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Befriend Yourself

As with sheep barred by wire,
or the bronco in the mire
Lots of guts may not help to get free.

- Compare Leonard Cohen's "Like a bird on the wire".

Friends favour freedom - check the friends fairly and well, accordingly. Fenced in and stuck in some way - you should have mustered more of what helped against being caught, limited, and stuck in the first place, more of what gives the fares to build and enjoy the good life.

Handling wisdom, skills and tactics may be slowly built, though. "Build brain" for that.

Great maladaptations will not help you. Shield yourself well on many levels and in many walks of life, to save yourself embarrassments or far worse. The more you differ from the crowd, the more needs for fences or shielding may appear.

Yoga and meditation may be furthered by shielded or gated environments, and may be done at home, quite on your own terms.

Shield yourself well from embarrassments and maladaptations on your own good terms if you are up to it.

Is there nothing better than cult submission for us?

Little good in life needs to be expected from tomfoolery. But there are yoga teachers (gurus) who use yoga methods to capture followers that spend money and other resources unwisely and devotedly. These givers may become members of something great, working for a great cause, they are led to believe. All the while they may be headed for losing precious liberties or precious time, or money and influence, if not their lives.

The power and prestige of cults and their leaders develop through givers and people who get enticed and later succumb, or give up their heads, so to speak. Some chagrined givers and members come to regrets later, but it may be too late to have a favourable, helping environment, even. Better be forewarned - risk little and meditate well, and your lot may improve.

Much show-off devotion extracted from members is fit for a cult, a tall danger and a fall. But finest devotion is the kind Adi Shankara speaks of in "The Four Perfections": "Chief among the causes of Freedom is devotion, the intentness of the soul on its own nature. Or devotion may be called intentness on the reality of Oneself." - With thanks to Shankara!

Cult members, farm animals

In the old Greek story of Ulysses, his crew was turned into swine by Circe. Develop the theme, and the cult members around are compared to farm animals - cattle, sheep, swine, and more.

On a farm there may be farm animals and a house with a garden or three. In a nasty cult one may find devoted zealots and some inner circle that profits from them and thrives on the naive zealot's back - and meat, skin and further. There is no gainsaying; the zealot and farm animal are caught and robbed of freedom, but in different ways, and by different degrees. But observe the similarities if any are seen; that could be good for the "you and me".

Zealous ones may serve a cause quite like farm animals; they do not have much confidence in dallying on their own terms, or self-confidence against being used. They are probably a manipulated crew and tamed for it, for example by terms like "serving the deserving". Sectarian conformity brings perhaps initial benefits, but can take a heavy toll in time too.

A naive zealot with great yogi leaders on his back has perhaps been manipulated into it.

Setting the scene

Women tend to pick brain over brawn. It may be good if they improve their freedom degrees by it, and those of their husbands and children. But have they got a way out?

If a farm animal is not completely broken in, and wants to escape for wider fields that it once roamed in, what can it muster? Will building more meat (muscle) or getting fat really help? Probably not. Muscular farm animals are perhaps made even more and better use of. Overly animals - may be left alone or put on a diet of some sort. Stereoid-dripping farm animals and muscle builders may have something in common, but - And getting well fed and as a result obese is becoming a global problem in the industrialised world. There is no gainsaying of that either.

Getting used or being made use of - cities serve such ends by and large. First the countryside resources are taken and exploited - minerals, plant life, animals, and then people are divided into classes. The lower classes tend to get more cramped environments as time goes by, and less freedom. Good things may become expensive too. It stands out that rich guys exploit the poor in many ways. Not just the poor in underveloped countries, but the poor in their own country too. Only a lot of good people do not know it, or if they dimly sense the shame, they may close their eyes and let the business-minded, profit-seeking ones get their ways against the good of many and former well-kept liberties.

The stage is being set for more control, more surveillance, more power and resources in the hands of the few, and more impotence among the masses. To the degree you do not fit in in this setting and plot-rich, so-called development, you may be done for and much castrated as a member of society. Some common farms or enterprises may not look all bad, for much depends on how humanely animals are made use of, how fit their regulated set-up living patterns are, and how cruel and greedy the farmers or heads may be.

