Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Anvil

Though it drives many of my readers crazy when I say it, I am and will always be grateful to Sri Chinmoy.

He changed my life for the better.

That's an objective fact. I may not know much, but I do know who I was before I joined the Center and who I had become by the time I decided to leave it. I was a better person.

For that, I'll always be grateful.

A lot of my friends have argued that Guru did nothing, that he added no value to our lives as disciples. In effect, they're arguing that whatever good experiences we had -- whatever progress we may have made in our personal development -- was the result of our own efforts, our own self-discipline.

I've no doubt this is true for them.

It's not so for me. For a few years in the mid-1980s, I experienced an exalted sense of being. Was it actually exalted? It felt that way to me, and Guru made it possible.

I'm not selling myself short. I played a part in my own experience, obviously, and perhaps the most important part. But to say that I could have achieved the breakthroughs in my meditations that I had all by myself would be inaccurate. I can only speak for myself in this regard, but when I meditated in front of Guru, he brought something powerful to the table.

A few months back, a friend of mine challenged me on this point. I told him that if I had been meditating on a rock -- rather than in front of Guru -- I would not have had the same profound (profound to me anyway) experiences I had had meditating with Guru.

"Have you ever tried meditating on a rock?" my friend asked. "Maybe you would have."

It's a fair point, I suppose. Maybe if I had devoted hours of concentrated effort meditating on a rock I would have had the same experiences. I doubt it, but perhaps. Even so, I'm still grateful to Guru.

And there are some very tangible reasons for me to be grateful.

Were it not for Guru, I would never have met any of these people: Sahishnu, Prakash, Sevika, Giribar, Ketan, Phanindra, Bipin, Pulin, Jigisha, Anugata, Ranjana, Lavanya, Jayanti, Premik, Shambhu, Sundar, Sunil, Shraddha, or Dhruva, Trishatur, Bansidhar, the Rocherolles (Gangadhar, Gayatri, Narendra, and Durdam), Bhima and Tejiyan, Sudhir, Pinak, Ashrita, Databir, Suchatula, Sundari, or Bihagee.

And that's just a short list.

Meeting these people alone was worth the price of admission, even if that price meant that Guru deceived me. It was, without a doubt, worth it to me.

Finally, even if Guru brought nothing to our relationship -- even if he was simply the anvil upon which I hammered my own identity -- then I am grateful for that anvil.

I'll always be so.

The photo above shows Hephaestus, Greek god of blacksmiths among other things.


Anonymous said...

Would CKG have wanted the improvement in your being for selfless reasons, or because it would have benefitted him also? We'll probably never know.

I believe that the correct intent of the disciple can still bring about good results with a questionable guru. God remains faithful.


JEEVAN said...

The western mind loves to drum the magic out of everything!

Anonymous said...

Most likely the intent of the disciple (whatever that happens to be - good or bad, high or low, superficial or deep, etc.) is the most important indicator of that person's spiritual results - regardless of if the guru is an outright fraud or a genuine Avatar or anything in between.


philmel said...

You're saying: Were it not for Guru, I would never have met any of these people: Sahishnu, Prakash, Sevika, Giribar, Ketan, Phanindra, Bipin, Pulin, Jigisha, Anugata, Ranjana, Lavanya, Jayanti, ....

But isn't this the cruelest part of it, even people who have been on the path since being kids are, after leaving the center, mere outsiders and cannot connect to their longtime friends, parted by dogma, a whole conciouss lifespan is lost in oblivion...

Y. said...

I think you're right, philmel.

As I've written elsewhere, I never missed Guru after leaving the Center, but I missed my disciple friends everyday.

After many years, though, the reality is that many of my old friends have left the path themselves. There is now a pretty substantial ex-disciple community and finally a technological means to connect: Facebook.

I admit to being a little ambivalent about Facebook, but there's no doubt that as a tool to connect with friends from your past, it does its job well. For those looking to reconnect with ex-disciples on Facebook, an easy starting point is the Abode of Yoga Facebook page, which has a number of former disciple "fans."

Thanks for reading and commenting, philmel.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Y; this is the first time I ever read an entire blog. Finished book 1 and book 2, and they are, like the Vedas, like Guru's aphorisms, great both in quantity and in quality. No website out there regarding Sri Chinmoy compares to this in openness and balance. Anywhere else you go, it's black or it's white.

Speaking of black and white, I once was put a riddle, and I solved it in no time; but I've put it to many other people and they never click. The riddle is: On a piece of paper it is written, "I always lie, and now I'm lying.", and the question is, is it true or false?
Most people answer that there's no answer, or that it is an unsolvable paradox, or whatever.
It is actually quite easy to solve: The statement is obviously false.
What may get you is the first part of the sentence, "I always lie...", which you may erroneously assume the negation of which is "I *never* lie...". Wrong: The negation of "I always lie" is simply "I NOT always lie". If you assume the writer lies sometimes but not always, the apparent paradox goes away: He or she is saying "I always lie", which is false, followed by "and now I'm lying", which is true. But taken as a combined statement are false.

Similarly, we tend to assume that the negation of white is black, and the negation of black is white; which when added to the unproven assumption that ethics and spirituality must go together, comes to almost a paint by numbers definition of what a spiritual master should be like, with a few Hollywood depictions thrown in for flavor. Like you, I have found a way to reconcile the seemingly paradoxical "double-personality" of Guru. But my way is, I feel necessarily, more drastic than yours.

