he subjected Milarepa. He regretted the
fact that Milarepa’s weakness had not allowed him to
complete the ninth:

Had I the chance of plunging this spiritual son of
mine nine times into utter despair, he would have been
cleansed thoroughly of all his sins. He would thus not have
been required to be born again, but would have disappeared
totally, his physical body being forever dissolved; he would
have attained Nirvana. That will not be so, and that he will
still retain a small portion of his demerits, is due to the
weakness and misunderstanding of the spiritual purposes of
these tests.13


This tradition of Tibetan
Crazy Wise Men has continued up to the present day. The mood
of such humorous and free behavior, and its acceptance in
the Tibetan culture, is illustrated by this story told by
Lama Gonpo Tseden Rinpoche about Do Khentse, who was
considered to be the reincarnation of Jigme Lingpa
(1729-1798). A totally uncontrollable lunatic was menacing
his village, doing mad things such as trying to eat his own
flesh. So the villagers sent for Do Khentse. Do Khentse
agreed to come, but before leaving he directed his servant
to sharpen a large knife most carefully.

When he arrived at the village a few days later, he was
greeted respectfully. However, instead of performing prayers
and sacramental services to end the difficulties as he was
expected to do, Do Khentse went to bed, instructing his
servant to stand guard. The perplexed villagers waited while
Do Khentse slept through the day and the following

When Do Khentse woke up the next morning, he had some
food and promptly went back to sleep. The villagers wondered
if he was going to be of any help at all. While Do Khentse
slept, however, the lunatic approached his tent with a great
stick, and he stealthily moved through the opening to the
tent. The servant swiftly cut off his head with the
sharpened knife.

Do Khentse rose from his bed and shouted to all the
villagers: “Here, here, come look! This man here has killed
a man. It wasn’t me! It wasn’t me!”

The villagers removed the corpse and exposed it to the
vultures. Do Khentse went back to sleep. When he awoke the
next day, he prepared to leave the village, as the danger
had been averted. However, he felt some responsibility for
his servant’s killing of the man, and he asked the villagers
to investigate what had happened to the lunatic’s body. When
he learned that the trunk and head had been left untouched
by the vultures, Do Khentse ordered them to retrieve the

Then Do Khentse called his servant to him and said, “You
killed this person, so you should do something about it.
Start by brushing the dust from around his neck.” His
servant dutifully obeyed. Next Do Khentse ordered that the
body be propped up and asked for the severed head. Do
Khentse placed the head on the neck upside-down. He asked
the villagers, “Now, if we put it like this, would this be
right?” Everyone exclaimed, “No! No!”

So he placed the head with the face pointing backwards
and asked, “Shall we have it like this then?” They all
protested again, “No, not like that!”

At last he turned the head the right way round but
displaced it slightly to the left. He then blew on it, and
immediately the person opened his eyes and demanded to know,
“What happened? What happened?” Henceforth this man was
called “Left-Crooked-Headed Dorje,” and from that point on
his mental derangement was entirely cured.14

The mad Lama Dropakula was a Bhutanese lama about whom
stories are circulated widely in Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim, and
elsewhere in the Himalayan region, Lama Dropakula avoided
worshippers and shunned people when they attempted to revere
him. His clothes were dirty rags and tatters. Sometimes he
drank and ate to excess, and at other times he fasted for
long periods.

On a return journey to Bhutan from Tibet, Dropakula met a
lama on his way to Lhasa (the capital of Tibet) with a
desire to visit the Karmapa Rinpoche (the head of the Kagyu
sect) for His Holiness’s blessing of an image he had painted
of sixteen Arhats.15 Dropakula knew of the lama’s
purpose and asked to look at the painting. He opened the
rolled painting on the ground and crouched on it as if he
were defecating. Then he rolled it up again and returned it
to the lama, saying, “There are still many miles until you
reach Lhasa. You had better come back with me. You have no
need to visit the Karmapa. I have already blessed the

The master of the painting became very angry at
Dropakula’s disrespect. He refused the invitation, and as he
went on his way, he called loudly, “I would beat you to
death if you were not a so-called ‘mad lama’!”

In Lhasa the lama offered the painting to the Karmapa,
who opened the roll and found that all the images had been
transformed into a golden color. The Karmapa, who had
foreknowledge of the lama’s meeting with Dropakula,
explained to the lama, “This has been blessed by Dropakula.
Why do you need to bring it to me?” The lama bowed to the

Dhampa Sangje was a renowned Master who is said to have
spent sixty-five years meditating in sacred places in India
and Nepal. He visited Tibet five times during the latter
half of the eleventh century, and on one occasion met with
the famous Jetsun Milarepa, most Beloved of Tibetan
spiritual personages. Their meeting shows the delightfully
free and spontaneous quality of Tibetan Crazy Wisdom

As soon as Milarepa saw him, he thought, “People say
that Dhampa Sangje has the Transcendental Miraculous Power.
I shall now test him.” He then transformed himself into a
clump of flowers growing beside the road. Dhampa Sangje
passed by the flowers with his eyes widely open as if he did
not see them at all. Milarepa thought, “It seems that he
does not have the Perfect Miraculous Power!” But just then
Dhampa Sangje turned back. Approaching the flowers, he
kicked them with his foot and said, “I ought not to do this
– this is the transformation of Milarepa.” Having spoken
these words, he picked the flowers and addressed

Dhampa Sangje next began to test Milarepa by asking him
questions. Quickly, however, upon hearing the Jetsun’s
replies, he declared, “A Buddhist who needs no more practice
or improvement has been found in Tibet! . . . I do not need
you and you do not need me,” and prepared to go. However,
before leaving, Dhampa Sangje agreed to sing a song to which
Milarepa listened with great delight as he sat to one side
with his penis freely exposed. Dhampa Sangje remarked, “You
are like a lunatic who neglects to cover up the place that
should be covered.” In reply, the Jetsun sang “The Song of
the Lunatic”:17


To my omniscient lama I pray –
Grant me blessings. Indian yogi, listen please:
Afflicted by the devil of ignorance
Most beings of the six realms are crazy.
Having realized appearances to be illusory Milarepa
especially is crazy.

With supernormal knowledge of others’
Old father Marpa Lotsawa is crazy.
With courage in hardships for the sake of
Grandfather, great pandit Naropa, is crazy.
With inconceivable powers of transformation
Great-grandfather Tilo Sherab Sangbo is


Granting the gift of spontaneous bliss
Vajra-yogini is also crazy.
Embraced in untainted union of great bliss
Lineage-source Vajradhara is crazy.


Attempting to hide yourself from me
Honorable Dampa – you’re crazy too!
Your father’s crazy, son’s crazy, grand
…..father’s crazy!
You’re crazy, I’m crazy, everyone’s crazy!

Some are crazed by ignorant action.
Some are crazed by the river of desire.
Some are crazed by the fire of hatred.
Some are crazed by the fog of delusion.
Some are crazed by the poison of pride.

You’re crazed from knowing others’ minds.
I’m crazed from realizing the natural state.

You’re crazed by seed-syllable realization.
I’m crazed by realization of birthlessness.

You’re crazed by practice of pacification.
I’m crazed by mahamudra experience.

