Sunday, March 20, 2005

A Reflection from Christopher Titmuss

Dear What Enlightenment Bloggers,

I received from you details of your website and had a careful read through it.  I knew Andrew in the early 1980's as a serious student of mine until he met Poonja-ji and I know some of the senior students referred to in your website. I recall from Andrew's autobiography that, as a student, he became disillusioned with his past teachers, including his yoga teacher, myself over a misunderstanding on a retreat in India, and he had a complete falling out with Poonja-ji. An increasing number of Andrew's students are disillusioned with Andrew as a teacher. Is there a certain karmic justice here that we can all learn from?

After reading it through, I do feel that your website has struck a balance between the search for mutual understanding, such as the article 'To Heal One is to Heal All,' and direct criticism.  Not easy. Teachers tend to fall from grace. Our immortality becomes mortal, whether it's power, money or, as in my case and others, the amorous and loving encounter. As years go by, students develop two inner strengths, namely wisdom and confidence. If students are seeing clearly, then their clarity will reveal both past and present, and have the confidence to express what they experience and know. The student finds her or his voice that invites one expression of the embrace of the Non-Dual (namely teacher and student). One hopes as a teacher and servant of the Dharma, that students will learn from both the wisdom and
foolishness of the teacher, the kindness and reactivity of the teacher.

We, who are in the privileged position of teaching, must never forget that the clear and the unclear within are merely a thought apart. Your website provides a service since it makes those of us who live in the rarefied realms, called a spiritual teacher, accountable to those we serve. I know very well. I've attended a few meetings with students and co-teachers, some of whom I made teachers. At times, they pulled me over the hot coals because of a romantic event years ago or some things I have written or spoken about. Unfortunately, inner pain and fear hide beneath aggression and that makes it harder for you to find reconciliation with Andrew who, judging from your reports, still seems to have an unconscious need to belittle people.

All credit to those of you who speak up. In a certain way, it is a kind of backhanded compliment to Andrew that his students do speak up. Isn't that an emphasis in his teaching? He should be proud of you all! Some may contribute to your website from outside the story; others are still inside of it. If one has moved outside the story totally, then you express an authentic freedom of the Non-Dual (realising the dependent arising of so-called 'self 'and 'other'), and a seeing through the fictional mind set that give substance to the ultimately insubstantial; and that surely is the heart of any worthwhile teaching.

If students who have left Andrew write from a place of reaction, faultfinding, and blame, then consciousness is still embroiled in the story and still hooked emotionally into Andrew's inner world. Such students will be revealing echoes within themselves of the very criticism levelled at Andrew - namely negative and apparently dehumanising treatment. Those who point the accusing finger at another should remember they have three fingers pointed at themselves. Hopefully your contributors, whether anonymous or not, remember to look within themselves, even if your former teacher cannot.

In the Dharma,
Christopher Titmuss


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, WHAT enlightenment has published an article of depth, insight and courage. Thank you for your ongoing investigation.
- an appreciative reader

Monday, 21 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to echo the above comments. This site is necessary and could not have been done with more balance and compassion. Thank-you!

Just two days ago I was reading Christopher's Dharma E-news newsletter and found this:


ENLIGHTENMENT BLUES. MY YEARS WITH AN AMERICAN GURU. By Andre van der Braak. Published by Monkfish Book Publishing Company, Rhinebeck, USA. $16.95

To Monkfish Book Publishing.
Thank you for sending me a copy of Enlightenment Blues, a bit of an understatement for a title. Perhaps it should be called Dark Night of Enlightenment. As requested, I have written a response.

a). Comment on 'What is Enlightenment?' magazine.

As you advised, I looked at to read the numerous comments and reviews of Andre van der Braak's account of his 11 years as a student of Andrew Cohen. I also read what Ken Wilbur has to say in the Amazon reviews. While finding Ken's sophisticated explorations on spiritual evolution thoughtful reading, I was a little bemused with his enthusiasm for the magazine, 'What is Enlightenment' (an insightful publication that Andrew and his students founded).
Ken claims the magazine is 'slaughtering sacred cows.' 'deeply courageous' and asking 'hard questions' etc. I have a somewhat different perception. As far as I hear, "What is Enlightenment' excludes the significant teachings of Poonja-ji, Ganga-ji and other 'enlightened' teachers from the Lucknow stable, as well as colleagues such as the influential Jack Kornfield, and others who Andrew has a long-standing issue with. When WIE publishes teachings on their merit, not on inter-personal issues, then we might speak of the courage of WIE. For surely enlightenment challenges a censorship defined by the selective memory of the editor.
(I remember in the late 1960's working as a hack reporter for a daily newspaper in the Australian Outback. One night, the editor of our newspaper got blind drunk - refusing to accept the bar was closed so he and his drinking mate began lobbing glasses at the metal shield pulled down in front of the bar. My editor got arrested, put in the gaol for the night, and convicted. He insisted I wrote the court story for the front page of his paper. It could be considered as an impersonally enlightened attitude from the editor. He certainly won the respect of the news room. Enlightenment Blues deserves to be reviewed in a spiritual magazine that slaughters sacred cows, asks hard questions and is deeply courageous).

