Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ammaericanism

File under: Amma All-Over-The-Planet

She's the most beloved of the big-time gurus and just about the cleanest in terms of scuttlebutt. We're convinced you could do a lot worse than Ammachi out of all the world-touring gurus today. It's just too bad that her tragic lack of insight into the realities of her satsang's psychological dynamics undoes just about every teaching she attempts to give about self-realization:
Reflecting on the relationship between the guru and the disciple, she seeks to counter the damage done by spiritual con artists posing as illuminated beings: "Say you go to a library and pick out two books. If they are both bad, it doesn't mean all the books there are bad."
But a good book covered in ugly graffiti and doodles about divine powers and saintly magic is in some ways much, much worse.

16 Comments:

At 8/10/2006 7:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sri Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a much better Guru than Amritananda Mayi. He is God while not claiming to be. Also he very good looking! When peace does come it will be because Guruji made it to happen. I am just a Malaysian girl but I know this.

 
At 8/10/2006 8:25 AM, Blogger jody said...

When peace does come it will be because Guruji made it to happen.

I am only publishing this comment as it clearly illustrates an infection of gurudumbdom.

 
At 8/10/2006 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Heya Jody,

The thing about your ouvre is that it your own image, a reflection of the perceiver. Through practices, like yoga, we cleanse the perceptive organs and begin to focus upon the sweetness of things and people and the other contents of mind.

As the teacher of my lineage of yoga likes to quote, "What one sees with the eyes, that is thine own self; what one hears with the ears, that is thine own self."

You're not waking anybody up. People will have realizations when their time ripens for them. It's easy to point the finger and criticize. But it's really difficult to digest the world into sweetness.

I like your vibe and I can relate to your concerns, but many other concentric and confluent realities occur beyond our nimble eagerness to expose and condemn and criticize.

Anyhow, Amma does great work. I've gotten many hugs from her and, well, to be honest, I really don't feel a thing. But I love her anyways. Her humanitarian works alone are quite an inspiration for us all. And to many people she spreads blissful vibes and sweetness. And as fleeting & insubstantial as those experiences may be; I think that it's a blessing for those people.

The same goes for the rest of the gurus. People will always see what they want to see. And there will always be teachers who can't handle the temptations of their situation-- and there's even those who are outright opportunists.

Have you checked out this compilation of the lives of the Mahasiddhas? Not only are the drawings wonderful, but the lives of the saints are far, far adrift from our common sense idea of "proper behavior". To be enlightened and to act in a sensible, restrained, rational way are two separate, often conflicting things. And god's play takes no heed of whatever we, our minds, think is going on.

Anyhow. It's difficult to be a guru, and it's difficult to come to the realization that your guru is just as human as you are. Finally, those situations are between those people.

Anyhow. I'm a big fan of Guruphiliac, but I tire of the potshots at the low hanging fruits of obvious criticisms. We all know that stuff... The interesting stuff happens inbetwixt our notions of tomfoolery and rightousness, of opportunism and selfless service. Opposites can co-exist, or create tensions for our own breakthroughs. It just depends upon the reading.

Anyhow, I know that your powers of discernment are sharp enough to help spread a bit of love and compassion in ways that are also kind and less abrasive to regular old hooplehead spiritual followers and practitioners such as myself.

I for one look forward to a Guruphiliac who sees us act foolishly but recognizes that this mere observation is a self-reflection.

Jai Sri Krshna!
-[s]
Spiros Antonopoulos
Souljerky/Sri Ganesha Tea Stall

 
At 8/10/2006 12:06 PM, Blogger jody said...

Through practices, like yoga, we cleanse the perceptive organs and begin to focus upon the sweetness of things and people and the other contents of mind

Through the practice of discrimination, we can begin to see how much in yoga culture is focused on seeing "sweetness" at the expense of an actual understanding of our nature as identical with Brahman. Sweetness is great, but it's no more closer to our truth than anything else we experience in our lives.

As the teacher of my lineage of yoga likes to quote, "What one sees with the eyes, that is thine own self; what one hears with the ears, that is thine own self."

