If You Meet the Buddha in the Road . . .

A pivotal lesson for me, and a clarification of my impulse:

KrishnamurtiThe Renunciation of Jiddu Krishnamurti

As he began to distance himself from Theosophical teachings, he predicted that, “Everyone will give me up.” He began to call his experiences of the Masters “incidents” and described the rites of initiation as completely irrelevant to the search for Truth. “If you would seek the Truth you must go out, far away from the limitations of the human mind and heart and there discover it — and that Truth is within yourself. Is it not much simpler to make Life itself the goal … than to have mediators, gurus, who must inevitably step down the Truth, and hence betray it?”

In 1929 he dissolved the Order of the Star. At this point it numbered 60,000 members, managed huge sums of money, and owned tracts of land throughout the world, many designated for K’s future work. He was 34 years old.

Excerpts from his final speech follow:

“I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect…. I do not want to belong to any organization of a spiritual kind; please understand this … If an organization be created for this purpose, it becomes a crutch, a weakness, a bondage, and must cripple the individual, and prevent him from growing, from establishing his uniqueness, which lies in the discovery for himself of that absolute, unconditioned Truth….

“This is no magnificent deed, because I do not want followers, and I mean this. The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth…. For 18 years you have been preparing for this event, for the Coming of the World Teacher. For 18 years you have organized, you have looked for someone who would give a new delight to your hearts and minds … who would set you free — and now look what is happening! Consider, reason with yourselves, and discover in what way that belief has made you different … in what way are you freer, greater, more dangerous to every society which is based on the false and the unessential?…

“You are all depending for your spirituality on someone else, for your happiness on someone else, for your enlightenment on someone else…. You have been accustomed to being told how far you have advanced, what is your spiritual status. How childish! Who but yourself can tell you if you are incorruptible?… I desire those, who seek to understand me, to be free … from the fear of religion, from the fear of salvation, from the fear of spirituality, from the fear of love, from the fear of death, from the fear of life itself…. You can form other organizations and expect someone else. With that I am not concerned, nor with creating new cages, new decorations for those cages. My only concern is to set men absolutely, unconditionally free.”
Few there were who could grasp this freedom, and, sadly, those who had warned the world for years that the coming of the Christ would challenge all existing systems seemed themselves unable to encompass that challenge when it came. The Theosophical Society was left in total bewilderment.

Krishnamurti never looked back. What he did he did with love and no trace of bitterness. The Truth that was growing in him was his only concern; the Presence that filled his being was his only guide. From that Truth came compassion for every living thing. From that guidance would emerge a teaching that cut to the root of the attachments that have crippled humanity for thousands of years.

K would live another 56 years. During all of these years he would teach — through his lectures, through his books, and through the schools he founded. Surprisingly, though most of his old friends fell away just as he had predicted, attendance at his talks did not diminish. In practically every year of his life, he toured the world. Rather than lecture he would “enter into inquiry” with his audiences, warning them not to blindly accept what he said but to look deep into their own hearts and discover the truth of their own being.  — from The pathless journey of Jiddu Krishnamurti by Bette Stockbauer, Share International Archives, http://www.shareintl.org/archives/Krishnamurti/k_bs-pathlessjourney.htm

Of Gatherings and Gurus

The important thing is not to think much, but to love much; and so, do that which best stirs you to love.

Saint Teresa of Avila

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  It’s quite chilly this morning, and thunderstorms are predicted.  I’ve lived in many places over the years, and loved many Springtimes, but I think I love these Piedmont Springs best, because after they are over, we have the usual hot, steamy Southern summers I knew as a child in Southern West Virginia and, much later, in Tennessee.  Our Springs, however, last right up to the end of May, and are generally quite temperate.  I remember years back, when I lived in the Washington, D.C. area, we spoke of the long, hot Springs….and they were, cherry blossoms notwithstanding.  Here, the Spring is usually cool, and sometimes even cold, before the relentless heat and humidity of June through August set in.  I am not a hot weather person.  Today, I had to get up and turn on the heat for awhile, at least, in order to stand staying up.   I am thankful for down comforters. Thunderstorms are predicted for today.  I like those, too, and I love to look out my office window and watch my “Ents” swaying shoulder to shoulder in the high winds.

