Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Getting Conned: Reflections on "Karmageddon"

When I posted a link to the trailer for Karmageddon on FB (see link below)- a film made by my friend Jeff Brown about his personal journey and struggle with becoming enamoured and then disillusioned with a guru- I received a number of messages from folks wondering how anyone could become a devotee of any guru. Many implicitly or explicitly asserted that they would never find themselves in that position (because they are smarter, more savvy, educated, connected to Spirit and self-aware than “those people” who do.)

There is no them and us. It’s all us. We are “those people.” Who amongst us has not bought something we did not need and/or could not afford because we were “sold” on it or fallen in love and imagined growing old with someone who turned out to be other than they seemed? Beguiling gurus and tempting teachers are, above all else, skilled and often naturally charismatic sales people who read others well.

Years ago I worked with a spiritual teacher who was a brilliant healer and shaman. He was also a human being- deeply flawed in ways that, as so often happens when imperfect humans have power over others, lead to actions that harmed some. He, like Bhagavan Das, the guru Jeff chronicles in Karmageddon, was open and honest about his proclivity for having sex with students. For both men, honestly was their alibi, a way to justify the narcissistic misuse of others.

There are three primary reasons why people- intelligent, savvy, heart­-full people like us- commit to a teacher or path that is not quite what it seems: 1) Early on in our encounter we have an experience that profoundly moves and opens us; 2) We have a genuine desire to make a deeper commitment to a life centred in spirituality and to loosen the grip of adhering to social and psychological “shoulds;" and 3) We are seeking healing for early wounds through the usually unconscious projection of mother or father onto the teacher/guru (as we can also do with projections onto lovers, therapists, husbands, wives, friends, celebrities etc.)  

In the film Jeff says about Bhagavan Das, “When I'm in that man's presence, I feel he is connected to the Mother like no human I have ever encountered!” That’s what happens: a direct experience of Spirit that cracks us open. Oh, it’s easy to point out that this experience is not something the teacher or guru gives us, but our own connection to Spirit- but the understandable impulse is to want to stay close to the setting, teacher or practices where we have been given a glimpse of the divine, been cracked open to our own deeper experience.

We want to commit. Completely. In some ways the more the teacher lives in a way that defies cultural norms the more he or she seems to offer an opportunity to live our desire to devote ourselves to what matters more than social convention and mundane daily concerns. What saved me was that I had children- and nothing trumped my love for them. When the teacher with whom I was studying began to ask for a commitment that compromised mothering my sons, I woke up and walked away.

In this film we journey with Jeff as he struggles with the guru's inconsistencies, as he travels to seek counsel from others, some of whom waffle all over the place, while others- Sean Corn, Wah! and Ram Dass- offer clear, heartfelt honesty about the damage that can and often is done by ordinary humans masquerading as enlightened beings. Jeff had already done a lot of psychological work and so is somewhat known to himself, aware of his own wounding. With this awareness, realizing the truth of his relationship to Bhagavan Das is as inevitable as it is painful. 

Jeff offers us a great gift in taking us with him on this very personal journey in Karmageddon. If we can watch the film and resist the urge to distance ourselves, to pretend we have never been or could never be fooled, Jeff’s story offers us insight and prompts reflection into the places where we have “bought” what was false out of a genuine hunger and sometimes momentary unconsciousness that makes us vulnerable to con artists within or around us. 

Oriah (c) 2012


  1. Wonderful blog this morning, Oriah, thank you so much. This of course is my story as well; I was in a 12 step recovery program for many years. I loved the connection I found, and followed their dictates without questioning anything for a long time. After awhile it became quite painful and I was scared and confused and didn't understand why because it had felt so "right" for so many years. I felt I would die or go back to my "addiction" if I left the group. James Fowler describes it so well in his Stages of Faith chart. I simply was beginning to question things on my own and what I viewed as a "bad thing" was actually moving forward spiritually, I just couldn't see it at the time. As I questioned my thinking around it all (I became resentful towards the "gurus" and myself, like somehow it shouldn't have happened this way), I began to see them as wonderful teachers that were a part of my journey and came to a place of love and gratitude for them and myself. I felt a peace because I also saw my innocence in all of it and therefore was able to see theirs as well, and as you say, there is no them and us, it is all us:

    I was excited to read your post this morning when I realized it was Wednesday!

    1. Becky, thanks for sharing your story and the link- very helpful. :-)

    2. Becky, what a wonderful coincidence: I'm just reading "Many Roads, one Journey - Moving beyond the 12 Steps" by Charlotte S. Kasl. Your topic is reflected there, and as I have always had my problems with some of The Steps, I'm grateful for learning a lot about the background and what will help me in my situation more properly. Good luck on your journey!

