Paul Adam, a unique journey.




By Martine NORMAND – publication December 2021

In her time Alexandra David-Neel was an exceptional traveler. Paul Adam who had met her and had replaced her for a lecture that she had not been able to give – and for which she congratulated him, used a different approach with his yellow robe serving as a safeguard but with no money or servants attached to his person to guide him. Bringing to the knowledge of the public the exemplary aspects of the life of this man could help to revitalize a current of thought which has been lostin a stifling materialism, to such an extent that it has lost all spiritual value.

Paul Adam was born in Versailles on February the 17th 1917 and died in Prénovel in the French Jura on June the 8th 1970. He was thirteen years old when, already sick and tired of a life he considered empty of meaning, consisting of harshness, poverty and competitiveness, he decided, with a revolver in his pocket, to put an end to it. However the course of his existence changed when he found a sentence in his random readings drawn from the teachings of the Buddha « be your own light ». Why not being his own guide? Was his evolution not to be subject to his own understanding? Could the sacred texts of the major religions be of any help? He was tempted to learn the languages in which these texts were written in order better to understand their deepest meaning : Sanskrit for the Veda and the Upanishad, Hebrew for the Old Testament, Greek for the New Testament, Arabic for the Coran…

At the age of twenty he is forced to carry out his military service for two years in the French army and then has to continue to serve in the army as France declared war on Germany on September 3 1939. He survives the Second World War, escaping death several times. He experiences a death camp in Germany. He was taken from the camp to work as a labourer on a German farm. Then he is recruited to use his professional skills in the service of the enemy in a compulsory labour camp. Returning from the war he resumes his readings, looking for the « hidden knowledge » which constitutes the foundation of all the great traditions, mentioned in numerous texts, but which is not explained. For him, believing is not enough, he needs to know.

In this process will he find the key to open the door of understanding of the religious scriptures, often hermetic ? The fact remains that what is revealed to him as a synthesis, a core common to all religions, will lead him to take the decision to go to India, the cradle of Aryo-Dravidian civilization and the receptacle of the numerous living traditions of Eurasia. He thinks that it is there that he will find confirmation of what he found in his previous research as being the touchstone which transforms a seeker into a finder.

Less than a month after his arrival at Nalanda University in Bihar state, his knowledge of Sanskrit, Pali and the Buddhic canon enables him to be ordained a monk,bhikshu, in the order of the Buddha, the Sangha. As Venerable Aryadeva, so as not to be a burden on the population which already has difficulties inproviding for its own needs, he teaches French at Nalanda university itself for two years and then at the Mithila Sanskrit institute in Darbhanga for thirteen years. He lives in a house lent to him by the maharaja of Darbhanga.

For fifteen years he travels throughout India and the neighbouring countries bordering Northern India, venturing beyond the Chinese Tibetan border towards the shiva sadhus, covered with ashes and carrying the trident. With the same serenity, he faces up to all situations, caught in snow storms in the Himalayas, enduring the torrid heat in the Indian plains or confronting the damage caused by the monsoon. He has to cross jungles, walk long distances to reach a monastery, meet and converse with learned lamas, enjoy the privilege of consulting ancient documents revealing knowledge dating back millennia. Thus he accumulates information for the synthesis, the Key which opens the door of the mysteries.

He is so well integrated that when he announces his intention to leave in order to return to France, none of those around him believe that he can stay away from India. But there is a quotation from the Buddha that he makes his own: « wherever the sun, the moon and the Law (Dharma) shine, I am at home ».

In a world losing its values and markers, doesn’t such a comparative study of the major religions and of their salient features which has been the work and the bedrock of such a life meet the needs of many men to open themselves up to universal intelligence ? Be that as it may, like others before and others after him, Paul Adam has emerged victorious from the battle against doubt and fear. He is now the « clear and high flame in a place sheltered from the wind… ».

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