Spiritual Teacher as Role Model

Superman20Alex20Ross207Our Autumn retreat at Mt. Baldy Zen Center is over and done. But those of you who didn’t go will get another chance when we hold our next retreat there in April. Stay tuned right here for details.

One of the many interesting topics that came up this past weekend was the matter of the spiritual teacher as role model. One of the participants asked about whether a teacher is responsible when her/his students imitate that teacher’s behavior and end up causing problems.

I wasn’t sure if he was referring to the well-known case of Chögyom Trungpa and his successor Ösel Tendzin. But during my talk I addressed this because I prefer to talk about specifics rather than generalities. I feel there’s much more that one can say if one talks about things that have actually happened rather than talking about hypothetical cases.

In a nutshell, Chögyom Trungpa was a Tibetan Buddhist teacher famous both for his great insight and his love of wild sex and alcohol. He died at age 47 of liver failure. His successor Ösel Tendzin was, according to Wikipedia, “bisexual and known to be very promiscuous” and “enjoyed seducing straight men.” Also, according to Wikipedia, “(it was revealed) in 1989 that Ösel Tendzin had contracted HIV and for nearly three years knew it, yet continued to have unprotected sex with his students, without informing them.” One could say that Tendzin was merely following the model of his late teacher*. Tendzin died of AIDS in 1990.

That’s just one very tragic case. There have been other less tragic cases, such as students of teachers who were heavy drinkers who then began to drink themselves. My first teacher loved strong coffee in the morning and I aped him in this habit which ended up giving me a pretty strong caffeine addiction.

Students at the Autumn Retreat at Mt Baldy with their dubious role model.

Students at the Autumn Retreat at Mt Baldy with their dubious role model.

I think if we follow this question to its logical conclusion we end up asking a more fundamental question about whether a spiritual teacher is obligated to be a role model for her/his students. And when I think about role models, I think of Superman and Jesus Christ. The story of Superman is basically a modern retelling of the story of Christ. According to Stephen Skelton in his book The Gospel According to the World’s Greatest Superhero, ““Superman’s story goes something like this… From above, a heavenly father sends his only son to save the Earth.  When he comes down to Earth, he’ll be raised by two parents who originally had the names Mary and Joseph — now this is the Superman story we are talking about.”

Superman and Jesus Christ are also morally pure. Like Jesus Christ, Superman never has anything but good intentions. He never does anything mean or selfish. The fictional character Jesus Christ is very probably based on a real person who, we can be sure, sometimes had bad thoughts and sometimes did things that weren’t completely nice. But the Jesus we read about in the New Testament and hear about in most churches is not real, at least not in the historical sense. Superman is understood to be completely fictional.

Real people are not like Superman or the fictionalized Jesus of Sunday school classes. So our real life teachers can never be role models like them. They will always fail to live up to such expectations. I think most of us are aware of this at least on a cognitive level, even when subconsciously we may tend to expect our teachers to behave like Superman. Though I’m know for certain some people really do expect their spiritual teachers to be superhuman.

That being said, I think it’s reasonable to expect a decent spiritual teacher to at the very least not infect a bunch of his students with HIV or break up their marriages or steal their money. It’s not OK to demand perfection, but one should at least be able to expect common decency and honesty.

Also, fictional role models do have their value. George Washington may not have ever really said, “I cannot tell a lie” and then owned up to chopping down his father’s cherry tree (I never understood why he chopped it down in the first place). But it’s a story that taught me the value of honesty when I was a child in spite of its lack of historical accuracy.

But why do some teachers seem to go bad, often spectacularly? One person at the retreat said that it seemed to him that cases that of Tendzin and others seemed to indicate that either a) the teacher was not truly “enlightened” or b) the teaching itself was false. This begs the question of what is this so-called “enlightenment” thing we keep hearing about?

Often “enlightenment” is a word used to refer to the profound experiences some meditators have in which they come to understand themselves no longer as individual human beings but as living expressions of the infinite, or, if you like, living expressions of God. This experience is real. But it’s not exactly what most people imagine it to be. Dogen says, “Realization does not break the individual any more than the reflection of the moon breaks a dewdrop. The whole moon and the entire sky can be reflected in a dewdrop on a blade of grass.”

The problem often is that people who have such experiences are just like anyone else. They’ve read the same trashy comic book versions of the spiritual experience, seen the same bad movies about “enlightened masters,” and hold to the same illusions of what such an experience means as anyone else who has not had one themselves. They’ve watched Superman cartoons too.

I count myself lucky in that when I started having such experiences I was just a guy working at a desk in a company in Tokyo. There was nobody around to be impressed by what was happening to me. My coworkers just thought I was being weird. My bosses told me to stop goofing off and get back to work.

If, as often happens in cases like this, I had been surrounded by a band of fellow spiritual seekers who both admired and were jealously envious of my experiences things could have gone very differently. I think that when that happens often a poisonous feedback loop gets created in which the newly “enlightened” person’s own delusions about her/his enlightenment and what it means get endlessly amplified until they spiral totally out of control.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that such a person’s so-called “enlightenment experience” was false or that the insights they’ve had are worthless and phony. But the ego can latch on to absolutely anything — including the understanding of its own ultimate unreality — as a way to enhance itself.

So the teaching isn’t false, nor is the person not truly “enlightened” — at least if enlightenment is defined as a simple experience of deep insight. But it means other things have gone wrong and perhaps that we should come up with a new definition of “enlightenment.”

As to the question of whether a teacher ought to be a good role model, I suppose my answer is a qualified yes. A spiritual teacher should at the very least live up to whatever they demand their students to be. If they demand their students to be sexually chaste, they themselves should also be sexually chaste. If they demand their students never to touch intoxicants, they themselves ought to be straight-edge. I think that’s reasonable. If the teacher can’t live up to their own demands upon their students, that’s a problem.

But I think it’s also important for students to take responsibility for themselves. Pema Chodron talks about her take on this as a celibate follower of the decidedly non-celibate Chögyam Trungpa. When asked what advice she would give to other female students of Trungpa were Trungpa alive today she says, “I would have said, You know he loves women. He’s very passionate, and he has a lot of relationships with women, and that might be part of it if you get involved with him… And you should do that knowing you might get an invitation to sleep with him, so don’t be naive about that and don’t think you have to do it. But you have to decide for yourself who you think this guy is.”

In short, it’s really ultimately up to the student to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. You can’t just blindly follow someone else’s behavior.

* There is a further allegation (also reported by Wikipedia) that “Tendzin had asked Trungpa what he should do if students wanted to have sex with him, and Trungpa’s reply was that as long as he did his Vajrayana purification practices, it did not matter, because they would not get the disease.” But since this allegation has been disputed, I’m leaving it aside for now.

