Friday, November 20, 2009

The Un-Cult Spiritual Movement

I mentioned in my recent post on “The Hypnotic Trance of Cults and Cultists” something about the “emerging model of the un-cult”. I'm not sure what I meant by that phrase, and I'm not sure that such a thing is even “emerging” as a spiritual form in our time, but I'll take a stab at the idea. One might simply say that a lot of old, cultic forms are dying, falling apart, becoming exposed in the light of day, and seem deeply inadequate to the needs of many spiritual aspirants. One need not propose a new model, perhaps, but rather just the absence of cultic ones as they fall away.

If we look at those proposing new models for spirituality, such as many of those in the Integral or related “new” spiritual movements (Ken Wilber, David Deida, Saniel Bonder, Adi Da, Andrew Cohen) we find a great deal of cultism surrounding them, even when they position themselves as stauch anti-cultists. Likewise, if we look at any number of more traditional spiritual movements, from the latest generation of popular India Gurus, such as Ammachi, Karunaguru, Sri Sri whateverhisnameis, Nityananda, etc., we find all kinds of deep problems with cultism and exploitation. Even within the neo-Advaitin Satsang movement we see cultic problems, and sheer silliness, which is of a lesser level of disturbance, but nonetheless not a good model for spirituality. And then of course there is the whole range of new-age, channeled, and occult spirituality, where almost anything goes, and one must constantly remind oneself that “buyer beware” is the standard for all interactions.

The very notion that “new is better” needs to be called into question. In many respects it is not. There's certainly much that is corrupt and cultic about old systems of spirituality, but one has to appreciate how well-oiled many of them were within the context of their cultures, and that removing them from that context often leaves behind many of the safety mechanisms that actually protected people from being exploited by cults. There are a great many traditional maxims in Hinduism, for example, that can help identify genuine Gurus and discriminate them from those who are of suspect morality and ethics and lack real qualifications to teach. Very few modern spiritual teachers could pass the tests those cultures create for spiritual teachers. And likewise, those cultures also created qualifications and tests for spiritual aspirants, which weeded out those not well suited to the seriousness of the spiritual path, and kept people from straying beyond their real aspirations into esoteric practices they were not suited for.

Among those guidelines for both teacher and student were some very specific rules for living that might seem to us to be rather ascetical and hard to live up to, but if we look at them more closely we can see the wisdom of them. The first and in some ways the most obvious rule was that money and sex should not be involved in spiritual pursuits. Ramakrishna famously warned that “women and gold” were the great dangers that all spiritual aspirants should stay clear of. Most modern spiritual teachers and seekers tend to ignore this injunction, referring to it as antiquated, not in keeping with the times, and ignoring the necessity and centrality of both money and sex to human life, and especially modern human culture. It turns out that they do so at great peril and risk, and few of them are able to navigate thought these waters successfully.

If there's a lesson in the experience of modern cultism it is that Ramarkishna was basically correct. Wherever we see commerce introduced into the world of spirituality, we find corruption, exploitation, degradation of morality and ethics, and spiritual teachings and practices become so corroded by the needs of commerce as to become indistinguishable from any other sales category of modern economic life. The notion that spirituality should be set apart from such things is treated with contempt and derision. The notion that sacred relationship should actually be cultivated is considered an anachronism unsuited to the needs and qualities of our age. And yet, if we look at the evidence dispassionately, and without constantly deferring to the commercial needs of the marketplace, I think we can see that this influence has had a deadly and deadening influence upon everything it has touched.

I am not merely referring to the most exploitive of Gurus who attempt to drain off the fiaancial resources of their devotees. I refer just as much to the whole range of commercial enterprises, most of them quite legitimate in many respects, that surrounds spirituality in our time. I refer to the endless number of spiritual teachers who charge money for their services, for their “coaching” of others, for their seminars, programs, books, audio and videotapes, for “readings”, for channeled services, for ashrams and centers and retreat facilities. The list goes on. Many of these enterprises are, on the face of it, even justifiable. Certainly we cannot expect books and tapes to be free. Certainly if someone gives a public lecture, there will be expenses that have to be paid for. And such people have to make a living somehow, and if they have to work an ordinary job, they won't have much time left to teach.