b) Review of Enlightenment Blues.
I read the responses to the book both on the back jacket and on the inside page. They share much in common with the Amazon reviews in terms of their perception and strong, understandable concerns of the dynamics of Andrew and his spiritual organisation. Of course, we have heard these stories before, and I have heard a number firsthand in the 18 years that Andrew has been teaching. The power of the book is its quiet, incisive description of the author's 11 years with Andrew. In Buddhist terms, it is an account of the First Noble Truth of Suffering, of the distressing inter-personal dynamics of Master and follower where power clung to and power given to generate a duality of control, fear, mistrust, and, at times, profound despair and subsequent withdrawal. I had the feeling reading the book that any reactivity from the author has been skilfully edited out so the book isn't a polemic about Andrew, but an attempt to give an honest account of events over the years.
The comments confirms the book has struck a chord as former students wish to share their experiences but I get the feeling some old students and others fail to understand the humanity of Andrew. I feel concern for him. He has identified himself strongly with the tough guy image, a kind of hard-hitting Frank Tyson of the spiritual world. Emotionally, he is not suited to be the strict, no nonsense kind of teacher. It is foolish to compare him with the classical Zen Master or the uncompromising Achariya living in the forest.
Although a teacher of Non-Duality, Andrew appears trapped in the nightmare of duality - such as himself and others, liberation and ego, impersonal and personal enlightenment, master-follower, perfection and imperfection, Absolute Oneness and evolving universe. He told me a few years ago in Bodh Gaya that he woke up every morning in pain for months after he broke off his relationship with his teacher, Poonja-ji, who he publicly condemned. ‘My Master is Myself" – the title of his first book, with its litany of ego massaging statements in both directions – became a year or two later in everyday reality ‘my Master is not myself.’
It would be all too easy to read Enlightenment Blues and use it to slag off Andrew. And that is the danger of the book. While the book deserves credit for offering the potential to raise hard questions, it may not take us further in our understanding, except to encourage spiritual aspirants to keep clear of situations where there appears to be unresolved issues around power, beliefs and projections in a group committed to spiritual exploration. It would be also easy to endlessly psychoanalyse the mutual dependency issues of Andrew and his followers but, frankly, I regard it as a peripheral issue, except for the suffering.
All the reviewers seem to be coming from much the same level of concern. One has to cut much deeper than that. For example, it seems to me that from the onset that Andrew and his students agreed consciously and unconsciously to some kind of transcendent norm in Andrew's possession called 'enlightenment' or, as Andrew would also say 'Absolute Oneness." In the name of this transcendent norm, Andrew acts as the knower of Absolute Oneness who defines what enlightenment is and the students (not knowing what it is) submit to the definition. Both Master and followers have reified this mental construction and lived out of it.
I believe that this approach reduces Truth to that which is conceived of, and consequently the one who defines enlightenment produces a narrow spiritual orthodoxy. Enlightenment has become restricted to the mind set of the leader and outside of that, some students feel that there is only the mediocrity of secular life, banal existence and the triviality of ego. Hence another duality - of being with Andrew or leaving him. I regard both the spiritual and the secular as mundane, painfully so.
Hopefully, Enlightenment Blues will not lead to a further haemorrhage of Andrew's disillusioned students. I hope Andrew and his students will sit down together to engage in some hard questioning about what they urgently need to acknowledge. There is sound wisdom in the feedback from seasoned voices in Western spirituality and the book reflects one common concern. WIE needs to engage in some soul-searching as well. I believe that Andrew has much to offer as a teacher in many areas. I'm glad he is around. He is a dedicated spiritual teacher and, frankly, I support his unapologetic criticism of some of the lightweight teachers found in the Buddhist tradition. But Andrew has to understand that he is an outsider to the Buddhist tradition so it is unlikely that any Buddhist teachers will take any notice of him. That’s why he didn’t last very long teaching in Bodh Gaya.
I believe genuine enlightenment can remain hidden from those who cling to the notion of some transcendent norm and the 'knower' of it, remains hidden from the pursuers of it, and equally hidden from those who settle for devotion to the soul murdering mundanity of work, money and pleasure existence. I regard a transcendent norm, an enlightened self and evolution as the stuff of the conceiving mind. As teachers and students, we have to learn to understand the sun of enlightenment can embrace the passing clouds of our humanness.
If we blindly hand over power, either to a spiritual leader or to a secular/scientific belief system (or rely upon our 'self'), then enlightenment will continue to be a secret - firmly out of reach and obscured through our unwise investment in authority, inwardly or outwardly.
To look inwardly or outwardly for enlightenment is to be looking in the wrong direction. Not to look is utterly irresponsible, a waste of a human beings precious existence.
When this is understood in the guts of our being, it will put an end to enlightenment blues. The end of the search becomes a clear liberation. The conceiving mind is finished with. Perhaps then, and only then, are we ready to speak about waking up.