The current perception I get from the evening news is that the world is dominated by human failure, crime, catastrophe, corruption, and tragedy. We are all tuning in to see how the human mind is evolving, but the media keeps hammering home the opposite, that the human mind is mired in darkness and folly. [Deepak Chopra]

Will building more muscle be accompanied by some sort of castration?

Muscular or fat in these times

If getting muscular or fat is at best only poor help, what is good help? It may be more brains. So get good information, take to heart its salient points, if any are found, and get a formal education if conditions allow and you are up to it. Feel called to go further than the foolish sheep and the brutes, all in all. And maybe there is good reason to have proper shields at hand, just in case. A solid brick wall can do wonders . . . and make your garden safer for children too.

Go for the best reasons available, and get a sound education to escape being enmeshed so much.

Clinging in Beneficial Ways

For a baboon child clinging is vital to existence. For a human child it is likewise, and human id (libido) helps survival through fit bonding and, well, clinging, through various stages described in psychodynamic thinking of Erik Erikson and many others. There are many angles and outlooks in these waters.

As we grow older, our clinging subsides to the end that others think it fit to cling to us for some reason or other. That is how it is to be a parent, in a nutshell. You care for them and foster them, and in the end you set them free, for you have made it possible for them to get and live a good life too - hopefully. And if not, there may be comfort in "I did my very best" unless we lie to ourselves. Some are good at it.

All this goes to say that clinging is not bad in itself; that there is a natural place for it, and that proper development may be marked by less and less clinging to others. It also tells you that some views are plainly beneficial, others are not, and that still other views again come in between the two, the beneficial and destructive clinging. Watch out for the last one, warns Buddha repeatedly, for it easily leads into an aborted or worsened existence, depending largely on others, and starving your self-sufficiency too, perhaps.

Clinging has its times in nature, but persisting in it when it is overdue, may lead into starvation.

Very, very good ideas

There are views that are told to be beneficial without being so, even to the extent of being very harmful. Watch out for those and focus on the good ideas. Are there any ways to discern the wheat from the chaff here? Buddha tells about true friends, how they behave. We may apply those splendid thoughts to ideas too - Very, very good ideas:

  • help us on and up somehow - help us guard and protect ourselves and favour secure living and good supplies of the needed things in life.
  • are more or less fit in good and bad times alike, at least not unfit. They help us keep our private lives private, and reveal stunning secrets that others thrive by or that we may use to compete better. They do a lot for us to keep us intact. That is to be a facet of being adequately educated too.
  • give generally good counsel without snares in that they restrain us from doing evil, encourage doing good, show us things we did not know of ourselves, and point the way to rise upwards in some way or other.
  • are tuned to sympathy with many who fare poorly, are tuned to prosperity, restrain ill speech and praise the beneficial speech.

You can apply these pointers, as great ideas should make for adequate living, including living guardedly, attempting to steer well upwards and so on. Careful advances can often be had by planning utterly carefully, guardedly, taking his general researcher's advice in Kalama Sutta. "Don't believe so much; try to make sure instead, and in fit ways" is the gist of it. Fit ways include asking the counsel of experienced ones, and going for what is beneficial for many - not just oneself, he suggests there.

When we combine the gist of Gautama Buddha's two sutras, we could be better off and know much better who are true friends. Much the same applies to them, Buddha says. See for yourself. Try it a little and discreetly at first.

Hovering, great-looking ideas may be scrutinised first, before they are more or less tentatively applied.

Hindu Aces

Be geared to the four main life goals as exposed in Hinduism too, if you can. Very good ideas, correspondingly, help the growing human so that he or she does not drown in the sea of life, but learns to live so that he adjusts to

  • Artha - fitly and not unjustly gained wealth;
  • Kama - proper, non-malignant pleasures;
  • Dharma - eternal and righteous law. It may be conscience-attuned.
  • Moksha - great freedom.

Unsuitable ideas. Bad ideas work against these four pointers. Main ideas back up the life goals with fit timing, sequencing or order into the scheme too.

Grossly said, ideas that serve to hinder our getting solvent, our fine pleasures, hamper or hinder righteousness, and keep us from better freedom degrees, are not really helpful ideas. Ideas that undermine our all right and naive confidence, could be of the same ilk.

