Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Some Common Misunderstandings of 'Two Truths Doctrine' in Nondual Philosophies that May Impede Recognition and Discussion of Painful Situations

by Anonymous

[Note from The Editors: The following remarkably lucid (and scholarly) article was originally posted as a comment to the article Vimala Thakar’s Concealed Criticism and Andrew Cohen’s Treatment of Women—The Investigation Continues. We thought it might be good at this juncture to quiet the dogs of war, take a deep breath and consider its clarifying wisdom on the relationship between experiences of the absolute and conduct in the relative--often a tricky and confusing matter.]

1) From a lettery by Tim Conway

http://users.snowcrest.net/sunrise/Dv-tim1.htm

“…the greatest sages of India have long cautioned that enlightened spiritual vision must function on two levels:

the absolute level of (paramarthika satyam)
the conventional, "relatively real" level of truth (vyavaharika satyam).

(Note: In Buddhadharma this is known as 'Two Truths Doctrine' and an interested reader can find an article about it on Wikipedia)

Conway writes: 'Thus, the sages, when speaking from the absolute level of parlance, say that, indeed, everything is Divine, all is Brahman, nothing is wrong (in fact, no-thing is really happening!), it's all the perfect leela of the One.

‘But, on the relative or conventional level, the level of earthly conduct, these sages strongly uphold the Dharma of righteous action, ahimsa, purity, and so forth.

'Such sages thus say that, in the absolute view, everything is okay, but on the relative level they are quite adamant that certain behaviors are wrong, sinful, or just inappropriate and should be stopped.

‘For devotees of the Lord to sit back and just say that "everything is divine," which is certainly true on the absolute level, but then do nothing about evils and injustices that occur within the dream of earthly life because "it is all divine" --is a terrible avoidance of basic duty on behalf of Dharma. With this apathy and flawed attitude, none of the great evils of history would have ever been resisted and overcome.

"…one can in fact see everything as Divine leela, but still be quite active in an engaged spirituality on behalf of socio-economic justice issues. (unquote)

(from the article by Renard entitled ‘A Hot Potato’) http://www.advaya.nl/

2) “I still like the expression ‘Advaita Shuffle’ for what I mean here. It points to secretly (or unconsciously) removing a subject that is experienced as threatening or uneasy to a level where that uneasy matter has ‘dissolved’; in other words dissolved into the very substance it consists of indeed: Consciousness itself, pure Knowing.

‘A smuggletrick is used in order not to be accountable as an individual (because ‘the individual’ is seen as unreal). And that accountability is precisely what this is all about.

“What actually is accountability?

”It means being open to the reality of all levels, no matter how temporal and relative, and being ready to resonate with those levels. It also means a readiness to listen to comments or observations that may refer to a specific attitude which could be a blind spot for us.

“Even though one has seen and ‘experienced’ deeply that one is nothing else but undifferentiated, homogeneous Consciousness, one still is, when relating to people, a visual and behaving figure who could be mistaken sometimes. And nothing or no one is getting any benefit from hiding behind ‘Consciousness’ when one is mistaken. (Unquote)

3) Over forty years ago, Sanskrit scholar Aghendanda Bharati, an Austrian born Sanyassi monk in India, tartly described a abuse of two truths doctrine-- used by some Indian scripture scholars or religious professionals when they wanted to avoid admitting that they had lost an argument because their logic was flawed or their understanding or use of textual material had been faulty.

Bharati reported, ”I learned the stereotypical method of rebuttal common to all traditions of religious doctrine in India: The moment discursive thought (that is, thought that is based on reaching a conclusion through use of reason and verifiable /falsifiable evidence) would jeopardize the axiomatic perfection of the text, the critic is given a simple line:

‘Your argument may be intellectually valid but what of it? Only those who have seen the light can see the consistency of the text. Only those who have experienced the truth from within can see that intellectual argument is of no avail in the end.’

"This would hardly be objectionable were the atmosphere among Indian scholastics purely non-discursive.

‘But’ wrote Bharati ‘this is not true: the theologians avail themselves of refined scholastic argument all the time, but they jettison all of it the moment their axioms are impugned.’

(Bharati, from his memoir The Ochre Robe pages 132 to 133)
The confusion of different levels of reality listed by Tim Conway can be the product of an innocent misunderstanding — a misunderstanding that seems common on the spiritual path and that frequently goes uncorrected.

The distortions of two truths doctrine described by Renard as a ‘smuggletrick’ and a 'steoreotypical method of rebuttal' by Bharati are harder to identify and correct.

Confrontation is often frowned on in spiritual communities, with the result that problems go undiscussed and uncorrected.

It is also quite difficult to identify and rebut this kind of argumentation when one is under severe stress--- often the case when one is undergoing the ordeal of discovering that a beloved spiritual community or teacher has become hurtful.

39 Comments:

Anonymous Simon Moore said...

I was Andrews’s student for some years.....

Is he Enlightened? What is the definition of Enlightenment? Can he communicate Love and Silence? Yes, definitely.

It’s interesting that in my SUBJECTIVE experience, the Teachers that came from Papaji are often able to do this, but seem to fall short in some way. Can I know this for sure? No. Is Andrew different from them? In many ways, yes.

I think I left because I had doubt about his actual teaching: Still not sure about this new 'Post Modern Enlightenment’ thing. I didn’t get locked up or give away thousands of dollars. I knew that any doubt made it a waste of time staying and I trusted myself. (Ha!). But my time was generally great and very helpful. I don't seem to have been damaged as far as I know, but I think Vimala helped me to leave without feeling guilty. However there seems to have been a fair few people in a right mess when they left.

