aware and beware: the amateur guru

Why is that swami smiling? They taught their doctrine in private conversation, and the doctrine was simple enough. It said that if you had the patience to go off and think about yourself for a long time, you would end up not giving a damn about anybody or anything, including yourself. They did not speak Sanskrit, as people wrongly suppose. Sanskrit was used by the Brahmans, who were priests. The founders of Hindu mysticism detested and despised the Brahmans, considering them to be little better than charlatans.

Read More: know people have reached the bottom when they turn to the mumbo-jumbo of Eastern mysticism. So it is not surprising to see that Fergie, having shamed and nearly bankrupted herself, should now start talking about her "inner lotus". Brrr… it's an image that doesn't bear thinking about. I'm not knocking yoga, or meditation. Both can comfort and relax. But there is a long tradition of flaky Westerners, who, when life gets challenging, turn eastward for an easy escape route. From the Beatles who went to India to follow a maharishi mahesh yogi to Elizabeth Gilbert who fled to find herself in Indonesia when her marriage ended, the path to Asia is paved with navel-gazers. Some manage to milk the experience – "My Sweet Lord", after all, is the product of the Beatles' flirtation with lotus-eating; and Gilbert turned her voyage of self-discovery into the best-selling "Eat Pray Love". Perhaps, who knows, Fergie may turn enlightenment into a money-making scheme ....

Just when they taught is not known with precision, but it appears before 4000 B.C. because by then their revolt against the priesthood had become fashionable. The literati of the time decided to write down what was in the founder’s teachings, except it was written in the literary language of Sanskrit resulting in a short series of books called the Upanishads. The writers of these books were masters of prose and poetry, and for more than 2,000 years more nonsense has been written and spoken about the Upanishads than virtually any set of books in existence.

Read More: of these “godmen” — as they are popularly known in the Indian press — have millions of followers. And a good number of them — not unlike their televangelists counterparts back in the U.S. — have also become millionaires, which can be, um, slightly at odds with their image as people who eschew the material world. And, like their Bible-thumping colleagues on the other side of the globe, they seem particularly prone to, well, shall we say, lapses of the flesh. Or maybe we should just say that for some of these swamis, their knowledge of the Mahabharat and the Bhagvad Gita is matched by their practice of the Kama Sutra.---

The problem is the translation just didn’t cut it. Like Shakespeare describing Jesus in a powdered wig and knee breeches. The result is that the original sages often appear as enthusiastic of God, or Gods, when in fact they did not believe in god at all. The sages thought that the whole Hindu pantheon was a clever invention of the priests to put money in the pockets of their colleagues. They had no more use for god than Karl Marx, but it should be added they would have no use for the bard of Communism either. They did not set themselves up as prophets and had no desire to set the world right. As far as they were concerned, the world could stew in its own juices. They taught no morality, and a follower could pretty much do as they pleased and still not commit a sin. So, Indian scholars politely misread the Upanishads for centuries. As for the West, they did not know of their existence until the nineteenth-century when Schopenhauer discovered one of them and declared himself profoundly moved. He too, misread the text and it was also a German forgery. There is a sucker born…. it is only now in the twenty-first century where atheism has been institutionalized, and its a plus to have dubious morals, that the true teachings of the sages can be bandied with impunity.

Read More: nine p.m., Allen Ginsberg enters. He has just flown in from Louisville, Kentucky. Concluding a long tour of college poetry readings, he is eager to return to his Cherry Valley farm in upstate New York. When he sees Prabhupada, he smiles broadly. “Hare Krishna!” he says. As always, Allen touches Prabhupada’s feet, offering obeisances, then sits cross-legged on the floor. “So, we’ll sing tomorrow?” “Yes,” Prabhupada says. “At noon today we had some meeting in the university. Kirtan. Wherever we go, there’s kirtan and speaking. You’ve seen our book, Teachings of Lord Chaitanya?” He hands Allen his advance copy. Allen handles it with respectful curiosity, first looking at the color paintings. “ISKCON published? Printed where?” “Japan,” Prabhupada says. “Printed in Japan. Beautiful. Very industrious.” Then, grinning: “It’s marvelous!” “The next book is coming,” Prabhupada says. “Nectar of Devotion.”

