Monday, September 14, 2009

Metaphysical Assumptions

Ethics aren't everything.

Although Guru's misconduct towards Sevika, Rupavati, Phulela and Suchatula was just that -- misconduct -- I'm not convinced that unethical behavior as a rule proves that an individual has no spiritual development. Before I can take up that subject, however, I think I should slow down and lay some groundwork.

I believe that consciousness precedes matter.

In other words, I'm not an atheist.

As a result of their experiences in the Center, I realize that some of my friends have become atheists. Some have embraced a purely scientific cosmology. In their view -- whether they've stopped to articulate it this way or not -- matter comes before consciousness. Without the brain, there is no mind. Without life, there is no existence.

That's a perfectly acceptable assumption about the nature of existence. It's just not mine. Which, by the way, is not to say that I buy into the somewhat simplistic notion that I must -- as a believer -- reject the workings of the rational mind. I certainly do not believe that, as I hope is apparent to those who have followed this memoir so far.

On the contrary, as Sri Aurobindo explains so well in The Life Divine, now more than ever the path of yoga requires a rational mind.

For that vast field of evidence and experience which now begins to reopen its gates to us, can only be safely entered when the intellect has been severely trained to a clear austerity; seized on by unripe minds, it lends itself to the most perilous distortions and misleading imaginations and actually in the past encrusted a real nucleus of truth with such an accretion of perverting superstitions and irrationalising dogmas that all advance in true knowledge was rendered impossible.

(The Life Divine (1st Ed. 1949) The Greystone Press, Ch. II, "The Two Negations: The Materialist Denial," p. 12.)

The point is, simply, that if you believe that nothing exists outside the material -- that there is no higher force or divine purpose to our life here on Earth -- then for you, ethics may very well be the end all and be all of human behavior.

If this is your view, then there may be little more for us to discuss.

My further musings about the interplay between the rigid requirements of ethical or moral standards and the much broader, elastic, and sometimes conflicting demands of yoga will mean nothing to you if you're a strict materialist. You're more than welcome to come along for the ride -- don't get me wrong -- I'm just trying to head off any quite justifiable arguments that my analyses are based upon a belief in the mystical (because, of course, they are).

Writing about metaphysical assumptions -- necessary though it may be -- presents two difficulties for me.

First of all, I don't want to come off as a blowhard. I don't have access to any secret knowledge or know any better than anyone else. These are just some of the ideas -- hypotheses really -- that inform my thinking about Guru and the Center experience in general. Like any hypotheses, mine may be wrong.

Second, there's always a risk that writing distorts the reality of these ideas. These metaphysical ideas -- to the extent they are real -- strike me as organic. Writing, by necessity, is linear. Reducing these elusive and hard to understand principles to writing -- and to a lesser extent just reasoning about them -- tends to strip them of their natural complexity and turns them into mechanistic rules.

As Sri Aurobindo notes, above, the untrained mind tends to encrust "a real nucleus of truth with such an accretion of perverting superstitions and irrationalising dogmas that all advance in true knowledge" is rendered impossible.

Nevertheless, I still think that we should consider a few more ideas before moving on. In addition to assuming that consciousness is a prerequisite for matter --- that the idea precedes the creation -- I also assume a non-dual monism.

In other words, I assume that we are all individual and unique expressions of a single whole consciousness. I prefer to conceive of the Divine as a formless energy or force; I tend to avoid the practice of anthropomorphizing.

I think of that permanent individual within each of us as the psychic being or soul, if you prefer that term. (It might be worth clicking here for a short refresher course on my interpretation of the lexicon of the Center.)

As I conceive it, the general purpose of the psychic being over time -- over the course of incarnations -- is to slowly gain strength and influence over nature.

I was trying to come up with a lighthearted analogy to help explain this process and I thought about gaming. For a simple example, consider computer chess. On my MacBook Air, I can play chess against the computer and I'm given a sliding difficulty scale that I can adjust for my level of play. When I make the game easy -- very easy -- I can beat the computer. When I make the game hard, I lose almost immediately.

Somewhere in the middle and the game is a challenge -- sometimes I win, sometimes I don't.

