21 December 2007
Well la dee da, it's Adi Da!
Adi Da and Adidam: The Divine Self-Revelation of the Avataric Way of the "Bright" and the "Thumbs"
The Dawn Horse Press, 2004
In my sojourns through the religion, philosophy, and New Age sections of various bookshops, I've repeatedly come across the name and face of Adi Da (previously known as Bubba Free John, among other monikers). It was only when I found this pocket-sized introductory book, though, that I decided to read a bit more about this enigmatic and controversial guru and his teachings. Having devoured the entire thing last night, I'm still trying to figure out whether or not Adi Da means for us to take everything written here seriously. My assumption is that this booklet is an accurate, if brief, look at Adidam, because it is published by the Dawn Horse Press (the publisher of all of Adi Da's other works) and was written under the direction of the Ruchira Sannyasin Order of Adidam Ruchiradam (a impressive-sounding group about which the reader is told nothing). If this is the case, then Adi Da is either: (1) God incarnate, (2) a legitimate spiritual teacher with delusions of grandeur, (3) seriously mentally ill, (4) a charlatan of epic proportions, or (5) some combination thereof. For the record, my money is not on option #1.
Adi Da is, according to this book, "Real God, or Truth, or Reality, Manifesting in human form" (p.6). He claims that at his birth as Franklin Jones (in Jamaica, NY, no less), the Divine Reality became a human being for the first time, and that the millennia-long struggle for human beings to attain enlightenment under their own steam, as it were, came to an end. This claim must come as a surprise to the billion-plus Christians worldwide who assert that God became a human being in 1st century Palestine, and to the hundreds of millions of Hindus who believe that the divine Vishnu has taken human form on at least nine occasions.
As for Adidam, "the Path of the Heart," it boils down to guru-devotion or bhakti-yoga. What this means is that the devotee, by surrendering the heart and giving complete attention and devotion to Adi Da, allows the divine essence that is incarnate in Adi Da to break through the knot of self-concern and ego-contraction which is the source of all suffering. Again, this is not unique, at least from the perspective of comparative religion. Bhakti yoga is probably the most practiced form of Hindu spirituality, and many other religious traditions, Christianity and Shin Buddhism among them, see divine grace as the only "means" to salvation. For the devotees of Adidam, however, the salvific response to this devotion isn't simply taken on faith; rather, it takes the form of palpable energetic responses, called the "Bright" and the "Thumbs" by Adi Da, that transform the mind, soul, and body of the devotee. At least, that's what the book says.
Apart from the actual content, the book's style posed many problems. Hagiography isn't a genre popular with too many moderns, yours truly included, and the praise-filled prose becomes cloying just a few pages into the book. Adi Da's own commentary, quoted at length throughout the slender volume, is rife with arbitrary capitalization, underlining, and other annoying stylistic and typographic idiosyncrasies. Those features, combined with fairly impenetrable philosophy and a sense of inflated ego (which is to be expected, I guess, from the "promised God-man"), made for a less-than-thrilling read.
(This review was originally written on November 27, 2007.)