Saturday, December 25, 2010

Esotericism Means Submission to the Guru's Instruction

In the ongoing exchange with Elias, he is beginning to backpeddle to our original point of contention:

It seems to me that Broken Yogi has quietly drifted away from the proposition that began this discussion -- that one can have a genuine esoteric relationship with a guru without being involved formally with that guru. 
Actually, the original proposition that began this discussion was Elias' claim that one can have an esoteric spiritual relationship with Adi Da without being a formal member of Adidam and doing as he says, which of course includes submission to all his instructions, disciplines, and practices. That's quite a different discussion from the general notion Elias is now putting forth. I can understand why, in that Adi Da couldn't have been more explicit and clear about the need for anyone who wishes to approach him to do so through the formal relationship offered by the entire Adidam apparatus. It's understandable that Elias might object to this, since those requirements really do include a lot of absurd things that no genuine Guru would ask of his devotees, but that's another story. If this is how Adi Da wants to do it, that's his business. And insisting that Da ought to do things differently is going to fall on deaf ears, both in the subtle realms as it did here on earth.

Elias of course claims that despite Da's own clear teaching about this requirement, he and many others have had an esoteric relationship with Da for many years. Again, this goes back to differing definitions of what "esoteric" means. Elias seems to think that having some kind of genuine psychic contact with Da counts as "esoteric", when it certainly doesn't in Da's book, nor does that even fulfill the traditional definition of an esoteric relationship to a Guru. As I've mentioned, tons of people have had an active psychic relationship with Da and have had all kinds of intuitive sensitivity to his "transmission" and communication and so on. This is all a dime a dozen, nothing terribly special or unique, and certainly not "esoteric". It's still quite "exoteric", despite the psychic quality of these kinds of contacts. I mean, my very first contact with even a poster of Da was a psychic awakening, and my first walk into his bookstore center in San Francisco was a clear psychic contact, and so was reading the first lines of his books, and so was my experience that evening when I called out to Da and asked him to come to me as a sign of our spiritual relationship. (And yes, he did come).

Now, to Elias, that all seems to him to be an "esoteric relationship". And I guess to the average spiritual seeker, that's all "esoteric" means. Some kind of spiritual exchange of energy and consciousness tangibly felt and understood as such. Well, not really even close. That's still just the exoteric level of spiritual life. It's not esoteric, and not even the beginning of genuine esotericism. It's just common psychism, which is certainly important to be sure, but contains only the vaguest possibility of developing a genuine esoteric relationship to a Guru. It's important to some degree, but in some respects it can be a distraction from the more important elements of the Guru-devotee relationship, which has most to do with the emotional and existential response the devotee has to this initial psychic contact rather than to any psychic content itself.

One can "hang out" in the exoteric psychic relationship with a Guru for a very long time, and delude oneself into thinking that this is an "esoteric" relationship, and that those devotees who are spending their time fulfilling the Guru's explicit instructions are just too dense or spiritually unaware to "get" this esoteric relationship. But here the charges of immaturity and delusion are generally just projections of stunted spiritual development and an inability to get past the fascinating dimensions of the psyche. Because the real relationship to the Guru comes when one submits to the Guru, whole bodily, with all one's being. And as Da correctly understood, this involves real submission to the Guru, meaning real submission to his instruction and practices and whatever he deems necessary. Esotericism isn't a way to bypass this submission, its only made possible by this submission. Without that submission, even one's psychic relationship to the Guru will remain exoteric and generally ineffective. By which I mean, the ego of the devotee won't be much transcended, it will even be fed and inflated by the devotee's false approach and his self-indulgent attitude.

The Guru-devotee relationship is primarily about ego-transcendence, and this means genuine surrender to the Guru. This surrender of course involves the whole psyche, not just some outer bodily service and submission to various practices, but that's just the point - the "whole psyche" includes all aspects of conscious life, including bodily and social and cultural aspects, not just some inner feelings one has about the Guru. Which is why Da was correct to require full submission to his instructions and all the formal practices and disciplines for genuine esoteric practice. The problem with Da is the truly absurd requirements he made of devotees through those disciplines and practices and instruction, most of which would drive any genuinely serious spiritual practitioner far away and raise so many red flags they'd likely never come back. One simply doesn't find the genuine Gurus of the traditions making the kinds of formal requirements Da made, and thus one can't honestly describe him as a genuine Guru. One can just say that while Da understood something about the Guru-devotee relationship, he also corrupted and exploited that relationship, rendering it essentially ineffective.

