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TOPIC: Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru, by Andre van der Braak. (book recommendation.)

Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru, by Andre van der Braak. (book recommendation.) 10 Dec 2010 16:28 #551

Hey everyone,

I have attached a PDF copy of the book Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru, by Andre van der Braak. I wanted to share it with you all because I feel it sheds light on some of the pathological student-teacher issues that may arise while practicing on the path. The author's experience is with the megalomaniacal Andrew Cohen, founder of EnlightenNext magazine (formerly What is Enlightenment? magazine). Though his trials and tribulations as a student of Cohen's was beyond anything I've experienced on the path, it serves as a wakeup call for anyone who is tempted to trust a supposedly enlightened teacher without thinking critically about the person or practice being peddled.

If you read it (or have already read it), let me know what you think.

-Jackson


Attachment: Andre_van_der_Braak_-_Enlightenment_Blues.pdf (740.0KB)
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Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru, by Andre van der Braak. (book recommendation.) 10 Dec 2010 16:36 #552

Thanks Jackson.

I'm fascinated to the point of obsession about stories like this. Any kind of drama, or scandal, or inside scoop on temples, and sanghas, and ashrams, and teacher-student relationships - I can't get enough of it.

I'm not sure why but one aspect for sure is this: while always attracted to the idea of being a part of a dharma/yoga related spiritual community, a part of me has always held back, frightened and creeped-out by some undetermined wariness about what I might be getting myself into. Besides all the obvious issues, for me, the sense of hierarchy among students and teachers and competition and jealousy amongst them always made it seem like the community was more about all those things than about actual spiritual growth (or maybe I was just projecting?). At the same time, though, I've wondered if I'm missing out on something great by always backing away.

So, these stories, maybe, make me feel good and justified in my wariness and help me deal on a visceral level with all my feelings on the subject.
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Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru, by Andre van der Braak. (book recommendation.) 15 Dec 2010 00:37 #553

Awesome, thanks Jackson. I think we can never do enough to watch out for our shadow sides.

I posted this on Facebook today, but in case any of ya'll missed it:

Ten Thousand Idiots
It is always a danger
to aspirants on the Path

when they begin
to believe and act

as if the ten thousand idiots
who so long ruled and lived inside

have all packed their bags
and skipped town
or
died.
- Hafiz

(via here: http://whiskeyriver.blogspot.com/2010/12/ten-thousand-idiots-it-is-always-danger.html)
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Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru, by Andre van der Braak. (book recommendation.) 15 Dec 2010 04:24 #554

Wow, Ian-- that Hafiz is wonderful. And it is a great reminder of what really undermines our practice-- not the idiot guru 'up there' giving bad advice, or demands fit to be refused. It's the idiot in my chair arguing with herself about whether she can say 'no' or has to have permission from a certified authority first. To be a mature person is to come to terms with uncertainty and with my own ambivalence, periods of confusion, questionable habits, and disinclination to make the efforts required to reform them. And smiling over my disappointment at not winning a gold star or an Oscar or a raise-- for doing what I know I need to do.
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Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru, by Andre van der Braak. (book recommendation.) 15 Dec 2010 19:41 #555

Glad you liked it Kate. Keeping track of our inner-ruling-idiot certainly keeps one from getting all big-headed. :)
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Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru, by Andre van der Braak. (book recommendation.) 19 Dec 2010 03:42 #556

This is a great book - I read it about three years ago and still can't shake the image of the author doing hundreds of prostrations in front of the photo of his guru. Basically they were squad thrusts, on after the other, to try and atone for some minor infraction that the author was only dimly aware of. It really exemplifies the importance of the teaching to "be a lamp unto yourself."
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Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru, by Andre van der Braak. (book recommendation.) 19 Dec 2010 14:44 #557

And Andrew Cohen is still out there, an apparently respected teacher and guru. I'm always amazed at how far people are willing to go to be accepted by an authority figure. I should probably be depressed about it though, huh?
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Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru, by Andre van der Braak. (book recommendation.) 19 Dec 2010 17:56 #558

A surefire way to be 'respected' is to control a publishing organization operated by your minions-- worked for Adi Da, works for Andrew Cohen, worked for Frederick Lenz, etc., etc.

I have personally concluded that the Hindu guru model in its importation to the consumer culture of the industrialized West inevitably creates monsters of both guru and followers-- there are no contextual limits on the absolute authority of the guru [no higher-ups in the lineage; no transparent information about his/her own development]; and there are no supports for a critical assessment for the followers. It tends to be the young, naive, unestablished, and/or desperate, who get caught up with folks like the three listed above: but who among us has never been any of those things?

Another feature of these gurus is that they create a closed community that becomes a separate reality-- so that even if you're not desperate to be accepted by the guru, there are the people you live and work with, your romantic partner, friends, sometimes family members who consistently reify that separate reality. Think about times on the other forum when someone took up the role of 'setting newbies/outsiders/critics "straight" about their faulty view'. Set that dynamic in an inescapable hall of mirrors...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Third_Wave -- this is a good summary of how it works...
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Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru, by Andre van der Braak. (book recommendation.) 19 Dec 2010 17:59 #559

-- to tie up the package: getting Ken Wilber to effuse about you seems to help a lot, too!
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Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru, by Andre van der Braak. (book recommendation.) 19 Dec 2010 18:13 #560

As the dialog in the move "Fantastic Mr. Fox" would have it, we're all wild animals.
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