grew up in the worst neighborhoods of New
York City, an area of youth gangs, drug pushers,
and criminals. Although I came from a humble
and good family, right outside my parents'
front door loomed a world of constant threat
and danger. I dropped out of school at fourteen
and went to work at the waterfront docks,
wheeling and dealing in anything I could to
make money and survive. By the time I was
thirty, I had spent more than eight years
1967, I was imprisoned at Rikers Island Penitentiary,
awaiting trial for a crime I had not committed.
At a plea bargaining session, I was told that
if I pled guilty, I would receive "only" 20
or 30 years, instead of life without parole.
then came to lowest point of my life. One
evening around midnight, the lights were out
and the cell block was quiet. Sitting on my
mattress, I concluded that death could not
be worse than this life. I calmly made the
decision to end it all.
remember putting on the best clothes I had,
shaving, and brushing my hair. Then I lay
down on my mattress and prepared to kill myself.
that point, everything around me became acutely
sharp, every sound and feeling. I could hear
my heart pounding. I could hear every tiny
sound in the cell block. The intensity of
it dissolved my mind, which up to that point
had been racing.
brought my hand to my throat and paused for
a time. The room suddenly filled with bright
light. I felt a Presence I could not explain,
but which was as obvious to me as the brightness
of the room. I bolted upright and looked around
the cell. I knew that not only was I not going
to go through with it, but that somehow everything
was going to turn out okay. Charged by this
intuition, I stayed awake all night, until
the guards came in the morning to load me
onto the prison van for the long ride to the
was not the same person after this experience.
I felt that life was greater than how it had
appeared from my previous perspective. I began
to make different choices about my life. And,
in a miraculous turn of events, I discovered
the identity of the man who had committed
the crime, and was released within a year.
in prison, I had educated myself in counseling,
psychology, and law. After my release, I continued
my education, eventually enrolling for a Ph.D.
in psychology. I co-founded a multimillion-dollar
drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in
the South Bronx section of New York City,
where I became the executive clinical director,
responsible for over five hundred live-in
residents. In my free time, I socialized with
successful Latino professionals. I was successful
and professionally respected. Underneath all
of this, however, I was still a guarded and
day in June of 1971, I had an eleven o'clock
appointment with an executive from a meditation
institute who was selling a program for treating
addictions through meditation. The program
was expensive, so my decision was important.
At twenty minutes to eleven, I began preparing
for the interview, but since I had no personal
experience with meditation, I didn't feel
comfortable. I remembered that an associate
of mine had a friend named Franklin Jones
who knew about meditation, and He just happened
to be visiting my associate in his office
walked right into the office and said to Avatar
Adi Da, "Hi, you must be Franklin! Can I borrow
you for a few minutes? I have a meeting with
this guy who's trying to sell me a meditation
training package for our program. I don't
know much about meditation and I heard you
know a little bit". He gave me a big smile
and said, "Sure." I liked Him right away.
He was very bright and open, and His smile
was genuinely happy. I don't remember what
He said as we walked through the hallways
of the center, but He laughed a lot, and soon
He had me laughing. We laughed most of the
way to my office. I remember my secretary
looking up in surprise — this was not my typical
the interview, I placed three chairs in a
triangle. During the interview, I kept asking
the salesman if he used these techniques himself,
to which he responded affirmatively. But it
was obvious to me he was not happy at all.
After the salesman left, I looked at Avatar
Adi Da and said, "Well, what do you think?"
He pointed both thumbs towards the ground,
and we both laughed. He said, "They are well-intentioned
people, but there is much more to meditation
Avatar Adi Da noticed something in my office.
In a far corner, partly hidden by a plant,
I had a small photo of Swami Muktananda. A
few months earlier, I had responded to an
article about Swami Muktananda, and received
an invitation to meet him during his upcoming
New York visit The photo had been a gift from
Amma, Swami Muktananda's secretary, who, I
learned later, was also a great Spiritual
friend of Avatar Adi Da. Avatar Adi Da seemed
interested that I had this photo, and began
asking me questions.
the course of my explanation, I remember asking,
"What do you think about somebody like this
that claims to be in direct Communion with
God?" He looked straight into my eyes and
said, "Just do everything in relation to the
Guru." Then he left. It would take me many
years to realize that He had given me the
essence of His Teaching in that single statement.
was really impressed with Avatar Adi Da after
that meeting. After He left I kept thinking
about Him. The next time I saw my associate,
I said, "I really like your friend Franklin.
