What In The Name Of God? | By Bo Lozoff | Issue 99 | The Sun Magazine

What In The Name Of God?

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Correspondence

I appreciate the combination of your editorial on fighting and Bo Lozoff’s anti-New Age crap article (Issue 99).

Running a magazine distribution business has taught me a lot about fighting, i.e., you have to fight a lot. I haven’t enjoyed most of the fights although the ones I’ve won have been satisfying! I’ve come to several conclusions about fighting. (I’m talking verbal, you know, but maybe it applies to physical fights too.)

  1. Fighting is unavoidable in this world.
  2. Fighting fair is better than fighting dirty.
  3. Some situations call for anger and that’s okay.

To me, the trick is to be able to use the anger and not have it use me. The other day I had to sound angry at a crazy customer. I hollered at him; it had the desired effect. And then — oh joy! — I discovered I wasn’t feeling angry and hadn’t felt angry to start with. All I had to do was act angry. No residue of crappy feeling for a change. I had to fight a lot of fights that drained me and hurt me and left me angry for hours. It was swell to have one that lasted only for the instant that it happened.

I have a friend in another city, about age 50. I wrote to her recently, saying, “I’d like to be angry only a small part of each day.” She, being a genuinely eccentric and outstanding lady wrote back:

“Anger is better than apathy — be grateful! I get very angry. My nerves are so loose I can’t control them. Yesterday I slapped a cab driver and started a street fight. I was unscathed and happy as could be as I left the scene. I can’t do anything with it but let the good times roll and not feel bad about the angry ones!”

Amen!

Your put down of the New Age nonsense is right on. When you get way down, the only thing there is, is your relationship and worship of God.

But Bo, you put down the other gurus and elevated Neem Karoli Baba! Wait a minute!

I think it’s partly because “What In The Name Of God” was followed by excerpts from Miracle Of Love. First you put down the other guys, then we’re supposed to dig on Neem! Please Bo and Sy! I don’t want to be like Maharaj-ji! I want to be like my own true inner self.

Melinda Pleshe
Levity Distributors
North Hollywood, California

The tendency for religious seekers to get hooked on a partial truth, through the persona of an inspiring spiritual charlatan, for instance, can be disappointing to those who seek the complete truth. It’s painful. Seeing one’s friends or oneself surrender mindlessly to half-baked gurus makes one wary of all teachers and suspicious of their organizations. It makes one wonder about the value of a so-called teacher’s teachings. It makes one turn away from the New Age scene, away from traditional approaches. Into the closet to pray, perhaps.

But the seeker who has renounced blind surrender and self-abnegation, who has no use for the “I owe everything to my guru” attitude, may want to say conversely, “I owe him/her nothing.” After all, “Wisdom cannot be communicated” and “The map is not the territory,” etc. This is risky. This counter-attitude of pioneering aloneness, of striking off on one’s own, contains the peril of egohood: “I’m a self-made man.” (Or woman.); “I did it myself.” It’s attractive.

Can we have a commitment to our inherent wakefulness but also say “I owe something to those who have gone before and pointed the way”? Yes. We can be grateful to Neem Karoli Baba for telling Ram Dass not to have ashrams or disciples; and thanks to Ram Dass for passing this attitude on to Bo Lozoff; and thanks to Bo Lozoff for warning fellow travelers about the danger of spiritual materialism (Issue 99).

Fed up with New Age spiritual hucksters and guru groupies, Mr. Lozoff, in his writings and talks, urges each of us to use our conscience, to not be a spiritual sucker, to be discriminating, to be a spiritual warrior on the narrow path beyond religion, beyond lifestyles, slogans, and fads. And though the thrust of his message might be taken to be, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him” (meaning: ultimately we must each walk our own path alone), perhaps Mr. Lozoff would not mind if I append, “. . . but not yet.”

In reminding people that the path of spiritual seeking, The Warrior’s Way (as Mr. Lozoffs recent talk in Chapel Hill was titled), must ultimately lead beyond all teachings, it may be valuable to also emphasize that there are teachers and traditions of such warriorship. These lineages, cultures, ways have existed in all times in all parts of the world wherever human beings have been truly committed to honesty. Such traditions, though they may take the form of master-apprentice relationships, working with a body of teachings, actually can function to guide one beyond the teachings — thus extending the tradition.

One such tradition, a long-standing secular one which originated in Central Asia before the advent of Buddhism and which has been introduced into the West by a holder of the warriorship lineage, is called, in its current form, Shambhala Training. Through a series of weekend intensives and continuing practice, it teaches simply how to cultivate our inherent warriorship.

So, along with the heartening encouragement of Mr. Lozoff and others who are wary of false teachers and self-deception, we can go further — to train ourselves in the ability to see clearly and to develop the confidence to act accordingly. In this effort, it can be inspiring and genuinely helpful to have the benefit of teachers and teachings, of those who have gone before and those who are our contemporaries. Though each of us journeys alone, we are alone together.

