Sarlo's Law of Inverse Hype says the amount of enlightenment varies inversely
as the square of the speed of hype. This is expressed in the formula, S=eh²,
where S is Sarlo's Constant, e is enlightenment, measured in oneness and h is
the speed of hype, measured in jerks (total jabberings, exaggerations,
rhetoric and know-it-alls) per second. Enlightenment can never actually be
zero since hype cannot be infinite but we can say that when hype approaches
infinity, enlightenment approaches zero.
Another term for S is the Cosmic Orgasm Background Constant. The COBC is understood
to be the rate at which energy vibrates throughout the universe since the Big
Bang. Its exact value is not yet known, but it has been experimentally
determined to be approximately 1.41459, which hints strongly at the square
root of 2. The theoretical basis for this is not completely understood but it
suggests that duality is the root constant in all relationships between
ultimate understanding and projected dreams.
This formula clearly becomes more fallible as we approach the other
end, zero hype; ie absence of hype obviously cannot guarantee infinite
enlightenment. Another variable either needs to be factored in to
account for that, or we need to move on to other criteria. But since
this page concerns "red flags," the absence of a red flag may be not
much of an issue and the formula's fallibility forgiven.
Supreme exemplars of hype are Donald Schnell, Dave Oshana and L Ron
Sell-them-a-piece-of-the-blue-sky Hubbard, all F, natch.
Or, Why We Don't Do It In The Road
As this is being written, the Catholic Church is going through one of
its periodic child sexual abuse scandals, following the usual pattern
of material coming to light after being suppressed for 20-50 years.
Most visitors to this site
will understand that this is more or less an inevitable consequence of
the priests' vows of celibacy. That they should still not get it after
all this time seems astounding, but there you go.
Some of the thickness is unique to the Catholic theology and hierarchy, like the appallingly
dense insistence on papal infallibility, but much of it is common to all systems of sexual morality, most of it
completely unexamined. And it crops up often in so-called enlightened masters
and their movements. For example this from the
Hare Krishnas' succession dramas, wherein morality and its attendant
procedural rigidities create a madhouse of total shame, paralysis and
willfully blinkered vision.
A guru is enjoying sex with his disciples. So what's the problem? I
will not be encumbered by standard notions of sexual morality regarding
ostensibly fully consensual sex, so there may be no problem at all, but
the possibility of exploitation and abuse must be considered. Even in
the normal flow of things in any society's mainstream, the sexual arena
is not a simple matter, what to say of the guru-disciple relationship?
What should be a natural act, a (usually private) flow of energy
between two people, nobody else's business -- leaving aside questions
of procreation and disease -- is complicated almost inevitably by
cultural and moral baggage brought not only by the two participants but
by all who consider it their business, which is to say most people.
Here i should say a few words about morality and baggage in general, to
clarify a little where i'm coming from. Basically, sexual morality is a
product not of wisdom but of social control. Those who have an interest
in controlling others, hereinafter known as priest and politicians,
install shoulds, guilt and shame in young people which subverts (or
perverts) the flow of their natural life energy. This installed package
serves primarily the ptb, not the individual or even society in
general. Many (most?) individuals come out of this process of
conditioning so burdened and tangled that a) they cannot relate
healthily to others, b) any feeling good about themselves is badly
damaged and c) they are much more willing to accede to the authority
of, well, priests and politicians. This could extend into a very long rant, so we can say this is enough for now.
Let's look at a few factors and cases here.
First, age: In the case of Sathya Sai Baba, there are many reported
instances of the diddlee being young, even some subteens. How young is
"not okay"? Even the supposedly simple matter of age / maturity /
responsibility can lead us to great foggy areas, but starting with the
simplest cases, puberty is a handy place to define "too" young. Before
that it can only be exploitation, whether they enjoy it and later
recant or not. Child abuse. But immature can be found at any age. In
this regard we might consider a rough sliding scale from puberty to a
"full adulthood," say around 25, while understanding that even at 25,
the appropriate maturity may still be a long way off.