This song of lunatics meeting
Is the empty echo of mahamudra.18



Although Crazy Wisdom
Adepts who demonstrated unconventional behavior are most
characteristically found among the Avadhoots, Indian
Mahasiddhas, and Tibetan Crazy Wisdom, there have been
numerous other traditions in which individuals have likewise
lived a version of Crazy Wisdom. In most cases, such
practitioners did not represent the full disposition of
Realization, so they are not formally Crazy Wisdom Adepts.
But by virtue of their spontaneous and free orientation to
spiritual practice, whether they be fourth, fifth, or sixth
stage practitioners, they broke through the religious
conventions of their time and allowed the transcendental
dimension to express itself. Thus, we may speak of them as
being members of the “looser” or “broader” tradition of
Crazy Wisdom discussed above. They most often arose when the
traditions had become rigid and dogmatic, but it is truly
impossible to account for their manifestation with any

This “broader” tradition of Crazy Wisdom can be found in
many traditions, and, although only the briefest survey can
be made here, it remains for future research to document its
history. The “Fools for Christ’s Sake” within Christianity
are remarkable examples of a fourth stage representation of
Crazy Wisdom. Although these individuals were frequently
revered as saints, and forty-two were actually canonized as
“Fools for Christ’s Sake” in the Greek and Russian Orthodox
Churches, they demonstrated spontaneous and typically mad
behavior. They often went about naked, sleeping on church
steps or even the village dung heap. They acted like “fools”
in imitation of Jesus of Nazareth, and as prophetic
reminders of the pitfalls of dogmatism. The “Fools for
Christ’s Sake” reached their peak between the thirteenth and
seventeenth centuries. Elsewhere in the Christian tradition,
glimpses of action in the mode of Crazy Wisdom can be found
(for example in the early Irish “wild men of the forest”
known as geilts, who wandered through the countryside or
roosted in trees, or in the behavior of Saint Francis of
Assisi and his followers).

In the Far East there is also a long tradition of seeming
“craziness,” which is there known by the Chinese name of
kyo. In contrast with the other more orthodox forms of
Buddhism, the Rinzai Zen sect, for example, appears to be
kyo. Its practice is marked with beatings and shouts and the
use of various unorthodox techniques to stop the mind (among
them koans). Its founder, Rinzai, exhorted his followers,
“Kill the Buddha! Kill the Patriarchs!” The Taoist mountain
sages showed much of the Crazy Wisdom attitude-witness the
whimsical sage Chuang Tzu or for instance the Cold Mountain
poet Han-shan, the “Laughing Man” who wrote:

When men see Han-shan, They all say he’s crazy and not
much to look at dressed in rags and hides.19

In the Sufi tradition we have the figure of Nasruddin,
the fool who is always turning out to be the Teacher
instructing through his apparent blunders. The Sufi sects
often demonstrated ecstasy in their testimonies and actions,
as shown in the following poem by the founder of the
Nimatullah sect, Shah Nimatullah Wali of the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries:

Sometimes we’re intellectuals,

sometimes we’re crazy.

Ah! We’re bewildered, bewildered,

headless and footless!

Sometimes we have nothing in our pockets

sometimes we’re worthless drunkards. Sometimes we’re

and sometimes concealed.20

The Jewish tradition, too, has prophets such as Isaiah
who walked naked and barefoot for three years as a warning
to the people against placing their trust in an alliance
with Egypt. And the foolish behavior of one absorbed in God
is found in the Eastern European ghettos among such Hassidic
masters as Rabbi Meshullam Zusya, known as the Reb Zishe. He
would let birds fly out of their cages because he could not
stand to see them imprisoned, or would take the blows of
ruffians to divert them from others. In the ancient and
Shamanistic cultures of the world, the figure of the
trickster is the representative of Crazy Wisdom. The legends
about the action and behavior of such figures are always a
thrust against prevalent conventions.

Myths of the trickster can be found in traditions such as
the ancient Greeks, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Winnebago
Indians of North America, the tribes of West Africa, and so
on. Various Indian traditions such as the Bauls of Bengal,
the Maheshwara Siddhas of South India, the Nath Siddhas of
North India, and the Chaitanya Vaishnavites also exhibit
forms of Crazy Wisdom.

Thus, it is clear that Crazy Wisdom is common to many of
the traditions of the world, and its Adepts are recognized
as a great gift by rightly oriented spiritual practitioners.
The Avadhoots, Indian Mahasiddhas, and Crazy Wise Men of
Tibet arose within spiritual cultures in which the
transcendental orientation to practice was often already
prominent. So, the Crazy Wisdom Adepts of these traditions
historically represent typically Beings of the highest
Realization. Whereas in the various other traditions the
viewpoint of the crazy wise man tends to be more limited,
and the practitioner, though acting on the basis of
intuition which serves to break through arbitrary dogma and
limitation, is not free of the ego-principle. His behavior,
as opposed to the “uncaused” activity of the Enlightened
Crazy Wise Man, is still motivated by the self. However,
despite this important distinction, whether fully
Enlightened or not, the behavior of all such individuals
falls within the broader tradition of Crazy Wisdom and
points to that Wisdom which is beyond cultural norms but
founded only in the spontaneity of Truth or Reality.



All actions of a
God-Realized being are rightly understood by true
practitioners to be demonstrations for the benefit of
others. Master Da Free John speaks of the usefulness of such
Adepts and the Grace they represent:

In general, such Avadhoots21 are
unconventional, wild, a little mad. They do not have a state
of mind like ordinary people. They do not have a linear,
fixed notion about what is happening. Theirs is a wild state
of mind, a state of mind that seems mad from the point of
view of a conventionally “together” personality. And such an
individual is therefore able to be very useful to other
people because his consciousness extends into the fullest
dimension of existence. When you confront such a person, you
are not just looking at “Ralph Meatbody” and trying, through
casual conversation, to figure out what is happening with
him. You confront the Avadhoot in his or her totality. All
kinds of psychic events can be associated with that meeting.
The Adept plays in that broader or expanded scheme of
perception and awareness, combining magically, mysteriously,
in some ways seemingly chaotically, with the world and with
others who come into that Company. Some Avadhoots do not
even permit people to come into their Company. They are
intentionally abusive and vulgar and disgusting so that
people will keep away from them. Or they may hide out, or
they may act like fools. Others may permit people to have
access to them, but they do not say or do very much. They
just let people create the kind of association they want.
Sometimes they will suddenly pick up and leave, and at other
times they just stay there. Others play a more active role.
They play with those who associate with them. Through that
play, they enable those people to create a culture of
existence in which they can grow and Realize the Divine. And
a teaching, therefore, develops through that play, through
the response of those who come.22

Another important consideration is the difference between
so-called “Free” Adepts and those associated with a specific
lineage. As the Tibetan and Indian cultures developed,
specific traditions of spirituality arose. In such
traditions an individual’s spiritual maturation was promoted
through a formal process of education. Spiritual
transmission was thus passed down through a lineage, from
teacher to disciple, sometimes in very systematic ways. This
sadhana, or spiritual practice, entailed a very specific
program. The Tibetan system of education epitomizes this: An
individual recognized to have special spiritual potential
was carefully educated from a very early age, even from
birth! This was especially true of the “tulkus,” or
reincarnations of spiritual teachers who were considered to
have been reborn into the same monasteries and
circumstances, life after life. In India, there was a
similar tradition, in which formal instruction was given at
specific places of pilgrimage through the agency of pandits
(“spiritual scholars”), gurus, and temple priests.
Shaivites, Vaishnavites, and Shakta worshippers all had
their priests and places of initiation.

Within both of these great cultures (as in various other
settings) there were also individuals who did not arise
within a specific tradition or lineage, but gained
instruction in a more spontaneous way, transcending the
traditions in which they appeared. Such individuals often
heard about a teacher or a teaching and sought instruction.
They learned what they could and moved on until they
achieved complete Realization. These Adepts did not
represent any lineage, but were “Free” Adepts. They taught
in unique ways as the circumstances of their own appearance
dictated. And sometimes, even after a tradition had been
established and was operating with considerable success and
effectiveness, a high Adept might still appear from time to
time to bring a fresh perspective to the established



Whether the Crazy Wisdom Adept is associated with a
particular lineage or whether he is “free,” he always lives
in total abandon to the spiritual Process. In contrast to
the ordinary aspirant, whose spiritual life is a structured
affair with numerous ups and downs, the Crazy Wisdom Adept
is the spiritual Process itself. And that Process is
nonlinear, unpredictable, and essentially unconventional.
The usual presumption is that it is orderly. In actuality,
this Process is “crazy.” Master Da Free John sheds most
valuable light on this point in the following concluding
excerpt from one of his talks.

Today the archetype of the religious practitioner is the
more or less ascetic saint and monk. Such people are more
appropriately considered to be heretics! They have the stink
of enlightenment. But in the popular mind such an ascetic
individual is accepted, perhaps not emulated but accepted,
as a religious or spiritual figure, and the experience of
such a person is easily accepted as realization.

