Who is Adi Da as Spiritual Avatar?
Why is Adi Da referred to as an “Avatar”?
An Avatar is understood, particularly in the Asian traditions, to be an incarnation of the supreme Reality.
“Avatar” is a Sanskrit word whose literal meaning is “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 the spiritual incarnation in the human world of the Divine Reality. 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 acknowledge their recognition of his unique state of enlightenment and the nature of his service to humankind.
Avatar Adi Da’s Early Life: 1939 – 1970
From his birth (on Long Island, New York, in 1939), Avatar Adi Da Samraj manifested unique signs of spiritual enlightenment:
Even as a baby, I remember only crawling around inquisitively with a boundless Feeling of Joy, Light, and Freedom in the middle of my head that was bathed in Energy moving unobstructed in a Circle―down from above, all the way down, then up, all the way up, and around again―and always Shining from my heart. It was an Expanding Sphere of Joy from the heart. And I was a Radiant Form―the Source of Energy, Love-Bliss, and Light in the midst of a world that is entirely Energy, Love-Bliss, and Light. I was the Power of Reality, a direct Enjoyment and Communication of the One Reality. I was the Heart Itself, Who Lightens the mind and all things. I was the same as every one and every thing, except it became clear that others were apparently unaware of the "Thing" Itself.
—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
The Knee Of Listening
It became apparent to Avatar Adi Da that this enjoyment of illuminated consciousness was not innately realized or shared by the people around him. In sympathetic response to the evident suffering of human beings, Avatar Adi Da intentionally relinquished that inherent state of enlightenment to discover why others did not know it and how to communicate it to them. He dedicated the first thirty years of his life, from his early childhood until his spiritual restoration at age thirty, to the ordeal of “self-identification” with all the limitations and sufferings of the human condition, and to discovering the process by which all can realize that which is prior to limitation and suffering.
He describes his early years as being focused in two fundamental activities: investigating how, in the setting of modern society, to perfectly realize the Truth of Reality Itself, and (coincidentally) developing the human-scale ability to communicate the Truth of Reality Itself through both verbal and visual means.
Avatar Adi Da graduated from Columbia University in 1961, with a BA in philosophy, and from Stanford University in 1966, with an MA in English literature. In 1964, he began a period of intensive practice under a succession of spiritual masters in the United States and India. In 1968, he went to India and approached the founder of the esoteric school known as Siddha Yoga, spiritual master Swami Muktananda of Ganeshpuri. Swami Muktananda immediately declared that Avatar Adi Da was a spiritual master at birth, and “the most extraordinary Westerner” he (Swami Muktananda) had ever encountered. In an open letter of acknowledgement (written by hand in 1969 and published in the book The Knee Of Listening), Swami Muktananda wrote that Avatar Adi Da, by virtue of his evident spiritual signs, was inherently qualified to teach and to awaken others by direct spiritual transmission.
Avatar Adi Da Establishes a New Esoteric School of Spiritual Practice: 1970 – 2000
In 1970, after a final period of intense spiritual endeavor, Avatar Adi Da became re-established in the state of enlightenment that was his unique condition at birth, and that he―remarkably, from early childhood―referred to as the “Bright”. Avatar Adi Da describes his process of coming to understand what had happened:
The weeks that followed...were an intensive period of considering everything about “radical” self-understanding. I began to recollect and observe the forms of my adventure of self-understanding. I began to recognize the precise (and profoundly “radical”) nature of my understanding. Altogether, the way of that “radical” understanding began to reveal all its unique characteristics, such that (in due course) I could begin to reveal and give to others the unique (and altogether “radical”) Way of Adidam.
—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
The Knee Of Listening
In 1972 he began to teach formally, creating a vast repository of wisdom in living dialogue with those who approached him as students. From 1972 to 2000, Avatar Adi Da worked to create an entirely new tradition of spiritual practice founded, in the traditional manner, on the devotional relationship to him as the revealer of the state of Reality Itself. He named this new spiritual tradition “the Reality-Way of Adidam”. His intention was to serve the liberation and Reality-Realization of those who became his devotees during his lifetime and in the future.
Avatar Adi Da's teaching work can be seen to have unfolded in phases, each of which was marked by profound transformations in his work with devotees. Several times he took on new names, indicating important transition points in his work to establish the Reality-Way of Adidam in its fullness. During this period he established several hermitages and retreat sanctuaries in Northern California, Hawaii, and Fiji. Avatar Adi Da was establishing the framework and process for real esoteric spiritual practice in a Western context. This he understood as important for the sake of the whole world, because of the now-global prevalence of the Western psyche.
