Sunday, September 24, 2006

On Real, True Gurus

File under: The Art of Guruing

Lifted from the comments on Nithyananda Steps Up (On His Pedestal):
A "Real, True Guru" is very much aware of their own humanity.

A "Real, True Guru" has compassion. He or she has felt the depths of their own pain and thus, can feel the pain of others.

A "Real, True Guru" will not build a shrine to "Thine Own Glorious Self" as a means of promoting the "Truth". Real Gurus know that Real Truth doesn't require the fortification of shrines.

A "Real, True Guru" will be concerned about humanity. He or she accepts that sure, we can all go to that space of "I AM THAT" but most us of live *here* and *here* can be a difficult and painful place to be for many.

A "Real, True Guru" doesn't laugh at your pain and dismiss it as meaningless. A "Real, True Guru" recognizes that pain can be a valuable teacher, not one to be dismissed as meaningless or ridiculed. A "Real, True Guru" can accept what's in front of him or her regardless of whether it's sorrow or joy, rage or bliss, b.s. or a sweet-smelling rose.

A "Real, True Guru" is not content to stop learning; he or she would never dream of stating that they have attained perfection.

A "Real, True Guru" is seldom the one in front of you. They're the one behind or beside you, holding you up, pushing you forward, encouraging you in moments of weakness and doubt.

A "Real, True Guru" does not present him or herself as someone capable of bestowing "enlightenment" upon another. He or she already knows that the most they can do is to reflect back that which is already within you.

Everyone has the capacity to be a "Real, True Guru" although not necessarily to all people at all times. The world is swarming with teachable moments; "Real, True Gurus" are those who are present during those moments.
We'd only add that a real, true guru doesn't make themselves a spectacle in order to promote themselves or build their satsang, filling heads with nonsense about self-realization in their zeal to hit the big-time.

23 Comments:

At 9/24/2006 10:34 PM, Blogger arunachalesha said...

A "Real, True Guru" is not content to stop learning; he or she would never dream of stating that they have attained perfection.
Well, so we've atleast cleared Gautama Buddha off the list :-)

 
At 9/25/2006 6:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jody:

I strongly disagree with your concept of what constitutes "realization". The bottom line is that realization does not come easily, whether seen from the Yoga school perspective, or the Advaita Vedanta school perspective or the Tantra school perspective. Each school requires that the student undergo much preparation before finally breaking through the "veil of maya". At that point, I don't believe "it's Brahman being Brahman and the mind and body being the mind and body," as you have said; at that point All is Brahman and Brahman alone - Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma.

A famous story: Once when Shankara's unenlightened disciples, imitating him, all proclaimed "Shivoham" (I am Shiva), he drank molten iron, and asked them to follow suit. When they balked in fear, he then proclaimed "Kevaloham Shiva" (I alone am Shiva). He proved that he alone was Shiva incarnate. Don't dismiss it as legend or myth, and if you do, then dismiss all the words and commentaries attributed to Shankara as also myth. Don't ever quote Shankara.

So, what I'm saying is that to expect all enlightened ones to act or behave like just one of us regular folks is an erroneous expectation on your part. You cannot expect a 1000 W lightbulb to turn down its intensity and become a 5 W bulb.

If this is what you believe, then it is tantamount to asking the Buddha why he started teaching and sending out bhikshus after enlightenment, or asking Ramana Maharshi why he ever got up from the cave where he was sitting motionless, and allowed people to create an ashram around him, or asking Shankara or Vivekananda why they walked across the length and breadth of India convincing people to embrace true dharma once more. They did so because it was the Divine fulfilling some destiny through their bodies as instruments post-realization, not because of some egotistical desire to become famous!

If an enlightened one is destined to be a bright shining light in the world, no force in the world will ever be able to stop the work they are doing - not when they are in the body, and not when they leave it. The tremendous nishkama karma (work done with no sense of personal doership) of the enlightened ones is a sine qua non of realization.