When the sages of the Upanishads first taught, Hindu civilization was totally controlled by the priests who went so far as to lay down instructions about the way to defecate and go to bed with their wives. Displeasure of the gods was the fear factor, which could be fatal. Luckily, the priests could turn away divine wrath: for a fee. Step one the sages taught was to go where there were no priests and stage two was to find out who you really were. With this discovery, you can go through your past in your mind’s eye, peeling it away like layers of an onion. In each layer you will find not yourself, but the product of other people.

Read More: --- Anywhere you keep cows. And what cows to maintain? No expenditure. The fruits? The skin thrown away, and the cow will eat. And in exchange it will give you nice foodstuff, milk. Or it will eat in the grazing ground, some grass. So there is no expenditure of keeping cows, but you get the best food in the world. The proof is that the child born simply can live on milk. That is the proof. So anyone can live only on milk. If you have got the opportunity to drink one pound milk maximum, not very much—half-pound is sufficient; suppose one pound—then you don’t require any other foodstuff. Only this cow’s milk will help you. It is so nice. And it gives very nice brain, not pig’s brain. So it is so important thing. Other…, why Krsna says go-raksya? He did not say that “pig-raksya.” No. “Dog-raksya.” No. Now they are interested in dog-raksya instead of cow-raksya. This is the civilization. They’ll spend millions of dollars for dog, not for cow.---

When the last layer of the onion was removed, there is nothing left, which the sages asserted is exactly what you would find at the center of your own life: nothing. You do not find your true self, you have destroyed yourself. The next step is to practice making no judgements, being able to look at objects, and be only aware of them. Observing, good, judgement, trouble. The mind suddenly transcends itself after long practice, arriving at tranquility. You are no longer your old self, but a new being, free from worldly contamination. The world ultimately reclaims you, but you return a different person. Unfortunately, this attractive doctrine when it was written down, met with a disaster: it became mixed up with yoga.

Yoga is a much abused word. The yoga where you tie your legs in complicated knots is hatha-yoga. Though many regard it as an advanced physical exercise, this clean and breezy view is untenable. Hatha-yoga has rather murky origins. The earliest religion of India is the Tantric faith; on the one side a harmless mixture of astrology and voodoo, the other side is Gorkanath, which was a sect aimed at flouting all conventions, and the actual style of flouting was dubious. It included the eating of dead human bodies, scatological banquets, and all forms of sexual perversion prolonged to the utter exhaustion of the devotee. Oh yes, it also included hatha-yoga.

Read More:'s top yoga guru Baba Swami Ramdev (C) arrives on the island of Little Cumbrae off the west coast of Scotland, on September 27, 2009. Ramdev draws Bollywood celebrities, politicians and sports stars -- as well as tens of thousands of p

e mainly from the the affluent middle class -- to workshops in various Indian cities.---

The aim of all this hysteria was to equip the devotee with supernatural powers. With these he could do evil or, if he chose, good to his fellow men. He could also work miracles, such as flying through the air, being in two places or more at once, and reading people’s thoughts. The Gorkanath cult died, presumably from its own excesses, and little of the sort is found in India today. The more benign side of Tantrism barely survived and still has some esoteric believers. What did not die , but actually flourished, was the belief that a holy man who had gone through hatha-yoga and attained enlightenment also acquired supernatural powers.

Read More: ---However, the faith of the people was completely shaken when the TV Channel beamed the sex romp of Swami Nithyanand with an actress. The tape showing the Swami in a compromising position enraged his devotees around the country. People came out to the streets, burned his effigies, pull down his posters and even vandalized his ashram. The incensed villagers residing in the vicinity of his sprawling ashram Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam near Bidadi in Karnataka and they attacked the devotees staying there.---


…Last week saw dueling sex scandals involving Hindu holy men. First, a television channel ran a sting operation in which it filmed Swami Nithyananda, an extremely popular godman who runs a major ashram just outside the IT hub of Bangalore, getting it on with a woman believed to be (her face is a bit blurry in the video) a well known Tamil film star (although there is some debate about whether it is Ragasudha or Ranjitha.)…

…Following airing of the tape, the swamis enraged followers — feeling betrayed by Nithyananda’s seeming hypocrisy — attacked his ashrams in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The police also filed charges against him for “cheating” and “enraging people’s religious sentiments.” (If only that were a crime in America too!) The swami was forced to release a statement assuring his followers that he had done “nothing illegal” — not exactly the strongest denial ever.

