Thursday, June 07, 2007

70s Guru "Adi Da"

I've never blogged before, but maybe this'll be a convenient way to keep track of places I visit and conversations I have on the net. Hey, someday I may even include some Real Life stuff.

A few weeks ago, with Derry, Erik, Ruth, and Fiona, I went to an introductory program for Adi Da at the Berkeley Public Library. Adi Da is that guru who keeps changing his name. He was originally Franklin Jones, around the time he was with my old guru Baba Muktananda. Then he became Bubba Free John, Da Free John, Da Kalki, Da Lovananda, Adi Da, whatever. Here's a page of pro-Da propaganda.

Around the 70s, Da built a following in northern California and elsewhere, but for over a decade now he's been cloistered on an island in Fiji (bought from Raymond "Perry Mason" Burr) where adoring devotees flock to worship him.

I wouldn't go out of my way to visit a spiritual teacher, particularly one like Da, whom I expect to offer little but weirdness to goof on. But this program was free, and included high-class tea and dates for snacks, so what the hell. Since they weren't allowed to sell anything in the library, they even gave away a CD or book of Da's talks. There were over a dozen attendees; the program started promptly with a few minutes of intro talk, followed by a 45 minute DVD showing Da speaking and doing his thing.

Inexplicably, famous commentators like Ken Wilber and Alan Watts have gone ga-ga for Adi Da (here's Wilber gushing over Da). As I travel the spiritual underbelly, I keep bumping into people who have strong ideas or stories of Da. So now at least I've heard him talk. I explored the free book and CD a little bit, so I've got some sense of what he's about.

Today I shared my experience with the folks at the Daism Forum, where some of his longtime students (mostly ex-students?) hang out. Here are the 2 posts I've made so far.

Post #1:

Hi, I'm new to the forum. I've got only a little knowledge or experience of Da, but I'm an old timer with lots of similar stuff, see my site http://home.comcast.net/~sresnick2/socalled.htm

Till recently, I only knew of Da because a friend told me I'd love his books; gave them a try, and gave up before finishing "Knee of Listening." I should mention that I was with Muktananda's group for 5 years, so Frank's name came up. And I've had interest in Ken Wilber -- again, friends told me I'd love his books, but I didn't -- and was intrigued and suspicious by Wilber's praises of Da.

Then about a month ago I went to a local program thrown by Da people, and for the first time saw a video of talks etc. I've joined the forum to express the lack of coherence I picked up, and to see if anyone who's more familiar with the trip can shed light on it.

At this program, the guy who was running it started off with a teaching something like this. This moment is already IT. There's not some divine thing that's going to descend on us; there's not some divine thing that we need to ascend to; it's all right here right now.

I listened to most of the CD of Da's talks that they gave away, and right at the beginning, the teaching seemed the same: pointing to the clarity and completeness of just now. So yeah, cool, I'm fine with that. Perfectly good teaching. But at this program, next thing I know, they're talking about Da as if he's something special. As if he's got something other people don't. As if there's some need or reason for me to go to Fiji or something.

And it completely struck me as incoherent, inconsistent. If it's always and already as it is, perfect and complete, then it's here in this moment as I type on a laptop. It's incoherent to say that Da has something special if each moment is already perfect. Where's the need to go to Fiji etc if truth has already appeared in my just now situation?

My way of resolving the contradiction is to not swallow the ideas about higher and lower, about Da or anyone being more advanced in a meaningful way. My understanding of people who do present Da as a higher being or something is that they parrot the words about "always and already complete" without ever really believing it, or they believe it theoretically without ever putting it into practice.

I dunno. Can anyone who's been seriously involved in the group give me a hint about how anyone can sustain this obvious contradiction?

I got a response from someone named friend, prompting my Post #2:

Hi, friend, thanks for your response. Yeah, I'm the same guy who's posted to Guruphiliac and What Enlightenment??! Please drop me a line if you ever have suggestions about what I should include on my own page; I'll definitely look into the blogs on the sidebar that you mentioned.

From my time with Muktananda... I recall that I had my own experience, and then there were these beliefs that everyone around me seemed to accept as true. And then there was this particular moment when I made what seemed like a tiny leap over this invisible line. Rather than sticking with what I actually experienced (and what I could logically conclude from it), I started to think, "Well, if *all* these nice happy people believe that Muktananda transmits a magical energy, and has special knowledge and powers, I might as well assume it's true..."

