“Tasting the Moon” – reviewing a candid, moving book

tasting-the-moon-mcdonnell

“Tasting the Moon”, by Meg Fortune McDonnell.1

Hey everybody.  I’m reading a book now I think some of you would like.  I wasn’t sure I would like it; I even put off reading it for two whole years because I didn’t want to be disappointed.  But it is exceeding my expectations.

The book is “Tasting the Moon” by Meg Fortune McDonnell, about her life with Adi Da.  Adi Da is sort of a subliminal inspiration for this blog, so if you like this blog, chances are you might like this book as well.  And the book is a whole lot more positive than this blog can be at times.  (See dual sensitivity.)

Sometimes people ask me, how can I find out more about Adi Da?  Did he really have multiple wives?  What’s that all about?  What kind of person was he?

I feel these are important questions and deserve to be answered candidly.  And often the best way is through storytelling.

I’m only halfway through this book (it’s over 700 pages and very dense), but I can already tell that I trust this author to tell an accurate story.  There’s a detail here and there that I would have treated differently, but that’s the beautiful thing about storytelling – each person tells a story in their own voice, as they themselves experienced it.

I love it

meg-fortune-mcdonnell

Meg McDonnell: author, editor, dance instructor, film producer, stage producer. And an honest person. (image source)

I knew I loved this book when I read the following anecdote earlier this week.  This is the last thing I expect to read in this sort of book.  In this incident, the author is living on a remote island with Adi Da and a few dozen other people, listening to him answer questions about all kinds of topics.

One night, I got so carried away by what he’d had to say about tantric sex, Taoist sex, regular Western sex, and the ascetical tradition of no sex, and by the practical wisdom in his own teachings on how to conduct the energies of sex… that I blurted out, “Love-Ananda,2 your instruction on sexuality is masterful – the greatest ever!”

He immediately corrected my hyperbole, “Don’t ever speak that way.  What qualifies you to say that?  How do you know?”3

I just love this.  I’m not surprised Adi Da said it, in retrospect, but I am surprised anyone would repeat it.  It’s soooo not the kind of thing I expect to find in this sort of book. Often students’ books about their teachers are filled with exaggerations and half-truths and so on, a kind of sugary-sweet fantasy version of reality, leaving important things out in order to please people while betraying the reader’s desire to get the straight truth.

Dance instruction

fiji-air

Arriving in Fiji. (Not Meg, just an image I found.)

The author, having a background in dance, is at one point recruited to give lessons in modern dance to Adi Da’s young daughters on the tiny tropical retreat island where they live.

Earlier in the book, she describes how, given her trained sensitivity to how people hold their body, she is amazed to see how Adi Da’s body is so full of life and how there’s a total relaxation in all his movements – even more than in any professional dancer she has ever met.  She finds this attractive, she says, but also intimidating.

Okay, so when she arrives on the tiny island, she finds out she is expected to teach ballet, rather than modern dance, which is worrisome, but she makes do.  Then, one evening she is ushered into a dance party where she is invited to dance with Adi Da one on one to a song by Aretha Franklin, a very energetic song which was one of her favorites.  Here’s what happened next:

Before the song was over, Love-Ananda looked back at what I was doing.  After a good look, he put his finger to his lips and shushed,

“Sshhh!  Calm down!  Don’t be so enthusiastic about the busy-ness of the world.  You’ve got to interfere with its motion.  Penetrate it…  Cut into it…  Don’t dance to the music, transcend the music.”4

As he talked, he kept dancing, showing me what he meant.  He seemed to move through the music from an invisible still-point around which the motion and the music revolved.  His dance had its own intention, its own integrity that wasn’t evoked by the music.  His movement had equanimity, elegance, and freedom.  By comparison, mine did not.  Even I could see this.5

Wow, I just love this story, which continues for several pages.  This alone is almost worth the price of the book, in my opinion.

First encounter with Adi Da

My favorite part of the book so far is where she describes the intense spiritual experiences she has when she first meets Adi Da in person.  Mind-blowing doesn’t even describe it, and yet the experiences also contained incredible humor, love, and spontaneity.

However, for the sake of brevity I think I will let people read that chapter on their own.

Issues I have with the book

I’m not sure I agree with the conclusions the author arrives at regarding gender issues.  There is a chapter devoted to this topic, the factual content of which is accurate enough from what I can tell.  But my conclusions are different from those of the author.  I think I’ll wait and write about this topic at greater length on another day.  It’s a touchy subject for many of us, I think.

