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The Guru Papers discussion

JeroenJeroen Do it with a smileNetherlands Veteran

I’ve just started a new book, The Guru Papers by Joel Kramer. It was recommended by a friend, an ex-Osho sannyasin who left the movement years ago, but I thought it might be interesting for Buddhism as well. Only half the book is about guru’s, the other half examines other kinds of authoritarian power structures. I plan to read the first six chapters about guru’s and then report back on how there are parallels with spiritual teachers more in general.

If you’re interested in reading along, here is a link to the pdf:

https://profsoftware.com/osho/TheGuruPapers_MasksOfAuthoritarianPower.pdf

Comments

  • FleaMarketFleaMarket Veteran

    Seems like fun, I'm in. Slow reader but I'll get started.

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    I’ve been skim-reading a bit, because it seems quite waffly, they use a lot of words and asides when perhaps a more direct approach could convey the same information more quickly. So far I’m not very impressed with the level of analysis on offer.

    The authors are solidly in the anti-guru and anti-authoritarian camp, that much is clear after 70 pages.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    I read the book a long time ago, but it would be worth another read.

    I think it's most valuable to people who are in cultic groups, or have left cultic groups, as it can help them make sense of their experience. And could be good for warning people about the signs of cultic groups before they get involved in a Buddhist or Hindu or any kind of spiritual movement.

    I'll try to squeeze in the time to access your PDF and review the material, so we can discuss, OP. I've been very busy lately, posting about the Russia/Ukraine situation on another forum. The crisis has been keeping me busy.

    But you raise an important topic. The book was especially important, back in the days before the scandals and court cases broke (the last few years or so), and too many people were in denial of the problem. This book was a lifesaver for people feeling caught in a topsy-turvy world.

  • FleaMarketFleaMarket Veteran

    I'm feeling a bit blind here in my examination but I'm struggling to see how this is different from any other relationship? From my observation, the same situation one who finds themselves in with a guru could be the same situation one finds themselves in with a trusted friend or family.

    Is it about the mental conditioning that takes place? Because that could be seen in friend and family and all relationships as well. Devoted family, friend, lover, student, worshiper all seem like the same person. Equally disillusioned family, friend, lover, student, worshiper all seem the same as well.

    What am I missing?

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited May 14

    I remember a thread about this previously and I remember wishing for more books about gurus in context and though I'm taking a break from meditation etc., I have read an informational book about the roles of the guru. It's not about bad gurus rather:

    https://www.shambhala.com/the-guru-principle.html

    FleaMarket
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @FleaMarket said:
    I'm feeling a bit blind here in my examination but I'm struggling to see how this is different from any other relationship? From my observation, the same situation one who finds themselves in with a guru could be the same situation one finds themselves in with a trusted friend or family.

    The main thing the book is objecting to is the surrender of personal authority. There is a streak of authoritarianism in the guru-disciple relationship, where the disciple is supposed to follow everything the guru says, as @Vimalajāti was also describing. It’s a kind of relationship which does not always turn out well.

    Look at Sogyal for example — one moment the revered leader of the Rigpa organisation, the next moment castigated for sexual misbehaviour, excessive partying, and other irregularities. No longer a Rinpoche even.

    Personally I think you can only surrender authority to a certain extent. You say to the guru, “I surrender until it no longer suits me”. The whole problem is, some people cease to think critically and take it way too far. For those people this book was written. It bills itself as an examination of all forms of authoritarianism, but in the actual writing it’s quite clearly anti-authoritarian. That’s not wholly a bad thing, but if your belief is still about trust it can be a bit of a shock.

    FleaMarket
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited May 14

    One version of the
    Buddha's final teaching.

    Let the Dharma and the discipline that I have taught you be your teacher. All individual things pass away. Strive on, untiringly.

    A Guru who wishes to be followed, is simply someone who has not yet understood the Dharma.

