Friday, March 5, 2010

The Guru's Sex Scandal

Seven Jaini (Wisdom Quarterly)

Fraud, self-delusion, hypocrisy, or sexual compulsion -- none of it spells enlightenment.

I've seen the sex video. I've met disgraced guru Nithyananda. I've never been emotionally or spiritually impressed. His message is simple: To get enlightened, get "unclutched," then it'll just happen. (Pay me to show you how). I was writing for Yogi Times magazine when I first reported on him.

He was opening a Vedic temple and university in Los Angeles. He has similar sham-ashrams in Seattle, Oklahoma, Delaware, St. Louis, and Phoenix. I will say this for him. Nithyananda is a compelling public speaker with great anecdotes. He has a gift for weaving entrancing stories into deep sounding, easy to understand yarns. It's almost as if a college-educated American wrote his speeches for him. In any case, it makes listeners feel deep. (Watch a video or two on Wisdom Quarterly to see how he's built a cult following).

But for all that, I would have been more shocked if he had been declared to actually be "enlightened" (by the Buddha's definition). The most shocking thing about this sex video revelation is that the millionaire guru would carelessly blow his riches and well cultivated "holy" reputation.

But the telltale signs were there: the fake looking dental work and whitening, the merchandising, the business side of his spiritual front, his angry/sycophantic followers (not benefiting from working for God incarnate), the blind devotion, the endless book/CD and ticket sales. But to hear Nithyananda tell it, it was convincing.

No don't doubt the young guru attained some level of concentration (samadhi) and the bliss (piti) associated with meditation. How he came to believe that he was holy or finished, that's harder to understand. Even a profound sense of Oneness, which many speak of as similar to a mind-expanding drug experience or a sudden cascade of DMT from the pineal gland, fades away.

Did he really believe his beautiful experience had rooted out the defilements, the wrong views, the corruptions the Buddha pointed out? Absorption (which Hindu's call dharana or samadhi and Buddhists call jhana) only leads to temporary suppression of lust, anger, and delusion.

WQ has yet to interview his corporate headquarters in Los Angeles, an official spokesperson, or a mutual friend who is also a swami. Follow up will come in a future installment of Ask a Brahmin. But this much seems clear: Simply because one feels that it is "enlightenment" does not make it so. Enlightenment (bodhi) is very specific, goes through stages, and it is only in the third stage and beyond that lust is abandoned.

This is in response to the defamatory video on Parama-hamsa Nithyananda aired by Sun TV and various other news media since the night of March 2, 2010. At this moment, we feel that a mix of conspiracy, graphics, and rumor are at play in these recent events that have unfolded. We are working on a legal course of action and will come up with updates in due course. In these trying times, we wish to reassure the [many thousands] of devotees and well-wishers whose sentiments have been deeply hurt by this conspiracy. We thank all the devotees and disciples for standing with us during these times. More>>

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