Monday, September 24, 2007

Conway's Way Is No Con

File under: Real True Gurus and The Siddhi of PR

This morning we got a nice letter from a guy named Timothy Conway. He's got a slew of good stuff up at his Enlightened-Spirituality.org, including a nice little bit about the importance of critical thinking, the precious water and commodity that's sorely lacking in the infernal desert of ignorance known as New Age™ spirituality in the West:
Many people mistakenly think that being critical—critiquing any form of thinking or behavior—is “being negative” or “coming from the head, not the heart.” (Actually, a true sage utilizes both head and heart.)

Yet critical thinking is the ancient art of assessing or evaluating beliefs and consequent behavior for the sake of the individual and common good, that which fully serves us, not weakens or imbalances us.

Critical thinking is direly needed 1) to identify any faulty thinking, self-deception, blind spots, distortion, misinformation, propaganda, and prejudice on the cognitive level of our views, and 2) to identify external attitudes and behaviors that are not functionally appropriate for private and public welfare—the commonweal; i.e., attitudes and behaviors that don’t truly free us and empower us and/or fail to accord with an ethics and value-system promoting authentic liberation, justice and fairness.
It's good to see someone out there upholding the legacies of Shankara and Vivekananda, especially in these days of enlightenment pyramid scams and lame-brained channelling schemes designed to separate the psychologically needy from their dollars in exchange for a boatload of false hope and occluding nonsense about the truth of the Self.

So give Enlightened-Spirituality.org a go when you've got a minute and the desire to cleanse your palate of all the superstitious nonsense that chokes the truth right out of spiritual culture in these times.

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22 Comments:

At 9/24/2007 11:04 AM, Anonymous Timothy said...

Thank you, Jody, for your kind words and referral to the enlightened-spirituality.org website. As i mentioned to you, your readers might be especially interested in the long critique page on neo- or pseudo-advaita (www.enlightened-spirituality.org/neo-advaita.html ) and several other pieces of criticism at our website --e.g., the long list of "Warning signs of dysfunctional cults" and critiques of several prominent "guru"-figures at the Healthy Spirituality and Nondual Spirituality sections of the website:
http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/healthy-unhealthy_spirituality.html
http://www.enlightened-spirituality.org/nondual-spirituality.html.

Of course, over 90% of the 80 webpages and essays at the website are quite positive in tone, featuring items on great sages like the Buddha, Jnaneshvar, Ramana Maharshi, John of the Cross, Bistami, Rumi, the Baal Shem Tov, et al., and essays about truly enlightened spirituality, consciousness, science, enlightened politics. There's even an illustrated page on Zen humor and a very long page on spiritual humor. Enjoy thySelf, the Self of us all!

 
At 9/24/2007 11:26 AM, Blogger Stuart said...

Actually, a true sage utilizes both head and heart

What's the reason for making this separation between (1) "head" or "thinking" and (2) "heart" or "feeling"? Maybe there really is a reason to make this categorization and distinction sometimes, but it's less than obvious.

Ordinary, everyday people most of the time just respond to their moment to moment lives without holding ideas about "head" and "heart." That's much better than being a "sage."

Stuart
http://home.comcast.net/~sresnick2/socalled.htm
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

 
At 9/24/2007 11:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Timothy, I liked reading some of your articles. I was wondering if you would comment on or critique a spiritual teacher named Dr David Hawkins in Sedona, Arizona. Is he the real thing or a pseudo enlightened one. Thanks.

 
At 9/25/2007 12:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jody what do you know about Shankara? He is from the way way past. We dont even know if he really existed? At least you know about Vivekananda, he is a modern sage. But why are you bringing Shankara into this and what do you really know about him or his teachings or critical thinking.

 
At 9/25/2007 2:41 AM, Anonymous repo said...

I find it ironical and extremely funny that you would cite Timothy as one who has discrimination, Jody! Because Timothy is the author of 'Women of Power and Grace', and in the version of the book that I saw, the cover had pictures of 9 women. The larger central picture was Jody's favorite -- yep -- Ammachi!

 
At 9/25/2007 11:56 AM, Blogger jody said...

The larger central picture was Jody's favorite

My criticism of Ammachi is based on one fact, that she projects an erroneous idea of what self-realization is based on the image of her persona. I'd agree with Timothy that she's an extraordinary woman spiritual figure, even though she's definitely not my cup of tea.

 
At 9/25/2007 11:57 AM, Blogger jody said...

Jody what do you know about Shankara?

I know his commentaries on the Upanishads rule, and that modern Vedanta owes everything to him. There would be no Vivekananda without Shankara.

 
At 9/25/2007 11:59 AM, Blogger jody said...