All these explanations make a certain amount of practical sense. And yet, in the course of making these spiritual pursuits into a career, a business, a machine that is dependent first and foremost on a cash-flow machine, the spirituality becomes corrupted by the entire process. This is why the traditional admonition for those who become spiritual teachers is to take vows of poverty, and not to profit from their teachings. They are permitted to accept small donations that are enough to give them the bare basics of life, but not much more. Nor is it expected that they would need more than that. In this way, a basic degree of integrity is maintained for these teachers, and most of all, for their relationship to those they teach, which is relieved of the whole obligation to act as businessmen serving their clients, but as the living embodiment of spiritual wisdom itself.

Once in a while you come across people like this. A few years ago when I was still spending time in Marin, I was invited by a friend to a small gathering for Prem Avadhoot, a close disciple and attendant to Rang Avadhut, who was known to me through the lore of Adidam as one of the most interesting saints of 20th century India. Rang Avadhoot is not well known even in India, yet was a very impressive figure in the area around Ganeshpuri, and occasionally visited with Swami Muktananda where he by chance met young Franklin Jones (Adi Da) on his first visit to India. According to Jones, it was actually Rang Avadhoot whose penetrating glance sent him into Nirvikalpa Samadhi near the end of that first trip, and he thus occupies a high place in the Adidam pantheon. I knew little about him other than what I'd learned through Adidam.

Meeting Prem Avadhoot was a very different experience than the kind of thing one finds in Adidam, however. Prem Avadhoot was a very unassuming, rather frail old man at this point, in his seventies, but still very lively and extremely friendly. In fact, when he introduced himself to the gathering of about 50 people in a large private living room in Mill Valley, his first words were, “Don't think of me as a guru or a teacher, relate to me as a family friend”. He proceeded to describe his relationship to Rang Avadhoot, who lived a life of great simplicity and integrity, as one of loving and ordinary intimacy. He made no claims about himself, and he explained that he didn't even have much of a spiritual teaching. His God, he said, was humanity itself, and his practice was to love and worship human beings as God, as a servant to God. In accord with this, he would accept no financial donations. His travel expenses had been paid for by a wealthy Marinite (the host of the gathering), but beyond that, he had taken vows of poverty and lived in ordinary simplicity. In his home village he was known as “the loving saint” who spent all his time simply being with people, loving then, acting literally as a family friend, spending time with children and animals, and not really trying to make anything more of himself than that. To him, this was his teaching – how he actually lived and related to others. In appreciation of this, he gave everyone at the gathering a small gift, personally, as they come up to his chair and were embraced by him. I received a small cloth, which I used on my meditation altar still, and a laminated card that had a number of brief aphorisms from Rang Avadhoot, which were touching in their simplicity and loving attitude. I got to spend some time with him after the gathering, and he invited anyone who was there to simply sit with him in his room.

I didn't get the sense from Prem Avadhoot that he was a great non-dual realizer, but he didn't pretend to be either. He was a simple bhakti, a lover of God who understood that to love God meant to love others unconditionally. This is what his Guru Rang Avadhoot had taught him to do. He was living what to him was a simple, traditional life of renunciation, but it was immensely full and happy and loving, and he didn't need anything more than that. He didn't need to make money, he didn't need to travel to the US, it just worked out that way through the generosity of a patron. He didn't need to create a following or a movement or an organization around any of this. He kept it all very human and small and intimate. No money exchanged hands. There was no fee at the door, not even a bowl for “donations”. You could see from his body and clothing that he simply had no use for money or luxuries. He was spiritually alive, awake, and full of love, and he just lived in a natural manner, keeping that love pure and untouched by the commercial life.

As he describes his life:
"I eat when I feel hunger. I sleep when I feel to sleep. An unhappy happening makes me weep too. When occasion demands, I laugh aloud and freely.At the time of silence, I go into deep silence.Whatever I do, I do it as a worship to and of God."
~ Prem Avadhoot Bapuji
Anyway, if there's a “model” for the un-cult, Prem Avadhut is one of the best examples I could offer. Unfortunately, he's not easy to find, since he doesn't promote himself. I don't think he even has a website. It was sheer chance that I happened to know the right people to be invited to meet him. But that also is part of the un-cult model It works off of basic human intimacies, and the notion that God will find a way to touch you through people like Prem Avadhut if you simply allow Grace to guide you.