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52 Responses

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  1. Fred
    Fred November 11, 2013 at 11:59 am |

    “Often “enlightenment” is a word used to refer to the profound experiences some meditators have in which they come to understand themselves no longer as individual human beings but as living expressions of the infinite, or, if you like, living expressions of God.”

    living expression of God – Brad
    living expression of the infinite – An3drew

  2. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 11, 2013 at 12:42 pm |

    “Experiences are preceded by mind, led by mind, and produced by mind.”

    -The Buddha, translated from the Sanskrit into German via a Norwegian foreign exchange student of uncertain parentage who claimed to be enlightened, and into English by a young, hip editor at Tricycle one year away from headlining with his free associated translations at the next Buddhist Geeks conference, Tricycle, the hipster Buddhist magazine, not the three wheeled cycle safe for hipster kiddos under age 4 or so, who could quote Buddha nicely enough but will have to study like mad years later to split hairs over what word means what is the what? Never mind the mind preceded, led and/or produced.

    Mt Baldy, huh? Did you cop a feel? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4-BIp7yeJ94

  3. shade
    shade November 11, 2013 at 12:55 pm |

    Wait – Mary and Joseph were Superman’s parents?

    Okay the thing about the George Washington anecdote that always confused me – is the point of the story to establish what a straight-up cat George was because he was incapable of lying? Or to emphasize that lying is bad because such a revered figure as GW refrained from it? (I.e.: George Washington is cool, George Washington didn’t lie, therefore, if you wish to be cool, you shouldn’t lie).

    This has nothing to do with Jesus or Chögyam Trungpa, but I’ve always wondered.

  4. Christopher
    Christopher November 11, 2013 at 2:02 pm |

    Kill your Idols…. “Sad is the world that requires heroes, be a light unto thyself.” Thanks for this Brad. Perhaps what has struck me the most about these stories is peoples lack of discernment when it comes to teachers. It is not to say that a what a person is teaching is ‘bad’. I think what must be challenged is the notion that a ‘teacher’ must be slavishly followed. Maybe not that they ‘must’ be, but that they often ‘are’. Sometimes the lesson is negative in the sense that, this teacher might…. just might… be showing us what ‘not’ to do. At the end of the day we are all just bodies.

  5. mb
    mb November 11, 2013 at 2:03 pm |

    Well, these are perpetually muddy waters. It’s better if the spiritual master is not a hypocrite, I agree. So when Muktananda says “be celibate” but he isn’t in fact, that’s major-league hypocrisy.

    But what does that make Trungpa? Since he was open about his boozing and womanizing, is that minor-league hypocrisy? Or something else altogether?

    Just to tell a quick story – I was a member in the mid ’70s of the community of perhaps one of the most infamous of the “drugs-alcohol-women gurus”, Adi Da.
    The community was very polarized with its “inner-circle – outer circle” dynamic. So, a lot of the time, it was OK for the inner circle to indulge in drugs/alcohol/promiscuity, but not the outer circle. It was strictly no drugs/no alcohol/no promiscuity for those of us not “on the inside”. Then maybe once a year he would declare “party time” (basically Thanksgiving through New Years) where everybody was encouraged to loosen up and party hard. I actually lived in a “renegade” household that chose to continue smoking weed past New Years and we had to shut be shut down by inner-circle representatives sent to deal with us.
    Of course, we all knew damn well that the partying was nearly constant with the inner circle, sprinkled with occasional short periods of austerity…

    So…is it really enough to be “honest” and “open” and not hypocritical about what you do as a teacher? Or are we in murky territory in demanding that our spiritual teachers not only strive to not be hypocritical, but also to consistently demonstrate some kind of humanity and decency instead of being the puppet-master of students’ behavior, as AD most certainly was?

  6. Fred
    Fred November 11, 2013 at 5:32 pm |

    Broken Yogi said in a vision/connection Adi Da admitted to f*cking it up.

  7. Fred
    Fred November 11, 2013 at 5:47 pm |

    Broken Yogi:

    “messages from Da for my wife through this woman who once met her years ago, I thought that perhaps I should just break my code of silence with Da for a moment and have a short conversation with him about these things. And so I did.

    The first thing that came through was a lot of laughter. He was obviously really finding this whole scene, and all this discussion of him, very funny stuff. And he made me laugh uproariously about it all too. One of the things he said, trying to explain his life and “work”, was, essentially “it all got away from me”. There was a bit of regret about that, but also the sense that there wasn’t really any other way it could have worked out. If you are familiar with any of the psychic writings about reincarnation, afterlife experience, and the whole difficult process of human incarnation, you might know of this kind of phenomena that often happens when things get out of control, and the deeper personality loses its grip on the physical mechanism, and can’t really control it anymore. Da was pointing to that as something of an explanation for a lot of what went on, not just in the later years, but throughout his life.”

  8. Jinzang
    Jinzang November 11, 2013 at 5:59 pm |

    I agree with most of what Brad says here. A teacher should be a decent person and not tell their students to do one thing and then do another, themselves like so often happens.

    But I’ve heard a story from Khenpo Karthar, whose behavior, by the way, is impeccable. that argues the opposite.

    Once the abbot of a Tibetan monastery lectured his monks on the evils of smoking, bioth spiritual and physical. All the time he was speaking, he was smoking from a pipe. After his licture, his attendant pulled him aside and said, it’s wrong for you to tell you students to do something and then do the opposite. The abbot did not reply at that time.

    Then one day, the abbot was walking with his attendant. Both were smoking.

    The abbot said, “Let’s have a contest to see who can blow the best smoke ring.”

    His attendant agreed. He inhaled from his pipe and blew a large, perfect ring.

    The abbot said, “That’s not how you blow a smoke ring.”

    He inhaled on his pipe, stretched out his hands, and smoke rings came out of the tips of his fingers.

    He told his attendant. “When you get to this level in your practice, it doesn’t matter if you smoke or not.”

  9. Fred
    Fred November 11, 2013 at 6:16 pm |

    Smoke and mirrors.


    Broken Yogi – The Hypnotic Trance of Cults and Cultists

  10. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 11, 2013 at 6:38 pm |

    Jinzang, yeah, Dharma Paths by Khenpo Karthar was one of the first -and finest- books I encountered when I studied with the Karma Kagyu years ago. At first, for some reason (old age) I thought you were referring to Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso, whose The Sun of Wisdom is still my favorite book on Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way.

    Fred: “…there wasn’t really any other way it could have worked out.”

