Andew Cohen – A Fallen Yogi : Commentary by James Swartz [Updated Sept 19, 2013]

Recently I received an email with a link to a web blog by a reasonably famous teacher, Andrew Cohen. He said he was stepping down so that he could work on himself and become a ‘better person.’ It was a surprising event because arrogant people invariably live in an ironclad state of denial, the better to project their emotional problems on others. In any case he is definitely a slow learner…evidently the chorus of angry voices that has followed him for twenty – seven years swelled to such a din that it became too loud to ignore. His statement will undoubtedly be seen as a courageous act of contrition, the uplifting resolve of a reprobate taking the first halting steps on the road to redemption. We wish him well and hope that he becomes th e person he needs to be.

The real lesson here is not his personal story but what it says about his view of enlightenment, since it was behind this view that he perpetrated so much misery. Had he been taught by a proper teacher…he was one of the first Papaji Neos…he might have actually known what enlightenment is and hundreds of people would have been spared so much heartache. Papaji, a shaktipat guru, propounded the experiential view of enlightenment.

Mr. Cohen was obviously not enlightened by even the most liberal definition. What he called enlightenment was merely a ‘deep awakening,’ an epiphany that had a profound effect on his ego. It convinced him that there was something ‘more’ than his way of seeing. It convinced him wrongly, that ‘he’ was ‘enlightened.’

In fact. enlightenment, as it is popularly conceived, is not enlightenment because enlightenment is not a special experience, an ‘awakening.’ It is the hard and fast knowledge, “I am awareness, the ‘light.’ It is not something that happens because you, awareness, were never unenlightened. You are unborn and never die. Experiences are born and die. They do not change you, make you into something else. If you take yourself to be an ego, an experiencing entity, you will be apparently modified by what happens to you, spiritual or otherwise. We do not like the word ‘enlightenment’ because of its experiential connotations but if you insist on using it, enlightenment is simply shedding ignorance of one’s nature as awareness. It is not the gain o f a special state or status.

Any experience is only as good as the interpretation of it. If I am awareness there is no way to conclude that I am special or unique and that I have something that you don’t, because everyone and everything is awareness. The understanding I am awareness neutralizes the ego, because the ego is just a notion of specialness and uniqueness. It does not mean that the ego disappears or is transcended. It means that it is known for what it is, an idea of separateness appearing in me, awareness.

We do not doubt the profundity of Mr. Cohen’s experience. We question his interpretation. Because anyone is free to define enlightenment in any way he or she chooses, he is free to call his epiphany enlightenment. However, it should be noted that most of the mischief in the spiritual world in the last thirty years from Muktananda to Osho and Adi Da right up the present…the examples of fallen gurus are too numerous to mention…can be laid squarely at the feet of the experiential view of enlightenment.

What actually happened? Under the spell of apparent ignorance, the self…limitless awareness…mistook itself for an experiencing entity, an ego, had a particular type of experience known as an ‘awakening’, declared itself enlightened and imagined that it had transcended itself. It came to believe that it now inhabited a special experiential niche reserved only for the few and that said experience empowered it to enlighten others not so blessed. Evidently, in Mr. Cohen’s case his exalted sta tus came with the companion belief that the end justifies the means, opening the door to abusive ‘teaching’.

This is the story: an ordinary ego had an extraordinary experience, one that changed its idea of itself but little else. The impurities that were there before the epiphany survived…as they do…and immediately out pictured when the experience ended…with predictable results. I recall hearing many stories of abuse at Mr. Cohen’s hands over the last twenty plus years.

The enlightenment scenario he envisioned, which he obviously did not critically examine, is classic duality. It amounts to splitting the ego into a transcendental self and a self to be transcended. To make this idea work, the ego needs to be in a a state of complete denial. It must imagine that the non-transcendent part of itself doesn’t exist. It didn’t exist for him but sadly it existed for everyone else. To keep the myth of transcendence alive, he was forced to lay the problem at the feet of those who hadn’t yet ‘transcended’, so his problem could easily be transferred elsewhere.

He finally admitted his folly. Without a trace of irony he said, “ My ego is alive and well.” What an epiphany! It should be brought to his attention that ego death or ego transcendence, contrary to popular belief, is perhaps the number one enlightenment myth. Nobody is transcendent because reality is non-dual. It is not a duality. There is only one self. You are awareness and awareness is ‘other than’ what it perceives, although what it perceives is only itself. During ‘awakening’ moments you are actually experiencing yourself as you are but ignorance survives these moments and it projects the experience on the ego. Vedanta calls this phenomenon superimposition ( adyaropa). You think that what be longs to you, awareness, belongs to the ego. When the experience wears off you go back to experiencing yourself as the ego but now you believe you are something other than your ego. You declare yourself ‘enlightened’ and imagine that you are qualified to teach others.

