Friday, May 26, 2006

Identifying Guru Exploitation

What I am posting below is not intended to be a cynical rant or to single out SRCM specifically. In fact many of the things I mention below are actual tools used by capable Leaders to run corporations and organizations around the world.

I am outlining these Seven Techniques as a way of leveling the playing field. It is important for every individual involved in any organization to discrimiate between necessary techniques used by good leaders to achieve a noble end, verses exploiting techniques for the drunken lust for power and control.

It is not a bad practice to review every organization one belongs in order to determine if un-warranted exploitation is occuring. I encourage those within SRCM to examine these techniques used in their organization and ask themselves if a "light structure" has been created for the achievement of high spiritual ideals, or if a autocratic power structure has been established to manipulate and control the masses.

I leave this determination up to each individual.

Seven Techniques Used By Gurus to Control The Masses

Establish High Ideals

• Establish noble, high sounding principles, such as selfless service, closeness to God, and brotherly/sisterly love.

• Insist that your teachings are free and the birthright of all.

• Demonstrate charity in a highly visible manner.

Define and Enforce Exclusivity in the Organization

• Every Guru must have an exclusive hook to differentiate themselves from others.

• The exclusive nature of the system or Guru must be re-emphasized at every opportunity.

• Disciples are trained to also extol the virtues of the system’s exclusivity in every conversation.

Exploit a Higher Authority

• Designate a “Higher Authority” that can be attributed to for literally everything.

• Higher Authority must be easily identifiable by disciples. Abstract higher authorities such as “God” are generally not as effective as a dead person.

• It is critical that the Guru can claim to be in direct communication with this Higher Authority.

• The Guru’s example of love and servitude to this Higher Authority serves as an example to disciples as to how to treat their Guru.

• Miracles, which happen naturally in an emotionally charged environment, can be attributed to this Higher Authority

• Disciples will naturally transfer all things credited to the Higher Authority to their living Guru.

Establish and Maintain an Inner Circle

• Guru creates contentious environment around themselves for people to earn their trust.

• Those who fight the hardest and most effectively for inner circle status are rewarded with positions of authority and grandeur.

• The Guru must treat inner circle members with strictness and humiliation when necessary to maintain their loyalty and subservience.

• The Hierarchy established through the Inner Circle is a critical tool for a Guru to maintain exclusive control as the organization grows.

Foster the Image of Humility

• The Guru will exploit any ailments or physical injuries to get sympathy by silently suffering.

• If no physical ailments exist, the Guru can use exhaustion from serving his disciples as an ailment.

• The Guru does not directly complain about ailments, but uses the Inner Circle to propagate stories of his humble suffering for the cause.

Establish and Maintain Total Control

• Demand total devotion and trust

• Guru uses their own total devotion and trust to their “Higher Authority” as an example

• Blame all disciples failings on not having sufficient faith in the Higher Authority or lack of dedication to the practice.

Reap the Benefits

• Establish an organization to hold and manage wealth collected.

• Exploit that wealth through the organization, not directly

• Enjoy the services of devoted disciples as their expression of devotion to the Higher Authority.


Background: A French speaking ex-abhyasi named Terrine posted a quesiton to me about how to deal with her "scalding" experience within the SRCM. She has left the organization and is exploring an offshoot organization called the ISRC . I am posting my translated reply to her after it is reviewed by native speakers on the Blog where she posted the question. Here is my response in English:

It saddens me that you had such a bad experience in SRCM. ISRC is a new organization that I am not that familiar with, but I have met a few of the people from India who run the organization. While I do not think they have bad intentions, they are little different than you. They are hurt by the direction SRCM has taken and chose to react by starting an alternative organization.

There are two things I would say to this:

The first thing will cause many to disagree, but I’ll say it anyway. We must remember that Babuji did indeed establish SRCM and chose Chari as the one to lead it after his death. Since Babuji is no longer living, it is quite easy to assign him God status and imply that his intentions were perfect, but in reality we cannot criticize the direction of SRCM without acknowledging Babuji’s responsibility.
Secondly, I do not believe that this planet needs any more organizations to teach the basic spiritual principles. SRCM was established to market Sahaj Marg to the masses. It has evolved into an organization of people who spend far more time worrying about their level of spiritual attainment rather than becoming better human beings. SRCM trains people to become overly concerned about their spiritual development.

In reality, spiritual development happens naturally when you live the life that God put before you. Guidance comes from many places when one lives their life with a sincere desire to grow spiritually. I have found the example of common people doing extraordinary things far more instructive to my development than any of the staged theatrics I witnessed from any Guru.
I would suggest that SRCM is a drug that people become addicted to and organizations like ISRC are the drug treatment programs. In reality, it is important to understand that it takes time for the influence of SRCM to wear off. Organizations like ISRC still promote the addiction and as a result, does not help a person eliminate the dependency.

