In my painting Adi Da, the guru is portrayed as a totally transfigured being. His heart is the dawning sun, source of illumination outwardly and inwardly symbolic of Da’s transparency to Divine Radiance. Since Da mean “the giver,” the right hand is making an offering of teachings that contain the same light as the heart. A lineage of masters from various wisdom paths are receding translucently into the horizon of the top row of heads; the heads in the bottom row are the various faces of Adi Da, from childhood up to the present. The sky meets the ocean at heart level, and a pillar of light connects the heavens and earthly realms through the central channel. The Dawn Horse in the central channel symbolizes the force that powers Adi Da’s teachings. There are many devotees inside the body. The flowers are an offering to the Master. A large translucent face hovers over his physical form. The large head rests on a central channel of light coming from the bottom of the composition, suggesting the shape of a simple grail-type drinking cup. The potion in the cup is amrita, nectar of the heart united with an ocean of love, the God intoxication that the guru provides and for which humanity thirsts. The bright ”Godhead” has large eyes and it’s mouth is placed at the shoulders, shouldering the mouth of God, and Da’s head becomes the God nose/knows.
Seeing the Master, or glimpsing an enlightened being, is called darshan, during which a subtle transmission can occur to bless or empower an aspirant’s spiritual development. It was during such a circumstance that I met the heart master, Adi Da. One of the remarkable things about this spiritual meeting was that afterword I realized that no thoughts or concepts had occurred in my mind during the entire time Da was present. There is only the Divine Presence that he is and all of us potentially are. He seemed silently to become every individual in the room, and as this happened, people swooned in devotional ecstasy. My one encounter with Adi Da was profound. I am not a formal devotee, but I have tremendous respect for Da’s writings and teachings.
His way of teaching was simply to be present for his devotees’ contemplation. This is why images of deities and avatars are important to some religious cultures. One of the most important Tantric spiritual practices is called Guru-Yoga. Guru-Yoga is a method of visualization in which the aspirant imaginatively works with an image of a spiritual master as a crystallization of spiritual potential, a psychic “attractor” from which one receives specific empowerment. This process draws on the powerful inner archetype of the “master,” one who has gone beyond the normal human limitations and achieved transcendent greatness or enlightenment. For most people this is a suppressed archetype, so bringing it to full consciousness and being empowered by it’s presence establishes an important bonding and reinforcement of one’s identity with an internal spiritual reality. By clearly representing a spiritual archetype, artworks can serve and catalyze the viewer’s own realization. Throughout the history of art, a similar principle has been used to transmit the power of religious people through their portraiture.