Avatar Adi Da in California in 1977

Why Was Avatar Adi Da's Method of Teaching Controversial?

During the early teaching years of 1972 – 1986 Avatar Adi Da interacted spontaneously with devotees. Why did some people object?

Avatar Adi Da Finds That His Students Are Not Prepared

At the beginning of his teaching work in 1972, Avatar Adi Da silently transmitted the true nature and conscious force of Reality to his students, in both formal and informal occasions. He gave extensive instruction about the process of realization, and he expected serious self-discipline of all who approached him. However, he soon discovered that his students were not prepared for the esoteric way he was offering.

When I began to enter into relationship with My devotees for the sake of their Transcendental Spiritual Awakening, it became more and more clear to Me that no one who came to Me was yet prepared for the true Transcendental Spiritual process, which is whole bodily responsibility for Truth Itself, or Life Itself.

Rather, all were essentially trapped in obsessions, and in “problematic” orientations relative to the vital and (particularly) the emotional-sexual dimensions of “experience”.

It was obvious to Me that it would be necessary for all to first come to a level of interpersonal and cultural maturity relative to vital life before the Transcendental Spiritual process could be fully introduced into their lives.

—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
Love of the Two-Armed Form

Therefore, he adopted a way of teaching in which he interacted closely with his students. His purpose was to establish the foundation teachings and disciplines about “money, food, and sex” that would prepare people for an esoteric spiritual practice. The process took a number of years, and he relinquished it once he felt the essential teachings were complete.

Most of us who became students of Avatar Adi Da in his early teaching years were already unconventional in our personal habits and social attitudes. We came to Avatar Adi Da from the counterculture emblematic of the early 1970s America, in many cases including a history of openness to lifestyle and sexual experimentation. We stayed on as his students because we were responsive to his teachings and were willing to openly examine the nature of Reality and Truth in the context of our ordinary lives. We also understood that the purpose behind Avatar Adi Da’s way of teaching was to liberate us from the limiting presumption of being a separate “self”.

Claire M., who has practiced Adidam since 1976, describes becoming Avatar Adi Da’s student:

When I first read one of Avatar Adi Da’s books, the answers to all my deepest questions shone back at me from every page. I knew in my heart that I had found what I had always looked for. But after I became his student, it became clear that I had brought with me a ton of baggage. I felt like a kindergartner applying for graduate school! I had no idea what a genuine spiritual practice in relationship to an authentic transmission-master was about. Somehow, I believed that he could magically take all my suffering away in an instant without me having to do anything, but it didn’t work like that. The process of growth required a real, rock-solid transformation at the most basic life levels before I could make use of the spiritual process that he offers.

Photo of Claire M., devotee of Avatar Adi Da
Claire M.

Preparing for Spiritual Practice: Money, Food, and Sex

In this early period, Avatar Adi Da guided us through a process of understanding ourselves in the vital, or physical, dimension of life—which he referred to as “money, food, and sex”—as the starting point for spiritual growth. We participated because we realized that we had many basic attachments and misunderstandings to transcend before we were ready for a true contemplative life.

In response to our questions and need for instruction, Avatar Adi Da was constantly developing and refining his teachings. He used these interactive considerations not just to respond to those of his early students who were present at the time, but to generate an extensive body of wisdom that is applicable for all humankind.

At times, this examination of life patterning took place in the context of lively gatherings. Most of us were accustomed to partying and were enthusiastic about celebrating with Avatar Adi Da. We wanted to participate in these get-togethers and it was always our free choice to do so. In these gatherings, a wide variety of topics, including “controversial” ones about people’s personal life patterns and attachments, were considered in a straightforward way.

During this period, Avatar Adi Da often interacted with us at the level of our ordinary human interests, fascinations, problems, and addictions. He constantly acted as a mirror, reflecting our egoic patterns and behaviors in order to support our human and spiritual growth.