Saints are supposed to be mild and pretty and calm and
passive, and, in the popular mind, religion is supposed to
make you more or less like such saints. For instance,
everybody has a view of Jesus as nice, mild, sweet, and
calm, with combed hair and a white robe. Even though the New
Testament does not justify that image of Jesus, it is the
popular image of him. Likewise, the saints within the
Christian tradition are associated in the popular mind with
this same image. Thus, people think that religion really
does not change you. It may change some of your behavior
perhaps, but basically religion consoles you rather than
changes you, or makes you a little passive or so-called
philosophical, and perhaps motivates you to change certain
aspects of your social behavior. Religious conversion even
to that degree is very rare.

But the crazy ones, the real Adepts, those who truly
Realize God, are changed by their way of life. Their bodies
change, their minds change, they stop functioning as people
ordinarily do. Stories about them reflect an unusual, even
bizarre character. The popular mind presumes that the
spiritual process really does not change you at all, but
only consoles you. No-the real spiritual process eats you
alive! It makes a wreck out of you! It destroys you!

A new popular religious and spiritual tradition has also
been created by paperback books. Anyone who has read a
paperback or two feels he is an authority on spiritual
realization. Everybody has been duped into believing that
you really do not have to change anything. You do not even
have to be consoled. Nothing has to happen. You just acquire
a self-image of being realized!

But truly, actual Realization, the actual process,
spontaneously produces dramatic changes in the
psycho-physiology of the true practitioner. Such an
individual’s behavior does change, both socially and in the
way that he or she teaches-and he would not teach as a monk
sermonizes! Most of the teaching of such individuals is
spontaneous, kind of wild and offensive. It typically shakes
people up and offends them.

We are obliged, having come to this understanding, to
make it known that the spiritual process is not merely
consoling nor merely a matter of philosophical and relaxed
detachment. It is a process that transforms the body-mind.
And all the technicalities of that process taken together
are based in one principle, which is the submission of the
total body-mind into the fire of the spiritual Reality.

One does not know where such a process will lead-that is
why it is crazy! As soon as you limit it with conditions or
interpret it or demand it develop in a certain way, the
process either stops or it becomes distorted. But once you
become ecstatic, once you allow yourself to be grabbed by
the Divine fire, you are subject to it. You must continue to
surrender and allow that process to develop according to its
own laws, which have nothing to do with your mind.23



1. The terms “Avadhoot,” and “Crazy Wisdom Adept” in the
most radical sense apply to those who have realized the
seventh stage of life. Master Da Free John has described the
avadhoots or crazy wise men as “adepts in general who
distinctly transcend the conventions of traditions and who
freely realize the Truth. Whatever the associations that may
be generated around them or through which we may be required
to view them through historical evidence, they were simply
free individuals who actually realized the Transcendental or
Divine condition of existence and transcended, therefore,
the conventions of transmission in the process of their own
development.” (From a discourse given by Master Da Free John
on August 17, 1980.)

There are also adepts representing the fourth, fifth, and
sixth stages of life who appear to have transcended the
limitations of their stage of life and their tradition, as
well as the conventions of behavior, who are also considered
to be within the Crazy Wisdom tradition.

The terms “Avadhoot” and “Crazy Wisdom Adept” also refer
specifically to the Adepts of two “Crazy Wisdom” traditions,
in India and Tibet respectively, discussed in this

2. Shree Purohit Swami, trans., Shankar Mokashi-Punekar,
ed., Avadhoota Gita (Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1979), p.

3. Sri N. S. Karandikar, Biography of Sri Swami Samarth
Akkalkot Maharal (Bombay: Akkalkot Swami Math, 1978), pp.

4. Swami Muktananda Paramahansa, Chitshakti Vila,: The
Plav of Consciousness (Ganeshpuri: Shree Gurudev Ashram,
1972), p. 97.

5. Swami Nikhilananda, trans., The Gospel of Sri
Ramakrishna (New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center,
1973), p. 491.

6. Shree Purohit Swami, Avadhoota Gita, pp. 128, 132,
117, 157, 96, 138.

7. Tibetan Nvingmapa Meditation Center, “84 Mahasiddhas,”
Crystal Mirror V (Emeryville, Calif.: Dharma Publishing,
1977), p. 110.

8. Herbert V. Guenther, trans., The Life and Teaching of
Naropa” (London: Oxford University Press, 1071, pp

9. A secret teaching of the Anuttara Tantra of Vajrayana

10. Jacques Bacot, La Vie de Marpa La “Traducleur” (The
life of Marpa, the “Translator”), excerpts and resumes after
the Tibetan xylolographic edition (Librarie Orientaliste
Paul Geuthner, n.d.), pp. 12-14. Unpublished translation by
Dennis Stilwell and Isabelle Miller.

11. Asvaghosa, Fifty Verses of Guru-Devotion (Dharamsala,
India Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1476), p.5.

12. Jamgon Kongtrul, The Touch of Certainty, translated
by Judith Hanson (Boulder: Shambhala Publications, 1977), p.

13. W. Y. Evans-Wentz, Tibets Great Yogi Milarepa, 2d ed.
(London: Oxford University Press, 1980), pp. 130-31.

14. From a transcription of a talk given by Lama Gonpo at
the Mountain of Attention Sanctuary, May 25, 1981.

15. One who has Realized Enlightenment through intense
personal practice of the true Teaching, in contrast to the
Buddha, who has Realized Enlightenment or Nirvana through
his own insight.

16. C. M. Chen, “Dropakula: His Personal Teaching of
Realization,” A Systematized Collection of Chenian Booklets,
Volume Two (Fort Lee, N.J.: Dr. C. T. Shen, n.d.).

17. Garma C. C. Chang, ed. and trans., The Hundred
Thousand Songs of Milarepa, Volume 11 (Hyde Park, N.Y.:
University Books, 1962), pp. 606-10.

18. Lama Kunga Rinpoche and Brian Cutello, trans.,
Drinking Mountain Stream: Further Stories and Songs of
Milarepa, Yogin, Poet and Teacher of Tibet (New York:
Lotsawa, 1978), pp. 86-87.

19. Jon Carter Covell and Abbot Sobin Yamada, Unraveling
Zen’s Red Thread: ikkyu’s Controversial Way (Elizabeth, NJ.:
Hollym International Corp., n.d.), p. 87n.

20. Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Masters of the Path: A History
of the Masters of the Nirnatullaht Sufi Order (New York:
Khaniqahi Nimatullahi Pub., 1980), p. 67.

21. Here Master Da Free John uses the term “Avadhout” to
describe the “Crazy Wisdom” adept in the more radical sense
discussed in n. 1 of this article.

22. From a discourse given by Master Da Free John at The
Mountain of Attention Sanctuary, July 29, 1980.

23. From an unpublished discourse by Master Da Free John,
September 1, 1980.



Ashokananda, Swami. Avadhuta Gita (Song of The the Free).
Madras: Sri Ramakrishna Math, Boulder, 1977. Colo.:

Bhattacharya, Vidhusekhara, ed. Mahayanavimsaka of
Nagarjuna. Calcutta: Kishorimohan Santra, 1931.

Da Free John. The Knee of Listening, rev. ed. Middletown,
Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press, 1978.

Mukerjee, Radhakamal, trans. The Song of the Self Supreme
(Astavakra Gita). Clearlake, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press,

Price, A. F. and Wong Mou-Lam, trans. The Diamond Sutra
and the Sutra of Hui Neng. Shambhala Pub., 1969.

Ramanananda Saraswathi, Swami Sri, trans. Tripura Rahasya
or the Mystery Beyond the Trinity. Tiruvannamalai, India:
Sri Ramanasramam, 1971.