Last night, we went to a “Gathering of the Peacemakers” at the Oasis (http://oasisincarrmill.com), our local “New Age/Metaphysical/Interreligious/All of the Above” cafe, presided over by my new/old dear friend Robert (one of those relationships where, upon meeting, you have the strangest idea that this is someone you’ve always known), a delightful Bob Marley-type mystic, who conceived the idea of his cafe as a place for like-minded people to meet and share wisdom and friendship.  It seems to work quite well, and I always enjoy going there, whether it’s for a film or a talk or just a cup of excellent coffee served with panache and Zen-like ceremony.  The “Gathering,” I think, was meant to be an occasion for the exchange of high-minded ideas and ideals, and many interesting people came, but what they talked about, mostly, was…themselves.  There are a lot of idealistic people out there looking for community and craving support and friendship, and my feeling was that this gathering ended up being more about that than anything else.  I also noticed that although many of them seemed to know each other, there was a minimum of mingling afterwards, although living in the country, we departed fairly promptly.

I “grew up” in this movement during the late sixties and through the 80s, during what I’d call the “Baba Ram Dass Era,” when communities of this kind were more defined and cohesive.  I believe that this was because it was the era of the “guru,” and most of us had them, because that’s the idea we woke up to upon emerging in our spiritual adolescence, and there were Krishna Consiousness communities and Hindu/Yoga communities of various sorts, and Buddhist Communities, Sufi communities, and numerous others.  But now, many people don’t seem very interested in having spiritual teachers.  They don’t want to be initiated or make any kind of commitment that is at all formal, and they are suspicious of people who call themselves teachers, and so they should be.  They have good reason to be, given some of the bad and even scandalous behavior we have heard about among the various “gurus.”  My own teacher–I wouldn’t call him a guru, and I doubt that he wanted to think of himself that way–Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan–always said that the way to know if a teacher was false was if that person tried in any way to impose on your independence and autonomy.  If they did, he said, they weren’t the real thing.  But I believed then in the idea of having someone to show me the ropes on this path, and I believe in it now.  And my initiation was the most precious and important event of my life, because, as Pir Vilayat said, it was the reiteration of the promise we made in pre-eternity, our commitment to the awakening of God in humanity.  Inayat Khan, his father, said that initiations come in many forms, both inner and outer, and that the outer initiation is only the confirmation of what has already happened inside.  Even so, my “outer” initiations were very meaningful and sacred to me, and they always had the effect of galvanizing me and moving me forward in ways that were often painful and confusing, yet ultimately very rewarding.  And my relationship with my teacher(s) was the ultimate in relationship, because here was a person who was saying “I am with you for the duration, and I will not let you down,” and accepting everything that went with that promise, also often painful and confusing… yet leading, finally, to what I longed for most.  The need of the time was such that it wasn’t long  before I too became a teacher of sorts, more of a guide, really, but certainly not a guru, more of a representative of my teacher, an intermediary as it were, in the connection of souls in this particular caravan now called the Sufi Order International.  That was and is hard, because it also entails making a permanent commitment to the person I promise to do my best to help on their way, but without giving advice or impinging on their free will in any way, as mentioned above.

There are different kinds of initiation that souls experience. One is natural initiation, a kind of natural unfoldment for which the soul cannot give any cause or reason. It comes to the soul although no effort or attempt is made by the soul to experience it. Sometimes this initiation comes after great illness, pain or suffering. It comes as an opening up of the horizon, it comes as a flash of light, and in a moment the world seems transformed. It is not that the world has changed; it is that the person has become tuned to a different pitch. He begins to think differently, feel differently, see and act differently; his whole condition begins to change. One might say of him that from that moment on, he begins to live. It may come as a vision, as a dream, as a phenomenon – in any of these forms – one cannot determine the manner in which it will manifest. –Inayat Khan

As for the person who becomes initiated, that is a tall order, and I can see why many in this day sort of dance around the edge of that, attracted by the ideals of these various paths, but not entirely comfortable with making that ultimate commitment.  Initiation, said Inayat Khan, is taking a step forward on a path one does not know, and it is.  And there are many false prophets, and if one hasn’t developed the art of listening to the direction coming from within, it is a rather frightening decision to contemplate.  Many people impulsively take initiation and fall away rather quickly, but the eternal nature of it still plants a seed of realization, and no one remains unchanged by the experience.