So now I've leaped back across that line in the opposite direction, and don't plan to make that innocent-looking assumption again. The process is interesting, though. Kind of amazing how when you're in a group of people all believing the same way, it's so easy to blur the line between direct experience and 2nd-hand beliefs.

In the Da intro program I spoke of, they said something like this: If you're in Da's presence, you'll definitely get these amazing and wonderful things happen to you, and you don't need to do anything. Except, oh yeah, just one little thing, you do have to accept that he's enlightened.

And I thought, Jeez, of course! Even if you accept that a rock is enlightened, you'll get amazing experiences in the presence of that rock (as in a Hindu temple, or a vortex in Sedona). But why pretend to accept something just because you're told too? It seems like a tiny thing at first, but then it's a slippery slope to no end of non-sense, based on the one little act of pretending.
OK, enough for my first blog.

[Addendum: 7 months after I blogged this, a commenter recommended the site Adi Da Samraj Archives, which holds extensive information critical of this guru.]

27 comments:

Urban Tea Monk said...

Just wondering, Stu...what's you're idea of "high-class tea"?

As for Adi Da, there's some serious pathology there. Did you not know/sense this going in? I'm kind of surprised, given your background and apparently well-grounded sensibility, that you'd even bother writing about -- much less checking out -- somebody of Jones's ilk.

So I guess that must've been some kinda premium tea, eh? :-)

Urban Tea Monk said...

Oops. I see I called you "Stu" despite the fact that you use "Stuart" everywhere on your websites. My husband's name is Stuart and I'm in the habit of dropping the last syllable. Sorry!

Anonymous said...

IMO Stuart's investigation of Da was well worth it, because this led to his correspondance with 'Friend', and the exchange with 'Friend' led Stuart to write a second response in which he stated this valuable insight:

"From my time with Muktananda... I recall that I had my own experience, and then there were these beliefs that everyone around me seemed to accept as true. And then there was this particular moment when I made what seemed like a tiny leap over this invisible line. Rather than sticking with what I actually experienced (and what I could logically conclude from it), I started to think, "Well, if *all* these nice happy people believe that Muktananda transmits a magical energy, and has special knowledge and powers, I might as well assume it's true..."

"It seems like a tiny thing at first, but then it's a slippery slope to no end of non-sense, based on the one little act of pretending."

Stuart's description of 'this tiny thing at first' where we make that first, micro shift from going by our direct experience, to taking someone elses word for it, because they are nice, seem happy and transformed, and maybe we dont want to hurt their feelngs--its that 'taking someone elses word for it' and that first micro submission to a power imbalance where someone is covertly pedestalized by the action of others denegrating themselves.

We cannot mention this 'dividing line' process often enough and Stuarts description is valuable.

It was well worth his visit to Da which in turn triggered the ensuring correspondance with Friend.

Welcome to the blogosphere, Stuart.

Stuart said...

Thanks for posting, urban tea monk and anon. No, the high-class tea wasn't anything psychedelic. Just nice green tea with stevia, the miracle healthy sweetener that I'd never seen in packets before.

You understand my background correctly. I wasn't "checking out" Da in the sense of looking for someone to believe in or follow. I was checking out the scene in my continuing curiosity to understand the dynamics of such guru groups.

I spent years with Muktananda (through the mid-80s), but now I always try to avoid following authorities in favor of returning to my own experience. I'm curious to understand more about how I was a follower for so long (I wouldn't say I followed blindly... but I was kinda near-sighted). It's mysterious to me how Adi Da, who seems to have an obvious, "serious pathology," could maintain such fame and following, with otherwise intelligent people lauding his books etc.

The cultish mind can be subtle; as anon mentions, it's all about that moment where I stop believing in myself and decide to follow the authority or crowd. Following the flock has obvious evolutionary benefits, but maybe it's time to evolve beyond it (for SOME of us).

All of this may also be triggered by the fact that I'm reading for the first time "The Guru Papers," which I'll blog about shortly.

Stuart

Anonymous said...

In addition, 'Friend mentioned another part of the trap--and it is subtle--it is the way our own yearnings--a combination of greed (afflictive emotion in Buddhist terms) and authentic way-seeking mind are turned against us.

Friend wrote:

"I would still want to make sure we never demonize the search or ourselves for searching. It’s not merely about greed. There actually is a major legitimate confusion over our true identity that humans naturally and inevitably run into and which leads us to search, and if its resolution isn’t handled properly by the culture then it is left to individuals to serve this purpose, many of whom are not scrupulous or use their position for self aggrandizement and their general self advantage rather than those they claim to serve.

