Read the previous chapter: Sex, Love and Wounds
It was early in 2007 when I set out on the trip to the island of Naitauba, the Fijian island home of Adi Da Samraj. By this time I was a devotee and full member of Adidam and an active part of His community in Vancouver, BC.
The process of becoming His actual devotee included a trip to the Seattle area where a larger gathering of devotees existed in order to demonstrate understanding of the teachings and relationship to the Guru. I know this sounds “culty”, but it really wasn’t. My guess at the time was that it was more of a kind of interview stage to ensure that people weren’t either “tourists” just sampling the community, or journalists or other parties trying to create a narrative. There were no real hoops to jump, no proof of mindless devotion or initiation rights.
They just seemed to want to ensure that I knew Beloved’s (the endearing term devotees use instead of His name) teachings, that I was a serious student and actually interested in the disciplines of vegetarianism and meditation etc. which Adi Da’s devotees practice. I was welcomed into their gathering wholeheartedly.
I was the youngest of the Vancouver chapter devotees, many of which had been members for a very long time. I was in my early 40’s.
The gathering in Vancouver seemed to largely be made up people who had been devotees for decades. No one stuck out as being particularly graced by their time as devotees in terms of spiritual attainment (not that I would likely have known anyway) and while they were really all very lovely, kind, patient and devoted, they were collectively the first sign to me of the fact that simply becoming Adi Da’s devotee would not be a fast track to enlightenment.
The ego “knot” is tied tight (by our own action) and neither mere time nor effort on our own seemed sufficient to produce freedom in this way. Still, I was bright eyed and totally “in love” with the Guru at this point so happy to have the insights and stories of these devotees as I began my approach to the teachings and Teacher.
My trip to Fiji and Beloved’s sanctuary island in January 2007 required first a flight to a major airport, transport to a small coastal town, and then a long open ocean crossing by ship. It’s been a while but I think the way there was about 24-36 hours straight of travel.
The flight was unmemorable, although the arrival without my luggage was good for a laugh. Thankfully, I had purchased insurance and because I was taking a ship to Naitauba that only travels every 5 days or so, I had $500 insurance money to buy an entire wardrobe of Hawaiian style shirts, shorts and pants from the local tourist stores. My luggage would not arrive until five days later. I had planned on modest attire for my first audience with Adi Da, but, thankfully, neon hibiscus turned out to be in my colour wheel.
I can’t recall the exact time it took for the open ocean crossing to Naitauba, but I feel like it was between 8 – 12 hours. They strongly urged passengers to take Gravol as the seas were meant to be particularly big that day, but somehow without taking medicine I avoided sea sickness in the big waves that took down virtually everyone including the captain. An auspicious sign?
Several devotees traveling to the island were on their first pilgrimage as was I. We didn’t speak really. This journey didn’t invited social chatter. Assuming they felt similarly to how I felt, it was a solemn occasion to “sit at the feet” of the Master.
No doubt, in the times of Jesus or the Buddha, many people thought those great beings were upstarts of no real significance and probably thought of as “false profits” or cult leaders. They were “eccentric” or beings that functioned outside the centre of established orthodoxies. I suspect that Adi Da, Ramana Maharshi, Bhagavan Nithyananda, Jesus, the Buddha and all the great realizers from whichever religion have come to a similar recognition about the nature of God. But prior to Adi Da, with stone tablets, paper and word of mouth to communicate their revelations, their actual meanings have been distorted by the many “impartial translators” in the chain of custody of their histories.
Thankfully, Adi Da’s teachings were, in many cases, hand written by Him before being published, or spoken directly into a permanent source of recording and published verbatim. We don’t have to guess what He meant by reading something passed down through the ages, hoping it’s essence hasn’t been tainted.
Adi Da says that there is only God and the perfect realization of that One is Who He Is and that that One is the Source Condition of all beings and everyone and that Realization of Him is possible in every apparently separate someone’s case. In short, your Perfectly Subjective Conscious State is God. Wake Up!
I’ve read the teachings. I think I largely understand the arguments and yet I continue to sleep. It’s a paradox and a process, He says. In recent times the process seems to be accelerating as a consequence of changes in my understanding which have effectively resulted in my “positive disillusionment” with the fruitless activities and searches of normal life.
But on the day I traveled to Naitauba over 13 years ago, I was very excited and filled with the sense that I was on the verge of a major breakthrough. I was about to meet my Jesus, my Buddha, my Master, Adi Da Samraj and the road to enlightenment would be cut short in my case I was sure, because…I was special.