Now if true realization ever dawns in my own mind-body apparatus, I'm not implying that I too will become a guru or teacher or develop magical superpowers! I will simply play out whatever my own samskaras are in this lifetime. But, something just seems to draws people to those who are established firmly in That - there is no denying it.

 
At 9/25/2006 6:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What if the "Real, True Guru" cannot be known by any outer characteristics? Including whether they really make us sick with their shows of Grandeur, their claims to be God, or please us with their sleeping on a mat and giving away everything they receive? What if our criticisms (or acceptance and praise) have absolutely nothing to do with who/What is the "Real, True Guru"?

I saw a man some years back, dressed in ordinary clothes, in a group of other men like him. I went and introduced myself to him for no reason other than I felt something amazing when I saw him. When he shook my hand, I realized he was extraordinary in some way. I said "why are you hiding like this?" He replied, laughing, "oh, you saw. I'm hiding here in plain view for anyone who can see...." He then told me to leave the Guru I was running around after, and that the ashram that Guru was running was a 'mental hospital'. He said "it's not necessary for you to be there. You'll get nothing..." and told me to get about my life and forget all that. He then proceeded to take the time to tell me some things which shocked me out of my blind beliefs and out of my mind a bit. This took a month or so, on and off (all at that famed Guru's ashram, much to the anger of that Guru). I kept trying to get others there to sit with this man and hear him. They would come, say "he's nice, but it's against our Guruji's point of view" and leave. The man said "if you ever see any man dressed specially, or with a special mark on his forehead, that's Guru Business. There, you are not likely to get the Truth -- what you are looking for. Guru Business is the cheapest, lowest business in the world. If you want bliss, then crying, bliss then crying, go to your Guruji's satsang and continue. If you want the Truth, it may not be pleasant to hear, but here it is........"

That man came a few years later and stayed in my house, as people were beginning to notice him too much and he didn't want to see them for a few months. He was, in that time, never angry, someone nuts (by some social standards), a bit reclusive, talked little, ate a lot, and sometimes said things that again shook what was left of my foundations of supposed reality. He was, in short, ordinary, yet totally extraordinary in a way indescribable.

After a few years, I switched on the TV in another city ( in India) and there he was on TV, in an orange robe, with his eyes closed, shouting on the screen. When the camera panned, there were maybe 50,000 people sitting there, rapt attention. I kept blinking, wondering -- what in Hell happened to him???? Is that really him?

So I called him on the telephone and said "what are you doing there? You are on TV!" He laughed and said "yeah, I'm doing Guru Business. It's a joke." I was devastated. I went to that city to visit him, trying to find out what happened. He just laughed and said "don't worry, I'm still the same man you met. But I want to tell some of these people something now, and who listens to a man in ordinary clothes? Nobody. You have to dress up like this, wear a garland, show yourself meeting ministers, have a big satsang..." I asked "what do you want more money?? You have too much money already! What is it fame? Or what?" He laughed and said "you cannot understand. And it has nothing to do with the Truth. It's just a play, my new joke...."

Bizarre. Around him, people are bowing and washing his feet and he looks all the part. When he is with me he is absolutely normal like before. I even asked him if he disrepected the people doing those things. He said "certainly not -- God has sent them. They are God. This is their level of understanding. Some good comes to them from this. I don't know how or what." (Most of the time he says "I don't know how or what" about most things like this. Again I asked him about his previous instructions and he said "It's all still true -- Guru Business is the lowest business. I have this bad karma that I have to do this in this world." He told me that all the people we see sitting on the thrones, stages, dressed up like this, lecturing, giving mantras, or whatever, have some very bad karma, and that it is very unpleasant. He includes himself.

Bizarre. I wonder to this day what it means. But I definitely don't know what the perfect definition of the "Real, True Guru" is.

 
At 9/25/2006 7:25 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have one thing to add that touches on the issue. It's from one of Alan Clement's (former Buddhist monk) 'raves on freedom':

Question Authority


In order to explore consciousness as the source of liberating freedom we must be vigilant in bringing the highest standards of disciplined empirical inquiry to bear upon the process of perception.