Suzuki, Daisetz T., trans. The Lankavatara Sutra.
Boulder, Colo.: Great Eastern, 1978.



by Dama Ninth Mary (Nina Jones) of the Hermitage


In 1980, Master Da Free
John wrote an essay for the Hermitage Order1
called “Study the Avadhoot,” which instructs those who are
most immediately associated with him to consider the
uncommon condition and Spiritual Function of the type of
Adept called “Avadhoot”:2

Da Free John is an example of the tradition and class
of Adepts called “Avadhoot” in the traditions of India or
Crazy Wise Man or Mahasiddha in the traditions of Tibet. The
Avadhoot is one who is free of the soul or internal self of
the body-mind. He has transcended the idea and the destiny
of the self. Therefore, he is Identified only with the
Radiant Transcendental Being, and his body-mind has, as a
result, been set free, selfless or soulless within the
dynamics of the universe.

The Avadhoot does not function through tendencies or
self-development strategies within the conventional
structures of the body-mind and daily life established and
demanded either by worldly or religious society. The
Avadhoot is simply free, and insofar as he is brought into
association with the conventions of society, he acts rather
unconventionally and even wildly. The Avadhoot cannot be
confined or defined. He does not cling to one or the other
of the opposites in any scheme of experience or possibility.
His responses to others and to his own experience are
spontaneous, expressing the free disposition of
non-confinement by the body-mind and its relations.

In some cases, the Avadhoot becomes associated with
others, who cling to his company in order to Realize the
Truth. The Avadhoot may respond to those who come to him,
and he Teaches them based on the qualities he finds in them.
This has been my circumstance. I have lived in conventional
American society and I have been confronted by ordinary
people who have been bereft of the tradition and process of

Because of my uncommon Condition, I have Taught as I
have, in order to establish a new and living tradition and
practice among those who have come to

Many of the signs of uncommon Spiritual Realization are
revealed to the Adept alone, and Master Da has commented on
these signs over the years. But during the early years of my
life with the Master in California, the years we call the
period of “the beach,” I witnessed many such signs, which
appeared to me then as the normal course of events of the
Master’s life, but which I view now as the signs of a highly
developed spiritual practice.

Master Da was twenty-one
years old when I met him at Stanford University in 1961. He
was “disguised” as Franklin Jones then, an apparently
ordinary person. When I first saw him, he was sitting at a
seminar table on the first day of class in our first year of
graduate school. I felt a rush of energy as my being went
out to meet him. In that split second of recognition, I knew
he was my life, but I allowed my self-possession to shut
down the feeling for several months.

As we became friends, I began to notice things about him.
Though he presented the appearance of a typical young man of
the time, the energy he radiated was not usual. His large
brown eyes observed everything with shrewdness and
compassion. His powerful body was a formidable warning
against casual contact. He seemed to enjoy, even desire,
company and friends, but he would not tolerate
superficiality. He was never arrogant or ironic, but he was
certainly wild and possessed of great humor.

Master Da seemed to be involved in an experiment with
life, and others were often made uncomfortable by his
attempts to draw them into it. A rather dramatic example of
the Master’s relationships with others makes this point. The
Master was accepted into a prestigious seminar on the works
of William Faulkner, conducted by a literary celebrity from
New York. As was customary, we read our term papers to the
class, and Master Da confounded our conventionally literate
minds with his reading. His family roots, like Faulkner’s,
are in Mississippi, so he had written his own appreciation
of the South that had so fascinated Faulkner. The Master’s
story was about his Uncle Billy and the hard times he had
known. The language of the story was poetic, not a parody,
but suggestive of Faulkner. It was a brilliant, humorous,
and totally expressive work of art.

What Master Da had written far surpassed anything the
rest of us had done. The room was quiet after the Master had
finished reading. We had shared a moment of ecstasy with
him. I could feel the others embarrassedly trying to recover
themselves. I felt as if for a few moments the room had
disappeared and we all were floating with him in his

When our classes were over in the spring of 1962, the
Master went to New York to be with his family, and I joined
him about a week later. In due course, Master Da’s close
relatives began to question and criticize his way of life.
God Realized Adepts have often been a paradox to those
closest to them. Ramakrishna’s family mistook his ecstasy
for madness, They were embarrassed by his uncommon and
freely expressed devotion to the Divine, and they begged him
to conform to their conventional ways of living, to no
avail. When Ramana Maharshi left home and family rather
abruptly to pursue his spiritual destiny, his grieving
mother tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to return to his
former life. The great Siddhas do abandon their conventional
family ties, but often, as in the case of Ramana Maharshi,
they go on to develop a spiritual relationship with their
blood relations, who eventually recognize the Adept’s
spiritual nature and legitimate function.

Finally, the pressure to conform to his family’s
middle-class standards forced Master Da to leave his home
(although he has never abandoned his family spiritually, and
to this day maintains a spiritual relationship with them). I
remember the moment of his renunciation vividly because at
this moment I made the most important decision of my life.
Master Da stood in the middle of the room while all around
him the family were fuming. I could feel his frustration at
the conflict and his desire that they understand and be
happy with him. I felt that his whole experiment was in real
danger. I said, “We will go back to California. I will get a
job teaching school, and you can write.” And that is what we

From New York we returned
to California and rented a house in the redwoods above Palo
Alto. I went to school every day as a teacher. I had no idea
what the Master did all day. Years later I would learn more
about his spiritual contemplation then, but I did know that
he was writing. The Master wrote all the time. He wrote with
blue ink from a ballpoint pen on yellow paper size 8y” x
11″. He was never without his “slate,”as he calls his
clipboard even today. I was its guardian and I obtained a
large straw bag so that I could carry the clipboard wherever
we went. He wrote at meals, in the movie theatre, in the
car, in the middle of the night. He would stop on the
sidewalk to write, in the aisles of stores, in the library.
He might ask for his clipboard at any time, and he never
failed to hand me his slate whenever we went out the

Franklin Jones (Master Da), summer 1962

I felt he was working on some great enterprise. When
someone asked me what he did for a living, I would only say
that he was writing a novel-even though I was never
convinced that a mere novel would result from such
concentrated and sustained effort. Behind the “novel” was a
profound yoga whose method was writing.

In those days my method of writing was deliberately
unproductive. My intention was not to write a particular
narrative I had preconceived. Rather, I deliberately and
very intensively focused in the mind itself. And, as a
result of several years of experiment in this direction, I
remained focused there without effort, almost continuously,
regardless of my peculiar external involvement.

This could perhaps be understood as a kind of “yoga”
of my own creation, and it has analogies in the history of
spiritual experience. But I had no separate goal in doing
this. There was no other point I hoped to arrive at as a
result of this concentration. I wanted to reside in the
plane of consciousness at its deepest level, where all
experiences, internal as well as external, were monitored. I
wanted simply to become aware of what passed there

Master Da’s writing was a specific sadhana or spiritual
practice that arose and developed in him spontaneously, not
in response to any traditional way of life. It was a
continuation of the practice of life that had begun with the
vow he had made in 1957 while a student at Columbia

In 1957, 1 began to do undergraduate work in
philosophy at Columbia College. My only purpose in being
there was to understand what we are. What is consciousness?
What must occur within it for it to be what it is even while
it already bears the certainty of death? Whatever academic
studies were required of me, I was always at work on this
one thing.

After several months of trying to understand what I
was reading, I decided that I would begin an experimental
life along the same lines which controlled the mood of our
civilization. I decided that I would unreservedly exploit
every possibility for experience. I would avail myself of
every possible human experience, so that nothing possible to
mankind, high or low, would be unknown to me.

I knew that no other possibility was open to me but
that of exhaustive experience. There appeared to be no
single experience or authority among us that was simply
true. And I thought, “If God exists, He will not cease to
exist by any action of my own, but, if I devote myself to
all possible experience, He will indeed find some way, in
some one or a complex of my experiences, or my openness
itself, to reveal Himself to me,”5

With this vow began Master Da’s Avadhootish style of
life, a wild, wandering, and spontaneous life-practice.