  2. Oriah, I so appreciate your pointing out that gurus come in all shapes and sizes (like lovers, friends, sales people, and anyone we want to emulate or allow to inform our choices more than ourselves.). Plus,I try to always stay open to being a student, and sometimes it can be confusing to identify what is my ego resistance and baggage (like wanting to be liked and accepted) versus being a novice at something and appreciating guidance. Adding to the confusion, can be doubts that muddy the waters by making it hard to identify the underlying emotions that are triggered by strong energies. It's all a dance..... For me, energy can be it's own overwhelming force if - or when - I am not clearly centered, aware, and present. Then, the boundaries fade and I feel lost at sea. Awareness and grounding steer me home.

    I remember reading Bhagavan Das's book over a decade ago. Reading it alone was a huge hit of Shakti, so I can empathize with the appeal. Kind of like it's own drug. I hope to watch the movie!

    Thank you for your blog.

  3. When I began my healing journey I was gullible like a child. I was so hungry for light and truth that I scooped up a lot of stuff that proved to not be in my best interest. I think I turned over every stone and looked behind every door.
    But, as I continued to grow I noticed one day that I was no longer looking for a guru. I learned to go within and to trust my spirit. It took time on the path for me to get to that place.
    It's easy to be sucked in when we're hungry for the divine mystery that is calling our name.
    Great article, Oriah.

    1. It is indeed easy to be fooled when we are inexperienced and hungry Brenda. Part of what I wanted to convey in this is that there is no shame in being hungry :-)

    2. Brenda, you hit it on the head: "I learned to go within and to trust my spirit." I know what it is to be spiritually hungry. My journey has only begun the past few years, but none of the "gurus" I have been around seemed to have any knowledge that we don't already have. They only served to remind us of what we already know, but may have forgotten. Take the good and the useful, not only from gurus but from everyone around you. Trust yourself to know what to keep and what to leave. We are surrounded by teachers if only we look!

  4. Many, many moons ago I had a spiritual teacher who one day told me quite bluntly that she always self-destructed and damaged everything and everyone around her as a way to 'move on'. I didn't hear her. None of us- her students - did.

    The damage took years to heal.

    1. Sometimes it takes us years to learn to believe what people show and tell us early on. Sigh. Hopefully we do learn :-)

    2. Yes, we only believe what we want to believe, despite all the signs that we choose to ignore.

    3. Karen, well, sometimes there are signs that we ignore- but sometimes the other is working very hard to create an illusion that will encourage us to take lies as truth. We can be and often are, fooled (take a look at advertising that makes promises to convince folks to buy what will not work or what they do not need or cannot afford.)Some are particularly skilled at passing off the counterfit as real :-)

  5. Good morning Oriah,just connected here for the first time,You are a real treasure I wish you love always Helena

  6. I am so fortunate to have come across the teachings of Krishnamurti early in my travels and he made total sense to me. Since I do not join any thing in general his teachings were easy for me to understand and appreciate. His writings are very blunt and says he HATES all of the guru nonsense and to not let anyone have authority over you.

  7. Part 1/3
    I am one of "those people. I am proud to say Bhagavan Das is my Guru. Unlike the filmaker who has only had three visits with Bhagavan Das, I have had 10 years of knowing and working with this man. Let me state for the record, in no way have I ever felt victimized or conned... challenged and provoked, yes...victimized andconned, no. Bhagavan Das has never presented himself other than who he is. If you project ideas of perfection on him, he will shatter them within the first few moments of being with him. I understand he is not for everyone. But I can honestly say I couldn't be happier with my Guruji and my journey with him.
    I do like the points you bring up in your article..but i want to clear up that not everyone who is in relation with Bhagavan Das is inexperienced or feels they have been fooled. I was on this path and studied with some very amazing teachers for 7 years (and continue to) before I even met Bhagavan Das. I have never been disappointed with this relationship, and maybe this is because i was never one to search for a "perfected being" to begin with...but was in search of perfecting my own understanding and experience of unconditional love. I am very happy with what i have found here. By learning to love BD, i have learned to love myself and others on a much much deeper and much less superficial level.
    There are MANY who have had this same healing and strengthening experience with Bhagavan Das. I did find it peculiar that the filmaker didn’t use any of the footage of interviews he conducted with BD’s long time students, nor did he let the audience know that BD has been happily married for 5 years. I found that to be a little odd that a documentary going back to BD's childhood, would leave that info out...even just some words on the screen at the end like they do in normal documentaries would of been nice and very just makes me question the flim maker's motives.

