Saturday, December 05, 2009

Jivanmukta and the Infallibility of Crazy Wisdom

Our old friend /m made a comment on my last post on Jivanmukta and the Mind of the Realizer, Part II:

For this reason it's easy to find all kinds of contradiction in Ramana's teachings, if one compares what he said to the full spectrum of individuals who came to him, since these differing views are inherently contradictory to one another. It's only if one takes a larger overview that the contradictions are resolved.

Hence the rise of "crazy wisdom". Zen roshis might hit you with a stick or say startling things, Ramana might say seemingly contradictory things to different devotees, Frank might sleep with your wife, and Andrew Cohen might yell at you for an hour.

Then one must distinguish between "benign crazy wisdom" and "malign crazy wisdom".

That's a big caveat emptor to spiritual seekers of all stripes. Papaji trained Andrew Cohen and many others. Frank trained, uh, Saniel, and Nisargadatta trained Wayne Dyer. Sasaki-roshi trained Richard Baker, Chogyam Trungpa trained Osel Tendsin etc. etc. etc. Were they attuned to their masters' silence?

It's a craazy world out there. Thank you for the clear exposition, I appreciate it.

I want to make it clear that seeing apparent contradictions resolved by taking a wider view is not an excuse for senseless cruelty and spiritual incompetence. One does actually have to resolve the contradictions, and nor merely declare them to be invalid because one claims to be beyond such things.

Many contradictions in this life are simply that. They are not the result of narrowness of vision or flat-minded, conventional perspectives. They are just plain errors in perception and judgment. The idea of "Crazy Wisdom" in the Tibetan tradition is that strange things can actually work in the spiritual process, things we might not have expected to work. In the case of the classic Tibetan example of Crazy Wisdom, Marpa's endless abuse of Milarepa actually led to his enlightenment, and the dissemination of a profound lineage of spiritual teachings.

In the case of Adi Da, not so much. I've stated many times that if his teaching methods had indeed resulted in genuine realizers, I would have considered them justifiable. But the opposite has been the case. The people he abused in the name of realization ended up either delusional or badly damaged, or merely ordinary. One is hard pressed to find any genuine results from any of his methods, and he himself admitted in his latter years that they had failed to achieve their purpose. So in that respect, one should at least see some kind of profound and genuine spiritual result, such as is seen in Milarepa's case, to justify the abuse. One should also note that Marpa did not abuse his other disciples in this manner. He only abused Milarepa, and this was because Milarepa had been guilty of murdering forty people and practiced black magic - it was not a shotgun approach to all devotees, but a specific approach to Milarepa's special case.

As for Trungpa and Osel Tenzin, the results are less clear. Tenzin had some definite spiritual capabilities, but he was also clearly mistrained by Trungpa, who was himself off-kilter and deeply self-indulgent, despite his own great spiritual abilities. Even the Karmapa upbraided Trungpa for his misdeeds. In the end, the whole lineage failed to take seriously both Trungpa's and Tenzin's problems, which led to his becoming dharma regent at a time of crisis, and to his abusing his authority in profoundly dangerous ways, leading to the deaths of at least a dozen followers from AIDS. Trungpa had greater success in training figures like Pema Chodron, who still feel greatly served by his "crazy wisdom", but those who suffered needlessly as a result may not be so inclined to praise his teaching methods.

The other figures in /m's list have less culpability in the actions of their followers. Andrew Cohen was only with Papaji for five weeks, and can hardly be said to have been trained as a teacher by him. When he found out that Andrew was proclaiming himself as an enlightened teacher, Papaji told him very strongly and repeatedly that he was not qualified for such a role, and that he should stop immediately, which he refused to do. His method of teaching bore little resemblance to Papaji's, who did not use "crazy wisdom" methods at all.

Likewise, even though Adi Da used dubious crazy wisdom methods, he did not train Saniel Bonder to be a teacher, and never authorized him as such. The influence of course does count for something, but I'm not sure one can actually blame Da for Saniel's various dramas and exploitations of his students for financial gain (among other things).