The financial stuff is a bit worrying. And the coercion. You can’t deny that there is coercion, but is it in the best interest of the student? Is it a traditional Enlightenment pill we spoilt Westerners just don’t want to swallow? Hmmmmm.... Some of the comments here do seem vindictive. On the other hand I suspect that some of those who are upset by the tone of the blog are struggling to understand there own experience too (like me).

I watched a short video of Andrew on his website. He is still just as powerful and disturbing to me. My main compass through this morass is my own interest in Truth and Love (such as it is). What do I REALLY KNOW TO BE TRUE? Not much really. I have spent a fair bit of time with Vimala and an elderly Indian, profoundly free man (in my opinion) (both respected by Andrew). There does not seem to be the same controversy, financial questions or personal breakdowns around them.

People should know what they are getting in to with Andrew, so this blog is a good thing. On the other hand there seem to be a few axes being ground too (in my opinion, but what do I know?). At the end of the day I voted with my feet (for whatever reason). I also chucked all my Andrew books in the recycling as I didn’t want to be responsible for someone else getting involved with Andrew.

Would I recommend Andrew? No. Do I still love him? Yes. Has that got anything to do with being Free? Yes and no......

Will Andrew's Teaching be around in 50yrs time? I really don’t think so.

Ramana never got into all this trouble.

Love Simon

Wednesday, 29 March, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stuart Davis, a frequent advertiser in WIE magazine, has recently posted a link to WE blog: http://www.stuartdavis.com/node/view/757.
Interesting, do you think that some who have routinely been supportive of Cohen are now begining to question?
Any more examples of this out there?

Friday, 31 March, 2006  
Blogger Simon Moore said...

Most people who have been truly involved with Andrew know that he is a powerful teacher. His retreats are amazing and many people have had powerful experiences with him. The difficulty for us is to find out what these experiences tell us about who Andrew is. And to integrate that with the various testimonies of some once very devoted students who have posted here. Andrew has attracted many very earnest and brave spiritual enquirers. And the relationship between people was often profoundly beautiful. A bit like comrades on the battlefield as some people have said. So it is hard to accept and know that there maybe any kind of corruption attached to that. I don’t really feel that someone's Granddad who wants to get Andrew exposed as the leader of an abusive cult is very objective. Nor even the original authors of this blog. I am struck by the testimonies of people like Stas, Wendyl, Susan because they were really 'in there'. I would love to hear from Mr Lee, Andrew's friend and supporter but not heard from recently. I also ask myself what would happen to me if I gave everything to being Andrew's student? And I feel uncomfortable because despite the amazing changes that can occur in people around Andrew there does seem to be a new kind of conditioning and certain boundaries that cannot be questioned..... because of ?fear. It would be interesting to have a less partisan dialogue and more real enquiry

Simon

Saturday, 01 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew Cohen is a controlling manipulating person but I like him. I like his silly laugh and his ego mustache. He can't take any criticism and neither can his students. Kinda like G.W's, "either you're with us or you are agin us". But I still like him even though I was shunned by the group and threatened after I left. My tree grew stronger.
If he opens people up it is a good thing. If they run away, that too is a good thing. I'm all for the Andrew Cohens of this world. What ever doesn't kill you "does" make you stronger. Here's my advice to anyone who is going to hang out with a Guru & Co. Be like a thief in broad daylight, steal what you can and then get away from there or you will never grow up. We are not victims in this world. Grist for the mill. M.

Saturday, 01 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simon, be aware that "the original authors of this blog" were really in there as well.

I don't think powerful experiences necessarily tell us anything about Andrew - the question is what they tell you about yourself.

Personally, I have no interest in how Mr. Lee (or K Wilber for that matter) would weigh in on the question. First hand testimony from Andrew's targets, I mean students, is what counts.

Saturday, 01 April, 2006  
Blogger Jeff Feldman said...

Particularly to Simon: The issue is not so much a philosophical one as an experiential one. For example, when one visits Foxhollow, the main center, one often (it is my regular experience) senses a quality of interaction that is very different than the interactions that take place throughout most of the world, outside the center. One senses a quality of sweetness -delicate sweetness, and a certain innocent tenderness from those who live there. One feels disarmed and intrigued by this, and therefore feels compelled to 'meet' that, and as a result, one allows him/herself to 'find' that place within oneself where those qualities abide, and then something unusual and very beautiful takes place between oneself and the others with whom one is conversing. It is from that experience, not from philosophizing, that one recognizes that something extraordinary is taking place in which may very well be the keys and answers to changing, 'fixing', improving this troubled world of ours.

Jeff Feldman

Saturday, 01 April, 2006  
Blogger Simon Moore said...

Dear Anonymous

Powerful experiences tell you about your self but ALSO about Andrew. How is it possible to be so blown away by him and yet doubt him? This is the the core of the problem with Andrew. It is why so many people have totally changed their lives to be with him and feel so torn up when thay walk away. Anyone who has trully taken risks to be with Andrew knows that he is a powerful teacher. But how do you integrate that with questions about his motivation and methods? Can we hear from his ex students about this?

Simon

Saturday, 01 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simon innocently asked "what would happen to me if I gave everything to being Andrew's student?"

Since you asked, I'll try spinning it. First off, if you're giving everything, you wouldn't leave when your inevitable doubts arose in the beginning. You'd have to live day-in, day-out with that doubt because of the commitment you made to be accepted as a student, yet not really be able to speak to anyone about the doubt (it's not real, it's the voice of your ego that has to be destroyed).