When I left the SRCM, I explored similar organizations. Ultimately, I found it necessary to take a break from all spiritual organizations and practices in order to put things in perspective. We do need to find a spiritual community to associate with, and seek out guidance. I would warn against any “guide” who tries to claim that they are God themselves or have the only path to God. I get my guidance now from a variety of mentors. I also try to do my part to give back to the world for the guidance and direction that I receive.

In the Sufi tradition that Lalaji came from, the teacher was treated like a member of the family. He would live with his disciples like a grandfather. Unfortunately Babuji did not spend much time with Lalaji and did not experience this aspect of Lalaji first hand. I met others who did, and they do not believe that Lalaji ever wanted an organization like SRCM to be created. My suggestion to you, is that if ISRC helps you with your pain, then participate, but use caution. If you are able to remove yourself completely to let the addictive aspects of SRCM leave your body, that is the best approach. After you have put things in perspective, you can then decide whether to join another organization or simply get on with your life.

I pray for you and others like you - that you may find a spiritually fulfilling life.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Spiritual Parables: Body Building vs. Farming

The Body Builder:

A young man strives to be physically strong so he seeks a Champion who will help him develop big muscles. He finds a champion in body building and learns how to modify his diet and lifestyle to grow big muscles. His Champion is demanding and mean. He expects to be served and waited upon by his students. The young man perseveres and achieves physical greatness and becomes like his Champion teacher. His obsession with his physique expands into every aspect of his life. He becomes selfish and very competitive with other body builders. Only his system of body building can achieve the optimal muscle mass in a human being and only he has achieved the highest level of attainment. All others are inferior. He becomes the new Champion and establishes a school for aspiring young men looking to be large and intimidating. They seek training with the new Champion because only through him can they achieve optimum muscle mass. Eventually this new Champion grows old and dies, leaving only his legacy as a man with big muscles behind.

The Farmer:

A young man grows up on the farm. From a young age he worked on his family farm stacking hay bales, branding cattle and working the fields. He developed tremendous physical strength. He grew up and inherited his family farm and became a successful Farmer. Great famine spread in the world making food scarce. The Farmer worked hard to grow crops to feed his family and others. He donated milk from his dairy to the local orphanage and provided crops and livestock for soup kitchens that feed the poor. He was active in his community. One day a storm came through and a tree fell on his neighbor’s house trapping a young child inside. The child was bleeding to death and needed to be set free in order to live. The man, being strong from back breaking farm labor came to the rescue of this child and using his strength lifted the tree with brute force, saving the child’s life. The Farmer grew old and passed away. The community sadly honored the passing of a great man who used his naturally developed strengths to serve his family and community and save the life of a child when no one else had the strength to do so.

Sahaj Marg was supposed to be the path of the Farmer described above. Grihastha Ashrama, or Ashram of the Householder was the term used to describe it. Here spiritual development occurs naturally in as a result of ones daily life in conjunction with prayer and silent meditation. It strikes me that SRCM has become an organization of aspiring, bodybuilders rather than householders who develop their spiritual skills through service to their families and community.

I hope and pray that I am incorrect in my observations. How foolish it would to be worry about the size of one’s muscles rather than finding meaningful ways to use them…
Letter To Abhyasis

It is common for Abhyasis to claim that their experiences with Sahaj Marg are unique and exclusive. I have to ask, what other forms of meditation have they practiced to make such comments?

I also remember my first experience of participating in an intensive meditation seminar years ago. It was truly the first time I had experienced such inner peace. I've since experienced this many times outside of Sahaj Marg. It is not exclusive to Sahaj Marg, but is a natural occurrence when one meditates intensively and focuses their thoughts towards the God within.

To claim that this can only be experienced in Sahaj Marg is not logical unless you've practiced several other similar meditation techniques. We need to be careful making such claims of exclusivity.

One unfortunate aspect of SRCM is its fixation on a person’s level of spiritual achievement. God can take you to whatever stage you need to be at in an instant if it is required. It is more important to focus on what type of person you are becoming and how you treat others. By living your life with God in your heart, you will learn how to prepare yourself for whatever level of spiritual development is required. Comparing ones spiritual level to another’s is just an egotistical game that serves no practical purpose. In fact it is dangerous as it diverts one’s focus away from being selfless in their actions to being extremely self centered. For this reason, I see much selfish and narcissistic behavior in most spiritual groups, and Sahaj Marg is no exception. Rather than chasing the Master around the world to get a glimpse of him or dedicating your life to reaching the central region, you could be feeding the poor!