Thursday, December 29, 2005

Common Ground Grows Up

File under: Reference Library

When we hit the San Francisco bay area in the late 80s, we were surprised by the prevalence of spiritual culture there. Right next to the real estate rags at the supermarket was Common Ground, a kind of upscale services classified for the spiritual/psychological/bodywork market. This included just about any New Age™ vocation in existence along with every alternative therapy alive at the time.

We haven't seen the print pub in a while, but today we landed on the online version, and we were very pleased with what Common Ground has turned out to be. It reminded us more of a mini Utne Reader or Mother Jones than the shill sheet for past life regression therapists and crystal chakra balancers we remember it as.

Flipping through the archive, we happened upon this bit by Thich Nhat Hanh:
I am convinced that each of us has a bell in our pockets. We can be students of music. We can help bring harmony and peace and joy into our bodies and our minds. And we have not just one, but many musical instruments. Our in-breath and out-breath is a kind of violin that we can play all day. Our steps, our lungs, our noses—everything can become a musical instrument. We can play music while sitting, while walking, or while eating—and that music will bring joy, calm, and peace into our lives. And as I am a student of that class, I invite all of you to be my co-students, and you will learn how to play music in such a way that will bring peace to our society, our communities, and ourselves.
Remember that bell in your pockets, folks. No matter what din you're dealing with on the outer, the inner always rings with the clear, cool tone of existence itself.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Xmas Sri Sri In NJ

File under: The Siddhi of PR

Our old friend, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, eternal Nobel Peace Prize hopeful, master of self-promotion and unrepentant hypocrite, gave a satsang in Franklin, New Jersey on Christmas Day, where it was reported that close to 1000 people were in attendance.

Sri Sri offered the usual pabulum geared toward a Western audience. The globetrotting guru would obviously like to expand his market share here, but there's a 300-foot hug-giving monster standing squarely in his way. It's no wonder he lusts for the Peace Prize. It would go a long way to creating the brand-recognition he needs to topple the Ammachi juggernaut and come out on top as the leading Indian guru in America.

We'd say just duke it out with the eyeball lightning, but Sri Sri is probably about 600 gigawatts short of the juice he would need to be victorious.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Sankara Gets Back To Us (Sorta)

File under: The Siddhi of PR

A few posts back, we wondered aloud what this statement had to do with self-realization:
The sense of self, or identity, can expand to include all of humanity, regardless of nationality, beliefs, ethnicity, race, gender, or lifestyle.
We also asked the moderator of the forum on Sankara's website. Today they got back to us:
Briefly, GWR distinguishes between an expansive sense of self, as described by the quote you gave below, and an infinite self, which is roughly synonymous with self-realization. With so much divisiveness looming in the human world, GWR points out the importance for human beings to emphasize the nurturance of the expansive sense of self. For those interested in realizing an infinite self, GWR points out that it is not possible to do so for those still mired in narrowness, exclusivity, or otherwise divisive ways of thinking.
So the practice of expanding a person's sense of self leads to the abandonment of divisive ways of thinking, thereby bringing one closer to realizing the infinite self.

On first impression, we can't really argue with that. It's like a lot of approaches: psychological redefinition with compassion building. But it's unique in how the compassion comes by way of the redefinition.

The question is in the redefining. What does this "expanded" person look like in thought and belief. Are they just trading one set of occluding ideas for another, or does more clarity fill the space created by the expansion.

And then we begin to wonder about this "divisive" thinking. What exactly is the line between it and healthy debate. We can seem pretty divisive ourselves sometimes, right? By defining what is appropriate to think in the context of the practice, you control the content of people's minds. We aren't saying this is the case here, but we wonder how well-defined the ideas are about what is appropriate for the "expansive" self to think.

Perhaps Sankara deserves a closer look. He at least knows the difference between an expanded sense of self and what he's calling the "infinite self." Couple that with his ideas about God without religion, and you've got the kind of guru that we'd like to see more of... maybe.