Also, the author still believes in the theory of evolution, which I no longer believe in, after reviewing some Basket of Tolerance materials about the subject.  (See my recent article on evolution.)  But that’s an extremely minor and tangential issue, and can be forgiven.  :)

Otherwise, I’m halfway through the book and I really don’t have any issues with this book at all so far.  It’s a dense 700+ page book, and I’m taking my time with it, so I didn’t want to wait till I was done reading it to write a review.

But as with anything, I encourage you to listen to your heart and pay attention to your intuition and discrimination as you read this or any other book.  As I’ll be doing while I read the second half.  :)

Final remarks

Bob-and-Meg-McDonnell

Author Meg McDonnell with her father (image source)

I bought my copy in a physical bookstore, but it looks like the book can also be ordered from Amazon.

You can also look at Meg’s website, which I found not as interesting as the book itself.

Also, it’s my understanding that this book was neither authorized nor approved by the organizations that handle Adi Da’s stuff.  So this book seems to be a personal creation, like a hand-made piece of art, rather than an institutional communication, for whatever that’s worth.

Sometimes I like handmade creations, and this is one of those times.

This is the first time I’m specifically promoting something on this blog, so this is unusual.  Well, if the topic interests you, check out the book and let me know what you think.

Questions

  • Would you like to read candid stories about a crazy wisdom master who helped inspire this blog?  A modern Western-born Adept who used New York language and his own personal example to convey high teachings about love and non-separateness?  So long as the storyteller is trustworthy, I think it’s one of the more interesting and moving subjects to read about.
  • I’ve been told at times by some students of Adi Da that I should heavily promote him on this blog.  Other people have indicated they don’t want me to promote any agenda at all on this blog.  I’m curious if anyone has a comment about this?  Personally I like the way it’s been in recent months, but I’m open to feedback.
  • If any of my readers have already read “Tasting the Moon”, please feel free to chime in with your opinion of it.  Was it interesting?  Honest?  Helpful?  Please say something specific.

Regards,
BOT Student

  1. The cover shows a lunar corona that I’m told was witnessed by Ms. McDonnell, which coincided with a moment of inspiration for her on the anniversary of Adi Da’s passing.  For students of metaphysics – as I know there are among readers of this blog – Adi Da tended to use the SUN rather than the moon as a symbol of divinity.  There’s more I could say about this… but I won’t for the sake of brevity.  :)  I will say there’s nothing about worshipping the moon in this book, in case anyone is wondering.  :)  The reference to tasting the moon I think has to do with simply becoming more sensitive to our surroundings, but I haven’t gotten to that part of the book yet.
  2. “Love-Ananda” was another one of Adi Da’s names, given to him by one of his own teachers.
  3. “Tasting the Moon”, p. 269.
  4. Probably this advice depends on who the musician is, and what kind of intention the musician has when they make their music.  And what the setting and purpose is for dancing, etc.
  5. “Tasting the Moon”, p. 262.
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17 comments · reply to one or post a new one

  1. mlatorra   Thumb up +8

    Thanks for this book review. This book has been sitting on my shelf along with a lot of others I had not yet gotten around to. Now I’m putting it into the “Read Next” position. :)

    As for your question about this blog, I say this: keep it as it is. It is your own hand-made creation. And I like what you’re doing here.

    I am a formal devotee of Adi Da, but I do not believe it necessary that you promote Adi Da overtly here. By simply giving your own take on topics that Adi Da addresses in THE BASKET OF TOLERANCE you are giving your readers a point of entry that is unencumbered by the institutional exigencies of Adidam.

    • Thanks, Mr. LaTorra.

      I had the book in a storage box for two years. I was afraid to read it myself, but I’m glad I finally opened it.

  2. Parinirvana   Thumb up +2

    http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Da_and_his_cult.html

    One of the first results, searching Adi Da, from a spiritual blog.

    Anyone wish to comment on those accusations?

    • Yes, good questions, sir.

      I’m planning to do an entire article about some of this stuff – crazy wisdom, teachers having sex with their students, and so on. I can’t understand why this isn’t talked about more – I think it’s cowardly and moronic.

      I may also do an article specifically about Adi Da.

      In the meantime, basically, you have the option of reading a book such Meg’s book, written by someone who met Adi Da and spent loads of time with him over a period of decades, or you can read rumors and hearsay about him from people who haven’t met him. Or maybe there are other options in addition.

      So far I’m halfway through Meg’s book and I appreciate her candor and accuracy. I wouldn’t give her book a favorable review if I thought she misrepresented things, or was simply trying to promote some petty agenda.

      Otherwise, I don’t have time today to comment on all the stuff you linked to.