If I see a plane crash, is that my own self? On one level it is, but then so is absolutely everything else. These kind of metaphors are often limited in their usefulness.

My seeing the occluding effects of ideas about enlightenment doesn't necessarily mean they are only in my head. In fact, it was getting past them in my own life that allowed me to see that they were getting in the way in the first place.

You're not waking anybody up. People will have realizations when their time ripens for them. It's easy to point the finger and criticize. But it's really difficult to digest the world into sweetness.

That's not my job, Spiro. My job is to identify those ideas in yoga culture which occlude our true nature, and to point at them and their sources in a way that is as entertaining as possible given my limited abilities as a humorist.

I like your vibe and I can relate to your concerns, but many other concentric and confluent realities occur beyond our nimble eagerness to expose and condemn and criticize.

Perhaps. However, my main concern is the flood of ideas about self-realization perpetrated by gurus, whether they are directly aware of this or not. Either way, occlusion occurs when these ideas get adopted by the devotees.

Anyhow, Amma does great work.

I totally agree.

I've gotten many hugs from her and, well, to be honest, I really don't feel a thing.

I've had three hugs, yet all I "got" was some stinky perfume smeared on me. Of course, an Ammabot would say my lack of "getting anything" was all my fault...

But I love her anyways. Her humanitarian works alone are quite an inspiration for us all.

She's the best of the biggest.

And to many people she spreads blissful vibes and sweetness.

I'd say her image and what folks believe about her engenders the bliss, rather than anything she is or is doing personally. She's a figurehead for whom folks fill in their own blanks.

And as fleeting & insubstantial as those experiences may be; I think that it's a blessing for those people.

Insofar as they get some warm fuzzies, yes. Insofar as they obtain some clarity about their own true nature, I don't think so.

The same goes for the rest of the gurus. People will always see what they want to see. And there will always be teachers who can't handle the temptations of their situation-- and there's even those who are outright opportunists.

Bad gurus can work great for sincere devotees, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't point out that they're bad anyway.

Have you checked out this compilation of the lives of the Mahasiddhas? Not only are the drawings wonderful, but the lives of the saints are far, far adrift from our common sense idea of "proper behavior". To be enlightened and to act in a sensible, restrained, rational way are two separate, often conflicting things. And god's play takes no heed of whatever we, our minds, think is going on.

I'm fully aware of the fact that enlightenment is no bellwether of morality, despite what the bliss bunnies want to believe. However, the hagiographies of the saints are one of the biggest sources of occluding ideas in the world today. Perhaps we should be spending less time absorbing these myth-filled stories of saintly magic and concentrate more on what is always true for ourselves in every moment of our existence, regardless of where we are, what we are doing or who we believe ourselves to be.

Anyhow. It's difficult to be a guru, and it's difficult to come to the realization that your guru is just as human as you are. Finally, those situations are between those people.

Yet if folks understood the real humanity of their gurus, perhaps they would be that much closer to allowing their guru's understanding in themselves.

Anyhow. I'm a big fan of Guruphiliac, but I tire of the potshots at the low hanging fruits of obvious criticisms. We all know that stuff...

Actually, not enough folk know that stuff in my opinion. A visit to any big-time guru's satsang makes that exceedingly clear. Take the recent Yoga Journal puff-piece about Sri Sri, for instance. It's really, really bad news as far as I'm concerned.

The interesting stuff happens inbetwixt our notions of tomfoolery and rightousness, of opportunism and selfless service. Opposites can co-exist, or create tensions for our own breakthroughs. It just depends upon the reading.

A bad guru can work great for a sincere devotee and a good guru can plug their devotees' heads with nonsense ideas about enlightenment without even being aware of it. They don't have to say they are more divine to be thought of as more divine. Just allowing themselves to be put on the pedestal does most of the damage.

Anyhow, I know that your powers of discernment are sharp enough to help spread a bit of love and compassion in ways that are also kind and less abrasive to regular old hooplehead spiritual followers and practitioners such as myself.

Maybe we need a bit more than that in these days of megagurudom. To treat a calcified shoulder joint, a doctor will stick a big needle directly in the joint to break up the deposit. Unpleasant? Definitely. Necessary sometimes? Yes.