We'll get back to you after we read his book.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Guru Of The Universal God

File under: The Siddhi of PR

As we were trying to scrape something up to write about, we saw an ad with this Melissa Etheridge blurb: "A commonsense approach [leading] to inner peace." The link led us to God Without Religion, a website and a book written by the seemingly very learned and well-disciplined Sankara Saranam:
After living as an ascetic for nearly two decades, engaging day and night in sophisticated methods of sense-introversion, and eventually coming to an inner understanding of how the human sense of identity manifests, I felt burdened by my discovery and needed to share what I'd found.
We believe we know how the human sense of identity manifests, too! It's all about significance, how the mind ranks its catalog of memories, ideas and emotions. But let's get back to Sankara. We're admittedly a bit envious of his credentials. He's also:
... formally studied engineering, music, Eastern classics, and comparative religion in universities, and [has] lived as a monk.
It sounds like he's almost ready to walk on water! And we do like the idea of God beyond religion. That's pretty much how it has been all along. That's why a Muslim, a Hindu and a Christian can all have authentic religious experience and yet believe each other to be in league with demons. As Ramakrishna said: "As many faiths, so many paths."

But our lurve went swimming with the penguins when we read this:
The sense of self, or identity, can expand to include all of humanity, regardless of nationality, beliefs, ethnicity, race, gender, or lifestyle.
Sankara's namesake, Adi Shankara, would beg to differ on that point. The sense of self, whether limited to an individual or seemingly containing the whole world, is still a limitation of who we really are. It is illusory from the regard of that truth.

This "expansion" of the sense of self is simply a manipulation of the ego. That's not to say it's wrong to identify with others. Empathy and compassion are good for you and the world. But stretching your identification to include your experience is like smearing yourself into your surroundings, and this is one of the occluding monsters in spiritual culture. Self-realization does not result in feeling identified with one's surroundings. It can only result in one thing, recognizing that one has always been the Self, which has connection only to itself and lies completely in, and yet completely outside the phenomenal world.

We sent Sankara an email through his site asking what such a statement has to do with self-realization. We'll share his answer if he gets back to us. Until then, we can't really recommend Sankara Saranam and his book as a source of information about self-realization. But we always recommend that everyone start their own religion. We all have that anyway, so we may as well be as freestyle as we wanna be, yo!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Kama Sutra: The Remix

File under: The Siddhi of PR and Gurus To The Stars

Deepak Chopra, celebrity guru and crass commercializer of all things Hindu, has been commissioned to reinterpret that famous Indian sex manual, the Kama Sutra, for a six-figure advance from Virgin Books.

As much as we find Chopra a pabulum factory for Hollywood's seeker set, he's sidled right on up to the next hottness in spirituality: freedom from sexual guilt and Victorian-era moral repression.

While we're sure Chopra will palpify it in no time, it's still a signficant development in the alternative spiritual scene. But just because Chopra is Indian doesn't mean he's a master of doing it. It's too bad Virgin didn't have the vision to hire someone with more affinity for the subject matter. We imagine rock star Tommy Lee and a bevy of beautiful Sanskrit scholars locked in a hotel room for a week could take the centuries-old text to a whole new level of the erotic.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Osho's Wild, Wild 70s

File under: Famous Dead Guys™

A columnist relates his experience with Osho in India in the early 70s:
I wanted to make that lysergic-induced pleasure permanent. And so I went to Rajneesh. He offered me a world of alternate morality - free love, free sex. Sex was used as a glue to draw in people and attain god. After two years there, I discovered that what he offered was nonsense. What he called a spiritual club was nothing but a fucking club. Why give it a spiritual name at all. Inside me I still remained ordinary. I could still feel jealous, I could still hurt others and be hurt myself. And so I gave up the mala and said I was leaving. Then that guru who spoke from the platform of unconditional love started behaving like a jilted lover - he said return the mala to me. I will see to it that you are destroyed.
A tip of our tantric hat to Osho for his attempts to sustain such a large chakra-puja. Such wide scale transgression was certain to result in all kinds of transformation in the participants. Look at the author's own story. He dove in, and as a result, saw through. Osho's experiment was a success in his case, too.

Osho's getting miffled about the rejection was just his exposed humanity. That's what was cool about him. He didn't seem to try to hide his humanity when he was playing the avatar game. All his peccadilloes were out front, like his astonishing parade of Rolls Royce automobiles.