  8. Part 2/3
    ..But I just wanted to clear up that many who know BD do not feel that he is inconsistent or feel the need to hide who he fact it is just the opposite...he is who he is...and we love him for that. We love him, not in spite of that, but BECAUSE of that. It is a great lesson in being an unashamed, perfectly imperfect, human being learning to be honest and trying to love all parts of himself...even the not so pretty parts. I dont know about anyone else, but I have lots of those not so pretty parts in me, and working with someone who openly shares his experience of fumbling through the dark to retrieve the light is extremely helpful to me. BD has helped many accept who they are, by fiercely loving both our shadow and our light. In that love we feel safe to take off the he is willing to take off his....and in this space we feel free to bring our darkness out of hiding, into the light of awareness and love where it can truly heal. In my experience BD changes his actions depending on who he is with, almost as if saying to that person through his actions "look, its ok...see i can do can you...come out of the closet". Those that have the most hang ups are usually those that BD acts out with the most....and when there is no more buttons to push...the game is over....there is no drama to be found in relation to BD...only love. This is just what i have experienced and seen with my own eyes. I found it hilarious that BD was laying it on that thick with Jeff....and how many buttons he actually the point of jeff beating on a cushion....I know that feeling...been there, done the difference is I looked in the mirror …at myself, not at BD or even my parents… instead of pointing my finger at "other" .....and i ended up learning alot about myself and came out on the other side not feeling victimized or conned but unbelievably grateful, empowered and super strong in myself and my ability to love (myself and others) unconditionally, beyond judgment and through being triggered or not. This has helped me out immensely in my own personal relationships and in life.

    1. ty for this.....BD has been a guiding light for me since i first read his book.I even have a FB page set up for it!I honor and respect all the incredible soul work he has done and does and shares so openly.He is so raw. I am not making excuses or judging or condemning his actions,(I have my own karma to contend with) and he knows more than we that he will have to pay or as he says EAT IT.His fav deity Dark Mother Kali holds his head and laughs TOMORROW TOMORROW right? Make no mistake he IS a true guru for this world,he makes no pretense.He will shock your soul to wake u up.As he wakes himself up.TY BD for coming to me in visions and meeting me in the astral realm with solid spiritual advice that i use daily.I plan to one day meet you.Lj*

    2. Lj, I might be misreading your comment but it sounds like you have never met BD. I am surprised that you are so sure that he is a "guru for this world" if this is the case. As a writer who knows a lot of other authors I know all too well that one should not confuse the book with the author. And your dreams, as helpful as they may be (mine often are) are yours. Clearly BD is a symbolic figure of importance to you but I would not confuse that symbol with the man, particularly if you ever do get to meet him one day. :-)

  9. Part 3/3

    Bhagavan Das never taught us to have faith in HIS perfection or wisdom (EVER) but to have faith in the wisdom and perfection of the moment (no matter what it is) and to have faith in our own heart's ability to meet that moment with courage and compassion. To use all of life (the beautiful moments as well as the ugly) as the Guru.
    My favorite part of this movie, is to watch the spiritual community's reaction, esp those who don't actively work with their seeing alot of judgment, hate, and "not me" mentality. Its interesting to watch the reactions of those who dont know BD and are just looking at BD through jeff's limited portrayal of him and taking everything as truth without stopping once to question the film maker's motives (who only had three visits with him and was obviously angry with him, even though he never expressed it to BD face to face...he played the role of "devotee" the last visits to capture more footage and stories while rolling his eyes and smirking at the camera behind BD's back).....its also interesting to watch the reactions of all those who work with BD personally and love him (including me) and our reaction of everyone's deeply critical opinion of our Guru...and how our lessons in unconditional love and bearing witness to the light in others as they reveal and work through their own shadow (even if its jeff's) is being challenged and stretched.....this is good stuff...this is the stank and stench of life that allows the flowers grow.
    To hear more from those who know BD and were involved with this film please read their reviews of the movie at as well as other's reactions of BD and their opinion of people like me who call BD my love being called a cultist, mindless follower and a helpless female victim grief.

    1. Kalyani, thank you for sharing your experience of BD here. It is, of course, completely valid- as valid as Jeff Brown's experience is, as he depicts it in the movie. I actually did not take the movie to be primarily about BD. I took it to be a movie about Jeff's personal and spiritual journey with BD- and in this blog I wanted to explore and explain why someone would commit to a spiritual teacher or guru that others might see as unappealling. Don't know who has called you a "cultist, mindless follower or helpless female victim" but those are not terms I would ever use, nor are they used in the movie..