And the guru's age must be a factor too. Like, 82 and still clueless? I enjoyed creating (formulaically?) the formula above in HYPE!,
so i'll have a go here as well. How about this?: F = ((G/D)^(G/D))²,
G and D are the guru's and disciple's ages respectively, F the
Fallibility Factor and ^ indicating "to the power of," really
magnifying the effect of age discrepancy, while maybe
throwing in a proviso that for the rare cases of the guru's being
younger than hir partner, F should be no lower than 1 (a handy number
in any case in nondual matters). A few age ratio examples: for G/D = 2,
F = 16, for G/D = 2.5, F = 97.6, for G/D = 3, F = 729, and for G/D = 4,
F = 65,536.
Moving on to more complex matters less subject to quantification, a
"responsible" guru should be very careful about who s/he diddles, no
matter what the age. Note that the "s/" here is almost completely
unnecessary statistically, and use of the male pronoun below will be
Beyond the questions of maturity, the situation with the best chance to
practice this stuff with a minimum of damage would be in an openly
declared "tantric guru" situation, where all participants know and
accept the issues that are bound to arise. When it is not openly
declared but of the "crazy wisdom" persuasion (or quasi-open / quasi-wisdom) it might be okay but the
guru needs to be clear about the psychic risks involved. If not, there
are simply too many "casualties," and thereby a tendency to low rating, eg Adi Da (aka Free John, etc).
Here i will mention a Mar 2011 entrant in the field, Scott Edelstein's book and forum on Sex and the Spiritual Teacher.
So far, it looks good, with a lot of well-researched material on the
of the sangha, their expectations, etc, and a deep consideration of and
space for the teacher's humanity. This he has done well so no need for
me to expound on that. But it does not look like he has considered in
any major way the question of openness, honesty, as any kind of
positive or "redeeming" factor, which is unfortunate. There is a kind
of overall tone of disapproval of any kind of sex between master and
disciple, with the main innovation being only to apportion blame
equally. More work is needed here.
The worst cases, and this is where
most of the dirt stories come from, are the standard-issue
traditionalists, usually with some kind of morality being preached, and
a double standard with cover-ups. The kind of people attracted to
preachers of morality are just the ones who will be most damaged when
the preacher violates the commonly held morality, as issues of
violation of trust arise along with the sexual issues.
In such cases the guru deserves every bit of condemnation he gets, especially where there is some
kind of devotional positioning involved, and especially especially when there
is a cover-up. The probability that such situations are abusive and NOT
helpful is near enough to 100% to make no never-mind. In this category i would include Sai Baba and
Muktananda, among many others less known.
A more subtle case, touching on wider ramifications, is that of Eido Shimano
Roshi. Allegations regarding "sexual misconduct" have swirled around
him for 45 years. The ramifications include:
1) Testimony from many women, some of whom, though mature in the usual sense,
were badly damaged by the violation of trust. Here a rigid moral system seems
not to have been a big factor.
2) Varying degrees and modes of enabling, involving senior figures in the Zen
world, from the wanna-do-something hand-wringing of Robert Aitken to the
culturally blinkered stay-the-course of Aitken's and Shimano's Roshis,
Nakagawa and Yasutani.
A complete archive of
Aitken's letters on the matter has been compiled by Kobutsu Malone and associates. Kobutsu-san has been on the case for years.
In my book, a guru's being so innocent as to "forget" about normal
human hangups is not an excuse. If they are so prone to forgetting this
kind of stuff, okay, they are innocent, but should not be messing about
with their devotees' powerful unconscious issues. This would be like a
surgeon forgetting which organ s/he is supposed to cut out.
Not that we need a "guru-certifying" bureaucracy, but as long as
these guys are screwing and rationalizing and covering up, there will entirely rightly be complainers and critics.
For more on this issue, there is also a useful page on Swami Rama which
explores both the general issue and details of manipulation which appeared
originally in Yoga Journal, preserved at Rick
A couple more points regarding this, adapted from a
conversation with a former female student of one of the growing list of
1. First, it may be useful to note that, especially in the East, spiritual
ideas about celibacy have been connected with energy retention and
redirecting, etc, ie methodology more than moral purity, though the separation is far from
complete. As with many teachings over the
centuries (see Trad), a potentially useful idea has got
muddled in with a stultifying and even worse Should,
backed up with the authority of God.