I for one look forward to a Guruphiliac who sees us act foolishly but recognizes that this mere observation is a self-reflection.

All observation is informed by the disposition of the observer, and I can admit to being somewhat angry that gurus fail to see the damage that occluding ideas can wreak on their devotees' efforts to come to self-understanding.

But it's not my fault that the airplane goes down, just as it's not mine that yoga culture is beset by a nonsense that prevents most of what it is about from coming about.

That said, I am a work in progress as an individual, and as such there is always room for improvement, which I am constantly striving for, believe it or not.

Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Spiro.

 
At 8/10/2006 1:17 PM, Anonymous Stuart said...

Amma says that if you find one or two bad books in a library, you should still keep looking for a good book. Metaphorically, she's saying that if you're hurting from bad experiences with a guru, you should continue to seek for the RIGHT guru, someone like herself.

(Cigarette companies always argue that they're not encouraging people to smoke. They're just trying to create BRAND LOYALTY in existing smokers.)

When people have terrible experiences with gurus, that's a wonderful opportunity, a great possibility of a wake-up experience. They can realize, "Hey, I got screwed because I was looking for someone else to give me Truth. Why am I doing that? What gave me the idea that I'd LOST Truth?"

Amma is suggesting the exact opposite, that these people should instead think, "I must have had a bad guru. I should keep looking till I find a good guru. Yeah, that's it! It's all about the guru; I don't have to question my own intentions!"

Hey, I love guruphiliac, it's amusing, and disseminating truthful information is always a helpful thing. At the same time, it's useful to remember that it's necessary and sufficient to attend to oneself, how I keep my own mind and actions moment to moment.

> However, my main concern is the
> flood of ideas about self-
> realization perpetrated by
> gurus, whether they are directly
> aware of this or not. Either
> way, occlusion occurs when these
> ideas get adopted by the
> devotees.

You're knocking down various occluding ideas perpetrated by gurus, but the gurus themselves are already doing the same thing. Any one of them will tell you, "Don't be fooled by those occluding ideas about self-realization that all those other gurus are feeding you! You should instead embrace MY ideas about self-realization!"

After trying out one idea after another, eventually one can at least consider waking up to the direct experience of truth in this moment, without creating ANY idea of enlightenment or self-realization.

> But I love her anyways. Her
> humanitarian works alone are
> quite an inspiration for us all.

Ammachi gets my applause for her humanitarian work. I'd only point out that Bill Gates has given far, far more to charity than Ammachi ever will. Gates did it while making people smarter; Ammachi did it while making people stupider.

> Perhaps we should be spending
> less time absorbing these myth-
> filled stories of saintly magic
> and concentrate more on what is
> always true for ourselves in
> every moment of our existence,
> regardless of where we are, what
> we are doing or who we believe
> ourselves to be.

Wouldn't it be interesting to give up everything that distracts from a clear perception of this very moment of existence? Myths of saintly magic are occluding, and so are all ideas of good gurus, bad gurus, self-realization, and enlightenment.

It's OK to play the game of "Give up that bad guru for this good guru. Give up that idea of self-realization for this idea." But lets not forget the choice of putting down the whole ball of wax. What are you doing right now?

 
At 8/10/2006 1:47 PM, Blogger jody said...

When people have terrible experiences with gurus, that's a wonderful opportunity, a great possibility of a wake-up experience.

Too bad most of them get trapped in their idea of themselves as the "wronged" devotee, thereby perpetuating the identification they believe they are trying to transcend.

You're knocking down various occluding ideas perpetrated by gurus, but the gurus themselves are already doing the same thing.

I've yet to hear any popular guru refer to anything in the way of occluding ideas. It's usually about dropping things like anger or self-loathing rather than any and all ideas they've picked up about self-realization.

Gates did it while making people smarter; Ammachi did it while making people stupider.

Unfortunately, I have to agree...

It's OK to play the game of "Give up that bad guru for this good guru. Give up that idea of self-realization for this idea."

