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Anthony Costabile

Anthony Costabile
Anthony Costabile

I'll never forget my very first meeting with Avatar Adi Da Samraj. It wasn't at His Ashram. Nor was it during a scheduled personal audience with Him or some other pre-arranged engagement. In fact, it wasn't even a meeting with Him in person. But it was the defining moment of my early adult life. It happened in 1974.

I was living in the Denver/Boulder area, which, at the time, was a virtual Mecca of the new age movement. Ram Dass, Swami Satchidananda, Chogyam Trungpa, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi were all approaching superstar status, and Eastern mysticism and spiritual seeking had become a thriving sub-culture among Western youth. I was in the habit of browsing the spiritual bookstores and frequenting the ashrams and new age centers that proliferated during the era. I found the scene fascinating, though I was also put off by the pretentious attitudes and spiritual posturing I encountered.

I, too, was looking for something beyond the insular emptiness of middle-class life. But I was not about to settle for anything that could not reach to the depths of my heart and satisfy my intense spiritual longing. Nothing I came across on the new age circuit, and nothing in all the philosophical and spiritual books I read at the time, spoke convincingly to me. I was acutely sensitive to the disparity between the intuitive spiritual paths of the East — with their subjective and inward focus — and the outwardly focused paths of the worldly, materialistic West None of this was abstract to me. I was emotionally and spiritually torn between my own inclinations to retreat from worldly life and the urges I felt to exploit and indulge myself in every way possible. At last I saw no clear way to reconcile these opposing impulses.

It was in that mood that I chanced upon two books by Avatar Adi Da Samraj (then known by the unlikely name of "Bubba Free John"): The Knee Of Listening and The Method Of The Siddhas. I had seen these books side-by-side in several bookstores, and presumed them to be companion volumes about Adi Da and His Teaching, but I had never examined either one. I remember the striking cover photos, however, and recall their impact on me. The Knee Of Listening photo captured Adi Da's youthful, radiant face, the certainty and happiness of His demeanor, and the clearest, most wide-open, and brilliantly compelling eyes I had ever seen. But The Method Of The Siddhas cover struck me as ostentatious and offensive. There was Adi Da dressed in white and seated cross-legged on an elevated dais, a flower lei around His neck and enormous arrangements of flowers on either side of Him. He sat in an ornately carved chair and gazed into the camera with, it seemed to me, immense arrogance. I passed both books by, feeling attracted and curious, repelled and skeptical all at once.

Then one day in a small bookshop, as I turned my attention to other books on yoga and spirituality, The Knee Of Listening suddenly fell — or did it leap? — off the shelf, landing on the floor in front of my feet! I picked the book up in surprise, and with a sigh of resignation, as if to say, "All right, all right, you win," I began to leaf through it, at last turning to the middle section, which contained a series of black and white photos.

I was immediately struck by a silhouetted profile of Adi Da, His right hand open and upraised, His fingers spread and extended in an obvious gesture of blessing. The caption underneath simply read, "I Am the Loved One, I Am Shakti, I Am He." The photo and caption were a complete communication. It seemed to me that Adi Da was innocently contemplating the incomprehensible Mystery of His Own Divine Being. And I felt an inexplicable penetration in my heart, as if I had just been touched at the deepest level of my feeling. I did not, in that moment, consider what had happened — I simply bought the book.

In the days that followed I often returned to that page to ponder the staggering profundity of the caption and silhouette. Together they communicated a Mahavakya [literally a "Great Statement or Pronouncement"], that amounted to Adi Da's Original Avataric Divine Self-Confession to the world. Intuitively I knew that if this Statement were actually true — and my heart deeply affirmed to me that it was—then I had chanced upon the most Miraculous Spiritual Gift and Treasure the human world has ever known.

Somehow, that photo, those simple words, and the whole circumstance of my strange encounter with this book registered as a sudden piercing deep in my heart. I also noticed a responsive current of energy surging throughout my whole body. It was the body's means of expressing a sudden intuitive recognition: "My God, He IS here! Yes! He IS Really Here!" All of this occurred instantly, as an Epiphany. I knew that because of Adi Da's appearance here, my own spiritual destiny — and perhaps that of the entire world—was forever changed and blessed.

I was soon to discover that Avatar Adi Da truly was a genuine Guru and Spiritual Master of ultimate stature, deeper and more profound than any of the ancient teachers I had read of in college or in the course of my own private spiritual quest He was also more contemporary, more informed, more humorous, and infinitely more hip than any other spiritual teacher of the time (and I had seen a good number of them on their speaking tours through the Denver/Boulder area). In Adi Da Samraj, the ancient cultural divisions between East and West (and the corresponding dilemma in my own life) were resolved. He offered a Teaching and Way of life that embraces and transcends both world views, both parts of the body-mind, both contradictory impulses in the being.

I began reading Adi Da's Teaching voraciously, marveling that His understanding of the human condition was more incisive and penetrating — His description of the nature of God, Truth, and Reality more cogent and straightforward — than any religious or spiritual teaching I had ever read, past or present.

There was, I'm convinced, something far beyond the merely serendipitous in that first encounter with Adi Da. It was Divine Grace Itself responding to my inmost plea for spiritual help. Later I discovered a single sentence in one of Adi Da's Discourses that summarized the significance of that meeting — not just for me, but for anyone who is suddenly introduced to Adi Da and His Divine Teaching. It simply read, "Realize what it is that you have stumbled upon while wandering in the wilderness: I, Appearing here in your own likeness, Am the Liberating Function of Real God."

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