Of course, one can say that Prem Avadhoot is the product of an long Indian tradition that we don't have here. That is hardly an excuse, however, in that if the west is in the process of creating new spiritual traditions - “cutting edge” as some claim – why not create a genuine tradition, rather than a commercialized one? Why not, if we are to be inspired by eastern philosophical traditions like Advaita, also be inspired by the living traditions of loving saints like Premananda? Why adopt the modern commercial model for virtually every spiritual teacher, teaching, path or tradition? I think we all know the real answer to that, and it isn't a pretty one. People want to get theirs. They don't value God and human love above commerce. In some sense, we can't even say that most of these spiritual teachers have been corrupted by money, because they never achieved any real degree of spiritual integrity in the first place. One simply can't do that when one's teachers are in business for themselves as well. People tend to model themselves on those who teach them. It's no wonder that all the teachers who came in touch with Adi Da in some way adopted a commercial model. It's certainly not unique to Adidam of course, it's present in almost every spiritual path one can find these days.

When Ramana Maharshi went to Arunachula, he renounced everything, and survived only by the help of some local sadhus. Slowly, over the years, an ashram grew up around him, but Ramana would never allow it to be commercialized in the least. He forbid anyone to solicit donations, and he and his fellow renunciates lived on the spontaneous kindness of local people, who would donate food or supplies as needed. Ramana said repeatedly that they should simply rely on Grace to bring them sustenance, and this occurred, not in any great avalanche of support, but enough to keep the ashram alive, and slowly growing in a simple way over the years through patronage. Ramana felt that if what he was doing was genuinely worthwhile, the support would appear, and if not, so be it.

The same ought to be true for the modern western spiritual movements and teachings. There should simply be no commercial enterprises associated with spirituality, aside from the very basic needs of publications and occasional places of worship or meditation. The basis for any spiritual “movement” should simply be human intimacy and love, people sharing with one another the fruits of their own spiritual practice, without money changing hands. There should be no charge for “satsang” or teachings of any kind – except, as needed, some books and publications. But even these should not be heavily promoted as some kind of commercial enterprise, hawked like late-night infomercial products advertising salvation. Genuine spiritual teachers should inspire private patronage for the most part, and if they do not, they shouldn't expect to be supported by “consumers” of spirituality.

It's not merely the cult-model of spiritual organization which needs to be done away with, it's the entire commercial model of salesmen and consumers. Tony Robbins is not what we want the future of spirituality to be about. These people and their emulators (I'm talking to you, Ken Wilber) have no genuine spiritual teachings to offer, they only have something to sell to people who are bereft of the spiritual. But like fast-food, these things do not satisfy. They don't provide the human intimacy and love that are the real signs of genuine un-cultic spirituality. They are trying to sell something which can't be sold, which can't be bought, but which is only excluded by the effort to create such an enterprise.

I have nothing against business, money, commerce (or sex for that matter), but it simply is not part of spirituality. If anything, spirituality is a way of disciplining and guiding our use of money and the ethical participation in commerce, which is difficult enough within its own world. But there's a natural hierarchy here, and it only goes one way. Money should not dictate our spirituality, or shape it in any way. Spirituality should, if anything, dictate how we earn and use money. If we find ourselves shaping our spirituality into a money-making enterprise, we are turning it upside down and in effect reversing its power, turning it into something which degrades us rather than elevates us. This happens even on the smallest of levels, when we ask for $5 at the door for some spiritual “talk”. Most spiritual teachings can, like Prem Avadhoot's, be delivered for free in someone's living room. If it requires a giant hall, it's probably gotten out of hand and will no longer serve anyone's genuine spiritual interests.

So I would suggest a series of informal “rules” for un-cultic spirituality, which basically revolves around the idea of spirituality always remaining small, human, intimate, and personal, and never large, impersonal, and oriented towards a mass audience. And of course, always free. If it can't be free, it simply shouldn't be done. If patronage is required, it should be unsolicited. One must have faith that if something is worthy of patronage, it will appear at the appropriate time and place. In this way, whatever spiritual teachings do thrive and survive, will do so with their integrity intact. And the people associated with them at every level with strive to protect them from the corruptions that occur in commercial enterprises or large organizational platforms.

For many current spiritual paths, this would amount to bringing them to an end. Which I heartily endorse, even if I have few expectations that they will do so willingly. The best we can hope for, then, is that these kinds of ideas gain ground the spiritual underground the world over, slowly, one person at a time, through human intimacies, to the point where people simply don't participate in the old cultic commercial models. If people simply don't join groups like Adidam or Wilber's Integral Institute or pay for seminars and lectures and so on, those things will simply die out. That doesn't mean that such teachings have to come to an end. They will simply be forced to become human and intimate and genuine, rather than corrupted by business enterprises and all the aspirations of worldly empire their leaders have become infatuated with. If they can't survive without their commercial apparatus, then they don't deserve to survive.