Shortly after arrival, we were brought to a room for darshan, a Sanskrit word meaning, to behold or view a great being or deity. It was truly a beautiful moment to see Him walk into the room, accompanied by His closest devotees and entourage. I don’t see much point in describing what I saw specifically. He is as advertised. Regal, silent, seemingly filled with His own gravity. I loved Him and that was sufficient.
I brought a gift. I can’t remember what any more. I offered it to Him stretched out on the floor lying pointed to his feet like a human arrow, and before I knew it, the occasion was over. I knew I should not expect any “show” of any sort. No fireworks or kriyas or spiritual experiences, but I am pretty sure I was hoping for some kind of big bang.
Still, the first live sighting of my Guru was brief but very sweet. It had been about 5 years since I began the search to find the source of ecstasy I described in Bread Crumbs to Beloved. Just over 36 hours of travel from Vancouver to Naitauba, and a few minutes at the feet of Adi Da Samraj.
As I was led out to the men’s dorm and provided an orientation and schedule for meals, work and devotion, I felt certain I belonged amongst these lovers of God, many of whom had been with Him since His days in the 1970’s as Bubba Free John. But over the next 10 days I would learn something about myself that I hadn’t expected, and that discovery would ultimately lead me away from Adidam for the more than a decade.
But before I get to that, I wanted to share a few of the more compelling insights and memories from my time on the island. First of all, it was absolutely beautiful and every part of Beloved’s sanctuary that I saw was well cared for and maintained. This was the work of devotees who were assigned various tasks.
Strangely, I have very few concrete memories of the “work” I performed while on retreat except for one day. In the world I was a software engineer and systems architect, but on one windy day I was a gardener raking fallen bamboo shoots and fallen tropical plant leaves from the grass.
The wind was blowing hard that day and as quickly as I piled up detritus, the wind provided more from the trees. The effort wasn’t fruitless, but it seemed so. I recall falling in and out of meditation on Beloved. You know when you’re out, because you notice yourself. I was doing this right down near the main gathering hall which was only a few hundred yards from the beautiful, white, three tiered home Adi Da lived in while on the Island. I watched for signs of Him moving nearby. I never saw Him but I could feel Him in moments between feeling myself.
I also remember during this day feeling incredible peace and stillness, and yet I began to have some insight into myself that was disturbing. What was I doing here? That was the thought that seemed to come up again and again.
As I said previously, Adi Da was surrounded by devotees who had been near Him for decades. I’d spoken to several for moments during meals and two things struck me forcefully. First, they were seriously devoted students of His teachings and totally committed to Adidam. Second, none of them were enlightened.
While I am certain of this second fact, to be honest, I couldn’t tell what Stage of Life each was at. There were no dramatizations, no bickering, no complaints or anything negative in anyone’s behaviour. Everyone was kind and supportive of each other, but all were also very serious about their practice and by and large seemed much more knowledgeable about the nuance of Adi Da’s teachings than I was. But also, none of them seemed particularly “free”.
They were, as in the Vancouver gathering, generally an older group of people. But unlike in Vancouver, on the island, they were all rail thin and seemed almost frail from years lived in this spiritual paradigm of meditation, vegetarianism, and yoga. Most seemed to be exactly where they belonged, contributing their entire lives to managing Beloved’s art projects, His manuscripts, His foundation, His worldwide gathering. What could I offer that these steadfast practitioners hadn’t already? How could I become enlightened if none of these devotees were?
It seemed to me that the devotee with the greatest presence was William Tsiknas (David Deida’s “Mykanos”). I was more than a little mesmerized by him and I realize now he both noticed that about me and dissuaded it. My attention belonged with Beloved, not on one of His most advanced and separately celebrated devotees.
I had first encountered William in Vancouver in 2005, shortly before hearing Adi Da’s voice for the first time. With Satyen Raja and a group of the most avid of David Deida acolytes from Satyen’s students, William held Satsang over two days and conducted Fijian, Kava ceremonies over two nights. I was not present for the daytime activities, working for Peak Potentials at the time, but came each night for the Kava, the intoxication and the potent Satsang that being with William provided.
I had no idea that he was Adi Da’s devotee then. I pieced that together later, possibly just prior to encountering him on Naitauba. But thinking back afterwards, I realized that William had simply sat with us in a circle in the yoga room of Clearmind Institute’s Langley, Vancouver location and held the space for Beloved. He told stories of the Fijian people and their social fabric. He talked about the always, already, present nature of God, or “The Great One” as he most often referred to Him without ever saying the name, Adi Da.