Reason being, I think that you play down the horror of what Guru did. Your calling it "sexual misconduct" seems to me like a slap on his hand. Handing out wads of ill-gotten $100 bills to the women to "buy their silence" (though not explicitly said) is a misconduct on its own right, that isn't sexual. Asking some of his closer disciples to go out procuring other women disciples to put on little shows for him is downright criminal, I'm sure (though I'm not a lawyer); but there is conspiracy to coerce victims, and he happened to be the head of the conspiracy. Encouraging disciples to "report" on one another is yet another thing I suspect borders on criminality. But I guess you Y would be the right person to ask: Can a religious organization take away the rights and freedoms guaranteed under the Constitution? Freedom of speech... Freedom of association... To me, Ashrita going around telling whoever he wants to throw out "you're out", like he's some supreme and ultimate authority, and often for such things as associating with an ex-disciple, or for expressing disagreement about something... To me that smacks of CRIMINAL behavior. All the more so when there's an organization behind him, making what would be a crime into a conspiracy to commit crime. And Guru actually put this whole evil machinery into place himself.
"Sexual misconduct"???
No. This is about much more than sexual misconduct. The Center is, right now, worse than a Nazi or Communist government; it is like the government of North Korea, where you can't trust even your closest friend. Many disciples' fanaticism is so brutal that they might think they are doing your soul a favor by reporting you; so any "doubts" that you may have you can ONLY discuss with non-disciple friends (which you're not supposed to have, either).

So, it is this MUCH more sinister person than the sleezy guru you allude to that I've been trying to somehow fit together with "spiritual master" and/or "avatar", which is more like taking half a cow, half a snake, needle and thread, and trying to come up with one animal.

Possible theories next...

Anonymous said...

Possible theories:

One possibility is that Guru WAS a great master and avatar, but then "fell", at some point. This would agree with one disciple that left the center saying that Guru "had fallen" (Atmananda).
What doesn't work about this is that his "sexual misconduct" apparently began as far back as the 60's, with three of his secretaries, it is said.

Another possibility is that Guru was indeed a real master, but not a very high master; more like run of the mill one; but that he tried to shorten his way to liberation by a "bootstrap", --helping many people spiritually ought to be THE most efficient and effective way to gather spiritual karma points; then God, or the Supreme, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster said "okay; try it; and I'll work through you". And if so, it is the FSM or the Supreme that wrote the aphorisms and painted the paintings and gave us our experiences, through him. And perhaps all went well for a while, but the fact that he was not yet a high master became an impediment eventually.
The problem with this is the same as before: You can't put a date on when his "problems" began.

Another possibility is that he was no master at all. Just a self-made snake-oil salesman of the spiritual kind. The problem with this is that many of us got many incredible experiences meditating with him, as well as dreams, visions, myracles; plus all the incredible music and literature and art he produced. Too much for someone whose primary motivations are money and to get laid.

My own theory:

So, I keep going back to my more esoteric theory, namely that Guru was who he said he was and what he said he was, but that one dark secret he kept to himself is that, on the way down to incarnating, he intentionally took for himself the mind of a petty thief, or some such lowly and unevolved mind.
Because perhaps he thought that by doing so he might avoid personality worshipping disciples. Perhaps his vision was that his disciples would discover they were better than him at anything they tried, whether playing instruments or painting or writing or speaking; and so would grow very independently minded, which is what is needed for Realization. Furthermore, having a lowly mind would give him a first hand experience of the kind of problems his disciples faced, making it easier for him to help them, --that is, doubt, selfishness, ego, etcetera.
This would also explain his excessive bias against the mind... --his own experience of his own mind would be nothing short of torture.
Makes sense?
So, he makes the ultimate sacrifice, by taking a trash-can level mind, --so lowly he couldn't even play the esraj as good as a beginner after years of practice. A mind so lowly that it doubts him and his mission and all he says and does till the day he dies. A mind that keeps thinking that he came to the West to entertain himself, even when his heart knows he was on a supreme mission.

But, does the plan work?

Absolutely not. Disciples end up personality worshiping Guru in spite of the lowly mind. Every word he says is taken by them to be "the word of god". No disciple ever says that the emperor has no clothes. An organization develops around this fanaticism that can throw out a disciple instantly if there's any questioning or dissent. Meanwhile, Guru's soul begins to withdraw from the pain of such failure, even as the lowly mind gradually asserts itself. The SCCC become the representatives of Guru's MIND (effectively the enemies of his soul), and fittingly rule over the rest of disciples through terror tactics.

This is my present model for what's been going on. Convoluted perhaps, but nothing else seems to work.

Y. said...

Thanks for reading, taking the time to comment, and for your very kind words. I appreciate them very much.

You write, in your first comment, that you think I "play down the horror of what Guru did." Back when I was writing the blog, I didn't see it as my place to either "play down" or play up the allegations against Guru. I tried to be true to myself and as precise as possible. In that sense, I'll stick to my description of Guru's actions as "sexual misconduct" and "abuse of authority."

Another legal term of art that might apply would be "breach of fiduciary duty." These are civil wrongs, not crimes (at least not as the word is used in a legal sense). That, however, doesn't make what happened to our spiritual sisters any less serious.

But being precise is important. It's important to the credibility of those of us who believe the allegations our sisters have made against Guru.