Giving Up The Gurus
By Gordon Phinn
Finishing up the third volume of Michael Posner’s oral biography of Leonard Cohen, as full an account of a celebrity’s life as one is likely to get, complete with as many contradictions, paradoxes and self-indulgent scandalous behaviours as you can handle, I was struck by Cohen’s seemingly endless dependence on gurus and teachers to give meaning and significance to his path through life. That he moved eventually from the rascal Zen Buddhist horndog Roshi, a lifelong drunk with a penchant for abusing women students who seemed to infect Cohen with his attitude that dispensing with the strictures of conscience was some kind of spiritual achievement rather than some psychopathic indulgence tolerated in a patriarchal tradition as shameless as Catholicism, to spend many months attending the talks of the Mumbai based Advaita teacher Ramesh Balsekar, whose teachings and moral character remain unimpeached, speaks well of his quest for greater understanding in the glamorous turmoil of his existence.
To this we can add a number of relatively enlightened Rabbis and Kabbalists with whom he dialogued over the decades, lending some intellectual heft to the poisoned chalice always on tap at Mount Baldi. I had known of his repeated trips to Mumbai but not in quite the detail provided by Posner’s witnesses. It did not take long, however, to come across one of the glaring faults that teachers of traditional Hindu and Buddhist thought are prone to. They assume, quite righteously on many occasions, that their sacred bibles of traditional teachings have no need of revamping in the light of fresh experience and what we new-agers might term evidence. Just like their Christian colleagues they will decry all afterlife knowledge derived from spiritualism as prone to illusion and the deceptions of lying spirits and all theosophic thought around reincarnation and the karmic links between lives as surplus to requirements and prone to padding the ego with praise. Few, if any, will risk pushing the envelope beyond the knowing of their student years. It’s always: more mindfulness, more prayer, more devotion. Remain in the temple/ church, keep up that tithing, do not risk the temptation of the individual path with all its emotional entanglements. Father knows best.
Let me quote one glaring example from one Pierre Tetrault, visiting Mumbai to track down Cohen and this new teacher he’d heard of to gain his blessing and participation for a film in production:
“Anybody have any questions for Ramesh? I put up my hand. At that moment we see Leonard walking up the street. We go in – there’s two chairs at the front and one is for me. About twenty five people, including Leonard, are on the floor Now the teacher asks for my question. I say, One of my best friends committed suicide. I can’t get rid of the thought that I should have picked up on it. Ramesh asks, Did you choose your parents?….No….Choose where you were born?… No…..Choose your brothers and sisters?….No….Your school? On and on. If you had so little control over your own life, how can you think you could have controlled your friends? I start sobbing. When I stop I feel a hundred times, a kind of catharsis. At the end they did chanting – Leonard was singing. It was blissful.”
How could Ramesh, deeply versed in the teachings of Advaita, not know, of the soul’s pre-birth existence, it’s past life karma, its advisers and choices? In the new age community everyone knows this. The archive of life between life regressions is huge despite being fairly new. Many nde’s experiencers have discovered their life choices were not any kind of fate or deity mandated action but a pre-birth decision, one of many. Although I’d seen such craven ignorance in other teachers I was still surprised to see it here, …more fool me. The deliberate removal of individual responsibility and god-connection. Right, shit happens but don’t deal with it cause it’s none of your business; give it all over to god. I’ve heard many Christians say much the same.
On his website Balsekar, while acknowledging that “Consciousness is all there is”, defers to the deity in his “Letter to God”. After listing all the gifts he has been given (good family, rewarding career etc) he observes, “If you stop fearing god it is more than likely you will start loving god . The greatest is to find freedom from the fear of god: I do nothing, he does everything”.
Elsewhere while affirming the non-existence of the ego and individual he affirms the existence of a god figure, usually male though not, thankfully, on a throne, and I wonder if he has ever in meditation glimpsed the god consciousness and merged with it long enough to know that he is not and never has been separate from it, and that the teaching he embodies and spreads lacks not only the relevant updates of modern knowledge but the essential understanding of incarnation.
While we are here, getting bruised in the school of hard knocks and bleeding out our supply of self pity, it is wise to recall the god consciousness that remains at the core of our being, that knowingness which supplies as much accepting serenity as you might need in tense unpleasant oppressive situations.
That the god figure needs to be consulted and surrendered to is a dogma of many religions and results from the ignorance of their founders who assume that seekers need a helping hand in availing themselves of the god consciousness. At this point in our evolution we can drop that requirement and know the god in each of us, and that when we surrender we surrender to ourselves.
181 Post Views
February 21, 2023 @ 3:42 pm
After working in radio for decades, I knew the name Mike Posner. You had me. Love it Gordon. I know a few people who need to read this.
When I first started this journey 6.5 years ago, the first guy I met asked me right out of the gate, “who are your teachers.” I honestly didn’t know what he was talking about. Everything I learned came from inside. Many were like that….