What Were Adidam’s Legal Challenges?
Moral Principles and Legal Actions
Avatar Adi Da established principles of moral behavior that he described as the necessary foundation for basic human maturity and esoteric spiritual practice. He called each practitioner of the Reality-Way of Adidam to align his or her behavior to those moral principles, and to always treat all others—both inside and outside the organization—with respect and compassion. These principles form the basis of community life within the Reality-Way of Adidam.
As in any organization with many members, individuals occasionally behave in ways that are not consistent with the principles and values espoused by the founder. During one brief period in the mid-1980s, some interpersonal conflicts as well as reactions to Avatar Adi Da’s manner of teaching led to civil actions by some of Avatar Adi Da’s former students. At that time, two disaffected students filed lawsuits in US courts against Avatar Adi Da, the Adidam organization, and several individuals holding leadership positions within the organization.
The allegations in the lawsuits generated sensationalized headlines in print and on television in the mid-1980s, depicting Avatar Adi Da, his organization, and his students in a negative light. Stories and rumors about these lawsuits are still found today on the internet. We who experienced these challenges would like to set the record straight.
The two lawsuits were quickly settled for modest amounts acceptable to those who filed them. During this same period, two similar civil actions were threatened, but never filed, by other disaffected students. These four disputes were settled by modest payments from the insurance company that at the time provided coverage to the Adidam organization for these types of legal expenses. The decision to settle was an economic one made by the insurance company, and it was entirely unrelated to the substance of the legal claims.
It is important to note that no charges or indictments have ever been brought in a court of law against Avatar Adi Da or any of the Adidam organizations, nor did Avatar Adi Da ever have any negative encounters with law enforcement.
The Main Lawsuit Was Dismissed by the Judge
Both lawsuits that were filed included allegations such as intentional misrepresentation, fraud and deceit, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. One lawsuit was sealed upon filing by the person who brought it. As noted above, it was resolved by a modest settlement and confidentiality was a condition of the settlement. The other, main lawsuit, which is on public record and a source of much publicity, also included an allegation of “imprisonment”.
Beverly is the former spouse of Brian O., who was (and remains) a practitioner of Adidam. Their marriage had recently broken up. Brian speaks:
Beverly and I broke up in 1984, about 8 months before the lawsuit was filed. I was very insensitive and selfish in the manner in which I handled our break-up. We had been married for seven years, and our relationship was extraordinarily difficult. We were both very volatile and strong-willed characters, we were very different, and we were in constant conflict. We had gone through two separations in the years before our final breakup in 1984. Even though I did everything to stay involved with the kids and maintain my support of them, there was no way to get around the fact that Beverly and the kids felt alone. That formed the heart-breaking emotional background to what developed into a lawsuit in early 1985. Neither Avatar Adi Da nor Adidam had anything to do with the difficulties in our marriage. Beverly and I are reconciled and have continued to stay in touch, mainly around our mutual love and service to our three children, all now grown-up and leading happy and productive lives.
A Marin County (California) Superior Court judge ruled that Beverly, the plaintiff, had no legal basis for filing the lawsuit and the court dismissed the case on summary judgment. Beverly made a statement some years later. In this statement, she said that she wanted to set the record straight about how that lawsuit came about, and how she felt about the distorted media coverage that ensued. Basically, she completely exonerated Avatar Adi Da and the Adidam organization.
I can't think of anything Avatar Adi Da ever forced me to do. There were times I was given an instruction which I considered spiritual lessons at the time, which I attempted to follow. I was never given a personal command or order that comes to mind. I would have never filed a lawsuit, or even thought of filing one, if it weren't for [the people who were instigating attacks on Adi Da and his work in 1985]. They came to me, and told me they had a lawyer, and they would take care of everything. I was in a very vulnerable place—a single mother with three small children—and I let them take charge. Had I known it would turn into the media circus it did, I wouldn't have taken that route. I enjoy my privacy. The media, both TV and newspaper, distorted everything. I was interviewed by a reporter for one of the San Francisco papers—I can't remember if it was the Examiner or the Chronicle—and I couldn't believe it when I read the article. It had very little to do with anything I said. It was at that point that I lost faith in news, journalism, reporters, etc.
As you read, Beverly herself does not believe these stories are accurate or fair to her, Avatar Adi Da, and the Adidam organization.