But he had management problems and it all fell apart. We're sorry we missed the fun.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Devotees Rampage After Guru's Staff Snatched

File under: Backroom Gurudom

Guru Narendra Maharaj just wanted to fly from Lucknow to Mumbai with his Brahamdhand (religious staff). Airport security had a different idea and would not allow the staff on the aircraft. 500 followers of the slighted guru show up at the airport to protest, and 195 of them are arrested as rioters.

Narendra is rolling deep, y'all! This guru is a kingpin. All he needs now is a campaign manager.

Update: All is well now, mostly. Narendra's staff has been delivered in Mumbai, allowing him to feel confident in his guruhood once again.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Maharishi Moves On Steel City

File under: PP COM

[Ed.note: We've created a new category to track the activities of the Maharishi's Peace Palace Command, an imagined nerve center for the TM™ leader's continuing attempt to take over the world economy with one he creates from within. One of these days we'll actually get to indexing the blog against these categories. If anyone knows how to do this at Blogspot, please get in contact with us.]

Like a general in command of a well-rehearsed military operation, the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has decreed that not one or two, but four peace palaces will be coming to the greater Pittsburg, PA area. The 4 marble-clad palaces will cost $3 million each and be built "in harmony with natural law." That's code for according to our interpretation of Vedic literature as accepted by us as the inerrant truth, because that's what the Maharishi says it is.
The palaces, built in harmony with natural law, or Sthapatya Veda, range in size from 5,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet, and will offer Maharishi-inspired spas, Vedic Vibration Technology, exhibition halls, classrooms, a wide range of products and, of course, TM, including Yogic Flying.
A whole carnaval of Vedic "technology" for the buying. Just don't forget your Raams.

The Maharishi's brilliant plan comes into sharper focus. Create micro-economies within the surrounding communities and attempt to expand them to the point where they become the dominant economic system. We got to hand it to the old dude, he definitely knows what he's doing.

The Maharishi's colonels in this operation are loyal cadres with the best training:
Pittsburgh's Peace Palaces will be co-directed by Ralph Emmerich and Lisa Ashelman, both of whom have doctorates in world peace from Maharishi European Research University in Vlodrop, Holland. Both are certified teachers of Transcendental Meditation.
Who could be more qualified than that? They're doctors of world peace by way of their belief in inerrant Maharishism. In other words, hardcore Veda thumpers.

The viral nature of the peace palace enterprise is as slick as we've ever seen. It takes religious hegemony to a whole new level by creating its own economy within a host economy, soon to expand to the point where it eats its host. All they have to do is sell it. They'll have the venues to do so–if any of the palaces ever actually get built. But the question remains, will people want to participate in a funny-looking little old Indian man's grab for political power? All by claiming they will create peace vibrations by jumping up and down on their asses all day?

With some of LA's best nonduality teachers falling like star-struck teenagers for the Kracki, it seems more possible than we ever imagined. Mass enlightenment fever is reaching epidemic proportions, and yet it has so much more humanity to tear into. The horrible tragedy here is that the emotrance offered by these bringers of "world peace" is not the enlightenment they say it is. It's really no closer to the truth than the love experienced by neocon Christians. [Yes, we do believe most of them have love in their hearts.] But to mistake this rampant emotionalism for enlightenment is like jumping into a pigsty to clean up for dinner. You may as well crap yourself at the table, too.

Monday, December 05, 2005

This Is Your Brain On Krack(i)

File under: Satscams and Gurus Clockin' Dollars

A tipster sent us this .pdf file, currently being distributed among the Bhagavan Kalki's dupes and marks. This load of bunkum attempts to explain the "effects of Deeksha" on the "brains of several people at different stages of the diksha process, using a very sensitive electromagnetic sensor."

That's like trying to see the bottom of the ocean with a pair of binoculars over the side of boat. But hey, you've got to work with the tools that are available, right? The article goes on to state: "a healthy integration of spiritual awakening into human life always comes with left frontal lobe dominance."

We find this completely unscientific assumption a particularly frightening development. It reminds us of a certain historical figure's penchant for finding blond-haired, blue-eyed people the best with which to build a master race.