And as you say, we need to be more awake to the traps our valid needs set us up for.

False teachers take advantage of that inevitable confusion for their own purposes, such as power, self-pleasuring, self glorification and whatever other advantages they can manage.

*After an initial taste of the truth for bait, these guys (insinuate) that you actually are separate from reality and are missing something essential, just to keep you tied to them. They hold the carrot out in front of you on a stick, so that you can never reach it."

Friend does not mention it, but a huge problem, I think is that the kind of discerning, spiritually street smart attitude recommended by Friend is actually devalued and even at times discourged in large sectors of the seekers circuit--critical thinking is often devalued, and those with misgivings are socialized to stifle them, otherwise they no longer share that cozy feelng of belonging.

And we must not deny that our searching takes place in a larger social context—our searching is affected by causes and conditions that stretch beyond us. This social context often provides us with bad examples, misleading information, and some portions of the seekers circuit actually devalue logic, critical thinking and make it seem that adult critical thinking is an obstacle to spiritual realization. We often forget to examine this social context—what Hindus and Buddhists call ‘sangha.’ Some sanghas support spiritual seeking and others lead it in wrong directions, especially those portions that put a high value on celebrity gurus, and inculcate an unhealthy fascination with power and surrender and that forbid us to examine these issues consciously.

Many seekers dont realize the extent to which our upbringing trains us to see ourselves as hard shelled autonomous individuals, who are, or should be invulnerable and totally impervious to outside influence—when in fact we are interdepedent and profoundly influenced by social context in ways most of us do not recognize.

Our vulnerability to social influence and our unawareness of that vulnerability is something well understood by unscrupulous leaders and groups. The worst of them teach that we are autonomous and should become even more impervious to social influence, while exploiting that we remain quite vulnerable to social influence--which the group or teacher seeks to monopolize.

You're socialized in such a group to believe you remain autonomous and have free choice, while all the while, your actual range of choices is eroded in tiny increments. Its like having the gradual loss of vision that takes place in glaucoma--vision is slowly lost from the periphery and the sufferer is unaware of it, while the visual field or choice field slowly, ever so slowly shrinks.


(We do indeed have agency and need to clean up after ourselves when we do harm, but we are also affected in what we do by social context, and its highly emancipatory to understand this because then we can be more discerning and concious about what kinds of social settings to select--which bring out the best in us and which bring out the worst in us. That too is part of spiritual practice.

Anonymous said...

Dear Stuart and all readers:

This article, entitled 'The Culture of Cults'

http://www.fwbo-files.com/CofC.htm

is well worth reading--it covers an interesting topic, such as the way our aspirations get subtly tweaked and then used to demonize our pre-converstion/pre-cult selves, and the article also covers the social context in which cults operate and market themselves--vital for self emancipation and healing.

For Stuart, it might be a good companion item to combine while reading Kramer and Alstad's 'Guru Papers'

John Horgan, a journalist who has written for Scientific American, and is author of 'Rational Mysticism' has a collection of 'out-take articles.' He includes interviews of Kramer and Alstad

http://johnhorgan.org/work24.htm

and he also got to interview Andrew Cohen.

http://johnhorgan.org/work27.htm

Bon apetit

Stuart said...

Thanks again for new comments.

Anony wrote:
> False teachers take advantage of
> that inevitable confusion for
> their own purposes, such as
> power, self-pleasuring, self
> glorification and whatever other
> advantages they can manage.

We could go into lots of depth about the process through which an unscrupulous teacher could selfish use a devotee. But of course this blog isn't aimed at aspiring gurus wanting to hone their craft! Which is to say... the most useful point isn't to know about how to trap others. It's about how to avoid getting trapped!

Metaphorically: if there's a ditch in the road, we could indeed research how exactly an evil foe could have dug the ditch. Maybe it was dug methodically and with evil intention, but maybe it was dug by an animal, or a meteorite. All such speculation risks missing the main point, which is that if I watch my step, I can avoid falling in.

My issue with The Guru Papers is that it's focus seems to be on the process by which a guru can deceive masses of followers... whereas the useful information is how each of us as individuals can train ourselves to not take the bait.

I definitely want to start a discussion on The Guru Papers on this blog if anyone is willing. I'll post more about it within days... it's just that today I got distracted by Sopranos analysis!

Anonymous said...

Things that can get us trapped

1) Growing up in a family where you have to constantly deny things right in your face, in order to keep in relationship with the Big People on whose survival you depend. I learned to ignore the constant existance of a gin bottle by the toaster and my mother's alcoholic breath.