Learning Lessons and Moving Forward
Since that period in the mid 1980s, no one has filed a lawsuit against Avatar Adi Da or any Adidam organization. However, the turmoil created by those lawsuits greatly affected the personal lives and relationships of many of Avatar Adi Da’s devotees. For devotees whose family and friends were among those involved with the lawsuits, understanding and forgiveness on everyone’s part has been the foundation for rebuilding their valued relationships with one another.
The conduct alleged in those lawsuits contradict the core principles of behavior that Avatar Adi Da espoused and that we all cherish. Nevertheless, we came through this experience having learned and grown as a community, particularly in regards to supporting individuals who are experiencing difficult emotional and life circumstances. The experience pointed us in a direction that has helped us mature as a community of spiritual practitioners. These events happened well over thirty years ago, and are now part of the history of our growth and development as a new tradition of spiritual practice.
Students Are Free to Leave Adidam at Any Time
Some claims on the internet suggest that people have been kept against their will in the Adidam community. These claims are not based in reality. Given the freedom of Avatar Adi Da’s students to leave at any time, any claims of this nature are simply not true. In fact, many students have left the practice over the years. Even people who took formal renunciate vows were free to leave at any time. Each person becomes a student by his or her own free choice and participation is voluntary.
Long-time devotee Randall H. shares his experience:
Participating in Adidam is each person’s free choice. Leaving is always available for anyone. Each devotee is operating under free will and constantly making the choice to remain in a demanding practice because they want to, not because they are pressured or brainwashed.
Other Allegations of Misconduct
One of the allegations on the internet was that Avatar Adi Da struck a pregnant woman in the stomach. Long-time devotee Connie M. describes what really happened in the interaction with Avatar Adi Da in 1974:
In the fall of 1974, I was pregnant with my son. One evening during a devotional occasion with Avatar Adi Da, he placed his hands purposefully on my pregnant belly, in what felt clearly as a gesture of blessing. I fell back in a swoon of his spiritual transmission. Other devotees behind me caught me and we all stood in bliss for a few moments. Then it was over just as quickly as it began. A few months later, I gave birth to a strong, healthy, wonderful baby boy. Someone who had witnessed that event assumed that I had been hurt by Adi Da, which was not at all what happened! I felt that Adi Da had given his blessing to me and my son in that moment.
In the mid-1980s an allegation was made in the media that during the 1970s a young girl had been forced to take off her clothes in front of a group of adults that included Avatar Adi Da. The young girl, who was age ten at the time, was one of many children whose parents were part of the Adidam community. In those days, students would occasionally gather with Avatar Adi Da at a former hot springs resort in Northern California, now the Mountain Of Attention, an Adidam sanctuary. Since the sanctuary has bathing facilities associated with the hot springs, it was common in the 1970s for the bathing to be “clothing optional” during the summer. Often children would join their parents at these bathing occasions.
Cere B., one of the young girl's friends at the time who was present, elaborates:
She was my childhood best friend. My memory is of a free and happy childhood time when we were often all naked at the pools and mineral baths and needed no prompting. It was just natural, and in no way strange or untoward.
As young people in Adidam reach adulthood, they make their own choices whether to continue their practice and their association with Adidam or not. Aura B. grew up in Adidam and continues to practice as an adult:
My parents were devotees of Avatar Adi Da when I was born, and I have happily and willingly participated in the Adidam community my whole life. I went through a period of deciding whether or not I wanted to be involved as an adult, and always felt very supported and allowed to go through whatever I needed to in considering Avatar Adi Da's teaching, and if it was "true" or not, as I was growing up.
Moral Principles in Adidam
Avatar Adi Da established principles of moral behavior that he describes as the necessary foundation for basic human maturity and esoteric spiritual practice. He calls all practitioners of the Reality-Way of Adidam (and even all of humankind) to treat each other, all beings, and the earth itself with the highest standard of respect and compassion. These principles are founded on the presumption of “prior unity”. They include cooperation, tolerance, harmlessness, self-responsibility, compassion, and ego-transcending love practiced under all circumstances. Avatar Adi Da calls us to hold ourselves and each other accountable—as individuals and as a community—for aligning our behaviors and our lives to these core values.
Practitioners of the Reality-Way of Adidam strive to exemplify respect for all beings in every area of daily life. Our commitment to Avatar Adi Da’s calling includes examining any past and present incidences of behavior by community members that do not meet these standards. For example, Adidam has instituted a strong sexual misconduct policy which is communicated to all members, and managers of Adidam organizations receive training to cultivate their awareness of and sensitivity to all forms of sexual harassment. This is a continuous and ongoing process.