Steven Fisher Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Bo Lozoff responds:

Just a couple of things I’d like to point out in response to these (and other) letters. First, after my piece was written and sent to the printer, CoEvolution Quarterly hit the stands with its Winter ’83 issue, with three excellent articles which made the same points much better than mine. One was a documented expose of the “secret life” of Baba Muktananda; the second was a sensitive and constructive look at the corruption of Baker Roshi at San Francisco Zen Center; and the third was called “Perils on the Path” which offers some general guidelines in stepping through the minefields of spiritual organizations. I would highly recommend all three to be read by the people who have written the above letters.

Second, I just want to clarify in response to Steven Fisher’s letter that in no way did I intend to discourage people from surrendering into spiritual practices or lineages. On the contrary, my whole motivation was to help keep such surrender sacred by being honest about what I see as abuses and exploitations of that process.

And finally, about the letters from Rajneeshpuram — I think the writers pretty much exemplify the points in my article in their own letters, so I’m happy they wrote. The only comments I feel are worth responding to are: 1) I think the proud use of phrases like “local rednecks” and “stupid, ignorant, small-minded bigots” are a lot more responsible for an attitude of violence and danger than my article would be; and 2) this whole fixation on “living master” is far off the mark. For example, if Rajneesh died now, would his followers just kick him into the ditch and go off looking for another guru? The truth is, despite what Da Free John might say, that true masters, living or dead, can certainly kick ass. Connection to a master is connection to the deathless. This is what the spiritual life is really all about, not the heaven-on-earth games being played in Oregon. Thank God there’s more than that!

This is in reference to Bo Lozoff’s article, “What in the Name of God?” (Issue 99). I don’t intend to defend any of the people criticized in his article. In fact, I heartily agree with his warnings of the dangers posed by “attachment to the ethic of not-judging.” But I must take issue with how he followed his shoot-from-the-hip remarks about famous “gurus” with paeans of praise for Neem Karoli Baba, as “a real-live Guru, a living Christ.” To me, inserting that sort of personal belief here falls into the same sort of smugness for which Lozoff criticized the TM people earlier in the article. Printing the parables and sayings from Miracle of Love immediately following served to underline the feeling that perhaps both Lozoff and THE SUN were saying, “Now that we have your attention let us show you our guru. He’s better than these other jerks.” To me that’s “tacky” and not in the spirit of one who “yelled at people who told others of his miracles.”

It is easy to praise gurus and saints when they have left their bodies. It might seem easy to follow them. After all, what can they do to embarrass or rob you or prove you a fool for following them? Yet, I would say that a living Master is valuable beyond reckoning, and worthy of being sought whatever the risks. For most of us, only a living Master can offer the grace of his company, the guidance of practical personal example, and, out of his own mouth into our own ears, the words we need to hear. Certainly there is need for discrimination and the risk of encountering imposters is great. But counterbalancing the risk is the seeker’s sincere desire to know God, a desire kept pure by faith and trust in God’s own ineffable desire to reveal Him/Her Self to any true seeker. The bond created by that faith is the only thing that can carry any seeker, even the fortunate one who sits at the feet of a true master, to his or her actual goal.

Cedar Koons Timberlake, N.C.

Once again, I’m writing to correct errors of fact about Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and His disciples in the irresponsible foamings of Bo Lozoff, whose attacks contribute to the escalating threats of violence against my Master and the home we share with Him here in Oregon.

Bo begins his attack on Bhagwan (in his article “What in the Name of God?”, Issue 99) by coming down firmly on the side of bigotry! He congratulates last year’s Portland Yoga conference (ironically titled “Unity in Yoga”) for trying to exclude Rajneeshism from its presentations. Prejudice is the decision to malign what one refuses to understand. Since Rajneeshism pushes Bo’s buttons — the ones wired up to his anti-sex and anti-money circuits — he’s made the choice not to understand, and to spread his misunderstanding around, without caring how many lives it may endanger.

For example, Lozoff parrots a myth created by hostile journalists and local rednecks about “the takeover of Antelope.” Many print and TV journalists have told the story factually, but true to his prejudices, Bo chooses the reportage he wants to hear. The fact is that Rajneeshees bought property in Antelope which was freely, gladly offered by the “old-timers.” Rajneeshees only began running for office when a handful of locals announced their intentions to run us out of Oregon and the U.S. Ah, yes, the “peaceful old folks” of Antelope: have you seen them wearing hats showing a Rolls-Royce in the crosshairs of a rifle sight? Have you read their letters to local papers with statements like “Slaughter them if necessary”? Have you seen them telling reporters that they’re just “itching for the shooting to start”?