      I have never met BD- although I have worked with and learned much from a teacher who shocked and dismayed many. I must admit that although I was not drawn to work with BD, I do accept that many (including Jeff) have had transformative spiritual experiences in his presence. The moments in the film that made me cringe (and told me that workign with BD is not right for me) were the ones where he spoke with derision about young women. Laughing, he tells the story of the young prostitute with whom he had had sex when he was a young man, calling her "a 13 year old whore." Later he complains to Jeff when he finds out that the young woman (18) he has invited to come on the road with him has declined when she finds out that singing with him was contingent on having sex with him. Angry, he asks why she would think he would want to have him with her if she wasn't willing to have sex with him.

      Please understand- my discomfort with BD statements has nothing to do with moralizing about sex- but with respecting the Feminine as embodied in the being of a young girl and a young woman. Calling a girl a "whore" and implying that the only worth a young woman had was in her willingness to "open her legs" just felt like another sad) instance of misogny.

      I don't know BD, but I do know Jeff Brown as a friend, and I can tell you that the story he tells in this movie is true to his experience. He has made himself very vulnerable in telling this story and I thank him for sharing it honestly and openly without guile and without trying to hide his own humanness or shadow. What I do know - from the long thread that followed this blog on Facebook- is that it has already helped many to speak honestly and about experiences they have had with gurus (having felt previously silenced by shame)- and that is a gift to the broader spiritual community.

  10. Lol, no i know you did not call me those things, as you are very respectful in your writing here. I was meaning the things that were said by others in the comments left in the elephant journal review.

    Yes, I know those scenes you are speaking of. Many of us have heard this very same story about the 13 yr old prostitute girl he lost his virginity to when he was 18, while in the middle east...some very close to him have heard it in a more vulnerable and revealing way...with hurt and regret in his voice….and others (like me) have heard it in a similar way we saw in the movie...but what others don’t know, is the laughing and his way with words was to point out the absurdity of the whole thing... but the viewers are not allowed to see is the whole context of the conversation, only the parts that jeff wants us to see….and not only that, but with added editing to sensationalize the story by replaying baba laughing over and over and over again like some sort of a boogie…which is a bit much. Jeff is obviously trying to sell us something…which he didn’t really need to …the story is shocking enough on its own. Personally, im surprised baba was willing to share this story, with not only jeff, but with the whole world, as most of us go to great lengths to hide taboo or "shameful" past experiences. I find it actually very healthy that he can openly tell this story, even if he has to laugh through it to get it out there. How many of us would do that? On film no less?

    About getting angry about the girl not wanting to tour if she wasn’t offering sex….why wasn’t this on film??? Baba seems to be sharing everything for the camera…why was this not captured? All we have is gossip and hear say to go on…and I do not personally trust the film maker to be objective enough to “just take his word for it”.

    Yes, I do believe Jeff feels this movie is true to his experience and believes he has zero agenda . I believe he believes that those feelings of wanting to “punch” or “smash” Bhagavan Das did not find their expression and outlet through this movie.

    I don’t know about baba being a misogynist... politically incorrect, yes…misogynist, I don’t think so. That’s just not my experience with him. But I can see where you would come to that conclusion from watching jeffs film. I would too if I were you.

    Yes, this may be jeffs experience…and he is free to have that…but this is also a 60 year old man’s life we are dealing with…and I find it grossly irresponsible, as a documentarian, to not tell the whole story, and to only offer the audience snippets of footage selected to sell your personal projection of the man.

    I’m not here to condone all of babas actions, as he clearly has his faults. We all have to lay in the bed we make…including Bhagavan Das. Jeff is free to make his movie in his own way and we are free to have our opinions about it. And hopfully we will all grow from this experience. I am just here to ask the viewers to watch this movie with the film maker’s motives in mind. To watch the editing and what it was designed to make you feel about what you are seeing. And to let everyone know that not everyone has had Jeff’s experience with Bhagavan Das(even though their interviews - folks who have been with baba for 10 years-were left out of the movie in exchange for interviews with famous kirtan singers)….Im just saying, there is always more to the story than meets the eye...again, everyone please read the reviews from those involved in the movie

  11. ps-If my introduction to Bhagavan Das was through this movie, I would of came to the same conclusion as you...that this is not the guy for me...Id want nothing to do with agree with you 100%...But thank goodness this was not how i got to know who bhagavan das was, as I have enjoyed 10 years of learning, loving, throwing tantrums (lol) healing and growing with this man. He has had an amazing impact on my life. Fortunately for me, this movie was not made 10 years ago to color my experience before i even could have one.I got to meet the man myself and was free to form my own opinion through my own experience. It saddens me to think that if i watched this propaganda film 10 years ago, I wouldnt of given Bhagavan Das a chance in hell... and I would of missed out on what has been one of the most profound, healing and transformative relationships of my life. Not because it uncovers and exposes Bhagavan, jeff did not do that...Bhagavan das already willingly does that to himself through just being honest and laying his shit out for everyone to see all the time anyway, and through his autobiography as well(as he is very self revealing in there too) nothing new i said before, im not offended by bhagavan das's relationship was never dependent on his perfection...its just I can honestly say, jeff really has gone out of his way to vilify and sensationalize bhagavan das to sell his own personal story. He has chosen what to show us and what not to show us to support his on going story line. I think that does a dis service to Bhagavan das, folks watching this movie and even to jeff himself.