Monday, 21 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm kinda mixed up. I thought this was a blog to discuss Andrew Cohen's abuse of his students and a place for the students to heal. A place to see how we were complicit with Andrew and take responsibility and move on. We are getting a lot of outsiders' concepts of enlightenment; kinda like everyone's in competition for
'Who's the real spiritual teacher amongst us?' and is going to take over for Andrew as spiritual leader.
And we have people who never lived in the community passing judgment. As if they could ever know what went on.
I am grateful for this blog as a place for me to go (as a former student of Andrew) to heal. The last thing I need is Andrew replacements trying to tell me how to think.

Monday, 21 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Titmuss pretty much reinforced and summarized what many of us posters have said already. Take a look at some of the older postings. Very little new information was conveyed by Mr. Titmuss. I am puzzled as to his motives and intent in posting with us.

Monday, 21 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given the rich variety of perspectives that people are commenting from I am surprised how on-topic the contributions remain.

Raising a warning flag to other seekers who have been attracted to Andrew's teaching is of great significance to a wider public.

Seekers who have been damaged by other teachers may have a lot of wisdom to offer on finding a path through the healing process.

Tuesday, 22 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog is for students who were abused; to share their stories and hopefully gain necessary support in overcoming their pain, healing and moving on.

Mr. Titmuss's intent with his reflections were to remain on a middle path, but he did deter from same on several points.

Twice he mentions his romantic, amorous, loving encounter equating it with a fall from immortality into mortality. How sad this is. God is Love, and what a gift for Mr. Titmuss to have experienced love in a personal way. We are human after all.

Tuesday, 22 March, 2005  
Anonymous Peggy Gillespie said...

Dear Friends,
I was a member of Andrew's community in the early days when he first came to America in Amherst, MA and then briefly in Cambridge. My late husband was as well. We knew many of the people who have left, as well as some who are still in the community in Foxhollow. I knew Luna, Andrew's mom, quite well, and her departure was a catalyst (among many other reasons) for me to leave this community. Back then, the abuses were less dramatic (no slapping, no ice cold lake baths) but equally damaging. The verbal abuse was stunningly awful, but when we were in the community, it was always justified as a kind of tough love for the "serious" student and you were a jerk, a wimp, a baby if you left or questioned anything. Andrew's clear narcissism and need to dominate and control were already well in view at that time, and his charisma was enough for a brief while, for me, to make me accept his abuse and consider it something positive. I am sad to hear of his progression into more severe abuses of power, and sorry for the damage this has caused many vulnerable students.

Fortunately, I wasn't in the community all that long (around a year) that although I felt saddened and disillusioned by this experience with Andrew, it was fairly easy to let go and return to spiritual practice with non-gurus such as his former teachers at IMS who know how dangerous his teachings can be.

I am not surprised to see how his power has corrupted his teaching even further, as he was completely enthralled with his power and his control over his students back in 1987. This is not new as those of you who read Andre's book discovered.

It is easy to feel blissful in his presence and to justify anything when you are in the community. Doubt and questioning are seen as wrong-headed weakness. The Guru Papers helped me understand all of what I had gone through. And when Luna left and was literally called a demon, I knew it was time to cut free of what I then and now called a destructive cult.