The name of the organization that Mr. Cohen founded tells the story, ‘Evolutionary Enlightenment.” It is an idea fit for doers who want to improve themselves. But enlightenment is not about becoming a better person. It is about discovering who you really are. Before you are a person, you are non-dual, actionless, ever-present, ordinary perfectly full awareness. The assumption underlying the evolutionary approach to suffering is incorrect…that reality is a duality, that you are in need of fixing, that you can do something to get what you already have, that you can ‘transcend.’ Even in the unlikely event that he happens to become a ‘better’ person, he is in store for further disappointment assuming he actually wants to be free. He will have to start his seeking over again from ground zero because his idea of enlightenment is incorrect.

Both people who imagine they are transcendent and those who accept the experiential view of enlightenment often fail to understand that life’s number one value is non-injury. Non-injury is the most valuable value because reality is non-dual. Non-duality means that you and I are non-separate. I will only injure something other than myself. Furthermore this fact implies that I love everyone as I love myself…because they are myself. When Mr. Cohen finally wakes up, this is a lesson that he will do well to contemplate. Here is his statement:

I’m fifty-seven years old and currently find myself facing the biggest challenge of my life. I’ve been a teacher of spiritual enlightenment for twenty – seven years. Enlightenment has always been and always will be about transcending the ego. Over the last several years, some of my closest students have tried to make it apparent to me that in spite of the depth of my awakening, my ego is still alive and well.

I’ve understood this simple truth — that we all have egos no matter how enlightened we may be — and even taught it to thousands of people all over the world throughout my career. But when I was being asked to face my own ego by those who were nearest and dearest to me, I resisted. And I often made their lives difficult as a result.

I’m aware that many of my students over the years have also been affected by my lack of awareness of this part of myself . And for those of you who are reading this, I apologize. As time passes I intend to reach out and engage in a process of dialogue with those of you who would like to.

In light of all this, for the sake of my own integrity as a spiritual teacher and as a human being, I’ve decided that I need to take some time off so I can make the effort to develop in many of the ways that I’ve asked other people to. Starting this fall, once I’ve fulfilled some prior commitments, I’m going to embark upon a sabbatical for an extended period of time. During this hiatus, I will be stepping down from the leadership of my organization, I won’t be publishing anything here on my blog, and will not be doing any public teaching.My intention is to become a better teacher, and more importantly, a better man.

One of the most beautiful fruits of my work over the years has been the international network of people who have studied, collaborated, and trained with me for so long. They are all examples of Evolutionary Enlightenment in their own right, and I couldn’t imagine a greater community of people to carry forward this movement. I’m looking forward to working with them in a very different way in the future.

Click here for a related book, “American Guru – A story of betrayal and healing”

And HERE on “Being and Becoming” Commentary.

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Reduced to Joy ~ Mark Nepo

Mark Nepo is emerging as one of the truly significant writers and thinkers of today. Nepo has a singular way of distilling great truths down to their essence. Moreover, during his cancer journey, Nepo relied on the power of expression and the writing process to keep him tethered to life. In Reduced to Joy, Mark Nepo explores the places where pain and joy are stitched to resilience, uncovering them with deep wisdom, poetic passages and personal revelations. Nepo reminds us all of the secret and sacred places within, forgotten in the noise and chatter of our busy distracted 21st Century lives. Reduced to Joy is a lesson in stillness, in standing in the mystery and, above all, in the work of love.

POEMS FROM THE BOOK

SO MUCH IS CARRIED
(for Saba)

When just a pup, I took her into winter.
While Paul photographed the heavy snow,
she, having never run free, circled wildly,
her little nose caked with white.

She slipped and broke the ice. I can still
see her puppy face underwater, looking
for a way out, her tiny paws swatting
at the thick clear deep.

With no thought, I was waist high and
wet, sweeping her into the air. She flew
a good twelve feet and landed with a thud.
She shook and started to shiver. We rubbed
her down for two hours, blowing her with
an old hair dryer. I held her in my shirt,
near my heart, the whole way home.

I’m fourteen years and seven states away
and she has died. My first dog. I close
my eyes and there she is, grown,
sniffing the air in an open field,
smelling things I couldn’t even sense.

How many times I’ve played that day
in the pond: her struggle underwater,
her drying on my chest.

How much that day has shaped my art:
always jumping in and sweeping what
has been baptized in the deep back
into the world, always holding it
near my heart. As if my life
depends on it.