    FleaMarketlobsterShoshin1David
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    there I was nailing a guru to a cross … when …
    https://www.goodnewsforcatholics.com/bible/question-when-the-student-is-ready-the-teacher-will-appear-bible.html

    yeah … Guru Christi Almighty (not Thor)

  • KotishkaKotishka Veteran

    @Jeroen said:

    Personally I think you can only surrender authority to a certain extent. You say to the guru, “I surrender until it no longer suits me”. The whole problem is, some people cease to think critically and take it way too far. For those people this book was written. It bills itself as an examination of all forms of authoritarianism, but in the actual writing it’s quite clearly anti-authoritarian. That’s not wholly a bad thing, but if your belief is still about trust it can be a bit of a shock.

    @Vimalajāti said:
    Guruyoga is dangerous. When it goes sour, it goes sour in a big way.

    After my first spiritual experiences -ISKCON and Shambhala- everytime I hear the word guru and "unbreakeable bond".... shivers Thanks but no thanks :)

    In ISKCON, extreme orthodoxy and adherence to a dead guru and his words. I once asked, "why is Darwin a rascal?". The reply: "Because he is. Prabhupada said so."

    In Shambhala I heard people defending the sexual abuse scandal which caused Sakyong Rinpoche's decision to "take refuge" in Nepal : "it was meditative sex" / "he is a Vajyrana master!", "it is all part of the MeToo Hysteria".

    I have no time to read this book right now, but I look forward the updates you provide and this thread as it sounds damn interesting.

    Not saying this is exclusive of Vajyrana, the abuse, but the concept of total surrender and obeisance to the bond....quite a hard vow!

    Jeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran
    edited May 14

    I’ve been reading the chapter on guru ploys, and its interesting the excuses they use to evade accountability. I must admit, these things being said to me — “you can’t possibly understand what I am doing because you are not enlightened” for instance — would cause a few alarm bells to go off in my mind.

    Another interesting chapter is the one on surrender, which goes into some depth about the psychological effects of surrendering and its attractions. Another chapter goes into how those teachings often attack the strength of a person’s reason and encourage a more emotive group-thinking.

    It’s curious because if I compare this to what I read about people like Ramana Maharshi and Poonjaji then I come to the conclusion that although they are commonly called ‘gurus’ they don’t teach those things, and they also didn’t use those tactics to hold onto followers. Indeed they seemed to try their best not to accumulate followers.

    personlobster
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @Kotishka said:
    In Shambhala I heard people defending the sexual abuse scandal which caused Sakyong Rinpoche's decision to "take refuge" in Nepal : "it was meditative sex" / "he is a Vajyrana master!", "it is all part of the MeToo Hysteria".

    This is one of the things they mention as indicative of a guru-led cult, that members with no first-hand knowledge of affairs will come up with defenses of the guru and cult leadership.

    There were chapters on authoritarianism through channelling, the Jonestown massacre, and a section on how many cults go from messianic to apocalyptic in their messaging.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @FleaMarket said:
    I'm feeling a bit blind here in my examination but I'm struggling to see how this is different from any other relationship? From my observation, the same situation one who finds themselves in with a guru could be the same situation one finds themselves in with a trusted friend or family.

    Is it about the mental conditioning that takes place? Because that could be seen in friend and family and all relationships as well. Devoted family, friend, lover, student, worshiper all seem like the same person. Equally disillusioned family, friend, lover, student, worshiper all seem the same as well.

    What am I missing?

    I think its about the power imbalance and the responsibility that entails on the part of the guru that doesn't apply to many of those other relationships. There's a deep surrender and trust on the part of the student that goes beyond most other relationships. More like a parent and very young child.

    If memory serves I think in the literature on guruyoga they say that one should examine a teacher for 12 years. In the real world today that almost never happens and in group dynamics there are heavy social pressures to conform.

    I think the potential of a healthy, positive guru/student relationship for spiritual growth and realization is greater than other paths. But as @Vimalajāti says, when they go wrong, they go very wrong.

    I also think the sort of deeply enlightened and ethical teachers are rare (maybe more so today than in the past???). So selecting a guru by proximity or first exposure or most popular or any number of other criteria, odds are you'll get one that's compromised in some way.

    FleaMarketlobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @how said:
    A Guru who wishes to be followed, is simply someone who has not yet understood the Dharma.

    Indeed.
    This is true. Everyone else is below the great one, the special understanding of the beyond reproach. Pah! That is the potential danger and what is very similar to paedophilic grooming of the immature.

