Author: David Christopher Lane Publisher: The NEURAL SURFER Publication date: February 1997
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THE MELTING SANDS OF GURU RECOGNITION: Or How Love, Chance, and Residential Boundaries Circumscribe Our Choices of "God" Women and Men. Part Two (a continuation from THE MAGIC OF AN ELEVATED PODIUM) Thus, lineage cannot be used as an absolute yardstick to determine the genuineness of a present-day guru, since history conceals from us the necessary certainty to know the ins and outs of each and every succession transference. Then by what criteria can we appraise the worthwhileness of our chosen gurus? Clearly we can use any number of scales that we choose, even including lineage as part of them. However, all such scales will be at best imperfect and at worst highly misleading, since they may tend to give us a sense of confidence (if not arrogance) that is not wholly justified. Now I say all of this as one who has designed and advocated high standards for gurus (see my article "The Spiritual Crucible" in EXPOSING CULTS, 1994) and who obviously sees the merits in holding spiritual teachers accountable for their actions. However, it is also exceedingly clear to me how any and all such models are severely limited. The inherent problem, I would argue, with my "Spiritual Crucible" model or others like them is that they infer a sense of "knowing" and a sense of "insight" which is neither accurate or true. Indeed, no matter how well a guru may pass even the severest of tests, there is always the possibility (even if scant) that he or she may be (or turn out to be) a "fuck-up" (to invoke Wilber's wonderful description of Adi Da, aka Franklin Jones). We know this already in our own lives and in the lives of those with whom we are deeply associated. At the very moment we think we have "understood" our deepest self, there arises a condition or a context in which we behave in unpredicted and unexpected ways. We find that we are "less" than our own self-image. It is also true, to be fair, that we may rise to the occasion and be much better than we ever thought possible. But in this two-way street of unpredictability we cross the same intersection: we don't know as much as we presume. And I would argue we know even less than that when it comes to our spiritual masters. Example one: I was quite fond of Swami Muktananda for a number of years. I enjoyed his book, THE PLAY OF CONSCIOUSNESS, and thought that his restaurants (like "Amrit") were wonderful (the tempeh burger was nectarian). I also thought that his lineage connection was somewhat clean (he was a disciple of Nityananda) and he made it quite clear that he was celibate. Or, at least that is what we were led to believe. Then in 1983 Co-Evolutionary Quarterly comes out with a scathing inside look at Swami's private life detailing his sexual escapades with American women; there were even reports of a secret tunnel in his Ganeshpuri ashram which led directly from his room to the women's quarters. I was quite surprised. I never expected the Swami of such things. But that is precisely the point that I am attempting to drive home. We never do know all that much. And this caveat applies (apparently) to all gurus, even the ones that appear squeaky clean. Even a spiritual master as esteemed as Ramakrishna turns out to have clay feet, as evidenced by Jeffrey Kripal's remarkable, if arguable, book, KALI'S CHILD (University of Chicago Press). Apparently Ramakrishna was sexually abused as a child and this trauma acted itself out later on his adult life with his own young male disciples. I won't go into the details (my students at MSAC were horrified by the book) except to say that watch your guru's feet when he goes into samadhi! Even Mother T, the admirable Catholic nun and Nobel Peace Prize winner, can be caught in less than honorable money gathering circumstances (in the book, MISSIONARY POSITION [yep, that's the title], the author roasts Mother T. for accepting several thousand dollars from John-Roger Hinkins of MSIA, a well-known charlatan in the guru world (see LIFE 102 by Peter McWilliams). Yet the disciples of such gurus are usually not privy to the inside details surrounding the private lives of their spiritual teachers. Indeed, even those associates who do forge a close bond can still be left in the dark about the more "personal" affairs of their guru (see the expose' of Krishnamurti's apparent affair with a married woman disciple, as just one suggestive illustration of this]. What these revelations force us to do is confront anew our own relationship with "why" we are following our guru in the first place. It is a "why", I would suggest, that is pregnant with possibilities. One answer to this query that I have heard over the years is this: "I follow my guru BECAUSE He is not only Enlightened but BECAUSE So and So Baba (Who was OBVIOUSLY Enlightened) transmitted his spiritual power to him." Yet, how do we know this to be the case? We don't know this, as I have suggested, by "lineage" (an endless query with no apparent resolution). We don't know this because we have inspected every nook and cranny of the guru's life (geez, we haven't even inspected every recess of our own lives) and found it flawless. We don't know this because the previous guru was enlightened (bad spin: go back two spaces and don't collect any money). We don't know this because we have "tested" every guru in the marketplace (even in the restricted field of shabd yoga this would prove to be a nearly impossible task, since we have hundreds of light and sound teachers offering their services. Do we have all their addresses?), I suspect, in sum, that we really don't know. To be sure, there will be those who will argue for the verdicality of their mystical encounters with Sri Gurusohigh, but such assertions, though not to be discounted ad hoc, also raise a whole new series of questions which are perhaps more intractable than their empirical counterparts. How do we know it was the guru in question and not our own self? How do we know that other gurus wouldn't work better? Etc., Etc....... It may turn out that we follow our respective gurus for some mundane reasons, some of which are not as pretty or illuminating when cast in the stark daylight of rationality. (end part two) Next installment: THE COSMETICS OF GURUSHIP: Exploring the Make-Up of One's Spiritual Teacher
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