In general, then, we need to find a way to cultivate and value genuine forms of spiritual teaching, based on the model of renunciation rather than of commercial success. By renunciation I don't necessarily mean living a life of dismal poverty and asceticism. The model of ancient rishis was not one of poverty and the life of the sadhu. The ancient rishis were householders, with wives, children, families, and businesses – usually farmers given the economies o the ancient world, but frequently participants in all kinds of trades. The Tibetan Buddhist Mahasiddhas were ordinary people – cobblers, farmers, blacksmiths, tradesmen – who nonetheless realized the highest spiritual truths. They did not leave those trades in order to become spiritual careerists making a living off their students and devotees. And yet, of course, over the years Tibetan Buddhism became corrupted by those trappings, and that commercialization. Nonetheless, the real spirituality of Buddhism lives on outside the monasteries and the trappings of powerful lineages. The scattering of these Buddhists to the winds, however brutal it may have been, has been of benefit in many ways. And yet, coming to the west they find the temptations of commercialization even greater than before.

I can't be lecturing these traditionalists who have long ago become wedded to power and money and prestige to let it all go. Mainstream religion in whatever place it has taken hold has tended to become corrupted by power and money, and that isn't going to change soon. It just doesn't need to be supported by commercial enterprises of any kind. The selling of empowerments and blessings is an old business that every religious culture has indulged in at one time or another. It of course leads to institutionalized cults in which the worst kinds of abuses can be not only tolerated, but even praised. Ending that pattern isn't going to happen overnight. And fighting it won't change it either. It's only by not support, and the encouragement of a different approach to spirituality altogether, that this pattern will change.

About seven years ago I went to see Ammachi at her San Ramon ashram. It was an interesting experience. She's a genuine spiritual figure, with much shakti and presence, and I'm sure she does a lot of good. But merely entering the hall where she gives her hugs was quite a jarring experience. Arranged on all the sides of the hall were innumerable stalls selling this item or that, and worst of all, a man on a loudspeaker talking endlessly about this or that way of donating to this or that cause by buying various things. I found it amusing, but also bizarre. What exactly was the point of this group? It's wonderful that Ammachi gives hugs to people, but the whole setting is not one of personal love, but of mass commercial enterprise and vast organizational goals. Rather than giving attention to the love of God within the context of intimate human relationships, all attention was on Ammachi herself, who hardly anyone could actually have an intimate relationship with. The pattern was similar to that of Adidam. In a sense, this diminished Ammachi's spiritual power and influence, rather than enhancing it. And it made even those who were close and intimate with her, as with Adi Da, into cultic devotees rather than genuine intimates. The sheer size of her organization made the many “renunciates” in her organization into the usual human sacrifices to God, the cannon fodder for some greater purpose that never quite materializes, but is always justified because she is taken to be God Incarnate, and devotion to her becomes devotion to God. Those of us who were in Adidam know the drill. What is lost in all this is the kind of actual God-loving that one finds around much humbler spiritual teachers like Prem Avadhut, whose claims are much smaller but whose actual effect is much more meaningful.

I guess I've hardly touched upon the topic of sex. Perhaps another time. In brief, however, the same principle applies. Despite all the fancy talk about sexual tantra, sex and spiritual teaching are best kept apart, just as with money. There certainly is a spiritual dimension to sexuality that must be honored and cultivated, but it's really just about the intimate love one has with one's partner, and it has no particular place outside that sacred space. Again, when we mix sex with spiritual teachers, it only corrupts both. We can see that in spades in Adidam, but also everywhere else, including traditional religion, new age groups, sexual-spiritual therapy groups, Tibetan lamas getting off on their students, and all the various hokey-pokey that goes on at all levels of the spiritual enterprise. It tends to be the case that money and sex end up in the same mix, when there's a strong commercializing force at work. The games of money and power inevitably lead to sex games getting played out, and this tends to demean all of them

I'll probably keep coming back to this whole issue a number of times. I just want to make clear that I'm not suggesting some kind of puritanical ethic that is either anti-money or anti-sex. Quite the opposite. I'd simply like to see the process of spirituality made sacred, set apart, and not debased by financial or sexual desiring. That actually frees us up to find the right guidance and guidelines for engaging in business and sexual relations with spiritual force, because our spirituality is not bound up in them. In other words, it's the route to becoming genuinely non-puritanical. When sex gets mixed up with spiritual teachers, it generally becomes weird, secretive, and exploitive. So it's best to keep them apart, if merely as a healthy discipline, just as it is with money.


Losing M. Mind said...

