Dear reader

Why do I write about pitfalls of spirituality?

My purpose with this blog is to crystallize and share my thoughts and experiences, in the hope that you and I may benefit from them. From 1993-2005 I practiced a so-called spiritual method (Sahaj Marg). Ultimately I realized that this method - and especially the organization around it (Shri Ram Chandra Mission or SRCM)- was contrary to some deep spiritual layer in myself. I came to some clear conclusions, and also to some still developing insights.

One still developing insight is that almost everybody is looking for some form of spirituality in their life. Therefore there are many spiritual methods and movements, often with similar pitfalls to the ones I experienced.

Many people follow a well-trodden path which is defined by the group in their immediate vicinity. Others are prompted by their heart and/or head to look for spirituality that makes sense on a personal level. Spirituality gives fulfillment -humanity as one, universal love growing, one with the buddha- as well as direction through life's tough questions.

I write about the pitfalls of spirituality because so many others seem to write mostly about the bliss of their own approach to spirituality. This bliss to me actually seems a pitfall.

Understanding the pitfalls I deem essential to gain more spiritual insight. For me this actually translates into a lighter and more loving heart. I do not believe that understanding is the key issue in spirituality. But I do believe that misunderstanding can block key issues (although to which degree probably varies with each person).

Please bear with my frequent use of I feel, seems to me, in my not so humble opinion and so on. It is to emphasize that I do not consider any of my opinions to be more than that. I cannot bring you universal truth. In my not so humble opinion [imnsho] universal truth is a major pitfall in spirituality.

Dear reader, I hope you find something worthwhile on these pages. Friendly reactions, which may be as critical as you like, are always welcome.

Tips how to read this blog

* Please start with the closing remarks (click on the link), they should provide a balanced perspective on this blog.

* There is a list of 20 pitfalls in the sidebar. Clicking on a pitfall will provide a number of posts in which that pitfall is discussed to some extent.

* If you have time, consider starting with the oldest post, and simply going through to each next post. This probably gives the most faithful ;-) reading...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Some closing remarks 2

Last september, it seemed to me that what I set out to do on this blog was done. So I wrote some closing remarks 1, with the idea `enough is enough'.

In January, I realized there were still some things left to discuss, so after some hesitation I started posting again. And now I find myself yet again at the point of closure: the relevant issues have been discussed enough.

So first: thank you, all commentators who provided me with feedback and suggestions, and thereby with inspiration to continue.

Then let me simply repeat my earlier closing remarks, putting them at the top of this blog where they belong.

####### (Repeated from September:)

The best way to read this blog (I think) is to start out at the oldest post and click on `newer post' (at the bottom of the post) each time. This might take some time though, I have no idea how much pages of a regular book these posts would fill.

Notwithstanding the pitfalls discussed here, I've had many positive experiences with regard to spirituality, and also with regard to practising a spiritual method. In my life I've been privileged to have met many kind, loving, wonderful people from whom I have learned a great deal about what spirituality means to me. Many of these people have given me what cannot be expressed in words, without second thought or reserve, out of what to me seems true and inspiring altruism. Thank you all.

It might seem negatively balanced also to only talk about pitfalls of spirituality, but I really do not feel that I can add significantly to the many beautiful texts on positive aspects of spirituality existing already. (My personal attitude is to read beyond certain often-occurring pitfalls to find what is to me the real meaning in a spiritual text.)

Non-absolute, non-divisive, individualized spirituality to me seems necessary to bring about what I would call a better world. A world free of exploitation. A world where children are safe, and can grow up playfully. Where `war' and `poverty' are strange concepts from long-forgotten times. Where humans are the custodians of nature. Where human and animal rights are respected. Where difference of opinion goes together with a friendly helping attitude. Etc. You might say: `dream on'...and I would reply (I think) with John Lennon's song Imagine:

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

This better world is far more important to me and probably you (why else would you be reading this blog?) than most other things. Including of course this blog, which is as personal as it is imperfect. Let's put aside our differences and combine our efforts to make this world a better place.


Anonymous said...

why do you keep yourself such small goals? and why do you keep shifting them?

When we set out to do something, in your case, expose the mis-deeds of the cult you were fooled by, do not rest till the aim is achieved, ideally the aim should be to make sure that the said cult is not able to fool anyone else in name of spirituality, which it did with you.

