Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Be Your Own Damn Guru
Funny enough I’m writing this on the US Independence Day…a day synonymous with freedom. Freedom has always been one of my highest values in life. I seem to keep putting myself in situations where I experience the exact opposite just to once again realize how very important it is to me, and hopefully to you as well. How else could I be the Maven of Moksha? (Moksha means freedom, btw)
So I didn’t come on this journey or to this ashram to find myself, discover inner peace & happiness or seeking the answers to any of life’s big questions like most people do. I’ve done all that in my past 36 years of endless seeking, study & practice. I came to this ashram to immerse myself in the culture as a life experience, first of all. I also came for the regimen of yoga, meditation, and believe it or not, the healthy vegetarian food. I also enjoy kirtan and chanting and have that music playing wherever I am most mornings and often throughout the day. I just wanted to immerse myself in “real ashram” culture along with many others I intend to explore.
I have incorporated, adapted and integrated many aspects of the yogic lifestyle into my own for decades. In my OWN way. In a very personal way, that after all of my PREVIOUS seeking, I have put into practice, modified and adjusted to suit MY Soul.
From the beginning, the extremely regimented schedule that begins at 5:20 am and concludes at 10pm, with attendance taken at each satsang, meditation, prayers, yoga and lectures felt quite extreme to me. Along with having to get in essence a ‘hall pass’, just to walk down the road for chai. On this schedule there is barely enough time to write a few notes to Self, let alone a full blown blog, or have a real conversation with someone from your homeland. Or even time to think and assimilate this new lifestyle you may have voluntarily put yourself into, unbeknownst all the rules.
Since one of my Jedi Spirit Hacks is arriving at no thought in about 30-90 seconds, I’ve often used some of my meditation time to contemplate and ponder various things, from what fascinating place I want to visit next, my last smoking rendezvous, wondering what spices were in the tasty curry tonight, and how I would have taught the last lecture differently. I think about how I would improve this place, if I were running it lol. I’d definitely shake it up a bit, (Osho would be proud). I often wonder how the director of this place, who I find to be a very intelligent and spiritual man and an excellent yoga teacher, can do this same schedule day after day, after month after year! How?!?
Tonight was about the last straw for me. It was movie night. I had forgotten and was kind of excited when it was announced. The movie (if it can be called that) was on the founder of this ashram called Swami Shiva-Something-or-other. I thought, cool I’m finally going to see what this guy is all about! Apparently the entire staff of devotees, didn't share my same enthusiasm because when they heard what I heard, everyone one of them got up with their things and walked straight out!! After the first 2 minutes I understood why.
Wanting to give it a chance, I stayed for about 12 more. I rarely walk out on the worst of movies because I’m an eternal optimist and my rose-colored imagination thinks at some point something super redeeming is bound to happen. I was already clear that would not be the case tonight.
I knew it was going to be pretty pathetic when the entire intro was nothing but this Swami having his picture taken, half naked with his belly and boobs exposed and in a big overcoat for the rest of the endless pics. It showed him in various places being photographed ad-nauseam. The last portion was filled with mindless followers pandering and offering prostrations to this man, accounting for about 90% of film, as if this were to somehow validate him and make up for his extremely remedial and often misguided teachings. This is when I walked out, went to my dorm, got a bottle, walked down to the same area to get some clean drinking water where I could see more of the same guru worship on the big screen.
The other 10% (which is truly a stretch) was about 5-8 minutes of the most remedial spirituality I have heard and seen since kindergarten of (insert your religion of choice) studies/brainwashing. The film extolled “HIS PHILOSOPHY” in horrible graphics, in these basic words: Serve. Love, Give, Purify, Meditation, Realise.
One of the things that made me chuckle was seeing them shoot video of Swami X giving out what I’m sure were nothing more than pennies/rupees, after just having taught to give selflessly, humbly and in secret. Oops!!
