by Aniello Panico
I immediately phoned Jerry and asked him what I had to do to meet Franklin. He told me that if I came to an orientation at the bookstore on Monday night, I could "sit" with Franklin in meditation on Tuesday night. I didn't know anything about "sitting" or meditation, but I was so looking forward to meeting Him I could hardly contain myself.
I went to the Monday night presentation. The person giving the orientation said to me, "You can go further and check Franklin and His Teaching out, or you can resort to your other alternatives."
It was the perfect thing to say to me. I answered, "I don't have any other alternatives." And that was true!
The orientation itself was briefonly two or three people cameand we were told to return the next night, Tuesday, to sit with Franklin.
The next day I scrambled to finish work in time to go home, take a shower, and get down to the bookstore. I was going to "sit" with a Spiritual Teacher. It was all so out of the ordinary for mebut I was really interested.
I was there on the dot. I had been asked to return the manuscript of Franklin's book, so I brought that with me, too. My approach to the event wasn't very "spiritual"it's just that I was tremendously excited to meet the fellow who had written this book. I had been in publishing a long time and had met many authors, but their books had never impressed me the way that Franklin's had. What could He be like?
I entered the meditation hall, sat down with my back to the wall, wearing my horn-rimmed reading glasses, and continued to read the manuscript. Franklin came in and, without saying anything, took His seat at the front of the room, facing the group of twenty or so people who were there that night. He looked straight ahead and then, at times, He also looked around the room, gazing at the space just above our heads. After watching Him for a few minutes, I started reading the manuscript again.
Looking back at it, I can see that this was not the most sensitive thing to do, but I knew nothing about meditation or how to relate to a Guru. The whole situation was new to me and I felt a little awkward, so I returned to what was most familiar to mereading. After a few minutes, though, I looked up at Him again. He looked directly at me. I felt a Force emanating from Himit was peaceful and yet energetic, pleasant but not overwhelmingand I also felt a kind of connection to Him. But I still felt somewhat awkward, so I went back to reading the manuscript again.
After a few minutes more, I looked up at Him again. This time, He was staring right at me. I began to feel a very pleasant feeling in the center of my heart. I was very warm. Even though I couldn't tell what it was, I could tell that something out of the ordinary was going on here. So I put the manuscript down and sat up straight in a meditation posture, like everyone else in the room. It seemed important to be respectful of the process that was taking place, whatever it was, and to cooperate with whatever Franklin was doing. From that point on, I simply looked at Him.
When the meditation was over, He left the room. I got up and followed Him to a small office in the back. He was sitting in the chair at His desk when I walked in, and it was clear to me that He was not in an ordinary state of awareness. I didn't know anything about Spiritual experience at the time, but I could tell that He was in a kind of Swoon, or Bliss-State. He seemed to be "coming down" from that Swoon to a more ordinary, "functional" awareness, so I walked right over to where He was sitting, put out my hand, and said, "My name is Neil Panico, Franklin. I am really glad to meet You."
He told me to sit down, which I did. Then He turned to me and said, "What's happening?"
I was floored. All my life I had used that very phrase millions of times with my friends, with people I met in business, with my kidsall the time. It was the most familiar thing He could have said to me. I found myself blurting out to Him, "I don't know, man, I can't relate to anything or anybody anymore."
I didn't think about it when I said it; I didn't mean to lay my problems on Himit was spontaneous, as though it were the most natural thing in the world to tell Him my darkest secret. Immediately, He reached over and hugged me. I was a little taken aback at first, but He was so natural in the way He assumed an intimacy with me.
As He held me in this big bear-hug, and as I relaxed into it, I felt the most wonderful, nourishing feeling of coming home, of coming to rest. I felt tremendous, instantaneous relief from the incredible torment that I had been carrying aroundjust as I had when I read His book, but even more so. The warmth and the beauty of the feeling He communicated through that hug was fantasticand it was such a long hug. By the time He let me go, my terrible feeling of emptiness and despair was gone. My suffering of so many years was over. He had removed it.
He said, "What do you do?"
I told him what I did for a living.
Then He asked me, "Why don't you come around a little bit?""Yeah, I'll definitely be around."
