Sunday, August 29, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Siddha Yoga may be a house divided, but I still think there is a chance that those who left and those who have stayed can stake out some middle ground. It is in the best interest of both sides to do so. Many of us who have abandoned our practice still seek some kind of permanent closure to a chapter in our lives that ended as abruptly as it once began with the "big bang" of our shaktipat experience. And those who have remained are an embattled minority struggling with the same issues that caused the rest of us to leave--only they cannot talk freely and openly about their fears, doubts and questions, because of the culture of secrecy that surrounds everything having to do with the Siddha Guru.
What is needed is an honest, open dialogue minus the kind of invective that plagued many of the letters here (however slim the chance for that may be.) If we could all sit down and have that heart-to-heart, here are the hard questions I would ask of those who continue to practice.
The first big question I have is: how do you deal emotionally with the fact that Gurumayi has disappeared? She has not been seen in public since New Year's Day 2004--which is just a few months shy of the time required before a person is declared legally dead. In a spiritual path dedicated to the worship of the living perfected master (and whatever else Siddha Yoga is, it is certainly that) this is a crushing blow. Particularly given that the "official" position of the SYDA Foundation is to pretend this never happened. In this very article in Salon they write:
"For almost three decades, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, the spiritual head of the Siddha Yoga path, has guided students through her teachings."
This is a pretty piece of propaganda. Notice that they do not say Gurumayi is still in an active teaching role, rather, she guides "through her teachings." This kind of obfuscation is shameful, and you who remain faithful certainly deserve better. So, the second thing I would ask is:
How do you justify to yourself that SYDA refuses to explain where Gurumayi is, why she retired from an active role, and when, if ever, she will resume her role as Guru? Is it because you truly do find her guidance within in the form of the "inner Guru"? And has this need to accept her disappearance without any official explanation fueled your inner quest, strengthened your identification with the inner Guru, or does it ever rankle, does it ever make you question the path?
Finally, whenever SYDA is forced to address the question of the future of Siddha Yoga, it never, ever mentions Gurumayi. Instead, it performs a neat sleight of hand, inserting itself in place of the Guru with uninspiring formulations that only a lawyer could love, such as:
"The purpose of the SYDA Foundation is to protect, preserve and disseminate the teachings... for future generations."
Who are these future generations, and why do they take precedence over the current generation of young people who were orphaned by the Guru before they were old enough to understand that loss? You know, the teenagers and young adults who learned of the Guru from their mother's knees, who sat beside her chair during darshan, the fresh young faces whom Gurumayi once claimed she was concentrating on teaching? Do you remember when Gurumayi told us old-timers during her last Labor Day talk in Fallsburg that "your begging bowls are full" and it was now time to turn her attention to the next generation? Except that she didn't. Can you remember subsequent summers in South Fallsburg full of programs for young people, special Intensives held exclusively for the under 21 set, courses designed especially to help teenagers and young adults apprehend and communicate the teachings? No, of course not, because they never happened. Outside of a few satsangs that Gurumayi held for the children of ashram residents and, of course, a few treacly children's books and tapes, this new flowering of Siddha Yoga died on the vine.I guess it all comes down to this: if your own children are growing up without the Siddha Guru, how do you imagine that future generations will be attracted to become her disciples?
Monday, August 23, 2010
just living is enough
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Of course, the "chick" of most interest to us in this flick is the guru whom Gilbert visits in India—the focus of the central "Pray" storyline. Gilbert never mentions her guru by name, but both the book and movie give enough identifying details to make plain that it is Gurumayi. As Riddhi Shah notes in the recent Salon article about Siddha Yoga's connection to the film, there are only so many female gurus in India who require daily chanting of the Guru Gita at their ashram in a small village outside of Mumbai. And who served as translator for their guru before ascending to the chair in their early twenties. It's not hard to do the math.
So, if Siddha Yoga and Gurumayi are the focus of the most successful publishing and movie phenomenon of the decade, why is the SYDA Foundation trying so hard to hide this fact? It's not as if Gilbert's account of her time in India is negative. Quite to the contrary, her glowingly positive experience has moved hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, awakening a hunger for authentic Eastern spirituality, Siddha Yoga style.
The first hint that SYDA was running from the connection between Gurumayi and Eat, Pray, Love came in a comment to this blog around the time of Gurumayi's birthday celebration this year. On June 25th, Anon wrote:
One writer...posted a Facebook greeting in celebration of 'the Birthday,' and referred in these offerings of love to 'the One I cannot name' (without the slightest touch of irony, Potter-wise). When asked to explain, the response was: 'Many of my Facebook friends are of a community that have the same Guru, and they lived in or visited the ashram I lived in for 20 years. Many of us have been asked by the Guru's foundation to not use her name, or the name of the path, in our own writings. It is a way of preserving the purity of the path, instead of letting it be seen or judged by what others say about it.'