Nietzsche defined freedom as “the will to be responsible to ourselves.” This to me means the ability to respond to the instinct for freedom that is innate within ourselves—ability here meaning competence and skill.

In other words, wise discernment and intellectual rigor play vital roles as we open to the contents of consciousness and examine the role of perception as the architecture of reality. And to extract anger and ignorance from “misperceptions of freedom” requires courage, intelligence, and kindness.

This means not hiding in “axiomatic truths” or “ideological hysterias” with their promises of escape into a realm of “perfect whatever-ness.” There are no absolute answers, not yet. Favor the question, always question.”

Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace laureate Elie Weisel reminds us. “Do not accept answers as definitive. Answers change. Questions don’t. Always question those who are certain of what they are saying. Always favor the person who is tolerant enough to understand that there are no absolute answers, but there are absolute questions.”

Developing our reverence for mystery as we explore the universe, inside and outside, and map the architecture of freedom, is the best safeguard against fanaticism and totalitarianism.

 
At 9/25/2006 9:14 AM, Blogger jody said...

The bottom line is that realization does not come easily

I'm not saying it is easy, I'm saying it would be a lot more prevalent if there was less bullshit floating around in spiritual culture about it.

at that point All is Brahman and Brahman alone

Brahman doesn't eat, the body does. So, Brahman can know itself as Brahman in the context of a body, yet that body knows it's a body so it can feed, clothe and shelter itself.

Don't dismiss it as legend or myth, and if you do, then dismiss all the words and commentaries attributed to Shankara as also myth.

What kind of silly absolutism is that? Nobody survives after drinking hot metal. I can easily discriminate between what Shankara wrote and the myths that have constellated around him. I am under no obligation to honor such ridiculous assertions about his life in order to employ his commentaries on the Upanishads.

You cannot expect a 1000 W lightbulb to turn down its intensity and become a 5 W bulb.

I don't buy the lightbulb analogy. That is yet another expression of the occluding nonsense I'm seeking to counterbalance.

not because of some egotistical desire to become famous!

Perhaps not, but that is still an assumption on your part. Additionally, to state that all the activities of the saints are due to the "Divine fulfilling some destiny through their bodies", while quaint and probably what you had drilled into your head as a child in India, is merely more of the occluding boilerplate of superstitious Hinduism. I can reasonably make the claim that the Divine fulfills all destiny through all bodies, whether they belong to saints or not.

But, something just seems to draws people to those who are established firmly in That - there is no denying it.

Yep. It's their need to be confirmed by an omnipotent space daddy who solves all their problems with a wave of his hand.

 
At 9/25/2006 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous who wrote about Guru business: an intriguing (and strange) story! I'd love to connect with you - you can reach me through the email in my profile.

Thanks.

 
At 9/25/2006 9:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not saying it [realization] is easy, I'm saying it would be a lot more prevalent if there was less bullshit floating around in spiritual culture about it.

Have you not surrendered to the "will of Ma"? Then why not also accept the "bullshit" as being our ugly collective fate in this day and age? That's just the way it is. It's a mere reflection of what our society has become.

I don't buy the lightbulb analogy. That is yet another expression of the occluding nonsense I'm seeking to counterbalance.

Sri Ramakrishna, the saint whose lineage you are initiated into, made a statement that the power of Shakti manifests itself to a different extent in different forms!(I don't remember the exact quote - please look up Kathamrita). He also confirmed on his deathbed for the doubting Vivekananda that he indeed was an Avatar - which essentially confirms the same thing. Note that I am not making claims for any present day Gurus here - only historical ones.

I can reasonably make the claim that the Divine fulfills all destiny through all bodies, whether they belong to saints or not.

Of course! But who is to say that that destiny will not be radically different post-realization? Do you seriously think Ramana actually "enjoyed" being caged in with herds of people flocking to see him? He might not have cared, of course, but you don't think it's possible that there was some reason why he left the cave and took up the role of a jnani known to the public?