Taking a page from the Mararishi's TM™ propaganda playbook, the article continues:
One very interesting aspect of these findings was that the brain hardware of these people was more reflective of permanent enlightenment than their current conscious experience. It seems that diksha first installs the neurobiological hardware of enlightenment and the software in form of the experience slowly catches up.
Never mind the fact that science doesn't even acknowledge the existence of self-realization, let alone that nobody really knows what its "neurobiological hardware" would look like on a brain scan, or how it could be installed with a mere touch to the forehead by some dumb-assed dupe on a spiritual ego trip.

But when we got to this passage, we could read no more, mostly because our monitor was covered in last night's dinner and this morning's Earl Grey:
Ron Roth is the founder of Celebrating Life Ministries and a great spiritual teacher and healer. In his process in Golden City, he awakened to his own avatarhood and was declared by Bhagavan as an "Avatar of causeless Love."
Another marginal Western spiritual teacher falls by his own spiritual ego, a near perfect reflection of the Kracki's own psychotic grandiosity. It seems that many formerly reputable spiritual teachers are also falling into ignorance by the same means. A friend with inside knowledge of the California satsang scene explains:
I tell you Jody, everyone here I know who is into this Kalki business as far as I am concerned has gone completely nuts and lost whatever common sense they previously had. Some of these people were not nut cases before, or perhaps they were just closet nut cases, and this pushed them over the edge, I don't know. I can tell you that there is no talking sense to any of them, and I have now ceased trying to speak logically with them as it has just led to arguments... Very few are above lemminghood, I'm discovering.
The Kracki's evil seems to find its way into people by preying on and then inflating their spiritual egos. We couldn't have come up with a more nefarious plan to spread spiritual ignorance were we the Fallen Angel himself. But there is a silver lining to this dark cloud. Those who fall for the Kracki's flattery were obviously in it for their own self-glorification. Their allegiance to the Kracki exposes this, and thus their own failings as teachers of spirituality.

So if they love the Kracki, they ain't got smack to teach you about spirituality. At least until they come to terms with their own hidden desires for name and fame.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Sri Chinmoy Cooks Up Some Good Ones

File under: Wackadoo Gurus

Strong-man showoff guru Sri Chinmoy must have popped a few blood vessels in his brain from lifting all those weights. From his new book, The Wisdom of Sri Chinmoy:
“When one disciple’s father died, he was asked if he had known any spiritual people in his life. He said, ‘Yes, I know my daughter’s friend,’ who happened to be me. When my name was said, he was then able to leave the world of torture and go to a very good higher world.”

“One of my sisters died when I was 18. I followed my sister’s soul for about three hours in the world of death. With your consciousness you are flying like a kite. I was fighting with three death forces that wanted to snatch away three of my close disciples…”

“A young wife was terribly afraid of staying alone at night, so the Master said to the husband… I shall take care of her. That night she saw the Master in a corner of the room, not the Master’s physical body but his luminous subtle body. The Master said to her, ‘My child, until your husband comes back, I will be here to protect you.’”

“If one enters secret domains where the inherent powers of the cosmic realities exist, one can get the capacity to do anything” but he basically believes, “My teaching is not a kind of miracle-mongering. My business is to help the aspirant to reach God.”
A name that takes souls to heaven? Chasing ghosts in the afterlife and fighting with Death? Bi-locating in a luminous form to comfort the wife of a disciple? Er... last time we checked, those were all full-blown miracles... or symptoms of acute psychosis. Yet it's just your standard holy man hyperbole, courtesy of the Hindu mythology concerning godmen and their own desire for name and fame.

Chinmoy is playing a very well known tune. But it's just so goddamn old. And more importantly, it's basically just a fairy tale. Gurus use this fairy tale to dress themselves in the drag of a fantastic being and thus make themselves more attractive to potential devotees, at least those who are willing to believe in this nonsense. [Ed.note: We once did ourselves. See where we are coming from?]

We suppose the guy is getting old and looking for one last hurrah. Who can blame him for pumping some fantasy into his story as a way to kick up the adoration and adulation around him... before he says his own name and goes on to his own "higher world".