  11. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 11, 2013 at 7:25 pm |
  12. Fred
    Fred November 12, 2013 at 4:51 am |

    “an attitude in which one sees everything that happens in one’s life, including suffering and loss, as good”

    Suffering is a word that the Buddha used.

    The waves of co-dependent origination throw the flotsam of self here and there,
    and yet this self believes it is willing its path.

    And splits hairs over what word means what is the what.

  13. Fred
    Fred November 12, 2013 at 6:41 am |

    What word means what is the what


  14. mtto
    mtto November 12, 2013 at 9:28 am |

    The Buddha did not use the word suffering, as he didn’t speak English. He used the word “dukkha” or “duhkha” and defined it in a way that includes the English word “suffering” but also includes a bunch of stuff that doesn’t fall under the standard definition of “suffering.”

    1. Fred
      Fred November 12, 2013 at 11:17 am |

      Yes, my next line was that the Buddha had it wrong, as suffering does not exist.
      It’s just spin on an event.

      “1.Suffering or pain (dukkha-dukkha)
      2.Impermanence or change (viparinama-dukkha)
      3.Conditioned states (samkhara-dukkha)”

      What word means what is the what

  15. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 12, 2013 at 9:38 am |

    Fred, thanks for the link to Broken Yogi’s article on cults and trance.

    ‘What is commonly referred to as cultic brainwashing is something much subtler and more sophisticated than that. It’s more akin to hypnosis, which is also not what people tend to think. Practitioners of hypnosis and scientific investigators of the phenomena all agree: there is actually no such thing as “hypnosis”. In other words, the hypnotic trance is not really a trance at all. It’s a state of voluntary submission to a charismatic leader, the hypnotist, so that the ego of the one in the “trance” can live out various fantasies without taking any responsibility for them. The ego merely tricks itself into thinking its in a trance, when in fact it is merely going along for the ride, participating in an exercise of play-acting, because it wants to.’

    No sources for his statement “no such thing as hynosis”- ?

    This seems closer to the truth to me:

    “The same situation is in evidence in everyday life, however, whenever attention is fixated with a question or an experience of the amazing, the unusual, or anything that holds a person’s interest. At such moments people experience the common everyday trance; they tend to gaze off to the right or left, depending upon which cerebral hemisphere is most dominant (Baleen, 1969) and get that faraway or blank look. Their eyes may actually close, their bodies tend to become immobile (a form of catalepsy), certain reflexes (e.g., swallowing, respiration, etc.) may be suppressed, and they seem momentarily oblivious to their surroundings until they have completed their inner search on the unconscious level for the new idea, response, or frames of reference that will restabilize their general reality orientation. We hypothesize that in everyday life consciousness is in a continual state of flux between the general reality orientation and the momentary microdynamics of trance…”

    (cited in Wikipedia on Milton Erickson, source given as “Erickson & Rossi: Two-Level Communication and the Microdynamics of Trance and Suggestion, The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1976 Reprinted in Collected Papers Vol.1”).

    The authors are pointing to a “general reality orientation” and to the interruption of that orientation as the means of induction of trance. Erickson was famous for doing inducing a trance simply by interrupting a person’s “general reality orientation” in the action of a handshake.

    Here’s the explanation of how that worked from the Wikipedia article:

    ‘This induction works because shaking hands is one of the actions learned and operated as a single “chunk” of behavior; tying shoelaces is another classic example. If the behavior is diverted or frozen midway, the person literally has no mental space for this – he is stopped in the middle of unconsciously executing a behavior that hasn’t got a “middle”. The mind responds by suspending itself in trance until either something happens to give a new direction, or it “snaps out”. A skilled hypnotist can often use that momentary confusion and suspension of normal processes to induce trance quickly and easily.’

    Broken Yogi’s assumption that the subject meets the hypnotist halfway was also Erickson’s understanding:

    “Where classical hypnosis is authoritative and direct and often encounters resistance in the subject, Erickson’s approach is permissive, accommodating and indirect.[10] For example, where a classical hypnotist might say “You are going into a trance”, an Ericksonian hypnotist would be more likely to say “you can comfortably learn how to go into a trance”. In this way, he provides an opportunity for the subject to accept the suggestions they are most comfortable with, at their own pace, and with an awareness of the benefits. The subject knows they are not being hustled and takes full ownership of, and participates in, their transformation. Because the induction takes place during the course of a normal conversation, Ericksonian hypnosis is often known as Covert or Conversational Hypnosis.”

    Broken Yogi paints a picture of hypnosis as a dark force, like Wolinksi’s association of trance with neurosis. Gautama pointed to meditative states as a part of the life of home-leavers in India in his day, and as crucial in his own enlightenment.

    That aside, I have a memory of watching a video of a Ganjaji satsang, where a woman sitting next to her exhibited mild signs of hysteria and Ganjaji slapped her abruptly to snap her out of it.

    I would agree with Broken Yogi that “realizing God means eternally surrendering to God, and becoming nothing at all”. However, when he says: “God is not a thing one becomes, but a living consciousness one surrenders oneself to”, I think he opens the door to mischief, to self and other. I prefer Gautama’s conclusion that consciousness arises through sense organ and sense contact and does not exist apart from them, and his observation (quoted in the last comment thread) that for one who knows as it really is sense organ, sense object, consciousness, impact, and feeling with regard to the six senses, bodily and mental fevers decrease, and all the factors of enlightenment go to fruition.

    Beat me, whip me, make me write bad prose.

  16. Dan
    Dan November 12, 2013 at 1:40 pm |

    But the ego can latch on to absolutely anything – including the understanding of its own ultimate unreality – as a way to enhance itself.

    So the teaching isn’t false, nor is the person not truly “enlightened” – at least if enlightenment is defined as a simple experience of deep insight. But it means other things have gone wrong and perhaps that we should come up with a new definition of “enlightenment.”

    Or of “teaching”.

    If by “the teaching” you mean something like “insights into Ultimate (Un)Realityâ„¢ and how to get them for yourself”, then fine, just because someone’s an asshole doesn’t mean they don’t have such insights.

    But if I have all these wonderful profound insights and it just turns me into an extra-efficient sex criminal or war criminal, then what the fuck was the point? Maybe I shouldn’t have bothered!

    It seems to me that a “teaching” worth teaching ought to include both how to have insights and how to not be a gigantic asshole. And if I had to pick one or the other, I’d pick the second one. It seems a lot more important.