There's something about Him — a really nice
man. We must have lunch together sometime,
soon!" But I had no recognition of Avatar
Adi Da as Spiritually Enlightened. I didn't
even think about such things, let alone believe
in them. I had little Spiritual background
besides my Catholic upbringing. I tended to
be cynical about life, and regarded religion
as mostly nonsense, doctrines to keep people
from abusing and killing one another. Although
I felt something special about Him, "Franklin"
was just another man to me.
ten months following that first meeting were
oddly unsettling. By conventional standards,
and especially in contrast to my early life,
I now had every reason to be happy: I was
successful in my profession, I was engaged
to a beautiful, successful woman, I had more
money than I needed, and was respected by
friends and family. Inwardly, however, I was
discontent. All my life I had been aware of
a fundamental disturbance in my body that
was always present, regardless of whether
times were good or bad. Why did I still feel
like I was suffering, despite all my success?
It didn't make sense. During this period,
I was stuck in quiet despair. All the ordinary
enjoyments to which I was accustomed — watching
TV or going out to dinner with friends — were
no longer really enjoyable. It became apparent
that the field of psychology did not bring
relief from my unhappiness and, in spite of
years of therapy, the fundamental sense of
disturbance I felt remained untouched. My
mentors, some of the most respected analysts
in the field, seemed no more illumined by
their knowledge than I was, They could not
address my questions about life and death.
Because I was clinical director, I started
to feel like a blind man leading the blind.
Right around this time, my associate sent
me the manuscript of The
Knee Of Listening, Avatar Adi Da's
remember thumbing through it briefly and making
a mental note, "I have to read this. After
all, I have met Him." But I left it
on my desk at home. One evening about six
weeks later, I was feeling agitated and I
noticed the manuscript. I read it intently
for several hours.
around two o'clock in the morning I was still
reading, and an unusual feeling started coming
over me. I looked up from the book. The room
had become bright. Every color stood out brightly
and distinctly. My first thought was, "Damn,
one of the residents put some LSD in my coffee!"
Then I noticed that I felt attracted to this
brightness. A feeling of calmness moved throughout
my body, and I was attentive to everything
around me, rather than to myself — an unusual
state. I enjoyed that feeling of attraction
and, after a while, I allowed it to engulf
my mind kicked in and a rush of fear overtook
me. The fear wasn't about anything in particular
— raw terror without content. My heart pounded
as if it was going to leap out of my chest.
My body pulled into a fetal position, and
I lay there with my knees pressed up against
my chest, sweating profusely. Then, in an
instant, everything became perfectly calm.
An immense bliss washed over me, and my body
opened like a flower.
spent countless hours in Avatar Adi Da's Company
since then, I have come to recognize this
Presence as His direct Blessing, a Transmission
of Grace and Divine Love that awakens and
heals the being. One can receive this Transmission
in His physical Company, but it is available
with equal force outside of His Company, as
on this occasion. In other words, Avatar Adi
Da's Blessing-Power is not limited by time
and space. However, once the being receives
His Blessing Transmission, all the darker
elements of the limited self are "stirred
up" — reflected back to oneself and felt with
magnified force. This, I realized later, was
the terror I had experienced. It was my own
deep, primal feeling of being a separate ego,
threatened by everything in a hostile world.
none of this was clear to me then. My rational
mind had no way to explain these experiences.
I phoned a psychiatrist who worked at our
program. After apologizing for waking him
up in the wee hours, I explained what had
said, "It sounds like you're having an anxiety
attack." He told me he would call in a prescription,
and that I should pick it up right away. But
I knew this was not an anxiety attack. I felt
calmer and clearer than I ever had. I knew
without question that my experience was related
to something else.
