056. Philip Goldberg

Philip Goldberg has been studying India’s spiritual traditions for more than forty years, as both a practitioner and an author.  After teaching Transcendental Meditation in early 1970s, he became a professional writer and has written or co-written 19 books, including The Intuitive Edge, Making Peace With God, Roadsigns on the Spiritual Path and his most recent work, American Veda: From Emerson and the Beatles to Yoga and Meditation, How Indian Spirituality Changed the West. The book was greeted by enthusiastic reviews from journalists and experts in the field.

He is also published novelist and a member of both the Writers Guild of America and the Authors Guild.  His blogs appear regularly on the Huffington Post, Elephant Journal and other sites.

An ordained interfaith minister and spiritual counselor as well, Phil was the founding director of the Forge Guild of Spiritual Leaders and recently created Spiritual Wellness and Healing Associates (SWAHA) in Los Angeles, with his wife, acupuncturist Lori Deutsch.  His websites are www.AmericanVeda.com and www.PhilipGoldberg.com.

Interview recorded 1/29/2011.

Video and audio below and as a Podcast.

9 thoughts on “056. Philip Goldberg

  1. I haven’t finished listening to this fascinating interview, but I have read the chapter, “Sex, Lies, and Idiosyncrasies.” Given the recent discussion on this issue on the sister Discussion List, Wednesday Night Satsang, this chapter is extremely relevant. The discussion was sparked by a participant’s comments on Sai Baba and went from there to Maharishi, and then wider to the guru movement of the 60s and 70s.

    One aspect that has not been mentioned, but is important to me, is the promise of freedom from craving and desire. This, of course, is classic Buddhism, but also Hindu moksha is just that — freedom. If the gurus are not free, and are still enslaved by desires beyond their control, then this brings into question the validity of the technique or path. One begins to ask, “why bother?” What’s the point of it all?

    Also, on the issue of sexual abuse. Sometimes abuse is in the mind of the beholder, for sex is neutral, neither good nor bad, except when non-consensual, and then all actions, not just sex, are abusive if not agreed to by both parties.

    I wonder sometimes if sex should not be classified as a bodily function — as are as eating, sleeping, drinking, and eliminating. We would not expect a guru to have control over these bodily functions, and we are told to obey and respect them. Messing them up is dangerous and can lead to illness, death, and, for the latter, severe embarrassment. If sex were included with basic bodily functions, then no one would be expected to have control over it. It functions according to its own laws. Therefore, like food, drink, and sleep, it can be regulated but never completely controlled or banished.

    The money and power abuses, however, fall into another category, and still challenge some of the basic assumptions about the goal of these practices. Perhaps there is a state of moksha while one is embodied, but it must be a rare achievement.

    To me what is challenged is the promise of freedom, a state of detachment. These gurus don’t seem any different from the rest of us in matters of enslavement to desire. The disconnect between their behaviour and the promise of what they teach raises the question, “What on earth is this all about?”

  2. Thanks for that, Tom. It’s somewhat formulaic, and I’m always suspicious of attempts to clearly categorise people according to type, as there is usually significant overlap. However, a system is useful in order to have some sort of criteria upon which to assess the value of a teacher. This the author admits to.

    I was fascinated to see so many of the various teachers who claim to be enlightened not given this exhalted status. It actually vindicated my own critical suspicions in many cases.

    We’re all fellow travellers on the path, and some a step or two ahead with very very few at the summit.

    Best wishes, and happy travelling,
    Joan

  3. “If the gurus are not free, and are still enslaved by desires beyond their control, then this brings into question the validity of the technique or path. One begins to ask, “why bother?” What’s the point of it all?” ~ Joan Relke

    here’s my 2cents POV on this…

    is this true?… is it absolutely true?… in other words… does this apply to all gurus?… to everyone?… is everyone totally enslaved and there is no hope?… here’s my 2cents POV…

    some are not free… others are free… discern and choose which you want your thoughts to dwell on… of course if you can let go of all thoughts, then there is no problem… is there?… but for speaking with others, we do need to sort things out a bit… i guess…

    first a little about my own experience, so that you don’t dismiss completely my words as philosophy only… even though i was not actively close to MMY or the T.M. org, i practiced for 25 years every day… participated in WPA once a year average… had some profound experiences here or there… even though my daily meditations usually did not go beyond calming the mind down… but good enough for not relying on medicines etc for 40 years now…

    after starting T.M. in 1971, within a few months, i spontaneously became a vegan and a few months later a celibate… a pretty good & comfortable (almost effortless) celibate for 30 years, which had nothing to do with taking vows or being forced to follow guidelines… i had no position in org that demanded any such guidelines… obviously it was past lives of being a reasonably good monk… and good for what i had to do… care for elderly parents etc…

    in my mind, MMY was a celibate monk, and perhaps my own imagining is more important then the actual facts, which were unknown to me at the time… but even now, i take what my good friend Rick says with a grain of salt… about MMY and Satya Sai Baba… remember, the past, whatever it was, cannot be changed… meanwhile our ?own? thoughts, imaginings, ponderings create the future… and deep silence dissolves all inequities… paradoxes… contradictions…

    and Tolle says that our “own” thoughts are not even our own… they are part of the collective… and we make then our own via identification… for whatever reason… righteousness… etc

    now… in my own mind some amount of righteousness is good… yes?… maybe?…

    15 years ago i became a devotee of Amma, who i believe to be a genuine Incarnation… meaning that… attaining Self-Realization in previous lifetimes, She made a resolve to return to help others… that’s my new understanding of what a genuine Incarnation is…