I also learned to tune out constant bullying and snide remarks from my parents.

As a result, I was pre-formatted to ignore my own self respect. Later on, this led me to tolerate situations I should have exited from immediately.

Remedy: find out what you went through when growing up, get as conscious about that as possible and spend as much time as possible with kind, decent people with good communication skills.

And..never, ever accept any rationalization of cruelty, deceit, violence or theft, no matter how noble the cause.

2) Being unable to tolerate feelings of boredom, anxiety, fear, loneliness. Being too quick to find something or someone (person, group, religion, belief system) that produces instant comfort, no matter how outrageous the stuff one must believe

Remedy: develop inner resources, ability to tolerate painful states of mind

3) Believing one should be autonomous and impervious to social influence or hoping you can become super human

Remedy: recognize that to be human means being susceptible to a wide range of social and personal influences--and become very alert about what kinds of social situations bring out the best or worst in you--and select accordingly.

Other things that can help avoid entrapment

Avoid any set up where you are not told what will happen, where you are told to shut down critical thinking and go with the flow, and especially avoid anything where you have to sign a form waiving your right, as a citizen, to sue the group if you are harmed in any way by participation

Never spend more money than you can afford, and never but ever borrow money or max out your credit card. Anyone who tells you to do so--run.

Dont get involved with anything where you are yelled at, witness others being yelled at or humiliated, because then you become complicit. The longer you stay in an abusive situation, either as a witness or sufferer, the greater the risk you will adjust to it and cease to find it outrageous. Just get the hell out.

Dont let anything or anyone make you run short on sleep--this screws up critical thinking and can greatly aggravate some medical conditions such as bipolar affective disorder.

Anything or anyone who makes you feel trancy or zoned out, or constantly speaks in a jarring, confusing manner--avoid.

Never stay in a situation where you have to keep secrets, or either witness or engage in behavior that is embarrassing, humiliating, or goes against your gut feelings. If you do this, you risk justifying it to yourself.

Never let yourself be photographed, videoed, or give intimate information in writing or orally, unless the group or guru signs a form (and a copy goes to you) promising all such information will stay confidential and never be used against you.

But above all, as Stuart warns, dont take anyone's word for it. Doing that infantallizes us and is an early first step to entrapment.

Finally, never make an important decision about anything when in love, or fear, bereavement or in some state of bliss--all such states are the equivalent of driving drunk.

If you go to India, bear in mind, you have gone through multiple time zones, are in a situation where you lack privacy, food and customs are all totally different and you're in sensory bombardment. Dont make any important binding decisions when you are in India and are disoriented by the strangeness of it all.

IF someone is reputedly a famous guru, ask yourself, 'How did this person become famous? Is marketing involved?'

John Horgan didnt call it the Enlightenment Industry for nothing

Anonymous said...

Finally, always fact check any teacher or group before getting involved.

If there is any kind of deceit, or record of bad behavior, or the group or teacher have changed their names frequently and have bogus credentials--avoid.

The character of the group and teacher are vitally important. Groups that teach that conventional ethics are irrelevant play a dangerous game.

If the teacher's track record is bad, you risk getting entangled in whatever bad karma that teacher is generating.

Its hard enough disentangling our own 'ancient twisted karma' without getting entangled in a teacher's toxic slipstream.

Dont commit any crime on behalf of a guru. When the doo doo hits the fan, very likely the guru will do a plea bargain and you will be the scapegoat and go to jail. Anyone in a bad guru's entourage risks being thrown to the wolves if something goes wrong--especially if they've followed the guru's orders and done dishonest things with money on behalf of the guru.

yomamma said...

I read an article that Ken Wilber wrote later , that said he feels, Da missed the boat at some point, not that I want to defend Ken Wilber, he seems to now have transfered his need for guru affiliation and creation to Andrew Cohen.
I had also heard that Da' s writings were special in some way ( I guess through the Ken Wilber article you sited) So when i met one of his followers I mentioned this, and got a book from him. ( there are many! ) It was unintelligible shit as far as I could tell, ravings really, and demonic in some way. Yet I have a very intelligent friend who insists that each and every exclamation point and comma has very important , heavy meaning. I'm glad I'm too dumb to see that,or at least not so desperate for meaning that I am willing to kill my brain. My opinion is that people are desperate for meaning and mystery , which is great, but they don't want to practice any number of great traditions that are available without some kind of glamour/power factor involved. it's creepy.

