Twenty years ago my first acupuncture mentor in Japan was a fine Scotsman, of all things. One day, my mentor stepped out of his role as acupuncture teacher and presented me with a religion book saying, “Sabio, I think you will really benefit from this book but you will have to read past the bhakti stuff in it so as to gain that benefit.” The book (on the right) was by Franklin Jones and called the “The Knee of Listening” (now with a different cover and added material). Jones went by many different names in the years to come including “Da Free John”, the name used commonly while I studied his stuff. Da Free John kept together a religious following for decades. His followers believed (like many other religions) that their teacher was a living incarnation of the Divine — and of course, their particular Divine teacher was considered special and unique. The name Da Free John settled on before dieing was “Adi Da Samraj” (his wiki article) and his sect is now called “Adidam” (their official site).
So what was this “bhaki stuff” my friend was cautioning me about?
A common taxonomy used in Hinduism divides spiritual practices into 3 large types:
- Karma (action) Yoga: the path of action, service to others, mindfulness, and remembering the levels of our being while fulfilling our actions or karma in the world.
- Jnana (knowledge) Yoga: the path of knowledge, wisdom, introspection and contemplation. It involves deep exploration of the nature our being by systematically exploring and setting aside false identities.
- Bhakti (devotion) Yoga: the path of devotion, emotion, love, compassion, and service to God and others. All actions are done in the context of remembering the Divine.
All people are felt to have one of three types of temperaments that then match up to one of these three types of spiritual practices as the best spiritual method for that person to reach the Divine. My Scottish friend had lived in India (just as I had) and knew I was not of the Bhakti temperament. So I weighted my mentor’s suggestions heavily because he was my mentor in many ways — both in terms of acupuncture, as a impeccable learner of the Japanese language, and as a true connoisseur of Japanese culture. He was a 5th-Dan in Japanese Zen Archery (Kyudo), ran his own acupuncture clinic in Kyoto (the only foreigner doing so) and raised his 3 kids there with his Japanese wife. Plus, he was great fun, amazingly creative and incredibly charismatic. I will post more on him later.
My acupuncture mentor was right. The bhakti stuff in Da Free John’s book was thick. In fact, the bhakti stuff would become more and more central to Da Free John’s teachings over the coming years. It was very difficult for me to read the book without being repulsed by the hyper-devotional cultism I saw in Da Free John’s teachings. Heck, 8 years earlier I had just left a bhakti cult called “Christianity” — my antennae were up. But I persisted, at my friend’s recommendation, and found Da Free John’s writing fascinating. I would go on to read him for three more years, to listen to many of his taped lectures and eventually stop in to visit his ashram.
Well, this is just the first of my planned few brief posts on my encounters with the teachings of Da Free John (Franklin Jones). But I wanted to start with a few questions to any interested readers before posting further:
- Has anyone ever recommended something to you that they knew you would dislike in large-part but asked you to read or watch past those points so as to gain some other information or benefit?
- Have you ever thought of doing the same to anyone else?
- Do you feel that there are cases where we can fundamentally disagree with someone yet walk away changed by them in positive ways because of messages we did not expect they had and yet still disagreeing with the parts we suspected we would disagree with?
Note: There are many more varieties of Yoga. For instance, other forms include (but are not limited to): Raja, Kriya, Hatha, Kundalini, Mantra, and Tantra yoga. But my goal here is not to discuss all the complexities of the various yoga practices. If you’d like to read a little about the simple three-way taxonomy, read this Wiki article on the Bhagavad Gita.