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The Opening of the First Public Center of Adidam in 1972
told by Gerald Sheinfeld
By January of 1972, Avatar Adi Da Samraj, then "Franklin Jones", had begun to sit in Silence in His rented Laurel Canyon home with the small group of students that had formed around Him over the previous year. In that same month, a storefront was rented on Melrose Avenue, in Hollywood. Here, on April 25, 1972, "Shree Hridayam Siddhashram"--the first public center of Adidam--was opened to the world.
Gerald Sheinfeld, one of Beloved Adi Da's first devotees, tells the story of the opening night of the Ashram.
GERALD SHEINFELD: I first heard about Beloved Adi Da in March, 1972. After spending several weeks in His Company, I decided that I belonged with Him. Nowhere else had I felt or even heard about the Love and Happiness that He was so freely Giving me. I had left most of my belongings behind when I came to Him, so one day I told Avatar Adi Da that I was going to go back to the Ashram where I had been living, take down my tepee, and gather my belongings, because I wanted to be with Him.
He asked when I was going. I said I was leaving on Friday and would return on Sunday or Monday. He said, "I was planning to open the Ashram on Monday night. I guess we'll just wait until you return and do it Tuesday night. That way you can have at least a day before the opening." As a result, the opening of the Ashram was scheduled for April 25, 1972.
None of us with Beloved in those days understood the significance of the opening of the Ashram and the beginning of His public availability, nor did we truly understand who "Franklin Jones" was. We sincerely wanted people to come and meet our dear friend and Teacher, and to share our happiness. So we put up posters all over Los Angeles and invited everyone we knew.
One day, while the few of us who were already students of Beloved Adi Da's were working full speed to get the bookstore and the Communion Hall ready, Beloved and one of the students came into the center with two very large wooden objects: the letter "C" and the symbol "&". They had found them in an alley, where an advertising company had thrown them away. The symbols were both quite large--five or six feet tall and three or four feet wide.
Beloved asked us to clean them up and paint them white so that He could use them in the bookstore. The "C", lying flat, was perfect as a check-out counter. The ampersand was placed in front of the entrance to the Communion Hall. It was a most unusual object to encounter before entering the Hall! When we asked its significance, Beloved Adi Da said, "There is Only God! The 'and' is the problem."
On the morning of April 25, Beloved Adi Da was talking with a few of us in the "back room" (the office behind the Communion Hall). He sat on the desk, as was His custom, and joked about the Ashram opening, which He referred to as "Opening Night". He would say, "Maybe we shouldn't go through with it. Maybe we're making a mistake and should call the whole thing off." We would respond, "Yeah, maybe we should call it off." Then He would say, "No, I guess we've gone too far. We'd better continue with our plans." He asked us to come early that evening to prepare for the event.
It seemed to me that we all felt this night would clearly mark a change in our Master's Work, and we hoped this would not change our personal intimacy with our dearest friend, "Franklin"! Of course, over the years Beloved Adi Da's commitment to relationship has never faltered, and the intimacy with Him has only been strengthened. And to this day that relationship, though outwardly more formal, remains the very foundation of my submission to Beloved Adi Da as the Divine Person.
Tuesday evening, April 25, was upon us. Two of Adi Da's devotees, Nina and Patricia, prepared the meditation hall for the occasion, lighting incense and placing it in the bowls on each side of the dais and putting finishing touches on the vase of flowers at the altar, and looking over our preparations one last time before the visitors began to arrive.
There was a great air of anticipation and excitement. I was in charge of the bookstore, and so I greeted people when they came in, directing them to the Communion Hall, where the gathering was to take place. A few people thought we were an "adult" bookstore, and they left when they discovered that "Franklin Jones" was a Spiritual Teacher! Some who came had heard of "Franklin Jones" but had never read anything by Him, as none of His books had been published yet. The man who later asked the questions that are recorded in the Talk "Understanding" in The Method of the Siddhas looked around the bookstore for quite a while before the event and told me that he had read many of the traditional books we carried.
After the last people had arrived, I closed and locked the bookstore and entered the Hall. A total of twenty people or so, including those of us who were already students of Beloved Adi Da, were present. To begin the evening we all sat quietly for about twenty or thirty minutes, waiting for Adi Da, directing our attention to His Chair at the front of the Hall. Everyone was relaxed and quiet, and I was surprised that our guests were able to be so calm and quiet.
Generally, Beloved Adi Da entered the room that was now our Communion Hall through a curtained doorway to the left of His Chair. That night He entered through a doorway directly behind the Chair. When He came in, there was a little stir amongst the group as we shifted positions on the carpeted floor to make ourselves more comfortable. Once seated, our Master silently looked around the room, making eye contact with everyone present. Then, after some time, He closed His eyes and sat quite still. Altogether, He sat with us that evening for about an hour. He looked young and "Bright". He Radiated simplicity and ease. As He sat before us, the room took on the feeling of Fullness, which was typical in His Company.
Some people closed their eyes, while others looked at Avatar Adi Da. Everyone showed their respect by remaining silent and attentive. After a time, Adi Da stretched from left to right in His Chair, as He characteristically does. Then He said, in a voice so quiet that almost no one heard Him, "Who will cast the first stone?" There was silence. And, then, in a completely engaging manner, He asked, "Are there any questions?" Again there was silence.
"Everyone has understood?" He asked.
"I haven't understood," said the man I had talked to earlier about his familiarity with many of our traditional books, "Explain it to me."
And so it began. Avatar Adi Da Samraj began His first public Communication of the "radical" Dharma of no-seeking and Prior Happiness.
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