You'd have incredible highs and incredible lows amongst the intimacy of the community. Everyday, you'd live with that doubt waiting. Waiting? Yes, waiting - for either of two things to happen: either the doubt would somehow be vanquished for you via a permanent breakthrough into a bigger perspective or things would get so bad (i.e., you'd be under so much personal pressure) that you could no longer take it any more and you would be forced to flee. I suggest that the latter would be the outcome, not as a cynic but by just looking at the odds of former students.

You would be relieved at having left the psychological confines of the community but spend several years being pissed off about how you were treated. You'd try to get on with your life and perhaps resurrect whatever career you had to give up to join the community. Finally you would lose the anger, become even-keeled once again, and you would find yourself pretty much back where you are now and hopefully able to get on with your spiritual inquiry.

Saturday, 01 April, 2006  
Anonymous A Former Student said...

Particularly to Jeff, all the delicate sweetness you mention feeling from those at Foxhollow must be held side by side with face-slapping, paint dumping, psychological isolation and confinement,, pressurized extraction of donations, and all other manner of coercive and manipulative methods employed by Andrew and his leaders. You must know that these harsh methods are reserved for those very students who live fulltime at Foxhollow and wherever there are centers led by close devotees of Andrew Cohen. I assume you are not living there, But one does wonder why if you are so taken with how things appear to be at Foxhollow, why not move there and enjoy that "sweet" atmosphere all the time? Perhaps you are aware that even very recently there are longtime students who have had to actually secretly sneak away from the Foxhollow grounds to escape the bizarre reality of "spiritual freedom" with Andrew Cohen.

Saturday, 01 April, 2006  
Blogger Simon Moore said...

Dear Jeff

Yes people come to Andrew because of EXPERIENCING something profound. This is what is so interesting to talk about. Nobody would be there unless they had been touched in this way. Yet, eventually many of those people leave, some of them very confused and upset. This does seem to happen quite often around gurus. Andrew spent alot of time talking about corrupt gurus in the past and he and his students would maintain that people leave because 'ego cant stand it any more', not because of anything being wrong with Andrew.

On this blog are some testimonies from once devoted students about their time with Andrew that are difficult to correlate with an UNFLAWED teacher and sanga.

So is Andrew's motivation and methods ultimately corrupt, despite this ability to move people so much?

Simon

Sunday, 02 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Human beings seem wired to have intense experiences, apart from what gurus happen to do.

In his article, 'The Kirpal Statistic'
David Lane (who himself practices an Indian practice tradition and honors a particular guru) reports:

(quote)
In the early 1980s when I was teaching religious studies at a Catholic high school, I tried several meditation experiments with my students which convinced me that Kirpal Singh and other gurus like him were taking undue credit for their disciples' inner experiences.

'In my trial meditation sessions, I informed my students beforehand about the possibility of seeing inner lights and hearing inner sounds.

'Naturally, given the boring routine of secondary education, my students were intrigued. I informed them that I knew of an ancient yoga technique that would facilitate their inner voyages. I turned the lights off, instructed them briefly about closing their eyes gently and looking for sparks of light at the proverbial third eye. I told them that I would touch some students on the forehead lightly with my fingers. They meditated for some five minutes.

'I then proceeded to ask them about their experiences.

[Kirpal Singh invariably did such a process directly after his initiation ceremonies; he also kept a running tally of how many saw stars and so on-something which I have called the 'Kirpal Statistic'.]

'To my amazement, since I felt that Kirpal Singh and others were actually transmitting spiritual power, the majority of my students reported seeing light. A few students even claimed to have visions of personages in the middle of the light. Others reported hearing subtle sounds and the like.

'I repeated the experiment on four other classes that day. I have also in the past ten years conducted the same experiment on my college students (both undergraduate and graduate). The result, though differing in terms of absolute numbers, is remarkably the same. The majority see and hear something.

'It doesn't take a neuropsychologist or a sociologist trained in statistics to realize that Kirpal Singh and others were simply tapping into an already built reservoir of meditational possibilities.

'Religious devotees seem overly eager to give up responsibility for their own neurological happenings, believing instead that it takes a 'Master' to draw their attention 'within.' This may or may not be the case (and I am not implying that gurus don't have anything good to offer), but one thing is certain: Kirpal's claims, and others like his, cannot be divorced (as they often are in Sant Mat related groups ) from an initiates own cultural and psychological field of interplay.

'It is that interplay, that acceptance as fact of a guru's method and the disciple's own inherent capacity-neurological or mystical-for inner experiences, which fuels the claims of would-be masters.'

http://www.ex-premie.org/papers/kirpal_statistic.htm

Sunday, 02 April, 2006  
Blogger jacflash said...

I don't undestand the debate. There would seem to be a very simple way to evaluate a teacher of nonduality, especially a prominent one who has been active over an extended period. Where are Andrew's "graduates"? Is there anyone actively teaching who was a student of Andrew's and credits Andrew's teachings as a factor in his realization? Are any of Andrew's students finding their way to enlightenment? If so, where are they? If not, if after nearly twenty years of activity he cannot point to someone and say "there is one who made it", then how can his defenders say he is a successful teacher?

Sunday, 02 April, 2006  
Blogger Hal said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Monday, 03 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t understand why all of you ex-students don’t have your day in court with Andrew Cohen. If he’s beaten and slapped you and poured cans of paint over your head and forced money from you then why not press charges against him?

Even if you didn’t have enough evidence to win you’d still have the publicity. If it kept just one person away from his inner circle, wouldn’t it be worth it?

Monday, 03 April, 2006  
Blogger Hal said...

