IN WORSHIPPING GURUS
EXEMPLIFIED BY THE SATHYA SAI BABA CULT
Summaries of the six full articles explaining this self-negation in depth
Part One -The Nectar
that turns into Opium The enthusiasm of newly converted 'devotees' to gurus means that one invests one's own energies and identity in some other person with the aim of getting blessings enough to ensure salvation from all suffering and any future rebirth. The doctrine which ensures unempowerment is that of 'surrender' to the will of the guru by 'giving up the ego'. This develops a dependency on an external mind other than one's own. This often continues for some time, but eventually the nectar becomes opium and brings the same kind of problems as the drug does - loss of autonomy, confusion, weakness of purpose etc. By that time too many persons are too involved and have sacrificed so much of their own mind and autonomy that they can only break the dependency with the greatest difficulty. By that time many are far even from willing even to try.
Part Two- Escapism in a spiritual guise Gurus usually make a fuss of new followers (especially at first) and intimate that he is taking them under personal care and protection so they may attain the 'spiritual heights' and even get release from the (alleged but unproven) 'wheel of reincarnation'. Flattery and privileges keep the devotee happy until so indoctrinated as to be entrapped in the relationship. Escapism into 'spirituality' is largely the acceptance of indoctrination or a mental straightjacket on natural and normal behaviour, which leads to loss of autonomy, increasing otherworldliness (loss of touch with reality) and cognitive disorientation, from which the guru will do nothing to save or release the individual, as he has inducted a follower who cannot refues his original offer of eventual salvation from all problems. All that is offered is the promise of a transcendental reality - the same old a never-never land - a spiritual heaven or some unknown existence where all problems are solved and love and bliss reign.
Part Three - Projecting one's inherent powers (onto the guru) How psychological projection is the key to understanding how people perceive their guru or 'spiritual master'. The way perceptions are built and controlled are many, not least through personal contact, stories, books, films and so forth before meeting the guru. On the first meeting, the aspirant already has many ideas about the guru and how he should be approached, worshipped, prayed to etc. This has always been the way to get involved with Sai Baba. visits the ashrams hoping for some form of personal attention, eye contact, some words and above all, a group interview and a private talk but often one is kept waiting for days, weeks, months even years with just a few enigmatic glances, nods or other slight indications. (exemplified by Chris Parnell of the Australian Sathya Sai Organization). Sai Baba's doctrine is that everything one experiences actually comes exclusively from within oneself, yet at the same time constantly supports the supposed delusion of depending on an external guru (himself) and himself acts as though his ashram and its progress, and the world itself were real enough! The 'everything is within ' doctrine, if at all seriously followed, leads to serious cognitive disturbance with negative social and many other consequences.
Part Four - Misunderstood Self-denial Through supposed 'self-transformation' one adopts a doctrine and becomes seriously engaged in trying to put into practice the precepts required by it. With few exceptions, so-called spiritual gurus require celibacy and teach puritanical and traditional customs about relationships, especially between women and men. A person who joins a community where this is required soon distances him or herself from former friends and connections, even close family in numerous cases. One learns what one may say openly within the community, and what is taboo, but also what one can say to non-participants, how one should present the guru, the community and the teaching. This is a kind of double-accounting system whereby unfortunate aspects and especially doubts about the guru or his teaching are suppressed or misrepresented to others. The result is a kind of social apartheid - us and them (i.e. the rest of society). The aspirant is bombarded with precepts, impossible ideals to live up to, and criticisms of behaviour as wordly and sinful, so that the initial feeling of self-worth turns into self-depreciation, considering the inevitable failures to fulfil the demands of this rigorous regime.
Part Five - Sai 'Group think' & Dominance through Psychic Manipulation The guru usually makes good use of the persuasive power of 'group effect' or 'groupthink'. Sai Baba VIPs often let it be known (mostly in an offhand way) about any blessings that conferred on them by Sai baba… it gave increased group status and authority. Having selected the most blind followers (preferable rich, influential) as his top minions, they and Sai Baba's huge group of subservient followers did his work for him through exertion to publicise him as a miracle man, Godhead, all-knowing Mother and whatever. New, isolated, individuals arrive - well-prepared to be overwhelmend by the literature and stories - and are initiated into the standard explanations which deter doubts or criticism and inures the mind into disregard of the many untoward events and surprises that arise to test one's faith. Thus the adherent gradually gets cognitively and psychologically confused in their judgement and can come to live in a kind of parallel reality, many actually moving to India into the ashram if they can manage it, so becoming yet more isolated from anything but Sai Baba doctrine. Many of those who became deeply involved and move socially almost only within the confines of the Sai Baba ‘mini-world’, are visibly unworldly in their reality judgement and knowledge, and especially as to any criticism of their guru. This comes of the teaching never to criticise anyone but oneself or even think anything negative about anyone! This is an ideal environment for charlatans, the corrupt and criminal who do not like to be challenged or apprehended.
Part Six - Fundamentalist tenets & their psychological effects Fundamentalist ideas which, by their very nature, invariably go against the grain of common sense and healthy moderation, have consequent psychological effects in disempowering and self-denial. Self-conflicting doctrine and teachings - often over-general and vage in meaning or application - advice which is so impracticable and strict lead to self-denigration and yet worse, let alone discoveries that all is not as it should be in the community and in the guru's personal life and actions. When the teaching is inconsistent, fuzzy, too open to differing interpretations - as is often the case - it can be too much for the average person to master mentally, to analyse and study critically!. The teaching is usually backed up by reference to innumerable spiritual stories, doctrines and dogmas as well as to sophisticated speculative explanations of moot points, so that it become as if an endless labyrinth where one loses the Ariadne thread all too easily. The result is usually resignation and acceptnce of the doctrine "the human mind is not capable of the superhuman level of the guru's immense knowledge'. The teaching is like a hall of mirrors to confound those who enter. Sai Baba's claim that he draws a veil of unknowing or illusion (maya) over everyone and everything creates great uncertainty in those who take him seriously... one cannot trust one's senses or mind, so there is only his word to trust! When queried about it, he is known usually to throw every serious query back onto the questioner and thus to avert criticism, avoiding explaining himself by putting the burden back onto his devotees.