Mixed with the subtle, calming, but effervescent effects of the kava, I recall those two evenings as being the most intensely ecstatic I’d enjoyed or shared in a gathering of people ever. We told stories to each other, chanted and danced but all the while swam in a constant feeling of loving contentedness that I had never experienced so profoundly with a group of relative strangers*. Deb was there for the full two days and she has told me that this was one of the highlight of her life to that point, enjoying the elixir of non-separateness and love William promoted.
Given the profound effect my first meeting with William about two years earlier had had on me, I can see why having found him again on Beloved’s island, I was distracted by him. And I can see why he curbed that inclination in me wordlessly and without rebuke. He simply shied away from my attention. The proper place for my fascination was Bhagavan.
I have one somewhat remarkable experience from my time with Adi Da in which he revealed something of His Nature to me. It didn’t come with any revelatory insight or remarkable spiritual experience, but I saw Him in His “Bright” aspect that was very powerful and startling at the same time. During one of the evening meditations near the end of my stay, Adi Da granted darshan in the meditation hall. He did this either every evening or on many evenings while I was there.
Meditation was often a struggle in which my mind and body constantly intrude. Instead of simply breathing in and out while putting all my attention on the Guru, my attention constantly gets caught up in distractions like my thoughts, my posture, the sounds or sights that surround me or pretty much anything other than Adi Da. However, on this occasion I was lost quickly and deeply in the meditation on my Master. To be honest, I can’t describe how I felt, because I don’t remember.
All I recall is that at some point I suddenly realized that the light entering my eye while meditating on Adi Da was so intensely bright and all the details of the entire room became so washed out in that light that it felt almost like I was staring into a light source. It was emanating from Him. Once I noticed this and fell out of my meditative state, I began to blink my eyes both to confirm what I was experiencing and to see if it was an optical effect that would clear. But it lingered while I looked at him. Shortly thereafter the darshan came to an end and Beloved left the room.
I’ve retained a visual memory in my mind and tried to recreate it with Photoshop using the image below. It was as though only the outlines or contrasts between colors or shapes had any definition and everything else was washed out in an almost golden, yellow light.
While I don’t recall my feelings during the meditation, I recall my mind becoming incredibly quiet for the remainder of my time on Naitauba. It was as if I had finally seen some aspect of Adi Da that I could not attribute simply to Him as a man and my internal doubts, conflicts and uneasiness fell aside. I did my devotion, work, meals and all activities from that night on in a much more silent state both externally and internally.
In that silence, I was finally able to understand what had been growing in me. An awareness of my real motive in relation to Adi Da and Adidam. I had come here to escape my failures in the world, chief of which was my failure in my marriage. I had come running to Adi Da Samraj, not so much because of my devotion to Him and His Way, but because I was looking for an exit from my abundant failures elsewhere. I had hoped I’d find the fast track to “enlightement” without a clue in truth what that meant, but hoping not to have to deal with anything in my real life if I found it.
I remember when this awareness of my own actions became so clear to me, I felt almost like Beloved had spoken to me and thinking back I remember this realization almost like it was His voice that said, “How can you live as Love when you can’t even love one woman?” The island was filled with lifetime devotees who were not yet enlightened and many were obviously competent, capable people. What arrogance to imagine I could come on a weekend retreat and be free of my troubles in the world by way of enlightenment.
I could finally see that after years of watching my behaviours harm Deb and feeling our growing disconnection I was “avoiding relationship” with her by seeking the “freedom” I imagined that enlightenment might provide. I admired the devotees who dedicated their lives to Beloved and His works, but I could see I was not attracted to their choices and was simply running away. And most of all, I knew that I had to heal the love between Deb and I and live in the world as a devotee rather than hide from my failures in Adidam.
Since my time on Naitauba, I’ve never doubted Who Adi Da Samraj Is but I knew that my practice was about to change shape. It was time for me to return to the world, return to my wife and truly learn how to love.
About a year after my return from Naitauba, though I had begun to demonstrate my love for her in subtle ways that I later learned only added to her confusion, Deb told me she wanted a divorce. It was the worst shock I’d ever felt. I had never really considered the idea that we might not stay together, and if we were to have a future, we would have to unwind the pain we’d spent the previous 15 years building up in her.
*For those who knew Carollyne Tomsin, I share with you her painful loss in January 2021. On the final night with William, Carollyn and I enjoyed a dance to a song by Sarah McLachlan during which I’ve never felt so loved and embraced by another human other than my wife and mother. Her kindness, love, beauty and presence was nourishment to anyone lucky enough to have met her. She held nothing back.