The Antelope Public School “problem” is that the bigoted locals don’t want their children to learn and play with ours, and that’s the long and short of it. The state-certified public school in Antelope has a majority of Rajneeshee teachers and students, but no religious philosophy is taught there in any form. (This is a break from the past, when Antelope teachers used to smuggle their fundamentalist Christianity into the schoolrooms.) Now the “old-timers” want their children bused miles away to an “all-white” (i.e. non-Red) school, and they want the taxpayers (mostly Rajneeshees) to pick up the tab! Yes, these are “stupid, ignorant, small-minded bigots,” whether Bo likes these words or not! Yes, they all have the spark of the divine within them, but they act like they’re determined to douse it.

Bo tries to imply that Bhagwan is the absentee owner of discos, hotels, etc. Nope. All our enterprises are owned and operated by sannyasins — disciples — to provide an income for the commune and to provide a setting for meditation in the marketplace for disciples. No aspect of Rajneesh financial activity provides personal gain for Bhagwan or for any other individual. Bhagwan Himself owns nothing. This is not a merely legal distinction. It is a reality, and an example to us all. Bhagwan is an Enlightened One, beyond all attachment. We offer Him the use of Rolls-Royces and we are delighted that He accepts. They’re the best cars we can find, and as Sheela has said, we wish we could find even finer ones, because nothing is too good for an Awakened One. We offer these to Him in the same spirit that moved Mary Magdalene to anoint the feet of her Master with oil so costly that its price would have fed many. (It was Judas, by the way, who complained about the cost of the oil.)

Bhagwan’s commune is wealthy and is getting wealthier. We’re showing the world how to end poverty — and it’s not by Bo’s methods of band-aidy, do-gooder “service to humanity.” It would be nice if the world would take notice before self-destructing.

Bo Lozoff seems to me to be in many ways sincere and no doubt helpful in the warm friendship he extends to prisoners. But he reacts against Bhagwan because Bo is a little guru defending his territory — his handful of dependent disciples and his patched-together dogma, which includes the tattered, conventional condemnations of sex and wealth which clergymen typically use to bamboozle their congregations. Naturally, a little guru feels threatened by the presence of an authentic living Master — especially one who teaches the sane and conscious use of sex and money.

Bo writes at length of the late Neem Karoli Baba as an example of what he thinks an enlightened Master ought to act like. Well, Bo, if you really believe that living Masters are so far out, why don’t you go look for one who can help you, instead of fiddling around with stories about dead Masters whom you “revere,” taking a bit of this one and a bit of that one to make up a pastiche that keeps you comfy? As Da Free John said, “Dead Masters can’t kick ass.” If Neem Karoli Baba were still in the body, would Bo be keeping his distance and writing about him as “a great thinker with distorted values”?

Bo Lozoff’s entire article consists of public dumping on all the teachers he doesn’t like. This would be pathetic if it weren’t dangerous. We at Rajneeshpuram are being attacked by all kinds of ignorant forces right now, and people like Bo Lozoff will have to share the responsibility for spreading the ignorance.

Swami Anand Bodhisattva Rajneeshpuram, Oregon

Bo Lozoff’s article, “What in the Name of God?” (Issue 99), demonstrates impeccable thoroughness of logic and polished writing talent as he presents his well thought out support system for his judgment of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh. Allow me however to point out one erroneous statement in his description of Bhagwan: “and he’s a brilliant writer.”

Of the hundreds of books published under Bhagwan’s name, only one was written by him (Cup of Tea which is a collection of personal letters). The rest of what you can read by Bhagwan has been taken from his daily conversations and discourses with disciples. His words come to you totally unedited, unpolished. Let this penetrate: his works are unedited! He is without a doubt the least edited “author” in the world. He has never made any effort to “shore things up” where his consciousness has slipped. His consciousness does not slip. He is not a brilliant writer; he is brilliance. And this brilliance ever increases in his silence.

Bo Lozoff is a writer of some brilliance himself and certainly appreciates the power of good editing to beam light on his subject. Can he imagine this clarity coming through him as he speaks everyday, or even in almost three years of silence?

Perhaps if Bo dare look through this tiny hole in his network of impeccable logic of what a master “should” and “should not” be, he might see something of Bhagwan which is beyond any logic. He may see the light!

Ma Prem Prartho Rajneeshpuram, Oregon

Just got Issue 99 of THE SUN and wanted to say Whoopie! A get-down-and-boogie issue! Your piece (you seem comfortable writing longer — do it some more . . . what the hell, you own it); Bo Lozoff’s accurate and congenially loud-mouthed appreciation of the “New Age”; and Steven Hendlin’s letter-response to Lozoff’s earlier criticisms (I sometimes wonder if those of us along the spiritual circuit don’t go a little knee-jerk negative when psychologists, philosophers, etc. investigate our turf with carefully-defined terms that may, but do not necessarily, betoken an untutored, heartless, neurotic, ’fraidy-cat academic) . . . all of it made me feel as if I’d just finished a good, filling, and spicy meal. No pablum parlor this! Keep the pepper coming!

Adam Fisher New York, New York
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