Did Our Gurus Lie, Reconsidered
Two days ago, I put out this question: if our Gurus mislead us about enlightenment, were they intentionally lying? When they promised neon lights and an easy perfection, were they pulling the silk over our eyes intentionally?
What I answered, basically, was that they were speaking about the shift in abstract or metaphysical ways, but we heard them from our culture in terms of our own individual desires.
In continuing to ponder this, I think I was ducking what seems true to me. I didn't say it because it is more controversial and aggressive. Frankly, I chickened out. So here goes.
One wise friend wrote: "India is full of hyperbole. The outrageous claims of yogi's seem to be accepted in India as natural, and are not criticized. I don't actually know how many people believe them, but I suspect the average people are very gullible; or have been until recently. But I think the gurus are as simpleminded and naive as the Americans who listen to them. They HOPE what they say is true somehow."
This is true as far as it goes. But what neither of us wanted to say is that there is money, fame and power involved. The guru that promises an easy perfection may be more likely to gather adherents, and all that comes with those increasing numbers, than one who describes a longer, more complex path.
Again, I am not saying that there is nothing to enlightenment. I believe that there is; a lot in fact. But it does not bring in magically an effortless life, a life without ego, or anything else as automatic. To address our pain takes the work of discerning where it came from and curing that. To resolve our marriages takes interpersonal work, schlogging through the guff that comes up. To improve our workdays takes building the skill sets that are involved with that.
Spiritual advancement helps these efforts, I think. But it does not magically solve our issues.
The choice between easy promises and hard is alas easy. Would the typical 22 year old in pain for years, be more likely to go to the Guru who promises "gain enlightenment and you'll have joy, joy, joy" or the one who says, "gain enlightenment and then, if you work steadily at it over years, you'll have joy, joy, joy." The first, the easier, is far more attractive. False, probably, but appealing!
And the promise that enlightenment produces all the goodies effortlessly may be something that a teacher hopes is true somehow, for its what his / her teacher told them. I can't tell you how many people have responded as one commenter did here, that "I'm not enlightened but it is my guess that our gurus were right after all. The personality will live its life as just a play or lila.The personality too will be in bliss…" This is a statement of a hope, held sincerely and with certainty. But it's a faith statement. I wonder how many of our teachers were also offering faith statements?
What may be hard here, and I know it was hard for me, is to accept the fact, which the book Enlightenment Ain't What It's Cracked Up To Be tries to make clear, that despite their charisma, despite their wisdom, and especially despite their wonderful Babu accents, our gurus may have been regular old dudes and dudettes, flawed and creaky and imperfect, wanting to teach what they knew (believed?) to as many people as possible. Any misleading us about enlightenment, consciously intended or not, may have been a piece of that. Expedient means anyone?