The saddest personal part of this is that two of my dearest lifetime friends remain in this community, and when I hear about his abusive behavior--slapping, ridiculing people, approval of President Bush and bombing Iraq (how can any spiritual teacher of any wisdom approve of that?), ice cold lake baths, and his self-importance, I feel so troubled for my friends and wish that there still were those deprogammers who could get them out of the community. Of course they will say they are happy and want to stay (assuming they still are) but is there anything I can do to help them get the help they need to get out of there. One of these friends works at WIE and has been with Andrew since 1986. She and I were best friends (sisters) since we were 7 years old, for 35 years. She used to believe in questioning authority, in finding answers within herself. She was a staff member at IMS and knew what spiritual friends these teachers could be. I still dream of freeing her from this brainwashed existence.

I am so glad that I was able to get free of his teaching relatively fast and have found my life to be full of challenges, as all lives are, but with a renewed sense of the possibility for freedom and enlightenment that is only hampered by following a person as unbalanced and sadly narcissistic as
Andrew Cohen. I wish him peace and kindness, that he may rediscover within himself compassion and morality.

Peggy Gillespie
(social worker, author, journalist)

Tuesday, 22 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Andrew's...need to dominate and control..."(quoted from Peggy Gillespie).

Why does one go to a Spiritual Master? Presumably to ask for help to find something one has not yet discovered (and wants) from a person who one senses knows/has discovered what one is looking for. Then, when we insist on our own way, and the Master tries to point out where we are off-base, we complain that the Master is obsessed with a need to control and dominate. There's something unwholesome and weird about this picture.

Tuesday, 22 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The above poster is in severe need of a cult exit counsellor. :)

Tuesday, 22 March, 2005  
Anonymous One said...

This blog is a wonderful example of how we humans process and re-structure information so that it fits with our view. The previous post says "and the Master tries to point out where we are off-base". Amazing that the mind can take all the examples of physical, emotional, spiritual and financial abuse outlined in this blog and translate them into "the Master ties to point out where we are off-base", adding that complaining about this abuse is "something unwholesome and weird".

Tuesday, 22 March, 2005  
Anonymous Mario Puljiz said...

I agree with the previous two comments and thank Peggy for a heartfelt and honest letter that many of Andrew Cohen's ex-students such as myself would agree with. I feel that his need to dominate, his self importance and steady refusal to appreciate the yin/feminine principle have attracted him a lot of deserved criticism. And gotten better of him too as his shadow has, at least in the way I see it, now overgrown a genuine insight and experience that the man once had. I hope that he will have sufficient humility to understand his human fallibilities in a way all of us have to in our everyday life.

I think that we can only be humbled by our mistakes made during the time spent with Cohen and thankful for whatever each of us learnt throughout that period. I believe it is that love and compassion within all of us that is the ultimate healer and I also believe that an honest and loving assessment of Andrew Cohen's or our own failures is too a tremendously important part of that healing process.

Mario Puljiz
London NW6

Tuesday, 22 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I find amazing is the lack commonsense from some of the posters. Like where is you head at man (naïve bozo 3-4 posts back), masters don’t dump paint on people, throw garbage on their beds, smear blood, slap faces, coerce money, verbally abuse, forced visits to prostitutes. If a psychiatrist did it I suspect you would condemn them, this aint any form of wisdom its just plain abuse, its not crazy wisdom its just stupid……… and for what purpose ? Can you imagine if these methods gained wider popularity ? Sorry son your showing to much ego , Wack !!!!! now go to your room and clean the garbage off the bed and tell your sister she can come in from the snow. The American guru system and the private communities, whats their purpose ? Is this an integral model that can be applied to evolve humanity ? Should we divide humanity up and get them to live in communities like this ? Will it make the world a better place ? Where is the love and compassion in all this, concepts central to every single one of the worlds great religions and philosophies through the ages, concepts central to enlightenment.

Well I am fabulous public speaker, pretty charismatic as well, and ive got a better knowledge of Eastern and Western philosophies than the Andrew “Mr Wedgie” Cohen. So how about I grab a bag of eastern concepts, emptiness, nothing , infinite universe and creation, intent, grasping, evolution and just simplify it for those looking for fast food enlightenment .

There is context for crazy wisdom in many of the great traditions, even face slapping!, for twelve years, Tilopa gave Naropa a series of demanding trials, which caused him a great deal of mental and physical suffering. Tilopa’s teachings were intended to destroy Naropa’s ego. After twelve years of this intense training, Tilopa told Naropa that he was ready to offer the much sought after oral instructions and demanded an offering. Naropa, having nothing, offered Tilopa his own fingers and blood. After Tilopa collected the fingers, he hit Naropa on the face with a dirty sandal and Naropa instantly lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness, he directly perceived the ultimate truth, the suchness of all reality and his fingers were restored. Naropa subsequently received all of the teachings and became a realised Siddha.