      In a way, I think it would be preferable to do an entire article about the general topic you bring up, and maybe limit most of our comments here to whether Meg’s book is good or not. Yes?

      So I will try to answer your question at length but not just here.

      The funny part is some people from another camp might not want me talking about these topics at all. lol. You can’t please everyone I guess. Life never gets dull when we start looking at where sex and spirituality and emotions and living human teachers all come together.

      Heck, just trying to combine sex and spirituality on one’s own can be pretty hairy, in my experience. There’s nothing like an immense bit of drama with one’s spouse to turn one’s life upside down.

      So I appreciate your question, I just don’t have time to do it justice today.

    • I’ll say one more thing.

      When I was researching Darwin’s theory of evolution, or Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” or Krishnamurti’s relationship to Theosophy, the first few “hits” that came up on an internet search were not necessarily the most accurate sources of information.

      You know?

      I’m not sure they were accurate at all, either in their tone, their details, or their conclusions.

      Likewise, it’s possible that the first few hits that come up when one searches for Adi Da might not be 100% accurate or well thought out.

      We’re not exactly swimming in a sea of truth or honesty here on this planet.

      The whole reason I created my own blog was cause I got tired of having to wade through piles of dung to try to find a simple answer to lots of issues that seemed important to me.

      I think your question is important, and I’m glad you asked it because it gives me more reason to try to do articles about those topics.

    • Parinirvana   Thumb up +2

      Understood, I’m sorry about that. I won’t derail yet another article comments section.

      I honestly have no preconceived notions pertaining to Adi Da or his teachings, and only heard of him here, which is why I wondered what would be made of the accusations.

      Just as and when.

    • As long as people’s comments are honest and genuine and based on good intentions, there’s no problem.

      Nobody has derailed any comment sections on this blog.

      I’m glad you asked the questions you did. Adi Da’s community is suffering from an enormous amount of fantasy, pretend, hiding, fakery, turning away from the world, fear, cultism, and weirdness.

      Thank God there are people who raise honest questions.

      God bless you, sir.

      Don’t ever let anyone suppress your honest questions.

    • Lynne   Thumb up +1

      Hi Parinirvana. I think you asked a good question. I went and had a quick glimpse at the site. It is pretty typical of a number I have seen that blast Adi Da and Adidam. There are a number of sites and folks who actively work to destroy him and his work. I read them all when I was first curious about Adi Da but many seemed so outrageous and obviously fuelled by a particular aversion to Gurus that I did not take it to seriously. At some point I was more attracted to finding out real facts rather than much removed information. I look forward to an extended post on it here.

    • Parinirvana   Thumb up +2

      Note that the website referenced above *apparently* quoted from several of Adi Da’s long-time disciples, and was a spiritual website that otherwise featured all kinds of stuff; not solely devoted to slandering Adi Da, unlike some of the blogs on ‘Osho.’

      I still consider Rajneesh (Osho) to have been enlightened, by the way, despite his errant behaviour. Watch some of the vids on YT. Look at the abundant, reflected light in his eyes, the tone of his voice.

      It was all there.

      Perhaps the question is, if there is no ego, how does a Jnani behave? What is the basis of his behaviour?

      Does he just leave it all to the body-mind machine? What if the machine is malfunctioning or damaged?

    • Hi Parinirvana,

      I think, on further reflection, I don’t actually have any interest or motivation in responding to the webpage you linked to. I do this blog for free, in my free time, and basically I just write about stuff that I’m personally interested in exploring. There was a point years ago where I read everything I could find that was negative about Adi Da, for months, and I came to my own conclusions about all of that. I don’t really have any interest in doing all that again.

      Here’s a page that might answer some questions: http://www.adidaupclose.org/Lawsuits/lawsuits.html also http://www.aboutadidam.org/questions/lawsuits/brian_interview.html

      There’s a saying in Tibet that a true guru is like a fire – if you get too close you will get burned, and if you are too far away you won’t get any warmth. Each person might have to determine for themselves if a particular person is a true guru or not – I don’t know if it’s enough to take another person’s word for it. Some people claim to be true gurus whereas they might not be. Other people might not claim anything and yet have a profound understanding and experience of life.

      And even aside from whether someone is a true guru…. I really do find that if our motives are pure, truth tends to reveal itself to us, and we tend to avoid certain kinds of misfortune. If our motives are not pure – even if we think they are – then we could find ourselves getting into trouble sooner or later, no matter where we are. Even just reading about controversies and allegations can create problems if we’re doing it merely to entertain ourselves, I find. If we’re doing it out of a genuine need to find out the truth, then it’s probably a safe thing to explore.