It would almost be quaint were it not for the fact that these ideas are preventing his devotees from becoming self-realized themselves. Instead of pearls of wisdom, Chinmoy is serving up hot, steaming plates of stinking occlusion, the sewage of gurudom. Out of his need to be a big man, his devotees suffer yet more delusion; their own awakening delayed by what they've been led to believe by the likes the lying Sri Chinmoy, and quite a few of the rest of those you could call big time gurus today.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Kracki Keeps Up The Dumbing Down

File under: Satscams and Gurus Clockin' Dollars

Do you hear that giant sucking sound? That's the intelligence screaming out of the heads of those who believe the Kracki, otherwise known as Bhagavan Kalki, is the new world savior. Among them is one Isaac Shapiro, a teacher of nonduality and the latest to go idiot in fealty to this money-lusting satscammer. Here are some excerpts from a letter written by Shapiro to his students, with a bit of commentary on our part:
Whilst in India, Anandika and I, went to see what was happening at the Oneness University also called Golden City, the vision and manifestation of Kalki and Amma. We were blown away.
The Kracki's big bucks impress. No wonder they call it the Golden City.
What touched us was at many different levels. We met many of the people who have spent about 14 years in this vision and are part of the team. We were treated with love and respect.
Of course they were! The Kracki loves to put on a show for his potential Western boosters.
On a practical level, we heard and saw dvd's of programs that are happening throughout India in the tiniest of villages which are functioning at a subsistence level. There has been a huge problem of alcoholism and family violence as these people have been caught in the downward spiral of the poor getting poorer. Villages that have had deekshas don't have the alcohol and family violence anymore.
Right. And our dog poops out roses in full bloom.
The people are more motivated to improve their lives. Some of them have attained recognizable high states. A community building has often been donated by The Golden city and villagers are learning and exploring functioning as a community, to function as oneness. The Indian government recognizes the benefits that are happening and are actively supporting this vision.
For sure! With their hands in the Kracki's pockets, of course.
Deeksha's, the transference of energy which rewires the nervous system so it is capable of being an embodied expression of unconditional love, has burst onto the world stage. It is spreading at an incredible rate.
Mass hysteria, the friend of every big time guru.
People from all over the world are attending 21 day courses which depending on which country you come from costs $5000. The money is being used to facilitate this vision of transforming humanity by 2012.
He means: to facilitate the construction of monuments to the Kracki's psychotic grandiosity.
At present 400 people a day can be facilitated and by next year 1000. People have come from all over the world including shamans from some of the indigenous tribes, pygmies etc. What is unique is that whatever religion or belief system people come with, the course is adapted to that. And sometimes there are muslim groups, christian groups and other religions happening simultaneously in different rooms in the university. What is remarkable is that Kalki is able to bring people to a realm of consciousness where they meet their personal manifestation of God, as real as we talk to each other.
Come to India to get cracked with the Kracki! No drugs are necessary!
So Christians meet Christ, Muslims meet Mohamed, advaitians meet Ramana, and so on. Unconscious programming is seen and realized to be love with the transformation that happens in that. The beauty is that people are empowered to be part of this team and facilitate this in others.
Spreading the disease, er... we mean joy, once they are infected themselves. Important note: any Advaitian who sees Ramana after visiting the Kracki deserves the delusion.
We met Sri Kalki. How to describe. On the surface an ordinary man, humble, available, sweetness itself. I felt seen and noticed my whole energy system vibrated in a gentle, powerful intelligence. Exquisite.
Translation: he made me feel good like a good con man should.
Easy to talk with, love meeting love. Millions see him as an Avatar. He talks about his capacities as something that is available to all of us, as our systems rewire and knows how to have this happen. Awesome. When he talks in India 100's of thousands show up for his darshan. His capacity to feel you is huge, so to me he is an expression of compassion.
A very good con man, apparently.

Extra super special bonus: Here's what Ammachi has to say about the shenanigans:
You cant pay for realization, if you could, many multimillionaires would be self realized. The whole idea they are saying is untrue: that you get self realization and then you pass it on to someone else. It takes a lot of penance and its not easy to get - to tell people this and expect people to pay a lot of money is not a good thing.
As much as we fault her for letting people think she is God, you gotta love good old Amma for taking a stand (and protecting her own interests, of course.)

We've said it before, but you could do a lot worse than Amma if you're looking for a big time guru to follow. Just try to remember that she poops on a toilet, too.