After one of the words encompassing his profound philosophy is flashed on the screen, (not sure if it was Give or Serve), a clip is shown of Swami X in which he appears to be wearing sumo-wrestler-like-garb (aka robe wrapped up like a diaper) and barefoot, gathering water in two pails, from a river and then hacking at the dirt with some hoe/rake-like tool. Obviously attempting to show that the Swami actually did manual labor as opposed to just being pandered to, though his large size begs to question the truthfulness of that fact. It was a 100% staged Hollywood scene. In a similar contradictory scene, he is shown with his feet on top of a man kneeled on hands and feet.
Looking back on what the film portrayed, it never showed him doing yoga, he certainly didn’t look like a yogi, nor did it even show him meditating, though his teachings said it was the ONLY way to God realization, the ONLY way to inner peace and happiness. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been around the ‘spiritual block’ a time or two or three, and when somebody tells me their way is the ONLY way or the ONLY truth, I head in the opposite direction.
If you have really done your homework, you will find that there are as many ways to God/The All/Source/Universe, or simply your Higher Self as there are people. I will save my prostrations for the Sun, the greatest life-giving force in the galaxy, other celestial bodies, my deities/angels/ancestors of choice, and most importantly my own Higher Self.
I am an eternal being on an expansive, evolutionary journey. Know ThySelf, Love ThySelf, Thou Art God. The day of the guru is on its way out. It’s fine to have people to look up to and find teachers that resonate with you, you can learn much from others, from spiritual texts like the Bhagavad Gita, Bible, Rig Veda, Kabbalah, Zohar and many others. As you seek, certain philosophies you encounter will feel good to your Soul…keep those until they don’t. Don’t get too attached to your own dogma. Hold it lightly. It is not who you are, nor is it the truth of you. You are not your beliefs.
You are on an evolutionary path—it is not meant to be static. To paraphrase a quote from the Bible, ‘When you are a baby, you drink milk, when you are old/more mature in your understanding, new and greater truths (solid foods) will be revealed to you. If you are so attached and egoically identified with being this or that religion or belonging to this ashram or that particular sect, you may dismiss something that could change your life and move you forward in your own evolution. When you understand, that you are not your religion, or even hard-earned beliefs, you can easily put the old teaching down to embrace the new. Just like graduating from kindergarten or out-growing your clothes when your young. You don't say that kindergarten was stupid, or that it was the wrong clothes…they were perfect in that moment—and you’re here now. Open your eyes. Learn to trust yourself and your own-heart. Don’t ever put your spiritual evolution in somebody else’s hands, not the priest, rabbi, swami, bishop or even your own parents. Train your ears to listen and your eyes to see. Meditation is good for that…but so is a walk in nature, spending time alone and in silence, dropping judgement and labels and being true to yourSelf. It is your life, it is your Soul. Follow your heart, it knows the way.
**I want to state that I am sure all ashrams are quite different, and while I’m not a fan of the regimented schedule or some of the less than profound philosophy, I haven’t spent much time researching any more of this Swami’s teachings. I’m sure he has some good things to share…but so do you & I. And I’m sorry, but for the entire staff to walk out before the movie began, was sooo telling. If The Secret were playing, they’d have no problem watching it over and over…just saying.
I also have no doubt that for people with a lot of questions, stress, hectic lives, and hectic minds get a lot out of this type of routine, call it a re-set of sorts. It’s also great for someone, that wants to eat healthier and get used to how to eat for a vegetarian. One thing I’d do if I were running the place is have a cook book of all the different food they make here because it’s pretty good.
Funny, it’s a 2-week program, starting on the 1st and ending the 15th. I’m a finisher, a completer, though for some reason I only paid through the 6th, although I got the rupees to pay for it all—inner-knowing, I bow to you!
Needless to say, It’s waaaaay past my curfew now, just after 1 am, I won’t be going to Satsang at 6 am to bow to Swami-Something-Or-Other. And—I’m sure you’ll be shocked to know, I snuck off to swim in the crocodile infested lake with about six other female rebels earlier today…sporting a nice tan and feeling more like mySelf, ha! I think I’ll roll out of bed for yoga at 8am!! My days are numbered here. Woot-Woot