The issue of how can individuals who ‘claim’ enlightenment do hurtful things under the name of truth is a perplexing and confounding problem. Setting aside for a moment the problems of contemporary Western teachers such as Andrew Cohen or Genpo Roshi (who in my opinion are NOT enlightened), why would a great sage such as Upasani Maharaja throw a rock and hit Avatar Meher Baba in the head and cause it to bleed? Or why would Adi Da, also a self-confessed Avatar of this age, apparently have sex with many women, drink alcohol and have wild parties and do what some people experienced and perceived as negative actions while in his company?
“They both decided to go to Shirdi. They came from Korallah to Rahata where Tatya’s Munim brought them to Shirdi. Baba abused and beat him and he was often afraid of Baba. But Dixit allayed his fears saying it was a blessing in "disguise”.
If anyone were to inquire as to the condition of an enlightened being, which is suppose to be about love, how can “wacking” someone around or performing strange sexual behaviors be consistent with bliss, love and awakening? How does this ‘square’ with truth and enlightenment? It simply doesn’t square with anything! It doesn’t. And it can never be ‘reconciled’ with our notions of enlightenment or what is good, right and true. What then are we left with when we hear and read stories of abuse and deception? Aren’t ethics a part of enlightenment? What is going on here? Are these stories an abuse of power founded in ‘unfinished’ psychological issues of a guru or teacher and then rationalized by them and their followers as a ‘teaching' demonstration? Or are these behaviors ultimately a paradox in minds of some, a crucible for others and a big red flag for most!
None of this behavior, ‘crazy-wise’ or whatever you’d like to call it, can ever be ‘rationalized’, legitimized or made to conform to conventional ideas of morality. The intersection is zero. If they fall anywhere on a spectrum of morality, they fall on the side of ‘wrong’ and depending on their circumstances potentially ‘abusive’ and maybe criminal.
That said, people should be cautioned before entering into a spiritual relationship with a teacher, guru or anyone given an authoritative position. Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was remembered by Jack Kornfield to have said,
“My advice to you is not to undertake the spiritual path. It is too difficult, too long, and it is too demanding. What I would suggest, if you haven’t already begun, is to go to the door, ask for your money back, and go home now.” He said, “This is not a picnic. It is really going to ask everything of you and you should understand that from the beginning. So it is best not to begin. However,” he said, “if you do begin, it is best to finish.”
Finally, we are left with a paradox and a razor’s edge as Somerset Maugham wrote in his 1944 book, ‘The Razor’s Edge’. “The sharp edge of a razor is difficult to pass over, thus the wise say the path to Salvation is hard”. He took this warning from the Hindu classic Katha Upanishad written 1,000 years before Christ.
The idea of spiritual abuse is not a new phenomenon. In the Old Testament, God spoke against those who operated in their own authority while abusing the very people they were to bless. In Jeremiah 5:30-31 we read, “An astonishing and horrible thing has been committed in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule by their own power; and My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?”
Not only should one be aware of false prophets and priests who abuse their power (see the movie ‘Spotlight’) but it’s clear from ALL sources the spiritual path ITSELF is dangerous. Why is it dangerous? Why doesn’t it evolve into mindfulness and relaxation exercises that help the ego function better? Why must it also include Milarepa’s ordeal with Marpa? The reason the spiritual path is dangerous is because it is not just about ‘a loving father’ or about a ‘radiant’ mother called Mary or Shakti. It is about a stark confrontation with Truth, Reality and God and the dissolution of whatever keeps us from That. It fundamentally about dissolving the Grand Illusion that we exist as somehow separate from That.
It is clear to any mature student of philosophy and spirituality the path (as opposed to ‘the religious life’) is a double edged sword. This is evidenced in temples and churches that look magnificent from the outside but once inside require more than people bargained for. At first the appearance is inviting and attractive…and then the light turns into a fire.
So, the moral here is CAUTION. For most, it’s best to stay in the sandbox. dilatants, pundits and philosophers should follow the rules they learned as children. Live with and be guided by the admonishments of parents, teachers, authorities and governments. “STAY AWAY FROM CULTS AND GURUS’.
But, if you find yourself sensing something more than the clamor of these overseers then go onward. Step forward into the dark unknown regions described in the ‘Iron John’ story, and go deeper. Be very careful. Don’t lose your discrimination. Be watchful. Comment, warn and condemn when need be.
But please, don’t ever convey the impression that you have the full story. Don’t act like you really know what’s going on. The further down the rabbit hole you go the more things shift, melt, morph and change.
If one wishes to be spectator, commentator, pundit or philosopher than be cautious as you sit at the ‘right’ side of truth. Have your disclaimer ready when you bear witness. The disclaimer one should make needs to include the fact you do not have all the facts. The truth is you fundamentally don’t know. You’re guessing. The best you are able to do is to imitate a scientist. You can formulate a problem, gather evidence, listen to people, study and consider the data, and then, from an admittedly limited point of view, you can draw a conclusion. After such an approach anyone making a comment of such matters should have a disclaimer to what they say. the disclaimer should read something like:
All who study a subject having to do with personal understanding and development or enter onto a ‘path’ of spiritual or psychological practice(s) should remember they are responding to some form of a ‘call’ or ‘need’. They had best understand they themselves, and NO ONE ELSE, under whatever AUTHORITY or POWER, are responsible for themselves and the decisions they make. Such persons ALONE, are responsible for their thoughts, feelings, actions, behaviors and the impact they may have for themselves, on others and the environment in which they exist. In the end, as in the beginning, and so in the middle, there is only one responsibility. See: http://www.beezone.com/one_responsibility.html