A Former “Realized” Monk Reflects on Enlightenment and Guru-Masochism
One day you wake up to your life and realize how far away you are from wholeness.
The story has been told before, in a memoir, in interviews, at lectures, teacher trainings, midnight conversations with strangers on lonely flights across the country, a thousand threads of the same narrative reframed in dialog, inner monologue, committed to the page (digitial and acid free paper). It has become stale, tired in my own mouth. The one constant is the emotional subtext, that is never insipid, it is still full of blood.
I was once a guru. But before that I was a monk. Raised to be a prophet from birth by devout parents of the Eastern Wisdom traditions. I was a masochist for enlightenment. I had many followers, disciples of my every word and gesture. Then, in my earliest adulthood, I was crowned with spiritual enlightenment by my master.The declaration of my enlightened sainthood dispelled a long-held illusion, and not the one expected.
I had lived my whole life in a panoptic community with my master sitting in the high tower, the invisible all-seeing guru, my every innermost thought a knowable object in the transcendent sphere that she (my master) resided in. Yet, I knew something she didn’t: I was nowhere near the myth of the Buddha. I was addicted to the idea of perfection, but my body, my genitals, my quivering flesh kept getting in the way. This lack of insight, on the part of my master, was a disruptive force.
The master, I had idealized, now conferred upon me the imperial cloth of the guru, but it was invisible, I couldn’t grasp it. In that moment I saw her nakedness and my own. We both fell short of the myth.
Sometimes you have to let your idea of the world die, so you can touch the things that are real.
My life as a disciple of a master was a constant violence to my humanity.
My life as a guru was a constant violence to the humanity of my disciples. It is the myth of enlightenment, of supernatural wholeness, that produces this destructive idealism. The guru tradition is an industry of illusion and coercive dupery, which fragments, erases, and replaces our humanity with an impossible ideal of perfection.
The body continues to undermine the idea of spiritual mastery.
Idealizations tend to obliterate the physical, the real, and replace persons with ideas.
As a guru I was a sadist.
Sometimes I wake up in the night…
I have a new dream of wholeness.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta.
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