I called my fiance. Her solution was, "Come
on over. I have some good wine we can share
together." This seemed equally ridiculous.
Then I remembered there was a phone number
in the back of The
Knee Of Listening. I thought, "Why
not call this number, since this happened
while I was reading the book." It didn't even
occur to me that it was 11:00 pm in Los Angeles.
I called and explained to the man who answered
what had just happened to me.
I spoke, I could hear Avatar Adi Da's deep,
expansive laughter in the background. I thought,
"What kind of a Spiritual place is this? I'm
going through this heavy turmoil and they're
having a party!" The devotee who had answered
left the phone for a couple of minutes. When
he returned he said, "I spoke to Franklin
and He said you should come right away." I
said, "Right away? It's two in the morning!"
I explained all my responsibilities. The man
left the phone again and then came back and
said, "Franklin says to come as soon as you
seemed impossible, but somehow I worked everything
out and I was on a plane to Los Angeles the
next day. Avatar Adi Da's Center, which everybody
referred to as "the Ashram", was on a busy
Los Angeles street, with a small bookstore
in the front, and a meditation hall and office
in the back. The first person I saw when I
came in the back entrance was Avatar Adi Da,
sitting at a desk. He greeted me with an incredible
warm, loving feeling in His eyes and face.
He sat me down next to Him, taking my hand
as He did this. Confused by His gesture, I
shook His hand in a business-like fashion
and then tried to pull away. But He just kept
holding onto my hand.
could feel His complete openness and Love
for me, a man He barely knew, and I felt uncomfortable
in the face of this. I tried pulling away
again and He continued to hold on. At one
point there was even a little struggle back
and forth. I was starting to get uptight,
self-conscious. Then He did something with
His face, a very subtle change of expression,
that let me know that it was all right. Finally
I just relaxed my hand in His. He continued
to hold it, while He asked me questions about
the experience I had had. After some minutes
He looked up to another devotee standing nearby
and said, "Frank can sit with Me in meditation.
It's OK." Then He let go of my hand.
were painting the Ashram because there had
been a fire. Someone handed me a paintbrush,
assuming I would join in. I was dressed in
my expensive New York clothes, and I thought
it was bizarre for me to be painting in those
clothes. But everyone was painting and I figured
I'd go along with the program. After all,
I'd come three thousand miles to be there.
I began to paint, and that's when this strange
feeling started to come over me.
five minutes, my face became flushed and I
felt a burning fever going over my whole body,
to the point that I had to lie down. I told
one of the devotees that I was really sick,
and he drove me to his house. I went right
over to the couch, and remained there for
six days with a burning fever. All I could
do was sip water.
devotees whose house I was staying at served
me throughout the week. But on the beginning
of the seventh day, I was alone in the house
and I was panicking. I said, "Damn, I'm going
to die in this strange place." I really thought
I was going to die.
I crawled over to the phone and called the
Ashram. And who should answer the phone but
Avatar Adi Da. I mumbled something out about
what was going on with me, and He started
laughing. I was really offended. Here I was,
ready to die, and He was laughing! He noticed
my lack of humor, and He said, "Don't worry
about a thing, Frank. You're going to feel
fine in the morning. It's just a little purification.
Isn't this what you came here for?"
hadn't thought about it that way. I didn't
know anything about the tradition of an Adept
Transmitting Spiritual Force to a devotee.
It was only later that I realized that Adi
Da had directly Transmitted His Heart-Blessing
to me as He held my hand. My fever was a classic
case of the purification that often follows
such a potent form of Blessing.
Adi Da's Words were absolutely true. The next
morning I felt great! I felt better than I
had since I could remember, really great.
I ate a little bit, and then went down to
the Ashram. And I went to the Ashram every
day after that for the next thirty days. I
still didn't know who Adi Da was exactly,
and I tested Him, just like I did with everyone,
to find His weakness. I did everything possible
to check Him out. But, to my surprise, I never
had any success at all in finding limits in
Him. All that I experienced was my own game.