    A genuine person does not need, desire or teach in order to accrue power, influence, money, acclaim, fame, sexual favours, student numbers, a dose of ego stroking etc.

    So as responsible and genuine people … oh wait … are we? Have to wait and sit it out until we are matured … o:)

    I take refuge in the three jewels … that will do me fine …

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    These kind of things are why I quite like the neo-Advaita approach. Those teachers typically give satsangs, so meetings with a number of people where they answer questions usually in a public venue, and then boom, that’s it. They don’t take disciples, and so there is no guru-disciple relationship.

    I’m now in the second half of the book, which focusses on authoritarian power structures.

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited May 17

    @Kotishka said:
    I once asked, "why is Darwin a rascal?". The reply: "Because he is. Prabhupada said so."

    Out of curiosity, why was Guru Prabhupada, whom I'm not familiar with, even talking about Darwin? Gurus are supposed to disclose the Dharma. Their possibly-frivolous opinions on X or Y, Darwin or Jesus or Marx, shouldn't be a major factor in their teaching. Seems like a cult of personality IMO. All the same, I'm curious. What did His Divine Grace Master So-and-so say about Darwin? Why was he a "rascal?"

    My assumption is because he challenged Hindu chronology regarding this earth being much older than contemporary science would suggest.

  • KotishkaKotishka Veteran

    @Vimalajāti

    We had this weekly study day. Similar to all faiths. You pick the text or topic and you study with a Master. In this case, the high priest or his wife. History of the world and origin of humans... then it came out... and of course evolution was false. Just like you said, it didn't fit inside Hindu chronology. It was deemed wrong and Prabhu said, "Darwin was a rascal". This was even published. They follow all his written legacy as they consider them the last real instructions to access the loka of Lord Krsna.

    This was the last time I ever assisted an ISKCON temple. I also spoke once to an "officially certified ISKCON guru" and how he was openly saying that, even if you do good, if you don't accept Krsna, then you are not really good. I was like "Ah not this rubbish again from primary school were they taught us about Jesus and if not you had burning damnation :("

    Also, here is the quote.

    "Darwin is a rascal. What is his theory? We kick on your face. [expose your bogus philosophy] That's all. That is our philosophy. The more we kick on Darwin's face, the more advanced in spiritual consciousness. He has killed the whole civilization, rascal."[Srila Prabhupada from a Morning Walk, May 12, 1973, Los Angeles]

    I have to say though, it prepared me well for future spiritual encounters.

    Vimalajāti
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    Well, according to The Guru Papers one of the key ‘tricks’ to being a guru is to always be right. And people like Darwin challenge the religious viewpoint by providing a scientifically justified theory of the Earth’s past, proving that they are not right and causing a few religious guru’s to fall from their pedestals.

    I think the Dalai Lama was right to enter into a dialogue with science, and even to day that if science proves something, then religious doctrine will make way.

    lobsterVimalajātiDavid
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    HARI KRISHNA
    Or as I like to say to Bodhi Darwin, IS CON (the clue is in the name)
    As for baby jesus, Borne god and dead giveaway, another storey of the guru facade …

    Any other tips on setting up an uncult? Here are mine:

    • Never believe yourself
    • Science verifies the useful and discards the astrology, magical thunking, bad spells
    • Turn around. HOLY GHOST! Boo!
    • Buddha died. Are you ready?
    JeroenVimalajāti
  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran

    @Kotishka said:
    Also, here is the quote.

    "Darwin is a rascal. What is his theory? We kick on your face. [expose your bogus philosophy] That's all. That is our philosophy. The more we kick on Darwin's face, the more advanced in spiritual consciousness. He has killed the whole civilization, rascal."[Srila Prabhupada from a Morning Walk, May 12, 1973, Los Angeles]

    It will never cease to amaze me, the illiterate dumb nonsense, forgive my French, that students of the Dharma will defend. I am reminded of when Tsem Rimpoche used to go on Twitter rants denouncing unnamed haters. His followers justified his anger as righteous. It takes all kinds, one supposes.

    O.o

    lobsterKotishka
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