Then, in an even bigger scandal, a popular mystic named Shiv Murat Dwivedi was arrested by Delhi police and charge with running a prostitution ring involving up to 100 of his female devotees, including many “respectable” girls — college students and airline stewardesses — with middle class backgrounds or, at least, middle-class aspirations, as well as some “society women,” according to a report in The Straits Times. The report also said that “Dwivedi, who worked as a security guard at a five-star hole and at a massage parlour before taking to religion, was said to have amassed more than 600 million rupees ($10 million) over a period of 10 years [through prostitution and other illegal activities.]” There are other reports that Dwivedi had a criminal record for prostitution previously and that he remade himself following his release from prison as a holy man. He may have lured the women into his prostitution ring with promises of access to the rich and powerful and then blackmailed them to get them in the game. According to another report, while some of the women volunteered to work in the guru’s sex business, others were coerced, perhaps because the swami had loaned them money to pay for schools or training courses….Read More:
Rick Ross:Dozens of former disciples told the Oregonian in Portland, Oregon that Swami Chetanananda exploited them financially, sexually and spiritually.

Former Boston bartender Dana Swift’s life hit bottom in February 1988 and it was then that the young woman found the “Nityananda Institute.”

She attended a Sunday open house to hear “Swami Chetanananda”; an American-born guru originally named J. Michael Shoemaker from Bloomington, Indiana.

Disciples taped the swami Shoemaker’s Sunday talks and he even had a “tape-of-the-month club.”

Swift recalled that back then she had a craving for the swami’s touted “divine energy,” which left her feeling euphoric, eventually she would surrender herself totally to him, though he would ultimately be a disappointment.

“The teacher takes on the student’s tensions and processes it and gives it back to the student as energy.” — Chetanananda March 13, 1988

Shoemaker/Chetanananda’s closest followers always occupied the best seats in the ashram and chanted in unison. They experienced something called “shaktipat,” Chetanananda would put his fingers between their eyebrows to supposedly funnel energy into them.

Disciples would groan when the guru from Indiana touched them, some convulsed even screamed.

Shoemaker/Chetanananda at one time owned four houses near the Radcliffe College campus and a bakery in Boston. He attracted some wealthy members. There was a newsletter and a retreat center on Martha’s Vineyard, the island off Cape Cod.

“You can continuously choose to discover and live in a finer realm than the one you travel in,” — Chetanananda March 13, 1988.

After one evening lecture Swift noticed that swami Shoemaker’s favorite followers went upstairs. She watched Sharon Ward, a lawyer who was his right-hand disciple and administrator, walk up to the guru’s third-floor apartment with her husband John Robert “Bob” Shoemaker, the guru’s brother. Swift yearned to be part of the guru’s inner circle, which included his select followers that had money, looks or some useful expertise.

“A real spiritual teacher does not in any way need to control you or your thinking.” – Chetanananda April 24, 1988.

Upstairs, according to some of those that entered Chetanananda’s private quarters, they ate from a buffet on a glass table set below track-lit Tibetan artwork. Disciples sat on pillows arranged on the floor facing their leader. Shoemaker sat above them on a plush leather armchair. He liked to watch the movie “Repo Man,” with Emilio Estevez. The swami would give “shaktipat” to a disciple who then fell backward and he would continue watching the movie. Disciples washed his dishes, car, cleaned his apartment and picked up his clothes.

“Literally I have, you know, 20 people in my room from 8 o’clock in the morning ’til 10 o’clock at night. It’s continuously changing, but it’s there.” — Chetanananda April 24, 1988

In April 1988 Swift finally got her turn upstairs, but it reportedly ended up with the Shoemaker propositioning her.

Other female disciples provided similar accounts about Shoemaker/Chetanananda, despite his purported vow of celibacy in 1978 he apparently sought sex frequently.

Eleven of his former female followers told the Oregonian that Shoemaker had sex with them. Each gave detailed accounts, which were later corroborated. Women claimed their sexual encounters led ultimately to both emotional and psychological damage…. Read More:

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One Response to aware and beware: the amateur guru

  1. Richard Friff says:

    From the same small Indiana town that then Michael Shoemaker came from. He was known as a handsome flake in high school even then. Was in Bloomington Indiana when he was building his ashram. It took awhile, but his flakiness and piracy was eventually revealed, hence his escape elsewhere.

    Sad that this was more commonplace then than now – or is it?

    Sad those that get duped.

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