The next day I took the rifle back to my house. I thought, "I don't know what this is about, but I've got to check it out." I started going to the bookstore and hanging out with Franklin in the back room.
We had the most wonderful times in the tiny back room of that little Los Angeles storefrontthere were always at least a handful of people there with Him, working, talking, laughing. There was always a lot of laughterHe was so full of humor! Sometimes, He would give talks, spontaneously. And then, everything would grow quiet and He would go into meditation. The room would fill up with the incredible feeling of His Love and Fullness, His Freedom, His Humor, His Peace. We would sit around Him, basking in that Feeling, wanting nothing more than to be with Him.
Since that very first meeting with Avatar Adi Da, I have never suffered so horribly again. I have never felt that kind of terrible Spiritual despair again, not for a moment. I am telling you the absolute truth. My horrible suffering was taken away forever, absorbed by my Guru. But that was not the end of it. No, I had to enter into the process of becoming responsible for what He had shown me. I had to begin to live differently.
A few weeks later, I had a dream that Adi Da was standing by my bed as I slept. He leaned over me and told me, "Open your eyes so that you can really see." And as He did, I felt His powerful Energy, the characteristic feeling of Fullness and Love that always emanated from Him, filling me up. The dream was so vivid, so realit seemed to me as though He was literally in my room with me, and I knew He wasn't just telling me to wake up from my night's sleep. He was calling me to wake up in the Spiritual sense.
When I woke up a few moments later, the most unusual thing had happenedI couldn't open my eyes at all. An unusually heavy crust had formed on my eyelids, and they were sealed shut. I groped my way to the bathroom and washed my eyes until I could open them again. The whole thing blew my mindI had never experienced anything like it.
Later, when I told Adi Da about what had happened and how much it had amazed me, I got the distinct sense that He already knew about it. I felt that, because I had no background in relating to a Guru and no knowledge about Spiritual experience, He had done something very tangible, something very physical to let me know that He was going to help me see things differently. It was a very significant event for meI felt it was the opening of my eyes to what Adi Da is about and what my involvement in the Way of the Heart would be. It was a kind of starting point.
A few days later, I had another unusual experience. It was evening, and I was sitting with Adi Da in meditation. He was sitting in His chair at the front of the room facing His devotees; I was sitting cross-legged on the floor in a group of about thirty people. Suddenly, it was as if a laser beam hit meI felt an incredible sensation in my chest, as if my heart had been a dim lightbulb and now, suddenly, it was a bright, blazing star! The sensation was pure blissthere is no other word to describe itand it overtook me totally. It was a feeling unlike anything I had ever experienced or even dreamed was possible. I looked up at Adi Da with a huge, beaming grinand He was looking right at me with such a loving smile. It felt as though He were saying to me, "There really is something else going on here." I felt so much love for Him at that moment.
In those early months of my relationship to Him, He helped me in so many ways to realize that there is more to life than meets the eye, that there is much more to existence than I knew anything about. Because of my particular background, I knew a lot about life from a typical Western point of viewI had already been through all kinds of life changes, I had had a family and a divorce, I had had successful businesses, I had tried the good life and I knew a fair bit about the pleasures of literature and of food and drink and drugs and sex. But it wasn't until I met Adi Da, it wasn't until I read that first book, that I could feel that there is so much more than all of that.
Before I met Him, all the talk I ever heard about God seemed empty, meaningless. But Adi Da made God real to me. He made the Divine Dimension of existence seem obvious, powerful, interestingeven compelling. But He didn't show me this once and leave it at that. No, He has helped me to feelover and over again during the more than twenty years that I have been His devoteethat God is real, that Divine Love is real, that there is such a thing as a Self-Existing Consciousness that we are all part of. He is an absolute Genius at making that Spiritual Reality obvious.
Here, He gives two simple exercises that can help you get in touch with that Greater Dimension:
AVATAR ADI DA SAMRAJ: Set aside for a moment all of your knowledge about the universe and all your religious or scientific presumptions about how it all developed to this point in time. Simply "consider" this: why does anyone or anything exist at all? How does the existence of anything and everything come about as an accident? Where did that accident occur? Within what is it all occurring? Where is space?