    1. Well, I would give more credit to myself and others who are viewing the movie- we can indeed discern that the movie is told from Jeff's perspective (and he makes no secret of this- he is not presenting the movie as a documentary on BD but a presentation of the story he has chosen to tell about his own experience.)

      For each person there are certain "deal-breakers" - ie things we know would make it very difficult if not impossible for us to enter into or maintain an on-going relationship with another (as teacher or in another intimate role.) For instance, lying is a deal-breaker for me. While no one likes being lied to, others might be able to tolerate it much more than I can for other positive things in a relationship. (I use this as an example only- I do not see BD lying.)

      For me, speaking as BD does about a girl and a young woman (and I do take Jeff's quote of BD in this to be factually true- I know him well enough to know he would not make up a direct quote in this way,) is a deal breaker re: whether or not I would want to learn from him as teacher. Is it all of who he is? Certainly not. But the fact that it arises so clearly (and I am grateful for his honesty) tells me that I would prefer to work with others (and happily there are many available to learn from.)

      I did not hear or see anyone speak of BD with hatred in the movie- although Jeff is honest about his feelings of betrayal and anger. The other teachers who were interviewed either supported what BD brings to students that has value and/or express concerns with a tone that I heard as caring for both BD and students. Ram Dass is particularly lovely as he clearly helps Jeff sift through a number of efforts to justify BD's behaviour- but I do not see or hear hate in his words or action.

      You, of course, are entitled to your opinion about what motivated Jeff in making this movie. I stay away from speculation about others' motives. Some days it is hard to discern all of my own motives (the unconscious is alive in well in all of us) - claiming to know what motivates others is rarely useful.

      I trust people to take them movie as what Jeff claims it to be- a story of part of his journey. Perhaps I have an unrealistic faith in the human heart to discern the truth we need to see and hear (and I say this as someone who- as I pointed out above- has a low tolerance for lying.) We all tell stories with our words and actions all of the time. You have told a part of your story here. Jeff has told a part of his story in this movie. I have no doubt that you are both telling your stories as truthfully as possible. And the rest of us, will hopefully, listen and discern what truth these stories have for us.

    2. @ Oriah: I appreciate the gentle, conscientious tone of your remarks. When emotions run high, as when responding to issues raise in Jeff's film, it's sometimes difficult to eschew vitrolic language.

      I am also glad to hear you say that, when it comes to discerning the likely value of a helping relationship with someone, "lying is a deal-breaker." I'd like to call to your attention to some representative instances of deception by Jeff in his film.

      The first is Jeff's staged "discovery" of the alarm clock in Bhagavan Das' NYC apartment, which he employed as conclusive evidence of BD's alleged kleptomania. This is clearly a dishonest practice to which no responsible documentarian would ever stoop.

      Seth Barron, in whose home BD was living at the time, has claimed ownership of that clock. In this scene of the film, you can hear Seth's then-wife, Emily, assert their ownership of the clock, but Jeff ignores her--because he had a rhetorical agenda (then as now), and therefore willfully rejected her credible alternative testimony. He acted against better knowledge because it suited his purpose. No matter how you slice it, that's bearing false witness.

      A second, more generic, instance of Jeff's dishonesty: those of us interviewed by Jeff (preeminently, BD himself) were "sold" on participation in the project (in 2005-06) as a celebration of BD's life, music, and impact. Nobody was given any reason to suspect that this film would become "Jeff's story," or that he would use BD's (relative) celebrity to create a cinematic platform for Jeff to (inauthentically) portray himself as a spiritual seeker "heroically" struggling with his internal wounds and moral conflicts. Many of us would not have participated if we had had any sense of Jeff's intentions.

      A third display of Jeff's disingenuousness is his refusal to offer the audience any more recent information on BD's life and conduct than that captured during principal videography--even though Jeff is very well aware of BD's utterly altered modus operandi for most of the period since. BD's is a most significant and thoroughgoing change of lifestyle, aided by his wife of 5+ years. Because Jeff doesn't offer so much as a text epilogue, he leaves the audience with a rather skewed and obsolete portrait. So far as I can tell, Baba has dramatically altered his behavior in precisely those domains around which Brown organized his most damning criticisms.

