Nondual Marketing

An extended conversation,
from the Guru Ratings Forum

Of course events and experiences, some very important in the life of a one, do occur. But to label any of them "truly nondual" is inaccurate. However, to one who is selling methods of achieving such events and experiences it can be effective marketing to promote the confusion of these events and experiences with the "truly nondual".

Bobby

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Yes, that's quite on-target, Bobby.

And, marketers use internet sites and groups as one
of their strategies for getting known of course.

It's funny to hear the underlying demand, "pay attention
to me, I'm important, and I have important experiences
and realizations I've had -- to tell you about,
and to teach you how to get."

As if the message couldn't stand on its own, as if a personality,
its realizations and experiences, and other important
personalities as references, need to be promoted.

And they support each other -- so one marketer
of "my meditation strategy and my experiences and
realization" will make an appearance to endorse another 
marketer who endorses another, who endorses the first.

As if they sense an underlying shared motive and agenda.

This marketing stuff, and its demands for attention is
really something -- as if there were some way to
reconcile neediness for attention being paid to me,
with a message of truth.

And I thought the observation that Greg shared, about
how it works a lot like those authors who provide blurbs
for each other's books, always saying how valuable
and insightful each other's books are -- was also
funny and on-target.

Dan

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Yes, one might think, "This message is priceless! Why need it be pushed?" There are actually some pretty good schools of Vedanta (like the Chinmaya Mission and the Ramakrishna order), which take this attitude quite deliberately, and so don't advertise. They are letting the message speak for itself, and keeping themselves in the background. When I first came upon them many years ago, I was wondering, "Why hadn't I heard of this before? Why doesn't get a glossier, slicker and broader distribution?"

The reason for the gloss, slickness and hype associated with some groups and teachers, is that the message isn't allowed to speak for itself. In fact, it's not really about the message in the first place. It's about the needs and desires of the promoters to be seen. To be seen as special, as someone who you must go to in order to get something. I've worked with some satsang teachers helping with logistical details and coordination as they came to NYC when the satsang flush first hit there in the late 90's. I noticed that most of the traveling teachers are truly covetous of the attention they get, of the size of their audience, of the "gigs" and invitations they get. "Not as big as Andrew Cohen's crowd, but better than when I was conducting group- therapy workshops 6 years ago!" It really seemed to be important to them to be seen as someone having achieved something special (despite all nondual talk about there being no one there). In some of the more sophisticated teachers, part of this self-arrogated specialness is a smug confidence in their ability to appear to be beyond all such concerns as these. Of course that itself shows up as just another, bit more subtle desire for specialness.

Ha! No one THERE (as they point about 2 feet away from their body). Why not point to the second row of seekers sitting in those folding metal chairs and say there's no one THERE?

Greg

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My guru, a Ramakrishna Math swami, is about the most low-key and unassuming person I've ever met. His teaching is the same teaching his guru gave, which is the same teaching Ramakrishna and Vivekananda gave. I have many problems with some aspects of this teaching, and I expressed my opinions about them often in the context of my weekly discussions with him and his satsang. Not once, ever, did he have any problem with it at all. I've found some agreement with a few other members of the group, but the bottom line is that it doesn't perturb my guru in any way at all.

I love your stories Gregji! They prove that understanding does not remove unobserved ego, which you have observed so often in the arena of the big-time guru.

People get a little understanding and then think they can run with it, the same way you'd run with a fixed lottery number. What they're running for is a comfortable living with the attendant adulation.

Dressing this up as the desire to help others is the ploy employed by unobserved ego to mask the simple human desire for comfort, which cannot displayed. That would be called offsides by the many referees who run around hounding these guys. ;)

I have been giving these big-time gurus the benefit of the doubt. That is, I've let myself believe that they have understanding, but that they've chosen to market it for economic purposes.

This involves coming up with "sure-fire techniques" and seeding the crowd with expectations, which they will transform into the generated state to please the guru and to show each other (and themselves) how adept they are.

If what you are saying is true, then the gurus are just as duped
as the ones who are paying for their teaching.

How sad for all involved.

Jody

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Jody, that's what I've been saying about these guys for some time now! So why are they up there teaching, their face on websites and posters? I've met scores of them. There's one psychological trait that 90% of them have in common. Chutzpah, confidence in being somehow different or special, and a past history of some kind of public speaking. Like previously they were schoolteachers, workshop leaders, therapists, etc. After all, they are saying the same thing that the seekers themselves say on the phones to each other all week. What's the difference? They have the desire and confidence to sit up in front of lots of other people (sometimes not so many !) and talk about this stuff.

Satsang teachers, in my experience, don't stand out from the average person-on-the-street (other than the clothes they sometimes wear!). That is, they are not any happier or more humble, more well-balanced, funnier, wiser, kinder, more generous, or more intelligent than the average person. They are actually more self-obsessed than the average person. They are touchier and less resilient and less tolerant than the average person. And most of them carry around a "I have it and you don't, but you can rest in my smile" attitude with which they present themselves to other people, even the waiter at the Indian restaurant.