By the by would anyone like to discuss Ken Wilber's theories? I read his last book and found it leaving me full of questions , like who decides the validity of this stuff? Is it practiced anywhere? Is it really helpful in any objective way? Is he just blinding me with pseudo science and big words? Thanks.

Anonymous said...

There are two ways to explore Ken's work:

Through venues where everyone agrees that Ken is their higher power, and who have, often without realing it, linked their own hopes of transformation, not only to KW's work, but also to KW's public persona.

Ken's official websites offer these type of adulatory outlets as do Zaadz and Integral Naked.

There are independent venues outside of this holding pen where people who are not invested in Ken's personality or public myth are discussing a wide variety of Integral theory--those which derive from KW and many other forms of integral which are independent of Wilber.

These persons appreciate integral approach but regard it as a useful tool. They do not see it as a means of personal salvation or as a thrilling proof that they are more evolved than those who do not share their interests.

Two major independent venues-integral world

http://www.integralworld.net

http://www.openintegral.net/blog/

http://www.integralvisioning.org/

(There are many more independent venues--follow URLs and you'll find them)

Two persons who were deeply involved with Wilberian Integral later re-assessed their commitment. Thier reflections are interesting and may help ohter readers avoid pitfalls.

1) this interesting essay, offered on Generation Sit

http://www.generationsit.org/archives/44

and

2) Scott Parker

http://www.integralworld.net/index.html?parker.html

There is a discussion of Scott's article here: 'Winning the Integral Game'

http://dashh.typepad.com/

David Lane (professor of philosophy and not a wilber follower has assessed KW's work here (2 of a long series of essays from David's site Neural Surfer)

http://members.tripod.com/~dlane5/wil.html

http://vclass.mtsac.edu:940/dlane/wilb1.htm

What is of great concern is that Wilber has not lived under the authority of any of the controversial teachers whom he associates with and thus tacitly endorses and who have generated harm reports from those who have, unlike Ken, lived under their authority.

For two and half years of harm reports from persons who lived under the autority of the guru whom Ken currently associates with, go here.

http://whatenlightenment.blogspot.com/

The guru and his follower have never contested these reported incidents--instead, they justify this harshness as legitimate methods for ego destruction and spiritual development.

For indepth study, the series of six critiques by Meyerhoff on Integral World

and Alan Kazlev's Fourfold critique. Alan has a very thought provoking section on the problem of KW endorsing not only abusive gurus, but actually celebrating 'rude boy' gurus.

http://www.integralworld.net/index.html?kazlev2.html

Anonymous said...

A comment on the Generation Sit essay got to what I think is the central problem caused by Wilberian Integralism and any other practice that aims to create super-people, highly evolved people"

(quote)Mike Says:

March 28th, 2005 at 12:58 pm
The false sense of seperation between self and other is reduced though spiritual practice. What happens to me when I place myself at the “leading edge” of evolution? Suddenly, there are a lot of people that I no longer have to deal with. When I am done ridding myself of most of the world’s population, I am left with a strange competition of sorts. Who is more integral than me? Instead of talking about something productive, I will find myself using someone else’s theory to prove to this person that I am more integral than they are. I sicken myself.

I have came to the conclusion that what we call “integral” is really a subtle way of intensifying samsara.

I have the title of “integral,” and now, I must protect it.

The real question is, “Am I more “integral” than the ITP ideal–Paul Salamone?” (unquote)

Dogen Zenji, founder of the Soto Zen sect, warned of the hazard of 'gaining mind' and that properly practiced, zazen was never done to attain any sort of result.

The problem with the Wilberian approach is to take beautiful truthful elements piece meal from spiritual practices meant to emancipate us from gaining mind, and turns all these elements into a crusade fuelled by gaining mind--to turn oneself into a highly evolved person--according to KW's current specifications.

KW takes elements from Buddhism and turns it into something that looks like Buddhism but which inculcates the gaining mind/craving mind that genuine Buddhadharma aims to assist us to recognize and dismantle.

And its done in a way that new students may not be able to detect. You get a nice social scene where this is re-inforced--and once you get invested in that sense of belonging, its very hard to let that go, as Scott Parker reported in his essay.

Urban Tea Monk said...

Psychedelic?! Nah, psychedelics are more or less street trash compared to 100g of premium gyokuro, or a cake of properly stored sheng pu-erh, or a jin of pre-Qingming biluochun. I really was hoping you'd scored some high-end tea in exchange for your attention.