      Such a cavalier handling of facts in this "documentary" raises the question of Brown's integrity elsewhere in the film--and more globally.
      In light of these example of falsehood, I must ask you to reassess your perspective on Jeff. You said that "I know [Jeff] well enough to know he would not make up a direct quote." Maybe. But his actions demonstrate a degree of "artistic license" wholly out-of-bounds for a documentarian. Given your commendable "low tolerance for lying," This, I think, should give you pause.

    3. Dear Kurt, as you can imagine I have no way to evaluate your claims about how this film was represented to you. I was not there and reasonable people can (and often do) disagree about how things were understood between them in the past (just ask my ex-husband:-) I know from both conversations with Jeff and from the movie itself that Jeff began filming when he was indeed feeling a great connection to and appreciation for BD. This makes the movie somewhat unique. Many have tried to tell the story (usually in book form) of their journey with a guru with whom they are later disenchanted- but few have actual documentation of the beginning stages when the connection is strong and the guru's gifts are being gratefully received.

      I had a very different take on the "that's my clock scene" in the movie- the whole thing seemed very light-hearted (even if the clock had been taken from Jeff's -and that is left up in the air since we do hear Emily say she things it is theirs- it would have been a pretty minor "theft," possibly even by accident.) What I took from that scene was a kind of open-hearted tolerance amongst everyone in the room for BD's many eccentricities.

      Of course, the later scene where it becomes clear that BD took a picture off of Jeff's partner's altar and put it in his luggage has more serious overtones- and clearly was felt as a violation by Jeff and his partner.

      The movie ends, where the story Jeff is telling about his own life ends. No doubt BD`s life has continued and may have changed. In fact, Jeff allows BD to talk a little about how his life is changing at the end of the film. To blame film-makers (or book writers etc.) for not continually adding an update to the end of any story, seems unfair. Jeff told his story and he chose where to bring that story to an end- at the end of his relationship with BD. Dates are mentioned throughout the film (in terms of years) so we are all aware that it ends a number of years ago. Again, because I did not view the film as BD`s story- but Jeff`s story about a part of his journey- I would not have expected him to follow up with people who appear in the film, with whom he may or may not now be in touch.

      I have another friend who is a documentary film-maker so I have some appreciation for what happens when you seek to tell a true story. Others - even others who were present for the same events- would not tell the same story, because the story we tell is dependent upon our perspective and our choices about what to put in and leave out. I think here about the movie A Brilliant Mind. Many were upset that the film-maker did not deal with the fact that the main character was, in life, gay. But the film-maker was out to tell a story that focused on a different aspect of the character's life and decided (for reasons of length and emphasis) not to include that information. For some, this felt like a violation of the truth, the ommission of an important fact. But the film-maker is the story teller, is the one who decides which pieces of information are relevant for the story he or she is telling. Short of making up information and presenting it as fact ie-lying (and I do not hear any evidence that this is what Jeff has done, although I hear that your recollection of what you were told in the beginning of filming feels like that to you- although surely you could concede that the film's purpose may have changed as Jeff's experience of BD changed) the film-maker legitimately makes these choices as story-teller. Will that leave some feeling that critical pieces, perspectives and information are missing? Probably. And so, others get to tell their story. . . continued

    4. . . . The questions the film raises- about spiritual teachers and gurus and our relationships to them (what we learn, where harm may be done, how we relate to the guru's necessary humanness, what the guru is culpable for, how the community as a whole supports and/or contains a guru's behaviour if it is possibly harmful; our responsibility for our own choices verus being conned etc.) are what interest me most. Those directly involved with BD may debate endlessly and never agree on whether or not the story Jeff has told is "fair" to BD, but for me, the film is about a particular phase of many people's spiritual journeys- one that we might all benefit from examining openly and honestly. That is the conversation I am happy to see the film stimulating.

  12. Beautifully said. I just telling my piece of the story to offer viewers a little bit more of a well rounded portrayal of Bhagavan Das.

    In the end only Bhagavan Das knows his intentions and his experience of himself...every other story...jeff's and mine as well...are only projections.

    I just feel the need to balance out what i feel is a very imbalanced movie...and with that information...let others feel and believe and walk away with what they want.

    May we all be honest with each other and with ourselves, may we all speak our truth and hold each other accountable with love and and compassion...may we all have patience with ourselves and each other as we navigate through these waters of transformation and healing. We are all in this together...

    1. I do want to be clear that although I think it is probably not useful to speculate about another's motives, we can see and experience another's actions. We may view those actions through our (conscious or unconscious) filters but actions are not mere projections.

