Andrew Cohen: Enlightened Asshole?
File under: The Siddhi of PR and Gurus Clockin' Dollars
Beliefnet has posted an interview with controversial guru Andrew Cohen, founder of What Is Enlightenment magazine and bad boy of the advaita satsang scene. Depending on who you are asking, he's either a megalomaniacal fraud or a notably rude yet authentic teacher of enlightenment.
Being notably rude ourselves, we feel some kinship with Cohen, especially when he says stuff like this:
Because what happened in the seventies and the eighties [is that] a lot of gurus came over from the East from different traditions and people would say, "Well, they're enlightened which means they're perfect." So then we found that many of them seemed to have difficulties around some basic human instincts [laughs]; that they didn't seem to be able to handle living in the West. And then everybody said, "Oh well, I guess they're not enlightened." And then, that was the end of enlightenment.Cohen seems to be intimating that some of those crazy, scandalized gurus were enlightened despite the various abuses they participated in. As tough as that may sound to a hagio-poisoned bliss bunny, we wholeheartedly agree. And Mr. Cohen makes a fine example himself:
Andrew had expressly told students that when a "committed" or "senior" student "blows it," it will cost them $20,000 in karmic retribution. When Stas once offered Andrew a contribution of $3,000 at a time when he was desperate to regain Andrew's good graces, Andrew angrily threw the check on the floor, shouting, "Do you think you can buy me off for a lousy three grand?" As a result, Stas borrowed money so that he could make a $20,000 contribution to Andrew. Later, when he told Andrew the money was given under duress and asked for its return, Andrew coldly refused.That puts him squarely in the asshole category, and some would say in the unenlightened megalomaniac category as well. It's no wonder his own mother ditched him.
Folks seeking to perfect themselves will not get Cohen, because he is clearly not perfect himself. That's why we're kinda digging on him, despite the fiscal abuse allegations. Besides, anyone willing to give Cohen $20,000 to amend for a faux pas deserves to lose the money, regardless of the fact that Cohen clearly didn't deserve to keep it himself.