Then, on August 8th, just in advance of Eat, Pray, Love's film release, SYDA issued a letter to the global sangham, stating in no uncertain terms that:
"The film is not a representation of the Siddha Yoga Path, and the SYDA Foundation has not been involved in the production of the film."
Why, you must be asking, would SYDA lie about something so simple to check? And why their insistence that current Siddha Yoga students maintain a vow of silence surrounding Gurumayi? The answers to both questions are simple, but you are not going to like them.
First, they are not lying: the account that Elizabeth Gilbert gave of Siddha Yoga does not represent the path as it is currently practiced. Her experience of a deep, personal soul connection with a living Guru may be achingly familiar to anyone who practiced Siddha Yoga under Baba or Gurumayi's tutelage during the 1970's, 80's or 90's--but those days are long gone and over for good. This is the inescapable meaning of SYDA's statement. It literally makes no sense otherwise. Gurumayi has not been seen in public since New Year's Day 2004--just four months shy of the time required before a person is declared legally dead. The physical Guru--who was the focus, the pole star, the living breathing center, the sine qua non of Siddha Yoga--is no more.
Which is why it makes all the sense in the world that SYDA would forbid Siddha Yoga students from reminiscing about the old days within earshot of a press and public newly eager to learn all about the path in the wake of Eat, Pray, Love. By throwing a veil of secrecy around Gurumayi under the pretense of protecting "the path" from the grubby attentions of outsiders, they are attempting to build a firewall around the past, cordoning and sealing it off from view. After all, nothing would be more inconvenient than for thousands and thousands of newcomers to arrive at the door of Siddha Yoga ashrams and centers around the world breathless for a glimpse of the living Guru when she is never coming back.
Think about it. During Siddha Yoga's expansionist phase under Gurumayi in the early 1990's every single devotee was urged, coached and prodded to share their experience of the path with family and friends. There was even a course dedicated solely to teaching people how to talk to their loved ones about Siddha Yoga. Major satellite Intensives sparked an international effort for Siddha Yoga students to reach out and enroll as many people as possible to come see the Guru, if not in person than via broadcast, and to receive Shaktipat initiation with just one touch, one look, one word from the living Guru. It was not only understood but taught that Siddha Yoga could only grow and fulfill its global mission person-to-person through heart to heart sharing.
But now that Gurumayi has gone missing, SYDA says that it is vitally important that Siddha Yoga students NOT share their experience of the path, going so far as to proscribe them from even using the names Gurumayi or Siddha Yoga in writing so as to preserve the purity of the path, instead of letting it be seen or judged by what others say about it.
You see, there must be a period of retrenchment and reversal, during which Siddha Yoga students are taught to NOT expect a relationship with the physical Guru, but to look for and find her in the teachings instead. This is the meaning behind SYDA's repeated insistence that its core purpose is to protect, preserve and disseminate the teachings for future generations. You only protect and preserve something that is finite in quantity--as in the past speeches and writings of Gurumayi and Baba, because there will not be anymore.
It is the SYDA Foundation that owns the copyright to all the countless hours of audio and video talks, all of Baba's and Gurumayi's books and writings. Siddha Yoga has become a legal fiction. Gurumayi has left the building. The Guru/Disciple relationship is dead. Only SYDA survives and it is doing nothing more than protecting its investment with these stilted, legalese announcements.
But it gets worse. While SYDA may have survived Gurumayi's unspoken abdication, it has no real hope of attracting new students to such a moribund and depressingly circumscribed path. If it did, it would have done everything in its power to capitalize on the Eat, Pray, Love juggernaut. One could imagine SYDA mounting an outreach effort that honestly stated Gurumayi has retired from an active role, but that invited new students to find her in the immutable, ancient teachings of the path. Ah, but there's the rub. The sole thing that made Siddha Yoga unique was not its mediation techniques, or chanting in sanskrit, or its gloss on Kashmir Shaivism (which is taught all over India) but its teachings on the seeker's inescapable need for a living, powerful, charismatic Guru. Like the one Elizabeth Gilbert met once upon a time and wrote so movingly of in her experience share par excellence--Eat, Pray, Love.