Anyway, yeah, I understand the impulse to window-shop and theorize, although I think that (in all of us) it's merely another delaying tactic and rationalization; at some point, we really do need to drop it. And since you've been around seekers for over twenty years, it strikes me as unusual that you'd require yet more raw data to satisfy a curiosity about guru-group dynamics (or any group dynamics, for that matter...they're all the same).

As for wondering about Adi Da's appeal, anyone can maintain fame and following if it's his or her primary directive, and if so, the apparent intelligence of the followers is irrelevant. After all, idol-worship isn't about problem-solving or tool invention (tasks that really do require at least a modicum of intelligence). It's a a psychosocial response to "branding" or identity marketing: we worship the one whom we want to become, in a sort of protracted manifestation of Girard's "mimetic desire" theory, for example.

So of course it's only logical that we'd have pathological idols for the pathological worshippers, Republican idols for the Republican worshippers, rock-and-roll idols for the rock-and-roll worshippers, etc., don't you think?

Sweetened green tea??!!

Anonymous said...

In essence the core element of all accounts of cultic abuse is long term, unrequited loyalty.

A devotee has spent years being loyal and caring for and about a leader who generates moods, elicits passionate loyalty and high hopes, but who is actually incapable of reciprocating that devotee's loyalty.

A one sided relationship of unreciprocated loyalty makes sense when the non reciprocating party is a baby, a tiny child too young to be capable of empathy or gratitude, or someone who is gravely incapacitated by illness or debility.

In that case, you are a parent or a socially designated care provider and you should be getting your adult intimacy needs met by friends and partners who ARE capable of reciprocating your loyalty.

What wounds devotees is spending years of loyalty to a guru, trusting that guru is as loyal to them as they are to the guru, and discovering, often when they need help the most, that the guru is as incapable of reciprocating loyalty as a two year old child, and has the nerve to claim that they are so special that all this is for petty minds.

IMO, the best way to avoid being too badly burned in any relationship, whether a cult or a partner situation is, if someone is unable to reciprocate your loyaly and you've been giving, giving giving for 2 years or more, cut your losses and look for someone who can reciprocate.

Part of cult life is not only taking other people's word for it--its getting into a groove of constantly making excuses for disloyal gurus and rationalizing that unreciprocated loyalty as something noble, part of the nondual leela of the universe.

IMO, its crazy making.

Stuart said...

urban tea monk wrote:
> I understand the impulse to
> window-shop and theorize,
> although I think that (in all of
> us) it's merely another delaying
> tactic

Exploring the world around me, questioning and wondering, that's what I do.

> at some point, we really do need
> to drop it.

Why drop it? If I stopped exploring and questioning, what else would I do instead?

> since you've been around seekers
> for over twenty years, it
> strikes me as unusual that you'd
> require yet more raw data to
> satisfy a curiosity about guru-
> group dynamics

I'm guessing that my curiosity will last till the day I die. The world is so complex and ever-changing, especially when we look into the dynamics of human relationships, and attempts to take up the great questions of life.

If I ever think that I've got it all figured out, that I'm done with exploring and wondering... that's when I'll start worrying!

Stuart

yomamma said...

my Da story is this , I know a man who wrote a well received book about a Zen Master. He was approached by the Da Organization to write a book about Da. When he visited them they wouldn't leave him alone or let him talk to anyone they didn't want him to talk to. He didn't write the book, his conclusion was "they have lost all perspective"
I would like to also introduce a new thread that Stuart can do what he wishes with , it seems to fit here for now. it is with great dismay that i read over at Guruphiliac words of praise for Chidvilasananda. (Muktanadas successor ) She has taken some kind of sabatical so that proves she is trying to remedy the long standing issues of that community and may be a worthy ru.
I didn't comment on Philiacs blog because the thread was already so long and strange.
It is often said that , the faults in a spiritual organization are not that of the guru , but of the gurus followers (of course!) But I say phooey to this , I think the Guru is very much responsible for setting the tone and behavior of sangha. and if they don't want that responsibility they shouldn't be gurus/teachers/roshis/rimpoches what have you. Many of these industrial strength gurus are selling huge amounts of product, they have a responsibility to the consumers of these products. If many of these devotee/consumers are disgruntled I believe there is probably a very good reason for it. and I would n't dismiss them out of hand. I would say caveat emptor before jumping on Chiddy's bang bang bandwagon. It's probably the same old song.