Another initiation known to the mystics is the initiation that one receives from a person living on the earth. Every mystical school has its own initiation. In the Orient, where mystical ideas are prevalent and are regarded as most sacred, any person who wishes to tread the spiritual path considers initiation to be the most important thing. If a soul such as Jesus Christ had to be baptized by John the Baptist, then no soul on earth can say, ‘I have risen above initiation.’ Is that then impossible? Nothing is impossible. It may be possible for a person to jump into the water with the intention of swimming to the port of New York, but his life will be more secure if he books his passage with the normal shipping lines. And the difference between these two souls is the same, or even greater – between the one who wishes to journey on the spiritual path by taking initiation, and the other who refuses to do so. –Inayat Khan

Initiation seems to be one of those relationships that are of an ultimate nature.  We have relationships with our parents, with our siblings, with friends, with children . . . and the list goes on.  Each of these relationships changes us, for better or for worse, but none of them are entirely without self-interest.  The relationship we have with our spiritual teacher is supposed to be exactly that, however, on the part of the teacher:  entirely without self-interest of any kind.   We seem to long for such a relationship, which is why people go to church, or take a guru, or attend metaphysical seminars and retreats, in whatever form and on whatever path they  are attracted to.  Or they attend gathering such as the one last night, and speak of the books they have read, and the teachers they are discovering,  But a teacher whose book you read is not the same as a teacher who gives you what they have to offer “chest to chest” as the Sufis say.   This relationship(s) we have with teachers, these books we read and lectures we attend, all remind us of the deepest longing of our souls for the source of our beings, which some of us call God.

Initiation by a spiritual teacher means both a trust given by the teacher to the pupil, and a trust given by the pupil to the teacher. And the progress of the one who is initiated depends upon how much he gives himself to the teacher’s guidance. One might give only a finger, another even a part of a finger, while a third would give his whole hand. That makes a great difference. A pupil says, ‘Well, I will give a certain amount of my time and thought to your guidance, will that be enough?’ Then the teacher says, ‘Yes, if you think it is enough.’ In reality, however, it is never enough. Then one might wonder if one would not be giving up one’s own point of view in order to follow someone else’s point of view; but actually, if one has a point of view, one never loses it. The point of view that one loses is not one’s own. By looking at a thing from another person’s point of view, one only enlarges one’s own. Then, one has two points of view instead of one. If the thought of the pupil happens to be different from that of the teacher, then by taking the teacher’s thought, his own is doubled. The pupil keeps his own point of view just the same, only now he has something for his vision from which to make his choice. The horizon of his thought is expanded. But the pupil who closes himself and says, ‘I will guard my point of view or it will escape me,’ will never derive any benefit from this attitude.  –Inayat Khan

I wonder if this observed tendency to go it alone, while seeking such guidance as won’t break down the barriers of time and distance, is a symptom of the times we live in, when Facebook stands in for friendship and e-books stand in for teachers.  Are we so afraid of true connection that we have seized on these shadows of it in order to meet our deeper needs?

The teacher, therefore, tests his pupil continually. He tells him and he does not tell him, for everything must come in its right time. Divine knowledge has never been taught in words, nor will it ever be so taught. The work of a mystical teacher is not to teach, but to tune, to tune the pupil so that he may become the instrument of God. For the mystical teacher is not the player of the instrument; he is the tuner. When he has tuned it, he gives it into the hands of the Player whose instrument it is to play. The duty of the mystical teacher is his service as a tuner.  –Inayat Khan

Last night, we heard about philosophers, theologians, indigenous tribal elders, teachers, shamans, and gurus… yet it seemed that many people there were struggling with what to do with these ideas, how to put them into practice.  Some seemed lonely. It is true that loneliness is a requisite feature of the path to wholeness, but I wonder if the determined loneliness one gains from this distancing that the age of technology makes possible is necessary or even helpful.  I honestly don’t know, but I think I will be glad and grateful to the end of this life that I took the path of initiation, of relationship and community.  It is, for me, the path to true love.  And because I see that this way is not chosen by everyone–and need not be!–I would like to explore this topic more.  Stay tuned, if this topic interests you.

Also, there are no fixed rules to follow on this path. For every person there is a special rule. But there is one law which applies to everything in life: sincerity, which is the only thing that is asked by a teacher of a pupil, for truth is not the portion of the insincere.  –Inayat Khan

 

Eat. Pray. Bore.

Awhile back, I started writing a book with some friends, and one of those friends said to me that he wanted it to be the caliber of the bestseller Eat. Pray. Love.  “We’re talking New York Times Bestseller List,” he said.  I gulped, since I was supposed to do the lion’s share of the writing.

Well, my own book is still in process, partially because I quickly discovered that group process via writing doesn’t work, and partly  because I was never entirely able to figure out what the hell he meant (about EPL, that is)…in addition to which, the book I was writing didn’t seem  to want to be what he said it ought to be.  But I finally talked myself into reading the book said friend wanted me to write, terrified because it was supposed to be such a great read, so profound, and so well-written, and I was fairly sure I could never measure up.

<Sigh>

Well, friends, it just wasn’t all that great.  I really wanted it to be, because then that might have inspired me, and I think if I’d read it when I was in my twenties or thirties (as I assume the author was), then perhaps I would have been terribly impressed.  As it was, though, it struck me as a book that should have been entitled The Cosmo Girl Seeks Enlightenment or some such.  And oh, this is such a snarky thing to say, but. . .  the entire process seemed to have been an exercise in narcissism.

Most of all, though, I wondered about all the truly great literature that never makes a dime, while The Cosmo Girl, etc., evidently made a bundle.

Now, having gotten that off my chest, I will say that the author is probably a truly sincere seeker (at her own level), and did indeed do a reasonably good job illustrating the fruits of her search.  The book had numerous rather charming moments and a few truly lovable characters.  She was just. . . young.  It seems that life gave her what she wanted, and it didn’t prove to be as great as she thought it would be, and so she became depressed and sought a divorce, and followed it with another obsessive, attention-seeking relationship with a like-minded man.  For people in their twenties and thirties, that’s all pretty much the standard human experience, right?  Please understand, I do not say this with malice, having been there.

Anyway,  so our heroine figured out what she needed to make her happy–again–and she created–through an intricate series of events having to do with divorce lawyers–the means to make it all happen.  She went to Italy and sought the experience of pleasure.  She gorged herself on food and beauty and friendship; and well, who wouldn’t have felt better after all that pasta, wine and great art and architecture?  She made some great friends, too.

It wasn’t enough, of course, but she had planned for that, and next she went to India (where do people get all that money?), to live in her guru’s ashram and seek an experience of the Divine Being.  I must say, remembering the stories I’d heard about authentic Indian ashrams, I got the distinct impression that this was more of a resort than an ashram, although I gather that India, seeing a market for its age-old proficiency at the contemplative life, has been smart enough to create a market for us more affluent (and lazy, and luxury-loving) Westerners, and so the idea, here, was that if you want to find God, that’s where you have to go.  I mean, we all know that.  But don’t worry, it seems that at least some of the buildings were air-conditioned, and the food was really good, although not as good as pasta.  Our Cosmo Girl was still having a great time, despite the despair (read:  egotism)  for which she sought remission.  Despite the snarkiness mentioned above, I can honestly say, also, that she did have an authentic experience of awakening, and did a fairly good job of describing it.  This is something I admire, because I decided, awhile back, that while one cannot and should not be able to find words for the ineffable, it is important to point out the Footprints of the Ox for those who come after.  It is the least we can do, right?

After India, our heroine went to Bali, to live with a Shaman she’d met awhile back, and to seek balance.  She was feeling pretty good by this time, as might be imagined, and it was here that she–so far, as I understand it–found True Love.  I enjoyed her descriptions of all these places, of the people she met and the food she ate and the experiences she had, yet it was here that the story began to deflate a bit for me, and I realized what it was that had sort of disappointed me all along, and it was exactly what I’d said above:  our heroine really wanted to find love, to find a human being who would fulfill her narcissistic desires for affiliation and happiness and sex, and well…why not?  As I said, she was young, and when I was her age, I felt exactly the same.  It is only now, when I am growing older and have become thoroughly disenchanted with my experience of the earth plane, that I am impatient with love stories that end with . . . human love.  But when I was in my 30s, and awash in a sea of hormones and the urge to procreate, I’m sure I felt exactly as she did, although I find it interesting that our heroine was quite clear that she did not want children.  Being an innate breeder and natural-born Mommy-type, it is tempting to cite that narcissistic designation again, but I am aware that people who have children tend to be judgmental of people who don’t choose to have them, so I should let that alone.  Suffice it to say that, although the book had its pleasant and even charming moments, and much that I could relate to, I found it to be rather a waste of my time.  It was interesting, however, to learn that this is what becomes a bestseller these days.  I must say, I was much more reassured as to the fate of humanity when people loved Harry Potter than I was with the success of Eat. Pray . . .

Then I saw the film.  Now I know that if I am ever in need of a sure way to waste about two-and-a-half hours, I will put that film in my Netflix queue, confident that it will do the trick.  My husband and I read each other numerous examples of the reviews others had written about the film before we saw it, howling at the number of “one stars” given it, more than I’d seen any other  film of my choice get, and we therefore approached it with curiosity and trepidation.  I am pleased to report that it was not quite as bad as we had been led to believe, but it was pretty darned bad.  I will say that Julia Roberts was not nearly as bad as I’d heard she was:  the poor woman really did her darndest to play her part, and wasn’t afraid to look plain to do so, but…well, there just wasn’t much to hold on to, really.  Whoever wrote the screenplay evidently thought it would not suffice to tell the writer’s story as written, but seemed determined to beef it up with angst and Hollywood in equal measures.  I usually simply hate watching a film I’ve read the book for, because in my experience, the film never equals the book; the only films I can say I was completely satisfied with were the Lord of the Rings series, simply because although they didn’t quite follow Tolkien’s books, they were . . . complementary, in the best possible way.  But back to Eat. Pray. Love.  Again I sigh.  I have never seen a film quite so divergent from the original writer’s story and words.  In fact, the film actually caused me to appreciate the book more, simply because it was so bad it made the book look better by comparison.  Julia Roberts didn’t have a chance.  The only bright spot was Javier Bardem, who depicted a most lovely and lovable REAL MAN (in my opinion), although he didn’t strike me as remotely like the character of the Brazilian lover in the book.  As far as the rest of it, the screenwriter seemed determined to leave out all that was meaningful and profound in the book–including the characters who had given the book the most life–and inject as much Hollywood angst and schmaltz as possible.  Lucca Spaghetti became an inconsequential bald man, when he had been a fascinating and charming character in the book.  And as for Richard from Texas, even more of a bright spot in the actual book for me, well . . . what a pity.  His character alone could have carried the film.  Instead, he became a watered-down James Garner who did indeed, as the main character herself said, speak Bumper Sticker.  What on EARTH was the screenwriter thinking of???  Why was the experience of eating the “best pizza in the world” in Naples watered down to a less-than-profound dialogue about our heroine’s jeans?  Why was the delightful and humorous attempt of Wayan to get our heroine to give her even more than the $18,000 she gave her completely left out?  AND WHY ON EARTH was the trip to the island of parrots turned into a silly and vapid couple’s spat as an opportunity for our heroine to come to terms with her relationship issues?  Perhaps an even better title for this film would haven been “How to Sacrifice a Huge amount of Money, Time and a Reasonably Decent Book on the Altar of Inconsequentiality.”

I am left with only one question:  how does the author of this book, Liz Roberts, feel about the desecration that was made of her reasonably sweet and occasionally profound little novel (and it was little, metaphorically speaking)?  Perhaps she has made so much money from the entire thing that she doesn’t care?  Or perhaps I am being snarky, but if it was me, I don’t think I’d be able to sleep nights after selling my soul to the devil that is Hollywood to quite that extent.

My apologies to Liz Roberts, who probably is a Good Egg overall, and to anyone who simply loved the book, because I can see how that could be possible . . . all in all, though, Eat. Pray. Love. was on about the same level in the genre of spiritual literature as Eckhart Tolle’s books (and don’t get me started on him!).  I would recommend, if you want something inspiring for your Netflix queue, Fierce Love, about our good friend Ram Dass, and for books, The Bread of Angels, another book I ought to write about, and probably will, now I think about it.