Yep. It's their need to be confirmed by an omnipotent space daddy who solves all their problems with a wave of his hand.

I am not talking about "space daddy" figures. I am speaking of all real jnanis, many of whom live quite modestly in India. They have an energetic "presence", despite their appearance as ordinary men and women, which you can experience even if you have no clue as to who they are - just as anonymous narrated above.

 
At 9/25/2006 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brahman doesn't eat, the body does. So, Brahman can know itself as Brahman in the context of a body, yet that body knows it's a body so it can feed, clothe and shelter itself.

A shloka from the Geeta that many Hindus chant before their meals:

Brahmaarpanam brahma havir
Brahmagnau braahmanaa hutam
Brahmaiva tena gantavyam
Brahma karma samadhina

Any method of offering is Brahman, the offering itself (food) is Brahman, the (digestive) fire in which the offering is made is Brahman, and the one who offers is Brahman. Such a person who abides in Brahman indeed attains Brahman.

 
At 9/25/2006 11:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brahman doesn't eat, the body does. So, Brahman can know itself as Brahman in the context of a body, yet that body knows it's a body so it can feed, clothe and shelter itself.

A shloka from the Geeta that many Hindus recite before their meals:

Brahmaarpanam brahma havir
Brahmagnau braahmanaa hutam
Brahmaiva tena gantavyam
Brahma karma samadhina

Any method of offering is Brahman, the offering itself (food) is Brahman, the (digestive) fire in which the offering is made is Brahman, and the one who offers is Brahman. Such a person who abides in Brahman indeed attains Brahman.

 
At 9/25/2006 11:25 AM, Blogger jody said...

Have you not surrendered to the "will of Ma"? Then why not also accept the "bullshit" as being our ugly collective fate in this day and age?

Because She's obviously using me to do something about it. Just because it exists doesn't mean it can't be changed or that the attempt should not be made to change it. By your argument, Nithyananda is wasting his time trying to enlighten folks.

Sri Ramakrishna, the saint whose lineage you are initiated into, made a statement that the power of Shakti manifests itself to a different extent in different forms!(I don't remember the exact quote - please look up Kathamrita).

That was his personal justification for his own gurudom in the face of Vivekananda's insisting on a more nondual interpretation of life. Vivekananda was always pressing the ideology of the Brahma Samaj. Ramakrishna's statements were in response to this.

He also confirmed on his deathbed for the doubting Vivekananda that he indeed was an Avatar - which essentially confirms the same thing.

Not to me. Ramakrishna was also a raging gynophobe at times, but I'm not just because he was. Similarly, just because he said he was an avatar doesn't mean I have to accept either his definition or his proclamation.

In other words, Ramakrishna was a queer little man as much as anything else. I regard him as a spiritual savant, someone who was incredibly talented as a knower of spiritual truth. But that doesn't negate his queerness, nor does it make him God walking the Earth any more than you and I. He just had more innate talent for spirituality.

But who is to say that that destiny will not be radically different post-realization?

Who is to say it won't be just the same?

you don't think it's possible that there was some reason why he left the cave and took up the role of a jnani known to the public?

I think he saw the bs and wanted to help bring a bit more vidya to all the avidya propped up by the superstitious nonsense that plagues Hinduism. I'm no Ramana, but it seems like he was after some of the same things.

They have an energetic "presence", despite their appearance as ordinary men and women, which you can experience even if you have no clue as to who they are - just as anonymous narrated above.

Subjective experience can be whatever anyone wants it to be. It is no proof of an energetic anything.

 
At 9/25/2006 11:30 AM, Blogger jody said...

Any method of offering is Brahman, the offering itself (food) is Brahman, the (digestive) fire in which the offering is made is Brahman, and the one who offers is Brahman. Such a person who abides in Brahman indeed attains Brahman.

That says nothing about a body carrying an awareness of itself as an object that must be fed occasionally. In other words, Brahman is Brahman regardless of what the body does or is aware of, so conversely, an awareness of the body has no effect on Brahman knowing itself as Brahman in the context of that life.