    If a teacher — or their senior students — is so bad at “Don’t be a dick” that they are committing actual crimes, as both Sasaki and Tendzin allegedly did, maybe we should be skeptical of that teacher’s whole approach to getting insights into reality. Because maybe it’s their approach to teaching that leads to those “other things going wrong”. And maybe those same things will go wrong with me if I follow their advice.

    If I recall, the Buddha dealt with major ethical lapses by immediately stripping people of their status as “teachers”. Maybe we should consider doing the same, at least in our heads.

  17. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi November 12, 2013 at 2:13 pm |


    After I left Adidam, I read a whole lot of books on cults and psychology, to try to understand what all that was about. I also read a bunch of books on hypnosis, both by psychologists and actual practicing hypnotists. I repeatedly came across this same conclusion by many of them, “There is no such thing as hypnosis.” I don’t have those books anymore, but I do recall their rationale for this statement, which is more a criticism of popular notions about what hypnosis is, than a literal disavowal of the phenomena.

    Basically, what is called “hypnosis” is merely a state of relaxation and surrender, supposedly induced by the hypnotist, as if that person has power over one. In reality, that isn’t what is going on. The hypnotist doesn’t actually induce anything, and he has no real power over the hypnotized. Hypnotic “trances” are the result of people who enjoy entering into them, for their own reasons, taking advantage of the situation to relieve themselves of the burden of ordinary consciousness. Because, let’s face it, ordinary consciousness is hard to take, and people use all sorts of things to escape it, from drugs and alcohol to entertainments of all kinds, to spiritual practices. All of these are ways of entering into states of mind that seem pleasurable and enjoyable, because they relieve of us of the burdens of consciousness.

    So a hypnotist is merely playing on this innate desire for relief and freedom from the restrictions of the conscious mind. The hypnotist has no actual power over the individual, and they can’t get them to do things they don’t really want to do. You can’t hypnotize someone to murder a stranger – unless, of course, murdering a stranger is one of your inner fantasies, and you take advantage of the hypnotic trance as a way to fulfill that fantasy without taking responsibility for it. And so it goes with most everything in this manner.

    And the same goes for the hypnotic power of cults and religion and spiritual leaders, all of which tend to play upon the innate desire many people have to enter into trance states of one kind or another that relieve them of the burden of their own consciousness, allowing them to play out fantasies of their own.

    “There’s no such thing as hypnosis” doesn’t mean there’s no such thing as hypnotic states, it merely means there’s no such thing some demonic hypnotist who has special powers or insight into how the mind works that can make people do things they don’t want to do. If there’s a negative or evil side to this, the hypnotist or cult leader certain can play on that side of our subconsciousness which already wants to do some negative or evil things. And in fact, that’s how really evil movements like the Nazis work – they play upon the mass fantasies of some populations that really do want to play out homicidal fantasies, and give them the free space, and distance from consciousness, in order to bring them to fruition. A master manipulator knows how to play that, but he’s not hypnotizing people against their will, quite the opposite, he’s making it possible for people to live out their inner will with abandon.

    This same pattern, large and small, benign and not so benign, can be seen throughout religion, and it accounts for people behaving as they do when they see “role models” acting out. It’s not that people merely copy such role models’ behavior, it’s that they use it as a “free pass” to live out their own similar fantasies. And people even tend to seek out religions and cults and role models that suit their own fantasy lives, precisely so they can live them out with impunity.

  18. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi November 12, 2013 at 2:22 pm |

    As for this:

    “However, when he says: “God is not a thing one becomes, but a living consciousness one surrenders oneself to”, I think he opens the door to mischief, to self and other.”

    I think you are at least partially right, that this can open the door to mischief, if not properly understood.

    I think the key here is consciousness. In other words, bringing all that is in our unconsciousness and subconscious to consciousness, is what God-Realization is about. The hypnotic state, on the other hand, is an abdication of consciousness, allowing the unconscious and subconscious to run amuck. They are something of polar opposites, then. If one takes my statement above as a license to enter into an unconscious trance state, then sure, it’s going to produce irresponsible behavior. That’s why I said one must surrender to living consciousness, the awareness in the conscious state, wherein it becomes increasingly difficult to evade responsibility for one’s actions, the more conscious one becomes of them.

    The conscious self needs to become stronger, not weaker, and it doesn’t become stronger when it enters into hypnotic states. Those states strengthen the unconscious and subconscious mind, and leave us less conscious and less responsible, which is what opens us to mayhem. There’s a genuine spiritual process in both meditation and in life where the contents of one’s unconsciousness rise up to consciousness, and are seen, witnessed, and thereby stripped of their negative power over us. Any genuine spiritual process, regardless of its cultural form or methods, will aid this process. Those that do not, create cults, or cultic mind. So it’s important to be attentive to what actually goes on in one’s own consciousness when engaging in these things.

    And in that sense, the best role models are the people engaged in this sort of consciousness-enhancing process. Not because we can then unconsciously identify with them and enter a trance state in which their powers are magically transferred to us, but because they can show us by their own conscious living how the real process is engaged.

  19. senorchupacabra
    senorchupacabra November 12, 2013 at 2:28 pm |

    I think there’s a reason that there’s an “eightfold path” associated with Buddhism. I just don’t know what that reason is. I think it boils down to the following: Was it because someone noticed that “enlightened” people had a tendency to live life “immorally”– in this sense meaning “destructively”– or was it something that stemmed from the enlightenment experience itself?

    My own personal experience as a very un-enlightened human being, is that it doesn’t take profound insight to realize that it’s not very productive to treat other human beings as a means to any kind of an end. One doesn’t even need to be familiar with Kant’s Categorical Imperative to understand why exploiting others is bad. One also doesn’t need to be enlightened to understand why alcoholism or substance abuse is destructive. In my admittedly limited view it has very little to do with expecting perfection and more to do with expecting “spiritually enlightened” people to be “spiritually mature.” And so I do think destructive and/or exploitative behaviors are something of a sign of a false or misunderstood “enlightenment” experience.

    But what the hell do I know?

  20. Fred
    Fred November 12, 2013 at 5:36 pm |

    “Because, let’s face it, ordinary consciousness is hard to take, and people use all sorts of things to escape it, from drugs and alcohol to entertainments of all kinds, to spiritual practices. All of these are ways of entering into states of mind that seem pleasurable and enjoyable, because they relieve of us of the burdens of consciousness.”

    I don’t find ordinary consciousness hard to take. It’s not a burden. Some people’s
    brains are high novelty seeking and seek new stimuli to get dopamine release in
    the limbic system.

    Is it OK if I call you Conrad and not Broken because I think it isn’t broken anymore.

