Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Impeach Buddha!

I like to keep up with Guruphiliac, a site dedicated to exposing bullshit in the spiritual subculture. I resonate with that blog because, since childhood, I’ve always liked to question whatever other people hold holy or sacred. In the process, I've gotten tons of grief for not being sufficiently reverent. It’s a relief when I find someone who can outflank me on the irreverence front, and Guruphiliac fits the bill.

(Case in point... most commentators swoon over "Hugging Saint" Ammachi. Who could say a critical word about a simple Indian lady who offers motherly hugs to all and sundry, in grand programs around the world lasting for hours? Yet in a recent Guruphiliac posting, webmaster Jody makes it clear that he ain't drinking that Kool-Aid: "Just because she puts on a good show doesn't mean she's not a diva bitch when she gets off the stage.")

In that same comments section, nublet claims a wisdom dimension to the Ammachi phenom, making comparison to the immensely popular Indian teacher Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950): “The unimpeachable advaitan Ramana Maharshi had an utterly unfettered devotional streak that many modern non-dualists would presumably find quite embarrassing. Do I need to post some of this or are you already aware?”

Here's what strikes me, and motivates this blog posting. Isn't it strange to rely on an authority when speaking about non-dual Truth? It’s like… if you want to know how many fingers there are on a human being’s hand, one way would be to Google that question, and doubtlessly you'd find an authoritative site that’d supply the answer. But that’d be ridiculous, since anyone, any time, can look at their own hands and count for themselves. Likewise, anyone who wants to understand Truth can just pay attention to whatever they’re perceiving and doing right now. How bizarre to suggest we rely on some dead Indian guy to know what Truth is!

Hell, I dunno, maybe Ramana was adorable, walking around half-naked and saying all sorts of cute stuff about the nature of reality. But when we fall into the belief that Truth is the property of a special person, it hinders our real job of attending to this moment. How could we possibly connect with what we’re doing right now, if we think there’s a bigger Truth somewhere else?

Nublet called Ramana “unimpeachable.” Dammit, I say that everything and everyone is impeachable. The dictum is well-known: If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha; if you meet an eminent teacher, kill the eminent teacher.

It may seem that putting nice folks like Ramana and Ammachi on pedestals is an innocent thing. Well, it’s OK if that’s what you want, but there’s a price. As soon as we make that tiny distinction and believe that a special Sage knows more about Reality than we do… then heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

5 comments:

yomamma said...

dictum eh???? Isn't that a Tom Verlaine song? it's definition authotatative pronounmentor judicial assertion, or maybe it's just a saying. Usually when people speak of meeting their guru it isn't a rational thought process that leads them there ,it probably more psycho-karmic. they have some kind of shaktipot (or they desparately want it) experience and they aren't likley to want to consult mundane sources after that.it's like your mom and friends may tell you he's no good for you but do you listen? no!!!! the opening one goes through leaves one vulnerable.
In a way it makes no sense, you go through a great spiritual opening and then you join an oppressive cult??or you become a tiresome pundit blathering away about everything ,trying to influence oppressive cults.

wheather you sit zazen or chant a mantra you are training your mind in some way, hopefully to see the truth more clearly from a less conditioned place, spiritual groups would ideally support and trust this process, not be so concerned with mindcontrol and scolding. rules and regulations. but instead they exploit it , and convince you that only a guru can show you anything.

I have observed, because i have a sibling that belongs to what i think of as a cult ,( though as cults go it is very low-key,) that people really want to control who they are around, what thoughts they think, What IDEAS (this is really scary) they are exposed to. They are guided in what to think and feel. , you can't sustain the high of your communal godlove or beleif system if you don't restrict thought.and this can masquerade as a spiritual practice, because it apes other types of practice. So it seems a price people are willing to pay but then it ends up being deeply heirarchacal ,only about the power of and individual teacher or god-man. An enforced type of spirituallity., and very seductive .
if you have participated in a political group, multi level marketing, any number of new age or alternative systems you have probably experienced a version of this. And I can only surmise, and this too is something that i have observed , is that it works really well for some people, those who get or keep power and or money through system, but the pramid can drop of steeply after that.leaving the rest to pay the bills and do the work who.
By the way i consider myself to be a Bhakti Skeptic. The devotional tendency in humankind is a very powerful tool and can help us to see wisdom.and know truth.and i think at bottom of all teachings surrender is the truth.My credo is I'm willing to look at anything and see if i can use it. devotional non-duel , whatever, thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

Its not a particular guru or teacher that's the real trap.

Its the Guru Idea itself. Gurus are just interchangeable units thorugh which the Guru Idea is acted out.

You see people getting horribly burned by a particular guru, and then, instead of questioning why they craved to look up to someone, they often go and substitute another guru.

Some who have been grievously wounded by living gurus think they are safe by giving their trust to gurus who are deceased and have sterling reputations, such as Ramana Maharshi.

But they're still inmates of the Guru Idea, because they cant yet step out of the confines of the power imbalance that is inside their heads, pre-formatting how they structure reality and relationships.