 
At 9/25/2006 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because She's obviously using me to do something about it. Just because it exists doesn't mean it can't be changed or that the attempt should not be made to change it. By your argument, Nithyananda is wasting his time trying to enlighten folks.

If we suppose that your surrender to Her is absolute, then you ought not be getting so riled up about the "occlusive bullshit", because you must recognize that it is all Her creation anyway. The Gurus allegedly fostering "Hindu occlusive superstition" are equally Her.

Now do you mean to suggest that Ma operating through your body-mind is right but through their body-minds She is making a big mistake?

Or is it that Jody is angry that things are not as Jody would like them to be? Isn't Jody a mere pawn in Her hands?

The Nithyananda example is a poor comparison, because in only 3 years' time, I know at least a handful of people have become realized through association with him, and by extrapolation, many more ought to very soon in the years to come. So whatever approach he is using, it's apparently working.

He has said that it is possible to reproduce what has happened in his body, and he is walking the talk. How many people have you directly helped awaken permanently? (of course, that presupposes that you are enlightened, or a Brahma jnani. You have been evasive about that, and have never answered with a clear "yes" when folks have asked you point blank.)

BTW the Shakti statement was made by RK to Master M. Vivekananda was not around when that talk happened, so it had nothing to do with "justification for his own gurudom". RK actually made that comment quite obliquely about a person whose house they were visiting (was not refering to himself).

Regarding the rest of your responses, it appears that your opinions about various subjects are set in stone. Your authoritative stance has made genuine dialogue difficult, so, in conclusion, I will bow out of this debate.

-- Antarananda.

 
At 9/25/2006 1:43 PM, Blogger jody said...

If we suppose that your surrender to Her is absolute, then you ought not be getting so riled up about the "occlusive bullshit", because you must recognize that it is all Her creation anyway. The Gurus allegedly fostering "Hindu occlusive superstition" are equally Her.

That doesn't mean She doesn't want to change and therefore employs some of us as Her agency of reform. Surrender to Ma doesn't mean surrender to all unequivocally, it means surrender to one's heart signal.

Now do you mean to suggest that Ma operating through your body-mind is right but through their body-minds She is making a big mistake?

She plays Herself against Herself all the time. What else is a war but that?

Or is it that Jody is angry that things are not as Jody would like them to be? Isn't Jody a mere pawn in Her hands?

Yep, and right now She's got me railing against occluding ideas in spiritual culture.

The Nithyananda example is a poor comparison, because in only 3 years' time, I know at least a handful of people have become realized through association with him, and by extrapolation, many more ought to very soon in the years to come. So whatever approach he is using, it's apparently working.

Sure. Still, by your standard of surrender, he's going against the will of the universe by trying to change something (unenlightened people) rather than just accepting ignorance as the will of Ma.

He has said that it is possible to reproduce what has happened in his body, and he is walking the talk. How many people have you directly helped awaken permanently?

I'm not a guru, just an opinion-holder. I'm only trying to make folks aware that what they believe about self-realization, outside of a direct, experiential understanding, is false and can actually interfere. Hopefully, that will bring some folks a bit closer to seeing their ongoing truth. But I'm not keeping count and I don't care to know.

(of course, that presupposes that you are enlightened, or a Brahma jnani. You have been evasive about that, and have never answered with a clear "yes" when folks have asked you point blank.)

That's because there's no way to prove the assertion, making it pointless to assert.

Nithyananda pulls it off because he looks the part as much as anything else. Think about it, someone goes to see him speak and sees Vivekananda crossed with Ammachi and some Yogananda. Given that they're already indoctrinated into the misconceptions and stereotypes, s/he is likely going to assume that Nithyananda has it based purely on his looks.

I claim to have opinions which have formed out of my life's experience and understanding. What qualifies those is up to the reader. I imagine the majority believe I'm full of myself and am speaking from arrogance and speculation. Whatever. I'm telling it as I see it and letting the authority rest with whatever the reader decides to believe about it.