  21. RandomStu
    RandomStu November 12, 2013 at 6:44 pm |

    Zen Master Seung Sahn used to say, “Enlightenment is easy to get, difficult to keep.”

  22. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 12, 2013 at 7:46 pm |

    Broken Yogi, thanks for the response.

    My experience with hypnosis and trance, such as it is, is closer to the description attributed to Milton Erickson in the Wikipedia article about him; that is to say, it’s an everyday affair, as well as the province of shamans and healers.

    I noticed as I posted the things from that article that they are not so different from your view, with regard to cult leaders and cult followers working together to induce trance.

    Gautama spoke of the controlling factors in the first four meditative states. He said the controlling faculty of dis-ease ceases in the first state, the controlling faculty of unhappiness ceases in the second; so here you are, the kind of ease and happiness that you contend folks are looking to escape into through the induction of trance.

    However, in the third state, the controlling faculty of ease ceases; in the fourth state, the controlling faculty of happiness ceases. Now to my mind, that is because stretch in whatever posture I happen to find myself in exceeds the bounds of ease, and because my experience of the senses as distinct exceeds the bounds of happiness (Erickson for one contended that the senses get sharper in trance). Gautama said that there was happiness in all the meditative states, but he understood that it was a contradiction, and told his followers to say that the tathagata takes happiness to be where happiness is found regardless of consistency (or words to that effect). Gotta love it!

    I see that those who have charisma as spiritual leaders are masters at the induction of trance as a matter of course, and that for most folks the induction of trance is elusive. The presence of one who knows induction as a matter of course doesn’t guarantee that someone who studies with them, lives with them, stays with them etc. will similarly know induction as a matter of course someday. That’s the great deception; the best teacher is not always the most adept, there’s no way around a life of heart which is self-surrender.

    “making self-surrender the object of thought, one lays hold of concentration, one lays hold of single-pointedness of mind”- Alfred E.

  23. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 12, 2013 at 7:57 pm |

    (but I digress!) At the same time, the induction of trance as a matter of course is an everyday thing for everyone, it seems we can’t live without it. And most folks never give it a second thought, I think a person has to be broken in some sense to do so. But it’s important that people distinguish between the trance that someone else’s presence helps induce and the trance that takes place as a matter of personal necessity, so to speak. I know I have to remember sometimes to give thanks for what is imparted by the presence of others around me, and to give thanks for what is imparted in seclusion.

    Thanks, hardcore bums. Thanks, four-legged chair.

  24. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi November 12, 2013 at 10:42 pm |


    I don’t want to equate Buddhist meditative states with hypnotic trances, though there may be overlap. States come and go, but my understanding of the Buddhist approach is to simply let them, and not be entranced by them. It’s not so much any particular content or person that makes for the trance state, but our relationship to these. If we take a conscious approach, and simply observe and feel these as they arise and pass, we are not in any danger of succumbing to their enchantments. This values consciousness over content, awareness over objects of awareness.

    So while sometimes we need a “teacher” or hypnotist to enter a trance state, it’s not really necessary – all that is needed is a desire and willingness to abandon consciousness. Which to some extent we already do, and are well practiced in. Being given some sort of official sanction to do this by some authoritative figure can certain speed up the process, but it’s something we are already well acquainted with. When the content and person involved has “spiritual” qualities, we can even imagine that we are making spiritual progress of some kind. But genuine spiritual progress isn’t a question of what experiences we have, but what experiences we let go of. That can be a hard lesson to get, especially when we have become quite adept at spiritual trance induction, especially when we associate that with something outside ourselves. But even if we do it ourselves, it’s still only something to be let go of, not to achieve and hold onto.

  25. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi November 12, 2013 at 10:47 pm |

    I don’t find ordinary consciousness hard to take.

    well good for you. Most people do. They are always looking for something, somewhere, just to overcome the burdens of boredom, doubt, and discomfort. It doesn’t have to be “spiritual”. Even a candy bar will often do.

    And sure, you can call me Conrad too. But I’m still pretty much broken. Maybe just not broken enough.

  26. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi November 12, 2013 at 11:07 pm |

    reading that wiki article on Erickson, I found it interesting that he seemed to have some problems of his own with abusing patients and creating an authoritative personae around himself. The temptations of hypnotic induction seem not to be confined to religious cult leaders.

  27. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 13, 2013 at 4:28 am |

    Of course not, go to Youtube and watch Hitler at some rally. Or take a Zumba class. Or listen to Hillary Clinton for the next however many years. Then watch Kumare again.

    “You are the guru, the guru is (in) you.” -Any “guru” worth listening to.

    “All perception arises in you. You are what you see, you are the universe, you are this blog. It all lives and dies, begins and ends with you. There is no particular location for it otherwise (sorry Mark).” -My kindergarten teacher


  28. Proulx Michel
    Proulx Michel November 13, 2013 at 6:58 am |

    Recently, I was reading that the main disciple of the founder of Aikido, Ueshiba, had declared that his master was barely dead that some started telling fairy tales about him, like that he just had to show you the palm of his hands and you were projected into a wall and the like.
    It really seems, from the story of this Thai doctor who made a forensic study of the Buddha’s death, that the same happened with ours. The Parinirvana sutta, he says, has quite a few versions, indeed, one for every school of Buddhism. The fantastic aspects of each differ, but the down to earth aspects are consistent in all versions. So, from what one may read between the lines, the Buddha was a tired old man of 80 who did complain about his derelict physical condition and probably died of an mesenteric infarctus. But along these lines, you also read tales of one wizard who teleports his entire suite across a river, and just refrains from living further because his cousin and servant hasn’t had the wits to ask him to. And so on.

    So, I suppose the problem might be older than we imagine…

  29. Fred
    Fred November 13, 2013 at 7:39 am |

    Last night I had a dream, and when I awoke I said to myself that Broken Yogi
    was sending it to me. But really, I was doing it to myself.

    The dream was about the deeper layers of brokenness and dukkha.

  30. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 13, 2013 at 8:36 am |

    Broke, you write:

    “So while sometimes we need a “teacher” or hypnotist to enter a trance state, it’s not really necessary — all that is needed is a desire and willingness to abandon consciousness.’

    I’m sure you read this in the Erickson article:

    ‘Erickson also believed that it was even appropriate for the therapist to go into trance.

    “I go into trances so that I will be more sensitive to the intonations and inflections of my patients’ speech. And to enable me to hear better, see better.”

    Erickson maintained that trance is a common, everyday occurrence… These states are so common and familiar that most people do not consciously recognise them as hypnotic phenomena.’

    In my experience, consciousness is not abandoned in trance; more like:

    “Thus with wits alert, with wits unhampered, he cultivates his mind to brilliancy.”