Is he the real thing or a pseudo enlightened one

Let me offer that Hawkins has his head far up his own ass, and that enlightenment cannot and will never be quantified.

 
At 9/25/2007 12:34 PM, Blogger Stuart said...

Anonymous said...
a spiritual teacher named Dr David Hawkins in Sedona, Arizona. Is he the real thing or a pseudo enlightened one.

Say you're lost in the dream-world of thinking, then a car alarm goes off or something, and you jolt back to awareness of just-now. That's what's called "first enlightenment." No need to look for it in anything, anyone, any place else.

Stuart
http://home.comcast.net/~sresnick2/socalled.htm
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

 
At 9/25/2007 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has Jody ever met Vivekananda or Shankara?Do people here know that in his initial days in India he was called a "corruptor of youth" & people actually used to think him & his Guru Rama Krishna Paramhansa to be insane?Maybe you Westerners have the same habit of eulogising the dead & trashing the living in Spirituality like all people.The twain does meet in the East & the West.

 
At 9/25/2007 12:52 PM, Blogger Stuart said...

Regarding the critique of pseudo-advaita, the one point I see value in is this: Some teachers say that you become aware of the truth of this moment, and then nothing matters. That's rightfully critiqued: why make "nothing matters"? Holding the idea that "nothing matters" is a kind of attachment.

The medicine for "nothing matters" is compassion. We've got this original nature that responds to suffering with an effort to help. Good teaching ought to recognize this and have some sort of "help other beings" aspect. It doesn't need to be much more complicated than that.

Beyond that... in lots of the people who rant against neo-advaita, I hear something else. People make claims of having something special. It's often something like, "Ramana was an authentic sage, and maybe I've got some tiny part of his attainment, or maybe just by recognizing his authenticity, I've got a claim to something, at least something."

When this mind-set encounters a teaching that says Truth has already appeared in this moment, it's a threat to this idea of attainment or specialness. That teaching suggests that sages aren't anything special, and claims to recognize an "authentic" sage aren't worth anything special.

I may be overstating or understating this, but it seems clear that in the world of neo-advaita critiquers, there's at least some element of this: trying to protect the idea of having something special.

Stuart
http://home.comcast.net/~sresnick2/socalled.htm
http://stuart-randomthoughts.blogspot.com/

 
At 9/25/2007 5:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't Vivekananda influenced more by Ramakrishna, his Guru and Master rather than by a dead teacher named Shankara? And from what I read I thought Vivekananda was already enlightened, born that way, born already evolved, and Ramakrishna just helped him to awaken to what he already was. So I am confused why you say there would be no Vivekananda without Shankara.

 
At 9/25/2007 6:52 PM, Blogger jody said...

Wasn't Vivekananda influenced more by Ramakrishna, his Guru and Master rather than by a dead teacher named Shankara?

Actually, Vivekananda was influenced most by the Brahmo Samaj and its leader, Keshab Sen. While Vivekananda was a devotee of Ramakrishna and took initiation from him, he was also rather skeptical of Ramakrishna while he was alive, and after he died and Vivekananda began to travel in the West, he never spoke of Ramakrishna, nor did he really carry on Ramakrishna's main teaching, which was that bhakti yoga was the easiest path.

Vivekananda's teaching was a modification of the Brahmo Samaj's teaching, which itself was a Westernization of Shankara's teachings. So basically, it's fair to say that Vivekananda transmitted Shankara much more than Ramakrishna.

 
At 9/25/2007 6:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing about Vivekananda. I find him interesting and I am drawn somewhat to him. Especially his ability to question and not accept things just because others say it.

I did read a couple of books on Ramakrishna, and it sure is one sided that Ramakrishna influenced Vivekananda the most. I will have to do further research on Vivekananda to learn more. I appreciate your sharing on Vivekananda and Shankara.

 
At 9/25/2007 7:01 PM, Blogger jody said...

I will have to do further research on Vivekananda to learn more.

No study of Vivekananda is complete without reading Swami Vivekananda: A Reassessment by Narasingha P. Sil.

 
At 9/25/2007 10:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sils book on Vivekananda I am sure is interesting, but it is $41.00 or so on Amazon, and only got 3 reviews with an average rating of 2 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Is there any free resources on the web where I can find more about the true Vivekananda, the one you are talking about. For that one, sounds absolutely fascinating to me and the one I want to know more about. I want to use my heart and my head to know more. Please share any free readings on the web that you know of.

 
At 9/25/2007 11:12 PM, Blogger jody said...

Is there any free resources on the web where I can find more about the true Vivekananda

Sil's book is the only anti-hagiography that I'm aware of. Everything else (that I know about) is some kind of lionization.