BTW the Shakti statement was made by RK to Master M. Vivekananda was not around when that talk happened, so it had nothing to do with "justification for his own gurudom".

He was justifying his gurudom to M. Additionally, anything RK said to M got back to V anyway. It still could have been an expression of RK's desire to quell V's nondual campaigning among the boys.

RK actually made that comment quite obliquely about a person whose house they were visiting (was not refering to himself).

He used the same simile a number of times. It was to justify the fact that there's more "spiritual" power in some folks than others, including himself.

Regarding the rest of your responses, it appears that your opinions about various subjects are set in stone. Your authoritative stance has made genuine dialogue difficult, so, in conclusion, I will bow out of this debate.

What's good for the goose works for the gander.

I have a critique to defend, which can only be done from a position of authority. Believe it or not, I'm always open to modifying my point of view, but all you've come up with is the standard boilerplate. I understand it's not boilerplate to you because it's also a large component of your underlying worldview. If anyone is to be admonished for a lack of critical perspective, it's you.

That said, I'm one of your biggest fans, and I totally admire you for going at it with me. If I look at Nithyananda as a phenomenon I experience, the best thing about that is you.

 
At 9/25/2006 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jody said: I'm only trying to make folks aware that what they believe about self-realization, outside of a direct, experiential understanding, is false and can actually interfere"
.
I have one more little piece of something from the previously mentioned former Buddhist monk. I am tired and have not read all of the debate here, but this teaching below offers some guidance on the subject of truth seeking.

"One of the most frequently referred to Discourses of the Buddha is the Kalama Sutta —the Buddha’s teaching on “independent thinking.” For those of you who are not familiar with it please find the bare bones of it as follows. The Kalama Sutta is from a section of the Buddhist texts (Tipitaka) called the Anguttara Nikaya. In this discourse, the Buddha explains to the Kalamas on which basis they should decide which dharma teaching to accept as true and which one as false. The Buddha tells them to not just believe a teaching because it claims to be true by various sources or through the application of various methods, practices, and techniques. He urges that direct intuitive insight born from one’s own direct personal experience is the best and genuine refuge. In the discourse the Buddha outlines ten primary sources which should not be used to accept a certain teaching as true. The teaching, to me, communicates the wisdom of healthy skepticism while encouraging intuitive trust—the non-logic of liberation.

1 Oral history —not to be trusted.
2 Traditional practices —not to be trusted.
3 Popular sources —not to be trusted.
4 Scriptures or other sacred texts —not to be trusted.
5 Logical reasoning —not to be trusted.
6 Philosophical logic —not to be trusted.
7 Common sense —not to be trusted.
8 One’s own opinions —not to be trusted.
9 Authorities or experts —not to be trusted.
10 One’s own teacher —not to be trusted.

Instead, the Buddha concludes, “only when one personally knows that a certain teaching elevates love, compassion and freedom, should one then accept it as true and practice it. He also emphasized that the authenticity of any dharma teaching was whether it reduces or eliminates self-centeredness, aggression, and ignorance, in which case it should be embraced.

 
At 9/25/2006 8:06 PM, Anonymous Rajesh said...

You think you have listed the qualities of a "Real, True Guru". But really that list nothing more than what you think a "Real, True Guru" should be.
You have your own opinion of how a guru should be. The opinion is formed out of half-knowledge. You've studied a few upanishads and some works of Sankara and think you can evaluate anyone! The simple point is, some of the people you are evaluating are real jnaanis. You just cannot dictate how a guru should behave! That would make you more knowledgable than them, which is not the case!

 
At 9/25/2006 8:22 PM, Blogger jody said...

The simple point is, some of the people you are evaluating are real jnaanis.

So what? That doesn't give them the right to perpetuate inadequate stereotypes that do more to prevent rather than bring self-realization as they quest for worldly success.