Good and friendly ideas. On the other hand, ideas (and friends and relatives) that assist us through ups and downs stand out as good friends. They serve solvency, or usher it in, they make our thinking abler, more robust, and make our acts abler. They lead into fine pleasures, They make us well informed about what is considered generally right and proper things to do in a society, and assist on the path toward more or better freedom - Besides, there is inner freedom, mental, and outer freedom, to name some.

It is easy to make a check-list of these points, and tick off. The end results may be better if you weigh these points and get a sum of scores too.

Build for a fit life (Artha) and keep to fine pleasures (Kama) throughout life also, without feeling bad about it (stick to Dharma), or go for great freedom (Moksha) first, if you are genuinely drawn that way. People are different.

Get beyond words and phrases easily

Buddha cautions about the dangers in clinging - to possessions, pleasures, people, and views. He says that we should not cling even to his teachings. However, Buddha's counsel to transcend all sorts of clinging and transcend your viewpoints, does not mean that nothing in Buddhism is important.

Words and phrases ascribed to Buddha and other eminent teachers call us to get beyond words and phrases to arrive at direct and beneficial experience. Love to stick to those teachings . . . Then, as we approach Guru Dev's core teachings, Buddha's teachings, and teachings of others, we should be aware that wrong views promote and lead into wrong intentions and wrong, unwholesome conduct, leading to deceptive sights as well.

When some faulty notion or wrong view matures into intentions and conduct that is thought to be worthy, but is hardly so, there is the danger of a meandering and at least partly wasted life instead of a swift course to the sea, so to speak. So watch your thoughts; someone else may do it for you, often to your harm.

You do not have to end up in a pit. To reach a fit view is of vital importance. Stop clinging to ideas that seldom offer genuine and great help. Those who make frantic efforts to befriend you, are probably clingers, if not creepers. Hence, watch yourself and do not place yourself in dangerous situations, and you may be freed to do your things or progress. That is the main idea.

Guru Dev says it is clever to use one's body, mind, abilities and wealth to favour oneself - a good friend of the Self. [Mason 200959]

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"Look before you leap"

Gist of a Previous Yoga Page

Learn to look - and in part to observe well - and study relevant and valid facts that pertain to the subject of study, and further. More is added to it when it comes to learning yoga meditation, obviously.

Keep to sensible instructions that do not take your freedom of thought and actions away.You are likely to do well not to trade your freedom away. A comparison may help. Be skilled to weigh pros and cons that are found. It helps to be guarded and informed at times too - Seek to get duly well-informed first, before committing to anything and anyone. Core Kriya yoga is a variant of the gentle pranayama method of Ujjayi, "victorious breathing". On this site you may learn the core kriya method for free and see if you delight in it a lot or not. [Ujjayi described]

A truly important theme is that of adaptations. It is necessary to strike a proper balance between many and at times conflicting interests. A previous page tells about the so-called goldsmith avenue and the gardener way of adaptation. Sometimes you can adapt things to yourself and sometimes adapt yourself to them. Imported seeds may need some extra shielding, care and considerations. For imported ideas to strike root and thrive in your soil, tend them well, or they may wither. You need to strike a suitable adaptation balance to go on as well as can be.

Maximise gains for your own good. Widening interests is another boon that comes to many beginners of meditation. And one may aspire to live so well that it will not be very needed to do yoga for the sake of substantial health alone, even if doing it for one's health should work well and be good in itself. "Not needed, but helpful" for delicate attunements and sensible unfoldments too.

Meditation Research and Dogmatic Insistence

Where there is dogmatic insistence, there may be cult-attitudes - lurking or openly expressed.

There are societies and organisations that prefer to evangelise through clichés.

In the case of SRF, the early Yogananda talked for meditation research, but when he had established his own church in 1935 and monastic branch of it, the tone became increasingly dogmatic or embarrassing.

I wrote this to Self-Realization Fellowship one day in September 1978. It is a generation ago now:

In order to give the SRF students a realistic picture of what they may get from the SRF teachings . . . How many have found God, for instance? How long did it take? What do people . . . find bad in the SRF teachings? . . .

