|Date: April 9, 1999|
|Like many of us, I used to take drugs, and I used to think it was a spiritual thing. Then, also like many of us,
I grew tired of drugs and spent the Seventies more or less sober. I fancied myself a spiritual adventurer, moving
from the mind-fuck spirituality of Castaneda's Don Juan to the otherworldly austerity of Zen. (Since I was a college
student, I threw things like surrealism, structuralism, and free jazz into the mix.)
Then my friend Seth, from White Plains, went to India to see his guru. When Seth returned, he started teaching yoga. Yoga made me feel good. The physicality of spirituality. Moving shakti.
Then Seth went to India again (I don't know his guru's name), and when he came back this time, he started doing these trippy things with his energy. Walking down the sidewalk with him was like being on acid. One time I was playing hide-and-seek with him in a crowded municipal sweimming pool in Richmond, Indiana, and when I looked for him, every face in the pool, including the kids' wading pool, was Seth's face.
Then Seth left again, and when he returned, he had one thing to say to me: "Guru Maharaj Ji." I was aghast. My friend and teacher Seth, master of all things psychic and spiritual, had fallen into the clutches of a patent fraud, a greasy-haired charlatan, a kid! (It was a truism among those who condidered ourselves connoisseurs of the spiritual that Guru Maharaj Ji was to true spirituality what Liberace was to classical piano music.)
Well, you know how this is going to turn out. This is the ex-premie site, after all. I eventually accepted the possibility of my "mind" not having all the answers; I accepted the possibility of things not being what they seem, especially in the realm of the spiritual; I made my first stupid little step into the simplistic intellect-denying common sense-scorning guru-worshipping blissfully ignorant world of the smiling premies. I went to satsang.
My first satsang was in the basement of an Indianapolis ashram. Everybody was buzzing with the latest news: Mata Ji (Mata who?) had attempted to see Guru Maharaj Ji; Guru Maharaj Ji had called the cops. This was in the fall of 1974. Then it was weekly satsang -- check your Earth shoes and your critical faculties at the door. But it wasn't all bad, now, was it?
For me, raised in a very analytical and somewhat emotionally stunted family, having a God in human form was refreshingly juicy. It was miles away from home, which is where young rebels want to be, n'est-ce pas? It felt like what I needed: the hugs, the frisson of the new and strange, the bhakti buzz. Yes, we know all the negatives -- the dysfunctional dynamics of involvement with a cult, the fact that our Dispeller of Darkness was a confused young man (not a good thing in a guru), etc. -- but good things happened, even if we mistakenly thought they came from Mr. Rawat.
On January 19, 1975, I sat in an inner city gym in Cincinnati, where a bunch of black martial artist premies were giving a particularly vicious karate demonstration under the loving eyes of a middle-aged East Indian woman, one of the Guru's initiators. Her name escapes me. The next morning she revealed the Techniques to me and about twenty others.
My experience of Light was pretty cosmic, a fact which I would bring up to myself frequently during arguments between the Inner Devotee and the Inner Skeptic. Oh well. At least it wasn't the Moonies. Or the Scientologists. Or the Mormons. Or Amway.
The years rolled by in typical premie fashion. Propping up a state of bliss by monitoring my inner dialogue, ever vigilant for signs of the "mind." ("Mind" being a mistranslation/distortion of a Hindu concept, used to demonize all non-DLM thoughts and feelings.) Since I lived in small premie communities (Bloomington, IN and Grand Rapids, MI), institutional fanaticism was minimal, the satsang was pretty friendly, and I seldom got the feeling I was hanging out with spiritual Nazis. After all, the dogma promulgated by Goom Rahzhee and his followers was pretty basic. Not a long list of rules and regs.
Although this simplicity of doctrine was also part of what was to sour me on the whole thing eventually. I was to somewhat belatedly realize that there were a lot of issues that were key to spiritual transformation that were swept under the rug. Or stomped on. It was all "the mind," you know.
After a few years of this, guess what: I was still not "enlightened." I suppose I expected, from reading various books, that when one took a guru and meditated, one's consciousness became transformed, one became wiser and more loving, more peaceful. Well, it wasn't happening. I was the same old somewhat confused and somewhat happy person I'd always been, although I'd logged a few more "spiritual" experiences onto my Akashic resume. I'd been to a dozen festivals and hundreds of satsangs and spent countless hours propped up on my polished walnut barragon. But where was the upward curve, the falling away of gross perceptions to reveal the transcendent reality of unfiltered awareness?
The logical thing to do would have been to get off the DLM treadmill. But logic wasn't my strong suit back then. Instead, I moved to Denver and joined the ashram. This has gotta be it, I told myself. Commit myself wholeheartedly to my enlightenment (quite a selfish sentiment, looking back on it through Mahayana eyes), to the exclusion of all other wordly dreams. (Ohe yeah, it's coming back to me now -- it wasn't just "the mind," it was also "the world." Man!)
So, yeah, I enlisted. I stopped everything except satsang, service, meditation, and my low-commitment day job (substitute teaching). I even stopped playing the piano. I became the "house father" (the guy who responds to requests like, "Jai Sat Chit Anand. Can I have some money for a pair of socks?"), in an ashram that included some leftover International Headquarters premies, which meant that I got to do darshan service at the next festival. But was my spirit soaring now that I had loosed my earthly ties? Nope.
One night I was taking a walk in the ashram neighborhood and a thought struck me like a cartoon frying pan: I could leave! I could, you know, just leave! Rent a room somewhere; start over! So I did. I thought I'd have a hard time adjusting to life in the real world again, but it wasn't bad at all. I went to a therapist to help deal with some of those swept-under-the-rug issues. That helped. Then the post-premie years started rolling by. Good years, bad years, wasted year, blessed years...
Now I am forty-six years old. I am married, with a seven-year old child who is endlessly entertaining and endlessly entertained by life as it is. (As we should all be.) I have a great job teaching at an arts school, I have a play being produced this fall. And I have learned the kind of lessons that most of us learn as we approach the final curtain. So I am happy. Oldsters live with regret, too, as do I, but, strangely, I don't regret those foolish premie years.
Oh...and I have a guru now. I've studied with him off and on for ten or fifteen years. A teacher, not an idol to worship. He does not profer his stockinged feet for me to kiss; we hug like friends. He does not avoid the hard questions; he has spent his life grappling wih them and offers new ways to look at these questions. He provides a link to living spiritual traditions that have helped me to shed my many neuroses and open to the living moment.
I believe we all need to grow and to learn, and I believe there are many beings, schools, and books which can help us. And after giving myself up to the dysfunctional pleasures of the cultic womb for four years, once upon a time, I know that that can never happen to me again. I've been innoculated. Let the rains of grace fall down from the heavens to cleanse us all!