Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Why do people go to a guru?
A: People are attracted to wisdom. We want to know why life is confusing and painful. Avatar Adi Da said,
Have a serious conversation with anyone, and you will find out that he or she is suffering. And so are you. Finding out the why and the how of it and transcending that—that is the ultimate process of life. That is the most serious course of life.
Kathleen D. talks about why she chose to practice Adidam: “Avatar Adi Da surpassed all my previous spiritual teachers as the ultimate realizer for all time. He has embraced all beings with profound love and blessings, providing all who recognize him with true freedom and an understanding of the happiness that is everyone’s inherent state. The realization that the guru offers is far beyond that which may be achieved by any kind of self-effort.”
Q: Is Adidam a cult?
A: It is true that Adidam is a small, new, non-mainstream spiritual movement. However, scholars of new religious movements have now abandoned the word “cult”, because of the many negative stereotypes and misunderstandings that it promotes towards religious minorities.
Compared to some of the most common stereotypes of cults, Adidam does not brainwash people, is not dangerous or harmful, does not take all of people’s money, does not pressure people to join, and does not prevent people from leaving. Instead, it encourages critical thinking, teaches compassion and tolerance in all relationships, allows people to engage the practice at the level they choose, and calls for tithing of 5 to 15% of income depending on one’s level of participation and financial means.
David R. has been a practitioner of Adidam for more than 30 years: “Avatar Adi Da always addressed any of our tendencies to behave in a cult-like manner. He always showed us how that type of behavior prevents real growth in either ordinary human life or in esoteric spiritual practice.”
Q: What do you (as a member of Adidam) believe in?
A: Avatar Adi Da always emphasized the use of discriminative intelligence instead of mere belief.
Dennis C., a long-time student, addresses this question: “In my experience, Adidam is not a matter of mindless, blind faith, but of a direct revelation of Truth that is self-authenticating. Avatar Adi Da communicates directly to my heart, through his teaching and demonstration, an inexplicable tacit knowledge of the Divine Reality. I don’t believe this—I know it.”
Q: Is there any discrimination against participating in Adidam based on ethnic or cultural background, sexual orientation, or gender identity?
A: Participation in the Reality-Way of Adidam is open to all. People from any cultural or ethnic background, as well as individuals of any sexual orientation or gender identity, are equally welcomed and embraced within the practicing community of Adidam.
Q: Why do people worship Avatar Adi Da?
A: Since ancient times, sacred worship has been an essential means for people to invoke the Divine. Some religious and spiritual traditions worship sacred objects or statues and paintings representing spiritual beings, gods, and goddesses. There are also sacred traditions that recognize spiritually-enlightened human beings as transmitters of the Divine reality.
The Reality-Way of Adidam continues the ancient esoteric tradition of devotion to the realizer as the means for transcending the illusion of a separate “self”, which can happen only through the grace of a truly realized master, or guru.
Spiritually Realized Adepts (or Transmission-Masters, or True Gurus) are the principal Sources, Resources, and Means of the esoteric (or Spiritual) Way. This fact is not (and never has been) a matter of controversy among real Spiritual practitioners. The entire Spiritual Way is a process based on the understanding (and the transcending) of attention, or the understanding (and the transcending) of the inevitable and specific results of egoic attachment to, or egoic reaction to, or egoic “self”-identification with every kind of conditional “object”, other, or state.
—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
The means for real spiritual growth is the process of spiritual transmission that is at the core of the relationship between a spiritual realizer and his or her students. Such spiritual transmission occurs only through a devotional, or worshipful, relationship with the spiritual master.
Students of Avatar Adi Da recognize him as a unique being whose state of enlightenment transmits itself through his person and presence. For such students, the responsive act of devotion and worship is the means by which to avail themselves to the grace and spiritual transmission offered by Avatar Adi Da as their spiritual master.
Q: How do most people who have left Adidam feel about it after leaving?
A: Historically, the vast majority of ex-members of Adidam have no complaints, and seem to appreciate and value their experience as a student of Avatar Adi Da. Most state that their involvement with Avatar Adi Da and Adidam influenced their lives for the better.
Q: What are the practices and disciplines in Adidam?
A: Adidam includes several formal levels of practice to accommodate people with varying degrees of commitment and capacity. A small number of practitioners live at one of the Adidam hermitages or sanctuaries around the world and practice at a more intensive level. Practitioners of Adidam engage a form of daily devotional activities and right-life disciplines in addition to their everyday life. These practices were established by Avatar Adi Da and have continued after his lifetime. Daily activities include meditation, sacramental worship, study of Avatar Adi Da’s teachings, conscious exercise, and a healthy, generally vegan diet. Devotees also enjoy periodic contemplative retreats, often at one of the Adidam sanctuaries.
Q: Why did Avatar Adi Da establish a community of devotees?
A: Avatar Adi Da states:
To support the process of Spiritual Transmission, Adept-Realizers have tended and still tend to accept disciples or devotees, and also to establish a community or culture of such individuals. Such communities or cultures of practice have always been the necessary means of the advanced and ultimate adaptation of human individuals and, consequently, of all mankind.