I think of spiritual evolution in much the same way. As the psychic being takes on more and more experience, it's strength -- and thus its influence -- grows. At some point, its influence begins to creep into the organism's conscious mind. This is when the seeker is born. With time, the psychic being begins to establish beachheads in the body, emotional life, and mind of the seeker. Eventually, that annexation becomes complete.

Is it really complete, though, and at what level of difficulty?

I think, for example, of my own time in the Center. It's all well and good that as a young twenty-something -- physically fit, emotionally detached, uneducated, without a care in the world -- I could experience a trance-like state, even if just for a few moments. But what happens when the game is made a little more difficult?

What happens when the demands of age, experience, education, spouse, children, and career all up the ante?

In my case, in hindsight, it seems my psychic being's influence was strong enough to annex much of my young and undeveloped psyche. Whether it's strong enough to hold the ground it already won years ago under the pressures of a modern, domesticated life is still an open question and, perhaps more to the point, still an ongoing process.

It is in this way that the ongoing process of evolution strikes me as similar to computer chess. As the core of your being becomes stronger and more stable, the difficulty level is ramped up (whether in this life or the next). In this view, the life of renunciation (sanyassa) is not the goal; it's just a means to the more complete goal of non-attachment (tyaga).

I touched on this idea in my post about Anugata.

The fact that a particular spiritual master may have experienced something profound and all encompassing when living under certain limited circumstances -- say as an all renouncing sadhu -- doesn't necessarily mean that such "self mastery" carries over when the game is leveled up, when the sadhu begins to embrace the world and extend his psychic influence over forces he had hitherto renounced.

Ultimately, that's what I think yoga is all about. It's about embracing life in all its forms.

"All life is Yoga."

The photo above is of the holy Shiva lingam at the Amarnath temple.

17 comments:

Celia said...

I really do not know what to make of this post.
Your previous post was so on the mark then you counter it with
Ethics isn't everything?
That sounds just like ckg saying spirituality transcends morality.
You then go on to say,
"Although Guru's misconduct towards Sevika,
Rupavati, Phulela and Suchatula was just that
-- misconduct --
I'm not convinced that unethical behavior as a
rule proves that an individual has no spiritual
development."
To me it kind of deflates the fact that ckg was
Hypocritical, manipulative and that he lied to suit he own needs.
It is not ok to treat others the way he did just because regardless of all that he has done he was still spiritual and just dealing with the modern world and all its demands.
If the ante up was uped then the person taking on the bigger role or challenge has a greater responsibility to humanity to be a better
person. To me he was a great leader simply because I believed that he actually practiced what he preached.
I just read for the first time Rupavati’s story. It broke my heart and opened the floodgates of my own sad experience but it also made me incredibly mad.
Mainly because after doing this type of thing to people who believed in him and trusted him and knowing that it did not work he continued to do it. To break that trust and hurt still more people and ruin their spiritual lives. He certainly held a lot of power and yes, I did become a better person by joining the path but in no way does it make it “ok” that he misbehaved the way he did. When you misuse your power you lose your spirituality. To me spirituality means being a good human being and offering sincere goodness to the world. I have not always been a good person and maybe even now some will think I am not good at all but I am also not trying to make the world believe I am something I am not. Everyone is trying to figure out who was that man. He was a man. Not perfect, not God, just a man with a lot of power. He knew how to use that power to get what he wanted. Be it fame, adoration, sex, money or whatever. We all had great experiences in the centre. It was a familial community but in the end his misconduct takes away the right to be labeled as spiritual.
I am sorry for those people who have suffer at the hands of ckg and had no one to believe them. If telling the truth about my own experience in the centre has helped others “off the fence” and to believe the others stories then I am glad that I did say something because no matter who ckg was and no matter what "spiritual” development he had his more than imperfect human behavior was utterly unacceptable. You can call it ethics or morals or whatever you wish to call it. It is simply being a good honest human being. He taught us to tell the truth, to love, be sincere, then he broke all of the rules.

Niklas said...