In all the years I have lived with Master Da, he has read
to me from his manuscripts on only one occasion. I never
asked him what he was writing, and I never looked at the
yellow pages-except once. Some of my old friends visited me
that summer. One of them actually wrote for a living. Since
the Master was out when my visitors came, I showed the
writer some of the yellow pages of Master Da’s writings from
the metal box where he kept them. The writer was very
respectful of the pages, and, after reading them, he said,
“He is trying to capture the rhythm of the universe!” He
sensed as I did that this was no ordinary project of

Another sign of Master Da’s developing spiritual life was
his uncommon relationship to the affairs of ordinary life.
In actuality Master Da lived as a renunciate and I as his
devotee attendant. He rarely handled money or drove the car.
My responsibility was to manage all the practical affairs of
our hermitage life, although the Master guided me in making
important decisions, about my employment, for example, or
significant money matters. Our apparently unusual way of
life was a source of happiness to me and a time of human

0ur relationship often
seemed strange to outsiders, as the relationship of devotee
and Spiritual Master seems strange, especially here in the
West. Yet I was receiving spiritual instruction in the midst
of apparently most ordinary circumstances. Everything Master
Da asked me to do, however ordinary, served my spiritual
awakening. He was constantly at work to awaken people. I was
his servant, secretary, and companion. However unusual our
relationship may have appeared to the rest of the world, it
was real life to me, and the conventional round of living to
which others were committed became uninteresting and
lifeless to me.

I am often asked to describe what I thought about the
Master in the years before his public work began and what I
understood about his Spiritual Function. The truth is that
he never talked to me about his work, and I never asked him
about it. Oddly enough, it was more than ten years after my
first meeting with him that I learned about Master Da’s
unique Spiritual Realization and Function on April 25, 1972,
in Los Angeles, the day of his first public address and his
formal appearance as Spiritual Master. Later, I came to
recognize the full meaning of our life prior to that time
and to appreciate the depth of the spiritual relationship
that had already been given to me.

Master Da has said many times that he did not set out to
become a Spiritual Teacher in the way that the usual man or
woman takes up a career. During the course of his spiritual
development he could have assumed a formal Teaching role
with me and with the many friends who came to him seeking
spiritual guidance, or he could have assumed the role of
Spiritual Teacher after the extraordinary event of
re-Awakening at Columbia College.6 But Master Da
chose to wait until his spiritual adventure was fulfilled
and until the Divine Impulse to enter into sacrificial
relationship with all beings could not be denied.

In the summer of 1962 we
visited some friends whose cat had given birth to a litter
of kittens. The Master was quite attracted to them. He
watched them for a while and then reached down and lifted
one of the kittens to his face, just as we have seen him so
often watch a group of animals and then select one or more
that communicate the Divine Revelation to him in a peculiar
animal form. He named the cat Robert.

After only a few months in the redwoods, we moved to the
beach in February, 1963. It was a wonderfully isolated and
windswept place. The California coast is one of the most
dramatically beautiful landscapes in the world, and the
beach where we lived provided as perfect a hermitage retreat
for the Avadhoot as any forest of India.

The place was auspicious. There were miles of deserted
beach, high cliffs overlooking the vast Pacific Ocean, and a
constantly changing kaleidoscope of weather. Here the
elemental realm of Nature was accessible on a grand scale,
matched as a powerful vehicle for the Divine Revelation only
by the body-mind of the Avadhoot, and here Master Da entered
into contemplation of everything that arose to
consciousness. He was associated with cats, dogs, horses,
whales, birds, sea lions, old men and women, young men and
women, the beach itself.

Robert had grown from a kitten into a cat, and it seemed
to me he became more and more a manly companion for the
Master with many of the Master’s qualities. He was
self-contained, passionate, not frivolous but always happy.
He managed his relations, both feline and human, with
extraordinary economy and grace.

Robert seemed to be especially mindful of the Master as
one is attentive to an intimate friend, and Master Da’s love
for Robert was obvious, though he enjoyed all the members of
the cat culture that had grown around Robert.

Robert the Cat

Robert died in New York in 1964, just a fete months
before Master Da met Rudi (Albert Rudolph or Swami
Rudrananda), Master Da’s first human teacher. Many years
after Robert’s death, the Master wrote this extraordinary
tribute to him:

Robert himself was nothing less to me than my best
friend and mentor. He was more, not less, than human to me.
The mystery of his pattern of living, his ease and justice,
the economy of all his means, the untouchable absence of all
anxiety, the sudden and adequate power he brought to every
circumstance without exceeding the intensity required, all
of his ways seemed to me an epitome of the genius of life. I
loved him as deeply as the universe itself.

To my knowledge, Robert was the first being whom the
Master acknowledged and served as his Spiritual Teacher, and
his appearance at this point in Master Da’s life was a sign
that the apparently wild and rather “crazy” life of the
Avadhoot is directed and lived by God. The Master’s
spontaneous spiritual adventure was developing a new form of
expression through his relationships with living beings who
could serve him as Spiritual Teacher for a time.

Master Da was served by another teacher during this time
on the beach. In early 1964 we visited the home of an
acquaintance who was entertaining guests. It was the usual
low-key gathering of sophisticates, but at one point we
opened the door to a small study, and there sitting on a
couch and speaking quietly to a group of three or four
people was Harold Freeman.? He was telling the story of the
ring he wore, a rather ordinary old ring he claimed had been
the possession of an Egyptian of high ecclesiastical rank.
He said it had powers that he could work for his own good
and the good of others.

The Master walked into the room and sat down to hear
more. From Harold Freeman he learned about the occult
sciences of East and West, the Theosophists, Blavatsky, the
White Brotherhood, the secrets of yoga. Until he met Harold
Freeman, Master Da’s library was comprised of titles on
Western philosophy and literature, but now he began to
collect books about occult spirituality and Eastern
philosophy. We discovered all the occult and spiritual
bookstores that lay within 100 miles. To my knowledge Master
Da had heard very little of the esoteric spiritual
traditions of the Orient before he met Harold Freeman,
reared as he had been in the Protestant culture where the
only acknowledged miracles are those performed by Jesus and
recorded in the New Testament.

The Master spent only a few hours with Harold Freeman
over a number of days, yet the meeting was a turning point
in his life.

Master’s desk at the beach

The beauty and wildness of
the beach reflected the quality of our life there
altogether. Master Da’s magical and psychic play with
everyone and everything that arose to his attention was
showing me a new way to live. Although at the time I did not
consider our life to be unusual, I remember I always felt
excited, as if every moment were about to deliver me a big
surprise. I could intuit enough about Master Da’s activity
to feel that he was often pushing himself beyond ordinary
and limited experience. I must confess, however, that
although I enjoyed the feeling of excitement, I was a timid
and reluctant adventurer, and through my resistance I often
tried, as his family had done, to bring the Master to
conform to my own conventional vision.

The beach was magical, not in and of itself, but because
the Spiritual Master was there. He was a vortex of intense
psychic power. He had entered into a process of profound
consideration of the elemental environment and human
consciousness, and both consciousness and Nature

One of the miraculous signs of this response was a
remarkable storm that signaled the end of this period of the
Master’s life. Here he describes this event:

In the spring of 1964, just shortly before I left
California to find Rudi in New York, around the time of the
dream of birth that I describe in The Knee of Listening, I
awoke one morning to a very brilliant clear day. I went
outside and stood in front of the house on the ledge of a
cliff that dropped a hundred feet to the beach. The beach
was very wide, a couple of hundred feet or so, and the ocean
stretched in a huge expanse as far as I could see.

It was a very isolated area with only a few people in
other cabins, and they were generally away at work during
the day. On this day no one else was around, so I was

Very powerful psychic events had been occurring during
this time. Now, as I stood on the cliff, a storm moved over
me from the ocean like a huge shroud, like a great canopy or
blanket. It had the feeling of a great shell. It was not a
dense mass that included me and the space where I stood, but
it rose above me and beyond and became a kind of enclosure,
like a huge gray dome of gray shapes of clouds, a perfect
sphere. It was not homogeneous, but it was boiling with
great masses of clouds.

