The Tradition of Truth Is The Tradition of The Adepts
A Talk by Da Free John
Da Free John (Adi Da Samraj): The primary force and root of all the religious traditions are the Adepts, those who actually Realize the Transcendental Divine Reality. Adepts arise in all times and places and become associated with the movements and complex structures existing in the immediate environment. Throughout their lifetime, both before and after their realization, they move into the existing culture and associate with its influences. Thus, while their teaching is an expression of actual realization, their words reflect and comment upon all kinds of cultural complexities and ideals. Where Adepts or the Realizers of Truth arise, they transform the existing culture, eliminating some aspects of traditional religious and spiritual life and emphasizing others. They are a motion in the midst of the stream of conventions.
The tradition of Truth, of Transcendental Realization, is the tradition of the Adepts. Apart from the Adepts, there is no tradition of Truth. We could say, and rightly, for example, that Buddhism, like all other traditions - Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam - developed through the stream of conventional human processes and creativity, the transmission from one generation to the next of ideas and conventions, ideals, cultural artifacts, cultic techniques and images, and all the rest. Here and there within the Buddhist tradition Adepts appeared. Here and there within the human traditions in general Adepts or actual Realizers have appeared. Other individuals representing advanced levels of experience and knowledge have also appeared, and they too have had an influence on the traditions, very often achieving prominence. But we must distinguish between individuals of extraordinary experience and influence and Adepts who have realized the Transcendental Truth.
The traditions of human culture taken as a whole comprise a very complex artifact of human activity. If we look at the stream of traditions and examine those who were apparently true Adepts, examine what they said and consider their apparent point of view, it is very difficult to differentiate the pure expression of their Realization from all the conversation and activity that develops in their company, whether we rely on their own statements or interpretations by those who lived with them or by the schools that developed around them. Even if we could locate the precise teaching of an Adept, it would be difficult to sift out the part that expresses Realization from the rest that more or less simply reflects the conventions and complexities of the human culture, both extant in that time and that which evolved in time since.
It is very difficult at this point, for instance, to 'clearly identify Jesus' teaching, what he was all about, what kind of realization he actually represents. It is easier in the case of Gautama. There exists a more direct transmission of Gautama's life and teaching in the Pali texts, which clearly represent the essential point of view of Gautama. Even so, Gautama is associated with a much broader range of communications than those that appear in the Pali texts. The Mahayana Buddhists regard their texts, in which Gautama is made to speak and all kinds of other esoteric teachings appear, to have come from Gautama. They say that the Pali texts represent the teaching given to a certain dimension of his audience at a certain time. Their own texts, they claim, were secret, higher transmissions from Gautama during his lifetime or after his lifetime, received by people in an exalted state who could see the Buddha in his glory. But just as the Mahayanists take very seriously their own transmission and regard it to be associated with Gautama himself, all traditions have a similar kind of process. The Christians also want to take "very seriously everything that has come down through time as something that originated with their Adept-Jesus-and that reflects his Wisdom directly.
It is because of this very conventional process of the development of mind, life, and culture of human beings in general that the Adepts serve a unique function. The actual Realizers appear from time to time in order to accomplish a revolutionary feat. To actually Realize God is most revolutionary, but an individual being, present in time and space, transformed through Realization and expressive of that Realization, can serve as a purifying and transforming influence in the midst of the stream of conventions that human beings in general are collecting about themselves and inheriting arbitrarily.
We as a community should feel aligned most positively, should acknowledge and feel associated most directly, with the Realization of the Adepts - their significance, their actual Realization, and the function that Adepts serve whenever they appear, which is to purify and transform the traditional stream of communications. We can find in the historical records all kinds of ideas and suggestions of point of view, practice, philosophy, symbol, and so forth associated with such individuals. And if we examine those histories from the point of view of the Teaching that has been communicated to you directly in this time and place, we will find ourselves disposed to criticize much of what is recorded. By "criticize" I do not mean to reject. I mean that we must consider the traditions from the point of view of this direct expression of the Teaching and dissociate conventions of thought and persuasion from the Realization expressed by any Adept.