What isn't spiritual? The problem is that he made the "rules" in the first place. The hypocrisy is the ugliest. I'm not condoning ckg's actions, neither am I the "judger," I'll leave that to others. Seems like people who scrambled to "sit on the porch" are the ones most burned and betrayed. The race to the "inner circle" looked kinda crazy to me, but then didn't he give darshan out of tiny toy cars?

I'm enjoying yogaloy's honesty and keen intellect as he delivers his take on "who was that man!" Peace

vindicreated vision said...

Celia- there were countless stories of spiritual teachers, avatars, who did many horrible things, like killing. I do not mean to downplay in any way your own experience. But, I think the difference in opinion between yourself and Yogaloy(no, he didn't authorize me to speak on his behalf) is the motive. Yogaloy sees CKG's 'misconduct' as a character flaw, where you see malicious intent, or utter disregard, or indifference by CKG. And many ex's have picked out many examples to try and prove that point. But I always ask myself, did he himself believe in what he was doing? Definitely. Why else would he sit there drawing a ridiculous amount of birds, writing all those poems and songs? Just to have the most? If that were the case, that would be insanity. To me, he definitely believed in what he was doing, and to say that it was purposely malicious is presumptuous.

I do remember him saying about the marathon, something on the lines of 'if you're not doing it because you have mental or emotional problems, than I cannot sympathize with you, but if you are not doing it because you have physical problems, than you are excused and I sympathize with you.' There was always an emphasis on eating(prasad, lunch) as well. There was an enterprise owner who was having serious physical problems due to stress, and CKG's response was 'if its telling upon your health, close it'.

To me, he cared lots about the physical well-being of the disciples, but as far as the emotional or mental well-being, you relied on your meditations with the transcendental. Unless you wrote a letter threatening to leave.

There was a blog Yogaloy wrote about how CKG sympathized with experiences that were similar to his own growing up- going hungry was one of them.

Anonymous said...

It is very strange that Suchatula just read for the first time Rupavati’s story (??).
Suchatula's story is online almost 5 months at ex-disciples' forum, the same place where the other 3 stories were published.
Nirbachita published Suchatula's story, and wrote that it was revised by Suchatula:

"And I'm grateful that my friend is allowing me to share this paraphrased (and
revised by her) version of it ..."

Rupavati/Rose is explicitly mentioned several times in that "testimony".

Something is very fishy here.
I do believe that the stories are fabricated.

Best.

Y. said...

There's nothing fishy about it.

I think because these allegations raise mixed emotions within all of us, it's doubly important to slow down and read what people write carefully, perhaps even read things twice.

I just re-read my sister's post on the Yahoo board. I think it's clear that the references to Rupavati's story in that post are Nirbachita's, not Suchatula's.

I don't find it strange at all that Suchatula has just read Rupavati's story for the first time, considering how painful such experiences must be to re-live.

I draw the opposite inference. Rupavati's and Suchatula's stories are MORE credible because they were told independent of one another and yet allege a strikingly similar pattern of misconduct by Guru.

We are all free to believe what we want to believe, but I don't think the inference you draw here is fair.

Anonymous said...

Hi Yogaloy,


I read the posts many times over the last months/years. Also before I sent the message, I've read some of them few times.
It was not my intention to hurt anybody, I just wrote what I've observed and what I believe in.

OK, you can argue that "the references to Rupavati's story in that post are Nirbachita's, not Suchatula's".
But, what did Suchatula then revise?


A

Y. said...

@Celia: As you and I have since discussed, I don't mean to justify Guru's misconduct towards you and the other women we've been discussing.

I don't think his behavior IS justifiable.

I do, however, want to explain -- or at least explain my thinking about his behavior and what it means to those of us (you included, I think) who felt something good in Guru.

To be clear, as I've posted before, to explain is not to justify.

@VV: Thanks for the post. I think your characterization of my position -- that I see Guru's misconduct as a character flaw -- is fair.

And I agree that I don't think Guru actually wanted to hurt Suchatula and the others.

But he did. And more to the point, his behavior over the years can -- I think -- be called malicious because he just kept doing it.