In my efforts to find His faults, I would
always be reflected back to myself.
was even more surprising was Adi Da's behavior
towards me, which was quite different from
what I was accustomed to. Whenever Avatar
Adi Da saw me He would walk over to me and
give me a big hug. I found this very difficult
because, from my Latino background, men just
didn't hug other men! It simply was not acceptable!
But He would always make a point of embracing
me in some way. He would walk right across
the Hall to greet me and give me a hug. Sometimes
He would hang onto me for a while. Sometimes
it was just quick. But He was always moving
towards me. As He would walk over to me, smiling,
I would feel all kinds of feelings come up
in my body, especially fear. I would always
be tight at first as He hugged me. But little
by little I would open up. And He would always
have me laughing and smiling within a few
the third week of my stay in Los Angeles I
realized that I was looking forward to seeing
Adi Da every day. And more than that, I realized
that I was actually looking forward to His
hugs. More and more I noticed how I was strategically
finding ways to see Him as much as possible.
I would cancel appointments, skip lunches,
and do anything else that might allow an opportunity
for being with Him.
day at the Ashram I gave Adi Da a big bear
hug in return for His hug, and picked Him
up a little off the floor. He laughed and
I laughed, both of us enjoying the incident.
And I realized that I had opened up to His
was the last time, for a long time, that He
would have that particular play with me, hugging
me as He had. Instead He began making that
same connection through a glance, or a word,
or a gesture. And I felt just as embraced
by Him. I knew He had worked with me somehow.
heart was literally opening. I began to notice
that I felt a heart-feeling in relationship
to those around me. I was feeling real love
for the first time in a very long while. The
anxiety that I always felt, the paranoia that
was involved in all my testing, had dropped
away. I was beginning to feel good again.
I realized that I had a very strong feeling
for "Franklin". I had, in fact, fallen in
love with Him — not sexually, but deeply in
my emotion. And I totally trusted Him. I was
struck with the intuitive knowledge that whoever
"Franklin" was, He was no ordinary man. There
was no doubt in me about it, because no ordinary
person could be like He was all the time.
I had enough street sense to know that. I
thought He must be some sort of holy man,
even though I really had no idea of the magnitude
of Who He Is.
I was such a skeptic, having seen so many
schemes in my time, if someone had told me
that God was here in human form, incarnate,
and was living that condition to others —
that would have been the same as someone saying,
"You know, Santa Claus is really true, he
really lives, and he's down the corner at
Macy's Department Store with all his reindeer!"
It seemed absurd! Yet for some reason this
feeling-intuition of the Divine in Avatar
Adi Da's Company was undeniable in me.
day before I left for New York, I went to
Avatar Adi Da and said, "I don't know how
I'm going to return, but I have to come back."
He looked at me and smiled and said, "Don't
worry about it — it will be OK. I'll expect
you back by My birthday." And He laughed.
birthday was November 3, about a month away,
and I didn't see how that was possible because
of all my involvements with family, work,
and friends. But I trusted Him. I returned
to New York, and the ensuing month, from my
point of view, was nothing less than a miracle.
All my life-business seemed to tie itself
up in ways I never could have imagined. Everything
fell into place, and sure enough, I was there
for His birthday.
first few weeks in Los Angeles with Adi Da
initiated a revolutionary change in the direction
of my life. Up until then I had struggled
intensely to find relief from my suffering.
Yet despite my conventional success, my life
hadn't brought me real happiness, or any sense
of freedom from the fundamental disturbance
that I always felt. But in my encounters with
Avatar Adi Da, I had met someone who was completely
Happy. And simply by coming into His Company,
spending time with Him, engaging the relationship
that He offered, I became Happy, too.
Da's whole interaction with me had been a
form of Instruction. I didn't understand His
Teaching intellectually, but His very Person
had taught me more than I could ever have
learned through books. His example, His incomparable
Love and openness to anyone who came
to Him made a deep impression in me that I
could never forget.
years later, on a meditation retreat in Avatar
Adi Da's Company, the words spontaneously
came to me that expressed what I felt in those
early days with Avatar Adi Da. As the words
arose, I knew that they were true: "I have
come into the Presence of Very God."