    This is a line from a practice Gautama gave in a chapter on psychic abilities, and he’s speaking after the line concerning following the sign of the concentration by night and by day. Of course, it’s “making self-surrender the object of thought, one lays hold of concentration, one lays hold of single-pointedness of mind”- so this is a kind of trance that as you said, occurs not through the exercise of volition.

    My personal experience, it’s a matter of necessity in the relaxed movement of breath, and it’s everyday.

  31. RandomStu
    RandomStu November 13, 2013 at 2:15 pm |

    Broken wrote: while sometimes we need a “teacher” or hypnotist to enter a trance state, it’s not really necessary

    IF our ultimate goal is to enter into trance states, then you could say a teacher isn’t really necessary.

    But what about after the trance? For instance, someone does meditative practice, and gets temporary states that are remarkably weird and blissful. He then dresses up the special experiences in ideas he’s read about. “I’ve had a glimpse of the self! I understand enlightenment! I know what spiritual advancement means!” Instead of paying attention to actual experience, he clings to dogma.

    Maybe a good teacher — or good friends — are sometimes necessary to help save you from the dream-world of “spiritual” ideas that you might drown in, if you only remain tangled up in thinking.

  32. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 13, 2013 at 3:59 pm |

    [Don’t] Save The Last Trance For Me…


  33. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi November 13, 2013 at 4:03 pm |


    I agree that trances are ordinary states we fall into all the time, like daydreaming. Sometimes they can be very useful and creative, because they can allow the unconscious to come to consciousness, at least to some degree. They can also be dangerous, because the unconscious can overwhelm consciousness in the trance state.

    Very few trance states actually involve the complete loss of consciousness. Perhaps sleep-walking would be an example of this. But often, even perhaps always, they result in a reduction of consciousness, and an increase in the power/control of the unconscious mind. That is even their intention. They are dangerous in the same way that day-dreaming while driving a car can be dangerous – that diminishment in consciousness results in a diminishment of responsibility for one’s actions, and an accident can result.

    For the same reason, the reduction of consciousness when drunk can also be dangerous. Not only because of potential accidents through carelessness, but because of the rise of unconscious impulses can result in irresponsible activity, even violence.

    Trances don’t require any outside induction, but they can be aided by these, including drugs, hypnotic suggestion, and religious ritual and practice. Often, that is the overt intention. In fact, much of religion is specifically intended to produce long and deep trance states in which suggestion allows our fantasies to become not only consciousness, but to take over our consciousness, leaving us deeply irresponsible and prone to follow our fantasies to whatever end they desire. That is even the purpose of many religious paths, including meditative practices – to allow our inner fantasies to “realize” themselves. These trance states, or their post-trance suggestions, end up taking over our lives. We can literally hypnotize ourselves into “enlightenment”, or salvation, or whatever religious fantasy we harbor within ourselves. And we can even enjoy that and feed on it, and try to teach others how to do these things. We can become “spiritual teachers” of trance.

    As for Buddha and Buddhism in general, I would still suggest (even hypnotically) that the purpose of Buddhist meditation is not to enter a trance state (although that will happen because it’s a part of our psychic terrain), but to become fully conscious, to such a degree that we are consciously aware of ourselves in all respects, including our own unconscious desires and vasanas. When these become fully conscious in us they no longer have any binding power over us. They just become the flotsam and jetsam of our psyche, like a “burnt rope” in the advaitic analogy, with no hold on us. And that is what “enlightenment” is actually about, not a fantastical and irresponsible trance state.

    If you look at all the abuse scandals in Buddhism and other religions, it’s a result of teachers who have become identified with trance states, and who teach their students trance states. Within such states, the potential for abuse is not just rampant, but the whole point. So it’s not merely incidental, it’s the purpose of the enterprise all along, driven by unconscious forces that wish to subvert our consciousness and dominate us. That’s why one’s consciousness needs to be attentive to their machinations, and the signs of an unconscious drive taking over through trance mechanisms, in oneself, in one’s teachers, in one’s friends and sangha, etc.

  34. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi November 13, 2013 at 4:27 pm |


    But what about after the trance?

    I hope my last response to Mark above answers much of this.

    The kind of states meditation can produce are the product of our own unconscious desires and vasanas, so it’s not enough to merely give them a label. We have to be conscious of that part of ourselves that keeps producing these things. You see, in a very real sense we already have an “inner hypnotist” at work on us, trying to induce trance states that can be used to control our thinking and behavior. This “Wizard of Oz” character hides behind a curtain, and wears many masks of authority, which we easily succumb to. Sometimes it puts on the “God” mask, or the “Guru” mask. That it might be an “inner Guru” is not necessarily any better or even different from an outer Guru we give our power over to, if these forces are working to induce trance states of irresponsibility in us. “Giving over our power” to this inner, unconscious self, is not different in kind from surrendering to the authority of an outer figure. In fact, we are attracted to precisely those outer figures which correspond well to our own unconsciousness, and the figures who dwell within us. In both cases, the purpose is to be relieved of the burdens of consciousness, and to allow the unconsciousness to take over from us.

    So after the hypnotic trance has done its work, we are relieved of the responsibilities of conscious life, and we feel much “freer” to give ourselves over to something, or someone, who represents those unconscious desires, and allows them to realize our inner fantasies, even our dark and negative ones sometimes. Sometimes that takes the form of an idea, and we become an ideologue, in the grip of that set of notions because our unconsciousness can realize its fantasy life through them. Often those fantasies are about power and domination, which is why most idealogues are concerned about gaining power in one form or another. Our trance states are for the purpose of embedding “suggestions” which can then take over our consciousness in the post-trance life. That way, we can “live on automatic” rather than be burdened with the hard choices of a conscious life, and the difficulty of perceiving things as they are, rather than as we’d like to see them. In the post-trance state, we find it much easier to see the entire world, and even specific experiences, through the trance-filter we have taken on, even though we might appear to be quite conscious. In reality, we are being controlled by our own unconscious forces, through various ideological mechanisms implanted in our psyches during the trance state. That is of course not just a voluntary induction on our part, it is actively sought out by our own unconsciousness, which thereby gains power over us. And the payoff occurs when the unconscious is then able to dominate us even in seemingly normal conscious states of everyday life.

    In that sense, ideology is like those famous “cues” that awaken certain automatic responses in “brainwashed” assassins, like in The Manchurian Candidate. Certain codes words or rituals can bring forth unconscious impulses, which can then dominate our thinking and our behavior, making things our conscious mind should be able to recognize as bullshit seem both normal and necessary. That’s how cults of all kinds operate. And religions too. And even politics.