In my commentary on the traditions, for instance, I have discussed many Adepts and many traditions that have developed in the name of Adepts. Most recently I have spoken in such critical terms of Gautama and the Buddhist tradition, and the Vedantic tradition and the Upanishadic tradition, and in general all spiritual and religious traditions. In all the literature I have produced are many such criticisms, communicated in the same spirit of the Adepts in the past. They have done very much the same thing in their own time and place relative to the accretions associated with other Adepts, about whose Realization they might feel positive but about the expression of which through the media of transmission they are critical.
The Lankavatara Sutra is an example of a primary text in the tradition of Buddhism that is founded in the realization of one or more Adepts and that expresses a critical point of view based in such realization. That book is not really about how to realize Transcendental Liberation, but how to understand all other ways of life from the point of view of God-Realization. The Lankavatara Sutra reflects the critical process that Adepts generate whenever they appear. Gautama in his time did the same thing. On the one hand, he is interpreted to be engaged in repudiating the Upanishadic and Vedic cultures, just as you could say the Adept or Avatar of the Lankavatara Sutra is repudiating many of the ideals and processes that have appeared in the history of Buddhism.
We must keep in mind, however, that the Truth that is reflected in the teaching of any Adept is not to be associated or identified with that which is criticized or that which is offered as an alternative. That which is criticized could still be criticized. That which is offered as an alternative could also, at another time or in another setting and by another Adept, be criticized. The dominant force in the occasion of any Adept is actual Realization, which is a transcendental and free disposition. Clearly Gautama and the Adept implied in the Lankavatara Sutra-whoever it really is or however many there really were-are Adepts in the highest sense. Other individuals associated with other traditions likewise, from the point of view of their realization, have been involved in a process of criticism and the offering of an alternative in their time and place. Such individuals could likewise be regarded as true Adepts if we would free ourselves from identifying them with either what they criticized or what they offered as an alternative. The alternative they offered might have been appropriate, and, in terms of the configuration of mind in their time, might even have been a radical alternative to what they were criticizing. But when the mode of mind and culture associated with them and their realization in their time and place has passed, then the alternative they offered becomes a subject a right criticism by another Adept in another time and place.
Thus, my work involves a critical overview of everything that is taking place around me, everything that people bring to me, and all traditions. My teaching work is like that of the Lankavatara Sutra, like that of Gautama. On one level it seems to be a repudiation. On another level it is a criticism or a reinterpretation, even a positive interpretation. On another level it offers an alternative course or Way. But this entire process, this cultural process, this Teaching process that I have engaged both with you who have come to me and relative to the traditions, is expressed on the basis of prior Realization.
Like Gautama, I arose in an isolated environment, although not in a specifically religious or esoteric cultural environment. I did not grow up in a palace, but in a lower middle-class household without any contact whatsoever with the total stream of human life or the stream of higher religious and spiritual activity. Over the years of my living in the midst of that circumstance its limitations, which had been clear from the beginning, became absolutely clear. It was a dead end, a form of entrapment. Therefore, I moved freely into the world, became associated with all kinds of traditional sources in this country and elsewhere, actually practiced in the company of many people, became associated with all kinds of states of knowledge and experience. Ultimately, the process of my life was summarized as regenerated Enlightenment, which had been tacitly my condition from birth.
Since that time I have engaged those who came to me and have familiarized myself with the various traditions, past and present, and have discussed them all from the point of view of this Realization. Thus, the activity of my own lifetime is very similar to the activity of other Adepts in their occasion. And having done all this, I still feel a clear affinity with the great Adepts of the past, not a sense of identification with their cultural environment or even an identification with the alternative they may have offered, which was a way of dealing with the mind and cultural state of their time, their attempt to make Realization possible in their own time. I feel a sense of intimate identification with them at the level of their Realization.
I can understand and sympathize with the most highly developed exponents of every form of human and religious and spiritual and philosophical endeavor. I am not disposed to suppress them, to make nothing out of them. On the other hand, having been involved in the same Process, I can clearly see the stage of life that their realization represents and its limits.
I can also see that there are many individuals who, though they express themselves through the ideal of a lower stage of life that that which expresses the highest realization, did themselves transcend that very limitation. I can see clearly that there were some among them, at any rate, who, in the extremities of the fulfillment of their own discipline, transcended its limitations. It is often a tacit or intuitive sense rather than a reading of historical evidence, although there may also be historical evidence. Apart from that, however, I must evaluate through criticism their influence, their historical character, and their instruction and view them within the developmental process of the stages of life.