The last commenter said:
I don’t understand why all of you ex-students don’t have your day in court with Andrew Cohen.

It isn't due to lack of evidence. There is plenty of that. The short answer is: the statute of limitations. There is a short fuse (1 or 2 years, usually) for civil actions for physical assaults and the like. There are also time limitations for actions for financial restitution for contributions given under duress.

For compex and powerful psychological reasons, it takes most former students years after leaving for them to be able to even consider taking action against Cohen. Most are too traumatized or confused by what happened to even consider it for a long time, if ever. Most just want to forget it and "move on" and many seem to suffer ambivalence and even guilt or shame for what happened to them. This is not uncommon in victims of trauma and abuse.

I do know of several students who did consider legal action to recover donations made under duress. One threatened action soon enough, and, as a result, Cohen returned his large contribution on the condition the student sign a "gag order" compelling public silence and suppression of public criticism of Cohen. The gag order is still in effect, or I'm sure you'd be hearing from this individual directly. Two others found that too much time had elapsed. They were advised they would probably be unable to overcome the statute of limitations.

There is also the troubling issue of students' apparent consent to abuse at the time it occurred, due to their devotion to and faith in Cohen. Short of a serious injury or abuse, and someone who takes action quickly, the legal route may be unsuccessful and another source of trauma. Then, too, it may be difficult to make "outsiders" unfamiliar with these kinds of groups understand how an adult can be psychologically coerced by their guru into giving large amounts of money.


These are some of the reasons why for most people public criticism of Cohen and warning others about him--such as through this blog or other media-- are probably the best way to take action and prevent future harm. But if someone did come to their senses soon enough and were willing to face the emotional turmoil that would come with such a legal action, it could make a powerful statement and be of immense benefit to others.

Monday, 03 April, 2006  
Blogger Pissed Off Old Man said...

Hal,

I would add that the fact he has claimed "non profit" status is his achilles heal. If he were just a private businessman or philosopher he would not be open to public scrutiny. His claim toi a "charity status" opens many areas of inquiry and scrutiny. You (or others) as donors have rights under the law. Equally as the President of a non profit he has accountability under law. My recent extensive reading in this area indicates his claim to non profit status is unjustified.

It might even be possible to disqualify him frm playing a role in Enlightennext Inc. Under certain circumstances executive directors can be disqualified from the board.

http://www.ago.state.ma.us/sp.cfm?pageid=972

Tuesday, 04 April, 2006  
Blogger Simon Moore said...

Hi Hal

Well because the events that you speak of never happened to me, I am probably guilty of being a little insensitive. I certainly don’t doubt they took place. And of course I know for myself that Andrew puts his students under immense psychological pressure, which I am sure he himself would admit. In addition he does warn people before they get involved, as well as encouraging people to do so. I don’t feel my point of view is philosophical. Andrew is certainly an Awakened individual, hence his charisma and his ability to generate profound Love and spiritual experience in those around him, but like I said before, none of these controversies happened around Ramana. Those Teachers and their students who I have been most impressed with have tended to be quite strict and kick arse when appropriate. I wouldn’t expect a real Awakened individual to necessarily abide by normal social conventions and I would expect a profound degree of psychological discomfort to accompany true spiritual growth at times. There are accounts of severe physical pain in Krishnamurthy’s awakening, Byron Katie and Eckhart Tolle went through psychological torment before breaking through etc etc

However I would expect all the actions of a trully Free person to be of PURE MOTIVATION. I would expect a fundamental Kindness which doesn’t mean being nice to everybody, but a general sense of being PROFOUNDLY INCOMPARABLY TRUSTWORTHY.

My experience is that Andrew's students can be amongst the nicest, most serious and least self indulgent of spiritual enquirers I have come across, but that they do exhibit cult like conditioning. That, plus the money stuff, the mess people get in, the apparent secrecy and the way deemed "offenders" get ostracized is confusing, worrying and scary.

Simon

Thursday, 06 April, 2006  
Anonymous mountain climber said...

I would like comment on what Simon said about Cohen warning people that this path is tough, that he’s a demanding teacher, that this spiritual life demands everything from the aspirant.

As a once long time student of Cohen’s I agree that Cohen does make this kind of warning, but Cohen’s warnings are very misleading. He would say for example that going all the way spiritually will take everything you’ve got – without mentioning that this means all your money! Seriously, he goes on in his meetings with his formal student community about how much it takes, and I used to get very inspired by this because I thought he was describing a heroic struggle to the top of the mountain. Yes! I’d declare to myself, I want it that much, I am willing to struggle against any odds to reach that mountain peak, I will tolerate any deprivation, any suffering – whatever it takes.

In all of the inspiration I felt, slowly there was something else creaping in that I didn’t notice until I was already very deeply committed and very involved, and had already given many years of my life. At that point, many years into the “revolution” what I began to notice wasn’t pretty at all, and wasn’t at all noble as I had once believed it all would be. What was creaping in was a lot of corruption, fear, manipulation, and dishonesty. It looked less and less like purification and more like a political and power game. There began to be more and more numbing pressure to conform, a denial of individual autonomy, and often extreme humiliations and even physical abuse.

Where in Cohen’s warnings is the new student told that in time they could be subjected to slapping? Where does Cohen tell the prospective student of his practice of extracting thousands or tens of thousands for a student’s blundering?
Where is the prospective student informed of the possibility of being sent to see prostitutes repeatedly for several weeks as a form of punishment?
Where is the warning that “you may get a bucket of paint over your head if you decide to leave”?
Where is the warning that hardly anyone leaves openly and in the good graces of Cohen, but that all too many steal away in the night?