Are you sure the work you have done (this blog) is enough to get the said cult on back foot and this blog will be able to force them to expose themselves more in public which otherwise they would have not?


franka waaldijk said...

hi shashwat, you wrote:

why do you keep yourself such small goals? and why do you keep shifting them?

let me quote the description of this blog above (which has not changed since the beginning):

My purpose with this blog is to crystallize and share my thoughts and experiences, in the hope that you and I may benefit from them.

i fail to see in what way this goal has shifted. regarding your remark that it is a small goal, well that is up to you to determine.

the goals which you mention subsequently are goals which i do not have. to me they seem to be more the goals which you have set yourself with your blogs.

i believe that most followers of spiritual movements want to be fooled, or at least do not want to have the fooling exposed because such exposure will threaten the benefit that they feel they are getting.

for humanity to reach a stage where spirituality becomes universal, without being dominated by the pitfalls analyzed here, will take a lot of time, in my not so humble opinion.

focusing on one movement in the way that you suggest, in my eyes would distract from the purpose of this blog: namely to provide people who feel caught up in whatever spiritual movement or religion with some handholds to judge their situation.

the one shifting that you are probably correct in, is that in a few posts and a few comments, i have mentioned sahaj marg at all. this has been a difficult balance.

because on the one hand i have been truly indignant about chari's speech on homosexuality, and about the money schemes associated with `whispers from the brighter world'. but i also see these two issues as extremely good examples of the way things function in many spiritual movements.

the only other spiritual movement of which i am from cultural background and personal experience well informed is the catholic church. that is why i have included the wealth of the vatican in my discussion.

i was sorely tempted to write something on the absolute disgraceful excommunication of a team of doctors (and two parents?) recently in brazil, by an archbishop. the doctors had performed an abortion on a 9-yr old girl who had become pregnant after rape.

when one reads the incredible things the archbishop says to justify his excommunicating the doctors, well, it is difficult not to react.

but this is not the purpose of this blog. this occurrence in brazil is a perfect example of a number of pitfalls discussed here. `us & them', `power', `absolute truth', to name a few.

any interested reader of this blog can therefore find my commentary on such events already through the analysis of these pitfalls.

i do not wish to maintain a blog discussing all the wrongs in the world. i'm not saying it would be an unworthy endeavour, but i would not have the energy to do it in a good way.

to correct the wrongs in the world, that is where i believe what i wrote in my closing remarks:

Non-absolute, non-divisive, individualized spirituality to me seems necessary to bring about what I would call a better world. A world free of exploitation. A world where children are safe, and can grow up playfully. Where `war' like `poverty' is a strange concept from long-forgotten times. Where humans are the custodians of nature. Where human and animal rights are respected. Where difference of opinion goes together with a friendly helping attitude.

dear shashwat, thanks for your interest. i hope i have answered your questions a little bit, even if no doubt you will tend to look at things differently.

Shashwat said...

when i said "shifting of goals" i meant, "shifting of focus" from what you planed to do when you started, because aim is not as important as chosen path is, if the path chosen is perfect, aim is bound to be achieved, in essence, if we shift focus, we in-turn shift goal, because goal is totally dependent on the path we chose to achieve it.

For example your aim was to share your though and experience "about so called spiritual movements".

My concern is here itself, how can we generalize our experience with a cult with a bunch of spiritual movements? I am not sure, but may be it is much better to focus on things which we can do best rather then scattering our energy on various issues.

This world is balanced, for every good (search for truth) there is an evil (Sahaj Marg). and for every evil (SRCM) there is good also (us, the bloggers). Taking up responsibility of enlightening masses about "pitfalls of spirituality" based on experience of a single cult, doesn't impresses me much.

We all were fooled by sahaj marg at some point of time. But we realized that we are being fooled, and that's the best part of our association with sahaj marg.

There are many people like us, who have saved themselves from clutches of this cult of sahaj marg, but many are still trapped, the horror of sahaj marg is not limited to this aspect, there are many more who are getting trapped still.... and that's the dangerous part.

As a responsible citizen of civilized society, we are accountable for the suffering of those who are either trapped in this cult, or getting trapped, because we have realized how harmful this cult is potentially.

So in nut-shell, our aim can be absolute eradication of this cult from our society. Because we have realized. As i had expressed in my previous posts, state of this blog is quite confusing, it is tailor made for sahaj marg, this is the truth because this the ONLY experience, which lead to this blog eventually, (correct me if i am wrong).

