I receive all kinds of unsolicited advice.
When I first started sharing Enlightenment, strangers felt comfortable enough to share with me because I wasn’t an aloof guru surrounded by a protective phalanx of toe-sucking groupies.
Instead of being decked out with the full guru outfit, including de rigueur shiny white robes and wiry long grey beard, I was a clean-shaven urban cycle messenger boy. This suited the young crowd who, I later discovered, were having psychedelic experiences around me without the use of drugs.
If I had followed all the advice that I had received from some very experienced players, then my Google ranking for “Enlightenment” might have continued to rise higher than position 7. But I didn’t, which is why I am still virtually unknown.
I listened to everyone though – and still do.
One seeker at a London book launch (about Ecstasy, Acid House Raves and Consciousness) told me that she would not attend a boring “Satsang” (Sanskrit for “truth meeting”), but would be interested in a “shit sang”. This created a motion. Nowadays, audience members at all of my public presentations sit on porta-loo seats. The benefits are: full detox, no intermission and maximal contact-time.
Initially, I considered Enlightenment to be a free party, so I invited guests to bring food to share, until one day my organiser, who had spent 20 years in India with two famous gurus (until each died in succession), reminded me that real truth seekers do not need incentives. I finally got the message after a regular face at London Satsangs (especially those by female teachers), sat on the kitchen floor nursing a bottle of red wine and a deflated ego, getting drunk. I subsequently dropped post-event entertainments from my meetings, no more backstage parties.
In America, I discovered that Americans want hugs - at least 11.5 per day. It was fun until, during one hug-a-thon, I puked up my meal outside a restaurant. After leaving America, I dropped hugging. Eventually, I stopped touching participants altogether. I had been giving impromptu massages during group meetings, but discovered that they create awakenings faster than a person’s ability to integrate.
Whoever claims that being a spiritual teacher is easy or glamorous, should read my autobiography (unfortunately I no longer own the rights). No longer able to touch, feed and have sex with extremely willing devotees (from a rival ashram); prevented from lulling followers into somnambulistic trances with long boring speeches; keeping to a strict code of ethics that precluded me from receiving donations of free labour, money, jets, cars and mansions, I was forced to return to my former job as – something which I had been advised to never mix with spiritual teaching – a stand-up comic. I could only hide it for so long. Fortunately, no spiritual seeker has yet discovered my early material.
10 years ago, a newcomer told me, during a One-to-One on a beach, that she was glad that I didn’t stare “like all of the other spiritual teachers”. I spent the rest of that meeting staring at the Gulf of Finland. Now I was forced to drop every spiritual teacher’s when-in-doubt stock-in-trade manoeuvre: the guru stare.
I was starting to run out of options.
In the beginning, I recall being given a suitcase load of VHS cassettes about other teachers by my advisers, allegedly “to stock your spiritual teaching skills toolbox, you never know when you will need one of these philosophical sleight-of-hand techniques to deal with difficult seekers”. However, I kept falling asleep. In one sense, the VHS recordings had served their purpose. I still don’t know what they were about, but I discovered that I disagree with most spiritual teachers on matters of style and presentation (though never in public, because I have been advised so).
When it comes to receiving audience feedback and criticism, I am solicitous to a fault. In fact, I read all guru and spiritual teacher criticisms, no matter how harsh, true or made up, not to feel that I am superior (which I suspect I am), but to imagine, as an exercise, that the most egregious faults of other gurus are my own. It’s intense, like being interrogated by the Spanish Inquisition, the Gestapo, Robert Muller and Pontius Pilate all at the same time.
After subjecting myself for 19 years to this kind of rigorous self-examination, I am reasonably sure that my approach to sharing Enlightenment is as clean as possible. I will, however, continue to regard what I do with suspicion. My only regret is that, since becoming a full-time guru, I no longer have time and energy to listen to every guru critic. There are so many these days that I have to filter out low-grade Intel or else never have enough time to share Enlightenment.
Truly, the spiritual marketplace is a seething cauldron of misinformation, false advertising, competitive sabotage, wishful thinking, ignorance, prejudice and nurtured delusions. 19 years of listening to that could drive anyone insane. Fortunately, something has kept me balanced and objective. However, I know that it destroys seekers, turning them into jaded cynics, who have stopped believing in anything but their own minds.
I started this article intending to discuss gazing. Face-to-face contact in everyday social intercourse is often superficial and fake. Gurus misuse the “guru stare”. However, eye-to-eye contact is natural and has a very important role in human healing and development. I don’t have time to write more at the moment but I recommend attending the live online event about this on Sunday 31st March ‘The Look of Love: Know That We Exist’ or scheduling a video replay (preferably by email or else by contact form).