I think that the warnings given by Cohen as a gesture of his “frankness”, which sound only too heroic and noble, in reality serve to mask the truly harmful and dangerous nature of what awaits anyone who gets deeply involved with guru Andrew Cohen.

Mountain climber

Friday, 07 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is that passion within which would cause us to want to throw ourselves into the fire and give everything in the name of enlightenment? We all have the inner knowing that indeed this is the way to find freedom. When we put ourselves under the control of the guru and his heirarchy we are putting our heads on the chopping block. But even with the best intentions, this outward surrender is the final barrier to freedom. We can get a taste, a hint, a very slight preview but in the end, this outer form too must be sacrificed if we are to surrender completely to Omnipotence, Omnipresence, Omniscience. No one, no guru, no "other" can do this for us. So eventually we come to see that the EVERYTHING that we must be willing to give includes the guru and his personal guidance. We must come to the complete end of ourselves and be willing to stand naked and alone in the Presence of Now.
When all our personal efforts have failed and we are completely frustrated and broken, we experience whole-hearted sincere surrender. Only in this moment can we know true freedom which can never be given or taken away by any outer authority.
Our dis-illusionment with the guru and what we perceive as his broken promises serves this purpose. How could it be otherwise?
Let us be grateful to be dis-illusioned on such a deep level.

Sunday, 09 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here, here!! to the first poster 4/9: "What is this passion.."

Monday, 10 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dis-illusionment with the guru doesn't lead to surrender, it leads to anger. Perhaps down the road there's surrender, but who's to say that it is causally linked with this dis-illusionment.

Monday, 10 April, 2006  
Blogger Hal said...

An Apology

After getting an email from Jeff Feldman and some lively exchanges back and forth, I've removed my response to his comment here. And I feel I owe him and all of you an apology for getting too pointedly personal with that comment. I'm reproducing, below, part of the email apology I sent to him today because I think it has general relevance to the discussion on this blog:

Jeff, I owe you an apology. I should not have been so personal in my response to your comment. It wasn’t nice or helpful. I am sorry.

I was trying to make the point that your perspective was probably due to the fact that you had not suffered the same kind of cruelties and humiliations that so many others who were “closer in” did, like Stas, Susan, Donna, and other cases documented on the blog. This point had been generally made before. I felt your portrait of Foxhollow was false and dangerous. I still do. But I should not have brought up your personal life, history or relationship with Andrew, at least not in the specific and antagonistic way I did. I am sorry for that.

Although we strongly disagree, I do appreciate that you communicated with me about this.

The whole issue being discussed is a “hot” one. Sometimes it is difficult or even impossible to entirely separate the personal and the public here. They often intersect. But I will be much more careful about discussing the personal with respect to anyone who has not given me permission and who isn’t a public figure.

Again, I’m sorry to have upset you by doing this.

All the best,
Hal

Monday, 10 April, 2006  
Blogger Pissed Off Old Man said...

If I might suggest that rather than symptoms of enlightenment what is be experienced are the symptoms of psychological conditioning. This thought is very confronting (even insulting) to those who are still conditioned. Please not the dramatic language that is reminiscent of a mythical epic quest. The methodology seems similar to

http://informationclearinghouse.info/article12669.htm

Tuesday, 11 April, 2006  
Anonymous Stuart said...

> ‘But, on the relative or
> conventional level, the level of
> earthly conduct, these sages
> strongly uphold the Dharma of
> righteous action, ahimsa,
> purity, and so forth.

I'm not particularly moved by this concept of "Two Truths." I mean, each moment, there's a situation right in front of us, it is what it is, and I don't know why I'd want to divide it into "relative" and "absolute" or "conventional" and "divine" or whatever.

I don't particularly like righteousness or purity, so if that's what a "sage" upholds, to hell with him.

> 'Such sages thus say that, in
> the absolute view, everything is
> okay, but on the relative level
> they are quite adamant that
> certain behaviors are wrong,
> sinful, or just inappropriate
> and should be stopped.

Yeah, yeah. But how about: everything is okay. So if you make "right" and "wrong" and "virtuous" and "sinful," that's okay too. And if you DO make these distinctions, these dualities, here's a question: "Why do that?"

Tuesday, 11 April, 2006  
Anonymous Graham Jones said...

I am so sad to hear about all the people who have suffered in some way by contact with a.c. I came into contact with the teachings in the early 90's and they were explosive to me. I met and know people in the community and regard them as friends. We all search for the great answer. Andrew I believe has it, but it is up to us to find it also. It does not matter any more whether a.c. has it. People abuse us, upset us, hurt us, this is life surely. But what is that hurt?
Use it to help you understand the truth. It is a blessing, it explodes all mythologies about perfect teachers and enlightenment and about yourself who is the vehicle for this knowledge. Use the experience to go further.
You could not go wrong by looking at the 'great J.Krishnamurti' as Andrew calls him (and it is true).
You are the world, all that happens is in you/me.
After Andrew, maybe you dont know where to turn, believe me there are loads of places , many of them are where Andrew has explored. The magazine is full of pure liberating teachers and teachings. Study them and get away from Andrew, not to say that he is wrong but he may be wrong for you. The world is full of teachings and liberation. After all what is liberation but liberation, from whatever is holding you back.
Surely I hear some resonance from an Andrew lecture there somewhere.
Please do not waste your time being hurt, by anyone.
The attachment to hurt and pain is the biggest human catastrophe, don't continue it. Parents hurt, teachers hurt, life hurts. What is it that hurts? It is that very attachment itself, attachment to Andrew, attachment to past hurt( or you wouldn't know what psychological hurt was), attachment to the things that make up yourself in your own mind(ego).
You have the one life you will ever know of (past life memories being ultimately part of now) please do not let a teacher who is right in a certain way but not right for you stop your ultimate understanding of the greatest thing there is to discover.
A simple thing: in Buddist teachings those who enter the Hell Realm have the greatest number of seeds of enlightement.