Avatar Adi Da Blesses All Beings: 2000 – 2008
Having established all that was necessary for anyone to participate in the esoteric school of spiritual practice of the Reality-Way of Adidam, after 2000, Avatar Adi Da focused solely on directly revealing the “Bright” state that was his illumined experience at birth and always. He concentrated on his writings and art, and toward the end of his life, Avatar Adi Da lived primarily at Adi Da Samrajashram, his hermitage-island in Fiji—a place which he spiritually empowered as the primary seat from which his blessing flows perpetually to the world.
During this time Avatar Adi Da worked tirelessly to express the Truth of existence through forms of what he called “Reality-Communications” to which all people can respond—including philosophical, literary, theatrical, and artistic works. His purpose was to establish the basis for a new and comprehensive culture for all of humankind based on the prior unity of existence, or what he called “Reality Itself”.
On November 27, 2008, Avatar Adi Da passed from his physical body while working in his art studio in Fiji. He had often spoken of how he would leave humankind with forms of agency through which his blessing presence would be felt and magnified, and through which a living spiritual relationship with him would always be possible. Through his spiritually empowered hermitages and sanctuaries, his vast literature of spiritual revelation and instruction, his transformative works of visual art, his literary works, and the stories of his work to serve the awakening of beings, Avatar Adi Da has made himself spiritually available to everyone, now and forever.
A New and Sacred Culture of Esoteric Spiritual Practice
The Reality-Way of Adidam that Avatar Adi Da established is now actively practiced by devotees in many countries around the world. Devotees testify to the profundity and efficacy of living the devotional relationship to him after his physical lifetime.
Avatar Adi Da summarized his life-work as follows:
Something entirely new is required—something comprehensively right. My entire life has been spent in working to establish the basis for a new and comprehensive culture. My image-art is a summation, in artistic terms, of the work I have done. Similarly, the books I have written are a summation, in literary and philosophical terms, of that same lifetime of work. My lifetime of work has always been about the rightening of human existence and the transcending of what is binding human beings and leading them on a destructive course. What is now required is an epochal change in the history of human endeavor. A transformation of human understanding and of human processes altogether must occur.
—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
Adi Da as Spiritual Avatar
In esoteric religious and spiritual traditions, devotion to a master has always been acknowledged as the necessary means for awakening to Truth. The esoteric traditions that later developed into the world's great religions all began with the appearance of a living spiritual master who was the source of revelation, blessing, and means for liberation. As Avatar Adi Da’s devotees, we recognize him to be such a one―the Avataric incarnation of the “Bright”, or the Conscious Light of Reality Itself. Such recognition is based on our direct experience of his nature and state.
There are many references to the appearance of the Avatar in the spiritual traditions of the world. For example, Sri Ramakrishna advocated for the acknowledgment of extraordinary spiritual figures in all traditions as avatars, stating:
[Avatāras] are human beings with extraordinary original powers and entrusted with a Divine commission. Being heirs of Divine powers and glories, they form a class of their own. To this class belong the Incarnation of God like Christ, Krishna, Buddha, and Chaitanya and their devotees of the highest order.
Avatar and Incarnation
Aldous Huxley speaks of this tradition in The Perennial Philosophy, where he refers to Reality, or the Divine, by personifying the Greek term “logos” (meaning “word” or “divine wisdom”):
The Logos passes out of eternity into time for no other purpose than to assist the beings, whose bodily form he takes, to pass out of time into eternity. If the Avatar's appearance upon the stage of history is enormously important, this is due to the fact that by his teaching he points out, and by his being a channel of grace and divine power he actually is, the means by which human beings may transcend the limitations of history.
The Perennial Philosophy
Avatar Adi Da discusses his state of spiritual realization as follows:
I Am your Real State, your Condition speaking to you, being present with you through a form like your own. That is the Mystery of the Spiritual Master. I am not merely suggesting all of this is so, saying it is logically so, communicating it to you as a metaphor. I Am This. This is My Realization, this is My State. I am telling this to you because it is also your State. I am here in this form to make this communication to you and this Transmission to you so that you will Realize that State.
—Avatar Adi Da Samraj
February 3, 1985