21 December 2008

In the News: An "Avatar" Dies

“Avatar Adi Da” died on November 27. This controversial American-born guru was known by various names over the years, including Bubba Free John, Da Free John, and the Da Avatar. On Adi Da’s website, “avatar” is defined as “One who is descended or ‘crossed down' from and as the Divine. It is a Sanskrit word for the Divine Incarnation.” The site offers explanations for Adi Da’s various names.

Ken Wilber, the well-known proponent of Integral philosophy and a controversial teacher in his own right, endorsed Adi Da’s philosophy, which is significant, because as a thinker of advanced intellect Wilber has a definite influence in some circles. However, Wilber admitted that things were “problematic” with Adi Da, as he explained in a 1996 essay.

There’s an interesting recent critique of Adi Da’s philosophy at Integral World, “an independent public forum for critical reflection on Ken Wilber's integral philosophy.”

Incidentally, since I was Ken Wilber’s editor at Shambhala Publications for many years, people have often asked me whether Ken knows about Meher Baba or what he thinks about Baba. As admirers of Wilber’s work (because it seeks to bring together the common elements of all the spiritual traditions as well as modern science), they hope that he would in turn endorse Meher Baba. Certainly Ken has read Baba — this guy consumes books like God Speaks for a snack — and he coauthored a book with two Baba-lovers, Spiritual Choices (however, Ken once indicated to me that he was not happy with that book, which probably meant that he didn’t agree with his coauthors on key points). Ken cited Meher Baba in one or two of his earlier books, but Ken has his own Theory of Everything that isn’t necessarily supported by Meher Baba’s, so I don't see him acknowledging Baba's authority.

I never asked Ken directly about his views of Meher Baba, because I didn’t want our potential differences to get in the way of the cordial professional relationship that we enjoyed, but my sense was that Ken respects Meher Baba but has signficant differences with Baba’s cosmology. I think it’s clear he doesn’t accept Baba’s claim to being Avatar, or even Baba’s concept of Avatar.

Returning to Adi Da, we know that Meher Baba cautioned about the proliferation of false saints and prophets and the dangers of hypocrisy (pretending to be spiritually advanced and allowing people to revere oneself). Adi Da might be a candidate for false prophet — yet predictably, he had a similar attitude toward Meher Baba, regarding him as just one of many claimants to avatar status. An essay about Meher Baba written by Adi Da is online here.


abraxas23 said...

Meher Baba is one of the great great ones. I cannot understand why his books are not better known. His book 'GOD speaks' is one of the most amazing books I've ever read. My head nearly exploded when I read it, and I believe this will be the new bible one day. It is truly inter-confessional and intercultural. This book and Sri Nisargadatta's 'I am that' are my most precious books and I have read many. Everything is GOD's will, so why worry?

god bless

Talat Halman said...

Jai Baba, In 2002 I attended a Sunday afternoon gathering at Ken Wilbur's house at an event dedicated to students at Naropa. I was an additoinal guest and I asked Ken Wilbur how he saw the master-disciple relationship in his schema. Wilbur advanced the same combination of admitting the relationship could produce good results while also being potentially problematic. I think for Wilbur the jnana path and a sense of independence are his ideals. Wilbur may have also brought up issues of transference and countertransference as problematic. I'll add that I appreciate abraxas23's enthusiasm for _God Speaks_, truly one of the most important and comprehensive renditions of a "theory of everything." Two books that complement _God Speaks_ are Charles Haynes, _The Awakener_ and Malcolm Schloss and Charles Purdham's _Three Incredible Weeks with Meher Baba_. Both books give an overview of many of the concepts in _God Speaks_ in the context of Baba's life and the teaching situations, in some ways making the experience and its memory more vital. Of course I love Naosherwan Anzar's _The Beloved_, a book of darshan and a chronicle of Baba's life. I found another sensitivity to understanding Baba when I read Mehera's book. Thank you Kendra for this wonderful Baba Blog.

All quotes of Meher Baba © Avatar Meher Baba Perpetual Public Charitable Trust unless otherwise indicated. Writings by Kendra are © Kendra Crossen Burroughs unless otherwise noted.