In this way you may get get some more two-way communciation than you seem to do now . . . And if you publish this [the findings] . . . you may help [your members] get a more realistic perception of what SRF has to offer them, and what it has not . . . This realism is lacking in the SRF presentation at present . . . too many big promises . . . lead to disillusionment, disappointment and suffering in the long run . . . I could take care of the statistical work.

Self-Realization Fellowship, which declined the offer, is recognised as a cult today, and functions quite against what its founder found good to propound in his early years in the USA:

YOGANANDA "Mine is the only one, the best," is the declaration of most cults. But there should be a standard for judging what is best, just as the standard of quality of goods determines which store is the best in town. [Swami Yogananda. "Reforming Religion by Science." 1927, in East West Magazine of 2-6 October]

In another article he says:

YOGANANDA The efficacy of . . . the technique of concentration and meditation, and breathing exercises as discovered . . . should be experimented upon paying students who attend regularly, and in secluded, sound-proof rooms. [Swami Yogananda: "How to Keep the Church Steadfast". East West, Vol 5-11, September, 1933]

The rooms do not have to be sound-proof.

The year after, in 1934, he praised Mussolini and hailed dictatorship in his own magazine. See for yourself: [Yogananda's praise of dictatorship and Mussolini]

The middle-aged Yogananda had his quirks, one should say, if not plots. Later, in 1935, he registered his own church. Today it is headed by monks and nuns who say "We do not find fault with Paramahansa Yogananda's guidelines. Since we believe that . . . his wisdom is flawless." [Documentation with elaborations] But his praise of dictatorship and Mussolini has been swept under the carpet today.

His fellowship has not tried to research effects of its yoga meditation methods in valid ways ever, and also declined an written offer to do such investigations for free. I was qualified for it.

Lesson: "Don't trust SRF, and don't trust a disease is fit to help you either."

Compare Yogananda's: "Alas, there has seldom been, except sometimes in India, any real research on pragmatic, life-moulding universal religion, in a true scientific way." [1]

It's not quite good enough to say "Alas" when you could instigage valid and helpful research to be crowned with relevant findings. In comparison, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi encouraged ◦research into measurable effects of TM, and it is so much better than bragging vainly.

Yogananda and later followers surely use the catch-words 'science' and 'research', but little research has come out of that so far.

Very soon after the SRF management had declined research, and had demonstrated cultlike behaviour too, I left the society. Many others have come to much similar understanding afterwards. They tell about it on the SRF Walrus Discussion Board, which was formed by former SRF monastics. One third of them left SRF more or less abruptly around 2002. I have taken care of many thousand of posts from the now folded-in SRF Walrus board, in case I need it. However, a backup SRF Walrus is still up and going, and fit for browsing too.

Some societies get cultish with time. A quite usual device found in religious societies with a shaky basis, is to resort to selected, fine-looking phrases to bolster the status quo at any time - it is the much used selectivity ruse.

Some talk with two tongues and seek to impress, even by fraud

Research that SRF blocked on its way, could have been good for beginners and interested ones. "Big, fat guru words don't fatten the cabbage (Cf. Proverb)." So learn to ask for good evidence, before you are turned into a swine for the lack of it, not wholly unlike the Circe-enchanted crew of Ulysses. They were not guarded and careful enough, were they?

I did not feel for becoming a "happy pig" back then, with Human Rights taken away by decrees.

Swollen claims that mount to demagogy, may serve to catch members. Great threats or sanctions may keep them.

There are good sides to keeping the pigs happy, but if their Animal Rights are worked against, they may stop squealing loudly and just grunt in distress.

Qualitative study is not much to go for where people are insincere

A source of error in what is called qualitative research is possible lack of sincerity among respondents. Qualitative researchers typically rely on four methods for gathering information:

  1. Participation in the setting;
  2. Direct observation;
  3. In depth interviews;
  4. Analysis of documents and materials.

Qualitative research is rather exploratory. Qualitative researchers may use different approaches, including storytelling.

Some may respond to the rather loose questioning in it by saying how they would like things to be, not by saying how things really are. This reminds of a man in the Upper Midwest. He was asked, "How are you doing?" "Great," he said, and some hours later he hanged himself.

