What Is The Purpose Of Enlightenment?
I’ve been reading your blog regularly and would like to thank all those who contributed to its creation, as it has helped me tremendously to understand my own experience with Andrew’s community. I admire your courage, openess and honesty.
Although my experience was rather short lived and I never lived in Foxhollow nor was I involved personally with Andrew, I went to many long and short retreats with him, to simply find out what he has to offer. That was in 2000/01/02. Soon after the last long retreat I decided to move into his “orientation house” inspired by the retreat.
Although at first my great enthusiasm and joy kept me going, I only stayed about a month and moved out, as I could not stand it. Only in my first week staying there I was put into the famous “hot seat” where I did not know most of the people, people who never even talked to me, strangers, have told me all and everything what was wrong with me, with very angry outbursts.
I had to listen to all that and was not allowed to speak nor to question their opinions, where did they got them from? My feeling was so unreal, as if I was a part of a theatre play, where the script was pre-written, well in advance, nothing to do with me. Only later I understood that I witnessed the “scoring points” meeting. It happened every week and in between I was regularly verbally abused by senior female student member and called names, I rather do not repeat. It continued and it was enough for me to say NO MORE and leave. I could not tolerate abuse in any form. There were other newcomers who also left at the same time with the same experiences of disappointment, confusion, hurt and abuse.
We just could not understand what is wrong with the students, where was their “unbearable lightness of being”? their joy, their enthusiasm, their happiness ?
Most walked around like zombies, running on gallons of coffee a day just to keep going.
I often thought that by some terrible mistake I joined some fanatics following a military dictator and not a spiritual teacher. The atmosphere of constant spying on one another and being very careful what one says to others, reminded me very much of the Communist regime, and the emphases on the collective good and the total ignorance of the individual.
Perhaps my own little experience is really trivial and not important and yet even after such a short time of connection with the students and Andrew, I left very confused, sick and totally bewildered.
It has taken me a long time to make any sense of it and with the help of your blog I understood why all this was happening. I often compared his community to an army camp where most people slept only a few hours a night, then went to work and then worked at the centre or had their 10 meetings a day together.
I cannot claim that I really got to know Andrew’s students from anywhere else, but this one centre. Nor I have had any experiences with Andrew, apart from the retreats, as I was only the beginner student. I found his retreats relatively helpful to me, as he is very good and entertaining when it comes to the EGO, and he makes people understand why it is important to see it.
Yet I find his teaching lacking when it comes to some greater picture, apart from the ego-games. It seems to me such a waste of life to spend so much time focusing on the ego and nothing else.
The questions I asked myself during my stay in the community were: Do I want to be like those people, live this kind of life? “The proof is in the pudding”…I really did not like the taste!
The value of any Dharma Teaching is in the students living that teaching, yet what I saw and experienced was most of the time truly repulsive, so totally different then the atmosphere of the retreats and the promise afterwards of this “Heaven on Earth” to follow, if one commits oneself and joins the community. In my very short experience it was “Hell on Earth.” My answer was NO, I also found most of the senior students really dull and suppressed, who would only repeat over and over more or less the same mantras: “Isn’t Andrew great?” “Wasn’t it a great retreat?”, “Isn’t he wonderful?”, etc.etc.
But what really surprised me was the atmosphere of fear and luck of authentic, free self-expressions, lack of any original individual thoughts about any subject whatsoever. Most students would just use more or less the same kind of expressions about anything, as if some kind of scripts were handed to them earlier, so they did not have to use their own brains. And the most infuriating was the expression” I disagree” used by everyone in situations where it was totally inappropriate and illogical. Like after someone has expressed their own personal feelings and experience on a subject, someone would say “I disagree”, nothing else, no explanation, nor argument, nothing.
Probably I do not know any of you, ex-students, yet you all sound like very intelligent, bright, sincere individuals and I wish I met people like you in his community…and yet I wonder if you would have been the same open, honest, courageous beings you are now? As it seems that theoretically this kind of qualities were asked for from his students by Andrew but in practice they were discouraged very harshly.
Anyway, the last question I’m still asking myself is not What is Enlightenment? But WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF ENLIGHTENMENT? I know that historically the purpose of Enlightment has been to alleviate human suffering. When one looks around this world the greatest suffering here is still poverty, hunger, disease, death and no hope for better life. Apart from the very small minority of the Western Developed World, the rest 70 % of the population suffers terribly.
I was wondering what is the purpose of that “Freedom for the sake of all” Andrew promises to his students and how it relates to the rest of the suffering world? I hope his organisation does support charities and not just his lavish lifestyle.
The “suffering” in the developed western countries is mostly on emotional/mental level, where in the rest 70% of the population it is basically about the survival on the physical level. And then there is the common suffering of old age, disease and unknown death. .
Is spending years masturbating with one’s ego individually and collectively, as in Andrew’s teaching, being cruel and abusive to his committed students, has anything to do with “alleviating suffering” in this world? I wonder. I know this is a huge topic and I’ll not going into it, yet I wonder if anybody else ever thought about it ?
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF ENLIGHTENMENT?
My very best wishes to you all,
PS. writing in english is not my best ability, as it is not my first language, so sorry for the lack of any sofistication in my expression.