Additional reflections at Naked Monk -- Fantastic website. Get
and read Schettini's book, The Novice.
(Quote)Even when sexual propriety is maintained, the asymmetry of the guru-disciple power arrangement sets up loyalties that favor personal fealty over truth and integrity. It is undemocratic. It is illiberal and misguided. This feudal power relationship has been dragged into the modern world in the guise of romanticized Orientalism. It is in profound contradiction to all the Buddha taught about working with your own experience. It takes not just the charisma of a clever teacher but also the active collusion of those who buy into it. The price of admission is a bit of existential doubt and a brief phase of personal weakness. Once you’re in, the door closes hermetically on any lingering doubts.
There is natural community, not contrived to support your fondest wishes but to commiserate with on life’s hard byways
No one is eternally strong. Everyone is at times overwhelmed by self-doubt, sadness, depression, anxiety or angst. When spirits are low and we turn to spiritual solutions, our judgment may be not just poor, but vacant.
A therapist who mostly socializes and worse, gets and stays married in a
selective spiritual community may have a seeming serenity, but
only possible in a controlled environment.
(Quote)There is such a thing as natural community, not contrived to support your fondest wishes but to commiserate with on life’s hard byways. There is no preexisting group out there waiting for you. Real community forms organically, spontaneously. Prepare yourself for it by traveling light. People of like mind are not found in any particular monastery, school or social group. It’s rare to meet others with whom we truly commune. We know that. You know that. Locking yourself into a gated community, pretending you’re safe and sound, is a sure way to not bump into anyone intimately.
Get out there, vulnerable and honest. Admit you’re alone on your path through life and you’ll sooner or later meet fellow-travelers. You’ll share your insights as equals. Some of them may for a while become mentors or guides. Bear in mind though, that relationship will deteriorate the minute you abandon your discernment, the instant you stop taking your own risks.
(Quote)The truth is that freedom of choice is burdensome. Most people simply submit to the pressure and get on with it. Some of us question the status quo and conclude that this is nuts, that our society is bamboozling us, dressing up fast food as nutritious and advertizing fast life as glorious. Far from bringing relief, these insights compound the stress. No surprise then that some people will go to great lengths to be free of this stress, to find someone else to make their decisions, someone they can trust.
When dispirited, we seek to raise our spirits. The same society that has us trapped in its freedoms offers conciliatory pleasures and distractions. Once we’re through with those however, we turn to pursuits that are more ephemerally spiritual. This deliberately vague word defies definition. It’s more about what it’s not: not materialistic, not conventional, not rational.
Meditation, philosophy, no-mind and non-dual emptiness
are guaranteed to make us feel way cool and special
That’s when things get complicated. It’s when we grow vulnerable in the most unhealthy ways. We’re tempted by communities that embrace us with hugs and gushing love, with namastes and tashi-delegs, by teachers said to be living Buddhas, by systems of meditation, philosophy, no-mind and non-dual emptiness guaranteed to make us feel way cool and special. We’re even promised magical powers and omniscience. Who knows what’s possible and what’s not?
The paradox is that Buddhism appeals to the most educated among us because of its reputation as scientific, objective, atheistic and non-religious. None of these are traditional appellations of Buddhism. They are modern spin, the urgent rationalizations of Westerners who turn to Buddhism after having rejected their own inherited culture and beliefs.
Like self-help gurus, Buddhist teachers today know what we want. To reel us in they promise escape from stress, peace of mind. We want to stop the inner chatter, stop the angst, stop the pointlessness, stop the torment…and to belong.
At some point in this search for refuge we abandon our hesitation and believe that the guru is especially able, both in ethics and in skill. He is wiser. We trust him. The community assures us. We see their sincerity, feel their love for him and are touched by the same love for us. They want us to bathe in it too. They call him a ‘living treasure,’ and assure us of his credentials. If he’s Asian, all the better. All the easier.
Can we really be so simple? I was, but not in isolation. I was desperate, arriving in the nick of time into the friendly, loving arms of the community. They taught me that to doubt is disloyal and unspeakable; that they—that we—were righteous and sincere.