 
At 9/26/2006 8:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rajesh et al, have any of you read the 'Guru Papers' by Diana Alsted and Joel Kramer? If not, I recommend it, and if so, I'm wondering what you all think of it. It has some pretty incisive things to say about gurudom.

 
At 9/26/2006 11:14 AM, Anonymous david said...

Jody,

The attributes of the "Real, True Guru" make sense, in that those 'gurus' who don't measure up to it are flawed. The only issue I have with it is rhetorical; does it not tend to perpetuate the mythologization of the 'Real, True, Guru', much as we could write a series of things beginning with "The wife who is loving and true", and lead those who read it into continuing with an expectation of a mythical spouse that is essentially unavailable and should not be sought after?

 
At 9/30/2006 7:54 PM, Blogger jody said...

does it not tend to perpetuate the mythologization of the 'Real, True, Guru'

It does, but correctively, I hope. Using the thorn to remove the thorn, yaddada yaddada.

 
At 10/02/2006 2:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jody,

Have you read this piece on Ramakrishna? If you have gotten your information that Ramakrishna was gay from reading "kali's child", perhaps you should read this:

http://www.infinityfoundation.com/ECITkalichildframe.htm

It's well written, thorough, and basically calls the writer on the carpet for being not just sloppy, but totally off base, not because he didn't want to write a truthful account of R's life, but rather because of language and cultural ignorance.

It's very easy to see how this type of thing can happen. All you have to do is watch many of the Hindi movies with lots of song and dance, and read the crappy translations for the songs,and you'd think they are about sex and sex and romantic love and sex, etc. In fact, many of the songs were written not as romantic lyrics at all, but many times in expressing Divine Love, the only way to refer to it is with gestures/words known in human life to be sexual. Kiss becomes a word that means a kind of closeness that can only be expressed by the word "kiss". However it does not literally mean putting one's lips on someone. There is a great deal of poetry in India like this.

 
At 10/02/2006 5:01 PM, Blogger jody said...

It's well written, thorough, and basically calls the writer on the carpet for being not just sloppy, but totally off base, not because he didn't want to write a truthful account of R's life, but rather because of language and cultural ignorance.

Kripal's rebuttal:

http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kalischi/textuality.html

Regardless of what the hagiographically-poisoned nay-sayers say, Kripal's study of Ramakrishna is a towering tome and the *definitive* study about this curiously conflicted tantrika.

 
At 10/02/2006 7:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jody,

Kripal seems to be saying that translation is open to interpretation. He is, no doubt, correct. However, if the millions of native Bengali speakers have been reading the same text for decades, and have not come to the same conclusions as Kripal, it seems that he could just be wrong, not simply interpreting. Face it, Indians are homophobic as a nation. If there were really hints of homosexuality in the original texts, Bengalis would have dumped poor Ramakrishna long back.

I think that Jeffrey Kripal is probably an educated man with big credentials. But that doesn't mean he has crossed the cultural barrier that has obviously made him misunderstand a text that millions from that culture take a totally different way.

I have read neither the Bengali text nor Kripal's book (don't think I will now). Perhaps he was just projecting his own problems? Who knows.

 
At 10/02/2006 7:54 PM, Blogger jody said...

if the millions of native Bengali speakers have been reading the same text for decades, and have not come to the same conclusions as Kripal, it seems that he could just be wrong, not simply interpreting.

Or, those millions of Bengali folk prefer to accept the hagiography over the unvarnished truth.

Face it, Indians are homophobic as a nation. If there were really hints of homosexuality in the original texts, Bengalis would have dumped poor Ramakrishna long back.

There are hints of homosexuality in the bowdlerized version that Nikhilananda translated! Those Indians are bound by their culture to only accept the most idealized version of Ramakrishna's life.

Perhaps he was just projecting his own problems? Who knows.

You don't.

It was clear to me 20 years ago at my first reading of the English Gospel of Ramakrishna that RK had some kind of same-sex attraction thing working with Purna and Naren. Kripal only confirmed it. He is not only scholar with this view. It's quite the rage in the religious studies community as I hear it.

 

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