Thursday, November 12, 2009

An Insider Speaks Out On Sahaj Marg & SRCM(California-1997)

Excerpts taken from a series of articles by Frank, ex-Preceptor for SRCM(California-1997) and ex-Zonal-in-Charge for SRCM (California-1997), on Frank's Blog: Pitfalls of Spirituality.

The series of articles called "Cognitive Dissonance" are a commentary on a Book called:

Cults: Faith, Healing and Coercion
by Marc Gallanter, psychiatrist.

4d-Don's Comments: I suggest you read all of Frank's "Cognitive Dissonance" articles as they all relate more or less to Frank's experience in Sahaj Marg as a preceptor and as the Zonal-in-Charge (ZIC) of the Netherlands.

I have pulled out the parts that relate specifically to Sahaj Marg(tm) and to Chari's group, the SRCM (California-1997), and I have "hyperlinked" the titles of the articles so you may easily have (click on the title) access to the source, and so you may have the context of the individual excerpts ...

In Frank's Article:
Cognitive Dissonance 2: Mind and Heart

So, to come back to the pitfall that I perceive in the avoidance of cognitive dissonance, can I find out the divide between learning and development on the one hand, and self-delusion on the other? I'm sorry to say that I believe this to be very difficult for most if not all of us. As an example, I'm quite positive that many practicants of my former spiritual movement Sahaj Marg will consider me self-delusional. I am being led astray by my mind, and -poor soul- have lost contact with my heart. My mind is creating all sorts of ego-fed illusions, and therefore I am blinded from the love of the Master. Something like that. I cannot find a 100% proof that they are wrong. It is just that their view no longer jibes sufficiently with mine, which leads me to holding more the opposite view. So perhaps this is a good moment to explain why this blog is meant mostly for people who are uneasy with their spiritual movement, and cannot put their finger on their unease. This is partly because I do not think that I cán influence people who are happy in their heart-oriented participation in a spiritual movement. But also partly because I'm not sure that I want to influence these people.

In Frank's article:
Cognitive Dissonance 4: Former followers and Boundary Mechanisms


So, it is my personal experience that it is easier for followers to completely avoid talking with me about most things related to the Movement (in my case Sahaj Marg), but especially on the subject of why I decided to stop with it.

Although surprising to me, and initially not pleasant, I found this blanket of silence illuminating. I now think that followers whom I really care for, and who vice versa care for me, see no other way to reconcile the different positions than by adapting the position that I'm an OK person, but am deluded by the foils of my ego. They find it painful to be confronted by the use of my inside knowledge to bring out the discrepancies between the Theory of the Movement and the daily state of affairs. My bringing out the discrepancies causes them to experience cognitive dissonance, precisely because what I have to say in that respect makes too much sense to be easily dismissed.

And so I have learned to see this silence as a sign of their caring for me, which I appreciate. Still, I would of course like more to be able to discuss things out in the open. Perhaps I would learn about my own ego foils then too - no doubt they exist, and are seen sharply by the people who know me best.


And later, in the same article, Frank writes:

To give an interesting example: in Sahaj Marg participants are encouraged to know all people as thy brethren and treat them as such. This no doubt has helped bring about that participants are used to start talks with words like `dear brothers and sisters'. But also, unconsciously, to bring about that the words `brother(s)' and `sister(s)' are often being used exclusively to indicate other Sahaj Marg participants like in the sentence: `our brothers and sisters in the United States are all very happy that Master is coming to visit'.

Now, to me it seems obviously impossible that all the people in the United States are happy that the Master of Sahaj Marg is coming to visit. So the statement can only be read as to imply that `brothers' and `sisters' are particularly those USA residents who also practice Sahaj Marg. So Sahaj Marg promotes a family feeling among participants (also quite explicitly in speeches and texts), but thereby excluding the rest of humanity, in direct contradiction with their own maxim 6: `Know all people as thy brethren and treat them as such.' In other words: not uniting humanity as is their stated intention, but dividing it. And being blind to the division, I would wager, because it is not out of malice or lack of empathy or lack of concern for others.

This forming of some kind of `family feeling' is very common in spiritual movements, religious groups included. What Marc Galanter describes as boundary issues, concerns the interaction between that `family' and the rest of society.