Graham
gmjwoodcarving@yahoo.co.uk

Wednesday, 12 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An excerpt from a glorious Buddhist text "the Eight Verses of Mind-training"

"when those in whom i have placed great trust, hurt me deeply

may i learn to see them as my supreme teacher"

This text, and words of HH Dalai Lama when speaking of his forgiveness towards the Chinese people for destruction of Tibet, have helped me in my healing.

There is no room for anger.

Only Love.

Thursday, 13 April, 2006  
Anonymous seen andy? said...

WHERE IS ANDREW COHEN?

Scientology under attack! Tom Cruise comes to the defense! What can WHAT Enlightenment??! readers learn from this situation??

South Park, the Comedy Central animation, did a spoof episode entitled “Trapped in the Closet” on Scientology and Tom Cruise.

Tom Cruise got Comedy Central to cancel a scheduled rerun of the South Park episode about Scientology by warning that he'd refuse to promote Mission Impossible 3, insiders say. Since Paramount is banking on MI3 to make money this summer, and Paramount is owned by Viacom, which also owns Comedy Central, the tactic worked. The South Park episode - which pokes fun at Scientology and shows Cruise, John Travolta and R. Kelly - was mysteriously pulled at the last minute.

See the South Park episode here: http://www.dailymotion.com/visited/scientomogy/video/80675

It’s really a scream isn’t it?

For more information see also this Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/22/AR2006032202256.html

This begs the question: Is Andrew Cohen also “trapped in the closet”? If he is, how to get him out of the closet?

Thursday, 13 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"when those in whom i have placed great trust, hurt me deeply may i learn to see them as my supreme teacher"

What kind of new age crap disguised as Buddhism is this? Trade one illusion for a happier one?

How about: "May I directly see things as they truly are."

Thursday, 13 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew teaches in public. Hardly being in a closet.

Thursday, 13 April, 2006  
Anonymous Stuart said...

Graham Jones said...
> We all search for the great
> answer. Andrew I believe has it
> [snip]
> It is a blessing, it explodes
> all mythologies about perfect
> teachers and enlightenment and
> about yourself who is the
> vehicle for this knowledge.

OK, it's great to explode all these mythologies. But it looks like you're NOT exploding the mythology that Andrew has "the great answer."

I'm completely with you about throwing out the trash. It's just that I wonder why you're holding onto that one particular piece of trash, that there's some "thing" that you're supposed to "get" and that Andrew (or whoever) "has it"?

Thursday, 13 April, 2006  
Anonymous Dragan said...

The Principles of Enslavement

Here are two observations that say much about Andrew’s ways.

First, as we all know, Andrew is obsessed with his health. I saw his table littered with health pills and tinctures of all sorts. It was staggering that all those supplements formed part of Andrew’s daily diet. Basically the man takes care of himself in every possible way – financially (he’s loaded), emotionally (he lives on an adoration drip), physically (exercises, best food, you name it), mentally (he regularly sharpens his wits on other teachers, his students and the general public). And then he says that his students are his body. If this was really true he would take care of them just as much as he takes care of his own self. But this is far from being the case. While Andrew pays himself handsomely and sits on millions, his students are steeped in debt; while Andrew lives in a lavish mansion like a king, his students live in shared accommodations on top of each other; while the students are overworked and underslept beyond belief they are continuously harassed to give give give to their teacher and his teaching.

Secondly, lets talk of creativity. When we first started living as a community we were an amazing bunch of creative people. There were music bands popping up, theatre groups, gigs and performances of all sorts, we had our London newsletter that was going to become a magazine… We had community events of all sorts that made our hearts sing… In short the community was buzzing with joyous love and creative passion. Then suddenly things started dying down, the bands, the drama groups, the writers, they were all told, by we know whom!, to slow down, that it was all becoming a little bit of a diversion, that all this frivolity was a distraction from our true path. And soon enough, there were no more plays, no more music, no more independent press in London. While at the same time What is Enlightenment?, Andrew’s magazine in US, began to flourish. And then soon after, the band, ludicrously called Unfulfilled Desires, was born. The band in which, surprise surprise, Andrew himself plays. No one made any observations of these developments, but accepted things as they were. How could they, the master was always right, the magazine was an outstanding success and so was the band. Far from being frivolous, the band was an expression of living enlightenment! And like so many things with Andrew, the name of the band was turned upside down. The same way that EnlightenNext is not EnlightenNow, the Unfulfilled Desires were really Fulfilled Desires for the guru, while free creative expression remained Unfulfilled Desires for the students.

These two simple things are quite telling.

How does Andrew do this? How is it that no one can tell that the emperor has no clothes?

There are several principles that Andrew has become a master of, the principles that have been known and are still known to the brainwashing rulers of the ages past and present.

First and most essential of all is the principle of having willing victims. Is there a need for enslavement services, so to speak? The need for the enslavement services is created by suppression of self-confidence (removing true independence), and by creation of fear. The willing victims, once they join, are further kept in line by intentionally created opposing forces, by using alternative punishment and reward, criticism and praise, by setting them against each other so much that those that were once brothers and sisters turn against each other. With constant frictions peace is destroyed, and ultimately, seemingly unbreakable dependence and inhuman isolation are created.