The face slapping occurred after 12 years of demanding trials and practice, that 12 years was preceded by 12 years of mastering the Buddha’s teachings. That’s 24 years of disciplined practice and study before his guru Tilopa slapped his face and Naropa became enlightened. If Naropa had met Andrew he could have saved all that hard work and suffering and become instantly enlightened. In fact I sit here in my study pondering the walls of books and Im thinking I need my face slapped as well !, what was I thinking, all that study, all that mediation, its all been a waste of time , all I needed was an airticket and to offer my cheek to the the man in the brown velvet suit.

This guy aint realized he’s a charlatan, a mimic, a plagerist, a method actor with an oil rig drilling the wisdom of the ages for his own egootic benefit, it’s the absolute dilution of the great eastern philosophies, his teachings have no communion, nor agency , nor lineage, nor originality. I challenge anyone to point to any originality in his work, show me a new idea and I will tell you where he got it.

Would jesus or buddha swap their bowls for a Volvo Turbo? Would Ramana publish a magazine ? Would Aurobindo support the invasion of Iraq ? Would Lao Tzu tip paint all over you? Its all foolishness for those who have lost the ability to discern truth , accept all and reject nothing. Is this really the American Dharma that’s going to guide humanity into the 21st century?.

Craig T

Wednesday, 23 March, 2005  
Anonymous Michael Shannahan said...

I`m writing in case my experience may be of benefit to anyone else who has seen Andrew, and struggled to cope with his message.

I only saw Andrew a few times over the space of a few weeks in 1990, but my experiences had a profound effect on me. I read his book "My Master is Myself", and then decided to go to California for two weeks, in order to experience this raw energy face to face. As many have found, being around Andrew is not always a comfortable experience, but from what I saw it was because of his powerful assertion, and uncompromising attitude to a spiritual life. My difficulty was that although I felt that I wanted to give myself to his teachings, I seemed unable to do so fully. Others found me stilted and difficult to talk to.

At the end of the two weeks in California I returned to the U.K. and tried to join an unofficial sangha house, but was turned down. Shortly after that Andrew came to England to hold satsang in Devon, and again I went to see him. My head was telling me that this was what I wanted to do, that this was something I could give my life to, that Andrew was truly enlightened, unlike anyone I had ever met before, but my body said no. I got ill trying to force myself to see him, and as a homeopath I felt I needed to listen to my physical reaction. I was terrified of Andrew, or what his teaching meant.

Following that trip to Devon I decided not to see Andrew, but for the next 5 years I was tearing myself apart inside, because I felt that I hadn`t lived up to what my head believed to be a higher path. I couldn`t maintain my self-image as someone who will live the best that he can, because my behaviour wasn`t consistent with that. I couldn`t match my head and my heart, or find any peace of mind. Neither therapists nor friends could help because they couldn`t understand my attraction to Andrew, and those that were seeing him couldn`t understand my difficulties.

After 5 years I had what I would call a `nervous break-up`. My mind could no longer hold my self-image together, so it had to go. I was forced to face my fears. I directly attribute this to my time with Andrew, but it was my problem for which I take responsibility for. I say `break-up` because in facing my fear my self-image has substantially increased, and my heart and mind have found peace with each other, from then till this day 10 years later.

I bear Andrew no ill will, but I have intermittently followed his story, since he played such an important part in mine. I no longer feel the need for his teachings, though I sometimes buy `What is Enlightenment` for some of its articles.

My understanding of my experience raises a few points. Firstly, that I needed Andrew to be the assertive teacher that he was, in order for me to be pushed into feelings that I couldn`t have voluntarily gone into, such as would be the process with an ordinary psychotherapist.

Secondly, that I didn`t `fail` in not living his teaching, I was literally unable to, I couldn`t choose to go that route, my being wouldn`t let me whatever my head thought. I attribute this to what was then unhealed emotional trauma, much as everyone acquires in their lives. To heal it I had to be pushed into it, and be in a sufficiently supportive and caring enviroment to nourish the vulnerable parts of myself that emerged. Even in those days I didn`t feel that the enviroment around Andrew had that sort of compassion, and I think that my being recognised that even if my head didn`t.

Lastly, from my new perspective, I see Andrew in a substantially different way. I still see Andrew as having had a profound realisation, but I don`t believe that realisation resulted in his healing of all of the traumas that he suffered in his childhood, so the realisation is filtered through numerous unresolved issues of his. I do believe he is sincere in his beliefs, but I don`t think he understands all of what has happened to him and his effect on others, which is why his students don`t `get it`. I still think he has much of value to offer this world, he remains a powerful teacher, who can precipitate great changes in his students, but he can`t take them beyond where he has got stuck.