So there's two basic ways the Guru-devotee relationship can be rendered ineffective. One is for the devotee to refuse to submit to the Guru and his instruction, and the other is for the Guru to exploit that submission through false and self-serving instruction. The fact that in Adidam both sides of this equation were way out of whack essentially assured everyone that very little genuine esoteric growth would occur in Adidam, and that virtually everyone would remain an exoteric "beginner".

Elias would like to think that because he has a lot of psychic experience under his belt, and ways of psychically "contacting" Adi Da, that he is able to have an esoteric relationship to him. Well, no. Again, this is just Elias' spiritual ego talking, thinking that because he's got all this psychic and intuitive development going, that makes him "esoteric". But it simply doesn't work that way. All the psychic development in the world won't get you through that "inner door" to the esoteric world of the Guru-devotee relationship. Why? Because for one thing, the psyche is just the exoteric level of experience. The real domain of esotericism is found in the heart, in primal consciousness, in real love, and the only path through that door is total submission. Not just partial submission of some part of the mind or the body or psyche. The word "heart" doesn't refer to some psychic center one can contact by exoteric means. It refers to the very core of our Being. And that is what the relationship to the Guru is about. The Guru isn't just some guy with really powerful psychic and intuitive abilities. He's simply a transparent vehicle of the Self, the very Being, the Heart. He's someone who has utterly surrendered himself to God, and that is why he can act as Guru and instruct others in the process of surrender to the power and presence of Grace that is active in him.

Now, it's certainly true that this genuine esoteric relationship to the Guru doesn't have be a "formal" one, certainly not in the crazy Scientology-based system developed by Adi Da. There are some Gurus who have formal relationships with devotees, who grant Guru-diksha or Guru-kripa, and even have some kind of monastic order. And in those cases, there certainly are requirements for the submission to the Guru's instruction. But in the case of most genuine Gurus, those instructions are not terribly confusing or difficult. We of course do have famous examples of really difficult Guru-devotee relationships, like the classic story of Marpa and Milarepa, but that kind of thing is very rare, and is generally meant only to illustrate a principle, not to serve as a guideline for how the relationship generally proceeds. In most cases, fulfilment of basic disciplines and practices are rather easy for the serious practitioner, and no hedging or reluctance is either encountered or tolerated. The traditional devotee understands quite well from the cultural traditions they grow up in what is expected in the Guru-devotee relationship, and that it would be absurd to expect or claim esoteric maturity without fulfilling the Guru's instructions.

Of course, there certainly are examples of very informal encounters between Gurus and their devotees, but in virtually all such cases, the devotee responds  with total surrender to the Guru, not with the punk attitude we so often encounter among westerners that they don't need to go through any real surrender because they have some kind of "esoteric sensitivity" to the Guru. Wherever we do find ripe or precocious devotees who are ready to go directly into the esoteric dimension of practice, we also find devotees who are fully submitted to the instruction of their Guru.

A famous example would be that of Hui Neng, the Sixth Patriarch of Zen, who had a spontaneous awakening into the esoteric process merely by hearing the Lotus Sutra read aloud. He found himself drawn directly to the monastery of the Fifth Patriach, and asked to join even though he was illiterate and had very little obvious preparation. The Fifth Patriach was asked what to do with him, and he instantly recognized Hui Neng's spiritual awakening, and rather than draw attention to this, he had Hui Neng sent to tend to the pigs on the outskirts of the monastery grounds. And Hui Neng simply did as he was told. He didn't object and tell everyone that he was a true esoteric practitioner who ought to be treated with respect and veneration. He just submitted to his Guru, and gladly followed his instruction, and tended to the pigs. And as it turned out, this was just what he needed.

All the Guru-devotee traditions are filled with stories about devotees submitting to their Guru's instructions, and I don't know of any where some guy just claims on his own to be the esoteric devotee of a Guru while yet refusing to follow that Guru's instructions. This kind of thing is just laughed at as a total absurdity. It's simply a self-contradictory oxymoron.

Of course, people do have all kinds of spiritual experiences in relationship to great Guru figures around the world. People obviously have profound experiences of Jesus, of Buddha, Krishna, Rama, and so on. But once again, it's also understood that these experiences only become genuine esoteric relationship for those who submit to the instruction of scripture, or whose spontaneous surrender shows all the signs described in those scriptures of genuine submission. Anyone can have a vision of Krishna, but very few actually surrender to the instruction and practices associated with those traditions. The same with Jesus. Or even Ramana. Many people have had profound experiential contact with Ramana, including both Elias and myself. But that contact is not in itself the sign of an esoteric relationship to Ramana. The esoteric relationship to Ramana is only possible for those who genuinely surrender to his instruction and take on the path he taught and demonstrated. No genuine esoteric devotee of Ramana would object to any of that, only an exoteric pretender would balk at such a notion, or ridicule such expectations as only for "exoteric" practitioners who aren't up to the "esoteric" process. Again, it's a case of projection.

