Shining A Light

“Must you be so critical of other spiritual teachers? It’s easy to criticize others. But seeing the good in others is a gift. Some of your articles are so inspiring. You need to lose that chip on your shoulder IMO…”
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There is a difference between having a critical eye and merely criticizing. The latter is no different from complaining. The former is a faculty all of us would do well to develop.

In spiritual culture, “seeing the best in others” has become pathological to a fault. Even when the person standing before us is as rotten as they get, we are perpetually attempting to find what is good in them in order to validate our own magnanimity. Seeing the good in others is fine as long as it is well balanced by a sound judgment and finely tuned bullshit detector. Unfortunately, this culture doesn’t encourage people to sharpen their bullshit detection skills. On the contrary, most are taught to mute it.

Every so often I get asked the same question: “why do you write? What motivates you to write almost an article everyday?”

Most people can’t fathom that it may have little to do with “helping people”. Most of you reading this page are people whom I’ve never met and know almost nothing about. A few I have had some interchanges with but even you I know about as well as the cashier at my supermarket. I’m not a charitable soul to begin with so unless I see someone in absolute distress in front of my eyes, little within me feels motivated to change anyone’s lot in life. As far as I’m concerned, your suffering is your practice. Far be it from me to tamper with that.

So, why am I writing then? Why am I so critical of this culture?

Last summer, we began to smell this strange odour in the house one day. We tried hunting everywhere for the source, but simply couldn’t locate what it was. After a few days the smell became quite unbearable. We had done everything we could to locate it, but had come up with nothing. So we just tried to put up with it and hoped it would go away. Of course, it didn’t. The stench grew so strong it was the only thing we could think of. So, finally we literally took the whole house apart. Moved furniture out of the way, cleared closets, trashed or gave away a lot of stuff – the whole deal. And eventually we found the source. It was an egg, that had somehow rolled into a corner rarely accessed and had sat there for weeks most likely. And the smell had spread through the entire house.

My writing on this page is no different. I am driven by two things – a desire to declutter and simplify the (head)space in which humans live. And to expose that rotten egg that everyone can smell but no one is willing to identify. That rotten egg is “culture”.

And defenders of culture will find no sympathy with me. Because to me culture is nothing more than vapid entertainment. Walking into a church is no different for me than walking into a zoo or a comic convention. None of these places has absolutely any bearing on who I am. The same goes for a satsang or a retreat or a zen monastery or whatever. Those who dress themselves in identities that their culture has provided them have no choice but to carry that same stench in their clothes.

The gurus are not my target. They are not my enemies. They are innocent fools just like the seekers who follow them. When I see a guru sitting in his chair next a vase of flowers and his audience enrapt in the “wisdom” he is expounding, I just have to facepalm because the whole thing is just so bloody idiotic. The blind leading the blind. Fools preaching to fools. Narcissistic self-absorbed children pontificating to other narcissistic self-absorbed children. Spiritual culture is designed to emotionally stunt people while promising to “spiritually evolve” them. As a result the entire culture is utterly infantile.

I get that my style isn’t pleasing to a lot of readers. Yet, to quote Rajneesh’s psychopathic right hand woman, Ma Ananda Sheela : “Tough titties”.

I’m a fucking party pooper and nobody likes a party pooper. Seekers are like underage high school kids getting wasted at a house party while the parents are away. Gurus are like the shady drug dealers and booze suppliers liquoring everyone up. At some point someone’s gotta break up the party.

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In ancient Athens, there lived a man who was known as Diógenes of Sinope. This man maintained that the root of human suffering was “culture” which was designed to subvert the independent spirit of the individual. He maintained that all artificial growths of society are incompatible with human happiness and that spirituality implies a return to the simplicity of one’s nature.

Diógenes was a harsh critic of other philosophers including Plato, Socrates’ famous student. In fact, Plato often referred to Diógenes as “Socrates gone mad”, recognizing the dichotomy of his brilliance and his sheer refusal to adhere to any cultural standards.

Diógenes could often be seen walking around though the streets of Athens in broad daylight holding a lantern and would hold it up to people’s faces claiming to be in search of “an honest man”. He lived in a ceramic pot in the marketplace. And although he was famed as a great philosopher he wanted nothing to do with the schools or the culture that sought to celebrate him.

One day, Alexander the Great, entered the streets of Athens and demanded to meet with Diógenes whom he had heard of and admired greatly. He arrived with his troops behind him to find Diógenes lying in the sun on the street. Alexander was thrilled to see him and, feeling magnanimous, told Diógenes that he was willing to grant him any favour he wanted. At which point Diógenes peered up at him and replied,

“Then would you mind standing out of my sunlight?”

Alexander struck by his audacity replied, “Were I not born Alexander, I would wish to be Diógenes!”

To which Diógenes replied, “Were I not born Diógenes, I would still wish to be Diógenes.”

Diógenes’ simple philosophy and rejection of cultural norms would go on to influence the Stoics, the most enduring of the Greek schools of philosophy…

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I only learned about Diógenes quite recently but immediately felt a kindred spirit. And my perspective very much aligns with his. He lived at a time when the Philosophers were some of the most influential members of Athenian society. And he could have easily been one of them – enjoyed the same power and prestige that the likes of Plato enjoyed. Yet, he scorned all of that because it reeked of hypocrisy. One cannot create a culture out of truth because culture is the very antithesis of it.

Culture exists for the express purpose of telling you who you are. It is an elaborate conspiracy designed to subvert your own independent spirit. But it does so surreptitiously. It pretends to “empower” while sapping your power. It pretends to encourage your independence while actively hampering it. It promises freedom even while it ties you down. It says that your happiness is its highest purpose when in reality it only wants your obedience.

But “who I am” is the one thing no one on this planet can tell me. What purpose I must serve is unknowable to another. All these roles and identities, statuses and positions of power within hierarchies after hierarchies that society has created as an endless labyrinth in which to lose myself is nothing more than an elaborate distraction. Spiritual culture is no different, although it tries it’s very best to pretend to be.

If one’s domain of expression is the spiritual – which for me has nothing to do with metaphysics and everything to do with truth – then honesty must be the brush with which one creates their art. Endorsing “culture” of any kind as the path of honesty or discovery of one’s truth is entirely absurd to me. Like a rotten egg, it permeates into every corner of our lives and fills it with its putrid odour.

“Humans have complicated every simple gift of the gods”, Diogenes said.

There is no simpler or greater gift we have been given than a “self”. And boy, have we FUCKED UP that one. No fucking guru on this planet is going to be able to cure that stupidity for you. All they can do is convince you that you are smarter than you actually are.

That “chip on my shoulder” that you think I’m carrying around is really a lantern in my hand in broad daylight.

And if you don’t like me shining it your face, well,

“Tough titties.”

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