Inasmuch as his celibacy trip is not based entirely on morality, the perp cannot be accused
of hypocrisy though, so this line will have a special appeal for some.
2. My correspondent visited the above mentioned page of Rick Ross, where
the interesting issue of trusting the inner guru was raised. While there is
great wisdom in this, there are a few stumbling blocks:
a) Because of thick layers of conditioning and socialization, it is not always
easy to hear the "still small voice within," which the abusive guru
knows quite well,
b) A double-bind message is being given in the trusting the guru model, if,
when the guru fucks up, we are told we should have been trusting the inner
c) The one articulating this great wisdom is using it in the service of
defending his master, who is precisely in this situation of having abused his
disciple's trust via a manipulative sexual episode.
My correspondent writes about this aspect of the Rick Ross / Yoga Journal article:
[Article:] Dr. [Rudolph] Ballentine says it is "presumptuous" to
judge whether or not someone is perfected. He and Pandit Rajmani say that a
guru is "that which dispels darkness." "The real guru is
within," Dr. Ballentine says, "that still small voice within
you." It is a mistake to judge the external guru's worthiness by his
behavior; instead, the student should look inside and determine whether that
person is helping dispel the darkness of her ignorance.
[My correspondent:] I think, with all due respect to Dr. Ballentine's words,
that this instruction is not at all laid out clearly so is a somewhat
worthless paragraph....this is an educated man and I wonder how he could be
satisfied with the unuseability of the instructions in this paragraph.......
How could one determine the voice of the real guru within when one is being
subjected to such contradictory experiences, celibacy/have sex, speak
the truth/don't tell anyone or tell something other than what happened, if the
'teacher' the 'way shower' is there to help locate the inner guru then the
teacher/way shower should be held accountable for any disturbances to the
faculties that would identify and form relationship with that inner guru....
correspondent raised other blame-the-victim issues, regarding a
particular teacher but extendable to all abusers:
person who teaches others, I take another point to this...as a student,
you go to a teacher to learn what they have to teach you. If the
teacher is responsible, they know that there are lines to a
student--teacher relationship that should never be crossed. If the
student tried to advance the teacher, it is the teacher's
responsibility to deflect the student in a gentle way towards handling
their behavior: aggression, sexual feelings, etc. This will come up
naturally. How the teacher handles this is THEIR responsibility, not
the student's. Once this is pointed out to the student, and if the
student persists to make moves with their actions, than the
relationship needs to be terminated with a transfer to another
teacher--don't just "throw them out" or belittle their behavior
because, in all honesty, equally responsible is the teacher. (in
counseling this is known as transference and counter transference and
it goes on ALL THE TIME, the ethical thing to do is for the teacher to
not shame the student.)
Punishing [someone] for a
teacher's lack of discretion by [focusing on] a student's character, in
my honest opinion (regardless of path) is not only non empathetic and
shows lack of compassion for what the student endured under a reckless
environment, where she trusted completely.
Was ["X"] responsible at
all for what happened to her [at the hands of "Y"]? Well, what were her
choices and did she exercise them? Only she knows for sure. And she
alone can judge that. Was she in "control" of what happened to her, or
what was said and done? Could she have left the situation? Was she
"causing it " honestly? See, this is hard. Y has a history of going
after women, we know this from other accounts. We know about his
history of adulation's and his love of his puja women. It is no wonder
that someone comes in and sexual innuendos go flying. If Y wanted to
see what was there, he would, won't he? So, was it really her fault?
Just because she was a sexual being? That's like saying that you are
responsible that your boss sexually harassed you. The truth is, it has
nothing to do about sex, it is about power and control.
Listening to one's own self and listening to
the heart without interpretation leads to more truth than trying to
sift through agendas. We are each on our own paths, and where we are in
the cog, only we know for sure. We can gain inspiration and learn from
each other, and with critical thought of what others teach, examine for
ourselves what path will be the best to get us where we want to be. Y
did not teach this, unfortunately. We were not allowed to be
individuals. And his way, was the "only way to Enlightenment." There
are many paths.