I'm not offering any ideas about self-realization, I'm projecting the idea that any idea of self-realization is a bad one. That's still an idea, but it's not about what self-realization is, which is where the problem lies to my mind.

But lets not forget the choice of putting down the whole ball of wax. What are you doing right now?

Chewing gum, punching keys, being me.

 
At 8/10/2006 1:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jody, Do you have to call devotees ammabots? Are you saying each and every person who follows Amma is exactly the same? A bot as in robot has no human qualities . when you generalize all devotees as "bots" why is that less offensive and any more correct than saying all jew , or all blacks or all of anything and lumping them together , scrubbing away all of their humanity, reducing them to a petty little phrase , you know "those people" I don't think you get how offensive you are.

 
At 8/10/2006 2:06 PM, Blogger jody said...

I don't think you get how offensive you are.

If "throw their critical thinking in the toilet" Amma devotees are offended by being compared to robots, they deserve to be.

 
At 8/10/2006 3:05 PM, Blogger jody said...

Look, a lot of my commentary is juvenile on purpose. I'm emulating a style that plays to the cheap seats. But if in fact an insult is being felt, it brings up an important point. If someone gets insulted because they are compared to an inhuman robot, who exactly is it who sustains the blow? The fact that we're not really the individuals we believe ourselves to be comes into play here. The one insulted is the one that is supposed to be transcended. That's why I'm free with the epithets. I'll never be able to insult the truth of who we really are. I take aim at the illusory, and it is out of the illusory that folks feel insulted. The very fact of their feeling so is reason to reexamine why they got into the realization game in the first place. If they are like most people, they did it to gain a bit of self-love, respect, get over an unhappy childhood or life, etc. But none of that is what it's really all about, in my opinion. It's about getting over yourself, not protecting that self, which is false and the very thing which prevents you from seeing your own truth.

So anyone who feels insulted by me has a great opportunity to practice some self-enquiry. And I'll never ask any of you for a dime!

 
At 8/11/2006 12:17 AM, Anonymous Kalyani said...

Jody writes:

"The one insulted is the one that is supposed to be transcended. That's why I'm free with the epithets. I'll never be able to insult the truth of who we really are. I take aim at the illusory, and it is out of the illusory that folks feel insulted. The very fact of their feeling so is reason to reexamine why they got into the realization game in the first place. If they are like most people, they did it to gain a bit of self-love, respect, get over an unhappy childhood or life, etc. But none of that is what it's really all about, in my opinion. It's about getting over yourself, not protecting that self, which is false and the very thing which prevents you from seeing your own truth.

So anyone who feels insulted by me has a great opportunity to practice some self-enquiry. And I'll never ask any of you for a dime"!

Brilliant! Ruminating over what you have written is certainly worth one's while and enlightening too.

 
At 8/11/2006 7:50 AM, Blogger CHUCK said...

Kalyani, you're a self righteous ass kisser who believes that her servants love her like family just because they say they do. We meet again!

 
At 8/11/2006 1:49 PM, Blogger Stuart said...

Stuart:
>When people have terrible
>experiences with gurus, that's a
>wonderful opportunity, a great
>possibility of a wake-up
>experience.

Jody:
>Too bad most of them get trapped
>in their idea of themselves as
>the "wronged" devotee, thereby
>perpetuating the identification
>they believe they are trying to
>transcend.

Isn't it kind of obvious that it's two sides of the same coin? There's no need to cling to any guru as if he/she has some wonderful thing that you lack, and there's no need to avoid any guru as if they're perpetuating some awful disease that you need to stay free of.

>I'm not offering any ideas about
>self-realization, I'm projecting
>the idea that any idea of self-
>realization is a bad one.

In Zen-style, we use teaching words like, "The sky is blue; the grass is green; when you're hungry, eat; when someone else is hungry, feed them; etc etc." The meaning is that truth has already appeared in whatever you're perceiving or doing right now. This teaching style doesn't require even mentioning enlightenment (or self-realization, whatever); such ideas are something extra, not necessary.

 
At 8/11/2006 5:42 PM, Blogger Stuart said...

>I'm not offering any ideas about
>self-realization, I'm projecting
>the idea that any idea of self-
>realization is a bad one.