And they do all the tricks you mention. As teachers go, they're not that great. But they don't need to be, because as we've discussed before, the entire satsang model partakes also of bhakti-yoga, in which darshan is the point. So the seekers talk about how it is being in that teacher's presence. Or better yet -- Presence! So teaching skills are not thought to be too important.

Occasionally the teachers do help some people feel better. People are directed to look at things like their own attachments to things. Even seeing that can make folks feel a bit freer. In others in the audience, the teachings cause confusion, or smiles, or a general feeling of well-being. Most of these feelings dissolve by the time the person gets back on the subway (this is NYC).

And it becomes a memory. Getting it back again, that's why the person goes to the next satsang -- of this teacher or another.

Greg

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Thanks, Greg

You've expressed this in an honest and forthright way,
very clearly, carefully observed, and
well-articulated.

It brings up for me a sense of "aha, yes,"
and a feeling that is hard to label, but
perhaps a kind of sadness for the
games we humans play out due to not wanting
what is, as is -- each finding our roles
to play in the dramas that evolve.

Dan

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Thanks Dan,

That's interesting - you and Jody both mentioned a feeling of sadness at this.

You guys have pointed to something usually un-commented on in the satsang movement. I don't know if you've ever been in one of the satsangs. But during these events, the sadness in the air is evident. People who attend usually have their sadness quite close to the surface. When they arrive at the satsang, this feeling is almost brought as an offering, or bagged up for collection. And, it is mixed with very high hopes, projections and expectations about what might happen to them to end the sadness.

I remember one satsang in particular. People left the satsang much more miserable than they were when they arrived. The teacher, a guy with a very bright and powerful personality, was talking about the "non- event" of this Understanding that had happened "here" (pointing 2 feet in front of his chest). On the surface, he couldn't easily have been accused of personalizing this Understanding. Because there's no one there for it to happen to, etc., so he was reverting to a spatial metaphor. But as you know and have explained many times through the years on many lists, *all* pointing is localized. And the teacher certainly didn't point to the seekers in the far corner of the room!

So of course there was some subtle grandiosity taking place. He told a story about how a cute airline flight attendant started to flirt with him on the flight to NYC, how she could tell there was something special about him, and could she have some? In the satsang, he hinted but didn't state, that it's because of the Understanding. And that the seekers could have this specialness too if the nonevent happened.

OK, so he's talking about this, and most of the seekers' questions were about how this could happen to them. What the teacher said was that in his case, he had fallen so deeply in love with his guru that this non-event was almost inevitable. He then really cranked it up, proceeding to talk about how this love was the most ecstatic, blissful thing he had ever experienced. Greater than familial love, greater than erotic love, greater than sex. And, there's nothing you can do to bring this love on. It happens on its own.

So basically, the attendees in the satsang began to feel that they were even further from their goal than they had believed when they arrived! A big wedge of separation had been placed in their path!

As he revved up his description, I felt the sadness in the room get thicker and more palpable. I'm friends with him and his wife, and was sitting in the back of the room with her. She was visibly sad as he was talking about how intense and wonderful is the love for the guru. She told me, "Some of us wish that WE could have that..."

Yes, there's a lot of sadness in these things. The occasional bliss bubble is a short pop in comparison!

Greg

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Thanks for sharing this Greg.

When I read your description, I see a subtle suggestion
going on -- to spontaneously and without volition
fall in love with a guru -- who just happens to be
there on stage discussing his realization.

This seems like a good way to attract and
keep disciples.

First accentuate the difference between them and where
they could be, then make them feel there is nothing to
be done about it, then imply there is a way out
but it can't be volitional, and involves falling in love
with a guru.

Of course, a similar version could be done without implying
falling in love with a guru, just a spontaneous enlightenment
experience that happens of itself.

In Ericksonian hypnosis this is considered as presenting
a subtle double bind: something has to happen,
you can't make it happen, but it must come from you.

Someone might become very sad if they take this to heart,
might feel very helpless.

But then, they might "spontaneously" fall in love,
(or "experience enlightenment") which
has been suggested as the only way out, a magical
relief beyond sex or family love. (In Ericksonian
hypnosis this would be considered going into a trance,
and being open to further suggestion.)

Come to think of it, there probably are quite a number
of satsang teachers, and other teachers, using something
very similar to the dynamics you describe above --
and many of them saying at the same time how "I am
no one special" and the implications to "fall in love
with me" may be presented very indirectly as you suggest
above -- as I describe my relationship with my teacher,
how important, how key it was for my breakthrough.

By saying I'm no one special, it implies that anything I
do that is ordinary is part of my enlightenment, so
it makes it impossible for me to fail at being a guru,
you're in a position where you can't question my
authority.

Not that there necessarily is anything malevolent to this,
perhaps in some cases, just a
kind of shared fixation on "being enlightened" --
which I suspect may be strongly associated
by many with a trancelike feeling of
openness.

Dan


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