Now it gets even more complicated. Money is NOT the root of all evil. But
there is a body of wisdom indicating that money can get in the way. So my
criterion of Big Money acknowledges both these truths and tries to parse the
fine line between them.
In the Good Old Days it was much simpler, with a widely understood if
hypocrified ethic that money and spirituality did not mix well. Over the
centuries this ethic became encrusted with more and more posturings, until
poverty became something to be worshipped, à la Mother Teresa or Gandhi.
We have come to learn that there is no great virtue in that, and acquired a certain
sense of valuing what we pay for. And with all the new teachers and their orgs
needing to be supported in a style consonant with their divine worth, while
they are providing these priceless services . . . well, you see where this is
Again, the question of where to draw the line. The service may indeed be
priceless, and the results worth more than any material treasures, but it also
doesn't cost the provider anything except "time."
We in the seeker market may be justified in expecting that prices shall be
reasonable, say, enough to sustain the comfortable but not opulent support of those providing
it. If prices are not, there may be good reason, but there may not be.
We may appreciate that a teacher and org are self-supporting, say in the
manner of Kabir, who lovingly insisted on keeping up his weaving trade, though
his devotees wanted him to just teach and were willing to support him
generously. Or fees may be reasonable without a lot of pitching and shilling.
This is my basic preference though no absolute moral case can be made.
It is beyond the resources and scope of this site to investigate standards
of material indulgence and corruption, but still a sense may occasionally be obtained
of "they're only in it for the money." And anyway, knowing that money seems to be
a big deal in a certain org may be useful for some, so i'll report such info if it comes my way.
As far as ratings are
concerned, it will be weighed, though not much.
Sorry, but not very! Ha ha!
[And a Sep '08 addition / extension, adapted from
a suggestion from a visitor:]
Many groups do not disclose in their marketing that they
generally charge for their services. There will be a free satsang, meeting,
puja, etc for the general public but no mention of the fees involved later on,
no hint that you will be paying big-time to continue participating.
Charges arise subsequently for expensive courses that "you can't live without,
now that you have
experienced my teaching." Part of the cajoling / pressure to get on the
program includes the "bliss people" showering their love, acceptance and attention. This is
practised in Xian and other organised religions as well. And, for that matter,
drug pushing, ie the first shot is free.
This is not so different from stuff that would get the BBB on your case if you
were a straightforward business sucking people in with freebies but obligating
them with "small print" in contracts, but there is no BBB for
religions, established or alt, and there is usually no actual contract or
concrete evidence to point to.
What does it mean that a certain amount of scandal, opprobrium or notoriety
has arisen around a guru? Answer: It depends :-)
There will be some overlap here with previous red flags, particularly the
scandal-prone areas of sex and money, not coincidentally the areas most having
to do with moral values. Since scandal is an event of
public perception and judgment, a given public's moral system will figure so
largely in the definition of a scandal that it might be said to have created
it. How concerned
should i be with how the public sees certain events or figures as opposed to
how the seeker community sees them or i do?
Personally, i find scandals of violation rather than consensual sins more
compelling as red flags, though there are lots of grey areas. For example,
exploitation is a fabulously nuanced area, involving infinite gradations of
consent from the exploitee, which often cannot be precisely ascertained,
even by those involved.
Other consideration-areas will include the distinction between guru and org,
outrageousness as opposed to immoral acts, and who the
are and what their agenda might be.
1. Violation vs consensual sins:
This is a useful distinction in my world, since freedom is an
important attribute of a liberated life (duh!) Yes, there is freedom and then there
is Freedom, but though some discipline may be needed to get there, surely
exploitation and violation are not, except as bad examples to learn not to
But looking closer, even the question of what is a violation may be open in the guru-chela arena,
since in many respects the disciple is giving what amounts to a blank check
permission for the guru to do anything s/he deems appropriate. That said, the
disciple's "autonomy," or inbuilt intelligence / immune system, will usually assert itself and define
violation, so this may not be so unclear in many cases. With the final caveat
that this does not apply in destructive, manipulative cults, where methods are
used explicitly to undermine this autonomy. In that scenario, anything and everything
can be a violation, and will be judged harshly.