Even so, I feel a profound sympathy with the great Adepts in all the traditions and all the stages, and this sympathy naturally aligns our Fellowship with the tradition of Realization, the tradition of the Adepts themselves. Further, because Adepts appear in many times and places and in many traditions and reflect all of the stages of life, in some sense, therefore, we must say that the tradition with which we are naturally associated is one that includes all traditions, all stages of life, rather than any single one of them.
This Way of life has not been developed synthetically, that is, by selecting parts of many traditions and creating a synthetic new tradition, nor did my own Realization develop in that fashion. This Way of life we consider was developed on the basis of literal Realization. Neither has our Way of life emerged causally. For instance, in 1970, when I was looking for likenesses to my Realization, I found in Ramana Maharshi the corroboration of an aspect of my own Realization. Although I critically evaluated aspects of what he represented, I also acknowledged a basic corroboration. But there was no causal relationship. I had never gone to Ramana Maharshi's Ashram, nor had I ever used his teaching as a basis on which to construct my practice. Yet, there was a likeness.
To find such likenesses and in effect acknowledge a tradition was one of the first things I did, and over the years we have been engaged in a much more elaborate consideration of such likenesses. But we do not have a caused relationship to other traditions. We cannot say that because I studied with Tibetan teachers that now we are a Tibetan Buddhist school. Still, what are the dominant likenesses? If we observe and acknowledge those likenesses, how would we define and name ourselves, represent ourselves in the world in which the stream of traditions and conventions exists?
I had many teachers, but nobody taught me Realization. Gautama was not taught Realization, either. He went to, and was instructed by, and given experiences by many teachers. Yet his Realization was determined by a disposition uniquely his own, on the basis of which he evaluated and transcended all the influences that he confronted. The process in my own life is very much the same. Therefore, the ultimate event or Realization of my own practice is not associated with any teacher or tradition. It did not occur under the auspices of any teacher or tradition. It was not caused by any teacher or tradition. The disposition to God-Realization was there from the beginning. It broke through in dramatic form at many times throughput my life, even before I became associated with teachers, and that Realization, which I have for years been describing and considering with others, has not made me to feel sympathetic with any of those who have taught me or any of the traditions with which I have been associated. It is a direct Realization on the basis of which I can evaluate and criticize my teachers and the traditions that influenced me.
You should understand that the process of my going to teachers was very much like Gautama's. He went to teachers in the disposition that ultimately became his Enlightenment. And that is precisely what occurred in my own case. Therefore, I have no sense of a direct link to any teacher or tradition and have rather transcended them all, much as Gautama can be said to have transcended all of his teachers and all the traditions extant in his time.
Thus, in this Fellowship we do not represent a tradition. I did not link up with a tradition and a teacher or series of teachers who themselves belonged to a tradition. Rather, like Gautama, I freely entered into the process of my own Enlightenment and met people and came under various influences only to discard and transcend them. And after the culminating Realization of that process, I criticized and evaluated all the ordinary human alternatives as well as the traditional approaches to Realization.
Nevertheless, I feel positively aligned to certain characters in human history and certain communications about Realization. I feel a great deal of sympathy with all kinds of teachers and teachings, even of the secondary kind, but most fundamentally with some in particular, who have in common a certain quality of Realization and transcendence of the conventions of our existence. Gautama also, at least in the texts where he is shown to be thinking about such things, talked about a line of Buddhists and great individuals before him who he felt were Enlightened exactly as he was . Enlightened. He also envisioned many others who were yet to appear, some of whom might be called Buddhas who knows what else they might be called-and as a result, today many Buddhists, like the practitioners of any other fixed tradition, want to acknowledge only the Great Ones of their own lineage, both past and future.
But we, not having a traditional lineage, can enjoy a transcendent view of all the traditions. We see Adepts and Great Ones wherever they happen to appear.
We critically appreciate their appearance, their sacred ordeal, and their human influence. We also honor, celebrate, and draw attention to their Realization.
"The perfect among the sages is identical with Me. There is absolutely no difference between us"
Tripura Rahasya, Chap XX, 128-133
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