There has been a bit of discussion recently in the Golden Dawn blogosphere and on the forums concerning the Secret Chiefs. I do not want to get into that here and have mentioned my thoughts elsewhere. But the the discussion did start me thinking once again about enlightened folk in general and before I knew it…this blog post 🙂
OK, only because he was linked in a recent comment, and not wanting to pick on him, but as an example, let us take Adi Da (aka Bubba Free John, Da Free John, Da Love-Ananda, Da Kalki, Da Avadhoota, and Da Avabhasa) a western spiritual teacher who became enlightened, or realised ‘the Bright’, as he called it when he was about thirty. He later, quite unabashedly said he was on a higher level than Jesus and sole worship and dedication to him was the best method to achieve realisation. And of course, there the were sex, abuse and financial controversies that are almost de rigueur for any self-made western guru. This is all understandable if we simply right him off as a charlatan or loony tunes. But much of his work is wonderful and there are many attested and verified examples of healing connected with him. He also impressed and was endorsed (originally) by sensible folk like Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and Ken Wilber.
How does this happen? Is it possible for someone to actually be enlightened and still go around coveting Rolls Royces, collecting munitions, amassing wealth or engaging in abusive-power sex play that would make a BDSM mistress proud? Of course it depends on our definition of enlightenment, as mine would preclude such action. However, since it is clear, for example, Adi Da appeared as enlightened as the best genuine Masters, we are left with a conundrum. Look for example at this video.
I am not a big fan of gurus per se, but I think if we listen and watch with openness we become aware that Adi Da is speaking the eternal verities. More than that, it seems clear to me that he is also teaching from and as eternal truth. This is why he is so clear, so doubtless, so strong. It is also why we hear the occasional gasps of realisation from the audience. What is occurring here is that Adi Da’s subtle selves are so connected to the Bright as he calls it, that people in his presence are themselves connected to the Bright. This occurs at various levels from the spiritual to etheric depending on the person in question. The infusion of the Bright into the actual mental formation of his words and concepts also allows an intimation of that connection over YouTube as we engage mentally with his words. This is why videos like this can effect people. Whether they actually help people is another matter.
Since the eternal truth is impossible to convey when a guru such as Adi Da is speaking as the Bright it really matters very little what words he uses. The words simply become a vehicle for the connection between guru and audience on the mental level; provided the concepts they portray are resonant with the teaching they do not actually have to make a lot of logical sense when later written down on paper. The audience relates primarily to the Bright within the guru not the words said, which is why a closed off or highly analytical member of the audience can come away from such teachings thinking the blissed out devotees are off their skull or nuttier than a Chipmunks’ Christmas.
The crucial point here is that simply because Adi Da, or whomever, can connect to and be the Bright, it does not mean they are enlightened. It simply means they can connect and convey that state of spiritual truth and beauty. The two phenomena – enlightenment and conveyance of the enlightened state are not synonymous and this is where a lot of confusion and trouble arises, as we westerners tend to conflate the two.
Some years back we had an inner contact that would communicate via a channelling mode. This contact could, whenever ‘she’ wanted to, enter the Bright and easily convey this state of truth, harmony and beauty. This was largely because the functioning persona ‘she’ used was a consciously created construct and therefore as porous as a used up sponge. The Bright could be pulled through very easily. People used to receive intimations of illumination simply by listening to ‘her’ teachings. However, in no way could we describe ‘her’ (a non-existent persona with less conventional reality than a sock puppet) or the ‘channel’ as enlightened.
I compare this experience, and others of a similar nature with that of my meeting with those I consider to be genuine enlightened Masters, the Tibetan Rinpoches I am blessed to study with and receive empowerment from. The most distinct difference I can relate is reality and groundedness. Anyone who has been physically blessed by the likes of Lama Zopa Rinpoche will know what I mean. Lama Zopa is like a raw elemental force, his whole body seems to grow from the earth. Yet there is an incredible transmission from him of compassion and emptiness. He is not simply transmitting the Bright, but he is the Bright on all levels.
The key here are the lower levels; true Masters (who never say there are enlightened) work constantly with the same practices to purify and balance the lower levels as do neophytes. At no time do such Masters let go of the fact they are fully human with fully human foibles and able to act as negatively or more so than anyone else. Of course, the Tibetan traditions are not perfect and produce their own share of renegades and abusers. But the principle of engaging as if you are imperfect, as if you are needing purification, as if you are a neophyte, no matter how many years experience or incarnations of splendour you have – that is a gold. That is a key. And the fact of the matter is that this is the case. The human brain is at best 100 000 years old. Our older, reptilian brain, concerned only with base survival, is millions of years old. Ordinarily it has veto power over our human notions of love, respect and kindness. Enlightened ones know this and constantly work to keep it in check and transmute its raw power.
Spiritual teachers who, like many we could mention, occasionally romp around abusing and engaged in damaging lower self action, have simply not purified and placed in check their primal and ego based impulses. Every so often the reptile within demands its day in the sun. This does not necessarily invalidate their teachings or even their transmission of the Bright, but it does require us to be wary and discern well. One of the major reasons I tend to avoid gurus is not so much I doubt their teaching, but that I just can’t be doing with the starry-eyed, non-discerning devotees who are part and parcel of the whole package. They are as irrational and as annoying as a fundamentalist talking about evolution.
Overall, I think it would be better for many spiritual teachers to be honest and simply say they experience or enter into or transmit enlightenment rather than they are enlightened. Or even that they channel an enlightened state like the contact mentioned above. That way we know they are not perfect, though the teachings can come from the perfected state. This would allow the whole guru-devotee game to dissolve and people naturally skeptical of gurus would not be so turned off and may receive some wonderful teachings. It would also give the teacher the space to occasionally have a good fuck or a Big Mac without it threatening to bring the whole spiritual edifice tumbling down.
Obviously the other side of the issue being discussed here are the devotees themselves. Some are sensible and use the teachings they receive to improve and refine their daily personal practice. This is why it is the tradition in Tibetan initiations and empowerments to require the students to commit a certain spiritual practice for life or some form of retreat. These wise Tibetans know that the important part is the daily, ongoing work the student does for her or himself. Not so sometimes in the west, where many devotees of gurus simply go to experience the bliss. Or, as been described to me, to be changed and transformed by being in or meditating in the presence of a Master.
This passive approach fairly makes me gag, and explains why so many western devotees simply get no where. The contact I mentioned above gave teachings in a semi public sphere and soon attracted great numbers of Osho styled Sannyasins. After a while it became clear not one of these were actually doing the exercises and spiritual work the contact set for them at each teaching session. They preferred to simply bask in the presence of the contact who for many was a reminder and substitute for Osho and other non-accessible gurus. The concept of being transformed by being in the presence was put to the test when one of it’s greatest exponents, a veteran of 30 years of sitting at the feet of gurus, was filmed molesting a client during a Tarot reading. One week he was rabbiting on to me about sacred sex, the next groping an unsuspecting customer. It was not long after this we closed the contact down permanently.
The point here is twofold. We cannot simply blame the gurus when things go pear shaped on the ashram – the devotees are often out to play too, or their discernment is out to lunch and not coming back. And secondly, we need to practice, work daily and consistently on our own spiritual practice. The genuine enlightened Masters do this, and so should we.