Adi Da (1939-2008)
His unexpected death (or "Mahasamadhi" as his devotees call it, after the Indian euphamism for the death of a Guru) was not surprising given his extreme hedonistic lifestyle and prior medical issues with severe arteriosclerosis. Followers had hoped he would come back to life as he had from other "death" experiences and kept a prayer vigil. But after a while they realised he really had left his physical body. (references: Devotee announcement and discussion, Fiji News)
Like all great Gurus, Da left no "realized" successor. As he died without warning, it remains to be seen what will happen with the group. My feeling is that it will continue like the following around other famous Gurus after their passing. The devotees continue, even after the death of the Master. It was a religion even when the Master was alive, and it remains a religion. It is the same with both Fully Enlightened and Intermediate Zone gurus.
An extraordinarily potent figure, of great intelligence, brilliance, and creativity, and (with Mahavira, St Francis, and Ramana) one of the few Gurus and Spiritual masters to go out of his way to consider the needs of the animal kingdom (as shown by his beautiful Fear No More Zoo project), Da Free John / Adi Da was someone who had impressed and even influenced me for more than a quater of a century. Originally and for many years I considered him a fully enlightened being. I wrote an initially very favourable web page on him, but was contacted by several ex-devotees who informed me of his abusive behaviour towards his devotees. When I changed the article accordingly I was contacted by current devotees who would present the other side of the coin. Thus I would swing in my understanding to and fro, not really understanding, until I came upon the thesis by an ex-devotee explaining Da's paradoxical qualities in terms of the Intermediate Zone. (this was the same ex-devotee incidentally, who yesterday notified me of Da's death ). This awakened me to the possibility of "intermediate zone" phenomenon as being a standard explanation for the paradoxical phenomenon of many "abusive" gurus. I used this thesis in a popular essay on Integral World to explain another, lesser guru, Andrew Cohen (his official site) (my page on him), an associate of Ken Wilber and a senior figure in the modern Wilber-Beck stream of the Integral Movement (which I have previously referred to as The Integral Movement sensu stricta, but am no longer happy with this title) itself is a subset of the larger Integral Paradigm (my brief page, wikipedia page I co-authored).
I have to say, news of Da Free John/Adi Da's death left me feeling really sad. Significantly, over the last couple of months I have come to feel that my earlier stance on the Intermediate Zone gurus is much too simplistic and polarised. While there is no doubt regarding those rare individuals who are fully and completely Enlightened, such as Ramana, Nityananda, Ramsuratkumar, and of course Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, I've been rethinking the whole problem of how to understand less than totally Realised Gurus, the nature of the Intermediate Zone, and so on. So for example I not longer consider Andrew Cohen even an Intermediate Zone guru (in contrast to my earlier essay).
As a result I have been feelinga lot more positively and respectfully about Adi Da. Sure he would seem to represent the classic case of the "Intermediate Zone" as described by Sri Aurobindo, but really he was very advanced, a whole class above all the others like Muktananda, Osho, etc. A really unique Teacher, although for me I prefer authentic fully Enlightened gurus. The Intermediate Zone can be a dangerous place, and by attuning to a Master coming from that space you can get sucked in too. Thus, like Ken Wilber, I prefer to respect Adi Da from afar, and really, the Da I resonate to and appreciate is not the dangerous, chaotic, inflationary Adi Dam of later years, where the Intermediate Zone shines in all its frightening terror, but the earlier, profound, nonduality realised Bubba Free John / Da Free John (I am sure Wilber feels the same).
The Wilber-Beck stream of the Integral Movement owes Da Free John / Adi Da much much more than it realises. It was Bubba/Da Free John (I use his old names because those where the names he used when he was teaching those ideas) who first fomulated a single physico-psycho-spiritual developmental spectrum (the "Seven Stages of Life" (official page, my page, another page, with useful diagrams); itself perhaps inspired by Theosophy or Rudolf Steiner); it was this same spectrum of seven stages that Wilber used as the basis of his entire philosophy and cosmology, causing him to reject his earlier Transpersonal-Jungian model, once he became a devotee. What would AQAL (All Quadrants and All Levels (my page, another page from old Wikipedia page, official Journal) be without the Levels? And it was Da Free John who formulated the levels. Wilber's contribution was simply to add a bunch of correspondences, and more recently, lines, quadrants, post-metaphysics and so on. It was Da Free John, the master of nonduality, who introduced Wilber - and hence almost the entire Wilber-Beck stream (the only exceptions I know of are Steve McIntosh and Chris Dierkes) - to an "Advaito-Buddhist" metaphysic and spirituality. And it was also Da Free John / Adi Da who formulated it first into a grand synthesis of all spirituality, in his profound (if limited, because he acknowledges nonduality) Basket of Tolerance (detailed contents of all editions; official page)
And finally, a trivial note regarding Wikipedia. As I sometimes contribute to Wikipedia, I found it amusing to discover that Da's date of death had been added to the page very soon after the event, then removed on the grounds that it wasn't from a reliable source, then added again, then removed again, then a general notice that "this article is about someone who has recently died" was added, while the byzantine bureaucracy that is Wikipedia's workings ground on, before details of his death were finally added. History page (if you are reading this blog later, scroll to 27th-29th November 2008)