—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
I Give You the Gift of One Another
Q: It seems that Avatar Adi Da declares himself to be God―by what authority?
A: Avatar Adi Da’s teaching is a communication of his realization that the Divine, or what he calls “Real (Acausal) God”, is Reality Itself, which is the native, prior condition of all beings. Avatar Adi Da does not declare himself to be God in the traditional sense of the “creator” God. He does not declare himself or anyone to be “other” or separate from Divine Reality and Truth. To read what Avatar Adi Da says about the myth of the “creator God”, please read the essay “The Tacit Certainty of Real God”.
Anne H. speaks of how she understands this communication: “Avatar Adi Da never claimed to be the creator-God, the deity that so many religions presume has made all this and who is “in charge” of it all. Instead, Avatar Adi Da communicated his identity with the condition that is the true heart and the true self of everyone.”
Q: Why are Avatar Adi Da’s books difficult to read?
A: Avatar Adi Da developed an original manner of employing English as a sacred language. He includes some Sanskrit terminology in his vocabulary, in order to supplement the relatively undeveloped sacred vocabulary of English. He also frequently capitalizes words that would not ordinarily be capitalized in English. By such capitalization, he is indicating that the word refers (either inherently or by its context) to the Non-conditional (or Divine) Reality, rather than the conditional (or worldly) reality. With quotation marks, Avatar Adi Da often communicates that some ordinary term, commonly presumed to point to something that is real, is, in Reality, only an illusion. He also uses quotation marks to point to a specific, technical meaning he intends.
Also, Avatar Adi Da’s writing speaks to the heart. We recommend relaxing any mental effort to “get it”. Many readers have found that it takes some time to understand Avatar Adi Da’s revelation-teaching and his method of instruction.
Q: What does “avatar” mean? Is it like in the movie?
A: “Avatar” is a traditional Sanskrit term that means “one who has crossed down”. It denotes not merely a remarkable individual or highly evolved being who has attained some degree of spiritual enlightenment, but one who has spiritually incarnated in the human world. The Avatar is a direct appearance, in physical form, of the supreme Reality, or what Avatar Adi Da refers to as Conscious Light. Avatar is a title of respect by which Adi Da’s students refer to him, expressing their recognition of his unique state of enlightenment and the nature of his service to humankind.
Q: Did Avatar Adi Da have sex with his students?
A: Yes, Avatar Adi Da engaged in emotional-sexual relationships with some of his female students. This was always consensual and has never been kept a secret nor denied.
Q: Are there sexual orgies in Adidam? Do people switch partners?
A: No. Intimate relationships are respected and valued as an important aspect of human life and practice in Adidam. As in the rest of society, marriages or separations do occur and are matters of individual choice. As described elsewhere on this website, there were periods when students did experiment with sexuality. The outcome of this experimentation was that promiscuity is aberrating, complicates human relationships, and obstructs the spiritual process. Avatar Adi Da did not recommend polygamy to his students. The majority of practitioners today are in long-term committed relationships with a single partner. Some have freely chosen to practice celibacy, as a means to maximize their energy and attention for the spiritual process.
Q: Is practice in the Reality-Way of Adidam anything like tantra?
A: No. Practice in the Reality-Way of Adidam is unrelated to tantrism. Avatar Adi Da states:
Fundamentally, Tantra does not mean “about sex”. That is just “consumer Tantrism”, as it gets publicly promoted. Sexuality is an element of practice in some Tantric traditions. In others, there is an ascetical and puritanical view.
Popularization of Tantrism is generally about sex. Not only is the language of Spirituality combined with the language of sexuality, but there is also the indication that sexuality is somehow “causative” (or at the “root”) of Spirituality. The notion is that you can somehow “cause” the Spiritual by manipulating the sexual.
However, sex actually has nothing whatsoever to do with Realization. Neither having sex nor not having sex has anything to do with Realization in Spiritual terms. It is possible for sexual activity to be compatible with a true Spiritual practice, if a proper discipline is brought to it, and various limitations inherent in it are transcended. But sexual activity does not “cause” Spirituality. At best, sexual activity is compatible with Spirituality—and that requires a great discipline. Otherwise, sexuality is not compatible with Spirituality.
—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
Always Enact Fidelity To Me
Q: Does Avatar Adi Da make devotees give up sex?
A: No. Most Adidam practitioners are in long-term intimate partnerships. The choice to practice as a celibate can be made by students who choose to focus one-pointedly on their spiritual practice or who otherwise are not moved to be in an intimate relationship. The decision whether to be sexually active or to be celibate is a personal choice, not an obligation. Avatar Adi Da teaches that, as one transitions to the most advanced stages of practice, celibacy will at some point be naturally taken up, as a person matures in practice.
Q: Do devotees of Avatar Adi Da give Him all their money and property?