One may try questioning (qualitative studies) in an attempt to detect deeper issues anyway, and that is what Jane Dillon at the University of California, San Diego did. She published a doctoral dissertation about disciples of Yogananda. Copies may be had through the university's library service, hopefully. Dr. Dillon's work was rooted in years of field research, that is, talks with monastics. The thriving of SRF monastics in San Diego county was a main concern in the study. However, a year or so after Dillon's dissertation was made public, about one third of the SRF monastics left SRF premises - left SRF - in dismay and anguish, and it appears Dillon's reasearch did not catch any signs of it coming - the repressed anguish of monastics, their dark, blunt despair kept largely hidden out of fear for gruff superiors and "stool pidgeons" in that arena. To the degree her dissertation did not catch such main currents, hers is not a deep-probing work, and not much significant either. As with questionaires, qualitative research depends on both the sincerity and accuracy of respondents, and how well they know themselves too.

Lots of deeper issues in life are open to study founded on sincerity and knowledge of oneself or others. Carl Gustav Jung's work illustrates such an approach.

Recoil from Dogmatists

To counteract cults and "sectarian slave-taking" much has to be pointed out to the beginner in yoga and contemplation, especially what general effects various methods tend to have, and what membership may incur. Sectarians may not be sincere, and some may be biased and untrue too, adding slaves to their "churchist" dogmatism. Yogananda also wrote:

YOGANANDA Dogmatic church members succumb to the influence of parental religious habits, or to a sense of religious fear, or festive religious entertainments, or to a repetition of the same grand theoretical sermons over and over again . . .

Huge sums of money are tied up in church edifices just to impress people . . . scarcely anything more is accomplished. [Swami Yogananda: "How to Keep the Church Steadfast". East West, Vol 5-11, September, 1933.]

Study what others say, what they do, and what they have set in effect, and consider the structural build-up (effect) as most significant of the three. Next, what they do. They say many things, in part self-contradictory things, to seem good. In SRF they honour Yogananda with their lips for sure, but they do not stick to all ideals he spoke of, and that is one more source of mishap to some. The beginner in yoga and meditation may be too undemanding, and as a result put in an "unending inferiority position". It is better not to enter a sweet-speaking cult than succumb to it. Role inferiority is in part what mars SRF.

Biased is inferior; partial views are often less than ideal.

Great norms and ideals remain to be discovered within some individuals, and not pressed onto them by crooked means and demands of servility.

An outsider may learn by looking into the ideals that an association guards and protects by rules and subtle means, where members may have been outsmarted.

Some Problems of Yoga

A yoga beginner may have to deal with (1) teachers, (2) the basic structures of organizations and (3) teachings. To steer well, with fit assertiveness in these waters as a newcomer is no easy task.

How?

  1. Get at least a quick review of the teacher or guru in question. Much information - possibly misrepresenting information too, may be gathered from the Internet, to mention one source.
  2. In addition to finding out how an organisation presents itself to get acclaim and so on, maybe there are good "underground sources" to look into, and alternative sources online.
  3. Teachings can be compared with other teachings and your own basis, to see how fit they appear to be. Regrettably, the impact of some teachings may be like pinching shoes in that you don't see whatt hey mount up to against your wellbeing before you have worn them. Appearances may deceive; one should be alerted to that. Also, if there are many and serious inconsistencies in a teaching, you may do best in shunning it. Guru self-contradictions and verbose blur may cause confusion, followed by cramped dogmatism and more.

That is what I think - what do you think?

Ralph Waldo Emerson says of menial orators: "Power is what they want, not candy." Some work up "madness of many for the gain of a few", although it is not an easy task. [Atkinson 1950:698]

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Metaphors and Values

Offhand Farms and Guru Clowns

The good shepherd probably does not eat the whole herd. [Matthew 9:12; John 10:27 etc.]

Figurative mentions can serve as forewarnings. It is a typical fable devise. Fables and other stories from antiquity reveal interests at odds.

It is to be hoped that SRF will show that Yogananda 1933 and 1934 talked for dictatorship and spoke well of Mussolini and Hitler. That piece in the puzzle is missing today.