Well, on the sex thing. Kind of in my experience. It seems definitely that sexuality can stem from spirituality, but that (spirituality) it is totally beyond it, just like any other activity. I remember David Lynch correcting someone who said there painting was their meditation. because he's a film director, and he said that he goes deep within blissful infinite Consciousness and coming back to the mental level 'catches' ideas as it were. But he was saying the actual artistic process itself is not spiritual, but that he uses the spiritual to I don't know the word infuse his film work with deep imagination and relevance. Granted, I am an Aspie with no success in having romantic intimate relations that are physical. But I would think the same applies to sexuality. For instance when I prioritize sexuality, or sexual desire, I do not think it helps me in terms of Self-Realization or finding the happiness and love within. Because it's treating happiness as the result of desire fulfillment. This is a really tricky one that seems key to Self-Realization that fulfillment is within, not an experience. But on the other hand, I find that the deeper and more blissful and selfless as I merge in deeper levels of consciousness that are less egoic, my ability to be intimate and loving toward others is greatly enhanced. For instance, I can't say whether my deepest states are samadhi or not, but my most samadhi like states are also thsoe where I'm most capable of loving others, and I woudl say, probably would make a far better lover in those states. So in a sense maybe sexuality is spiritual, if everything is spiritual, but if it's something prioritized by itself and craved after (granted I do do that sometimes), it is not spiritual. And it is not inherently spiritual itself because it's just a way of getting physical pleasure. And in crass tamasic states can be the result of manipulating others. The spiritual teacher I'm in contact with, has emphasized repeatedly that love and happiness are within and nothing and no one can give it. On sexuality, he said "a pleasurable sensation minus the happiness essence associated with it is meaningless for all". The happiness is what all desire, it is found within.

Losing M. Mind said...

I read more of the article here, very well written, dealing with alot of interesting topics. (if I respond so much, it's only because of the interesting-ness of the topics and how well they are discussed by the blog author who is free to keep or delete anything I write) I can only speak from my own experience (relating to money and spirituality). The teacher I'm in touch with, and correspond with. Their temple, the SAT temple in Santa Cruz from gossip I've heard on the web that in the past there was some sort of mandatory donations, but those were people being critical so I have no idea. Since i've been interested in the teachings of Maharshi, and getting help from this particular spiritual teacher/guru, there was a donation box, it was really pretty, but no one was watching to see if you put any in, no one cared. several people told me it doesn't matter, and I think one said it's unnecessary for regular satsangs. Some of the books are a little pricey ($40 so I hear for the Tamil Ribhu Gita), the CDs and DVDs of satsangs are real cheap, I think only a few dollars. And really, there is alot of transcripts, and over an hour of free audio on their website. (which for me would really be enough) I'm not advertising, I was just thinking of this in relation to money. However, the thing that I found really sincere, is for one that essentially satsangs are free, but also that this teacher seems to bend over backwards to help earnest aspirants deepen and progress. I have 128 pages of question answer with really long replies from him and these are free. (not to mention how stellar and precise his advise has been in guiding me to highly illumined selfless states of happiness) I would say the total money that has gone to the SAT temple from me books, the 15 dollars I freely donated at satsang totals about 100 dollars total. And the guy from India who runs the bookstore said pay what I could afford for the books, I had enough so I paid full price. But if I was at a martial arts studio it might be 70 dollars a month, not to mention equipment. (and I might not get this kind of personal instruction that has been so helpful) So, it seems to me anyway, that even on money, the question is how much of a benefit is it being around this teacher, in terms of being helped.

Losing M. Mind said...

Because the phenomenal world is even experientially only an appearance, so the clothing, the style of buildings, the seeming ostentation or lack of ostentation, I think those can maybe be irrelevent to the qualifications of the teacher. I mean, is it a King Janaka or a Ramana Maharshi. According to Ramana King Janaka was a jnani even though he lived in a palace and lived a boistrous life. In India, that Nannagaru seems to be similar to the person you mentioned. I would definitely expect that someone in a high spiritual state or even Realized would show signs of being selfless though. If there were some kind of crass exploitation going on, I would guess that that probably is not a Realized teacher. However, I would imagine that some teachers end up attracting great fame, while others are in relative obscurity, and i'm speaking of the fully Realized jnanis. The ones that achieve great fame, well both Ramana and Papaji I remember mentioning how for instance Papaji when he was made a guru, he said something i believe about being in such a state that he could neither accept or reject. Because of htat, I would assume that the organizations that spring up around a truly realized jnani if they are not in obscurity, and really famous, they may despite being entirely selfless, may be quite inaccessible. The organizations that spring up around them, may not be totally free of corruption. It reminds me of how Ramana had to consistently remind people to "mind what you have come for", because they would come to have difficulties or criticisms with the way the ashram was run. Their minds were becoming externalized again. Another key that I remember for recognizing a teacher, if someone tells you waht to do, that man is "not a master, but a killer". A true teacher (sat-guru) will always guide the seeker back to their own self, to merge in their own self, and it will be the experience of that devotee that through the instruction of that teacher they will with relative ease merge with their own self. If that happens, that teacher is not a fraud. If the opposite happens, I would assume that teacher is most definitely not qualified. But I don't think there could be any wordly means to judge something so transcendent of the worldly.