In Frank's article:
Charismatic Groups (Intermezzo)


For the purpose of this blog, it might once again be helpful to list some characteristics of charismatic spiritual groups that I have seen in many descriptions:

a) Gradual introduction/conversion of new members, usually through personal contact, in a family-like setting. Repeated enhancement of the `family' feeling through spiritual gatherings and other activities, often involving an ashram or other facility where communal living is the norm.

b) One's own physical/spiritual well-being is linked to a higher noble spiritual Goal (`Meditate, and you will feel better. But also you will help uniting Humanity, and bring about a world where love is the predominant guiding principle.')

c) Some special practice, usually involving some state of altered consciousness. Very frequently this includes some form of meditation. The experiences with and results of this `special' practice are discussed among members, and good things are associated with it. The specialty is stressed from time to time: `other movements do not have this Method' (exclusiveness).

d) A Special Leader, who has a direct Divine connection. His Guidance and Helping Hand are mystic and beyond rational understanding. `Surrender' is the way for a follower to achieve spiritual progress. e) A strong behavioural code, together with a lot of `positive' groupthink. Occasional criticism might be possible, but is made relatively light of. Fundamental criticism of the Leader or the Movement is frowned upon. Positive `witnessing' is encouraged and rewarded [witnessing: relating one's experiences with the Method/Leader and one's resulting insights; `So when I was having a real difficult time in my life, the image of the Leader appeared when I was doing my Morning Prayer. He spoke to me and said: `Be strong, and do not listen to your Ego. Let God do His work on you, do your Practice and have Faith'. So I decided to go to satsangh regularly, and my other problems became lighter!'].

f) An Inner Circle of long-practicing members, who are close to the Leader. Positions in this Inner Circle are coveted, as a sure sign of spiritual progress and the elevated opportunity for direct Guidance from the Leader. Management of the Movement's Organization is organized hierarchically, with the Inner Circle at the top of the Pyramid.

In Frank's article: Cognitive Dissonance 6: Boundary Control and Santa Claus


So new followers are a boost to the rationality of the whole Movement. `See, what we say makes sense, because how would we attract new people otherwise?'. This mechanism is frequently used by the Inner Circle (I have seen this in my own former spiritual movement Sahaj Marg) in the following way: * The number of followers is reported as much higher than it is in reality. * `Senior' followers are exhorted to devote time and energy to spreading the Message * Growth in numbers is seen as very important and duly rewarded * Decline in numbers is frowned upon, and often blamed on inadequate conduct of members - the attractivity of the Theory is not to be questioned. Members are expected to be shining examples, thereby attracting family and friends.

In Franks article: Cognitive Dissonances 7: Boundary Control


In Sahaj Marg, followers are repeatedly asked by guru P. Rajagopalachari not to create discussion forums on internet, with the reason given that these forums could be targeted by `malicious' individuals (looking to harm SRCM specifically). This of course holds for any discussion forum on the internet. Generally, the pros of a discussion forum outweigh the cons, especially if one takes some simple measures against `trolling'. Therefore, a more likely reason to prohibit these forums is that they are uncontrollable by the Inner Circle, and thus prone to becoming a source of cognitive dissonance. Discussions on whether it is `spiritual' to ask €250 for a book of which the guru says that it is essential for your spiritual progress, for instance...
The internet therefore poses a real problem for Inner Circles wishing to exercise boundary control.


And later, in the same article, Frank writes:

One way for the Inner Circle to deal with this particular `former follower' threat is to blacken their character and motives. (Yes, this occurs in all types of organizations, I know. One just would expect this not to happen in a spiritual organization...). As an example, I have been called an `enemy of spirituality' by my former guru P. Rajagopalachari ;-) And with me, all former followers who blog about their experiences with Sahaj Marg. It's funny enough, but I'm not kidding. Still I can't possibly take it very seriously, for me personally I mean.

Comment on Frank's blog by ex-abhyasi:

Dear Frank,

Thank you again. Your blog has been extremely helpful.

A lot of people are sincere in their search for truth and it's a tough lesson to learn that people might do it for other reasons. (Like Power). Some people are hiding out in that group for other reasons.

A former sahaj-margie/preceptor told me, "It's a game. If you wanna play the sahaj-marg game we can do that."

i chose freedom.

3-D Don will probably have a field day with that comment! I empathize with him too because i've seen it make people cold and self-absorbed.

As i mentioned before, it was not easy to disengage from this practice and everything surrounding it.

i'm so very grateful that you have your blog up here. It takes tremendous courage and strength so thank you.

It also takes courage and strength to leave.

since leaving, i talked with some people who believe Chariji is just a preceptor.

i think you've done an excellent job of covering the points about the pitfalls of spirituality.

So really, you could get that Spiritual Yatra game board out - move yourself a couple points (maybe only one, your condition is really good) and i bet you'd be advanced to the central region. You don't even have to draw a card and answer any questions! Or go see Master.

Did SRCM market that Yatra board game in the Netherlands? Can't help but wonder if the person who came up with it knew in his/her heart of hearts that SRCM was just a game.

Many thanks,

Triple Gem

No comments: