Abuse in Guru-Disciple Relationship

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Abuse in Guru-Disciple Relationship

Unread post by Caterpillar » Wed Sep 02, 2009 3:51 pm

This is an excellent article by Mary Garden who summarizes her ?guru hopping? experiences that led her from New Zealand to India. In India, she went to the ashrams of Sathya Sai Baba, Swami Balyogi Premvarni, Hare Krishnas, Vipassana meditation retreats by Goenka, Swami Chidananda of the Sivananda Yoga Foundation and Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh in Poona! She also mentions the challenges of writing her book and the rationalizations used to excuse the abusive behavior of gurus.

Replace ?guru? with ?master teacher Ramtha? and ?disciple? with ?student of the Great Work?.

ICSA E-Newsletter, Vol. 4, No. 3, September 2005

The Potential for Abuse in the Guru-Disciple Relationship by Mary Garden

http://www.csj.org/infoserv_indexes/ind ... ticles.htm

Copied from above:

No amount of evidence, nor the quality of it, will serve to un-convince the true believer. Their belief is something they not only want, they need it. - James Randi


In the 1970s, hundreds of thousands of Westerners flocked to India (in the footsteps of the Beatles) in search of ?enlightenment.? Mary Garden was one of them. She traipsed the ashram circuit, visiting most of the popular gurus of the time and also doing some of the popular Buddhist Vipassana meditation retreats?from all of which she emerged relatively unscathed. However the years she spent as a devotee of Swami Balyogi Premvarni (whose small ashram was nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas) were a different story. This paper tells a little of her journey and includes comments and insights into how a guru-disciple relationship can become harmful and destructive and why it is sometimes so difficult for disciples to extricate themselves when it does. She examines the concept of guru itself and the rationalizations used to excuse a guru?s abusive behavior.

An excerpt, copied from above:

From page 2: In the beginning, I was able to push down any doubts, but they grew stronger. I became more and more disturbed by the groupthink as even the most trivial and petty things were attributed to Sai Baba, as if He was omniscient and omnipresent.

From page 3: Our health, relationships, the weather, even finances?it was all in Baba?s hands.

In spite of this initial disillusionment, I did not give up on my search, and I spent six more years in India. Most of these were with an enigmatic yogi, Swami Balyogi Premvarni, whose isolated ashram was in the jungle near Rishikesh, in the Himalayas.

Even though Premvarni (we used to call him Swamiji) claimed to be celibate, within weeks I had become a consort and, shortly after, his chief consort. He insisted it wasn?t sex; it was just raising my kundalini and getting rid of all those lowly vibrations from years of sleeping with worldly men. I learned a rare tradition within Hinduism of tantra, in which there is a place for sex as a kind of mystical union. So I felt special, even flattered. But the sexual side of the relationship bothered me the least. The mind games were more troubling.

For as well as being the ?divine lover,? Swamiji was also the teacher. This was an aspect of his personality that he seemed to be able to turn on and off. He would be seductive and charming one minute, vile the next?and for no apparent reason. He would scream, yell profanities, and even beat one of the Indian servants. Sometimes he would attack a disciple (usually male), who regarded this as part of his spiritual discipline and welcomed it. In the beginning, I found Swamiji?s dramatic mood swings unnerving and would be shocked at his outbursts. I would chuck my things in my backpack and get ready to leave. By the time I would front up to him to get my money and passport out of his safe, he would have turned on his charming self, and I?d be sucked back in, even blaming myself for doubting him.

From page 4: Some gurus are considered the living manifestation of God. Because God is too powerful to make contact directly, these gurus are conduits to channel his energy. Swamiji used to say, ?God will blow your fuse; you need me as a transformer.? Hence, these gurus become the absolute authority who cannot be questioned or challenged by disciples. Even doubting them is seen as ?resistance,? a lack of faith, and too much reliance on the intellect. The measure of our spiritual growth was our complete acceptance not only of our guru?s teachings but also of his behavior, no matter how bizarre, cruel, or even unethical. Most of the gurus I met taught the need to give up all thinking and to surrender totally. At the entrance to Rajneesh?s ashram in Poona was a sign: ?Leave your minds and your shoes outside the gate.?

And so, instead of the promise of increased spiritual awareness and humility, what can often take place is increased robotism. In my own case, over the years I became more and more indecisive because most major decisions were made for me. Eckart Flother, a German journalist, spent some months as a sannyasin in Poona in the late 1970s and spoke of the dehumanizing effects of life with Rajneesh: how a person can become like a puppet, almost an apathetic creature trying to satisfy his basic needs while the rest of his energy is being used to glorify the master (Miller, 1981, p. 11).

