Saturday, October 3, 2009

Circling Back

As I worried might happen, over the course of the last few posts I started losing sight of my larger point.

If I'm losing sight of it, I worry that you -- my reader -- may also be losing sight of it. So, I think it best to slow down now and review.

I think Guru both realized God and engaged in unethical behavior.

It is this paradox that I'd like to explain. Actually, to be precise, I'm not trying to explain the paradox itself. Rather, I'm attempting to explain the reasons why I think such a paradox is possible. I'm suggesting an alternative view of Guru -- one that rejects each extreme end of the extant opinion spectrum.

Unlike his most ardent supporters, I don't believe Guru was born into this world free from all human foibles. Unlike his most strident detractors, I don't believe Guru was a fraud.

I'm suggesting a third way to think about Guru.

The emphasis here should be on the word suggesting. I'm doing my best to articulate how I think about Guru. I do so in the hopes that it will spur you, too, to think about these issues in a nuanced way and, hopefully, to share your own views either as comments to these posts or, better yet, in your own future writings.

So far, I've stated the ethical case. What Guru did to Suchatula and the others was unequivocally wrong.

I've suggested that ethical standards alone may not be sufficient to judge a person's spiritual development (a topic I'll try to expand upon shortly).

I've stated my view that rejection of the world isn't the goal of yoga, rather a state of non-attachment is the goal.

And finally, we've discussed the principle of gaining control of one's nature through acceptance rather than through rejection and repression.

In essence, I suppose, I'm arguing in a long-winded way that that there is no necessary or fundamental connection between one's actions and one's subjective consciousness. To be perfectly frank, I'm arguing that there is no connection -- per se -- between your spiritual development and whether or not you engage in sex.

Think of Arjuna. He found enlightenment by killing hundreds (if not thousands) of his relatives over a real estate dispute. Certainly, we can have sex.

To explain the paradox, however, two questions remain to be addressed.

First, what do we mean by God realization? In my next post, I'll explain how I think of the concept.

Second, how can a state of high occult development like God realization coexist with a state of emotional and sexual dysfunction? Doesn't God realization mean, by definition, perfection? I'm not so sure and I'll share my thoughts in a following post.

At the very least, I hope you'll find some of these ideas thought provoking. And if you think I'm wrong, tell me why. It is only through the clash of ideas -- a civil clash, please! -- that together we can move closer to a more synthetic and complete truth.

Above is another of my favorite photos of Anandamayi Ma. When you get the chance, check out this library of photos of the beloved Mother.


Anonymous said...

Your photos - Yogananada, Sri Anandamoyi Ma, Sw. Vivekananda - my own take is that if you had been able to spend time with any of those, you would come to realize that Chinmoy was NOT one of them.

I am a bit troubled at your willingness to accept Avatarhood and unethical behaviour as compatible. I appreciate your attitude of TOLERANCE, and trying to avoid black-and-white takes on reality. I am with you on those points. But God-realized souls possess an indelible oneness with the suffering of humanity, and the Chinmoy I knew had little of that.

Add to that the fact that CKG's own siblings were either unaware of any special status of their brother, or in the case of Lily, appalled that people were worhipping him - the fact that the Mother of the Sri Aurobindo ashram described the Americans who worhipped Chinmoy as gullable, and went on to describe him as ambitious and mean-spirited.

In India, where thousands of people with various lesser powers walk around the streets practically unnoticed, but genuinely realized souls are celebrated by throngs - where word of mouth informs the crowds of the true God-men and women - the same India where Chinmoy's reputation was negligible at best, and you begin to amass evidence very much to the contrary of your theory.

The unflattering truth is that WE accepted him as the "greatest Avatar of all times" knowing next to nothing about what a true Avatar IS, is even what a God-realized Yogi is like up front and in person.

We mistook a man of siddhis, occult powers, charisma, an air of complete authority as an equal, or superior to Ramana, Sri Ramakrishna, Christ, Buddha. There is no way, in retrospect that he is one of those, at least not for me.

IMO the best thing we can do is to accept our years with him as a stepping stone and a learning experience, and move on.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous:

The unflattering truth is that you flatter yourself by speaking as and for, "WE".