  35. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi November 13, 2013 at 4:40 pm |

    I should also mention that the trance mechanism can also be useful for spiritual practice, in that it can allow our unconscious vasanas to be consciously observed and felt directly, rather than merely analyzed intellectually. This requires, however, the development of a very strong sense of one’s own consciousness, and a willingness to stay with it, rather than to relinquish it to the vasanas that arise. That can be difficult, because our vasanas can be very strong indeed, and when they arise in meditation, they want to take over with great power, because they find our consciousness most threatening.

    So when Buddha describes his struggles with meditation, or when people say that demons or asuras are trying to undermine their meditation, this is what they mean – there’s a battle in us between consciousness and the forces of our own unconsciousness, because the unconscious wants to dominate, and to do so by stealth. It is constantly looking for ways to seduce us, and draw us into trance states. And in meditation, it’s often even necessary to allow these trance states to occur, because this allows us to peer into our own unconscious mind very directly, and see what there without blinders on. But that is also dangerous, because we can be easily subverted by what is seen, and captured by it, or even take it to be something profound and wonderful. It is difficult to remain unmoved by what is observed and felt and experienced when the unconscious mind opens to us through trance. But it is also a great opportunity to transcend these unconscious vasanas, by merely observing and feeling them, but not allowing our own consciousness to be engulfed by them.

  36. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 13, 2013 at 4:45 pm |

    Broken Yogi, we disagree over the character of the unconscious. I see dreams and trance states as a positive, healthy thing.

    I would agree with you that what is attractive about charismatic teachers is in large part their ability to experience trance in daily life, and this draws people to them. Rock and roll has attracted me since the Byrds first record, and over the years I’ve learned to dance and appreciate the trance that great performers produce in themselves; you’re right, it’s similar. Does it say squat about a person’s morality that they can do this?- not necessarily. Can those who are drawn to such a practitioner be harmed?- clearly. That doesn’t make induction of trance anything other than an important aspect of human well-being, one that is pretty universally recognized and attractive to people, and the task at hand is giving people the tools to recognize the nature of the attraction and the means to experience for themselves the induction of trance as a part of well-being.

    The article on Erickson mentioned the interruption of actions normally done as a chunk and the reorientation of consciousness that results as a moment for induction, and I think those who are respected teachers utilize the “interruptions” that are our everyday lives to allow the induction of trance.

    John, I like this- from Wikipedia on Nisargadatta:

    “My Guru ordered me to attend to the sense ‘I am’ and to give attention to nothing else. I just obeyed. I did not follow any particular course of breathing, or meditation, or study of scriptures. Whatever happened, I would turn away my attention from it and remain with the sense ‘I am’. It may look too simple, even crude. My only reason for doing it was that my Guru told me so. Yet it worked!”

    And what did this mean in daily life? Bottom of the same article:

    ‘This leads to the radical notion that there is no such thing as a “doer”. According to him and other teachers of Vedanta, since our true nature or identity is not the mind, is not the body, but the witness of the mind and body, we, as pure awareness, do nothing. The mind and body act of their own accord, and we are the witness of them, though the mind often believes it is the doer. This false idea (that the mind is the self and responsible for actions) is what keeps us from recognizing our Self. Nisargadatta cautions:

    “The life force [prana] and the mind are operating [of their own accord], but the mind will tempt you to believe that it is “you”. Therefore understand always that you are the timeless spaceless witness. And even if the mind tells you that you are the one who is acting, don’t believe the mind. […] The apparatus [mind, body] which is functioning has come upon your original essence, but you are not that apparatus.”

    –The Ultimate Medicine, (pp.54 – 70)’

    So there’s the break, the place where “I am” enters in the midst of the chunk of action, and only a state of grace remains.

    “Without abiding anywhere, let the mind work.” Sekida


  37. Fred
    Fred November 13, 2013 at 5:01 pm |

    If consciousness is a burden, why strengthen the conscious in response to
    trance induced by the subconscious. Does that not make the burden greater?

    When the Buddha says that there is no self, and others say that even the
    witness must be dropped, why strive to strengthen the conscious?

    The conscious, subconscious and unconscious must all be dropped.

  38. Fred
    Fred November 13, 2013 at 5:34 pm |

    Trance induction – a melodic stream of words?


  39. Fred
    Fred November 13, 2013 at 6:05 pm |

    Jinzang quoted this line :

    “Therefore then, Subhuti, the Bodhisattva, the great being, should produce an unsupported thought, i.e. a thought that is nowhere supported, a thought unsupported by sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables, or mind-objects.”

    Ordinary consciousness cycles through a continuous series of trance states
    triggered by supported thought in the conscious and unconscious.

  40. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi November 13, 2013 at 7:01 pm |


    I’d agree that trances can be both pleasurable, and even healthy. Like dreams, they are a way for the unconscious to communicate with us, and it’s healthy to have a conscious relationship to the unconscious. But that’s my point – our relationship to the unconsciousness need to be a conscious one, not one in which the unconscious takes us over.

    Rock concerts can be a good example of that. We go there to allow our unconsciousness to come out some, and not be repressed. But if it comes out and takes over, we have Altamont, or a “bad trip”. Sometimes people do really stupid things when their unconsciousness comes out. Sometimes, by harnessing those energies as they emerge, we can make that a very creative affair. What I’m saying is, that’s up to us, and the relationship to our own unconsciousness that we’ve developed. Consciousness has to be the top dog, and not identified with the unconscious elements, or even overly attached to them.

    And yeah, I liked that bit about interruptions. And that’s precisely how cult leaders work – they interrupt the normal flow of consciousness, and invoke unconscious drives, allowing them to come to the surface, as in a seance. Of course, even a legitimate teacher can use this technique, if the student has a strong enough conscious presence to endure what then arises. That’s why it’s called skillful means. In the hands of an unskilled teacher, a cult emerges, not wisdom.

  41. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi November 13, 2013 at 7:09 pm |

    “If consciousness is a burden, why strengthen the conscious in response to
    trance induced by the subconscious. Does that not make the burden greater?”

    Yes, it does. That is the “cross” we have to bear on the road to enlightenment and spiritual death. It provokes a crisis of consciousness in us, in which we either surrender all these unconscious contents, or let them take us for another go around the wheel of karma.

    “When the Buddha says that there is no self, and others say that even the
    witness must be dropped, why strive to strengthen the conscious?”

