[Introduction: This essay was originally written in 2003, and posted on the American-Buddha.com website. The epilogue was written today, June 13, 2009.]
Just the other day, for the first time, I found myself interested in Franklin Jones. I found this book of his, The Promised God-Man Is Here, at “The Bookwagon”, down in the Ashland Shopping Center. It's a big book, like a Michener novel, with a picture of a fat white man with his palms facing forward at chest level. He's wearing a saffron robe on his upper body, his legs and knees are bare, his head is slightly back-tilted, and he seems to either be beaming spiritual energy at us, or keeping his distance. Since he's sitting in the midst of an aura of wavy gold lines, I think beaming is intended to be conveyed. The purity of the subject addressed by the book is signaled by the white cover, associated in Tibetan iconography with pride, vajra, the north and the god realm.
The book is by "Carolyn Lee, Ph.D.," one of the numerous female devotees who have cast themselves on the funeral pyre of Franklin's love. Cause he's a ramblin' man, a complete unknown, a rollin' stone, a rompin' stompin' heaping hunk of burnin' love. That's Franklin, Lord above, and as on earth so in heaven, and also at the seven-eleven. This man is bad! He is so bad he should be locked in a cage with Dr. Laura and Judge Judy, and forced to satisfy their unnatural lusts. Or required to share a lifeboat with Chogyam Trungpa, Krishnamurti, and Madonna for company, and a package of beef jerky and a bottle of Crown Royal to liven up the experience. Just imagine how many ways that could turn out.
Bubba Free John was Franklin's moniker when first I heard of him, back in the days when "The Knee of Listening" was the kind of thing the older hippies worried about. I was only worried that I wasn't getting enough time in the sack with sexy chicks, and serious religion, like serious politics, did not hold my attention. Now I find out that, for all of the religious overlay, his concerns were much like my own, but more grandiose. His recent outpourings indicate that he is now even more convinced of his eternal worth to humanity than he was back in the hippie era, but even then he knew he deserved more than the average guy. He made a career out of stealing women from gullible young hippies who could be buffaloed. The prettier the girls, the better, and Franklin established a system for getting the couple stoned and drunk, having his pals separate the guy from the chick, after which Franklin would seduce her and initiate her into Franklin-worship. Later on, Franklin's assistants got a share of the flesh they helped bring to the altar.
Being ready to drop your drawers and get physical was very much a part of the Franklin scene. Going with his strengths, Franklin accumulated as many as nine official wives, a condition bound to incite envy in those of small experience. Franklin's power over women gave him power over men, and the clique of seducers at the core of his gang gave him the macho support that provokes swooning among members of the fairer sex.
Franklin cuckolded large numbers of men, who stood silent and helpless as their women shucked off their clothes and walked into bliss. The men, deprived of their testicles, couldn't help but hang around. They could lessen the pain by pretending that God had taken their woman. If they pretended Franklin was divine, they could hang around and try to win back the love that had been whisked away from them. They might even get one of Franklin's other castoff women.
On the other hand, if a woman had money, Franklin could always separate her from her man by tossing a new woman his way. Then, she would look to Franklin to heal the wound. Franklin could help her understand that the new relationship was also a good thing. She just needed to open her heart. Keeping her purse closed wasn't helping. That's the way it is in a religious community. You open up your heart, your purse, your legs. Wherever your treasure is, you share it.
This simple formula for a happy and successful cult kept Franklin fed, stoned and caressed for around thirty years. In The Promised God-Man Is Here he again recorded and revised the history of his achievements for posterity, laying out a feast for his devotees. If you were not a believer, this book won’t make you one, but it can still be enjoyed as a study in psychopathology, in which the true character of the patient's delusion is gradually revealed by the steady accumulation of character details.
Never content with one name where an evolving string of them will do, this avatar morphed from Franklin Jones to Bubba Free John to Da Love-Ananda, to Da, Adi-Da, and finally Ruchira Avatar Adi Da Samraj. Rarely able to reside in one place for more than a few years, Franklin up and left his faithless pseudo-disciples in a huff on numerous occasions. Of course, some say he fled Marin County in order to avoid more heat arising out of lawsuits against him by abused students, but I think he just got in a snit. There was pace and staging to Franklin's inner freak show. He managed to keep his devotees on pins and needles about his dreams, his heart palpitations, his swoons, his depressions, his crying jags, his decaying health, his mission to save the world. They feared his judgments, the cruel accusation that they were undermining his mission by failing to generate devotion, cash, contacts, the things a messiah needs. How can you save a world that doesn't want to be saved? The things a guru has to do with his own hands! Are we out of Valium again?!
Yes, he confronted them about it! The slacking, the fake devotion, the heel-dragging, the complete lack of concern for the fact that there were FOUR BILLION PEOPLE on the earth who NEVER HEARD OF DA! WAITING! HE REMINDED THEM: THIS IS INCARNATION THEY ARE WAITING FOR, BUT DA'S DISCIPLES are SLACKING! Back in the mid-eighties, when they first moved to Fiji, Franklin told them, he would MAKE HIS MOVE! Well, he did! But did they? Nooooooo. They just sat there with their simpy devoted faces and LET HIM DOWN!
It was true. Da was God, the baby God. Sitting in a diaper full of shit, screaming for somebody to wipe his butt. Waving his rattle-sceptre, screaming for food, comfort, adulation. His disciples did their job. They adored him and shut him up. They did it in shifts until he died. That was the task his devotees took on, and as Da was their witness, they fulfilled it.
On November 27, 2008, Franklin Jones was working on an art installation of massive painted aluminum constructions. Inflated estimations of the artistic heft of his output had already been floated, and so it appeared that Adi Da was about to enter his Warhol phase. With the international art market tanking, his entry into the field was well-timed, since artists able to fund their own shows and grease the publicity machinery that sustains buzz and prices are a rarity, and good reviews could be bought cheaply. Then Time, that wounds all heels, pulled its rug smoothly out from under the feet of the man, and at the age of 69, the bullshit ceased to flow. At least from the mouth of Adi Da himself, which had ceased to produce words about the same time as his heart stopped beating. His devotees, of course, had just begun. Using the Internet, they began proclaiming on his behalf:
As devotees know, Beloved Bhagavan Adi Da Samraj is a Divine Yogi. There is a long history of such beings having very unconventional “death events” or moments in their lives. We have seen this in Beloved Bhagavan’s Case in many circumstances in the past -- the Ruchira Dham or Lopez Island Event, and the Divine Emergence, as merely two of them. Certainly it is the hope of this moment, as we write, that Beloved Bhagavan will Re-Enter His Body and begin a new Phase of His Work. It is our hope and intention that He will Re-Animate the Body and wake up.
Franklin Jones, being merely human, did not “wake up” from his heart attack. But those who had known and loved him consoled themselves on a website dedicated to his memory by posting audio recordings with a focus on the following message:
That Adi Da will always be eternally present, and furthermore, that He has provided us with all the means necessary to locate Him, making His Presence forever available to us.
At this point, our jeering and laughter reach their proper end, because the absurdity of Adi Da’s self-promotion, and the slavishness of his disciples’ adulation stand revealed in their completeness, and whatever there was to expose about the man in life, death has taken the laboring oar, and we may rest from our exertions. This epilogue thus is properly concluded with an epitaph, and since Jones was a false guru from the sixties, made of ordinary American clay, his epitaph from the pen of an American boy, whose music will play on and on long after Jones’ silly sermons are forgotten:
“And castles made of sand
Slips into the sea
-- Jimi Hendrix