As I posted about in my own early life, I badly mistreated a few of my young girlfriends. I felt bad about it (and still do!), but if nothing else I tried to learn from my mistakes and I let that guilt inform my later behavior in a positive way once I re-entered the "market" in my post-Center life.

@Anonymous10:30: Thanks for your post. I assume that you, like most others, have no bad intent and that you don't intend to hurt anyone. Nevertheless, thanks for saying so.

These are very tough issues. So, it's imperative that we all talk (or write) with respect and assume each other's good faith. I assume your good faith and am glad to have you here posting.

You -- like many of my friends both inside and outside the Center, friends I deeply respect -- believe Guru. I respect that. I do.

To your last point, my recollection was that Nirbs simply had Suchatula confirm and revise for accuracy each part of the post that discusses the principal allegations. (But perhaps Nirbs can confirm or explain the process of how that post came to be. I'll ask her.)

Peace. Out.

Elizabeth K. Kracht said...

Hi Anonymous,

The post I wrote was read by Suchatula before I posted it. She changed a couple words in the part that reflected her experience only. When I wrote that post, it was from my perspective, weaving in Rupavati's story because Rupavati was a friend of mine at the time she had her experience. I was in New York at that time, was told by her about the call she received asking if she was ready to surrender, and was even in Bali when she had her bad experience--and still I was on the fence about everything, actually, not even on the fence. All I did with her story was file it away, because I had no idea what to think about it. I was still in the Centre at that time, and still believed in guru, despite the fact that guru was all about ostracizing me at that point, which I was almost too tired to notice, working long hours at my cafe.

When I heard Suchatula's story, I knew it was true, one, because I worked closely with Suchatula for many, many years, knew her before the Centre and know her character--that she doesn't lie.

I've known all kinds of people in the Centre. Let's face it, we've got our pick. We have thieves in the Centre, liars, child molesters, master manipulators...you name it. But Suchatula was not one of those types of people. And probably the entire San Francisco Centre, or at least the restaurant--where she worked her ASS off for 19 or 20 years--would vouch for that. In fact, I'd challenge any one of those that worked with her at Ananda-Fuara to say that they don't believe her, or offer a good explanation of why they think she would lie about something like this.

Secondly, the striking resemblance between the two stories was undeniable the minute I heard Suchatula's. For me, both stories fit together like a puzzle, with a timeline and everything. If you need me to walk you through it, I will. I even got one of those calls myself, exact wording and everything, same time period as Rupavati.

Again, Suchatula simply revised one or two words from the story I wrote about her experience. Since she was hesitant to tell the story at all at that time, I wanted to make sure she was cool with what I wrote--especially since I was doing it from memory after two extremely long phone calls with her over two days. The only changes she made were to correct any inaccuracies of her story, not my story.

It's not shocking to me at all that this is the first time that she's read Rupavati's story. And I would almost bet that Rupavati has not yet read Suchatula's story. A little study in psychology could probably tell you exactly why both of these could be true. You forget that right now Suchatula is in the throes of reconstructing her ENTIRE life. Losing your friends and community after 20 years of service to the Centre is no joke, not to mention looking for a career at 40+, having no faith in anything...Reading something like that, given her own horrible experience, would be devastating if not done at a time when she is emotionally ready to handle it, and somewhat outwardly stable, which is arguable at best for her right now.

I think you need to stop looking for loopholes in everyone's stories and face the fact that guru had a sex life. I think many people can't even go there because their own minds aren't flexible to handle that reality. Why don't you try exploring with your own mind and ego what it would mean to your identity if it were true? For those of us who dare to do it, it's painful as hell, but it isn't the end of the world unless your mind is inflexible. Is your mind so inflexible that it can't handle her allegation being true?

vindicreated vision said...

The enormous value we place on sex as a society to me seems a little strange. And the fact that for many it is a deal breaker is also strange. But that's just me. And I hope nobody takes my stance on the subject personally.