But who he was pretty much comes through the hagiography. Brash, outspoken, a little arrogant perhaps. He never spoke of Ramakrishna in the West, nor did he ever resort to the cheap tales of magic that Yogananda employed to get famous.

He also had good relationships with a number of attractive women, none consummated, according to what's known. But the relationship he had with Margaret Nobel came much closer than the rest, according to Sil. He struggled with his feelings for her, but ultimately chose the Math over romantic love. He pretty much broke himself with that and died relatively young after a period of depression and failing health.

He really was the first big-time guru in the West, and the template for most gurus who have come after him from India.

 
At 9/29/2007 5:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

(1) Vivekananda may never have spoken about Rama Krishna in the West but he founded the Rama Krishna Mission to "spread the Gospel of Sri Rama Krishna & Vedanta".

(2)Vivekananda was a rebel,yes,but not how you Westerners would like him to be.He was the original "Hindu Missionary" whose aim was to "organise the Hindus into One nation so that they may throw out the alien power" (the British).He was the first Hindu Swami to open Boarding Schools in India which trained young boys in Secular & Scriptural education as a counter to Christian Missionary Schools.

(3) For this purpose he organised his Disciples into the "Rama Krishna" Order which is an order distinct from those organised by the Adi Shankara.This order is still flourishing & the Rama Krishna Mutt/Mission is one of the richest,largest & most respected trusts in India running hundreds of Schools,Universities,Hospitals,Technical Institutes etc,all according to his dream of a Hindu Nation founded on Vedanta ideals.

(4) His views on the Western Colonialism :-

"I am a proud inheritor of the world's oldest Spiritual Heritage.At a time when people in the West were wearing grass & leaves & living off the land with caves for shelter,people in my country were enquiring into the nature of this creation.Now this once prosperous race is enslaved & impoverished materially.But its soul is still intact.The purpose of the Indian race has always been religion & that is why it has survived so many attacks & risen every time like a phoenix."

(Lecture delivered at the Shakespeare Club of Pasadena on January 27,1900)

Vivekananda was a Socio-spiritual Guru,a reformer & motivator for the subjugated Indian nation.And it is such Gurus which are respected in India.You people who have inherited a long dead stream of knowledge from Jesus Christ would not be able to understand the fact that almost very famous Indian Guru was in reality a Social Worker & a master politician.

 
At 9/29/2007 5:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Jody

You say you like Adi Shankara so here goes some facts about him :-

(1) He was the person who organised India's Swamis into 7 orders deriving their heritage from Vedanta.He also made special "martial Swamis" now called the "Naga Sadhus" for "protection of Vedic Dharma".

(2)He ruthlessly eliminated the Buddhist monks & their followers & was responsible for the total wiping out of all major Buddhist traditions within a short span of 12 years.He made Buddha recognised as an Avatar of Vishnu & therefore took away the exclusive claim of Buddhists on Buddha & then had all State patronages by various Kings of those time to the Monks & Monasteries withdrawn one by one.Then he simply had the monks & their apparatus kicked out from all the Indian states till they were out of Indian soil.

(3) He was a brilliant Vedanta Scholar & religious politician rolled into one.

 
At 9/29/2007 11:52 AM, Anonymous Pug said...

anonymush you have nearly convinced me that both Sankara and Vivekananda were little more than the same kind of rabid fundimentalists that we see killing people in the name of Allah or Yahweh or any number of gods. Religion makes people sick.

 
At 10/01/2007 6:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jody,

Finally you pulled Shankara and Vivekananda also into this pit. It is their fortune that they left this world. I believe that some day you will pull the leg of your favourite "Ammachi" also. And the readers here will witness that too and somebody will reply to your comment. Good god!!!!

 
At 10/05/2007 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ pug

There is a difference between Shankara & Vivekananda etc & the Islamists.Contrary opinions have always enjoyed social sanction in Indian tradition while in the Islamic tradition,to have a counterview automatically entitles one to a death sentence.There were no riots or genocides in India between the followers of Buddha & Vedantis as the Indian tradition does not recognise the role of community in Spirituality.Here,Spirituality has always been an individual pursuit.
In the times of Shankara,the Buddhist monks had long left renunciation & were controlling politics & the Indian kings from behind the scenes,even organising a community out of the essentially individualist teachings of the Buddha.Even now,if you are a born Buddhist in India,you cannot even cremate your dead relative without a monk's consent.Shankara fought against this degeneration in Indian Spiritual Leadership.Please remember that Indian Spirituality has a 'self-correcting mechanism'.From time to time,many saints arise & reform the society.It is something you don't see in the West or the Middle East so you obviously do not understand.Vivekananda too was protesting against the Christian Missionary activity in India under the patronage of the Americans & the British Indian Government.

 

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