      When I was a young woman I was raped. The brutal beating, hair pulled from my head, bruises, bleeding, repeated voilation of my body were very real. The choice/actions of the other were fact- not a projection on my part.

      I say this only because we can find ourselves in the murky area of a kind of solipsism claiming that everything we see is ONLY our projection, and that is simply not the true. Other people do make choices and take actions that effect us. Accepting this is part of honouring the reality of inter-beingness in physical form (an honouring sadly lacking in our culture with the inevitable environmental results for the earth.)Actions have impact and consequences. It's one of the things that makes this discussion about the role and impact of spiritual teachers complex and well worth having.

  13. Part 1/3

    Yes, im sorry you have had to go through that...but i do not think that is what we are talking about here. Bhagavan Das pees in cups, pushes people’s buttons and likes to have sex with younger women.

    Yes, I agree lets talk...this is a worthy discussion to be having....nothing but good can happen from communicating openly and honestly. Jeff and I do talk privately with each other. He and I have a healthy dialog going. I actually have quite a bit of affection for Jeff. I have thanked him for triggering me through this movie, and having me look deeper into myself to reveal some shadow aspects I deal with like being an enabler. I have issues around wanting to save others from their upsets me to think of someone i love (bhagavan das) hurting or feeling betrayed by jeff …not that BD feels this way...i dont know how he actually feels...he could secretly be loving all this hype and discussion for all i know…. BUT Im willing to ask myself those questions and question my reactions to jeff's movie and what it brings up in me...Im willing to question my motives as to why I feel the need to voice my opinion...asking myself “Is it because I feel jeff is not offering the viewers a well rounded honest portrayal of a man, like I think ..or am i just trying to save my Guru from sufffering??” Im guessing its probably a little bit of both. I know I am a work in progress, I not ashamed of that...i know I don’t have everything figured out about myself and about life….i have nothing to hide when it comes to that...i have no persona to protect .If baba is suffering...who am i to want to protect him from his suffering? is his...and it is his right to have that experience…..i trust the wisdom of the universe enough to know that she providing everyone with the exact thing we need in life to promote growth and healing in our self (even when it dosen't feel that way sometimes).

    Please know, I do not say that lightly as i have lived in womens shelters as a kid growing up and have gone to bed many nights with my alcoholic dad loading and cleaning his gun telling me he can kill us all in our sleep and there is nothing we can do about it...I am NOT down playing the reality of fact, that is WHY i feel the need to save people all the time...because i know suffering so well...but i also do know it was that very suffering that pushed me to look for something deeper and more solid in myself at such a young age...i dont know if i would of searched so hard if i wasnt pushed there by life...this realization and reality does not let my dad off karmicly...that is his karma and his business...he will have to lay in the bed he makes…..but how i react to his karma is MY karma....knowing this, I am no longer a victim in life...i create healthy boundaries to say "thank you for that lesson…we are done now"...and really mean it...the “thank you” is authentic and genuine..because i know it brought me to where i am at today...this dosent mean i get to side step from going through the emotional process of digesting the experience...there is no way around that but through please know when I say "i trust the wisdom of the universe to provide for us the exact thing we need to promote growth and healing (even when it dosen't feel that way sometimes)" ….i say this as someone who knows suffering very intimately and is not using this as a cop out to feeling the feelings, creating healthy boundaries, and holding others accountable.

  14. Part 2/3
    My concern is, there is a kinda of spiritual arrogance on Jeffs part, that there is no questioning on his side when it comes to this. That he believes there are no more layers to investigate when it comes to why he made the movie, why he put in what he put in and left out what he left out...thats all. He seems to feel he has it all figured out and self questioning his motives is off the tables for discussion.In fact jeff gets mad, and calls those who are questioning him "lunitics".
    Which surprised me, as it seems important to him that we all hold each other accountable and he seems very excited to "stir the pot", as he says, and get everyone talking and questioning. I may not agree with how the movie was handled, but now that its here...i say lets go for it...lets ALL dig a little deeper...Im will to take that trip with trying to do my trying to look honestly into myself as to why i feel the way i do.

    Yes, lets talk. Yes, actions have consequences. Baba behaves badly sometimes. He gets what he deserves. If Jeff feels he was done wrong by Baba, let him say it. It is his right. And if I feel there were conscious or sub conscious motives behind making the movie on jeff's part (jeff himself agrees that knowing the intentions of someone's actions is very important) and to invite jeff to dig deeper and ask himself who's “under developed sexuality”, "violent tendencies lurking just below the surface", and ability to “exploit others for personal gain”, does he really hate? is Bhagavan Das’s? His Father’s? or could it be Jeff's? Maybe its a little bit of all of it.