An emotional reaction does not lend itself to any 'gray area', I think emotions force one to be black and white, at least for myself. And when that influences my thinking, I lose objectivity. Its been a great learning process for me. Thanks again Yogaloy.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Elizabeth, except when you say it requires a "flexible mind". It requires, inevitably, for many far more than a flexible mind. It requires getting your heart broken into one thousand pieces. It requires that "basket" into which so many put "all their eggs" to break open - which would leave many disciples in an unthinkably vulnerable state - as if their entire lives had been a lie. It requires having your faith so shattered that you probably will never want to embrace spirituality again. If some of the real old timers saw the truth squarely and concretely, I wouldn't be surprised if some of them eventually became suicidal. This is serious stuff. (Another "anonymous")

Elizabeth K. Kracht said...

That's what I mean, Anonymous. You either have a flexible enough mind to embrace the truth, or you don't. For those that don't, live and let live. But there is no need to attack the victims; their lives, too, have been torn asunder.

I think the ones that really suffer are those that embrace the truth. It's stark. But it's important to realize for each person that their spiritual journey began sometime before they ever met guru.

But ultimately, no matter how painful it is for us, it's one hundred times more so for Suchatula and the others.

Elizabeth K. Kracht said...

Vindicreated,

I don't think sex is really a dealbreaker in a general sense. I think you can have sex and be spiritually lofty. But I think the issue is, can you prey on unknowing female disciples as a guru and be spiritually lofty, while conscious that they are mostly under your total control. My opinion on that is a resounding no. It's a gross oversight.

Men and women are very different. Perhaps when, as my brother put it, the ante is upped, men behave differently than women. Regardless, I, personally, expect more from a self-proclaimed avatar of the highest order.

Anonymous said...

Hi Elizabeth,


Thank you for the explanation.


"I think you need to stop looking for loopholes in everyone's stories and face the fact that guru had a sex life."

It sounds like a slightly arrogant command, that I can not associate with a very flexible mind.
We all agree that the allegations are very serious and have great impact to many people.
It is everybody's right to "investigate/digest" the stories and form own opinion about them.

And, I will repeat once more: I do not want to attack nobody. I just wrote what I've observed and what I believe in.


"Why don't you try exploring with your own mind and ego what it would mean to your identity if it were true? "

If I was convinced that the allegations are true, probably I would try to find an explanation why it happened and revise my experiences - probably something what Yogaloy is trying to do in the last few posts. I do not know.

Let us say that you realise after some time that the allegations were fabricated. How will your flexible mind than react to all the impact/damage that the stories have induced?


Best.

Elizabeth K. Kracht said...

Anonymous,

Sorry if I came off as arrogant. I didn't mean to do that. I think I was just reacting to your seeming to be somewhat defensive or combative. I do believe everyone has a right to look at everything and make decisions for themselves. I don't have any agenda that everyone has to hold the same opinion as me. In fact, I have two brothers who have very different opinions than me, and we are able to have these kinds of discussions without problem, mostly because we are flexible around our ideas.

After hearing Suchatula's story, combined with the others', I don't feel I need to look further to know whether the stories are true. For me, I feel that I need to settle on who guru was to me personally. If on some level I were to find out that I'd made a huge mistake, and the stories were not true, yes, I would feel quite horrible. But I don't believe that to be the case.

I know how painful this is to all of us, to even be discussing or imagining these things could be true. And I wish you luck in your search, wherever it takes you, and that you come to some place of peace around these issues. I wish for the same things for myself.

Anonymous said...

No problem Elizabeth. All the best to you and your brothers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to Celia and Liz - the truth will out and from my POV, yes we have to accept the reality that, although we aspired mightily and swam in the seas of bliss when we believed, we were the authors of our experiences.

Sri Chinmoy wasn't all we cracked him up to be. Sex, lies and manipulation as well as intimidation and harassment were part of CKG's agenda right from the start. Realized is as realized does or doesn't do. At the level he claimed to be, all actions flow from the center of the being. So to think an Avatar would do all those things is ridiculous, as is pretending we didn't all see it in action in some form.

However the Center made powerful changes in all of our lives and world views. There's much to be grateful for as well as wiser.

Scooter

Anonymous said...

CKG had the following aphorism.
I think it responds pretty well to all the allegations.

Tomorrow
When I am gone
The world will blame me
For the things
I have never dreamt of.
--CKG