Stuart said...

yomamma wrote:
> it is with great dismay that i
> read over at Guruphiliac words
> of praise for Chidvilasananda.
> (Muktanadas successor )

It's indeed puzzling why Chidvilasananda, aka Gurumayi, retains any popularity. Maybe it's due to superficial factors such as her physical attractiveness, or the pleasant ashram atmosphere (nice gardens, statues, incense, tinkly music and all).

But no need to get distressed about such things these days. A few years back, we needed to worry about innocent, unsuspecting aspirants falling for incompetent gurus. The beauty of the internet is that now, anyone who makes the slightest effort can get the real scoop on spiritual teachers and organizations. The info is available on many sites and discussion groups.

So buyer beware. We're putting the truth out there, and that's all we can or need to do.

yomamma said...

i agree the net is great, so I do get distressed when a site that presumes to bust gurus so easily glances over decades of serious allegations related to SYDA, with a gushy puff piece.

Anonymous said...

Stuart wrote:

"A few years back, we needed to worry about innocent, unsuspecting aspirants falling for incompetent gurus.

"The beauty of the internet is that now, anyone who makes the slightest effort can get the real scoop on spiritual teachers and organizations. The info is available on many sites and discussion groups."

Stuart is right. The internet is a wonderful resource.

But...there is a very interesting problem.

Many seekers have the net right at their fingertips but do NOT use the net at the beginning of their search to fact check spiritual leaders or groups.

For fun, look at the groups offering meditation classes on Craigslist. Then, run some Google checks on these groups--at least those who give their names.

A significant percentage turn out to be fronts for entities that have generated harm reports.

It is essential to fact check any guru, because it is a legally unregulated profession. There is NO quallity control.

There are laws against failing to meet the legally defined standard of care if one is a physician, a licensed therapist. But the profession of guru is unregulated. There is no County Guru Society one can go to for complaints.

You are on your own and have to use your powers of dicernment and today that includes using the Internet. You cant just take a friend or relative's word for it--that person may have been seduced or hasnt bothered to do the necessary fact checking. So..you need to do it.

It should become basic reflex to fact check any guru, wilderness retreat, meditation group or human potential deal before attending, just as we would know to update knowlege of safe sex and pack a few condoms before going for a night on the town, if that's what one happens to desire.

Its as though many seekers ditch adult awareness and adopt a fuzzy-happy mood of blind trustfulness in which one denies there is any such thing as risk. One takes on a childish heedlessness--while retaining access to one's adult bank account. There must be something pleasant about this state of mind, but it leaves us exploitable.

And if you have a large social scene full of persons in this state of mind--it is going to attract sharks and has. Go read guruphiliac and rickross.com and Sarlos Guru Rating service.

Anyone in this state of wilful naivete is ripe for exploitation. Sadly they may hate it if you try to tell them this--and instead, listen eagerly to those who would lull them sweetly asleep and then rip them off.

In many sectors of what I call the seeker's circuit, there is also a fascinating double standard.

According to that double standard, it is praiseworhty to do consumer research & fact check before making a big ticket purchase such as a mortagage, a new laptop, or automobile.


Back to the double standard.

Yet it is considered cynical, negative minded and an impediment to one's spiriutal development to do that same kind of consumer research on a guru or group!

(Here is another fun manifestiona of hte double stanard: Many of the gurus who urge devotees to become childish and trustful, at the very same time arrange to hire accountants and attorneys who, to serve the guru's business and legal interests, use the kind of analytic and strategic thinking that devotees are told to devalue!)

Gurus and groups are indeed responsible for their use and abuse of devotee's trust. But I think there is something about certain portions of the seekers circuit or what John Horgan (journalist)has termed the 'enlightenment industry' that actually functions to devalue a quality that is considered essential in all the great spiritual traditions: 'viveka'--aka 'discernment' or 'discrimination.'

The portions of the seekers circuit that are hazardous romanticize power imbalance and make it priviliged and forbid conscoius relationship to it--calling it crazy wisdom or a manifestion of enlightened activity that seems exploitative to undeveloped minds, but really is not.

I call it 'Eating shit and saying it is sugar.'

This social context is not itself a cult, but forms a 'nutrient medium' that, by devaluing adult critical thinking, and by fostering childish regression to gullibility actually empowers any exploitative leader or group that go fishing in that particular pond.

Yomomma wrote:

"I think the Guru is very much responsible for setting the tone and behavior of sangha. and if they don't want that responsibility they shouldn't be gurus/teachers/roshis/rimpoches what have you. Many of these industrial strength gurus are selling huge amounts of product, they have a responsibility to the consumers of these products."