THE SUBLIME DISTURBANCE

As the wind makes a different song
through the same tree as its branches
break, God makes finer and finer music
through the wearing down of our will.

WHERE IS GOD?

It’s as if what is unbreakable—
the very pulse of life—waits for
everything else to be torn away,
and then in the bareness that
only silence and suffering and
great love can expose, it dares
to speak through us and to us.

It seems to say, if you want to last,
hold on to nothing. If you want
to know love, let in everything.
If you want to feel the presence
of everything, stop counting the
things that break along the way.

Mark Nepo is a poet and philosopher who has taught in the fields of poetry, health, and spirituality for forty years. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, he has published fourteen books and recorded eight audio projects. Mark has appeared with Oprah Winfrey on her Super Soul Sunday program on OWN TV, and has also been interviewed by Robin Roberts on Good Morning America. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages. Mark keynotes regularly for conferences and corporations, works with healing and medical communities, including chaplains and therapists, speaks and offers workshops for colleges and universities, and leads spiritual retreats.

In 1987, Mark was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma. The heart of that journey and its aftermath has greatly informed his work. Ever since, he has been a student of all paths and his work has explored the common center and unity of all spiritual traditions, focusing on how we can experience that unity when we can lean into life and hold nothing back. Ultimately, he explores with others how to live wholeheartedly, so we can inhabit the gifts we are born with and find the language of our own wisdom.

Click here to browse inside.

A CONVERSATION WITH MARK ABOUT HIS NEW BOOK OF POEMS, REDUCED TO JOY

QUESTION: What inspired you to write this book?

MN: Poems come slowly. They break surface like dolphin after long stretches of going under. So writing a book of poems for me is different than writing my other books. I have to sit when I’m able and try to make heart-sense of what life has been doing to me and with me. Like wringing out a sponge, I squeeze what matters onto the page, let it dry, and see what’s there the next day. One by one, they gather into an instructive whole. All this to say, that by trying to make sense of my own experience, I’ve discovered a theme to the journey, that we are all reduced to joy, worn away of all excess. To survive this, we often need to hold each other up in order to discover and return to what matters. This book explores these essential relationships, which keep shaping me.

QUESTION: Can you speak about the nature of joy and what keeps us from it?
MN: For me, joy is different than happiness. While happiness is a fleeting mood, joy is larger and more lasting than any one feeling. If each feeling is a wave of emotion, then joy is the ocean that holds all feelings. As I get older, I’m coming to realize that joy is central to our knowing peace. It’s one deep way that we access Oneness. I’m also beginning to see that joy is the hum of Oneness. It’s the sensation of being connected to life itself. Another way to speak of joy is to say that it’s the reward for facing our experience. Often, what keeps us from joy is the menacing assumption that life is happening other than where we are. So we are always leaving, running from or running to. What keeps us from joy, then, is often not being where we are and not valuing what is before us.

QUESTION: These poems are gathered from the last thirteen years of your life. How would you describe your journey over these years and how you’ve changed or grown during this time?

MN: With each hardship and loss, friendships matter more and not just with people, but with nature and time and with life itself. This last decade has made me more vulnerable and stronger at the same time. I feel there is less between me and what I experience. I think I’ve been reduced more and more to what is essential, less able to pretend or look away. I still get tripped up by fear and worry and at times forget where I’ve been and who I am. But this is all part of the endless journey. I’ve become a student of things as they are and this has led me to the astonishing guidance that all things are true. I simply have to keep my heart open long enough to discover how.

QUESTION: You talk a lot about “working with what we’re given” as a way to discover a meaningful life. Can you talk more about this?

MN: Try as we do to resist what we’re given, this is only doorway to truth. Not all that we’re given is difficult. There are many blessings and gentle surprises along the way. But we all waste too much time and energy either denying where we find ourselves or fighting where we find ourselves. When what’s before us is always a shy teacher insisting on our attention. I love the great Czech poet Vaclav Havel’s definition of hope as “not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Working with what we’re given is the mirror to uncovering our true nature.

QUESTION: The final section of the book is called “Falling in Love with the World.” What does this mean and how do we go about living this way?

MN: When we can find the courage and support to be where we are, completely, when we can find the wherewithal to meet what we’re given honestly, when we can see our feelings all the way through, then we open ourselves to an inner form of gravity that has us lean into life rather than pull away. This leaning into life with a fragile bareness awakens us to the tender irreplaceable side of life. It is here that we can’t help but fall in love with the world, in spite of its harshness and unpredictability.

QUESTION: In one of your poems, you refer to “the messy art of facing things” and how we sometimes hurt those closest to us. Why is facing things necessary and how can we go about doing it?