Because you have in-depth understanding of functioning of this cult, expose it to the masses so that your aim, which is to crystallize and share my thoughts and experiences, in the hope that you and I may benefit from them gets fulfilled not only precisely but also becomes more accurate.


franka waaldijk said...

shashwat, it seems to me we are more or less repeating an earlier discussion (see previous closing remarks of september).

you think that i should be more focused on sahaj marg, and that i should continue writing about this movement.

however, i quite disagree. i think i have explained this quite enough. also, what i perceive as your strong zeal to `eradicate' `evil' srcm, in my eyes has a high chance of being counterproductive in many senses.

i don't think spirituality is served by such zeal. it leads again to `us & them'. it has the same characteristics of `absolute truth' as the absolute truths of spiritual movements.

in my not so humble opinion, many many followers of spiritual movements are kind loving spiritual people, whose company and companionship i really appreciate.

by analyzing pitfalls, i hope to help some of these people to understand certain mechanisms that may be bothering them.

so please, let's agree to disagree. you have your goals, and they seem to be rather different than mine. you do not believe in my goals, but that is reciprocate ;-) kind regards, frank

Kringle said...

My prayers to you in your spiritual journey!

Unknown said...

Frank, thank you for you comment and request at About your invitation to keep my posts anonymous, it is not necessary. However, I would like the email address you mentioned.

I shall read your blog and comment if I feel I have anything to add. From a quick glance you seem to be sincere and thoughtful.

Do you have a Facebook account?

Clark Powell

franka waaldijk said...

dear clark, i opened a facebook account, and have waited quite some time for you to respond to my once repeated invitation to comment on the issues raised in this blog. (you said you would give some interesting and perhaps unexpected reply, so i was a little expectant).

it seems you have removed your criticisms and doubts about sahaj marg from the web.

since 2005 i have been unable to find a sahaj marg abhyasi willing to really discuss the issues raised in this blog. this to me does not evoke an image of ` meditation for human integration'. in an integrated world, holders of critical thoughts are not answered with blankets of silence.

imnsho unifying humanity can never happen if one doesn't allow for criticism and opposing views. the image that sahaj marg now creates is that of `the sahaj marg family' where abhyasis are a family, to the exclusion of non-abhyasis. i wrote about this already in other posts.

this is even quite explicit in many sahaj-marg speeches...and is as far a cry from uniting humanity as most religions.

anyway, wish you all the best, kind regards, frank

Anonymous said...

Your approach by NOT focussing on one particular movement has been one of the very helpful things about this blog for me. I know nothing about Sahaj Marg and would never have found your blog had i not typed' false guru's' into google. I have read specific posts about Prem Rawat on the web from ex followers and they are at first alarming and hard to see and then after the gradual acceptance of the facts and the putting together of the pieces that never did fit before, after that it is just dissatisfying because the writer is often , understandably, angry and damaged. Your objective view is exactly the hand hold i needed to make me feel sane and ok about having my long held illusions shattered. I would like to add that there is the tendency of the guru to be narcissistic. If you ever feel to revive the blog then i would appreciate your thoughts on this. Of course to be part of a spiritual movement with a charismatic figure as the guru who has ways and means to make you feel special it appeals to the ego too. It validates the outsider who always knew they were somehow destined for greater things amoung the list of illusiory unexamined thoughts and feelings that validate worshipping someone while at the same time telling the revisionist story (that has been rewritten several times by now) that he is seen by me as a good friend, ya, except i don't remember reverently kissing my friends feet or lining up for the privalege. I read a quote by a yoga teacher called mark whitwell that said "the teacher should be no more than a friend and no less than a friend".... that was the beginning of me actually thinking about it and not avoiding the cognitive dissonance which has been background music often enough. Really i did lie about stuff to the people who weren't 'premies'. About where i was going and why , about what went on there, if someone showed an interest in spiritual matters then i would introduce the subject in the way i'd been GROOMED to introduce it. Too strong a word? not really. the us and them syndrome meant i justified this by thinking of course they wouldn't understand if i told them about the MASTER, about darshan, about service, about agya, or neither about any of the amazingly intoxicating experiences which the memory of kept me loyal. But this lying, to the family and friends was very damaging to me. it put a screen between me and the world and all the people in it. I had a PRIVATE relationship with my master that no one else could possibly understand. This particular blog is my all time favorite blog in the whole world. I feel that you have written it in the spirit of being true to yourself and i value that very much. I am posting anon as i don't want to bring a bunch of fallout onto people i know and love, by association. Doesn't that speak volumes.....

franka waaldijk said...

thank you kindly for your appreciation! when i read your comment i'm glad that i took the time to analyse my experiences and write about them. best wishes, frank.