The "spiritual" sub-culture is filled with gurus and their groupies who hold ideas of "Self-realization is [this or that]." If, for their benefit, you're offering the idea "Any idea of Self-realization is a bad one" as a kind of medicine to help them recognize and release their delusion, then wonderful.

Outside of that context, "Any idea of Self-realization is a bad one" is superfluous.

 
At 8/11/2006 6:15 PM, Blogger jody said...

If, for their benefit, you're offering the idea "Any idea of Self-realization is a bad one" as a kind of medicine to help them recognize and release their delusion, then wonderful.

It's as much for my own benefit as anyone else's. I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!

But yeah... that's it in a nutshell.

 
At 8/11/2006 11:14 PM, Blogger Antarananda said...

Jody,

I really enjoyed reading Spiro's eloquent comments, and I'm mostly in alignment with his viewpoint. However, I also agree with your neti-neti approach, which I recognize is the thread running through all the inflammatory commentary, and indeed the raison d'être of your blog.

Spiro said "people will have realizations when their time ripens for them", and I could not agree more completely. In the truest sense, I believe he is correct when he says that "you" are not waking anybody. Only if the person's evolutionary destiny, or prarabdha karma, were ripe enough, would your words create any sort of impact. But then, it would have happened regardless. Your words would merely be a medium, or a trigger for that which was fated to happen.

In my own life, the dropping of certain "occlusive" ideas simply happened as a natural result of growth. In fact, I have to admit, that while I do not always agree with your inflammatory views on every single Guru you have profiled, I have certainly found some words of wisdom which have created increased awareness and clarity in my mind. So, in that respect, I have learnt to see and learn from the "Guru-principle" everywhere.

However, many among the "seekers" and devotees that you lampoon shall never view their life situation in quite the same manner, because it is not yet the opportune moment for the quantum shift to happen in their mind-body-intellect apparatus.

You said "If they are like most people, they did it [getting into the realization game] to gain a bit of self-love, respect, get over an unhappy childhood or life, etc."

I agree! It took me courage to admit to myself a while back, that the real reason my whole "spiritual seeker" phase began was because of these underlying issues. In fact, even when I met my Guru, I still had some of those residual needs. Recognition and acceptance of those needs enabled me to move into a more mature phase of dropping all hankering and truly accepting things as they are.

It is an essential phase, I believe, that every aspirant must go through - to look ones own insecurities and pain in the eye, to be alone and face the stark, barren depths of ones need for security and emotional comfort. To be honest, even my own relationship with my Guru progressed from an immature one, where I had that need for love, to a more mature relationship, where he can say to me, "stand up with courage and be a man!" I hope that the devotionally minded devotees of the big Gurus are similarly able to recognize and move beyond all needs which are thus disguised in the garb of spirituality.

You also said, " I've yet to hear any popular guru refer to anything in the way of occluding ideas. It's usually about dropping things like anger or self-loathing rather than any and all ideas they've picked up about self-realization."

My Guru is very candid in speaking publicly thus: "Frozen into one frame, Mother or Lover, I am easy for you to capture and retain. I am then easier to market. It’s good business for me, not good business for you!" Once, during a yatra in the Himalayas, he was asked about the nature of the Guru-disciple relationship. He joked that it is all a psycho-drama! I think the bliss-bunny types there must have been pretty shocked at that reply! He obviously doesn't seem to take the whole Guru role too seriously.

While Nithyananda does play the role of "Ishta Devata", especially to the large throngs that go see him in south India, with the ones who are ready for the simple truth, including his closest disciples, brahmacharis and brahmacharinis etc, the relationship is refreshingly innocent and relaxed. In such an environment, it is remarkable how each person is able to grow and flower in the context of their own unique inclinations. I am sure many Gurus like him must exist.

 
At 8/12/2006 8:47 AM, Blogger jody said...

Your words would merely be a medium, or a trigger for that which was fated to happen.

That is the purpose of my activity, other than to give exercise to my own frustrations with the widespread nature of occluding ideas and the fact that their primary source are the souls who should be solving the problem rather than supplying it.

 

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