In the straightforward cases where a "sin" is more or less
consensual, no biggie. I don't care much what the mainstream public's view is,
it is not their business. It may be the business of other seekers who
have strongly held standards of behaviour for their gurus. (If the
"victim" decides later s/he was manipulated or subtly coerced, there
might be a case for re-examination, but that's largely beyond the scope of
One more subtle refinement, which came up in the case of Ramesh Balsekar's Jan
'05 mini-flame-out, is: did he come on to them or did they come
on to him? Not-exactly-sworn testimony has it that he propositioned them, but
very gently, without "refusal penalties." This distinction matters
to some people, as it certainly suggests residual dualistic stuff that might
be worked on, without going the all-sex-is-bad route. I will consider this at
least potentially useful information, though not particularly damning.
2. Guru vs org: Some slack can be extended to the guru if a scandal arises
from the doings of the org, but not 100%. One case example is Jesus, founder
of Xianity (heh heh, some say that was Paul). I hold him partly responsible
for the crimes of his org, which are innumerable – but not held as crimes by
the org :-) – because of the almost total lack of quality control, but still
he was a good guy and did his best in an inhospitable culture. Another
example: David Brant Berg was recently downgraded the last half-bud, to 0, on
the basis of a single freakout act of one of his disciples. Harsh? Well maybe,
but it was a murder-suicide by his son, the child of his successor / wife.
3. Who's complaining?: Is it the gutter press, which is to say most of them,
or the politicians who harp publicly on "values" while gambling and
popping pills privately? Not interested in their retarded agenda.
Related but more sinister is the campaign against Falun Gong by the Chinese
authorities, a trick they learned perhaps from A. Hitler. Not impressed. But
reasonable, corroborated accounts from the seeker community will have some
4. Outrageous vs immoral: Not easy to nail down, for sure, but my general
preference is, all things being equal, to cut a bit of slack here. Is the guru
doing or saying whatever it is for its effect, either on the audience or the
public? If this is a possible or reasonable interpretation, then i'll usually
accept it as such. Guru "eccentricity" and outrageousness has a long
and venerable history in India and Tibet and zen.
There is something to be said for tradition, but not necessarily a lot. This
is not to say that a position of anti-traditionalism has any more merit.
Slippery stuff, yet again! A few things can be considered to help determine if a
given tradition has relevance, the most useful yardstick of value here, both personally and collectively.
Is the tradition being promulgated alive, and informed with the life energy and
awareness of the
teacher, or is it empty ritual, proceeding formulaically in well-worn ruts? Not that ritual per se is a bad thing, but
it should resonate with or convey something joyous in the herenow.
Are life-negative values or attitudes being imparted? In this could be
included anti-female attitudes, anti-sexual morality, support or undue
deference to heavy-handed secular authority and so on. This is the easiest and
soundest scale on which to weigh a given tradition, though of course one must
beware of such sloganeering travesties as "pro-life," wielded
ponderously by anti-abortion zealots.
Does its value reside chiefly in its ancientness? Or, related to that, an
archaic language that only scholars or religious authorities know? Included
are not only Latin but Sanskrit, Pali and old Arabic, which is only distantly
related to current versions.
The point of these questions is to focus on the relevance to today's seeker. We do not want to throw out the
useful parts, since modern consumerism or
nihilism have little to offer either, but blind adherence to tradition has
been an unalloyed tragedy. Not only does it stifle the positive aspects of
progress, even the spirit is not free. And some of the most deplorable conditions
of today, such as overpopulation, can be attributed directly to over-reliance
on tradition, of all kinds.
We also can consider here the question of how different major religious streams
interact with or support the gurus in their tradition. Without getting into too
much detail, we can observe that some handle it better than others.
group with the best record of encouraging the living master is Buddhism. Yes,
they have their sluggish backwaters too but throughout zen and the Tibetan
group, and in many other substreams, the guru is actually honoured, and often
allowed to be fairly eccentric.
