Monday, October 09, 2006

Congratulations to WHAT Enlightenment?!! on its second anniversary!

This two year voyage beginning in October 2004 has been full of discovery, revelation, honest fact reporting, emperor with no clothes stories, sad testimonial, memory and recognition.

Since I too was there in the Cohen event, and having left with no small amount of anger, confusion, disappointment, and also a raw determination to see myself through this whole issue and prevail – I stand in appreciation, respect and community for all who’ve been here on these pages. The work accomplished by all the writers and commenters, all those who contributed their own biographical stories, and all the honest and heartfelt discussion by so many is truly significant. Sadly our world possesses all too few examples of truth being told to or about over-reaching authority.

I only wish there was some big banquet table to pass the wine, and share in relief and healing that comes from seeing a clouded and concealed and troubled misuse of spiritual power and authority finally begin to be put to the light of day.

Some have tried to stop this blog, to derail it with ridicule or with strange and meaningless statements, or to shout it into silence – but the record stands on its own merits and is now available for public inspection by anyone with a computer. This was not possible before now.

The volume of material posted here is really huge, but some few articles seem to stick out in my mind as particularly poignant and heart rending. Among those, I recall perhaps most of all Not Forgotten – the Story of Caroline Franklyn by Mario Puljiz, recounting the death by discouragement, heartbreak, and browbeating of a frail elderly and yet very wonderful lady in London.

Setting out many of the basic historical details and the context for the story of Andrew Cohen and his community, was the Breaking the Silence series by Hal – a truly clear exposition of a complex story making it simple, readable and understandable.

Many others shared the excruciating content of many of their experiences with the guru, and here I think of Susan Bridles’ A Legacy of Scorched Earth, Stas’ Letter from a Senior Student, and A Travesty of Enlightenment by Wendyl.

Vimala Thakar’s Concealed Criticism and Andrew Cohen's Treatment of Women is a heartbreaking account of withheld information which covered the guru’s behind, and left many students in the dark.

There are so many more, but that’s my short list.

Who imagined that so much would be exposed and discussed?
May WHAT enlightenment?!! continue the spreading of transparency!


(a letter from a reader)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lift my glass to that! Greetings and love to all of you! Dragan

Monday, 09 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You folks are doing a great service. Don't pay any attention to comments like 'why don't you just get on with your life.' As long as we have spiritual teachers, we will have relationship issues.
Chogyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist, was my guru. In that community we were proud of his 'unconventional' behavior. His drinking and promiscuity were, I could almost say, celebrated. All that jolly good fun led to his own early death.
When a young man and his girlfriend both died of AIDS, passed through Trungpa's top student & successor, the community split. This was a long time ago, but people are still joining up, with Trungpa's son now in charge of Shambhala Training, and Trungpa himself reduced (expanded?) to a myth. People like me have left; the people who stayed love the myth. I don't know how much harm is being done to students now who are invited into this magic (delusive?) kingdom.
Andrew seems like a clean living fellow, so he will probably be around much longer, and of course is much more relevant to the discussion here. This is just a reminder that his crowd is representative of a much larger crowd of people like outselves.
I've just received an e-mail that Gangaji's group is dealing with the fallout of some misconduct, and Eli is resigning.
Should we throw up our hands and proclaim there's no such thing as a spiritual teacher? I don't think so. I think we can grow up, and learn to do this thing without causing harm.
A good place to start is right here. Thank you!

Tuesday, 10 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regards to the above statement about whether or not there is such thing as a genuine spiritual teacher, I am not sure.

What is one? Perhaps our own inadequacies are revealed through the inadequacies of the teacher, thereby teaching us to evolve on our own (not as a function of the teacher, but through a function of our own reflection via happenstance through the teacher).

This could be very open to interpretation, but I think when we become dissillusioned about our primary spiritual idol the finger points in only one direction, right back in our face. Despite unhealthy behavior on the part of our mentor it might be a healthy process. Then again, when we look around at the consequences of the whole scenario and all we see is trauma, ill behavior, and damage, that has to be assesed and taken into account as well.

It's a confusing situation. If I had any more clarity about it and wasn't caught up in the quagmire myself I might be able to offer more useful comments.

What a confusing business. Then again, I guess we all got into this situation to ask the hard questions.

Tuesday, 10 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for your blog... I LOVE it... but then again, I would (see my ;-)

Take care,

Wednesday, 11 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liberation Dharma—The Social Context of Spiritual Aspiration.

It may not be solely the student's fault if he or she has expectations of a teacher that are not fulfulled.

Most of us are taught to look inward just at our own egos and our family histories. We are rarely taught to see the importance of also identifying and assessing social and media influences and how these have affect our spiritual choices and our spiriutal longings.