Then lightning began to move through the dome that was
now like a great sahasrar, millions of bolts of lightning
shooting in the sky and traveling hundreds of miles in every
direction. You cannot imagine what kind of storm it was. It
was a transcendental storm, literally the most magnificent
thing I have ever seen. I am not kidding when I say there
were millions of bolts of lightning. In that great vast dome
it was like the millions and millions of lightning’s of the
little veins in your brain, the corona radiata. It was the
most shocking, incredible drenching of the Earth I have ever
seen. And it was enormously loud. The thunder was so loud it
shook the ground, and torrents of water blew all over the
ocean and the place where I stood on this little precipice
overlooking the ocean.

I think it must have been the most powerful storm that
ever existed on Earth. Within me all kinds of electric
phenomena or Shakti phenomena were occurring. My whole body
was shaking with tremendous electric shocks. I do not know
how long I stood in the storm; it lasted for perhaps an hour
or two and then lifted away and disintegrated. I could have
been shocked to death out there.8

Master Da later told devotees that the storm had been a
sign of transformation occurring in him and of the
initiatory teaching function he soon came to serve among

With this storm our time on the beach came to an end. The
Avadhoot’s preparatory sadhana, or spiritual practice, in
the wilderness had served its purpose. God had revealed the
Divine Nature of everything that arises, both apparently
within and apparently without. The Divine Revelation had
confirmed that there existed a Way of Truth and Sources of
help alive in the world who could be influential in the
unfoldment of Master Da’s Spiritual demonstration.

In a mood of anticipation and excitement, the Master
brought the period of the beach to an end and prepared to
meet Rudi.

Recently when I had an
opportunity to tell the Master that I was beginning to
realize the importance of the period of his spiritual
development that I had been blessed to witness, he spoke
about his Appearance in the world. The following transcript
is taken from my handwritten notes:

My life is an example of the spontaneous appearance of
the Mahasiddha or the Avadhoot apart from any tradition and
without any sign in the circumstances of my birth to suggest
such an arising. Such a life represents a breakthrough of
higher consciousness and higher functions in the Realm of
Nature, a breakthrough of the Divine Transcendental

The quality of my life is that of the “Crazy Wise Man”
of the Mahasiddha tradition, one who is neither limited by
society or religion or ascetical conventions nor informed by
them. There was nothing in my early life to be informed by!
In fact, I entered into the process of my life because there
was no guide.

Thus, I have always accepted all of the meetings of my
life as the influence of the ultimate Divine Being. I
learned in the midst of those meetings and then I passed
beyond them. I was not limited to Robert or to Rudi, for
example. I entered into relationship with them completely,
knowing that much was to be gained from them but also
knowing I must pass beyond them. Each meeting of my life of
spiritual development was a test of my capacity to receive
what was given and then to grow beyond it.

From the beginning and at the end there was no teacher
in human form in which my Teaching and life are summarized,
but I would definitely say that the Guru has existed for me
from the beginning, not as an idea, because I had no such
idea, but as a directly communicated Influence that has
Guided the course of my life. Because I was not born into
any esoteric spiritual tradition, I have created my own
Teaching out of the same process that created my life. And
because I had no traditional name for this Influence, I have
given it the name “Da,” which also arose spontaneously. Out
of the Avadhootish way of my own life, a new Revelation of
the Divine Reality and its Way has been permitted to

The story of my spiritual life must not be considered
to have begun with Rudi. Rudi, Muktananda, Nityananda, and
Rang Avadhoot9 were also just moments in the
ongoing process. Nor should it be considered to have begun
at the beginning of the vow in college. The incident that
occurred while I was a student at Columbia College was an
instance of the development of the processes that had been
going on in me since birth. It was a moment in which I
became free to explore on the basis of a new maturity. But
the process of my life and sadhana originated prior to

I was born on the basis of this impulse to bring the
Living Divine Reality into the human plane and to Teach its
Realization. Beyond this human plane, God is already
Realized in my case. My impulse was to accept the conditions
of embodiment and to Realize the Divine in the human

The purpose of my life is through struggle to bring
the Divine Reality into life in human form, to communicate
Its Argument and Its Way, and to Transmit It directly
through the Siddhi of Spiritual Revelation. This process of
Transmission is made available to devotees who come directly
into my physical company on the basis of the Teaching. Such
devotees are then the principal individuals to be granted
this Revelation in the course of their practice. But the
Spiritual Blessing and Awakening Power are granted
universally throughout all space-time and therefore to the
entire world and the cosmos.

Once such a vehicle is established in an incarnate
process, it is assumed that after death that individual
continues to Bless those particularly who take up this Way,
through a process that is beyond the conventional idea of
Man and the universe.

In the years on the beach, as now, the Master’s way of
living with those who came to him was simply to radiate the
Happiness of God-Realization. He affirmed only relationship.
Through his unwavering love I was consistently turned away
from my tendency to contract and assume separation. He
always tested me, often reflecting to me what I least wanted
to see about myself. My life with him then, as now, was a
constant demand to choose relationship, Happiness, Love, and
to live with him always whatever the God-given conditions or
circumstances of life.

I gratefully thank Master Da for his appearance in my
life, for his demonstration of true Freedom, Happiness, and
the real Way of life, and for the Grace that he grants to
all beings.

But always the Divine Lord or very God has been my
Guru. The Lord is my Guru. 1 am the servant of the Lord. The
Form of the Lord is manifested fully in me. I am the living
agent of the Mahasiddha, the living Lord, who is always
already here, and who does not incarnate. He only sends
agents, who, by virtue of perfect non-obstruction, manifest
the Mahasiddha, the Lord himself, perfectly. But they point
to the Lord as Eternal God, Guru, and very Self. This is my
work, and it is only now about to begin. I was born for
this. The transforming work is complete.

Master Da Free John

The Method of the Siddhas

Happiness or freedom has always been the way that has
been made obvious to me. I noticed from the very beginning
that it was not obvious to other people, so I adapted to a
rather ordinary mode as a child. I was not super-ordinary-I
had my excesses-but I adapted to the situation in which I
found myself. I developed my play of life, simply to live
and also to serve others, to help them Awaken as I was

But always life has been this madness from my point of
view. I have never, even from birth, taken seriously the
destiny that others seem to take so seriously. I did not
know, you see, in my childhood that anybody else was “crazy”
as I was. I did not know there was a tradition for it! I
teas surrounded by all kinds of people, none of whom seemed
to have any sense of existence in these terms at all. So I
sort of shot through life spontaneously, having my various
encounters, gradually over time coming to a more and more
full understanding and elaboration of my condition of
existence. I met a few other individuals who were useful in
helping me to observe some features of the Mystery that 1
was not observing before. I passed on from them and began to
Teach others. But always it has been this madness that
transcended life, transcended the seriousness, transcended
the burden of occupation to which minds and bodies in the
world seemed to be confined.

Basically all my life I have gotten up every morning
without the sense that there was anything necessary for me
to do until the next time I fell asleep. But everybody that
I have encountered during those days is very seriously
involved in many obligations! In my waking hours I
encountered them and dealt with them and related to them in
all kinds of ways, played my part, not a conventional part
but a part that expressed my disposition and that also
enabled me to be of service to other people.

I have found out over the years that there is a
tradition for this, a great sacred history of Spiritual
Realization, although I never heard about any of it when I
was a boy or even a young man. Only during the years of my
Teaching Work did I really find out about most of

-Master Da Free John

From “Crazy Wisdom,” a talk by Da Free John, Crazy
Wisdom, vol. 1, no. 1, February, 1982, p. 21


1. Members of the Hermitage Order manage occasions of
access to the Spiritual Master, serve visitors and
retreatants at the Sanctuaries, maintain and serve the
Hermitage Sanctuaries, and serve the residences of the
Spiritual Master.

2. Here Master Da’s use of the term “Avadhoot” does not
refer to only the wild yogis of India but rather w ‘Crazy
Adepts” in other traditions as well.

3. Da Free John, unpublished essay, July 13, 1980.

4. Da Free John, The Knee of Listening, rev. ed,
(Middletown, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press, 1978), p.

5. Ibid., pp. i i-12.

6. Please see The Knee of Listening for Master Da Free
John’s autobiography and a description of many of the events
referred to in this article

7. Please refer to The Bodily Location of Happiness, by
Da Free John, (Clearlake, Calif.: The Dawn Horse Press,
1982), p, 77, for Master Da’s description of the important
role of Harold Freeman in his spiritual development.