If one reads the stories of Ramana's real esoteric devotees, one finds profound examples of genuine submission to his instruction and unquestioning surrender to his practices and disciplines. As mentioned before, Annamalai's biography is entitiled "Living by the Words of Bhagavan" for a very good reason. That phrase summarizes the whole of his esoteric practice. The same story in one form or another is told by Muruganar, Sadhu Om, Poonja Swami, and countless others.

On the other hand, Ramana didn't have "formal" devotees. He didn't like that whole world of formal practice and didn't even call himself a Guru, and didn't give diksha. So in that sense there's clearly no requirement for a formal relationship to a Guru. But that's not the issue. What matter is that the devotee submit to the Guru's instruction in full, and not pick and choose or reject it in favor of some imaginary "esoteric" relationship to him. I think you will find that principle upheld everywhere the genuine esoteric relationship to the Guru is found in the traditions, regardless of how it plays out.

With Da the same principles hold, regardless of his actual qualifications as a Guru or the effectiveness of his instruction. Whatever Da's real esoteric relationship with devotees might have been had they been able to fulfill his instruction, is something that only such devotees could really describe. Guys like Elias, or Zensun, or any of the other peripheral types who think they have the esoteric chops to relate to Adi Da while ignoring his actual instructions, simply have no clue as to what that would be like. Those who at least spent some serious time in Adidam actually trying to live his disciplines and fulfill his instructions might have some notion of what that might be like, but I'm not sure if anyone in Adidam got very far with that. Maybe Sukhapur did. But the general impression I get is that it was simply a case of chasing the tiger's tail. There was no real there there, because Da's instructions for the most part simply weren't a sound springboard for genuine esotericism, and his own corrupted character sabotaged whatever genuine spiritual intuitions and capacities he had. A shame, really, but that's why there's been so little effective spirituality coming out of Adidam. It's not as if there was ever much emphasis on unconditional love in the actual practice within Adidam, especially in Adi Da's inner circles, regardless of what claims were made or lip service paid.

The sad truth is that most everyone in Adidam had, at best, an exoteric "psychic" relationship to Da, and not a fully esoteric "heart-relationship" to him. Of course, even in that dimension one's submission to the disciplines and practices is what deepens the relationship, not trying to practice "esoterically". Which is why Da emphasised surrender and submission to his actual instruction so strongly. So people experienced only as much of that esoteric relationship as they actually submitted to through those disciplines and practices. One's mileage and experience certainly varied. The problem of course lay in that so much of Da's instruction just made no sense and had little spiritual value and shouldn't have been followed in any case. Those who tried often just tied themselves in knots. The macho crowd of yes-men who applauded Da's every move would excuse this by any number of explanations, such as that Da was simply trying to "break" his devotees, and that if anyone had really and truly followed Da's instructions, great things would have resulted. But since no one did, one is left merely with an empty claim that has no evidentiary proof behind it. Is there anyone in Adidam who can actually verify the practice he gave? Apparently no one.

Can Elias or Zensun or other peripheral Adidam types verify Adi Da's bonafides? No, not really. Unless they actually do go ahead and submit fully to his instruction, which of course they never will, because they consider that sort of thing to be only for the "exoteric" crowd. Which is the basic giveaway to the true situation here. These are people who want to talk the talk without walking the walk. That's a very popular sport in the spiritual scene. You can find people like that everywhere, not just in Adidam. In fact, there's a whole lot of such people associated with Ramana, or Papaji, or the whole neo-Advaita movement - people who think they don't actually have to fulfill the practices and instructions given, but just sort of vaguely intuit the non-dual reality, and then simply assume that's all they need to do to claim esoteric relationships and even enlightenment by the Grace of the Guru. But the truth is that none of that is in the least bit to be taken seriously. Anyone who claims esoteric understanding without demonstrating profoundly humbling submission and surrender to their Guru's instruction or scriptural tradition is just jiving themselves and maybe a few gullible others. Even those who do have to be carefully examined, but those who don't aren't even worth the trouble.

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