This process was often challenging. It required us to openly examine and acknowledge our own hangups and obstacles to growth without becoming discouraged that we were failing at spiritual practice. Numerous students did opt out, letting go of the formal practice and moving away from association with the Adidam community for periods of time. Those who continued acknowledge the benefits of understanding how pursuing satisfaction with “money, food, and sex” is ultimately not fruitful.

During these early teaching years Avatar Adi Da interacted with us spontaneously, responding to our desires and questions and working with us in a free and unconventional manner. He always called us to bring great discrimination to these considerations and to observe what was fruitful for our spiritual practice. In the following open letter, Avatar Adi Da describes the nature and purpose of his mode of teaching during this phase:

I Worked with people who were moved to drop social taboos, who had no myths they felt obliged to believe in—people who very much wanted to enter into a Free "Consideration" about Spiritual practice, and everything in life.

Therefore, I Dealt with everything as an Open "Consideration"—and it was a remarkably difficult process.

Through that process, I Revealed the Truth and the life of Truth.

I Offered this Process of Open "Consideration" to those who were interested.

The people who approached Me asked (both explicitly and, by virtue of their lack of human maturity, implicitly) that I Deal with the foundation matters of human life.

If I had not Entered into this "Consideration" with them, they would not have been prepared for Spiritual life, because they had no ability to deal with the foundation matters.

They were full of "problems" related to "money, food, and sex", and full of limitations imposed by the social persona (or the social ego).

Such was, in fact, inevitably the case—because that is what the human "world" is, and that is what they came from.

I have always Worked in a Free and Unconventional Manner.

In this “late-time” (or “dark” epoch), all kinds of people act as if they are prepared to enter into the esoteric stream of Spirituality, when (in fact) they have not even dealt with the foundation.

However, that is not what happened in the “Reality Consideration” I Entered into with My devotees.

In that “Consideration”, all aspects of life—”money, food, and sex”, “religion”, Spirituality, egoity, everything that has to do with making it possible to move on to Real Transcendental Spiritual practice—were directly Addressed by Me.

—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
Always Enact Fidelity To Me

Bringing Clarity to Emotional-Sexual Life

A persistent question from Avatar Adi Da’s early students was how to deal with sexuality, particularly in the context of spiritual practice. He concluded that moving his students beyond emotional-sexual preoccupations and concerns would require more from him than verbal instruction. It required an open process of examining our life-patterns, free of preconceived attitudes and moralistic social restrictions.

The matter of sexuality is so profoundly structured into people’s infantile and adolescent adaptations that it persists not only as their most obsessive interest as individuals but also as their most significant and consistent social (or interpersonal) “problem”.

—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
Love of the Two-Armed Form

Over a period of more than twenty years, Avatar Adi Da investigated every aspect of human sexuality to discover how sex can be compatible with spiritual practice and Reality-realization. This generally happened in face-to-face considerations with his devotees about their desires, relationships and sexual choices. These intensive emotional-sexual considerations always took place in smaller gatherings, not within the larger community of practitioners. Avatar Adi Da worked with a selected group of people who had matured in practice and expressed the desire to deepen their capacity to engage spiritual practice. All of Avatar Adi Da’s interactions with students in relation to sexuality and all other areas of life took place with the full consent and voluntary, even enthusiastic, participation of the people involved.

In these gatherings, Avatar Adi Da discussed traditional views of sexuality in religious and spiritual cultures and explored the gamut of human emotional-sexual practices in the context of the practice of Adidam. He would ask us to describe what we understood about our own intimate relationships and how they affected our spiritual practice. We generally found that it is not easy to openly discuss the promiscuities, inhibitions, fantasies, and dysfunctions that inhibit one’s ability to practice true emotional and sexual intimacy. It is common for such topics to be kept hidden under a social facade in our society. Sometimes in these occasions, Avatar Adi Da allowed us the use of alcoholic beverages as an aid to move beyond our self-consciousness and fear of ridicule.