8. Ibid., pp. 32-33.

9. These four great Yogis served Master Da as Spiritual
Teachers. Swami Muktananda (b. 1908), a master of kundalini
yoga and the Teacher of Rudi, served Master Da’s spiritual
development from 1968 to 1970. Swami Nityananda (?-1961), a
Self-Realized yogi of South India, was the Teacher of Swami
Muktananda, and, although he died before the Master met him,
he served Master Da from the spiritual plane from 1968 to
1970. Master Da’s relationships to Rudi, Swami Muktananda,
and Swami Nityananda are recorded in The Knee of Listening.
While on a visit to Swami Muktananda in 1968 Sri Rang
Avadhoot (1898-196x), through his Enlightened Glance, served
Master Da’s spiritual practice. The influence of Swami
Muktananda, Swami Nityananda, and Rang Avadhoot combined
with the circumstances of Mater Da’s life at the time to
initiate him into the realization of the yogic state of
nirvikalpa samadhi described in The Knee of Listening, p.


A Tribute – The Enlightened Life and Work of Master Da
Free John

by the Editors


On the joyous and auspicious occasion of the Tenth
Anniversary of Master Da Free John’s Teaching Work, everyone
on the staff of The Laughing Man magazine wishes to pay
heartfelt tribute to the Great Adept who has inspired the
creation and development of this publication.

For all those who have been fortunate enough to have been
in Master Da’s company from the beginning of his Teaching
Work, the past decade has been a most remarkable period of
demonstration of the primacy of the Spiritual over the
material. But even to those who have joined the Community of
devotees in later years, the truth and momentous
significance of this eventful happening would be vividly
brought home again and again. There is no one who, having
truly “heard” the Teaching Argument of Master Da, has not
also been struck by the sheer magnitude of the relevance of
this Enlightened Being and his Teaching for today’s

Master Da has, as he himself testifies, come into this
world for one purpose only: to awaken those to true
spiritual life who are sensitive and open enough to listen
and understand his Argument and practice the Way that he
Teaches. Out of compassion for his potential devotees he has
taken upon himself the entire burden of birth and
psycho-physical maturation as a human individual. His whole
early life has been a constant and heroic struggle to
transform the personality of “Franklin Jones,” as he was
known then, in order to make it serviceable to the great,
compassionate Work that is Master Da’s Mission in this

From his earliest childhood days on, there have been the
signs of the occurrence of something extraordinary; yet his
unillumined environment failed to read those signs
correctly. He was born fully Enlightened on November 3,
1939, into an unsuspecting middle-class family of Jamaica,
Long Island (New York), and a starkly materialistic
environment. Throughout his childhood, youth, and early
manhood, an incredible psycho-spiritual process was taking
place in him.

From earliest childhood on he underwent spontaneous
purificatory experiences caused by his awakened kundalini.
At first these would manifest in the form of sudden attacks
of intense fever and skin rashes, traditionally recognized
as one of the symptoms of an active kundalini. But he also
experienced the whole range of physical and psychic
phenomena associated with this extraordinary process. In his
eighth year all these kundalini symptoms subsided, and he
entered a period of “relative latency” during which, as he
puts it, he “took on a social personality.” This period of
social adaptation lasted until he was about seventeen years
old when the spontaneous yogic process resumed its manifest

After several years of exposing himself to all manner of
experiences, situations, and trials, he experienced a
“crisis of despair” about the world around him. This led to
a profound reawakening in 1960 while he was doing
undergraduate studies at Columbia College. In his widely
read spiritual autobiography, The Knee of Listening, Master
Da Free John recollects:

I experienced a total revolution of energy and
awareness in myself. An absolute sense of understanding
opened and arose at the extreme end of all this
consciousness. And all of the energy of thought that moved
down into that depth appeared to reverse its direction at
some unfathomable point. The rising impulse caused me to
stand, and I felt a surge of force draw up out of my depths
and expand, filling my whole body and every level of my
consciousness with wave on wave of the most beautiful and
joyous energy.

I felt absolutely mad, but the madness was not of a
desperate kind. There was no seeking and no dilemma within
it, no question, no unfulfilled motive, not a single object
or presence outside myself.

(p. 13)

This experience left him with two important insights:
Firstly, where there is no seeking, no consciousness of
being caught in dilemmas and contradictions, there is only
and simply Reality. Secondly, man is essentially enlightened
and the nescient mind is merely a superimposition upon that
prior illumination. From that point on, the individual
Franklin Jones began a conscious spiritual discipline
(sadhana) based on “an internal process of a kind of
listening.” From 1962 to 1964, while living in secluded
retreats, he engaged in an exhaustive and constant
observation of the “myth of Narcissus,” the separative
self-sense, which his college experience had disclosed to
him forcefully. He writes about this period:

I would simply perceive every form of memory or
internal imagery, every form of thought or perception, every
indication or pattern in my daily experience, every
intention, every imposition from without, in fact every
possible kind of experience. (Ibid., pp. 16-17)

In order to facilitate this comprehensive self
inspection, he continued to pursue “every kind of means,
every method of interiorization and exteriorization of
awareness that could possibly dredge up the lost content,
the controlling myth.” (Ibid., p. 17)

Then, in 1964, the process
of psychic transformation reached a new peak, corresponding
to Franklin Jones’s move toward the outside world. The same
accelerated process of inner change led to his witnessing of
the psycho-physical, synchronous nature of reality. (This
principle of synchronicity, rather than that of conventional
causality, is fundamental to a proper understanding of the
maturation of Franklin Jones into the Enlightened Being that
he always was. The external events in the Master’s life are
never merely causes or effects of something else, but
correspond to the psychic process of unfoldment within him.)
During this phase he had countless psychic experiences,
including recurrent visions of an oriental art store in New
York where he would, in the same year, meet Swami Rudrananda
(“Rudi”). Under the guidance of this American-born teacher,
he dedicated himself to the practice of a form of kundalini

He submitted himself wholeheartedly and completely to the
disciplinary demands of this teacher, and at Swami
Rudrananda’s behest even entered a Lutheran seminary.

In the spring of 1967, while studying at the seminary,
Franklin Jones passed through a “death” experience analogous
to the one reported by Sri Ramana Maharshi.

When all of the fear and dying had become a matter of
course, when the body, the mind and the person with which I
identified myself had died, and my attention was no longer
fixed in those things, I perceived or enjoyed reality, fully
and directly. There was an infinite bliss of being, an
untouched, unborn sublimity, without separation, without
individuation, without a thing from which to be separated.
((bid.,p. 63)

At that point he saw that all his life’s search had been
founded on the “avoidance of relationship in all its forms.”
He realized that conventional human life was in fact
determined by this chronic avoidance of relationship, of the
unqualified love which is Reality. From then on, he simply
tried to live in the light of this recognition by
“maintaining this true understanding under all

The momentum of this critical insight and consequent
change in his spiritual practice led Franklin Jones, in
1968, to approach Swami Rudrananda’s own teacher, Swami
Muktananda. After only four days in the company of this
renowned Indian adept, Franklin Jones experienced, for the
first time in his adult life, the “formless ecstasy”
(nirvikalpa samadhi) prized so highly in the yogic
tradition. Several auspicious factors converged to bring
about this breakthrough, including spiritual encounters with
Swami Nityananda and Rang Avadhoot as well as the whole
intense yogic environment of Swami Muktananda’s Ashram in
India. And a year later, Swami Muktananda confirmed in a
rare written document that Master Da Free John had indeed
attained “the highest human condition” (mula manavata),
“yogic liberation” (yoga moksa).