    Only consciousness can know who we are, and who we are not. The unconscious can’t do that, by definition. The ego is not a thing or a person, but it is the sum of all that is unconscious in us, and it strives to keep us unconscious of its nature. It is the “inner hypnotist” who keeps us entranced by any means possible, subjective and objective. So to actually see that there is no self, an inspection is required of all that we are unconscious of. That is the purpose of meditation. That must be engaged consciously, until there is a crisis in us brought on by the insight of no-self. You can’t do that unconsciously.

    “The conscious, subconscious and unconscious must all be dropped.”

    True, but if you drop consciousness, where can it go?

  42. Fred
    Fred November 14, 2013 at 4:57 am |

    “True, but if you drop consciousness, where can it go?”

    Consciousness of self is the universe look through the eyes of self.

    The illusion o self is dropped. Universe always was and is.

  43. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi November 14, 2013 at 9:06 am |

    sure, but what happens to consciousness itself (not consciousness of self) when you drop it? Can you drop what you are?

    Reminds me of another teaching from Nisargadatta, that the universe is nothing more than that portion of ourselves that we reject, and which becomes our unconscious self, and then project outwards objectively, creating the illusion of “other”. In reality, the universe is merely our own unconscious, and when we regain consciousness of who we are, we know the universe as ourselves.

  44. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 14, 2013 at 11:16 am |

    “But that’s my point — our relationship to the unconsciousness need to be a conscious one, not one in which the unconscious takes us over.”

    “Consciousness has to be the top dog, and not identified with the unconscious elements, or even overly attached to them.”

    I can see where you are concerned about how your experience with Adidam could have taken place, and perhaps even more concerned about the experience of others with Adidam, and others in similar situations.

    My life is about reconciling myself to the fact that consciousness is not top dog, if you will. In a letter to a friend, I put it this way: “it’s my belief that the most important thing is to be in the right place at the right time, and the only way I can be in the right place at the right time is to fully accept the place I’m in at the moment”.

    I say that because of my experience with “‘no latent conceits that I am the doer, mine is the doer’ in regard to this consciousness-informed body” (MN III 18-19, Pali Text Society III pg 68). Shades of this statement from Wikipedia on Nisargadatta, which I quoted previously in this thread:

    “‘This leads to the radical notion that there is no such thing as a “doer”. According to him and other teachers of Vedanta, since our true nature or identity is not the mind, is not the body, but the witness of the mind and body, we, as pure awareness, do nothing. The mind and body act of their own accord, and we are the witness of them, though the mind often believes it is the doer. This false idea (that the mind is the self and responsible for actions) is what keeps us from recognizing our Self.”

    Folks on this thread, including John the Baptist and Frederick the Great (not to mention the Great and Might Rabbit of Oz), have endured me feeling around in the dark to identify the mechanism of such action. My conclusion is that what I truly believe, as to the nature of God or whether or not I need a drink of water, is actually out of my control, and yet can precipitate action through the occurrence of trance without conscious volition. That such trance occurs naturally, so that action without “I am the doer, mine the doer” is constant in our lives, is a great open secret.

    Zen in particular has relied on exactly the kinds of things Erickson said were necessary to inform the unconscious, and on the induction of trance through the interruption of “chunked” action (note that Erickson said there was no way to consciously inform the unconscious directly). I think Sufism also uses these techniques; at least, I recall a leader applying a careful push to me in the direction of a spin at one meeting (with my consent), and I had an intuition for what he was trying to do (his timing wasn’t quite right for me, but I thought the method was genius).

    Only lunacy prevents brain-washing from being effective (as is recounted in “Battle for the Mind: A Physiology of Conversion and Brainwashing – How Evangelists, Psychiatrists, Politicians, and Medicine Men Can Change Your Beliefs and Behavior” by Sargant). The more a person holds on to their beliefs and resists, the sooner they have a total breakdown and wake up one morning believing the thing that was suggested to them as true; that’s Sargant’s message. Here’s an interesting passage from Wikipedia on Sargant:

    “In the book he refers extensively to religious phenomena and in particular Christian methodism, emphasising the apparent need for those who would change people’s minds to first excite them, as did the founder of Methodism, John Wesley.”

    That’s what I’m doing here, although so far I seem to be boring all the folks I’m trying to convert- it’s a difficulty. Ha ha, I’m excited. Thanks, all!

  45. Mumbles
    Mumbles November 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm |

    Hey Mark, Thanks for Mississippi Fred and Son House the other day, too, great stuff. John the Baptist, hahaha. I used to use Acephale as my e-mail tag (after Bataille & crew), and just a month ago or so I was doing research for something I was writing that included a passage on Huysmans (Against the Grain, La Bas) that brought me back to Gustave Moreau’s painting (described in ATG) depicting Salome and a vision of the floating severed head of John the Baptist! But maybe the text to riff off of considering what you’re talking about is this one… http://headless.org/on-having-no-head.htm

  46. Fred
    Fred November 14, 2013 at 5:04 pm |

    “absorbed in the Given. Here it was, this superb scene, brightly shining in the clear air, alone and unsupported, mysteriously suspended in the void, and (and this was the real miracle, the wonder and delight) utterly free of “me”, unstained by any observer. Its total presence was my total absence, body and soul. Lighter than air, clearer than glass, altogether released from myself, I was nowhere around.”

  47. Broken Yogi
    Broken Yogi November 14, 2013 at 6:37 pm |


    Since I haven’t been involved in Adidam in over ten years, it’s hardly my primary concern. But these topics remain important, because the issue of conscious vs. unconscious is a perennial one.

    My primary concern is with the matter of the relinquishment of vasanas, which many forget is the primary requirement for genuine enlightenment. What I see going on in the spiritual scene is a whole lot of people claiming to work from an enlightened or awakened position, but it becomes evident that not only are they not free of vasanas, they are not even working in that direction. Instead, they are surrendering to their own unconscious vasanas, will yet imagining that this is what it means to “no longer be the do-er” of action.

    This is a serious misunderstanding of non-dual teachings of whatever stripe. It’s what’s called confusing levels. Not identifying with the do-er of action is not the same thing as allowing one’s unconscious to take over and act. That way lies much delusion and even danger, because the unconscious merely mimics enlightenment, it can’t actually act in an enlightened manner. So we have an endless display of enlightenment impersonators, acting “spontaneously”, but in reality merely allowing their unconscious egoity to run the show.

    Transcending the do-er is only possible through real consciousness, which penetrates the illusion of unconscious egoity through direct insight. And then there is surrender not to one’s own unconscious egoity, but to the transcendent emptiness of being. Trying to take the unconscious shortcut simply doesn’t work, and produces great misery and confusion in the end. Best to walk that razor’s edge, and pay the piper up front.

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