All questions and issues were open for discussion in these considerations. There were no taboo subjects. One had to be extremely vulnerable in order to engage this process without defensiveness. Over time, many of us were able to understand and transcend our habits of jealousy, low self-esteem, feelings of betrayal, and fear of intimacy. As our self-understanding of our emotional-sexual patterns grew, we became capable of allowing the body-mind to be more open and receptive to Avatar Adi Da’s revelation of the Reality that is prior to ordinary daily awareness. We found it to be an immensely liberating process.

In the context of these early years of emotional-sexual teaching and consideration with devotees, Avatar Adi Da was himself sometimes sexually active. His relationships with women devotees were always consensual and have never been kept secret nor denied. While Avatar Adi Da himself was heterosexual, his teachings on emotional-sexual life apply to people of all sexual orientations.

Lynne W., who was present for most of Avatar Adi Da’s teaching years, speaks about her choices at the time:

We wanted to participate in these considerations with Avatar Adi Da because we knew we needed his instruction. We understood that we were bound by fixations and habit patterns that retarded our ability to love. We trusted that if we took advantage of Avatar Adi Da’s help and applied ourselves to his instruction, we could realize the Truth.

I was strongly attracted to Avatar Adi Da and initiated a sexual relationship with him in the early 1970s. Every occasion of intimacy with Avatar Adi Da was a gift of instruction in self-understanding and a revelation of the condition of non-separateness. He always treated me with compassion and respect. His unconditional love allowed me to overcome my emotional-sexual complexes, such as frigidity and fear of relationships, which originated in my early childhood trauma and abuse.

It wasn’t possible to sustain an emotional-sexual relationship with Avatar Adi Da unless you were fiercely committed to Reality-realization. At one point I had to admit I could not live in that kind of intensity. The women who stayed in this process with Avatar Adi Da eventually became celibate renunciates and were the only ones I knew who demonstrated that unqualified commitment, the singularity of purpose he could take seriously.

Photo of Lynne W., devotee of Avatar Adi Da
Lynne W.

Avatar Adi Da's Teachings on Emotional-Sexual Life

The early years of Avatar Adi Da’s face-to-face consideration with his devotees and “testing-by-experience” brought forth an extensive body of wisdom about human emotional-sexual life. These teachings are one of Avatar Adi Da’s enduring legacies. They reflect a comprehensive assessment of emotional-sexual life in general, not just in relation to spiritual practice.

Some key elements of Avatar Adi Da’s wisdom on emotional-sexual life concern basic aspects of everyday relationships. He taught that:

  • Sex and emotion are inseparably linked, and sexual activity is either a direct expression of love or the dramatization of emotional “self”-contraction.

  • Examining our emotional-sexual lives with vulnerability and honesty is the only way we can understand and transcend our limitations in this area.

  • Human beings tend to automatically enact un-love in reaction to the feeling of being rejected. Transcending the enactment of un-love in reaction to rejection is a core aspect of true human maturity.

Love Does Not Fail For You When You Are Rejected or Betrayed or Apparently Not Loved. Love Fails For You When You Reject, Betray, and Do Not Love. Therefore . . . Do Not Stand Off From Relationship. Be Vulnerable. Be Wounded, When Necessary—and Endure That Wound (or Hurt). Do Not Punish the other In Love. Communicate To one another, Even Discipline one another—but Do Not Dissociate From one another or Fail To Grant one another The Knowledge Of Love. Realize That each one Wants To Love and To Be Loved By the other In Love. Therefore, Love. Do This Rather Than Make Any Effort To Get Rid Of The Feeling Of Being Rejected. To Feel Rejected Is To Feel The Hurt Of Not Being Loved. Allow That Hurt, but Do Not Let It Become The Feeling Of Lovelessness. Be Vulnerable, and (Thus) Not Insulted. If You Are Merely Hurt, You Will Still Know The Necessity (or The Heart's Requirement) Of Love, and You Will Still Know The Necessity (or The Heart's Requirement) To Love.

—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
The Dawn Horse Testament

Other aspects of Avatar Adi Da’s teachings address the role of sexuality in esoteric spiritual practice:

  • The process of fully examining and transcending one’s emotional-sexual patterning is a necessary aspect of establishing the basic life-equanimity that provides the foundation for real spiritual growth.