As part of his god-status, the guru is seen as infallible, incapable of making a mistake or doing wrong. Ordinary human notions of good or bad, right or wrong, don?t apply because gurus operate in a spiritual realm we can?t understand. This means disciples have to continually rationalize or excuse the guru?s behavior, and the easiest way to do this is to regard it as a divine lila (game) or a test. There were times we would call Swamiji Rudra, the god of destruction in the Hindu pantheon. In this way, we could rationalize his acts of cruelty. He used to call this behavior his ?teaching nature? and claimed he used it intentionally to wake us up. One seeker who stayed there a few years ago recently wrote to me, ?I was in constant internal agitation about whether his behaviors were tests or mere emotional abuse.? Joshua Baran, a former Zen Buddhist monk, says, ?Devotees lose their natural alarm systems, which tell them when things aren?t right. This is usually a gradual process? (Chandler & Marshall, 1981, p. 14).

From pages 4 & 5: There were several reasons why it was so hard for many of us to leave or to give up our search altogether. One reason was the trance states we experienced. Many of us had extraordinary experiences for which I have no explanations to this day. What we didn?t realize is that, just because we experienced peace and ecstasy, and maybe had various visions, this did not mean that emotional difficulties or psychological problems had been cured or transcended. Another reason is that we became too frightened or paranoid to leave; if we lost faith, we would miss out on this rare opportunity to be with an enlightened master. In the Himalayas, we were encouraged to develop a phobia of the outside world: that world out there, outside the ashram, was in some way evil, samsara, nonspiritual. If we left, it would mean that we had not only failed but had also been in error. And we would have to return to the West, now a foreign place. Many of us had no jobs to go back to and had broken ties with old friends and past social networks. Most of all, we lacked the insight to leave!

From page 5: My faith, however, had disastrous consequences. My fantasy of being the consort of a god-man in some magical kingdom came to an end when I became pregnant. That condition was not meant to be part of the divine drama! Swamiji insisted that my sickness was just my body ?cleansing itself,? and at first he would not let me see a doctor. Upon hearing the doctor?s verdict, at first I thought, ?What a miracle, a holy child!? It never occurred to me to have an abortion, but that?s exactly what Swamiji ordered. It was my fault and my ?bad karma.?

From page 7: If a devotee believes his or her guru is God or an enlightened being, then it follows that the guru can do no wrong. And if there is clear evidence of abuse, then devotees resort to rationalizations.

From page 9: What was thought to be a passing fad of the 1960s and 1970s has not disappeared. People still go to India and elsewhere to surrender their minds to gurus?even to those who have been exposed as frauds, charlatans, liars, and hypocrites. In addition, many self-styled false messiahs have emerged in the West. Increasing numbers of New Age teachers and leaders of groups, workshops, and seminars who claim ?this is it,? ?this will change your life,? ?here is the way,? continue to mushroom.

The guru-disciple relationship is probably the most authoritarian of all in its demands for surrender and obedience. Hence it can be the most destructive. And so far from achieving the enlightenment and freedom that many of us ?wannabe? spiritual pioneers of the 1970s sought (and were promised), we experienced mental imprisonment and confusion. We were seduced by yogis and swamis telling us what we wanted to hear: that we were special and that they were God incarnate. Our need was our downfall. If and when we escaped, the questions that often lingered were ?What if it is just me, something wrong with me? Have I failed, given up too soon??

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Unread post by voidgate » Thu Sep 03, 2009 2:56 am

In hindsight I would never take any offer unless there was credible evidence that benefitted a lot of people. I trusted that I got a teacher and all I got was someone that destroyed my life. That is not what I paid for. It seems like the same formula applies to many such businesses.

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Unread post by littlewiseone » Thu Sep 03, 2009 6:23 am

Fantastic excerpts. The author has managed to capture the guru disciple relationship masterfully. Having been very familiar with former sannyasins while at rse, I gained an even clearer insight into the origins of that mindset. I will try to read the complete link when I have time.

Of course you're right that one may as well substitute ramtha for guru and student for disciple, however while ramtha calls himself the master teacher he never admits to being the guru. In the end it's all semantics if you ask me. Maybe this is an appropriate time to bring up the old 'me thinks thou doth protest too much' adage... :roll:
...and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make...

- The Beatles

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Unread post by G2G » Tue Sep 08, 2009 4:33 pm

Quoted from above: ""?God will blow your fuse; you need me as a transformer.? ""

LOL! So as a hindu, he doesn't abide by "the Divine is within everyone." One imagines when he says 'namaste,' this guy is just outright lying (as others of these 'gurus' come to mind). . :roll: :roll: :roll:
"I never really understood religion - it just seemed a good excuse to give" - Ten Years After circa 1972

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Unread post by tygersangel » Fri Nov 20, 2009 3:33 am

The Bible teaches us not to believe in false teachers; and to be aware of them. Well I believe JZ is a false teacher who does not care about anyone but herself and money is her motivation to this insanity. She is evil.

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