Hinduism does not do too badly either, though it must be noted that their
traditions are more firmly rooted, often tending to subsume or overwhelm anything
fresh or original. To its eventual credit, Hinduism, a very eclectic approach to begin
with, will usually honour and
absorb new directions and reformers, but it may take a few centuries.
Hindu-affiliated guru figures can often be limited by their preordained options. An example
might be the various Shankaracharyas: they are treated both as guru figures
offering individual guidance and liberation and as Pope-like officials
upholding a realization-antithetic status quo.
Sikhism started as a reform and synthesizing movement, complete with an
impressive line of gurus starting with Nanak, who himself was an heir of Kabir.
It became codified, not so finally as to exclude further masters from arising,
but the tendency has been for branchers to leave the fold and propound
similar-but-different independent movements. The Radhasoami / Sant Mat family
is one such group.
Islam, having as one of its central tenets that Mohammed was the last Prophet,
might seem to be one of the most unlikely places for independent masters to
arise. Indeed, such arisings have on many occasions been brutally persecuted.
But Sufis have managed somehow to remain as Muslims and be independent of
mainstream Islamic culture, and even thriving in some of the more tolerant
About Judaism, i don't feel qualified to say much. Some independent masters
have arisen but it is not a big phenomenon. And quite frankly, this one angry
God guy is not an ideal milieu as seen from here. (More on this in the Dawkins
quote in Gems.)
The same God blights Xianity, the biggest failure imo in terms of
tolerating and encouraging enlightened masters. Yes, over the centuries there
have been your Eckharts and Boehmes but they have had to struggle mightily,
not least against the kindergarten metaphysics of their scriptures, never mind
the Inquisitions, a perfect example of the worst aspects of
Except a mention of Timothy Conway's excellent article
on tradition and ethics, and how they relate to different styles of masters.
I have long been a fan of diversity.
Those who would seek to create a (heaven on earth) world where their
version of the Truth or the Way prevails over all others find no
traction with me. However loving their pitch, or even their intention,
if there is a whiff of imposing, diktat or other form of dominance, i'm
outta there. A civil society cannot exist without the freedom of its
members to go in ANY direction, barring the so-called freedom to bully
others. Should diversity diminish because all of humanity has,
individual by individual, made intelligent, loving, informed and free
decisions to live in a certain way, then all right, but any coercive
steps to get there just do not work.
Intolerance is, under whatever banner of uniting humanity, divisive. It
sets up an us-vs-them mentality, by declaring all alternative modes
inferior, and will act to defend its territory, which in the end will
entail some form of aggresssion against those holding alternative
views. Thus, it is neither loving nor intelligent.
And so it is another red flag to be watched out for in leaders
and groups competing for market share, and an unambiguous one, unlike
some of those above. Intolerance is competition by unfair means. OTOH,
there is no law against many forms of it. So a balance must be sought.
Karl Popper has brilliantly explored this territory, and more thoroughly
than i ever could, so herewith his words, on the "paradox of tolerance":
"Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we
extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are
not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the
intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with
them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we
should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as
long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check
by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should
claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may
easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of
rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may
forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is
deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists
or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the
right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement
preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should
consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the
same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping,
or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal."
There are laws against physical violence, abuse and the like, and there
are even in places laws against "hate speech," but many forms of the
expression of intolerance are not regulated, and are left to the
individual to speak out against, and this is more or less as it should
be. Too broad a category of "intolerance
crimes" would give too much discretionary power to authority figures.
it is up to private citizens to settle disagreements out of court and
without resort to physical force or intimidation about what constitutes
trespass of psychic territory. In a civil society, it is the weight of
collective opinions that will theoretically keep intolerant and abusive
leaders and groups contained. Not that collective opinion is infallible
or always wise!
But as tolerance is encouraged to increase, our collective wisdom also
Thus, as a private citizen with a relevant website, i was inspired to write this bit about intolerance by reading
the facts and analysis presented regarding a certain case in the field
of Tibetan Buddhism. The group involved is New Kadampa Tradition and
its leader Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, and
i have written about their case in a separate page rather than get into a
lot of detail here. They are likely not the worst exemplars of this
tendency, but are named because of the immediacy of their case in leading
to this writing.