Monday, July 11, 2005

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.

10 Comments:

At 7/20/2005 1:02 AM, Anonymous Jacob said...

it may have been a tactic to loosen his student's grip on samsara. some teachers take a rather extreme approach in that they believe anything and everything they do to a student is justified if it helps them become enlightened.

I'm not convinced that Cohen is *just* a greedy bastard, and it should be noted his mother seems incredibly neurotic.

 
At 7/20/2005 9:48 AM, Blogger jody said...

That sounds like an apologist's explantion. Not that it's not an accurate one, just that Cohen's methods in this case probably don't work, even while it does result in more green lining for his own pockets while giving his detractors ammo for an attack on his character.

I'm not contending that Cohen is just greedy, but he does appear to be a major dick at times. This doesn't preclude the possibility of his enlightenment, just that he's an asshole inspite of it. That's not unusual really, despite the fact that it's not congruent with the normal (and completely inaccurate) expectations people have for their enlightened teachers.

 
At 4/23/2009 10:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It seems that it would depend on where the money went. If it went in to the "Guru's" pocket then bad on him. If, however, he donated the money to a worthy cause (other than himself) then the money may have had a dual cause: to help the student and the worthwhile cause.

 
At 4/24/2009 3:16 PM, Anonymous Luc C. said...

If morally unequiped people can be 'enlightened', then I think this term isn't too useful. 'Enlightenment' must mean full human flowering if it is to be a helpful term to me. If it means 'knowing God although not seeing the value of others wellbeing' then Enlightenment is stupid.

 
At 1/23/2011 3:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No real guru solicits money. None. Having books available or charging for rent is another matter. Also a real guru is basically totally indifferent to the comings and goings of people.Definitely not being manipulative to keep people there. But if there is an err to one side or the other the real guru's personality is usually relieved when people leave.
I mean it is work to be have to deal with the real hardcore egotists that often show up and keep making the same mistakes and creating the same disharmony over and over.

Now some people are attracted to and benefit from the 'destroyer' type gurus. Those who express holy dualism.
However this case doesnt sound like that it sounds like a good old fashioned charismatic cult.

 
At 2/10/2011 3:24 AM, Blogger Steven Rosen said...

I don't know if Andrew Cohen is an asshole or not, and it seems most of his critics, by focusing on behavior, miss the more important criticism: his ideas and expression of ideas is totally vacuous. In high sounding language he reiterates New Age drivel. ....

 
At 2/10/2011 3:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The biggest and most devasting criticism of Andrew Cohen is, I think, that what he writes and says is little more than New Age drivel. If this is what the pinnacle of evolutionary enlightenment is like we are in really big trouble. But I venture that there are few scholars of Indian philosophy or nondualism or theology who have ever read him-- in 50 years from now he will likely be forgotten.

 
At 3/08/2012 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

True enlightenment is humble, not authoritarian. It allows people freedom to be who they are, while compassionately witnessing. Without love, one cannot be enlightened.

 
At 5/01/2012 6:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Folks, many so-called enlightened types have some special "parlour trick" abilities whether it be clairvoyance, hands-on healing, Qigong and/or Kundalini transmissions.

Andrew Cohen has none of the above. And yet, there are those gifted energy transmitters, who despite having 'joy/bliss' coming out of their hands, don't call themselves enlightened. They're either gifted or have trained in the energy arts for decades, before being able to *do stuff* for others.

I believe Cohen is a self-deluded fraud. He's a type of confidence man but instead of running Ponzi schemes, plays mind games with his flock.

 
At 3/16/2014 2:19 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

cohen is someone i'd love to punch in the face. He's not enlightened. he's a jewish turd who wants to be important.

 

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