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Das "Seven Stages of Life"

According to Adi Da, the individual ideally develops through seven stages of growth, "the seven stages of life."   These are (1) the physical, (2) the emotional-sexual, (3) the intellectual, (4) the spiritual, (5) the yogic, (6) subjective Enlightenment (realisation of the Self or Absolute Within), and (7) objective Enlightement (realisation of the Absolute Reality - the Radiant Transcendental Being - in all things.

 The first three stages are stages of development of the psycho-physical personality - physical/bodily, sexual-emotional, and intellectual - which are equated with seven year intervals (this seven-year chronology is also popular with theosophists and anthroposophists).

 Adi Da explains that these three stages of physical, emotional, and mental development "provide the necessary foundation  for the testing and transformation that inevitably accompany true spiritual life."  This latter is represented by the last four stages of life; which are stages of increasing spiritual development and transcendence.  These are the Fourth Stage of Mystical devotion and realisation, the Fifth Stage of Yogic superconsciousness and siddhis, the Sixth Stage subjective Realisation of the Absolute (or "radiant transcendent being"), and finally the "seventh stage of life", the objective Realisation of the Absolute in whatever phenomena arise. 

A few words about the last two stages. The 6th stage is the realization of the Atman. In Adi Da's teachings, the Atman is the root of egoity where the ego is refined to its most basic point. It must be transcended or else the teacher will reinforce in the student the disposition of the search for enlightenment based on the presumption that as an ego or separate self, this is attainable. It is still incomplete teaching which can cause the student to become more deeply involved in life-negativity and the search itself instead of practicing life-embracing surrender of the self-sense as a practice. Even teachings that claim to attain complete liberation, such as Theravada Buddhism and Advaita Vedanta, belong here.

Higher than this is the 7th stage realization, which confers a much greater level of Enlightenment, and allows the adept to do whatever will free the student.

In the back of one of Da's books, the Dawn Horse Testament, there is a list of "Great Individuals" - all from the Hindu or Buddhist traditions. I was under the impression these were other "seventh stage realisers". An important work, The Basket of Tolerance never reissued, reveals how Da ranks the various traditions and spiritual teachers. But since then Da has come to consider himself unique (whether or not he did at the time of writing the Dawn Horse Testament I dont know). This is in keeping with other gurus, both fakes and genuine ones (that is, in my understanding of them), who each claim to be the highest revelation or realisation, the avatar of this age, etc.

From an email correspondence:

MAK: "What about Advaita Vedanta, is that 6th or 7th stage?"

Lisa Haydon:

"Ramana Maharshi began to glimpse the 7th stage realization and he began to talk not only about the heart on the right side of the chest (the seat of 6th stage realization where the root "I" or ego is located but without outer experience arising) but also he spoke of Amrita Nadi which is the current of bliss which rises out of the heart on the right and is regenerated up to the infinite light above the sahasrar in the 7th stage awakening. He began to glimpse this.

That is why Adi Da speaks about himself as Adi or the first to fully describe through his own realization of it, the fullness of 7th stage realization. It is difficult to accept that before this no one had realized it. However, he states that his function is to explain the complete way of realization which has never been explained before."

In keeping with my "neutral stance" I will comment here regarding the truth or not of this, it is upto the individual to decide for themselves (or rather, reserve my critique for another page). Also, see Elias' eloquent critique of Da's claim to be the only 7th Stage Realiser for another (perhaps more cogent) take on this.

However, the concept of a series of more stages of ever more inclusive awareness is a profound one, as is the importance of not getting stuck (see Intermediate Zone) at each level. From another email by Lisa Haydon:

The practice in each stage which allows for progression to the next is the fact that one realizes the activity of self-contraction at each stage. In other words, each stage is not to be realized but transcended through fundamental insight that it is all an activity of ego limitation. When one surrenders the faculties of attention, body, and feeling, coordinated through the breath, to Reality Itself, then the activities of each stage are gone beyond or transcended. So each stage is to be given over to Divine Contemplation and not realized in and of itself. Many people get stuck in stage 5 with ascending experiences and feel very good and very distracted by them and think they in and of themselves are God. But it is just a more elaborate version of eating a really good dessert. Likewise in stage 6, one must realize that the essence of the ego gesture is the very root of suffering. When that activity of separation is finally released then one has entered the 7th stage of life. That is also why there is nothing else to do or anywhere else to go beyond this because there is no illusion of a separate self left to go anywhere or do anything.

A good summing up of Da's interpretation of the different spiritual traditions, in terms of these stages, can be found in the Preface by Da Free John to The Song of the Self Supreme (Ashtavakra Gita), Dawn Horse Press, 1982, pages 17-20:

The Ashtavakra Gita is a culminating expression of the religious and philosophical schools of the early Vedic and Upanishadic tradition. It also encompasses all that is contained in the ancient and modern tradition associated with the God-concept called "Siva". The Siva tradition includes the fourth stage devotional tradition of ancient Shaivism, the fifth stage philosophy of the Upanishads of the yoga schools, the fifth stage yoga of the more modern school of Kashmir Shaivism, and the (medieval) Nath tradition, and the sixth stage attitudes and practices of Advaita Vedanta (which is a tradition founded on Upanishadic non-dualism, and which, like the Buddhist tradition, includes both sixth and seventh stage orientations to Truth).

A very few other texts, like the Ashtavakra Gita, are the ultimate texts of complete schools. The Tripura Rahasya, the Avadhoota Gita, and the Lankavatara Sutra clearly are such seventh stage texts. Like the Ashtavakra Gita, they do not represent a practice but rather they represent the description or Confession of ultimate Realization. They represent the ultimate free point of view of an Adept who Teaches others, who are yet practicing in the lesser stages, about the Realization that is the ultimate import of the traditional texts.
(reproduced from The Ashtavakra Gita ~ Sixth or Seventh Stage Text? by Elias 2001 (reposted 2/12/03)

It is easy to see how Ken Wilber was influenced by this paradigm; his stages of Psychic, Subtle, Causal, and Ultimate follow Da's 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th very closely

However, as explained, Da now considers himself the only seventh Stage Realiser, which means that those spiritual teachings and teachers poreviously considered seventh stage have to be demoted to sixth stage. As Elias observes, this opens up a whole heap of contradictions with Da's earlier work

Web links Links Web links

web pagesThe Traditions of Mankind - The Seven Stages of Life and Essential Talks and Essays by Avatar Adi Da on the Great Tradition


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page by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 13 September 1999
last modified 13 June 2005