As to this: "...knowing next to nothing about what a true Avatar IS, is even what a God-realized Yogi is like up front and in person."

With that you are getting closer to something meaningful. Krishna, Ramakrishna, Aurobindo - practically nobody recognized them in their lifetimes, and the latter - even now, who does? So much for your adoring throngs. If each successive One merely copied the previous, of course that would be a very facile comparison. Are you begging that comparison? That is why this statement is a complete joke: "my own take is that if you had been able to spend time with any of those, you would come to realize that Chinmoy was NOT one of them." Get the joke?

It seems you are attempting to define this indefinable phenomenon through logic, reason, morality, a naive and childish expectation (that was shattered -- GOOD!)- through some errant comparison of "who" and what "you" "think" and "believe" "you" "are", what "you" "know" to be "truth" (haha), and then through a comparison by "amassing evidence"? Please give me a break. That is for lawyers practicing law (no slur on Y. here, everyone has to make a living, wink).

OR - everybody has to do this for themselves to find out the limitations of that process, that being that it is necessarily inadequate, incomplete to define what is necessarily beyond one's current grasp, beyond one's current state of being, otherwise -where's the growth going to come from - the current ignorance?

It seems your faulty projection has got to be a purely self-referrent dead-end and ultimately frustrating. No wonder the admonition to move on. Maybe your soul is trying to get a word in edgewise. So why don't you take that wise advice? And I mean that sincerely with no sarcasm. This would also include trying to temper your own "mistaken special status" urge to speak for others who obviously did not, could not, or never will have the same subjective experience as "you" -whoever that might be at any moment. Otherwise why did the Creator give people individual identities?

Wake up and grow up. There is no "objective" truth here to be reasoned or argued for others, either individually or collectively - no adoring throngs for you to inform. Just get back to work and quit your whining, which is really unspiritual, and not very charismatic.

anonymous 2

Anonymous said...

Sri Ramakrishna was approached by so many people for spiritual advice toward the end of his life that he wore out his voice constantly. He would not deny those in need, and some attribute his throat cancer as the result of his constant counsel. Your facts are wrong.

Yogananda was surrounded by crowds on his returns to India, and this is attested to in his Autobiography.

Anandamoyi Ma could barely move about India without being accompanied by hundreds, even thousands.

Your posts don't contradict any facts - although it does throw personal punches and expresses over-the-top anger.

If you read it rationally, you'll realize that it is only another argument being presented in the debate - a debate which has a large number of proponents on both sides.

I'll respond to a civil discourse, but will ignore posts with a continued tone of hostility.

Y. said...

Well, first, thanks both Anonymous 1 & 2 for weighing in.

@Anonymous 2: Before I weigh in myself, however, let me plead for calm. Let's agree, please, not to presume that any of us are in a position to admonish one another (no matter the subject).

I have yet to refuse to post a comment submitted to my blog. I don't want to start now. I will not, however, let these comments devolve into the flame wars so common on other sites.

As I've said repeatedly, we're discussing issues that bring up powerful emotions in us all. Please direct that energy into your arguments and not at each other personally.

Let's be hard on each other's arguments, but not on each other.

@Anonymous 1: You may, of course, be right. But permit me to push back a little.

The problem I have with your argument is that we can't really know any of those saints of bygone eras. What you implicitly rely upon for knowledge of them is what you've read about them (except maybe Anandamayi Ma, who died on Guru's birthday in 1982, my first August Celebration).

The rest died long ago.

I mean, I know Swami Vivekananda about as well as a layperson can. I've read his Collected Works. What else can I really know about the man?

Those who hold up Sri Ramakrishna -- for whom I have deep love -- as an example of a "true" master seemingly know little about what he was really like (a challenge made more difficult by the fog of hagiography propounded by his later followers).

He was a country boy, uneducated, illiterate, he spoke with a stutter, referred to Naren as "Loren", told dirty jokes .... The list goes on.

He was thought to be crazy and dismissed by almost everyone of consequence. And even those few that congregated in his small room left, never to return, when Thakur once fell and broke his arm. How could an "all seeing master" fall and break his arm, those shallow minded people asked.