The willing victims have to be brought into the New Fold. For this, there is the principle of isolation. Isolation from one’s Old Life, from one’s History, from family and friends (in the community people were kept away from their dying relatives!), isolation from one’s own common sense (you cannot tell black from white, but have to be told what is black, what is white). This is replaced by New Family and New Common Sense that is subjected to new ideology, often based on High Principles, usually running on the lines such as Brotherhood, Equality and Freedom, in Andrew’s case it was Truth and Freedom, that are all good in theory but in practice fail miserably. However for the purpose of the game they never fail, because their function is to enslave – the brighter the principle the darker the blind spots that it creates in its victims.

Then, there is the principle of unquestioned authority and rigid hierarchical top-down structure. The power moves from the top down, only! The person on the top has to be an absolute despot, otherwise there is no real authority and no real obedience, at least according to the rules of this particular game. Each higher level within the structure has to rule the lower ones by the superior commitment and morality. The lower levels have a responsibility to admonish each other or report on each other to the higher levels, ensuring cheap and all-covering policing.

The principle of bottom-up economy says that the wealth has to flow upward! An absolute ruler on the top has to exploit the slaves below him (Andrew’s students not only give thousands of dollars and pounds but they also give their time and energy worth hundreds of thousands of pounds!) For the ruler’s power to thrive, the richer he is, and the poorer the slaves are, the better.

Then there is the principle of secrecy. While information about all of the activities in the structure, accurate or distorted, is programmed to reach the top of the pyramid, nothing of importance should leak downward. Ultimately, the top only knows the real purpose and the final destination. This ensures that power always remains where it should be, at the top.

In this Set-Up, it’s the principle that morality and responsibility are relative values, subject to change according to the whim from the top. The end justifies the means. Trauma is used as a tool to create more obedient subjects, all in the name of better future. Fear (terror if need be) and guilt are applied as cohesive elements. Love and Joy are morsels to be fed to the obedient.

Going hand in hand with the principle of secrecy is the principle of rampant propaganda. The truth is a commodity in the hands of a few – the top of the structure, the absolute despot(s), is the only possessor of the ultimate truth. The despot uses propaganda to invent New Words and New Meanings. Powerful old words, like “freedom”, “love” etc. are given New Meanings and are installed from the top down to rule over actions of the lower layers. The words become the goals. Through the power of propaganda and inverted meanings human values are turned upside down; blatant truths are shouted down as lies and vice versa, or the truth is given just a lip service.

Then there is the ‘I’m god’ principle, or the principle of SUPREME CONFIDENCE. The despot has to absolutely believe in himself. Everyone else has to treat the despot as if he was a god. The fear and unquestioning adulation is the most needed food for the ‘great one’ to carry on with his mission.

What is the ultimate goal of the ‘great one’, Andrew in this case? Could it be true that he is after the evolution of mankind, as he claims? Or, on the larger scale, could it be that our governments only want us to prosper and grow into happy, proud and strong human beings, as they claim? The situation on the ground testifies that this is not so. It’s again precisely opposite, the ones on the top set things up so that they prosper while the others slave away for them, slaves that have sacrificed their precious freedom for the so called Greater Good.

Dragan
solray@btopenworld.com

Thursday, 13 April, 2006  
Anonymous seen andy? said...

To the "Andrew teaches in public" comment....Tom Cruise acts in public also. I don't think you got the metaphor.
Someone goes into the closet for one of two reasons, one to hide from the public, and the other to avoid something that's obvious to everyone else.

Thursday, 13 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Simple Way to Evaluate a Spiritual Teacher and Community

Instead of asking if a teacher is enlightened (impossible to assess)

There is a simpler method by which to assess a teacher and community--especially one that has been in existence for 20 years.

‘How well does this teacher and his or her students deal with the great matters identified by Shakyamuni Buddha:

Old Age, Sickness and Death?’

So the story goes, Shakyamuni began life as a prince, living as AC reportedly does today.

Young Shakyamuni had a palace, an entourage, was surrounded by beauty and flattery. He gave orders and was obeyed. He had it all.

But, when young Shakyamuni finally encountered a sick person, an elderly person and a dead body being taken to cremation ground, and learned all this would someday happen to HIM, Shakyamuni understood that his life as a prince did not hold any answer to these questions.

How well does this teacher and community deal with old age, sickness and death?

How do they treat elderly members? What are their attitudes towards older persons as a group?

Do they try to conceal their grey hairs, aches and pains?

Are they taking steps to accommodate the needs of students as they get older, by studying how to make their practice center wheel-chair accessible? We are all temporarily abled, and its only realistic to start thinking about this now.

If a student is ill, does that person have access to prompt medical care that meets the current legal standards? Or are students ashamed to admit they are ill and risk compromising thier health by keeping quiet and pushing beyond their limits?

If a student is ill, is he or she cared for by physicians whose prime directive is patient welfare? Is a student’s health care kept confidential? Are students free to select their own health care providers?

If students are hospitalized, does their teacher and other community members visit? Do they get home assistance while convalescing?

Does the teacher and students attend the funerals of faithful members?

What is the use of enlightenment if one cannot deal with old age, sickness and death—in oneself, or others?

So, to solve the riddle of suffering, Shakyamnuni faced that he needed a different set of work tools, and to solve the riddle of suffering he had to abandon domineering, princely power.

He had to become a vulnerable yogi.

Old Age, Sickness and Death are all about vulnerability.