Our taste in clothing and even our erotic preferences are often very greatly influenced by the media--and American style mass marketing.

How often do we go investigate a speaker, or a book because 'everyone's talking about it.' And what leads everyone to 'talk about it?'

It may be helpful to ask, in a spirit of deep curiosity, to what extent our own spiritual longings may have been skewed and distorted by unrealistic media images (propagated by mass marketing)that actually glamorize authoritarian power imblances and make ordinary, kindly human life seem mediocre, a living death of sorts.

Lets get curious about how gurus become not just gurus but celebrities.

Whose interests are being served? Who is involved in the spiritual media network?

How many of the media tastemakers give reliable information and which ones saddle us with self loathing and unattainable longings?

Ask oneself to what extent media and mass marketing may have affected ones spiritual longings.

Those longings, like love itself, are genuine. But they can be skewed out of alignment by social influences that are driven by mass marketing and that do not serve Ultimate Reality, but are driven instead by greed, aversion and delusion.

IMO, more than most of us realize, the roles of student, guru and pandit are socially constructed.

To be human is to be capable of choice, yet at the same time to be embedded in network of social influence. If we can recognize the social influences that have shaped our preferences and longings we can enlarge our field of awareness.

To what extent have media influences shaped our longing for enlightenment, shaped our expections of spiritual attainment? To what extent have these media influences shaped our expectations of gurus and also led us to glamorize total guru-power* and zero guru-accountability?

I am guessing that these days the media and marketing technique play a very large role in affecting spiritual longings--larger than we realize unless we take a close look.

Books, movies, magazines, websites, even music. All of these play a role.

So it may not be enough for students to just look in the mirror and see themselves as the sole source of expectations placed upon the teacher. Its worth asking about the social and media context one was in at the time.

It may be a very important step in recovery to ask whether at any point our own aspirations for ourselves and our expectations of gurus have been subtly shaped and perhaps greatly distorted by media influences, American style mass marketing and subtle forms of peer pressure *that are much larger than any one guru or group.*

It may be that long before many students meet a guru, they may already have been socialized to surrender their autonomy to the Guru Myth—socialized to believe giving one’s power away is the only way to be a worthy aspirant.

One may already have become an inmate of the Guru Myth and unconsciously surrendered to that myth before one has ever met the guru who demands our surrender and berates us when we (seemingly) fall short.

Its worth asking oneself just which books, articles, music, or other social input first fostered one’s desire to become a seeker and then look for a teacher.

And what has influenced us via media or word of mouth, to reframe cruel behavior as wonderful when done by a guru.

What has led us to re-frame kindness as evidence of weakness and something to apologize for?

What media influences have convinced us to do this? And--whose interests are served?

To what extent was our entry into the spiritual scene and our identification of ourselves as seekers affected and perhaps skewed by media influence that glamorized authoritarian power, link spiritual attainment with celebrity and made certain teachers seem larger than life and exempt from normal standards of decent behavior?

We are learning the importance of selecting what kind of food to take into our bodies. We need to start examining what media influences (including spiritual ones) serve reality and are emancipatory for us and which media influences set us up to give our power away to persons ill equipped to handle power responsibly and kindly.

Its worth noting that in some sectors of the spiritual scene kindness and compassion are being reframed as evidence of weakness and inferiority.

Whose interests are served by this? We take our power back by asking these kinds of questions.

If we leave a particular guru, we may still remain inmates of the Guru Myth and berate ourselves as unworthy in relation to the hopes we have in relation to that unexamined myth.

We can know we were100% right to leave Guru X’s ashram, but if we still kick ourselves as being unworthy or go around dreading that by our departure we robbed ourselves of a great opportunity, then that may indicate we are stuck in a mindset that is larger than the one embodied by Guru X.

But..where does the Guru Myth come from? And—whose interests—economic and social-- does this mindset actually serve?

It sells stuff—anyone of us can sit down and list the relevant books, magazines and travel packages.

Instead of beating ourselves up as weaklings who couldn’t’ take it’—lets get curious about what social influences (what Buddhists term ‘causes and conditions’) that led us to believe we are weaklings and what convinced us to celebrate drunken or brutal behavior when perpetrated by spiritually privileged persons.

It may be a very important step in recovery to ask how our own aspirations for ourselves and our expectations of gurus have been subtly shaped and perhaps greatly distorted by media influences, American style mass marketing and subtle forms of peer pressure that are much larger than any one guru or group.

It may be that long before many students meet a guru, they may already have been socialized to give their power away to the Guru Myth—that giving one’s power away is the only way to be a worthy aspirant. One may already have become an inmate of the Guru Myth before one ever meets a guru.

Its worth asking oneself just what books, articles, music, or other social input first fostered one’s desire to become a seeker and then look for a teacher. What influenced us to imagine that cruel behavior could be re-framed as wonderful and desirable?

To what extent was our entry into the spiritual scene affected and perhaps skewed by media influence that glamorized power and celebrity and made certain teachers seem larger than life and exempt from normal standards of decent behavior?

And to what extent doe

In some parts of the spiritual scene, there appears to be a mindset that is much larger than any one guru or group. There seems to be subtle and not so subtle peer pressure in some portions of the seekers' scene to romanticize gurus before one even has met one. This is fostered by movies, books and magazines, which glamorize spiritually powerful people, and forges the link between spiritual power, American mass marketing, and celebrity.

We end up feeling needy and unworthy in relation to the exalted beings (gurus) and exalted ideals (enlightenment, evolution)

Not nearly enough gurus train their students on the existence of this dynamic and how to get free from it.

In that mindset we encounter subtle peer pressure to see ourselves as incomplete, as unworthy and in some parts of the 'scene' we may be encouratged to see ourselves as needing to be whipped into shape by a larger-than-life teacher who will rescue us from our unworthiness. When this become internalized we are trapped without knowing it.

This socialization is de-centralized and quite hard to identify unless one gets curious and stands back from the scene. If we do this we risk being accused of cynicism.

I’d call it curiosity. Humans are affected by social context. And so are our ideas about ourselves as seekers—and our expectations of gurus. Examining the entire social context in which we identify ourselves as seekers will help us grow up in relation to teachers and our own aspirations for ourselves.

Another characteristic of this mindset is romanticizing power by thrilling to the existence of special people who are entitled to do what they please with spiritual power and with zero accountability. This is the crazy wise guru myth.

If unexamined, these expectations will colonize our imaginations and instill a power imbalance within our own imaginations in which we make ourselves small and then imagine that someone else larger than life will save us.

So it may be time to step back and take a careful look at this entire guru driven spiritual social scene—and its media/marketing context. In this media context, alleged enlightenment, spiritual attainments are mixed together with power, with fame and worst of all, with celebrity.

This mindset is larger than any one guru or group. It may dis-empower us in relation to hurtful gurus and groups long before we ever cross paths with one.

Its possible to remain stuck in the Guru Mythologization Dynamic (GMD) long after one has become disillusioned with a particular guru. Unless one can step back and examine the entire GMD, one can go from one guru to antoher for years.

This does not require becoming bitterly cynical or giving up on spiritual teachers. But it means figuring out how to be in relation with teacher without mythologizing them.

This is a lonely process. In some social circles, if we refuse to mythologize gurus or stop mythologizing them, we cease to be members of the the tribe--by waking up from this mythologization we end the bond of instant intimacy we formerly enjoyed. This is lonely as hell.

One need not be a disciple to a guru in order to be an inmate of this myth. One can participate by loudly defending the right of crazy wise gurus to behave any way they please and by convincing oneself that a guru's cruelty is really profound wisdom. Then one can feel special and highly evolved in relation to those who just see it as mere cruelty.

It will be important to question the 'cruelty mystique' that has slipped in to some parts of the spiritual scene--it is larger than any one guru or group.

This man wrote an account of how one guru has been mythologized. His insights may apply here.

Persons concerned with anorexia are well aware that our body image is greatly affected by media representations.

When anoretics gaze into the mirror they may be quite skeletal, near death, yet see themselves as hideously fat.

Our spiritual self images may also be warped by media influences--we may incur a form of distorted self image, a form of spiritual anorexia.

If we are in this predicament and 'gaze into the mirror' and try to conduct self investigations we may see ourselves as loathsome and unworthy and endlessly blame oruselves for failed spiritual realtionships.

THis take on ourselves can be as unrealistic as that of the skeltal anorextic who erroneously sees herself as fat.

Just as 'heroin chic' unhealthily thin fashion models glamorized anorexia and warped body image for legions of women and girls--we may ask what media influences lead us to become spiritual anoretics, convinced of our unworthiness and needing a authoritarian teacher to whip us into shape.

Some form of this spiritual anxorexia may already be in place before we cross paths with a guru who states we are unworthy and need to be whipped into shape.

We are not born believing this of ourselves. A lot of media and social influences have to take place before we submit ourselves to a teacher's harsh routine.

So, it may be time to examine the spiritual media and marketing industry and see whether these have shaped our seekership and whether we were helped or harmed by these media influences.

That way we can choose, far more consciously than before, which input we will listen to and which input we will push aside as unreliable.