  • Traditional and modern approaches to Tantra were fully considered by Avatar Adi Da. In that consideration, he concluded that sexual activity is not a means for spiritual growth and realization.

  • Avatar Adi Da gave extensive instruction on how one can engage emotional-sexual practice, if one chooses it, as a part of the practice of devotion in the Reality-Way of Adidam. He clarified that this practice, rightly lived, can be compatible with the early stages of spiritual practice.

  • Avatar Adi Da described a practice that he called “true yogic intimacy”, which is both emotional and sexual in nature. True yogic intimacy includes the foundation disposition of active love and steady trust, as well as specific disciplines related to yogic conductivity of sexual energy.

  • Avatar Adi Da outlined four stages of emotional-sexual yoga—applicable in the context of both heterosexual and homosexual intimacy—with instruction on the course of growth and maturity at each stage. For individuals who are capable of this profound yoga, it serves the compatibility of emotional-sexual practice with the earlier stages of spiritual practice.

  • Entrance into the advanced stages of the Reality-Way of Adidam requires single celibate renunciation. Motiveless celibacy that exemplifies true equanimity and Transcendental Spiritual fullness is the inevitable and necessary practice for formal renunciates in the advanced stages of the Reality-Way of Adidam. For such renunciates, sexuality simply falls away as a matter of concern or interest.

The traditional Indian notion of Spiritual Realization is one in which vital life has been abandoned, and one’s conscious existence has returned to a “higher” State.

Really, the problem of Spiritual life—for anyone, West or East—is not whether to be celibate or not. Until you understand yourself, your choices relative to emotional-sexual life are always a manifestation of your dilemma—not a manifestation of discriminative intelligence. The observation and understanding of the contraction in the vital is an absolute prerequisite for Real Spiritual Life.

—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
My “Bright” Word

Read further teachings by Avatar Adi Da on emotional-sexual life.

Sexuality and Renunciate Practice

Avatar Adi Da engaged in emotional-sexual relationships with some of his female students with whom there was strong mutual attraction and love. These relationships were not casual arrangements but always focused on what would serve their spiritual growth. He worked with these women in a very personal manner—guiding them through many considerations of their emotional-sexual patterns in the context of both sexually-active practice and celibate practice. Their lives were characterized by serious renunciate practice, and one-pointed devotion to the process of realization. There were also long periods of time when Avatar Adi Da was celibate, and his female intimates fully embraced celibacy during those times.

Founding formal renunciate orders was a core element in Avatar Adi Da’s work to establish the Reality-Way of Adidam. Avatar Adi Da examined what types of emotional-sexual arrangements could be compatible with serious renunciate practice. His conclusion was that true renunciation would necessarily be characterized by single celibacy:

Motiveless and searchless single celibate renunciation, intrinsically free of egoic "self"-identification with the body-mind-complex in general and with the sex-function in particular… is an inevitable and necessary practice for all formal renunciates.

My formal renunciate devotees simply Stand Prior to sexuality, and Prior to the body-mind-complex altogether.

—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
The Aletheon

In the final years of his life—having done all that was necessary to generate his wisdom-teaching and establish the Reality-Way of Adidam—his face-to-face manner of working with devotees came to a close. His life took on a uniquely renunciate form—free, silent, solitary, and engaged one-pointedly in his blessing work for the world and for all beings.

I am Standing Apart from the "world"—Living in Complete Freedom, in My Hermitage.

Fundamentally, I Live in the traditional manner, as Realizers (in all the time of the Ancient Walk-About Way) have lived in their chosen places of retreat from the "world" of egoity.

I do not engage in any interactions with people on a social basis or an organizational basis.

I Am Simply Present here, As I Am.

If people will devotionally respond to Me and relate to Me rightly, they can be invited to enter into My Divine Avataric Company for Blessing.

Blessing Is simply My Nature, My State, My Intrinsic Condition of Self-Radiance.

—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
The Aletheon