Author: David Christopher Lane Publisher: The NEURAL SURFER Publication date: February 1997
E-mail David Christopher Lane directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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THE COSMETICS OF GURUSHIP: Exploring the Make-Up of One's Spiritual Teacher You know, the Pope could be for all intents and purposes a real scoundrel (though this does not appear to be the case), but I have no way of "fully" knowing. Yet, for millions of Catholics worldwide the Pope IS the Vicar of Christ on this planet and he garners tremendous respect in that role. But I suspect that what we might "respect" about the Pope is not necessarily his humanity (does T.V. really capture such things?), but rather the "status" of his office. The Pope almost invariably appears (warning: watch for metaphorical use of language) on an Elevated Podium, whether it be in a special car, a special outfit, or a special stage. As I once told Aaron Talsky, it sure seems like perceived charisma has a lot to do with how well it is packaged. Silly analogy, but think of movie stars versus t.v. stars. One of reasons (but surely not the sole one) that certain people are awe struck by Brad Pitt is because of the Context in which they first saw him. . . He appeared on a pretty big screen (much larger than life-size, literally) and in a pretty dark room. Well, the machinery behind "movie stars" has a huge part to play in how we ultimately perceive them as "content" or as "personalities." I am not so sure that the supposed "charisma" of movie stars is at all inherent. Indeed, I tend to believe that "charisma" is more and more a manufactured product that we somehow mistakenly mislabel. Let's get back to gurus. The moment you put a turban on a guy, stick him up on an elevated podium, and have thousands of adoring devotees listening to his every word as if it was a Divine revelation, it is bound to have an effect on the newcomer who has no fudging clue about the spiritual heights of the Talking Swami...... Yet, that's the kicker. Think of all the spiritual masters we have honored throughout history. Why such honor? Is it because we have really done the research and truly know the inner and outer attainments of the master? Maybe, but maybe not. It may well be that we honor many of these spiritual leaders only because of the trappings surrounding them. Take that most illustrious of gurus, Thakar Singh (yea, let's beat up his image some more; sorry but seeing him blindfold children still pisses me off.). Let's imagine you know nothing of his sordid past (abusing women and children, etc.) and that he is giving a satsang in front of 30,000 earnest disciples in Chandigarh, India. Let's further imagine that you are on a quest and that this is the first time you have ever been to India. You see this "guru" on an elevated platform (a given if the crowd is that big) and you listen to him speak in Hindi. You don't know the language and thus can't tell that Thakar is a real bore as a lecturer. Moreover, everybody is pressed up against you in this tight arena and the devotion is thick (some are crying, some are riveted, some are meditative) and the air has a certain peculiar smell (different than anything you have sensed before). And to top it off, the underlying premise is that the Turbaned Guru on the Elevated PLatform IS God in human form............. Well, this scene (or something like it) has happened numerous times in India and elsewhere. It is probably happening right now as you read this. But you know something about this scene that the naive seeker does not: Thakar is a scum bag. Now it is exactly in our "naiveness" (a condition that may never leave us, by the way) in which we might impute "power" and "majesty" upon the guru on the dais. Yet, in this example, we know that the Turbaned One has neither. We are the ones elevating the guru, we are the ones giving him "charisma" We are the ones, in sum, doing the Magic: Mistaking an Image for its Reality. Mistaking an Effect for its Cause. All right, forget Thakar. Now let's put somebody up there on the dais really impressive, really cool, really sincere. Is it that much different? Really? Why? Criminal or Saint, we are doing most of the mental gymnastics. Don't get me wrong: it is easier to get a mystical woody for a guru who looks and act the part (Pee Wee Herman in a Turban vs. Alec Guiness in a Turban, for instance), but the hard-wiring (pun play) is all our own. And in the midst of all this, we still don't know THAT much about the best of gurus. We know, rather, much of the buzz, the staging, the infrastructure interplay..... And we have been, consciously or otherwise, seduced by the whole affair into believing we have more certainty than we actually do. The seduction is the game. And I am not all that sure that we know who the real seducer is. I think, to be frank, that we mesmerized by the Context in which these gurus appear and that we have mistaken the Medium for the Messenger. We have, in other words, bought the "picture" because of the beauty of the frame. We have given ultimate value to the cheap stone because it happens to be inlaid in what we perceive as pure gold. And in being persuaded by the wonderful staging, lighting, and sets, we just happen to think the actor is a star; whereas in actual practice the understudy could have done the job just as well. Look, let me punch line this: If you think your Guru is God and he appoints some guy as his successor, the odds are that you will think HIGHLY of him, even if you have not a clue who the guy is. The successor could be, for all we know, a complete loser. The guru fucked up on his choice and he chose an air-head. How many of us are going to recognize THAT immediately? Or, are we instead going to mainline the successor like a new drug and take the hit anyways? Well, we already have a pretty good answer: We have mainlined the predecessors without inspection (remember lineage?) and the same holds true, in many cases, for the successors. The drug does work (perceived guru charisma can cause a tremendous high) but we have mistakenly thought that the paraphernalia and the substance were one and the same. Or, more accurately, we failed to distinguish the Guru from his Elevated Podium. We bought into the cosmetics as if such MAKE-UP were the REAL FACE. We don't really know about the REAL FACE of our own selves, much less the guru some 100 yards away yapping in Urdu. We are pretty adept, however, at blushing when we see a pretty guru dressed to kill, not stopping to reflect that a good dose of Noxema will reveal the true nature of a Crawford like mole. It is that very mole, I would suggest, that demands some more inspection. But in order to do that we need to leave off the MAKE-UP and get at the REAL FACE. That is, we need to sink the elevated podium, shave off the beard, deturban the head, rip off the third eye patch, unplug the automatic lineage legimitizer, get a good translator, and take a Stridex Pad and wipe clean the accumulated glossing sheen pasted on by the hype police. We need, in other words, to see the guru just as he or she is, devoid of the costumes and jewels. We need to see the Guru Naked. Be forewarned: it may not be a pretty sight. But then again: how beautiful are we Naked? ---------- Next installment: I SAW MY GURU NAKED AND i feel nauseous How to feel angst without throwing up or How to love without being stupid
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I want to go back to the home base now.