Where do I go from here?
Over the months, several people have asked this question. We have been asked to recommend spiritual teachers and paths to get shaktipat. In response to those questions, I have prepared the following thoughts. If you would like to add to these ideas, feel free to send an email. The power of getting input from varied points of view is, I think, one of the most exciting aspects to using the internet to explore these areas.
I cant think of any question that will burn the bandwidth as this one. I think that perhaps, we may just be trying to control the uncontrollable by even thinking we might influence someones opinion about this. Its like talking about politics, or uhh, religion! Given that more wars have been caused by the insane need to push ones beliefs on another. This world would be a whole lot better off if we all just relaxed about this!
I will not make any recommendations, one way or the other. First of all, what has worked for me, is not guaranteed to work for you. Besides, who am I to say that so and so is a worthy teacher and so and so is not a worthy teacher? Except of course when it comes to SY! Second, the purpose of this web page is to deal with the problems in SY, not to act as a spiritual referral source.
Given what we have all been through, Im rather surprised when I get these requests. I think YOU, not I, should be responsible for YOUR spiritual searches.
Do I believe in Gurus? I don't think that is the issue here. Im certainly just a bit cynical and yet, I have had some wonderful experiences with other teachers. Please, Let the buyer beware! I had wonderful experiences with Muktananda and it turns out he was a child molester. I know lots of people who had ecstatic experiences with Nity Jr and he clearly wasnt enlightened. So, having great meditative experiences, IS NOT, I repeat, IS NOT, a valid way to determine if the teacher is authentic.
How do we tell if anyone is enlightened? Since there is no quantifiable proof, let's not ask the question. Its like the chicken and egg quandary, there can never be a satisfactory answer. And frankly, I am just a bit suspicious and tired of the old line, "Trust your experience". And yet, in the end, that is all we can do, but what does this really mean? SY would have us take those highs we get from the chanting and meditation and connect them to the Guru. Rather, I would like to look at what the teacher does, in their private as well as public lives in addition to any spiritual teachings they might have to offer.
I think there are many questions one should ask about oneself before jumping from one path after having been in SY or any other cult. And I think these are helpful questions to ask if you were never in SY but are considering ANY spiritual movement. By the way, just because thousands or millions believe in something, doesnt mean its valid. How long did people believe the world was flat? Just because its old OR new doesnt mean that its valid either.
Your essay about what to do after leaving SYDA is very thoughtful, balanced and very helpful. I would add my own personal slant on the matter by saying that it is important to really think about what "enlightenment" means.
I don't think there is a magic state of "enlightenment". I think human beings can be wise, loving, learned, and helpful. We can develop these qualities in ourselves and we can experience them in our activities and our relationships with each other.
But we are never exclusively these things. We are human, and we also have aggression, hostility, depression. We have grief, fear, all the human emotions. People who claim to have totally transcended this shadow side of the human spirit are making an impossible claim. If we deny, disavow, and try to kill off this shadow side of ourselves, we create a false dichotomy. We isolate ourselves from the totality of life, humanity and relationship. We separate good and evil so radically that life becomes a rigid routine of submission and obedience.
If we decide to worship a Perfectly Enlightened guru, then we have only two choices: to obey their command, we must also become Perfect (and therefore not really human and never really honest); or else we must always, (and this is my definition of being a disciple), be Not Good Enough, and dependent on making endless sacrifices to try to redeem ourselves. This is not a life, yet it is the life I and many others led in SYDA.
If we leave SYDA because of corruption and then merely look for a new idol to worship as "enlightened", we will only be deceived and betrayed again. Because no matter what we "experience" with such teachers, they are still human beings, just like us, and since they are human beings they are by definition not perfect. Selling perfection as though it were a real commodity that we could possess, as though all our cares and woes and fears will be banished if we keep buying the perfection being sold us - it will always lead nowhere.
Some believe we are made in God's image. Isn't it spiritual enough then to love humanity? We need not make ourselves slaves to a master. The world is not divided up between perfect masters and imperfect slaves. Life isn't about commanding and obeying. We are not meant to remain helpless children looking up to idealized parent figures.
If we take our gaze down from staring up at idols and start looking into the faces of the people in our world, we can discover so much about life and love.
Gurus command and disciples obey. That's not for me, ever again. I am free, in all my imperfection, to live a human life without having to control others or be controlled by anyone. I want an adult, human spirituality, not helpless dependence on magic. So no more gurus for me. Human life and human love is all the magic I need.
Daniel Shaw firstname.lastname@example.org
I read your essay entitled, "Where do I go from here?" Before getting involved in Siddha Yoga, a friend said to me, "Be careful not to put all your eggs in one basket." But I didn't listen. And I think many people jumped right in, and siddha yoga quickly became their whole life. Leaving it is a profound life change.
I have personally found it good to not be in any spiritual groups at this point in my life. I choose to pursue other interests. I will always be a deeply spiritual person; it is my nature. And I expect those interests to blossom again at some point in my life. Siddha Yoga did not create me spiritually, and therefore does not take that away from me if I no longer practice. At this time, I do not define spiritual by spiritual practices.
I find life to be spiritual.
One book I found immensely meaningful was Memoirs, by Elie Weisel. Although I am not Jewish, I found that his book portrayed the ultimate struggle with spiritual questions. He dared to ask the questions of doubt deep within him that surfaced as a result of the holocaust, and came out of it with a profound faith in God.
I found some personal meaning in his search and quest. I think in facing the truth about Siddha Yoga, we do the same kind of inner questioning - What is a guru, Can someone really be enlightened? I really think no one can tell us the answer. IF the question is asked honestly and sincerely in a personal spiritual crisis, then the answer can only come from within, from God.
A wise friend once told me that a perfectly enlightened being would not set up shop and attract thousands of devotees. She said a perfectly enlightened being lives quietly, and simply appears when you need them. So I live with that understanding for now, simply living my life, and if such a being exists, I trust they will find me. That works for me now. Many deeply spiritual people have lived without guru's.
I focus mostly on living a good life, being a good person, living honestly and hopefully in a way that inspires and gives hope to others. It can be profoundly spiritual to trust within, reaching out to God alone, to reach the bottom, where there is no one and nothing left but God.
And the loss of community can be resolved in many ways - one way I handle it is by getting involved in multiple communities, and finding friends with different interests. I have matured profoundly, including spiritually, as a result of leaving Siddha Yoga. It can be helpful and meaningful to support others as they learn the same lessons.
There are so many cults out there, and the same kinds of things, positive and negative, are going on in most of them. I think many people put their lives on hold when they are in Siddha Yoga and perhaps other cults as well. On some level, perhaps we leave Siddha Yoga and begin to live our lives again, when we outgrow what it has to offer.
Thanks for listening.