Listen. If you are still heroically practicing Siddha Yoga in the absence of its defining "Siddha Guru" you are being cynically exploited by SYDA. The Foundation has become a parasite that feeds off of your love, money and hard work and offers nothing in return but warnings to keep silent about your experiences lest you spoil "the purity of the path," and the empty promise of extending the teachings to future generations---the same teachings that are belied by the ghosts of Gurus past.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
No one has claimed to have seen Gurumayi in years.
As always, SYDA speaks out of both sides of its mouth. Currently, its obsessively repeated talking point is that "the Siddha Yoga Foundation's main purpose is to disseminate Siddha Yoga teachings." After decades of promoting the most slavish (and ultra lucrative) worship of the physical Guru in the persons of Muktananda and Gurumayi, SYDA would now like you to believe that the Guru equals the teachings, nothing more.
Of course, what is left unsaid is that THE main teaching of Siddha Yoga is the absolute necessity of the aspirant to forge a personal relationship with the Siddha Guru in order to attain liberation--the goal of all spiritual seeking.
It's a neat sleight of hand, designed to distract the eye from the terrible paradox that Siddha Yoga has become: Siddha Yoga teaches that you need the physical Guru to attain enlightenment; the Guru is no longer physically present but always available to students in the form of her teachings; the teachings state that the student needs the physical Guru.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
What is particularly cruel about this shell game is how dismissive it is to those who are still trying to practice Siddha Yoga. The comments on this blog alone are rife with the pain of those who cling to the practices, enduring empty satsangs at their local centers, canned New Year's "teachings" that repeat verbatim year after year with depressing monotony, expensive Intensives that are dry of Shakti and conducted by exhausted swamis who run from the attendees lest they be asked yet again for any news of Gurumayi's whereabouts. And, after putting up with all this, and still remaining attached (in a now wholly-inconvenient parlance) to the Guru's feet, these seekers have to listen to SYDA insisting that "for almost three decades, Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, the spiritual head of the Siddha Yoga path, has guided students through her teachings."
Well, it's time to put up or shut up, SYDA. I promise to write a check in the amount of $1,000 to the Foundation if it can produce one written piece of evidence that Gurumayi is still actively teaching. One invitation to an open public program in which Gurumayi (and not her disembodied, pre-recorded voice) has actually appeared and spoken in the past year. Not a private gathering for a few rich devotees who paid exorbitant amounts for a chance to coax Gurumayi back into her saffron robes for a few hours. A program open to your rank and file Siddha Yoga students.
Just one. Your move.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
I am writing to respond to inquiries that The SYDA Foundation has received regarding an upcoming movie, Eat, Pray, Love. I am told this film is based on a book of the same title and includes an account of one woman's alleged spiritual retreat in India. A number of people have asked if The SYDA Foundation is aware of this film and if the film represents the Siddha Yoga path.
First, let me say that of course we are aware of the film. The SYDA Foundation is aware of many things most things everything. Allow me to share with you the perspective of The SYDA Foundation regarding this film. It is NOT a representation of the Siddha Yoga path. Now, some people may say but I saw Elizabeth Gilbert at South Fallsburgh and I know for a fact that she traveled to Ganeshpuri to be with Gurumayi, she was one of us, a devotee, what do you mean the book and film about her Guru don't portray Siddha Yoga? To those people I say YES! Yes, the book and movie do not represent the path. Also, The SYDA Foundation was not involved in the production of this film. We weren't even brought on as technical consultants, for Christ's sake.
Not that any of that matters. The core purpose of The SYDA Foundation is to Protect, Preserve and Disseminate the Siddha Yoga teachings! And to insure that the Siddha Yoga path is maintained as An Enduring Legacy for students Now and For Generations to Come, Amen. This is our focus our bread and butter our get-that-bitch-back scheme for leaving us in the lurch.
When Gilbert first wrote her book we hit her with a cease and desist order designed to lock her lips in full-lotus permanently unless SYDA got a cut of the action. And it worked, for awhile. But once she brought in the Hollywood guns I guess all bets were off. Those fockers don't freak around, they're freakin SCIENTOLOGISTS! We got served with papers that threatened to, well, legally I'm not allowed to discuss specifics but let's just say that waking up as a demon in a waterless place would have been an ESCAPE from what those papers promised.
So. To reiterate. The SYDA Foundation does not participate in activities that are unrelated to its core purpose as stated above. The SYDA Foundation does not seek publicity or...wait a sec, checking papers for exact wording here...gain from commercial ventures such as the film Eat, Pray, Love.
If friends or relatives would like to learn about the Siddha Yoga path and its teach...oh, what's the use. We're the focus of the biggest Hollywood phenomenon in decades and we can't even talk about it. This sucks.