I owe much to guru and lineage. Without having had a guru, I would not have discovered this yogic path, nor ventured far upon it. Without his guru, I would not have met him. Without the great Nityananda, none of us would have made this journey at all. Nevertheless, many years ago I was disillusioned with my guru. It hurt soooo much, I was soooo disappointed, I cried many, many bitter tears and it took years to heal from it. For anyone who might be suffering or might have suffered, this is the story of my healing.
It took years to heal from it. But something much better came from the process than I was able to imagine during the hurtful years. I found in insight that disillusionment is not so much an indictment of another person or institution, it is an indictment of my own illusions, and I am much better off without them. There is spiritual restoration in that. And in the end, I am profoundly grateful for having had a guru. His personality is his business, and mine is my spiritual life. But disillusionment really does hurt
Disillusionment really does hurt
It is a paroxysm of anguish, a huge pain in the heart, a feeling of loss, the trauma of having trusted and been manipulated, betrayed, lied to, bullied, vilified … and wondering in the anguish whether your spiritual disposition is itself a fantasy along with the rest. How to work through all that?
Polarity and poison
When the s–t hits the fan, the prevailing attitudes are polarised between blaming the guru and blaming the disciple. In my case, I was the only one hurting, while the rest were entrenched in their rosy coloured view. Currently there are many hurting. There is a constant stream of people begging me to endorse their view, either to endorse or to condemn, either him or them. In my own case, the polarity was between my friends and relatives on one side (“He’s bad, you’re good”) and those in the ashram community on the other (“You’re bad, he’s good”), and that unbalanced relativity made the going hard for me. The atmosphere is poisoned, where anything you might say is twisted around by your hearers and hijacked to push their own wagon.
Fortunately in my time, I found one, only one, person who was able to remain impartial and neither condemn nor endorse either him or me. She probably kept me sane. That impartiality also gave me the beginnings of a mental space where I could work through the pain.
Working through the pain
This was my process. It was in isolation, as I walked away from my guru for about 10 years.
First: Can’t forgive, don’t even want to forgive
The work of this stage was to investigate the source of my resentments. The obvious one was “what he did”, but with a little more digging, there was “what I wanted vs what I got”. This level was very hard, and holding to the self-observation of “what I wanted vs what I got” often slipped back to the miserable victim feelings of “what he did”.
- Willing to forgive but can’t yet
This stage was easier… it reduced the stress of feeling bad in every way – about what had happened to me and what a failure I felt. I could feel better about myself for my willingness, but still let myself off actually forgiving for a while longer. At the same time, there was a softening in my attitude to the hurtful person, a chink of possibility that his personality syndrome or some other factor might drive his behaviour. I could take things a smidgeon less personally.
- Can Forgive
At this point, I felt very good and superior. After all, hadn’t I risen to the point where I could forgive some horrible behaviour, allow some real slack to my tormentor? Forgiving felt good for a while, and, oh, if it were only that simple… but no, the urge to keep digging drove me deeper, only to find more and more of my own patterns.
- Discovering my self-righteousness
Do you know how unpleasant it was as the next realisation began pricking my awareness? The discovery was that to forgive, I must first judge; and, while cutting some slack, I still had the other on the hook of my view of moral superiority.
- Nothing to forgive
Working with the realisation of ego-serving judgement was painful in itself. As the process continued, allowing that new pain, digging into it, I found that, actually, I had nothing to forgive. I had been on the receiving end of someone’s bad behaviour – so what? In a world of good and bad and kind and cruel, I would not be the first or the last human to experience another’s bad behaviour. Somehow the situation became non-personal, and the pain began to disappear along with the illusion that my spiritual teacher should meet my criteria instead of his own. That was neither endorsement nor condemnation, and it was a truly significant step in my approach to non-dualistic spiritual experience.
This period must have come several years after the beginning. Just to be able to accept my personality, neither good nor bad, only human, and the other’s personality, neither good nor bad, only human – it was a relief. The illusory world of my ego-connected ideals began to tumble down, and I stared Reality in the face, and found it adorable.
- Nothing to accept or reject
This was a sublime realisation, and at this point, I began to evolve into a spiritual realist. Reality is where the divine is to be found. In the reality of my hurt, there was God. In the reality of my guru’s personality, there was God. In the reality of friends and critics, there is God. In the process of discovery, there was the presence of the divine, more intimate than my breath, closer than my next thought, more loving than any social relationship could proffer.
- Experience is divine
The immediate trauma of hurt and anguish cannot be washed away by a discussion of what ought to be, what should be, nor can it be fixed by putting rules in place to legislate for how individuals evolve. Eventually, as each one finds his or her healing process, we have to come to the recognition that emotional reaction is a response to perception, not to experience. Despite all the “should” rules, experience is just what it is. In that “what is”, there is infinite space – space for self-respect, and respect for someone whom you might not particularly like; space for self-compassion and other-compassion. We grow into empathy. And so I returned to my guru to complete my sadhana.
As you may suppose, it was no easy journey to shift from traumatic hurt to sublime experience. Part of the early motivation was that I didn’t want to lose my spiritual direction just because someone else behaved badly, even with the curious karma that it was my spiritual teacher. But that is where the karma gets stranger and stranger. My guru knew how to be the guru. He never gave one inch on reasonableness or negotiation or resolution. It was sink or swim – sink into the murky waters of judgment, loss, resentment, and get stuck in the bog of ego-oriented goals; or learn to swim in the pure waters that lap the shores beyond samsara, beyond the ego, beyond the mind-created idea of self.
I Honour the Guru and the Lineage
I discovered profound spiritual truth through having a guru. There is no way I can reposition this, even if I wanted to. I discovered him because of his guru. And he discovered his guru because of the sweet energy of Nityananda.
In the process of my sadhana, I got to know my guru’s personality very well. It is his business and his karma, both for better and for worse. Occasionally he would say to me, “there is only one way to be the guru”. In a sense, he was quite accurate in that. The capacity of the guru to stand firm against the demanding ego of the disciple is indispensable, and only the guru will do it. Everyone else will participate with you on the social level, of stroking your ego and negotiating for resolution. The guru has to know when not to participate on that level. That is a different issue, though, from the personality of the guru or corrupt behaviour by the guru. In respecting my lineage, I do not endorse the corruption of some within it.
Now in my turn, some seek me out as teacher and guru. I am not my guru, nor his guru, nor do I stand in their place.. I am myself, and my model is the avadhut Nityananda, who wanted nothing and needed nothing, but exuded love. And from that state, all is accomplished.
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