FROM THE ARCHIVES: Danny Kenny reviews the reviewers: Sarlo’s Guru Ratings, Spiritual Teachers and Peter’s Pages — or as he calls them, ‘the unholy trinity’
In these times, many of us dream or wish for “the simple life.” Some of us even go so far as to search for it. But be careful what you wish for — or more like, be careful what you Google.
Especially if you’re searching for “spiritual teachers,” or say, some of the names listed on Soul’s Code in the right column under the Department called Teachers We Track. One of these sites are likely to show up in the first page of your search results: Sarlo’s Guru Ratings, Peter’s Pages and Spiritualteachersorg. They “rate” — and in some cases, berate — spiritual experiences and figures.
Jesus Christ, I hear you exclaim (he only rates a 2-out-of-5 on Sarlo’s site, by the way). Are you serious?
YES MY SOUL, brothers and sisters, I am. You may think these sites that pop up have the answers to your questions but they don’t even try to reach deep into the soul, just the Internet — a sort of first-come, first server. As the result of a giant pre-ordained network of links, they have achieved high rank authority for keywords like Eckhart Tolle, Byron Katie and the Dalai Lama.
Sarlo’s, for example, has 1,500 entries that “rate” spiritual teachers with a scale that uses Buddha icons, and even critique such factors as their humility. An interesting paradox in itself, as one definition of true humility is “living life without comparison.”
So be careful where your search leads you, because as a wise Buddhist once said to me: If you are going to the “Mountain Top” looking for enlightenment, the chances are that the only thing you will find there is yourself.
Of course if this is a new journey for you, and you’re looking for pointers before you take to the high road to finding your own spiritual path, it’s understandable that you would want to do some form of research.
Even so, picture in your third eye my personal lack of serenity when I see this latest concept — rating spiritual experiences on the Internet makes me think one of the travel sites is on a spiritual journey to be reborn as, Expedient.com!
It’s like ringing up a Zen retreat and asking, “Excuse me, do you have a Zagat rating?”
You could imagine John Cleese and Monty Python turning this whole scene into a sketch along the lines of their famous Argument Clinic skit:
Man: “I’d like to have enlightenment, please.”
Receptionist (channeling John Cleese): “I see. Well, do you want to have the full enlightenment, or were you thinking of taking a course?”
Man: “Well, what would be the cost?”
Receptionist: “There’s the three-day package for full enlightenment, which is a steal at one dollar, but for only $2,000 you can do a course of ten with complimentary breakfast and spa services.”
Man: “Are the results measurable? I mean, how will I be able to tell whem I’m enlightened.”
Receptionist: “Oh, believe me, you’ll be the first to know.”
That parody may sound a little ridiculous but, in reality, most folks searching for some form of spiritual relief can’t just up and leave their lives, wives, partners or jobs and go and live in an ashram.
So before you commit to some form of retreat from the world, its really important to know that what you’re retreating to isn’t worse than what your retreating from.
Look for sites (like this one) that offer glib-free and genuine information about the services and practices these places and teachers offer, and are there to help you make an” informed decision” about your most valuable asset, your spiritual welfare.
The Sarlo’s and Peter’s Pages don’t always offer, “Non-biased and accurate information.” Often there’s a tainted personal opinion that smells of sour grapes, and here’s a taste of what I mean from a review on Sarlo’s Guru Ratings about Eckhart Tolle:
One thing that people overlook here is the similarities of the whole guru thing to other forms of entertainment. getting up on stage, acting, rock n roll, stand up comedy, even after dinner speaking . . . it’s all acting. Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) said something like: ‘when you are nobody, you have to act, what else can you do?’
I find it very telling that the critic frames his argument through the prism of entertainment. Because in my opinion (humble, or not) great bands, comics, artists and actors all have something in common: original ideas and the intangible power to inspire people to look beyond the drudgery of their daily grind. Some even offer a message of hope — or at least transformation of some kind, even if it lasts only as long as the performance.
The other similarity between spiritual teachers and rock stars is that you can experience them first hand yourself, without having to necessarily buy into their world.
Or you could just read a review of someone else’s experience or even become a critic yourself who uses other peoples’ quotes. Which would present another choice (not a comparison): is a critic a person who is professionally engaged in the analysis and interpretation of the works of others and expresses a reasoned judgment, or someone who frequently finds fault and makes harsh judgments like the cynical Amazing Randi who made a business out of disillusioning people who are just looking for a little magic in their lives.
Well do ya?
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