I cannot "consider" the very existence of anything and everything without developing a thrill in my back and head, so that it feels as if my hair is about to stand on end. You do not know what even a single thing is, or why it is, or where it is, or when it is, or how it came to be. You are confronted by an irreducible Mystery, and that Mystery is profound. If you will truly "consider", even for a moment, the paradox of the existence of anything whatsoever, you will feel intuitively in touch with the Mystery that is Reality Itself. The mind falls away in that moment, and even though you will not have come up with any "knowing" explanations for the world, you will enjoy a tacit sense of Communion with the Living Reality of the world and of your own mind and body.
As a second exercise, examine yourself for a moment and feel any and all forms of bodily contraction, emotional reactivity, and mental concern that possess you. If you will do this deeply and truly, even for a moment, you will become aware of your chronic state. You are, except in the attitude of total psycho-physical Communion with the Living Divine Reality, in a chronic state of reactive contraction or tension, simultaneously in mind, emotion, and body. If you can observe and feel this for a moment, you will sense how it is all a single gesturea withdrawal or contraction from release into the condition of unqualified relationship. And once this becomes clear, on the basis of a moment of insight, you will be able to relax and feel, beyond thought and reactive emotion and bodily tension, into a sense of self-releasing intimacy with all the conditions of the world. And that release will establish you, at least for a moment, in the wordless experiential sense of Communion with the Source of Life.
These two "considerations", or exercises, are a moment's cure for too much knowledge about things and too much egoically "self-possessed" reacting to things. In the moment in which you stand free of the self-defining contractions of mere knowledge and mere reaction to experience, you stand in direct experiential intuition of the Divine Mystery, or Living Reality, That is the Truth of the world, and That is the very and eternal Urge to religious consciousness and the more advanced evolution of Man.
Truly, there is only One Living Divine Reality or Person who Is Absolute, All Love-Bliss. That is the Condition to be Realized. Liberation is to Realize that there is nothing but Divine Being Itself, Who is All That is, the Living One. Everything is That One, and Liberation is to Awaken to the point of inherence in That One. To surrender into That One to the point of most perfect Ecstasy is Divine Enlightenment. This is the fundamental Understanding, the secret of Freedom, Happiness, Pleasure, Marvel, Surrender, Love, and Lifebecause God is the Very Essence or Substance of Freedom, Happiness, Pleasure, Marvel, Surrender, Love, and Life.
I have "considered" this Truth all My life, and it has thrown Me into ecstasy. When I was a young boy I was possessed of a Vision, or Intuition, of the manifested universe as a kind of atomic or molecular structurethe planets and stars being much the same as the atoms or molecules we presume to be the structural basis of our own bodies. It was clear to Me that this was exactly the case, and that the universe of worlds was indeed a fraction of the Manifested Body of God, or the Great Personality Who was the truly Loving, Existing, and Blissful One.
This "consideration" coincided with a greatly Awakened sense of Bliss whenever I contemplated the extent of its Mystery. I saw that all of this world and the fearful desire to persist in it was only a superficial and changing and even terrible illusion, and that Happiness was only to be Realized in submission to the Love-Blissful Intuition of the Divine Personality with which all are ultimately Identical and with which you are, even in your present form, always in Communion.
Truly, that Vision of My early childhood has not changed, but it has only been confirmed and magnified by every stage of My Lifetime of Spiritual Sacrifice, which was itself motivated by the direct and positive Intuition of God granted to Me at birth. I have realized that I inhere in the One Who lives Me. I am the One Who is actually Living this body, Who is actually Conscious of this mind and this place. The True Condition is tacitly and completely obvious to me. That is Who I Am. It must likewise become so obvious to you. You must inhere in the same One.
It is only when God, or the Reality of the Self-Existing and Self-Radiant Divine Being, cannot be denied or even conventionally affirmed but only tacitly presumed (because It is obvious, no matter what is arising as experience) that you abide already or priorly Free in God-Communion. And only such tacit God-Communion, Realized moment to moment, provides the creative basis for truly human growth, higher transformation, and ultimate transcendence. That is why I Offer you the Way of the Heart. And when you respond to Me, your life takes this God-Realizing course.
Aniello's story continues on page 3:
previous pages in this story:
page 1: Anyone Can Be Transformed
page 2: Meeting the Man of Understanding