In the end, you may be right about Guru, but I don't think it will be because of the reasons you articulate here.

Please dish it back to me, though, if you think I'm wrong.

Peace & Love.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Y.

My first post was meant to reflect my own views only, as should be evident in phrases like "my own take" and "at least not for me". Anonymous 2 chose to ignore those in their commentary.

Of course, you are correct in saying that with ANY of these masters, we weren't there, and we're going on what we read, hear, and ultimately what our faith tells us.

I came across a website which alleged that Sri Ramakrishna's display of affection for Naren was evendence of his homosexuality. I don't believe it - but I can't prove it. I also don't believe the later-day theory that Jesus had some kind of lust for Mary Magdelane. But I calmly admit that I can't prove any of those things.

But I'll restate my faith, which is that one's CONSCIENCE must be absolutely clear in order to reach higher states of consciousness - otherwise guilt acts as a weight that holds one's consciousness earthbound. I believe that this applies not only to God-realization, but even to reaching meditative states.

My motive for writing this is to hold to the idealism of purity (that which is unmixed), as an ideal in the spiritual life. Accepting moral contradiction is to lose one's faith in the ideal of pure character - of which I believe not only the Avatars and Yogis possessed, but the saints and seers of all religions as well. They may not have been born with these qualities, but they developed them through their thougts and actions (IMO of course).

Maryanna said...

Let's not forget the story of Milarepa. He was supposed to have committed mass murder in his youth but later became realized. Although of questionable historical validity, here is an exert of his biography from Wikpeidia:

"Born in the village of Kya Ngatsa - also known as Tsa - in Gungthang province of western Tibet to a prosperous family he was named Mila Thöpaga (Thos-pa-dga'), which means "A joy to hear." The name of his clan was Khyungpo, his family name was Josay. When his father died, Milarepa's uncle and aunt took all of the family's wealth. At his mother's request, Milarepa left home and studied sorcery. While his aunt and uncle were having a party to celebrate the impending marriage of their son, he took his revenge by summoning a giant hail storm to demolish their house, killing 35 people, although the uncle and aunt are supposed to have survived. The villagers were angry and set off to look for Milarepa, but his mother got word to him and he sent a hailstorm to destroy their crops.
Many of Milarepa's deeds took place in Chokyi Dronma's homeland and his life and songs were compiled by Tsangnyon Heruka, sponsored by Chokyi Dronma's brother, the Gungthang king Thri Namgyal De. [1]

Milarepa later lamented his evil ways in his older years: "In my youth I committed black deeds. In maturity I practiced innocence. Now, released from both good and evil, I have destroyed the root of karmic action and shall have no reason for action in the future. To say more than this would only cause weeping and laughter. What good would it do to tell you? I am an old man. Leave me in peace."[2]

Elizabeth K. Kracht said...

First, I want to say that I really appreciate having a place to come and kick around thoughts. The Centre played (plays) a pretty significant role in many of our lives, and I think it's great that we can debate ideas. Although I don't necessarily agree with everything I read, I appreciate the thoughts all the posts and comments provoke. I hope more people choose to comment in the future as the blog goes along.

I'm looking forward to your next posts. They should be interesting. I personally doubt I can bridge the gap between a God realized person and psychological devastation left in the wake. I hate to say it, but guru trolled for participants in conversations and actually said no to some suggestions he received based on whether they could mentally handle it. Certain people were decidedly not to know. That's an awful lot of conscious thought going into what was going on.

The conscious thought and open dialogue with his other female disciples is what bothers me. Sex and realization, I don't see why not? But this particular situation, I think I agree with Anonymous 1 on the "indelible oneness with the suffering of humanity"--it can't be pick and choose. If sex was an outlet he required to fulfill his mission as a realized master, he should have known better than to fill it with unsuspecting women he practically raised in the Centre.

He was always very conscious of his legacy and not wanting to be seen being touched by women because he didn't want to be seen as one of "those" masters. Yet? And after the Yahoo! site when up, and the first claims came out, he still kept on, keepin' on. That's pretty ballsy.

Suchatula was what he termed, "an experiment." I can get past all the other b.s. and shenanigans guru and the disciples pulled in the Centre, but how can that possibly be realization talking?

