Back in the late 80’s, Jacquelyn Small wrote a fantastic book called Transformers. It was a revolutionary book that influenced me more than anything else I can remember at the time. This was long before Eckhart Tolle came out with The Power of Now, long before Byron Katie developed The Work, and long before Satsang became popular. And in that wonderful book, there’s one particularly wonderful sentence that stands out among the rest.

“You don’t have to be ‘perfectly enlightened’ in order to be an agent of enlightening.”

It’s really worth savoring the taste of that statement like a good wine. Sip it. Let it linger on your taste buds for a few moments. That little sentence dispels so many myths and so many reasons we give ourselves to hold back our true gifts. (more…)

I was ten years old when Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a little known Indian teacher who had founded the “Spiritual Rejuvenation Movement” back in 1959, gave a retreat in Bangor, Wales. That retreat, with its usual attendees from the metaphysical sub-sub-culture, would have gone completely unnoticed by the rest of the world were it not for the surprising attendance of four very influential people: John, Paul, George, and Ringo.

The Beatles had already been setting trends in fashion, music, haircut, and lifestyle since the early 1960’s. When they grew their hair longer into the “mop cut,” it became the signature of the Beat generation in 1962. When they started to experiment with psychedelics, it took only a few months for many others to do the same, and it spawned the summer of love in 1967.

So when the Beatles went off to visit Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, first in Wales and then in Rishikesh, India, the number of people learning transcendental meditation went from a few hundred to millions within a year. When the Beatles went to India they were joined by Donovan, Mia Farrow, and a handful of other cultural icons. The Beatles got disillusioned with Maharishi within a year.  Their song “Sexy Sadie” on The White Album ridicules their ex teacher. George quickly hooked up with Swami Prabhupada Bhaktivedanta, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, and developed a devotion to Krishna which was unbroken until he died. Swami Muktananda set up shop in South Fallsberg, New York, and also drew in a torrent of celebrities. Werner Erhard created EST. By the early 1970’s, the question on everyone’s lips had shifted from “what’s a guru?” to “who’s your guru?” It seemed like everyone young and hip enough had a spiritual teacher they were following, and there were literally hundreds to choose from.

Many of those teachers were from India, Tibet, Japan, or China, and came from traditions where business and spirituality had no common ground. In the early 1970’s, however, many of them developed huge organizations, quite commonly with assets in the millions, and generally with a burgeoning feudal structure, not dissimilar from the very Catholic Church many of them had only recently shunned.

The attraction to having a teacher at that time was extremely clear. Many of us were born in the years following the second world war. Our parents were obviously confused about many things: gender roles, how to raise children, the purpose of being alive, to name just a few. They were, for the most part, adrift and unhappy. The religious traditions in which we grew up: Protestantism, Catholicism and Judaism, seemed to offer only the possibility that we could become like the generation that had reared us. So an India teacher, promising the giddy heights of enlightenment, appearing to be completely relaxed and confident, with an unambiguous and strong position around sexuality, money, and how to look after your body, often with a strict regimen of practices to follow, made life simple and easy. Back in the 70’s, everyone thought their guru was The Way, and that Nirvana and Utopia were just a few years of meditation away. (more…)

Please enjoy the following except from an interview I did with Jennifer Hough of Soul Talk radio:

Bliss

Jennifer: Arjuna – I’d love for our listeners to hear – how do you describe how you distinguish that there are things in life that happen that can appear really, really serious, and how do you marry what you just said with those kind of experiences?

Arjuna: Right, right.  It’s a beautiful thing.  Well, first of all let me clarify that of course there is a very, very, very strong tendency in all of us to get very enmeshed in the realm of birth and death, you know, of things being born and dying.  I don’t want to mislead anybody.  I’m not speaking as a human being who is beyond all that.  I mean I’ve got two beautiful boys who are now teenagers and, you know, of course if anything – if a hair on their head was harmed, I would be beside myself with concern.  And I’ve got a wife I adore, and if anything happened to her I’d be…so of course it is completely, completely natural to be sad when someone is hurt or dies.  It’s natural to be sad when 230817206_e6a509864d_msomeone leaves you, and of course if you are having a struggle with money, as a lot of people are today, it’s very, very natural and understandable to feel anxious.  So I’m not by any means advocating or claiming any sort of absolute state of immunity to the human condition.  The human condition is what it is and it’s got its triumphs and it’s got its defeats.
The thing is that what we are discovering now, is that there is a way of waking up to a (more…)