The small island stretches out northeast in a wide arc, forming a natural sanctuary of lagoons and coral reefs. Along the craggy northern coast the ocean crashes against gray limestone cliffs. Three hundred feet above the surf dense virgin forest runs back from the cliff top into the rugged interior. To the west and south are sandy beaches and rolling green hills. This is Naitauba (Nye-tuhm-bah), one among more than 300 islands of the Fijian archipelago, and one of the Hermitage abodes of the Compassionate Maha-Siddha, Avatar Adi Da Samraj.
It was here that I first physically met my Spiritual Master. And it was here that I received His first direct instructions to me about the vast and mysterious realms of the non-humans.
The year was 1989 and I was on a “service retreat” on Naitauba, an extended period of volunteer service, meditation and study of Adi Da’s spiritual teachings and way of life.
Having been born and raised in the highlands of Papua New Guinea I enjoyed the assignment I was given by Adi Da, which was to roam all over Naitauba to locate significant natural features that Adi Da might like to visit and enjoy. I spent day after day exploring the hills, valleys, coves, beaches and limestone caverns of the island. As the days went by I gradually became familiar with Naitauba’s many parts and secrets. I developed a deep love for this extraordinary place. Often I went with several Fijian friends. Sometimes I went alone.
On one particular day in the middle of a tall, vine tangled, banyan-tree grove I came upon a grassy clearing where I sat down to eat. As I relaxed, drenched in sweat, I began to feel from somewhere deep within the forest, from out of the dark earth and gray rock, a tangible communication from the very heart of the island. It was as profound as it was familiar; as familiar as my deepest heart-awareness of Adi Da Samraj. I felt a sensation of energy emerge from the earth to embrace me. I felt deeply calmed. I now understood, tacitly, that Naitauba is alive, conscious and responsive; a living being of a certain kind. Laying back on the forest floor I could only wonder at this. I didn’t know what to make of it. Days later (when I saw Adi Da in person for the first time) I began to better understand what the island had just shown me.
Adi Da Samraj is standing motionless on the sand. I immediately know that I’m seeing Man unlike any I have ever met, or heard of. He is so clearly not other than me, and not other than anyone else. At the sight of Him, my heart instantly recognizes its Self. He is powerful and humble, resilient yet vulnerable, immense but human, and so wildly beyond the human. I am Happy, dissolved, utterly relieved at heart… aware that there is no distinction between beings, or things, or places… that love is denied no one and no thing. Adi Da’s Spiritual Presence surrounds me, in profound silence, with this understanding.
A month later I was standing on the headland above a small cove named Banyan Bay. Two hundred feet below a pair of giant manta ray slid through the emerald-blue shallows. A storm was building out to sea and her forward limbs began whipping across the bay, dragging at the stunted trees who wrapped the headland. The rays headed out to deeper water. I climbed higher until I could see right across the rugged island, now deluged in rain. The heavy wind pushed hard, challenging me to stay upright. The storm was beautiful, wild and pristine. With senses heightened I was now part of her, immersed in this event of sky and sea, land, trees and animals, lost to the mysterious unity that merges and dissolves all apparent things to One.
It was clear to me that the island, trees, ocean and weather were as alive and conscious as me. I understood that Naitauba, this island where Adi Da made His home, is a “person”, too, now submitted to and serving Adi Da’s benign intentions in the world. To see and feel Naitauba is to know that Adi Da is far more than merely human, not limited to any conditional form. In His Embrace of Naitauba He made this island another, further, appearance of Himself. And Naitauba continues to guide and deepen my understanding about this mostly non-human world within which I find myself.
Out exploring again one afternoon I came across a Fijian boa. It was a beautiful creature — grayish-brown, with a shiny new skin. Thinking that Adi Da would enjoy seeing this snake I brought it back with me. Adi Da took it in His hands, letting the slender python slide up His arm, under His sleeve and inside His shirt. His sensitivity to the snake, His care and respect for it, were ordinary and remarkable. Adi Da returned the snake to me with instructions that it be placed back in the exact place where it was found so it could easily reconnect to its previous circumstance. Wanting to be certain this had happened He asked to be informed once the snake was returned to its environment. Adi Da’s intimacy with this small reptile as well as His regard for its well-being was useful instruction.
In 1992, I moved from Melbourne, Australia, to California to begin an apprenticeship under Adi Da’s Guidance, at His then named “Fear-No-More Zoo”.