How well does any spiritual teacher or community deal with vulnerability--

sickness, the vulnerability of babies, little kids, old age, death

Friday, 14 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post Dragan.
Do we choose to be a willing victim or to stand on our own? Once again we see clearly that the choice is in our own hands.
Isn't it amazing that no one can take this choice from us! It always has been and always will be our responsibility to choose. We cannot escape this charge. Even when we willingly surrender and subject ourselves to an assumed "Higher One", we have so chosen.
We feel this to be a tremendous burden and responsibility until we see the absolute truth of the matter. We can never be absolved from responsibility for our actions or inactions.
In this moment how do we choose? Whether we like it or not, the choice is ours and we are responsible for the consequences. There is no escape. No one, not even the greatest Master or Enlightened Being can change this Absolute Truth.
Until we spiritually grow up, we will continue to avoid this fact and will suffer the consequences, making fine fodder for the many systems and hierarchies grinding on and on in the insane realm of unconsciousness (self and other).
When the willing victims wake up the show will be over.

Friday, 14 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dragan,

I have never seen or heard the situation broken down so succinctly. You hold no punches, and really no sides. Your logic on this matter, at least to me, seems perfect.

Peace

Friday, 14 April, 2006  
Anonymous Departed said...

Dragan's excellent writing brings to mind a question about Isolation and Secrecy.
Does anyone know for sure if things are the same over there at Foxhollow? The reports of night-time departures are from the past, does anyone know if people there still feel so Isolated and live in such Secrecy, that they still must resort to a cover of darkness to make their departure?
I would appreciate hearing from anyone with more current facts about this situation. Maybe Cohen has listened enough to this blog to mend his ways, at least to allow people to voluntarily leave in the dignity of daylight.
This is written by someone who left by being kicked out.

Sunday, 16 April, 2006  
Blogger The Zero Boss said...

""when those in whom i have placed great trust, hurt me deeply may i learn to see them as my supreme teacher"

"What kind of new age crap disguised as Buddhism is this? Trade one illusion for a happier one?"

Actually, it's a line straight out of The Eight Verses of Thought Transformation by the Tibetan monk Langri Tangpa. He died in 1123, and was far from what you would consider a New Ager.

Of course, just because you still your anger about the way a teacher treated you doesn't mean there shouldn't be repercussions. As Vidyuddeva said, even if you get over your anger at being mugged, you were stil mugged.

Monday, 17 April, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As Vidyuddeva said, even if you get over your anger at being mugged, you were stil mugged."

Exactly. At the level of absolute reality, yes, even an abusive person can be seen as a great teacher.

Nevertheless at the level of relative truth, the abusive person is engaging in harmful behavior, is generating bad karma for himself and for others, creating causes and conditions that hinder the dharma practice of others.

The most skillful and compassionate course of action is to put a stop to that person's harmful behavior while seeing the tragedy that he's using his precious human life in such a sad and awful way.

This is very advanced practice. Many would require psychotherapy as a necessary foundational preparation.

For further reading there's a book by Alexander Berzin that covers this subject, entitled Healthy Relationships with Spiritual teachers--he covers this using texts and teachings from Tibetan/Vajrayana Buddhism.

An example given by Berzin is that we can see a teacher as Buddha (absolute truth) and at the same time understand that that teacher is an embodied human being who lives in society, is ill with the flu (relative truth) and must be taken to a physician, even if the teacher is reluctant to go.

Berzin also makes clear that teachers must refrain from engaging in behavior that would confuse or demoralize others. No matter how high a teacher's attainments, he must still follow the Buddhist ethical precepts and never defile the three treasures of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

At the same time, a teacher's students must never violate the Buddhist ethical precepts even if ordered to do so by a teacher.

A high level of maturity and honesty is needed to understand absolute truth and relative truth.

The two truths doctrine is meant to be used to assist in stablizing realizations one has gained through practice so that we can extend our ablity to function wisely and compassionately in relation to painful situations.

A very great temptation is to misunderstand the teaching and use it like a narcotic to rationalize that certain painful situations are irrelevant and can be ignored.

Berzin points out that maturity and independence is needed before one is able to engage in a guru-student relationship--and one must retain discriminating awareness.

Monday, 17 April, 2006  
Anonymous Pat Adducci said...

I'm happy to have gone through a situation powerful enough to crack open my concept of 'enlightenment' and leave me with nothing. But if that very situation had not been feeding my false notions of 'enlightenment' there would have been less to crack open!
It's really great timing to be able to read this blog now, as I'm making a commitment to Adyashanti as my teacher. I'm not worried about where this will take me. Not because I trust Adya or myself but because I trust that larger presence which glimmers around the edges of everything. It won't protect me, but it will keep me honest.
When I fell in with Trungpa, I thought that presence was HIM, and I was even more confused about what HE was than I was about what I was.
The writing here has given me a context for the very strong (energy?) I experienced at satsang with Adyashanti. As it happened, it was an undeniable revelation. But there's nothing to remember, nothing to trust.
My commitment is right now, not about the future...right now I can remember to set aside distractions. I can follow Adyashanti's instructions for meditation. Anyway, they are essentially the same as 'dzogchen' or 'shikantaza' without the Asian trappings. I can fully listen to the way he frames spiritual awakening, through his tapes and dvd's. Do I need to move closer to his physical presence? Do I need to attend satsang? How often? He doesn't say anything about that. He only reiterates the falseness of dependency. And so I'll take it day by day. The most helpful pointer for me is the question 'what is here now, right in front of me?' Then there's no fixation on Adyashanti or my own intellectual/emotional structure, and open awareness is free to notice what it will.
I'm wandering 'off topic' here, so I'm starting a new forum because there's so much more to talk about!

Wednesday, 25 October, 2006  

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