Justin said...

This is really interesting stuff. And the question of whether one can have spiritual development and engage in unethical acts is tricky, to say the least. I've thought about a lot, which is not to say I have an answer but I do have two cents to throw in.

In my own personal experience I can say there was a time when I was focused on spiritual things and actively engaged in a spiritual life. And there was a time when I was not. In both cases I could lie, cheat, steal etc. In other words be a human being. The distinction, for me, is that when I am active in my spirituality selfish acts don't work. That is to say they do not align with my sense of self or my choices in how I relate to the larger whole of the universe. I can be a selfish d*#@k but when I spiritualy engage I step up and try to align my actions with my ideals. If that means admitting my faults and working to repair damage so be it. I don't think spirituality can exist in the vacuum of our mind, if it doesn't live and breath in our actions and words then maybe it isn't really spirtuality. In my opinion, anyway.

So in my experience spiritual conciousness and selfish acts do not mix. Now I chose the word "selfish" for a reason. Ethical acts are completly subjective, one man's ethics are not another's. But to be selfish and cause harm to another for your own gain is pretty cut and dry. Arjuna may have killed hundreds for real estate, but (it's been awhile since I've read the Mahabharata so correct me if I am wrong) wasn't it more because of the evil and selfish ways of his relatives could no longer be tolerated? From his percpective he may have been engaging in an unselfish act by killing his relatives.

I know the counter-argument to the preceeding idea would be something like "we can always rationalize our behavior, Hitler probably thought he was unselfish and ethical". I'm afraid that I don't have a snappy reply to that. Except to say, I believe, that spiritual progress hinges on our ability to undelude ourselves from petty selfish rationalizations.

Perhaps CKG had realized god and perhaps he fell. I can't say. And as Y. pointed out a lot depends on how you define god-realization. Personally I think long term repetitive harming of others for selfish pleasure can not be enacted by a spirtually advanced person.

Anonymous said...

Very well said Justin. Thank you.
I completely agree.

Y. said...

This is good stuff.

I agree, very well put Justin. And thanks, too, to Maryanna, Anonymous 1, and Liz (my sister for those who don't know).

Let me address Justin's point, which is one you all have articulated in your own respective way. The idea being that there's a fundamental incompatibility between one's selfish nature and the exaltedness of spirituality.

Like Justin suggests, that depends upon how you define "spirituality." (I know, I'm a lawyer, right?)

Though I don't believe it for a second, Justin writes that at times he can be a "d*#@k." But, when he has his full spiritual mojo working, he's the bigger person and that his "lower" selfishness nature either doesn't or cannot prevail.

I agree. I've had that same experience (and I AM a d*#k) and that's what's led me to think that the same thing may apply to others (including Guru).

In other words -- in Center-speak -- Justin is saying that when he's in a low consciousness, his baser instincts have more sway, but when he's in a high or exalted consciousness, his baser instincts do not have sway (or at least not as much sway).

I think -- and it's just a hypothesis or conjecture on my part -- that the answer lies in this use of language and how we define terms like realization or liberation.

Back in the day, we were led to believe that realization is kind of a static, point of no return. One day the room is dark, then the light goes on, never to go out again. This does not strike me as right. It sounds too linear; too much of a mental construct.

To me, it seems, the spectrum of "high" and "low" consciousness is just that: a continuous spectrum.

So, the idea that one day a devout, unquestioning disciple, who cannot make even the simplest decision about his or her life will wake up a realized master -- after the flipping of some psychic switch -- doesn't make sense to me.

How can you go from unillumined to illumined (whatever that means) with nothing in between? I don't buy it.

I think -- and here I'll preview my next post I guess -- that there's a strong neurological component to all of this. That, for example, the framing of consciousness as "high" and "low" is not only unhelpful but neurologically inacurrate.

When we were in the Center, for example, we were taught to avoid indulging our "lower vital consciousness." In neurological terms, however, there's nothing "low" about it. It's just that the amygdala and hypothalamus (areas in your brain associated with sex drive, among other things) are active.