I have not seen what many of you describe on this blog, but I believe it to be possible, that he has verbally, emotionally and physically aggressed against students. To my mind aggression does not arise out of love, it is much more likely to arise out of fear or anger. One of my favourite sayings is that `Truth without Love tends to cruelty, Love without Truth tends to sentimentality, Love makes Truth personal, Truth makes Love robust, courageous and enduring.` It seems to me that Andrew is very strong on the Truth, but lacks sufficient Love, so that his path is unbalanced, and will ultimately block his being able to bring about the changes he would like to see in the world.

Michael Shannahan

Wednesday, 23 March, 2005  
Anonymous John Shehadi said...

Graham Blenk's post appears to try to vindicate Cohen's abuses against students by claiming that his harsh "crazy wisdom" methods work because they repulse and expel those who are "not ready" for enlightenment. Has Michael Shannahan's thoughts about AC's "truth without compassion" been missed here? Assuming for a moment that the revelation of one's unreadiness to live enlightenment is effected by slapping, harsh insults, criticism, and much worse, where is the help for those people? Are they helped, furthered along and encouraged on the path? Or are they consigned for life to believing they are spiritual second-class citizens, daring never to question certain aspects of the guru for fear of being called "negative", a "victim". Andrew has already spoken scathingly on this blog via Craig Hamilton to certain former students raising these questions. Implicit in Mr. Blenk's comment (yet again) is the assumption that guru Cohen really never makes mistakes, and that it's all a matter of "subjective" interpretation. Sounds to me like a license to get away with murder all in the name of truth and enlightenment!

Wednesday, 23 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Graham Blank open your eyes. This blog is far from being negative. The postings testify to same if you look at all of them before passing judgment.

It is unfair to attack the students. You were evidently not one of the abused so how can you know how it feels to be in their shoes.

We have people that were severely traumatized and spiritually injured by Andrew Cohen. This blog is important in sharing these experiences with us.

I suggest that you have a more compassionate attitude with respect and love for these students and their caring posters.

Wednesday, 23 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heartily agree with the last two posters. By his statements, Mr. Blank sounds to be a current Cohen sangha member, and apologist for Cohen.