MN: The art of facing things is necessary because without it, we replay our struggles on everything around us. So if you want to lessen the amount of violence in the world, the first thing you can do is to commit to facing what is yours to face. When we don’t own what life brings us, we project our pain onto others. I’ve found over time that the first way for me to gather the courage to face my life is to renew my foundational belief that I will survive the discomfort of psychological and emotional pain. In fact, avoiding inner pain only intensifies it. Somehow I need to risk being reshaped by what I face. And the art of facing things isn’t just difficult and messy. It’s also beautiful and tender. Without facing things and each other, intimacy is not possible. No one knows the secret path to all this. Another reason we need each other.

QUESTION: In another poem, you look at what it means to know something by heart. Can you explain this and why it’s important?

MN:[Excerpt from poem]: To graduate into the world, we are
required to memorize practical and odd things: the number
of feet in a mile, the year Henry VIII beheaded Anne Boleyn,
the degree at which clouds will freeze their rain. But since
death is the mirror we eventually move through, let’s stop
carrying the things we repeat and start holding things
with our eyes.

I’ve been struck by how we’re trained away from direct, unscripted living. It’s interesting, as I mention in the poem, that “to know by heart” has been reduced to memorization. When the original sense of knowing something by heart is to be touched by what we meet so completely that our compassion is awakened. When we memorize things, we live in our heads and tend to track life rather than enter it. To truly know something or someone by heart means we will, no doubt, be changed for the experience. And ultimately, as prepared as we try to be, the goal of life is to be surprised into a greater depth of connection and being. Ironically, to be touched by life, we often have to put down what we know in order to be refreshed and re-vitalized by what we don’t know.

QUESTION: Finally, what do you hope readers will take with them from REDUCED TO JOY?

MN: My hope is that the poems in this book will serve as a threshold to an underlying connection to the greater life we are all a part of. I hope the book will be a resource for the reader when faced with the difficulties of living. I hope the poems will confirm that, no matter the struggle you find yourself in, you are not alone. May these poems be honest companions on the journey to joy.

An Evening with Mark Nepo

Published on Apr 22, 2013

Poetry readings by Mark Nepo at All Saints Church, Pasadena, at 7 p.m. on Sunday, April 21, 2013. For more about All Saints Church visit htt;://www.allsaints-pas.org.

Book of Enlightenment by Anadi

Book of Enlightenment is the complete exposition of the teaching of Anadi, the most complete revelation of the truth of self-realization present on the planet. It is a revolutionary compendium of spiritual knowledge addressed to those commencing their inner journey, as well as those who have already reached higher levels of spiritual realization

The purpose of this book is to reveal the multidimensional evolution of human consciousness from the state of ignorance to the state of wholeness. It is a book of spiritual guidance directed to uncompromising seekers of truth, a precise elucidation of the deepest secrets of the spiritual realm and the path to self-realization. It is not offered as a manual of enlightenment, for the ultimate truth of awakening cannot be reduced to a conceptual model. Rather, this book should serve as a guiding light for those mature enough to apply conceptual knowledge towards a non-conceptual apperception of reality.
Anadi lives in India and teaches through the medium of meditation retreats throughout the world. He is the author of three previous titles, Enlightenment Beyond Traditions, Transmission of Awakening and The Human Buddha, which were published under the name Aziz Kristof.

Anadi’s life has been dedicated with uncompromising devotion to the completion of his spiritual path. Among other traditions, he studied in depth Advaita in India and Zen Buddhism in Korea and Japan. Based on his disillusionment with the level of understanding and clarity present in past traditions of enlightenment, throughout many years of personal struggle, evolution and exploration of the inner realm, he has created a unique system of teaching, presenting an entirely new vision of human enlightenment based on multidimensional evolution into the state of wholeness.

Anadi has been teaching for over 15 years. He currently lives in North India and gives meditation retreats regularly in India and Israel.

Click here to take a look inside.

Anadi – Buddha at the Gas Pump Interview

Anadi’s life has been dedicated with uncompromising devotion to the completion of his spiritual path. Among other traditions, he studied in depth Advaita in India and Zen Buddhism in Korea and Japan. Based on his disillusionment with the level of understanding and clarity present in past traditions of enlightenment, throughout many years of personal struggle, evolution and exploration of the inner realm, he has created a unique system of teaching, presenting an entirely new vision of human enlightenment based on multidimensional evolution into the state of wholeness.

Anadi has been teaching for over 15 years. He currently lives in North India and gives meditation retreats regularly in India and Israel.

anaditeaching.com

Recorded 9/7/2013

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