Wednesday, 11 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't acknowledging our confusion a much healthier, creative and harmless position than being stuck in thinking I know what is right for you? Isn't openness the essence of spirituality? Can we make friends with our fear of inadequacy so that we don't unconsciously seek a projection of grandiosity?
Yes, and I see my focus shift from the teacher to the teaching. I see the teaching pointing to my basic nature, empty, not good, not bad, the ground of being, universal love.
I'm looking forward to satsang with Adyashanti this weekend here in Oregon. No, I'm not 'his student'.

Wednesday, 11 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A toast to all of you!
May the truth be known!

Love & Thanks to all.

Friday, 13 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liberation Dharma—The Social Context of Spiritual Aspiration.

thank you for that. as a spiritual seeker is often very hard to identify our personal search for enlightment or God as 'influenced' by outside forces. that is a very good point to reflect upon.

a lot of the inner landscape of our being can be shaped by the social context we live in, and as you point out, often time is not that easy to be aware of this.

yet i think it's very important to be able to reclaim or even to discover anew who we are once we start to learn to discriminate.
I also love that you bring in question the whole guru myth and how deep the roots are in us and the ramifications that it can have in shaping our perceptions of who we are as human beings.

thanks again, good food for thoughts! and thank you WHAT enlightment, good crazy two years!
lots of love to everybody,
karen m

Saturday, 14 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So I went to satsang with Adyashanti, and now all my nattering about 'teaching' doing some sort of 'pointing' etc. seems so silly! This was no 'pointing.' This was like gasoline and a match thrown on a dry, brushy hillside. Is this what people experienced with Andrew Cohen? Good grief! In all my years I never knew there was such a thing as this kind of blast off, and Houston, we really do have a problem! Is there anything in our culture that could have prepared me for this blazing, expanding, empty space?
Have I joined a group called 'Slaves of Adya'? Well, not yet. So maybe it's not so much a problem as I feared right after it happened and I felt like throwing myself at his feet.
I think maybe real devotion is something like this: I'm staying with a friend, unloading her dishwasher, and I see the color of a plate - really see the dark blue, feel the smoothness, the weight, hear the clank! as it's set on the stack of other plates.
OK, maybe the satsang was necessary, or at least useful in ripping away some old thought patterns. But the actual teaching is a direct demonstration of the difference between 'this is it' and the always futile attempt to live through thinking. The actual teaching can only be happening now, everything else is memory or projection.

Sunday, 15 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you and blessings Pat. Sounds like a very deep and powerful awakening experience. Follow that, AND keep your eyes open. But from what I've seen and heard so far, Adyashanti is not an egomaniac like Andrew Cohen. There seems to be humility there. It's not all about him. He certainly doesn't slap his students and do creepy things to terrorise them when he's angry. To my knowledge there's no critical blog with abused and confused ex-students. So I'd say that's a good sign right there, and he deserves the benefit of the doubt. But don't let your common sense, intuition and discriminating faculties go to sleep like so many of us.

Monday, 16 October, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experience Pat!

As the last poster said, just keep your eyes open. Certain spiritual teachers do deserve the benefit of the doubt, and I admittedly know nothing of Adyashanti.

As with Andrew, a lot of people here have had mind blowing spiritual experiences in their teachers presence when the timing is right, and very few prople here are denying that a radical shift in consciousness has occured in many of these individuals, Andrew included. But that shift in consciousness does not gaurantee freedom from human blind spots in the shadow of a still existing ego.

Far too often these experiences become the basis for abuse. They become the justification for an acceptance of inappropriate, or simply unreasonable behavior.

As the last poster said, keep your eyes wide open, but keep faith in your intuition and common sense. Your teacher can realise the absolute, but never encapsulate it.

Monday, 16 October, 2006  
Blogger stuartresnick said...

> very few prople here are denying
> that a radical shift in
> consciousness has occured in
> many of these individuals,
> Andrew included.

I would argue that speculations about the consciousness of Andrew or other teachers may well be a frivolous exercise. How I'm keeping my own mind at this very moment is of far greater consequence. My own experience is direct and tangible; the experience of Andrew or Adya's is merely theoretical.

Our own experience is always present, always immediate. Attending to our own experience and actions is such an efficient way to affect our world. Why bother wondering about shifts of consciousness of some other individual?

When I had my most radical shift of consciousness, I was at a retreat with a well-known and respected Zen Master. He made no effort to "take credit" for my experience. He didn’t encourage me to make my experience into anything too special. Clearly, there are many teachers who DO glorify any big experience, and DO find subtle or explicit ways to "take credit" for such experiences that happen when they're in the room. Andrew is such a teacher, but it doesn't have to be that way.

Tuesday, 17 October, 2006  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home