Adi Da – Renaissance Man
My first encounter with Adi Da aka Franklin Jones was twenty years ago, when I read two-thirds of his religious autobiography, The Knee of Listening, self-published when he had lived a mere thirty-six of his eventual sixty-nine years of life. His regurgitation of Eastern nihilism is so dense and pompous, that I could never finish any of his books or audio tapes.
As requested by Marcus Dalton, here is the Alan Watts forward to The Knee of Listening by Adi Da:
by Alan Watts:
Although I do not know Franklin Jones [now Adi Da] personally, what he says, and says very well, is something that I have been trying to express for thirty-five years, but which most people seem quite reluctant to understands if it were too good to be true. The point, with which Krishnamurti and the ancient Chinese Zen masters also agree, is that there is no progressive method by which the liberated and awakened state (moksha) can be attained. This state of being and consciousness has innumerable names, mystical experience, enlightenment, self-realization, cosmic consciousness, union with God, not to mention Sanskrit, Chinese, and Arabic equivalents but none of them are satisfactory because it is altogether beyond words. Striving after this state blocks the understanding that it is already present, as does also a kind of purposive not-striving.
There are, for example, those who try to live completely in the present, the Eternal Now, by attempting to be fully concentrated on what is at this moment as in the Theravada Buddhist satipatthana discipline or Gurdjieff’s “self remembering.” I am not quarreling with this. Franklin Jones also tried many methods. But all along it should have been obvious that all consciousness, all experience, is of nothing else than the eternal present. Memories of the past and anticipation’s of the future exist only now, and thus to try to live completely in the present is to strive for what is already the case. This should be clear to anyone. The same principle applies to striving for nirvana or union with God by means of so-called spiritual exercises. There is no actual necessity for a road or obstacle course to that which IS.
But there are two main reasons for the persistent attachment to spiritual methods. The first is that, being ignorant of what we have and are now, we look for it in the future, and therefore can be beguiled by all those gurus who pick our pockets and sell us our own wallets. They promise marvelous states of consciousness, ecstasies, psychic powers, and transportation to other levels of being. So what? If you were managing the entire universe which in one sense you are it would be absolutely necessary for it to appear that a lot of things were out of control. Does the ventriloquist want to dine every night with only his dummy?
The second is the beguilement of spiritual pride, which is also the same thing as a sense of guilt. “I am not worthy to attain this exalted state unless I have suffered, unless the teacher has beaten me, unless I have sat in a cold, dark cave for three years, or practiced zazen with my legs aching for hours.” Anyone silly enough to think this way deserves all the pains he must endure. Nothing is more ostentatious than deliberate humility, nor more egocentric than projects to get rid of egotism. These are strong words, but not uttered in a spirit of condemnation, for those who undertake such projects may, by so doing, realize very clearly that they are futile. But then they may return as gurus thinking that this is the only way to realize the futility of spiritual ambition, and then “lay their trip” upon others without asking themselves, “Is this trip really necessary?”
As I read Franklin Jones especially the Epilogue, which is worth the price of the book he has simply realized that he himself as he is, like a star, like a dolphin, like an iris, is a perfect and authentic manifestation of the eternal energy of the universe, and thus is no longer disposed to be in conflict with himself. Dangerous wisdom and yet fire, electricity, and technical knowledge are also dangerous. But if you genuinely know this, it is nothing to be proud of nor humble about. It is just what is so, and there is absolutely no necessity to parade it by defying social conventions, on the one hand, or by coming on as one who is extremely holy, on the other. The hapless Rasputin was, perhaps, an example of the first case, and Meher Baba of the second though he had a jolly face and a lively twinkle in the eye.
It should be understood that none of this is to say that one should not practice yoga or any other type of meditation. I myself use some of these disciplines, not to attain anything in terms of spiritual rank, but simply to enjoy them, as if I were playing a musical instrument or preparing a Chinese dinner.
Now to say what Franklin Jones is trying to say is like drawing an asymptotic curve a curve which is always getting nearer and nearer to a straight line, but only touches it at infinity. Perhaps it could be said that his curve is approaching it a little faster than some others, knowing, however, that there is no hurry. Beyond words, in the silencing of thought, we are already there.
Rancho Saucelito, California.
That’s okay because his story did not end with that early Melrose Avenue incarnation. Now I am having a new relationship with Adi Da the digital artist and underwater motion picture cinematographer.
Franklin Jones has many different names; Bubba Free John, Da Free John, Ruchira Avatar Adi Da Samraj, etc. Franklin Jones wears many different colored hats; Melrose Avenue bookstore proprietor, guru, God-Man, costume designer, painter, digital artist, nature photographer. The foundational element tying it all together is the genius of Mr. Jones’ creative vision. Franklin Jones was a master of the visual art form.
Staged Spiritual Theatre
Adi Da would have been a natural as a blogger with that camera. He already had a stockpile of excellent images ready and waiting to post on the Internet. Da could have invented and reinvented himself at the speed of electricity by using the Internet. This article was written specifically to showcase Franklin Jones skills at being photographed as an underwater cameraman. Notice how he is perfectly posed in the safety and comfort of his own swimming pool. Where are the production assistants for that huge camera? What is he photographing? Where is the camera person who is shooting Adi Da? Why is Adi Da wearing a wet suit in Fiji?
These photographs are pure spiritual theater with Da as the rock star. Photographers always have production assistants. I know because I use to be one for photographer Ron Harris in 1981. I would drive up and down Melrose Avenue as a starry-eyed production assistant, passing the sacred sites where Franklin Jones and Yogi Bhajan were creating their empires using staged spiritual theater.
Adi Da was engaged in industrial level output of his art products at the time of his relatively early passing at the age of 69 years. Photography was one of the first mediums that I worked in when I was young. I feel like I am having a professional relationship with Da. He makes me want to work hard and be productive with visual images.
Andy Warhol spent the final years of his life producing as much art and making as money as possible. Robert Mapplethorpe did the same thing when he knew that he was going to die, he cranked out as many photographs as possible and made as much money as he could.
Could Adi Da or someone like him start a new religion in a bookstore again? Probably not. The next new religion will probably be created online. The religion that got me into religion was called the Church of Religious Science and it no longer exists as such. Now it is called, the Center for Spiritual Living.
Flat On His Back
Studying gurus, cult leaders and serial killers is my obsession. I usually have a true crime investigation playing on cable with the audio muted when I write these blogs. This is what I do to engage my world on a Sunday afternoon, write this spontaneous three hundred and fifty word blog post about Franklin Jones as Adi Da, the Melrose Avenue bookstore guru who made the big time. It was easy because all of these photographs were already saved on my hard drive.