Likewise, when we experience a "high" consciousness, perhaps our awareness has settled into the left pre-frontal cortex (a region in the brain associated with feelings of happiness and joy in long term, experienced meditators).

So, this is kind of where I'm headed. That, contrary to our intuitive sense that spirituality and immorality cannot go hand in hand, in fact maybe it is possible, neurologically anyway.

If one has maxed out a certain neurological area of the brain -- giving one access to exalted states of consciousness -- but never engaged in the type of training that would facilitate growth (and thus control) of other areas of the brain associated with emotions and impulse control, maybe the two (exaltation and unrestrained fornication!) can co-exist.

Well, that's just a taste. I'd love to hear all of your ideas on this. It will help make the next post better.

Until then, keep it coming!

Anonymous said...

First I want to restate clearly that at as long as we ourselves haven't reached Self-realization we are going by faith, intuition, reasoning, borrowed knowledge, discrimination and feelings! I readily admit that without hesitation.

My first idea in reading your thoughtful take is that your theory takes into account the physical mechanisms only. Perhaps you don't believe in the astral and causal bodies - and that's your perfect right. The metaphysical idea behind chastity or celibacy is the strong current of ojas which is the life and blood of the higher centres or chakras. It is an ancient teaching that continued sexual indulgence starves the higher centres by weakening the energy they require to open and stay opened. Many masters from Yogananda to Vivekananda to various Taoists (i.e. Mantak Chia) write about this in great detail.

Another point is that the sexually active being, or one who engages the "lower vital" (in CKG's terminology) draws the subtle ojas downward, and experiences not only a continuous rajasic state (restless, never quite satisfied) , but suffers the side effects of the type of thoughts that eminate from these lower centres being brought to the forefront.

But more fundamentally is the idea that the sexually active person comes under the grip of lust, which is a huge ATTACHMENT. Doesn't this go along with the basic spiritual tenet that any desire or attachment prevents one from "escaping the round of births and deaths". This is a most basic philosophy expounded in the Bhagavad Gita.

In Yogananda's commentary on Chapter 15 of the Gita, he describes the actual roots that form in the subtle body that come about through attachment and incontinence.

As far as low or high consciousness is concerned, I relate it all to our relationship with our own souls, that portion in ourselves that is already God. The tiny portion of the soul that most of us feel frequently would be our conscience. I still maintain that if anything within us is in discord with our conscience, we are blocked from higher states of consciousness.

Christ's admonition to "become as little children" to enter the Kingdom of Heaven means to make one's conscience as pure as that of a little child's in order to ascend in realization IMO.

Markus said...

I do not have much to add here, but I wanted to write because I feel the connection with all of you. I knew many of you in my 9 years as a disciple and it makes me feel very connected to read these courageous and honest statements and the willingness to openly deal with all these experiences. Y., thank you for your deep thoughts (I did not know you, but know your brother & sister)

Is it possible that ckg was not exactly what he said he was (or what we understood him to be)? Is it possible that, as Y puts it, there is no necessary conflict between full realization and selfish or unethical behavior? Is it possible that, even in all this, there was a divine purpose, and even that ckg was aligned with it? (I feel I almost have to apologize for this last suggestion--and I do not mean it to minimize the tremendous psychological pain that some might have experienced and to make them in any way wrong)
For me the answer to all these questions could be yes.
So, in fact I do not know much.
I do know that I still (at this moment) feel tremendous love for ckg in my heart and as much for all of you (and others involved in this.)--in fact, more so then when I was a in the SC Center, where all these things were simply not talked about. (And here lay my particular pain, and ultimately my reason for leaving)

Personally, I feel that there is as much truth as falsehood in the traditional beliefs about spirituality and sexuality--and yes, I know, many very honest paths espoused them.

My primary question is: Is there a way to look at this without ANY kind of judgement? (not to judge it as right--not to judge it as wrong)

To me, one thing stands out: There is a shared experience of a depth and intensity, that is beyond what most people experience. Looking back at this a hundred lifetimes from now, I believe this is what will still resonate.
My current spiritual experience goes in that same direction: Intensity increases as I call more on spiritual light love and power--and not just in the areas that I would judge as good.

Anyway--my apologies if I upset anyone.

My love to all of you.