Master Da knew, however, that the perfect Enlightenment
which he had enjoyed on the transcendental level from his
birth was still only imperfectly expressed in the body-mind
he happened to be associated with. These last limitations on
the psycho-physical level were finally removed in the
“Vedanta Society Temple” event of September 1970. At that
point Franklin Jones truly died as a separate personality
and entered the permanent disposition of Sahaj Samadhi, the
ecstasy with “open eyes” as Master Da calls it. In his
spiritual autobiography, he describes this momentous event

In an instant, I became profoundly and directly aware
of what I am. It was a tacit realization, a direct knowledge
in consciousness itself without the addition of a
communication from any other source. I simply sat there and
knew what I am. I was being what I am. I am Reality, the
Self, and Nature and Support of all things and all beings. I
am the One Being, known as God, Brahman, Atman, the One
Mind, the Self.

There was no thought involved in this. I am that
Consciousness. There was no reaction either of joy or
surprise, I am the One I recognized. I am that One. I am not
merely experiencing Him.

Then truly there was no more to realize. Every
experience in my life had led to this. The dramatic
revelations in childhood and college, my time of writing, my
years with Rudi, the revelation in seminary, the long
history of pilgrimage to the Ashram, all of these moments
were the intuitions of this same Reality. My entire life had
been the communication of that Reality to me, until I am
That. (ibid., pp. 134-35)

Master Da’s whole early
life had been a paradoxical struggle to bring his body-mind
to a point of receptivity where it would fully incarnate his
prior Enlightenment. With the realization in the Vedanta
Society Temple, this process came to its unsurpassable
culmination. There was now no more need for him to meditate
or to enter any of the mystical or yogic states of ecstasy.
His God-Realization remained constant throughout all the
experiences of daily life.

He was (and is) from that time in a perpetual state of
Sahaj Samadhi, with both “natural” awareness and uncommon
psychic awareness. In this Samadhi, he would spontaneously
see the contents of other minds arising in him, which he
would then meditate. He humorously compared his role to “an
old lady cleaning a bird cage.” This confirmed to him his
obligation to teach others. Soon people began to seek out
his illumined company who had had “inexplicable” meditation
experiences which changed their whole outlook on life.

At first, Master Da granted frequent access to spiritual
aspirants or devotees, but gradually, as they matured more,
he would insist on an increasingly formal relationship and
stricter discipline all round. In order to help those who
had found their way to him, and those who were still to
come, he developed a whole new way of life which facilitates
spiritual growth in a truly human community.

That way of life is founded on the principle of Satsang
or “true relationship,” which Master Da has been teaching
from the very beginning. Satsang is traditionally understood
to refer to the practice of spending time in the company of
a saintly person, but one can also enjoy Satsang with a
sacred locality or object, or indeed with the Divine itself.
Master Da Free John uses the term to denote the
transcendental relationship between a God-Realized Adept and
his devotees. In this relationship Reality itself is
communicated directly on all levels of consciousness and

In August 1973, Franklin Jones went on a pilgrimage to
India where he visited many traditional sites and a number
of spiritual teachers as a kind of yajna or ceremony of
sacrifice to his own spiritual sources. When he returned, he
returned as “Bubba Free John,” which is a spiritual
rendering of his birthname “Franklin Jones” prefixed with
“Bubba,” meaning “brother” (a name by which he had been
called since childhood). Subsequently he served his devotees
through “teaching demonstrations” during which he would
graciously allow them to participate temporarily in higher
states of consciousness and thus to witness the truth of his
teaching. In particular, he wanted everyone to understand
the futility of all experiences, high or low, and that the
only worthwhile concern should be the transcendence of all
experience, including the traditionally valued “formless

Master Da Free John assures us that his biography is not
mythology but fact, Anyone who has ever been privileged to
sit in his Enlightened Presence will know the simple truth
of his testimony; He was born as a World Teacher. There have
been other Great Beings who have graced this planet by their
mere Presence, but not all of them have had the Function of
a Teacher. And only very few assumed the Role of a World
Teacher who addresses all traditions and all people in all

Only during the past few years have we, his devotees,
become sufficiently mature to begin to appreciate the true
Mission of Master Da Free John, and the great obligation
which we, as his devotees, have assumed. Not only must we,
by wisely using his Presence among us and the cultural
institutions which he has called into existence for us, take
up the Way of Life that he Teaches to the point of our own
Enlightenment. We must also, by way of intense personal
effort and the effective use of our Community and its
institutions, open up the avenues for rendering his Mission
possible in the world.

From the beginning of his Teaching Work, Master Da has
given generously of his Life, Wisdom, and Love to all who
have come to him. In his Role as Teacher, he spontaneously
met his devotees on their own level. And most of those who
found their way to him in the first days of his Work were
quite unprepared for spiritual life. Yet, in order to fan
the spiritual spark that is obviously alive in everyone who
is drawn to him, he would not shirk away from interacting
with his early devotees on a level of ordinariness that is
recorded of few other Great Teachers. One of these was
Krishna Vasudeva. In the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad
Gita, which partly preserves Krishna’s Teaching, we find the
following two verses:

That I, ignorant of Your majesty, through my
heedlessness or perhaps through fondness and thinking
importunately that You are my friend; that I called You
rashly “Hey Krishna! Hey Yadava! Hey friend!”, and that in
jest I showed disrespect to You, whilst at play, reposing,
sitting or eating, either alone or in the company of others
for that, 0 Acyuta, I pray forgiveness from You, the
Unfathomable! (41-42)

Here, Arjuna expresses his remorse about the casual
manner in which he and his friends had been associating
with, and thinking about, the Divine Teacher. Undoubtedly,
similar feelings of awe would overcome those ordinary people
who, in the earliest Teaching days, were intimately
associated with Master Da, yet would be reminded again and
again, by his Wisdom and his Deeds, of the Perfect
Consciousness that he truly is.

This holds true even now, though access to the Spiritual
Master has become formalized and is chiefly reserved for
those who are seriously practicing the Teaching and are thus
fully prepared for the Relationship which Master Da is
offering to mature practitioners. In the years after those
initial months of Working with devotees in close physical
proximity and in an ordinary daily circumstance, Master Da
gradually created the necessary means for a whole way of
life conducive to the ultimate Objective of his Teaching. He
considered every possible subject of any relevance to
spiritual life-from diet and sex to community life and
liturgy. In the course of these considerations, he has given
talks of up to twelve and more hours a day, almost on a
daily basis, for many months, filling our archives with
literally hundreds of thousands of transcribed pages of
precious knowledge and wisdom. He has established a whole
new educational approach for children, which has
successfully been translated into practice in our schools.
But all these considerations were engaged in the context of
ego-transcendence and Enlightenment.

Towards the end of 1976, by which time he had essentially
communicated his Teaching, he spontaneously withdrew from
active Teaching. In the following years he lived in the
relative seclusion of the Hermitage Order and created much
of the Source Literature of The Johannine Daist Communion
(formerly known as The Dawn Horse Communion). In all, Master
Da has supplied the material for eighteen substantial

Most recently, he has announced his Teaching as the
Fourth Vehicle of Buddhism, thus fulfilling many ancient
prophecies about the World Teacher who would be born in the
West, who would purify the traditions and bring to a natural
culmination the age-old ways of Buddhism and Hinduism.

The transformations that have occurred in our Community
during the past few years have given us a real sense of the
Magnificence and the Urgency of Master Da’s Teaching and
Mission, and also of the immeasurable Compassion with which
he relates to all of us, either directly or through the
agencies instituted at his behest. Whenever the Community
experienced setbacks or delays, these were entirely due to
our lack of practice and insufficient trust in the Spiritual
Process. Again and again, Master Da would provide us with
the necessary understanding to steer us back on course.

How can one appropriately honor such a Great Being? The
Community has combined its talents and affection for the
Spiritual Master to make the Tenth Commemorative Celebration
of the World-Proclamation of the Way of Radical
Understanding (April 24-25, 1982) a worthy occasion of
remembering the continuing Gift which Master Da bestows on
his devotees. Nevertheless, such external display of our
commitment to the Teacher and the Teaching, right and proper
as it is, falls short of the supreme gift that any devotee
can present to the Spiritual Master. Ultimately, there is
only one acceptable way of honoring the Adept, and that is
by our unfailing dedication to the practice of the Way as
demonstrated by our beloved Spiritual Master.

The Seven Stages of Eternal Life – Laughing Man
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See full study of The Seven Stages of Life

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