      So depending on what genuine need or interest I feel, I might try to do an article about “crazy wisdom” as a general topic. It’s less likely that I will try to do one about Adi Da specifically.

      And I definitely won’t be trying to comment on specific allegations about this or that. How could I have anything useful to say about specific events or alleged events if I wasn’t there when they happened?

  3. Daniela   Thumb up +5

    Thanks for this post. I am not attracted to read Meg’s book, but it was interesting to read your comments about it. I am extremely surprised it was published by her without formal approval by Adi Da’s Community of devotees!
    I am a member of the 3rd Congregation of Adidam and strongly feel that your blog is your own creation, so do not give in to pressures to make it into what you do not feel reflects your own heart’s passions :)

    • Well, what I meant is that it’s not an official publication of an institution.

      I didn’t mean to suggest that individual devotees did not like the book or did not approve of it. I bought my copy at the MOA bookstore, where people told me they loved the book.

      Adi Da asked for books of stories to be published for years, but essentially none ever were. So these things are a creative matter perhaps. Thankfully I’m not in the loop with that stuff.

      Maybe I shouldn’t have mentioned that part, but I thought it would appeal to some people to state it that way. Some people in the world are understandably leery of spiritual groups but are more open to hearing one person’s story about something they went through. I’m kind of that way myself!

      Well it’s always interesting the variety of responses that come through with these blog posts. Thank you for sharing Daniela. :)

    • May I ask why you’re not attracted to read the book? Just out of curiosity. You can send me a private message or post a response here.

  4. Lynne   Thumb up +3

    I have been pondering my response to your review as I read Megs book when first published and while I had a strong response at the time I cannot remember much now. I pulled it back down off the shelf yesterday and did a quick glimpse through. What I mainly remembered was having a strong reaction to Meg sharing about intimate sex with Adi Da and something about a birthday cake that I could not quite pull to mind. I read it over a very short period back then and it seemed very purifying to me. I often have a sense of being in a process with Adi Da and I remember feeling this strongly while reading the book. I am also a dancer so many of Megs experiences somehow felt real to me, like it was me there with her and him. It is a very candid and brave life story of an extraordinary life with a spiritual master.

    Funny, and this is what I mean by a mysterious process, just now I picked the book up to try and find that cake bit and the first page that I open is the page where that story began. So I just reread it again. As someone who did not spend time in the physical company of Adi Da, Meg’s honesty and directness really touched me. The section I reread talks about her recognizing how much she valued the ‘human’ aspect of the relationship with Adi Da and her confrontation with the God/guru as Adi Da invited her to a more renunciate relationship to him. I really feel that when I read Megs book it was a kind of shakeup about some romantic idol image I had projected onto Adi Da which somehow didn’t allow me to know the gifts he gave in his body and as his body. I also reread the bits relating to what Bhagavan revealed sexually to Meg and the previous reactivity, which was not negative, just discombobulating to my imaginings of how things were, had gone.

    It is a big read but for those who want accurate real life experiences from folks who lived with Adi Da then this type of source can be relied on. Adi Da has always taught his devotees about the necessity for self understanding and what is unique in many devotee stories is this quality of devotion to Adi Da and an honesty about the limitations of their own character in relation to what he reveals to them. That always really appealed to me and was part of what drew me to him.

    • Thanks for sharing Lynne.

      Yeah I have no way of knowing for sure with 100% of her details, but I also get the sense that Meg is being candid and accurate in her telling of this story. Which I appreciate.

      I think that’s why I was moved to write a positive review.

      It’s taken me a long time to begin to become a more honest person, speaking for myself. There are subtleties of honesty, and of being honest with myself, that takes a while to learn about, it seems. It’s like the more honest I can be with myself, then the more honest I seem to be with others, if that makes sense. And vice versa.

      In any case, I feel this book is a bit of a rare gem, while also being very ordinary and earthy. And I haven’t even read the second half yet.

  5. Nearly Normal Fred   Thumb up +1

    I haven’t read the book but do you know where the title Tasting The Moon comes from?
    It comes from Adi Da’s The Happenine Book which is part of The Orpheum Trilogy. At one point in the book where Adi Da is describing a traditional Japanese ceremony of contemplating a chrysanthenum at the time of the full moon (when everything is seemingly momentarily perfect) He asks have you ever tasted or sniffed the moon and suggested that everyone should really do it.
    During the same section of the book Adi Da also pointed out that when you have contemplated the moon resting in/on the small of your back for a long period of time, then perhaps you will be really qualified to make some definitive statements about the nature of Reality.

    • Thanks Fred.

      I thought the name might have something to do with that, but I wasn’t sure.

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