A: No, practitioners of Adidam retain their own assets. As with many religious organizations, wage-earning members are called to tithe 5% to 15% of their income. In the case of Adidam, the tithe is a means to collectively support the maintenance of the Adidam hermitages and sanctuaries, and to support Adidam publications. Any individuals who cannot afford a full tithe offer what they can reasonably contribute. Avatar Adi Da’s admonition is that no practitioner should ever go into debt. Devotees are encouraged to be responsible for supporting themselves financially, to cooperate with other practitioners to reduce cost-of-living expenses, to have health insurance, plan for their retirement, and so forth. All contributions are entirely voluntary—devotees do so simply because they are moved to help support this work.
Q: I have heard that people in Adidam drink, smoke and take drugs. Is this true?
A: Taking up the full formal practice of Adidam includes avoiding the use of alcohol, tobacco, and all recreational drugs because of their toxifying effects on the body-mind. During Avatar Adi Da’s life, there were gatherings where intoxicants were used sometimes, but such parties are no longer an aspect of life in Adidam. Devotees who use such substances now are choosing behaviors that are outside the formal right-life practices of Adidam.
Q: Did Avatar Adi Da have any encounters with the law?
A: No. 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.
Q: What were the lawsuits against Adidam and how were they resolved?
Q: How is sexual misconduct addressed in Adidam?
A: Avatar Adi Da established broad principles of moral behavior—founded on the presumption of prior unity—that call all practitioners of the Reality-Way of Adidam to treat each other and all beings with the highest standard of respect. Upholding these principles is core to our commitment, individually and collectively, as practitioners of Adidam. As part of this commitment, Adidam has instituted a strong sexual misconduct policy which is communicated to all members, and management of Adidam organizations receive training to cultivate their awareness of and sensitivity to all forms of sexual harassment.
Q: How do you explain inappropriate behavior by Adidam members?
A: We have endeavored with this website to offer a balanced perspective on Avatar Adi Da and life in Adidam. In keeping with that commitment, we must state that—as is generally the case in any large community of people—individuals occasionally behave in ways that are not consistent with the intelligence and compassion that Avatar Adi Da has called his students to embody.
The Reality-Way of Adidam has not always been fully understood or responsibly practiced by all members, particularly in the early years of Avatar Adi Da’s teaching. Certain individuals—some in leadership positions—have acted in ways that offended or upset others. Others have behaved immaturely and unkindly, or made unwise decisions that affected our friends and families. This has sometimes led to unfortunate situations that could have been handled better, and for all of us this is a matter of regret.
Any “cult-like” behavior by members should be seen as evidence of each individual’s relative immaturity as a practitioner and not as a reflection of the Reality-Way of Adidam as Avatar Adi Da gave it. The integrity of Adidam stands apart from the ability of practitioners to fulfill Avatar Adi Da’s callings and legacy. However, Adi Da's legacy, including the Reality-Way of Adidam, is regarded by many religious scholars and other interested members of the public as an extraordinary body of work and a great gift to humankind.
Q: Can I benefit from Avatar Adi Da’s legacy without relating to him as a guru?
A: Yes. Many people around the world are moved by Avatar Adi Da’s philosophical, spiritual, and literary writings and his visual art but are not interested in a devotional relationship with him. Avatar Adi Da established the Adi Da Foundation to make his writings and art available to everyone, independent of their social, cultural, or religious backgrounds.
Q: Why did Avatar Adi Da have so many names?
A: Several times Avatar Adi Da took on new names, indicating important transition points in his work to establish the Reality-Way of Adidam in its fullness. These include: Franklin Jones (his birth name), Bubba Free John, Da Free John, Da Avabhasa, Heart-Master Da, Love-Ananda Da, Da Kalki, Adi Da, and Avatar Adi Da Samraj. In 1979 he assumed the root-name “Da” which in Sanskrit means “The One Who Gives”.
Q: Why did Avatar Adi Da create art?
A: Avatar Adi Da created art for more than forty years with a single intention: the visual communication of Truth, and the creation of means to draw the viewer beyond the sense of separate self-existence into the Reality of indivisible prior unity.
My image-art can be characterized as paradoxical space that undermines “point of view”. That undermining allows for a tacit glimpse, or intuitive sense, of the Transcendental Condition of Reality—always, inherently, and totally beyond and prior to “point of view”
—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
For an overview of Avatar Adi Da’s visual art, please visit www.daplastique.com.
Q: What is the structure of sacred authority in Adidam, now that Avatar Adi Da has passed?
A: During his lifetime, Avatar Adi Da instructed that formal renunciate practitioners—devotees who practice the Reality-Way of Adidam most seriously and who sign legal vows of renunciation as members of the Ruchira Sannyasin Order—be responsible for guiding and culturally governing all of Adidam according to the extensive and detailed instructions that he left behind.
What I am establishing during my physical lifetime here are conditions and processes, institutional realities, an elaborated teaching, an order of authority, that will serve as the instrumental means and the forms of agency required after the end of my own physical activity in the form of this body.
—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
August 13, 2004