I was born
Ronald deLevington Kirkbride, Jr. in New York and into "old money."
My father was a Bohemian writer who quickly tired of the life and society
of our Fifth Avenue duplex and fled to London when I was 6.
My mother was trained as a concert pianist. After my parents divorced,
a Greek operatic tenor became her lover for a time. He had a marvelous
voice! My mother would often accompany him on the living room Steinway.
I would fall asleep listening to the great arias of Puccini or Verdi being
performed in the living room of our house in New York. I became enamored
of it, addicted to the blissful place this music opened in me.
Whenever I ran into bad moments in life, I would turn to great music for
consolation. However, I eventually noticed that such "highs", no matter
how induced, are neither permanent nor transformative. That is when I
became a spiritual seeker.
In spite of the ease and affluence of my childhood, I was never content
with the vision of life touted at home, at Yale, in the U.S. Army, or
as a San Francisco businessman.
with my intimate partner, Fiona Syme
And so I
dropped out of a life based on conventional expectations. In the mid-1950s,
I began to investigate spiritual life. I turned to yoga, and eastern forms
of meditation. At the same time, I took up classical voice studies, participating
in various amateur recitals and performances.
I began to observe and rely on an essential relationship between the blissful
transport given by a great opera or concert performance and the states
I enjoyed early on in my search for Truth in meditation.
The common link was ecstasy, and in a form that was often more interesting
(and more mysterious) than the pleasure of orgasm.
The late Swami Prabhavananda introduced me to the philosophy of the Vedanta
in Santa Barbara, Southern California. Then followed a visit to India,
and six stimulating months with various spiritual teachers, among them
Satya Sai Baba and the late Anandamayi Ma.
In 1958, I met the late Sivaya Subramuniya, and made a deep commitment
to his tradition. I exchanged the opportunities of wealth for celibacy
and monasticism. I became a monk for the next sixteen years. As part of
my monastic discipline, I renounced my passion for music. During these
years, I lectured widely on yoga and taught yoga and meditation in several
Adi Da Samraj, 1974
by 1974, I had begun to feel dissatisfied with my chosen path. I spent
some months in an anguish of unresolved doubt. Late that year, Adi
Da Samraj attracted my attention.
His autobiography, The
Knee of Listening, profoundly affected me and spoke to the specific
doubts and questions I had not been able to resolve in the monastery.
He offered a radically unique description of spiritual practice, vastly
different from the techniques I was used to (and in which I felt stuck).
In response to such unique and transcendent wisdom, I became Adi Da's
devotee in 1975.
One day Adi
Da invited me to sing for him. He explained that his form of renunciation
was not about cutting anything away from life, in the manner of an ascetic.
Instead, his form of renunciation was about relinquishing unhappiness!
I felt quite unprepared, not having used my voice for many years, but
somehow, it reappeared in time for the evening event.
During the next several years, Adi Da would call on me to sing in various
kinds of community occasions. He showed me how not only the voice, but
the whole body, could become an instrument of joy and praise. I discovered
the practice (and bliss) of singing as a mindless and ecstatic contemplative.
Patterns of body, mind, emotion, long locked in place, loosened or disappeared.
(Understand, Adi Da is not a voice coach, but a uniquely born Spiritual
Master, capable of bringing light to any occasion or subject.)
Kauai, Hawaii — June 22, 2009
daughter Sepia's 29th birthday
Adi Da used
my passion for music to connect me with the gift of His Enlightenment.
I use that word carefully, aware that all kinds of "programs" are being
offered these days which are claimed to result in "enlightenment". Adi
Da's Enlightenment is the Real Thing, the Divine State Itself.
During the 70's and 80's, Adi Da made great use of musical occasions in
the community of Adidam to instruct students and devotees. In time, what
evolved as "sacred offerings" became opportunities for singers, instrumentalists,
dancers, to participate in a unique practice: contemplation of the spiritual
reality revealed in Adi Da's Presence, in the midst of offering an artistic
This practice is unique to the Teaching of Adi Da, and is to be distinguished
from the technique-oriented methods of many traditional communities.
The years in which Adi Da worked with music as a teaching device (popular,
jazz, rock, opera, etc.) ended in the early nineties. He would often comment
during these early years that no attainment, goal, or experience was equivalent
to Truth. He would find (and continues to find) ways to draw me and my
friends beyond whatever temporary state we find ourselves in any moment,
and into that Truth.
Adi Da's Work has continued over the years, and it has become increasingly
obvious to me and many others that he is the Pure Divine, incarnate in
Adi Da Samraj today
be prepared to receive the unique "spiritual transmission" of Adi Da.
When I have been best prepared, I have sat in front of him, heart open,
even heart-broken and mind silenced. He transmits the most extraordinary
blessing and intimacy, and awakens a profound devotion in those who turn
However, even such sublime moments are not an end in themselves, and there
is no "spiritual status" conferred by them. Such Grace is the
beginning of an ordeal of self-understanding and discriminative intelligence,
which alone makes submission to the Divine in the form of the God-Man
Adi Da is even more controversial than great masters of the past. He has
broken taboos that others have been unwilling or unable to confront —
but which must necessarily be confronted in order to free ordinary human
beings from the bondage that locks them in unawareness of God and the
Enlightened State. Adi Da's work is heroic in the extreme. He lends sanity,
meaning, and transcendence to the chaos and superficiality of these times.
If you would like to learn more about Adi Da and the spiritual way of
Adidam, please stop by any of the following websites:
Adi Da — and his spiritual transmission — is eternally available to all
his devotees, his human life ended on November 27, 2008. In November,
2009, as part of the one-year anniversary of that special date, I put
together the following video tribute. Enjoy!