As for Wayne Dwyer, I'm not aware that Nisargadatta actually trained him as a teacher either. Dwyer was certainly influenced by Nisargadatta, but he was also influenced by a wide variety of other paths and teachings, from the Course in Miracles to pop-psychology, and it's the latter that seems to have been his primary focus. I'm not even aware of Dwyer being abusive in any case, just something of a mediocrity, which is hardly a crime these days.

Getting back to the point, there's a huge difference between saying things that might be contradictory because they are meant on different planes of understanding and context, and doing things that are clearly harmful to people and trying to excuse oneself by claiming that it does good on some level one simply cannot see. The latter might sometimes even be true, but it's not the same kind of contradiction by any means.

This leads to the issue of whether Jivanmuktas can ever be in error. Clearly they can be, in the ordinary sense. And yet, we have examples of people like Papaji claiming that it's impossible for the Jivanmukta to ever act wrongly - and by this he clearly meant himself. He cited that from his own experience, he found that even when he said or did things that he felt must be wrong or untrue, the results were positive. He said that after his realization, he found himself often saying and doing things that he knew to be false or wrong, but he could not alter it, because it was the Self that acted through him, and he had no capacity to change it. He would find himself saying things to people that he knew were false - one can imagine that he's referring to his conversations with Andrew Cohen, perhaps, in which he told Andrew that he was enlightened - and yet, he found that over time even saying things that were false had a positive effect. I'm not sure if that's true, but one could at least speculate, as I have earlier, that someone as pathological as Andrew Cohen might have been an even worse and more abusive teacher if he hadn't encountered someone like Papaji first. That of course is sheer speculation. The point Papaji made was that over time he learned to simply trust the Self, and rest assured that the Self's actions and speech would turn out for the best.

So even in Papaji's case, one can see that the actions of the Jivanmukta could be in error in the common manner, at least in the sense of saying something that is false, but be correct in that saying something false might the right thing to do under some circumstances. How far one wishes to stretch that principle is up to those in relationship to the alleged Jivanmukta, of course. Adi Da obviously stretched that principle well past the breaking point, which was perhaps his daily goal, and something he simply could not resist for whatever reason one wishes to attribute to him. The principle of infallibility is not an excuse, of course - one must still see real results from it all, and as mentioned earlier, that was not much in evidence around Adi Da. There will always be people who will exploit the traditional concept of Jivanmukta for their personal pleasure and gain, excusing their egoic activity for the selfless actions of the Self, but we have only to look at genuine examples of Jivanmukta, as in Ramana's case, for demonstrations of how it is really done.

One example from Ramana's life that comes to mind is something that occurred early in Annamalai Swami's time with him. Annamalai was a young devotee who had arrived fairly recently at Ramanashram in the early 1920, and quickly became one of Ramana's personal attendents and favorites. One day Ramana took Annamalai aside and showed him the stream that bounded one side of the ashram, and pointed out that this stream posed a potential danger to the ashram if it were to flood its banks, even though this had never happened in the three decades Ramana had been living in the vicinity. To prevent this from happening, Ramana asked Annamalai to construct a large levee across the entire boundary of the ashram, at least six feet high, to be composed of two solid rock walls filled to the top with earth to make a strong protective barrier. However, Ramana placed several conditions upon Annamalai. First, he was to do this entirely on his own, without asking anyone for help, although if others offered to help it could be accepted. Second, he was not to ask anyone for permission to do this, even the Ashram manager, who was Ramana's younger brother, and a highly controlling type of character who ran a very tight ship, but just to begin work on his own. Third, he was not to stop working no matter what anyone else said or did, but to persist until the levee was completed. And fourth, he was not to tell anyone that Ramana had asked him to do this, no matter how strong their objections. Annamalai agreed to all of this and began work the next day.

