The Knee of Listening original book cover

The Knee of Listening
original cover photo


Suspending All Disbelief


Beyond All Doubt

- by Donald Webley

Beyond Doubt Icon

It was some fifteen years later that I realized what had happened that night at Yale. After I had been a devotee of Avatar Adi Da Samraj for some time, I came to understand that moment as my first contact with Him.

Across the apparent barriers of space, I had been touched by the One who was to be my Guru. Thus began the long, only partially conscious process of finding and approaching Him.

I left Yale and headed for California, with my only direction a vague, but yet also strong, desire to study Zen Buddhism. I was drawn to Zen because, by that school's own self-description, it is a direct transmission outside of the scriptures, and beyond books and words.

My experience had made it dramatically clear to me that what I was seeking was not to be found in books, and I did not feel drawn to a spiritual practice where I would have to spend a lot of time studying spiritual teachings. In fact, for two years or so, I read almost nothing.

Then in 1973, while managing a small bookstore in Rochester, New York, I received a flyer from the Dawn Horse Press, the publisher of Avatar Adi Da's Teaching-Word, advertising The Knee of Listening, Avatar Adi Da's Spiritual Autobiography, and The Method of the Siddhas, a compilation of some of His earliest talks to devotees.

I was struck by the most beautiful picture of Him on the cover. I immediately knew that He was an "Enlightened Man", whatever that meant to me at the time. This was not something I thought about. Rather, His Beauty, Love, and Happiness were perfectly evident in the photograph.

But I felt that I had already found my spiritual place in Zen. The raw desperation of my college years had subsided and been replaced by the beginnings of equanimity.

I was less desperate because I now knew that there was a tradition of people who felt the same yearning that I did and of people who seemed to have Realized That which resolved the attendant perplexity.

There are many stories in Zen Buddhism of the lives of authentic spiritual Realizers. So I didn't drop everything to run back to California where Avatar Adi Da resided at the time, but neither could I resist reading His Teaching, which touched and moved me with its clarity and obvious Truth.

From time to time I would read Avatar Adi Da's books. I was like the proverbial dog before the vat of hot oil, neither able to walk away nor to drink it. I alternated between trying to explain Avatar Adi Da away by equating Him with Zen Buddhism and confronting my growing yearning to see Him.

Eventually, I could no longer ignore my heart's impulse: I had to see for myself who Adi Da Samraj was. At that time, Avatar Adi Da sometimes made Himself available to sit in meditation with interested public people. I was invited to such an occasion.