Losing M. Mind said...

Actually Papaji said specifically that in the documentary by David Godman that is in it's entirety on Google Videos. Papaji said that you can not see a master with the eyes, because essentially they have transcended the senses. But if you feel a deep sense of peace and happiness and the mind is quieted that could be the outward signs that this is a true teacher, and if that is the case, that is someone to stick around.

Losing M. Mind said...

The documentary is called Call Off the Search, maybe you have already seen it. Also if you type in Papaji avi, they have papaji satsangs shown in their entirety not just clips.

Losing M. Mind said...

I was reading again, and more thoughts. I agree with you that spirituality and commercialism are antithetical and that it is a desecration in a sense to make spirituality into something commercial. I don't know and cannot judge Adi da's spiritual state for instance, no idea. But the slick advertising of the organization is disgusting. There is slick commercialism surrounding Byron Katie and Echart Tolle as well, maybe even Andrew Cohen. I think in a way that is why I'm drawn more to traditional advaita that is actually rooted in Hinduism, and not some slick new age version. However, my approach is to focus sincerely on my own spirituality, it is exceedingly difficult to Realize, and I'm filled with numerous vasanas. But if my attention is entirely or more and more on investigating and clearing away vasanas, there will be progress. If there are fake teachers, I focus on being sincere myself. For instance Adi da (to name one) may have been a fraud or had some spiritual insight and some delusion or he may have been totally Realized and the organization around him was corrupt, honestly I have no idea. But even if he was totally fraudulent, and this was just an extortion enterprise so he could get laid repeatedly with beautiful women. I cannot say my own vasanas are much better. And if i clear all of them away, I actually become immersed in the genuine spirituality that the real Self is. I'm a bit skeptical of any efforts to form a movement based on any principle. Because even a dogma that money cannot be charged under any circumstnaces, as an ego, I like truncating solutions that are insensitive to complexity of the terrain. (best analogy I could think of) Honestly, I prefer much prefer traditional religions to slick new age. Even if there is corruption in them. But I remember Robert Adams saying the world will never be changed, it's not to meant to be. And if the one Self is what really exists, I would be a fool to waste time abiding anywhere else. And then it only becomes a question of who and what helps me in this. If people who are more invested in their ego exploit eachother and abuse eachother, that will contineu to occur. The best solution is to abide as my own Self, the Self, immerse myself in my own self, the Self. Because it is what is real.

Losing M. Mind said...

Recognizing the guru: The guru will be recognized as my own self when I'm ready for one.

Losing M. Mind said...

You mentioned Ammachi, that is the thing is that, as you said she's a genuine spiritual figure. And around her is a bunch of commercialism. But if I remember correctly sages being beyond the world, have very little concern of what goes on it, there being only the Self, so it really almsot seems like if a sage, a true jnani is famous, then there is going to be organizations and stuff that make that guru inaccessible, commercialized, the devotees are not Realized they are not of the same maturity level, and it's not surprising that they turn it into a cult. That's why I'm hesitant to tar Adida by the same brush as his organization, I don't know enough about him. There's all that stuff about Society of Abidance in Truth being cult-ish, and weird. But when I went there, there was a conspicuous absence of that stuff. Well, there's not as many devotees. So maybe that makes it so there is alot less weirdness going on. But then again, I suppose whether a true jnani is famous or not, whether tehre is alot of weirdness around them or not, they are the Self, so in inquiring into the Self it is association with the sage, and so in the presence of even a famous inaccessible one, they may recognize and help devotees that are more aware of the Self anyway. For instance if I went around Ammachi, and I was in the effortless, thoughtless state, she would probably really recognize that, and might help me out. So it probably does not matter whether a true sage is famous or not, has a huge cultish following or not.