There is a Microsoft Word function called templates. You can create a template for a letter by pre-progamming a document in such a way that one field will automatically structure your typed words as the date, then jump the text to the opening line. You can specify which fields of that document template will be in bold face and which in normal text.

In the fields that are pre-formatted to be boldface, you just type something and it automatically goes boldface.

That's pre-formatting. Before you even type stuff in, its set up to appear a particular way on the page. You dont know it untless you turn on a special function called 'View All' in MS Word that shows you in dotted lines, how the fields actually exist on a page that looks blank when in 'normal view'.

Unless we can find an equivalent of 'View All' and apply it to our inner lives and begin to see how we have pre-formatted areas of reactivity that consist of the Guru Idea, we will never know the extent to which we are already in the first stages of being un-free before we've left teh house and met our first guru.

The Guru Idea is still a trap, whether its an abusive living guru like Adi Da or Andrew Cohen, or a sweet wise guru who is safetly dead and no longer capable of dis-illusioning someone, like Ramana Maharshi.

My favorite personal metaphor is,
they're still handcuffs whether forged from cold steel or crafted from gold and studded with diamonds.

Stuart said...

Anony wrote:
Gurus are just interchangeable units thorugh which the Guru Idea is acted out... You see people getting horribly burned by a particular guru, and then, instead of questioning why they craved to look up to someone, they often go and substitute another guru.

Thanks, Anony. I know a number of people who did this, by leaving Muktananda into the arms of Ammachi, or in more subtle ways.

It's better understood, for instance, that a man may have issues with his mother, so he marries a woman who reminds him of his mother and continues to play out those same issues. At some point, he realizes that it may be more efficient to look into his own mind-set, rather than trying to solve his problems by changing his wife or mother.

I'm amused and entertained by stories of Guru scandals... but as far as real benefits... I'd agree that it's more interesting to look into one's own need for an authority, rather than focusing on the evils of this or that guru.

Stuart

Anonymous said...

Stuart wrote:

but as far as real benefits... I'd agree that it's more interesting to look into one's own need for an authority, rather than focusing on the evils of this or that guru.

Yep, that's the truth. Though people may need to examine different parts of the picture depending on where they are at.

If you've recognized you are in a bad group, and especially if its the first bad guru set up you've been in, you may first need to study the problems of that specific group so you can deconstruct its hold and get out of the clutches of the group.

But...the next step, asking 'Why did I want Authority itself to dominate me,not just the particular authority fugure of Guru X, but Authority Itself--why did I get off on the Guru Idea itself?'

That is a much harder thing to examine, because it requires suffiently deep insight to examine the preformatting and reactivity of your mind--not just the contents of your mind, but the pre-formatting behind and beneath the contents.

Here is another problem: many of us get involved with groups hoping to become capable of refining our conscious awareness, but the groups, intead of teachign us to activate the 'View All' function and examine the preformatting of our conscious awareness instead act to get us trapped and focused on the Guru Idea and then on Guru X.

Other groups teach a high level of insight in relation to certain areas--but do it in such a way as to subtly train disciples never, ever to apply that same level of insight to Guru X or to the Guru Idea.

If you dare de-contruct the Guru Idea, you alsolose a point of connection with many, many people, some of whom you may be fond of--and who may reject you if you dare to apply 'View All' function to the Guru Idea itself.

There are huge, huge sectors of the seekers scene in which glue bonding it together is a shared fascination with the Guru Idea.

Anyone who examines that GI rather than being an inmate of the Guru Idea is not a member of the tribe. You feel like a dog among cats.

And, that can be painful.

Stuart said...

the groups, intead of teachign us to activate the 'View All' function ... instead act to get us trapped and focused on the Guru Idea ...

When I was a child, I absorbed the idea that life was all about getting good stuff, good status, good relationships, etc. Y'know, things in the objective world. That idea was the air that I breathed, so I didn't even notice it.

As a young adult, I began to seek enlightenment. The benefit of that seeking was that it freed me from the previous unexamined idea that life must be about getting something in the external world. The down-side was that it replaced it with an unexamined idea that life must be about getting some special mind-state. It's like a medicine that cures one disease while creating another. Not bad, but wanting to get anything is still a problem.

If you dare de-contruct the Guru Idea, you also lose a point of connection with many, many people, some of whom you may be fond of--and who may reject you if you dare to apply 'View All' function to the Guru Idea itself.

It varies... some people are more drawn to a Guru group by the ideas it offers about enlightenment etc, while others more by the social aspect of being part of an in-group.

Certainly, there were a few people whom I thought of as real friends when I was in the ashram, who wouldn't return my calls when my beliefs were no longer in lock-step with theirs.

I remember my cousin, a college prof, telling me that religion is basically a sociological phenomenon. He hastened to add that that didn't mean it was bad or trivial (he loved opera, and considered that a sociological pehnomenon too). At the time he told me, it pissed me off; I thought he completely missed what enlightenment etc is about. But now I kinda see his point.