Wednesday, 23 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Graham Blenk
What a contrived load of rubbish, don’t try and give new meaning to my words, there are many lineages that have practices that relate to austerity or physical suffering to extinguish the grasping of the ego. The practices have been developed and perfect over centuries , none of these practices include any of the stuff that Andrew is dealing out. My example was given to show how Andrew twists things from their original intent or practice, historically this crazy wisdom was used on students after disiplined study and practice over many years, the practices were usually one offs . His use of them reflects a total lack of insight, wisdom and enlightenment as to their purpose and the timing of their usage. My own teacher made me do 1000 prostrations a day for 10 days, this was enormously difficult on me physically, but all was done with loving kindness and compassion. What troubled me is that I think you know you were trying to twist my words and meaning, so where is your truth?
To Michael Shannahan
Good post very insightful I particually like the last paragraph and reflects the total lack of compassion and love in Andrews teachings
All the great traditions speak of imposters, false gurus and teachers, heres a few with some guides to discerning the true and false teachers.
"Many people have the Great Vehicle Root Nature, but there are also many people who lie. Having cultivated without success, such people claim to have the way. Though they have not certified the fruit, they claim to be certified sages."
Bodhidharma, the First Patriarch to Hui-K'o, the to-be Second Patriarch
"He has no desire for fame. To become anything of a public figure would be deeply distasteful to him; and so it may be that he is satisfied to lead his chosen life and be no more than just himself. He is too modest to set himself up as an example to others; but it may be he thinks that a few uncertain souls, drawn to him like moths to a candle, will be brought in time to share his own glowing belief that ultimate satisfaction can only be found in the life of the spirit, and that by himself following with selflessness and renunciation the path of perfection he will serve as well as if he wrote books or addressed multitudes."
W. Somerset Maugham
Copied from another site tick off which applies to Andrew my score gives him 100% false
Teachers and Paths: True or False?
The advent of commercial airlines and instant communications has blessed us with a wealth of genuine paths, teachers, and groups. The twentieth century brought an unprecedented transfer and adaptation of profound spiritual teachings across the planet. Yet modern societies face a market profusion of superficial, consumer-oriented, pseudo-spiritual, profit-motivated, newly invented paths of so-called transformation. Our personal perceptions and intuitions can tell us whether a particular organization, teaching, or teacher is authentic or shallow, competent or deluded, or trading on marketed fame, superficial charisma, or meaningless credentials. However, until our perceptions grow subtle enough to shepherd us through such thickets, a few simple guidelines may help us avoid the worst of the lot. The primary point: nobody is perfect, regardless of how many followers they may have, or how pure and kind they appear to be. They may indeed be pure and kind, but perfect - no. Any spiritual teacher can be mistaken in his or her teaching methods or other actions. Teachers can, at times, be susceptible to misguided or even base motives.
If the path charges excessive fees, worry about greed. Spirituality and greed negate each other. An exorbitant demand for money as a test of the aspirant's sincerity serves to cover the avarice of the teacher or organization. Similarly, if a path promises rapid or easy progress, worry. Spirituality is a life's work.
If the leaders engage in abusive behavior, emotionally, physically, or sexually, worry. Excellent excuses can be made for this. Sexual adventures may be claimed to be a way for the student to draw closer to the guru and thereby closer to enlightenment or God. This is absurd. Emotional abuses may be couched in terms of “awakening” the student through insults or similar means. This may indeed work, but only temporarily at best. A pattern of insults from the teacher or group tends to make the student dependent on this external source for awakening. We need to find our inner source of awakening. Thus, an external dependence on emotional “shock” treatment works against our liberation. Emotional abuse also retards our progress by strengthening our egoism and driving us into defensiveness, self-pity, self-hatred, submissiveness, resentment, or anger.
If the path divides people into “us” and “them,” worry. We are all, in our core, children of the same God. Furthermore, many genuine paths exist. None can truly claim to be the best, as different approaches work best for different people. The “us” and “them” mentality also fosters a group ego, which itself hinders our progress.
If the teacher or group offers to make your life decisions for you, worry. A true path leads us to become more fully ourselves, to find our unique individuality. No one can give this to us, as we are born with it and must uncover it for ourselves. A teacher who tells us whom to marry, what job to take, where to live, or merely advises us on these and other such choices, takes away a piece of our will, takes away our opportunities to learn from our own mistakes, and mixes levels inappropriately. The teacher should let the student make his or her own life choices, guided by the student's own conscience.
If the path promises salvation or enlightenment as a result of merely adopting some belief system, worry. A mental or emotional belief only touches a small part of us. To be transformative, our spirituality must reach the whole of our being.
If the path promises to show us the way toward material wealth, it may be perfectly genuine in a business sense, but it is not about spirituality. The true abundance that will secure our heart's release lies in the spiritual, not the material. We need not, however, go to the other extreme and seek material poverty. We simply need to be responsible about providing for ourselves and our families, without an overarching attachment to money and goods.
So far, we have discussed the most flagrant problems, but more subtle ones also exist. Does a teaching demand loyalty? This question raises complex issues. We must enter a teaching deeply enough for it to act on our innermost core. That may indeed require us to devote ourselves exclusively to the one teaching. But while this novitiate may last for some years, it is a temporary phase. Afterwards, the teaching must permit us the freedom to search elsewhere if we need to. Loyalty, during the period of its necessity, should be to the teaching, not to the teacher.
Does the teaching focus exclusively on the psychological? Dealing with our personal psychology can be an important part of our path, but on its own, psychology only reaches to the lower rungs of the great ladder. Such psychological “paths” may be hard to recognize, because they often use spiritual terminology. One may help us lower our stress, be happier, and communicate better, but is it truly transformative? Does it lead ith them, while not necessary, can be enormously beneficial to our inner search. Two primary models exist for the relationship with a real teacher. In the guru model, the student devotes him- or herself to the guru. Through surrender to the guru, who serves as a temporary intermediary, the student finds the way to the Sacred Reality. In the instructor model, the teacher points the student directly toward the Reality without any intermediary.
Which style we prefer is a matter of taste. Both have advantages and disadvantages. A guru had better be a really high being, because the student becomes spiritually dependent on the guru. Furthermore, though the requirement of unquestioning obedience does work against egoism, it also hinders the growth of individuality. While our missteps deepen our understanding and our lack of progress can awaken our determination, an instructor can leave us to make too many mistakes and waste too much time.
But proximity to a real teacher does give a taste for truth, an understanding of love, and confidence in the higher reality. Unfortunately, teachers on that level are all too rare, although those who claim to be there are more common. Lacking a being meter, how can we judge this? We have to rely on our intuition of how substantial a person the teacher is, how much being they have. Certainly we can be fooled by appearances and outward trappings, by the number of followers, or by the style of communication. But we learn to trust our own perceptions and make our judgments accordingly. Even without a teacher of great being, we can effectively learn the methods of spiritual practice from more ordinary leaders and instructors.
Just as no person is perfect, no path is perfect. If we hold up too many requirements and unreasonable standards in judging a path, we many never embark. So we choose the best of what’s available and dive in.