Amen!

This is another tip off that one is in the high risk/abuse-supportive portion of the seeker's circuit:

The tip off is when you run into subtle arguments that the guru has NO responsibility for the well being of the devotees who have empowered him/her by trusting that guru's teachings and who have enriched that guru by giving their own time, treasure, talent---and by recruiting others to become devotees.

If people have made you rich and influential, and have done so by trusting your advice and by purchasing your products and contributing to your support--you,the guru, owe them care and concern by NOT leading them into harms way.

To me, the central feature of any form of exploitation is unreciprocated loyalty.

Many times, we find the guru is incapable of reciprocating the loyalty and concern shown by the devotees.

When devotees feel betrayed by this, they are sneered at and told their own valid emotions are evidence of thier ingratitude.

It is so ghastly and raw to feel betrayed that many of us cant stand to admit we've been screwed.

Some who have been betrayed by gurus will insist that this is necessary for one's spiritual development, or it isnt betrayal at all, but is actually crazy wisdom, or that in the realm of the nondual, there is no such thing as betrayal, and anyone who feels wounded is weak, childish and unworthy.

This kind of cruel rationalization is a classic coping strategy for those who have been grievously wounded and who cant bear to face, consciously, the rawness of their own experience.

(If you want a great example of the lengths to which this rationalization can be carried, go to the Daism forum on Lightgate

http://www.lightgate.net/boards/viewforum.php?f=7&sid=05eaa455354e85b645f0685dc10e6c7c

and read the endless rationalizations by 'richlip'.

For a more sophisticated rationalization that abuse is good for you if perpetrated by a tough guru, read this.

http://www.globalserve.net/~sarlo/Ywilber.htm

This endorsement of 'rude boy gurus' is especially interesting because to me it shows contempt for care and kindness.

To all gurus, human development entrepreneurs:

No matter how much people deny it, anyone wielding power has accountability--especially to those who have enriched you by purchasing your books, products, contributing to ashram support, and who have empowered you by landscaping thier inner lives according to your advice.

servan said...

The Da thing is interesting in that at its core the teaching is (as pointed out) logically incoherent, but that does not stop some following it. Many want someone to save them, and they will drop discernment for it. How logical is the christian story? But the blind alleys are teachers none the less. Yeh if you can gently help someone out of the alley before they hit the wall that would be cool..

Stuart said...

servan said...
Many want someone to save them, and they will drop discernment for it. How logical is the christian story?

Years ago, I watched a cheesy old horror movie, in which the mad scientist had stolen the corpse of a murderer who'd been executed, re-animated it, and the monster of course went on a rampage. When the earnest reporter tried to alert the police to what was going on, they scoffed, "Who's going to believe that a man could die and then come back to life??"

The answer (not in the actual movie, the viewer must insert it himself) is "Only a few billion Christians!"

But the blind alleys are teachers none the less. Yeh if you can gently help someone out of the alley before they hit the wall that would be cool..

Exactly. Even a 10 steps backwards is a step forward. Anything is permitted, anything is an opportunity to understand ourselves and help others.

Here's the "bone" of the matter as I see it now. The general direction of growth seems to be from blind dependence (e.g., someone following a guru and parrotting whatever beliefs he tells them to have) towards more independence (perceiving through your unique perspective and offering your unique gifts).

When someone is wobbling at one of the gateways in this path towards believing in themselves, it's nice to give them a little encouragement to help them through. That's all.

servan said...

not logical in its doctrine as in.. you have free will but you go to hell if you sin.. or god is all powerful but struggles with the devil.. or god got it wrong and made us all broken, 'in sin' so had to send his son to fix it..

I think its all metaphor but has been taken literally.

Stuart said...

servan said...
not logical in its doctrine as in.. you have free will but you go to hell if you sin..

Sure, there's no end to the illogical doctrines that you could choose to cling to.

Instead of holding doctrines like that, we could look to the Truth that's already appeared in front of us: The sky is blue, the grass is green, sugar is sweet, and a dog goes "woof!"

Anonymous said...

you should check out the website at www.adidaarchives.org for a large amount of information on the hidden life of Adi Da aka
Da Free John, a very abusive guru.

Stuart said...

Anony wrote...
you should check out the website at www.adidaarchives.org

Big thanks, anony. This site looks like a great resource for anyone looking into criticisms of Adi Da. I've updated this blog posting to include a link to these archives at the end.

Anonymous said...

emm... thank you for this thread.

Anonymous said...

Netter Beitrag