    about 10 years ago I retired… attended several Amma programs in a row… did seva, washed a lot of dishes, and was filled with so much love… to overflowing… Amma brought someone from my past lives… and i fell head over heals in love… or rather all of Amma’s Love within overflowed to… my current wife…

    there was sexual intimacy for some years… but now both of us are on track… becoming free from what is perhaps the hardest thing to become free from… sex… or at least have reasonable control… love without sex is what we need to grow in… is my view… and with Amma’s Grace, i pray that we are growing in that…

    again my 2cent POV, whether 100% factual or not, is that the “free” ones were/are Jesus, John the Baptist, Melchizedek, Mahavir, Buddha, Shankara, St Francis, Amma, Mother Teresa, Karunamayi, Shree Maa and her Swami Satyananda, Yogananda and his whole Guru lineage, Vivekananda, Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi…

    and many other sages, saints, yogis, monks… maybe not all, but some are…

    Amma’s Swamis… my understanding is that Amma will not make anyone a swami that is not stable in their celibacy… for example Amma exposed a brahmachari, who wanted to be a swami, by putting him in a tempting situation… he realized he had to marry and learn sexual control gradually…

    Yogananda’s parents slept together once a year for about nine years… and had nine “spiritual” children… there is a vedic story of some high being practicing celibacy for thousands of years… and then, being persuaded by wife to have a child… would have a “son” with great spiritual gifts…

    dwell on these if you want that freedom also… what we dwell on grows in our own life…

    at least a good amount of self-control is possible… for example… Llewellen Vuaghn Lee has a wife and son… his teacher Irina Tweedie, in her later years after two husbands died, was a good celibate… her teacher a Hindu Sufi had a wife and childern… Mooji is honest about having one girl friend who live with him… and i believe does not fool around otherwise… most Sufi masters were married… Christian Orthodox priests have to marry if i remember correctly…

    if you want to see purity, look for it… do not listen to your mind’s conditionings… remember… the goal is to be more and more free from conditionings… meanwhile be reasonable… use common sense…

    if you have goals of purity, plant the seeds inside… and protect them from too much wordly facts or rumors or whatever…

    so, it seems we need to look for purity within our ownSelf… rather than judge others… judge not etc…

    “if you don’t like it, change it… if you don’t change it, like it”
    not good to hate anything… anyone… i guess…
    even minor thoughts… which we might consider inconsequential…

    Jai to genuine brahmachari… the purity deep within us all… which is also ahimsa… my new definition of ahimsa = love without sexual whatever…

    interesting sutra i just came upon:
    devotee of God prays “Dear Lord, make whatever you want of me… but please make it good”
    the Lord replies “Dear Child, make whatever you want of me… but please make it good”

    enough rambling ? enjoy !

  4. Why anyone would want to be “free” from sex is beyond me. “Nothing is either good nor evil, but thinking makes it so.” It’s like wanting to be free from your dinner. What on earth is the point? For life to continue, dinner and sex are necessary. Where is the problem?

    The problem is when we decide that something is impure and then try to control it. We set unrealistic expectations and then when they are not achieved, we have problems. Any natural urge which we try to control eventually has its own way, and can come out in destructive forms.

    It seems to me we have to distinguish between what is healthy, normal sexual activity and what is excessive and abusive and work from there.

  5. Hi Phil, this one is for you… not read your book… but i think your story starts a little later than this… enjoyed your interview in audio & just started the video… thanks

    “H.P.B. The Extraordinary Life & Influence of Helena Blavatsky Founder of the Modern Theosophical Movement” by Sylvia Cranston

    here’s a book i normally would not go out of my way to get and read… but my wife’s mother sent it to us… reluctantly i started reading it and found it quite interesting… and perhaps the most interesting is this little story…

    during the times when Indian culture, Hinduism & Buddhism were decaying due to colonization and missionaries, an Indian spiritual teacher, popular in his area, was trying to revive Vedic knowledge in a more universal way rather than the traditional. But, due to cultural conditioning or perhaps feeling beaten down, the people were not getting it. Frustrated the teacher blurted out that he was wasting his time and that some will come from Russia and from America to India to do the job. This supposedly was a prediction about the two founders of Theosophy, Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott… supposedly they did quite a bit to arouse Indians to the strength of their vedic scriptures, hinduism and buddism… perhaps by showing that westerners were really interested and dedicated their lives to their ancient vedic and buddist knowledge.

    There might have been other factors helping this revival not mentioned in the book… but, obviously anything that helped Indian revival and give “western” credence to vedic knowledge, hinduism & buddhism, would have had a positive influence on the future Indian messengers to the west, like Vivekananda, Yogananda and others… hmmm? i guess i really do not know who the pioneering messengers of Buddhism were.

    thanks again, Phil… great job !

  6. Anatol, thanks for the Blavatsky reference. Actually, American Veda starts BEFORE that, with Emerson. Actually, Emerson’s father’s generation.

  7. Another excellent interview, but one thing may have been lost or forgotten in the discussion about the scandals or shortcomings of certain gurus: in Absolute Reality, those gurus, along with their followers, detractors, and everyone and everything else are nothing other than That Absolute Reality. In relative reality (in the dream), a guru may be flawed, a Hitler may appear in the world, or a child may die before it’s first birthday. And in relative reality, those things would be appropriately accompanied by disillusionment, suffering, and grief. From an Absolute perspective, however, it’s all perfect.

    Don’t forget to remember.

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