In the mid 1970’s when Adi Da Samraj still lived at the Mountain Of Attention Sanctuary in California, He began revealing His “Vision of Fear-No-More”. He described how Fear-No-More Zoo should be regarded as a sacred process, and place, to be created from a deep love of non-humans and an understanding of their true nature. He gave it the name “Fear-No-More” for three reasons; (1) to remind us that non-humans here are to be granted their lives free from unnecessary fear; (2) to point to the non-humans’ spiritually contemplative disposition; (3) and lastly to call us to the very same natural participation in Divine Awareness that the non-humans enjoy.
It is this recognition of non-humans as spiritually contemplative beings that is the central sacred and humane principle upon which Fear-No-More Zoo is created. On January 6, 1996, Avatar Adi Da spoke at length about the spiritually contemplative nature of non-humans. Here is an except from that Talk:
Non-humans exhibit a kind of “natural” predisposition to Contemplate, to feel beyond — even beyond waking, dreaming and sleeping — to a depth domain. They do this freely, voluntarily — they enter into this pleasurable, deep swoon into the Source Domain.
Through Adi Da’s insistence on our recognition of this point, and His ongoing guidance of the animal servers, and His devotees at large, Fear-No-More Zoo has grown into a place where one can visit and be drawn into that same contemplative state that the non-humans enjoy. In January of 1996, while speaking to devotees, Adi Da gave the following guidance about how He wants Fear-No-More Zoo to be used:
Feel what its particular components are. The more I get to do what I intend there, the more you will observe it. But even as it is, as simple as it is, it immediately awakens a certain congenial disposition in you, if you go down there sensitively, of course. It’s another place of worship, a kind of walking, petting, worship. It awakens compassion for all living beings, just being down there. And a feeling of non-difference, of Unity. I spend a lot of time around non-humans. To Me, they are the same as human beings — in the ultimate sense, the same. I do not imagine them being lowly or separate, or different in any sense whatsoever. And that’s what you should realize when you go there. That’s how you should use it, to support your sadhana. All the places of the Ashram are Sacred, have a special meaning, purpose and significance. And the zoo is one of them. It’s about “fearing-no-more”, about going beyond the knot of separate self, being in the condition of the Samadhi of Real God Communion, and (at the level of form) feeling structured in a Great Unity.
When I arrived at the Mountain Of Attention I had a basic knowledge of animal husbandry, but that was all — no formal training in zoology or veterinary sciences, no real working experience in a zoo. During the first two years of my training here I was frequently in dismay. I constantly felt I lacked the needed knowledge and sensitivity to help create and maintain such a place. I worked hard to learn all I could about each respective animal’s care. In retrospect, this rapid (and frightening) learning curve deepened my fundamental sensitivity to the animals more than any formal training could have.
My struggle with this service was that, in part, I simply didn’t want the lives of these animals under my responsibility. The more I came to know them the more this responsibility weighed on me.
Whenever an animal died, as happened from time to time, I was always thrown into despair and frustration.
About two years into my time at Fear-No-More Zoo, one summer afternoon, Cinnabar, a beautiful and very relational red panther chameleon, died in my hands from over-heating. I had miscalculated my handling of him on this very hot day and, before I knew it he was gagging, his dark, cone-shaped eyes beckoning for relief. I rushed him to a bucket of cool water and held him in it, hoping he would cool quickly and be alright. Finally, though, his body went limp as he expired in my hands. I was distraught. Shattered. Adi Da was deeply upset also.
This time I really did want to leave. I couldn’t take it anymore. However, somehow, after several days of personal struggle I resolved to stay. Quitting was not an option anymore. I had no real choice but to embrace the animals as fully as I possibly could. With that I literally moved into the zoo — into a small shed within the emu enclosure that I cleaned and painted. I determined to stay there, living alongside the animals, until I felt a significant change in the developing quality of the zoo and in my sensitivity to the animals. As I set about this new chapter of my service my own life was changed, simplified and focussed. I began “feeling” the animals. New funding and support began flowing in from many people within the community around Adi Da, and we began to further develop and beautify Fear-No-More Zoo, serving to make it a fuller demonstration of Adi Da’s Vision.
Adi Da’s Vision of Fear-No-More was developed by Him as a means and method of instruction for humans where we might deepen in our understanding, regard and sympathy with non-human beings.
To some few sitting close by one evening Adi Da whispered:
At heart, all are One. At heart, a human being is not the slightest bit different from the reptiles, the birds, the former dinosaurs, the elephants, the plants, the trees, the wind, the sky, the microbes. Apart from their function in conditionality, all beings are the same. Human beings are not uniquely to be Saved. All beings, even all of conditional manifestation, is the Sphere of My Work. I do not make the slightest jot of distinction between a human being and any other form or appearance. There is none to be made. Appearing before you in human Form, I Play with you in human terms. But My Work, moment by moment, altogether, encompasses All, not only all human beings, not only all beings, but everything. I am in Conversation with all beings and things.