We sometimes slice our awareness into layers. It’s strange. Everyone knows what it is to know at one layer that you’ve sacrificed self-reliance and compromised your integrity, while at another to assure yourself that your decision will have to do; that doubt is unbearable. Believe with the community and you’ll share in their love and security. You’ll also be committed to their righteousness.
In the words of Alan Watts, “When you confer spiritual authority on another person you are allowing them to pick your pocket and sell you your own watch.”
The mentor relationship deteriorates the minute you abandon your discernment, the instant you stop taking your own risks
If you are seeking recovery from long term addiction or long term co-dependance
to an addicted family member, and you are looking for a therapist, you
will need and deserve value for your time and money.
A therapist who is secrety in an active addiction or is secretly and long term
in an unexamined codependant relationship on a guru cannot assist you to become
free. He or she will have too many blind spots.
Your growth may occur but stutter to a stop at whatever point your therapist
has hit the ceiling.
An addicted therapist, whether addicted to a substance or addicted to being
codependant/enabler to a guru, leader and member of a secret keeping ashram
will be anxious if you develop insight into these dynamics.
If ethical, that therapist will tell you you have graduated and congratulate you.
But very few addicted therapists (whether to a chemical or a guru) are
Too often, the addicted therapist may try to thwart and pathologize your insightfulness.
Your refusal to go into infantile idealization will might labelled by
the therapist as hypervigilence or as attachment disorder.
If your therapist is in a long term feudal relationship in submission to a guru
(or whatever the title is), he or she may be unable to teach you how to function
as a citizen in a modern, participatory democracy where one is confronted
with multiple and ever changing choices.
Too often people are told that when they have found a guru, the discernment needed in the search can then be set aside.
"Even when sexual propriety is maintained, the asymmetry of the guru-disciple power arrangement sets up loyalties that favor personal fealty over truth and integrity. It is undemocratic."
In the past thirty years, those of us with eyes to see and ears to hear have no shortage of harm reports concenring gurus who seemed sexually and financially
honorable but who turned out to be living secret lives quite different from their public images. To follow such a guru is to re-enact childhood in a secret ridden family.
And protectiveness toward a guru and his or her secrets and infirmaties can be a potent attraction. Some gurus have repeated trances, coma like illnesses, go mute or communicate in strange ways (Gurdjieff, Maharshi, Amma Meera, Meher Baba).
A guru who needs to be taken care of, whose eccentricities and scandals must be
excused or rationalized by disciples, becomes not only their superhuman guide, but also their surrogate infant.
This combination can be quite powerful.
A therapist who is disciple of such a guru is re-enacting the role of an adult child of an alcoholic or mentally ill parent and will have blind spots.
A therapist who has learned in an ashram community to normalize and rationalize bizarre behavior may be unable to "catch on" if a client comes in describing a
relationship in which a partner is lapsing into bizarre or increasingly dependant behavior.
A therapist who rationalizes weird and needy behavior in a guru as holy madness
may be unable to remember what he or she learned in school and be unable to
clue in a client that this resembles addictive behavior, histrionic behavior or possibly a sign of borderline personality disorder in the clients troubled friend.
If a therapist cannot see what a guru does as bizarre, is serene because the sting of abuse and injustice is removed by belief in reincarnation, the therapist may have a serenity, a comfindence that a client wishes to internalize.
But if a client is determined to be a citizen and not a disciple, a skeptic, and not a devotee, and cannot accept reincarnation or the claims of an infalliable guru, a client will never be able to reach the kind of serenity
modeled by a therapist who is secretly or publicly an inmate of a guru centered
reincarnationalist cult, one in which most of the therapists friends share this same belief.
The skeptical client, who carries the burden of doubt and the pinch of feeling saddened by injustices in this one and only life, may risk feeling inferior
to the serenity modelled by a therapist who has beliefs and a way of life that brings constant self soothing, and in which pain is evaded and not confronted.