“This is the Kali Yuga,
Even Rakshashas (demons) will incarnate as teachers to mislead you.
Those who must be destroyed by these demons will be.

Test the Guru by the teaching:
without inquiry there is no teaching.
Shun every teacher who does not teach inquiry.
Directly looking at your own face is the only teaching.

If the Guru says 'I am enlightened,'
it means the ego is enlightened so stay away.
Western teachers who say this are preachers so stay away
and only write books to load more garbage on seekers,
and more money in their pockets.
They will attract so many students,
but in Kali Yuga it is the falsehood which will draw the crowds.
The Truth and the true Gurus will be neglected.
If there is a teacher and a student for more than one second
then both of them go to avachi hell!”

POONJAJI comments on Andrew Cohen who took 25 hrs to gain enlightenment;

(Q)You have asked many people to go and teach. Are these people messengers or masters in their own right? Can you explain this?

Poonjaji: “They are messengers. They are giving this message throughout the world of what is happening in Lucknow, so that the whole world is happy. They are just messengers, but with some the ego crops up and so they claim to be masters. They will go to a hell along with those who follow them.

Messengers are messengers, but is it right when they are given something to give and share, that they say it is from themselves? Why not be honest? They should say, 'I got this from this place and so you can go there if you want the same thing.' But ego is very strong and that is why they say you have to serve twelve years so your ego is removed.
The person who hurt you so deeply stayed with me for twenty five days. In these twenty five days he stayed in tourist Bungalow and came to me for one hour in the morning, This means he stayed for twenty-five hours! And you can see the result of this twenty-five hours. He says he has surpassed his teacher. Another one stayed just twelve days and declared himself the master of the masters. But this Freedom is a prasad from the Teacher. He will touch your head and the he will be satisfied with you. When he is satisfied he will hand over this precious Diamond.
So all this is arrogance of the person. Ignorance and ego play this part. All the teachers of the world have this ego of being a teacher. The teacher must be humble. He must be like a servant to serve the people so that they become happy. If the teacher is arrogant what can he or she teach to others? Practically every teacher in India and the West are arrogant commercial teachers. Everything is becoming commercial.
You have to be careful about the messengers. When India sends out ambassadors they cannot say, 'I am the Prime Minister'. Ambassadors are ambassadors and must get instructions and consultations of the Prime Minister. But if they behave like Prime Minister they are called back.”

Craig T

Wednesday, 23 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your last post was wonderful.

Wednesday, 23 March, 2005  
Anonymous Graham Blenk said...

My last name is Blenk not Blank. Just so others readers are not confused by childish word plays with my name.

I am not a Cohen supporter. I have an interest in spirituality and to wherever it leads.

It lead to posting here.

Craig T. has posted lots of text and quotes. Without logical commentary it is hard to navigate.

But to clarify my position, since others have misstated it.

I am not in favor of violence against students. Craig T.'s post justifies it if certain pre-conditions are met by teacher and student. That is a dangerous road to go down. Surprisingly, no one here has commented on that.

Also, I do feel that many of Andrew's students that left the community were not ready for an intense path. I also feel that Andrew should not have taken them on, but that is easy to say in hind-sight. The result was explosive and can be seen on this blog.

Michael Shannahan's post is a testimony of what happens to a student when he is not ready to meet a teacher's intensity head-on. Shannahan himself speaks of the fall-out within his psyche after only a short contact. The consequences had nothing to do with Andrew's behaviour.

Wednesday, 23 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Blenk you are totally avoiding the self-evident abuses described by Andrew Cohen over and over again. Are you impressed with Andrew?.

First you state that you are against violence and abuses by a teacher and in the next paragraph you mention that Andrew should not have taken on students that are not ready to follow an intese spiritual path. It is called double talk.

Craig gave important information as to Andrew's credibility as a teacher quoting Poonjaji who calls Andrew a messenger and not a teacher. How much clearer can that be.

Thursday, 24 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Blenk. I like your honesty. Impressions of someone or something can cloud our perception of how things truly are.

Thursday, 24 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When people say that someone is not ready for a teacher's "intensity", you could also substitute the word "stupidity" with equal merit.

Sunday, 15 May, 2005  

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