One can imagine what happened next. Annamalai began carrying stones to the boundary and constructing his wall, and this soon attracted attention from all the residents. Ramana's brother Chinnaswami insisted on knowing what Annamalai was doing, and when he explained he was building a levee, Chinnaswami told him to cease immediately, which he refused. Chinnaswami tried everything he could to get him to obey, leading to hours of argument and shouting, but he was reluctant to involve Ramana in the dispute. A very curious little dance developed, in which Chinnaswami would try to mention this dispute to Ramana in various round about ways, hoping that Ramana would say something about it which could be interpreted as disapproval, but none of them worked. Ramana was seen observing Annamalai's work on the levee from a distance, and he did not voice either approval or disapproval. The entire ashram had no idea what to do, and people were quite divided about the entire project. But eventually some concluded that it must have Ramana's blessing, and even Chinnaswami eventually gave in and realized he could not stop the project. Eventually, many people joined Annamalai in his work, and by the end of the summer the levee was finally completed. When the rainy season began, an unusually powerful monsoon led to the stream flooding its banks, and rising up against the levee, nearly to its edge, but never going over the top, and finally subsiding without having damaged the ashrma at all. Without the levee, the entire ashram would have been washed away by the floods. When asked if he had known that the river would flood that season, Ramana denied it, and merely said that it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.

So we have an example of Ramana acting in a somewhat "crazy manner", creating a number of conflicts and emotional disturbances in the ashram, and building a seemingly unnecessary levee which turned out to be highly necessary. And yet, the results were positive, in that the levee protected the ashram from destruction, and the drama associated with the building of it helped purify a number of people of their own emotional problems - Chinnaswami of his controlling temperament, and Annamalai of his preference to avoid conflict with others. Likewise, the whole incident became a lesson for the whole ashram not to expect Ramana to give his explicit approval to everything that should be done around him, but for people to take responsibility themselves for doing what was right and appropriate, without explicit approval from authority figures. I would consider that a successful example of "crazy wisdom".

The general point being that crazy wisdom isn't wisdom if it doesn't produce wisdom. When we see crazy wisdom methods repeatedly employed without any discernable positive result, it's quite reasonable to conclude that the teacher is simply not a Jivanmukta, but instead is a deluded character who has mistakenly convinced himself that he is something he is not. The world is of course full of that kind of person, in every line of work, not just among Gurus. Being skillful at Crazy Wisdom isn't something one can learn, it's something a genuine Jivanmukta has no intention whatsoever of employing, it just happens to come out that way, and the results show its effectiveness. If there are no results, one can only conclude that the Jivanmukta in question is not genuine. Of course, even judging results requires some insight and wisdom, and so not everyone will agree. Certainly many of Andrew Cohen and Adi Da's devotees think they have benefited greatly from their "crazy wisdom", even if others don't quite see it that way. In the end we can only go by our own intuition and intelligence, and if these are lacking, we are bound to make mistakes anyway.

Getting back to Papaji's example of "infallibility", the very nature of his description suggests that we cannot rely on even the Jivanmukta's infallibility, since as Papaji says, he might even be saying something false when talking about the infallibility of the Jivanmukta, and that would be acceptable because it works out for the best. In other words, the whole concept is self-defeating in any conceptual sense of the word. If the Jivanmukta can lie and yet still be infallible, then nothing the Jivanmukta says can be assumed to be true, merely because they are a Jivanmukta. Which means that if we want to know the truth, we have to question even what the infallible Jivanmukta says. Which pretty much puts us right back where we started, and unable to rely even upon the Jivanmukta as an unimpeachable authority. We have to question even his words, since he might be lying for some reason we are not aware of. This leads to an utterly open-minded attitude towards the Jivanmukta, not one of unquestioning obedience to his authority.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You should question everything
that is important in your life, including your spiritual teachers.
If their methods don't produce the
desired results, keep looking.
Blind faith is just that. "Nuff
said." The Buddhaaaa.