Hitler, in turn, learnt a demagogous trick or two from the Church. Quote: "The great masses of the people . . . will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one [Tq 325]." So watch out; some forms of glorious talk may serve as big baits and mislead.

Figurative ways of wording can enlighten or distort. There may be help in Sachlichkeit.

Setting Willy Free

When it comes to farm animals, they need at least to thrive. Both sudden and slow improvements can help. But setting old, tamed dogs loose to feed themselves unaided in the big wide open, wherever it is found, may not show up to be substantial help.

Goof farms: Organizations, churches, cults and sects that foster obedience and submission over and above personal growth in some.

Old cattle: Old members who are never or very rarely marked by "Yippy!"

Farm animals: Tamed, broken in "animals", i.e., massively subjected to regulations - and members are made use of in several ways.

It is possible to extend such figurative mentions much more and learn still more from them. In fables by Aesop and others many themes are found and a bit unpleasant understanding might be won. It could make us better humans than sectarians en masse, though. Let us hope that.

Are all branded animals like sectarians? Hardly. But there may be rather interesting or significant similarities in many respects.

The Wolf and the Shepherds

A wolf, passing by, saw some shepherds in a hut eating a haunch of mutton for their dinner. Approaching them, he said,

"What a clamour you would raise if I were to do as you are doing!" [A fable of Aesop's]

It is worth while to try to rise above the all too sick and herded. Individual development is for that. Carl R. Rogers talks in a correponding vein for the fully functioning person. He proposes the organism has one basic tendency and striving, namely to actualise, maintain and enhance the experiencing organism - of the self-accepting person. It is possible to adjust to it [Shertzer and Stone 1974:216-19].

As for wolves in sheep's clothing, Aesop has a fable on that topic too:

Once on a time a wolf resolved to disguise how he looked in order to secure food more easily. Encased in the skin of a sheep, he pastured with the flock and deceived the shepherd by his costume. In the evening he was shut up by the shepherd in the fold; the gate was closed, and the entrance made thoroughly secure.

But the shepherd, returning to the fold during the night to get meat for the next day, mistakenly caught up the wolf instead of a sheep, and killed him on the spot.

The question is what we learn from a figurative story by sifting the figurative elements and applying them in current affairs, for example. In antiquity orators used fables to sway listeners by demagogy. We may not like that sort of business today, but rhetoric is hot enough still, cherished by some, and some knowledge of some of the "tricks of the trade" could improve our lots if given fair conditions first. [Aesop 1998:x-xviii, passim].

The US humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935) mentioned:

"Good judgement comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgement."

"In order to succeed, you must know what you are doing, like what you are doing, and believe in what you are doing."

Some profit a lot by "the night of low beliefs".


Befriend yourself, Literature  

Aesop. The Complete Fables. Translated by Olivia and Robert Temple. London: Penguin, 1998.

Atkinson, Brooks, ed. Selected Writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York: Modern Library, 1950.

Evans, Gail. Counselling Skills for Dummies. Chichester, UK: John Wiley, 2007.

Hough, Margaret. Counselling Skills and Theory. 4th ed. London: Hodder Education, 2014.

Kirschenbaum, Howard, and Valerie Henderson, eds. The Carl Rogers Reader. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989.

Mason, Paul. Guru Dev as presented by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 3. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009.

Milne, Aileen. Understand Counselling. London: Teach Yourself /Hodder Education, 2010.

Stewart, Ian. Transactional Analysis Counselling in Action. 3rd ed. London: Sage Publications, 2007.

Shertzer, Bruce, and Shelley Stone. Fundamentals of Counceling. 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton, 1974.

Sutton, Jan, and William Stewart. Learning to Counsel: Develop the Skills, Insight and Knowledge to Counsel Others. 3rd ed., amended reprint. Oxford: How To Books, 2009.

Wahlund, Per. Osed och ordsed (Från Penu Proverbiale) (Bad Manners and Proverbs). Stockholm: Natur och Kultur, 1988.

Link

  1. Swami Yogananda. "Reforming Religion by Science." East-West Magazine, 2-6 October 1927 - November 1927.


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