    Aren't these the question's Jeff would want us to ask our self? Whats the harm in looking deeper into our motives and projections? We can still hold each other accountable with love and compassion while continuing to question our self and what part we are playing in all this. Jeff is putting himself out there by making this movie. People will have their own opinion about the movie. Do we not have a right to share OUR opinion and have a voice too? Can we not ask Jeff questions too? I have even gone as far as to say to my guru brothers and sisters to look at ourselves and what this is bringing up for us when we want to start vilifying Jeff. Asking them "are we hating Jeff's need to blame, side step, self preserve, sensationalize, and vilify...or our own?"
    I am willing to ask myself these questions, and am willing to hold those i love accountable by asking them to ask the same questions of themselves.

  15. Part 3/3
    Regardless if i agree with the way the movie was handled, the reality is everything is out on the table and open for discussion now...this is just here offering an invitation for jeff (and everyone) to keep asking ourselves these keep digging...and dont be too sure that you got it ALL figured out...I dont care if you call yourself a guru (like bhagavan das) or write a whole bunch of self help books (like jeff)....we are always growing…I don’t care who you are.

    I do hope jeff takes me up on this…and hasn’t closed that book and taken it off the tables for self inquiry…that would do him a grave disservice…as there is usually always another layer to peel back…and when we think there isnt...we are usually fooling ourselves.

    Yes, lets keep talking…as staying quiet in shame does no one good…sometimes I feel when I start to speak about my experience with my Guru, people like to throw taboo stories in my face like I have no right to feel the way I feel because my Guru is who he is…like they are bringing these stories up as if to shame ME into silence. And just like you and Jeff, I refuse to be silent as well, as I honestly believe I have something to offer to this discussion surrounding the movie….if I didn’t, I wouldn’t keep putting myself out there… as mine is not a popular stance to take….with those who love jeff, as well as those who love to hate him….i am speaking from my heart….as I pledge allegiance to no one other than my own heart (just as my baba has taught me) ……im just here offering a larger perspective than what I believe was given to folks in the movie and to offer an invitation for us all to step out of “those people” and “what kind of person does that?” and just take a moment to look at ourselves …just as you had suggested in your original writing…..those are some very good questions…..and I believe you and I are on the same page in the end…Im not asking anyone to agree with me that Bhagavan Das is a good Guru or even is a valid Guru…my experience is mine and isn’t dependant on anyone else….im just offering another perspective and experience for people to take into account…and chew on.

    My fingers are tired of typing…..Im done now...Ive said my peace...geesy peets, I talk waaaaaay too much….sorry if I put everyone to sleep…lol

  16. Its funny, Kurt Bruder, but I have the footage from our interview where I asked you very pointed questions about your relationship with Bhagavan Das, including many related to his shadow and one related to how you would feel about Bhagavan Das hitting on your partner etc. There was never any question, either from the beginning of this documentary process when Bhagavan Das made a point of including his shadow in the footage (and the working title was 'Shadow and Light'), nor with respect to your interview, that the shadow was intrinsic to the film. You are making very pointed slanderous statements that have no basis in fact. Jeff

  17. In addition, this whole denial around the theft thing is silly. I could say more but will simply point out that even Kalyani, who is the most sincere of the bunch of you in my view, in a recent Facebook wall post acknowledged that Baba stole for her. I quote.. "and baba's first meeting with baba he stole me a copy of Maharaji's book 'miracle of love' ...its my favorite gift from him.....". So plllllllllease....

  18. Well, folks, I think I am going to end the conversation there before my inbox explodes- so I will not be posting any more comments on this thread. Clearly folks have very different opinions about the movie. May advice- see it for yourself. The link to the trailer is at the end of the main blog post above and the movie itself is available to be purchased and downloaded atr Whatever you think, questions about the role of gurus, responsibility of community and students for actions/impact of gurus are ones well worth mulling over. Thanks for all the contributions, Oriah

  19. Oriah, I remember some years ago discussing my own experience with my disillusionment with my teacher at the time. I was quite humbled by my own innocence to follow...all the way to Greece! You helped me to understand that this is a spiritual test rich with learning and a necessary gateway to a more direct experience of the Beloved or Divine. You shared your story of your own experience and that eased my distress.
    I am glad that this topic has been shared more openly. I appreciate the the soul tear that Jeff depicted as I could relate also.
    I am a bit saddened by some of the commentary regarding 'right' wrong' 'blame' 'attack' 'defence' 'motives' etc. The real learning is in the opening and airing of this relationship and the learning it offers.

    1. Amen Nancy :-) As to the discussion I suppose it simply reflects how emotionally charged the teacher-student relationship is.(And we human beings are very emotional creatures :-)