Scenes from Hamlet

Most people who take the AoL course learn some “knowledge points” which are a mix of common sense and over-generalization, do some hyperventilating, make long and embarrassing eye contact with a stranger or two and then go their merry way back to leading their own lives. They might even be better for it. Some do the course, gain something from it (or not), and that’s all there is to it.

What makes us different? Why does one person immediately see a scam to be avoided, another a practice to sample, and someone like me, a place to fall completely in love? Is it possible that many people carry on with their daily lives believing implicitly that life is worth the living of it, that the world will remain solid beneath them, and never once need faith in some god? How does the Absurdity Monster not eat their brains?

(there’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow.
there’s some divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we will.
what is a man, if his chief good and market of his time be but to sleep and feed?)

I found the answers in Art of Living, until I didn’t. Everything I was told I believed, until I couldn’t. And all of my reservations I faithfully suspended–until they grew so heavy the suspension snapped. And before that last thread could hold no longer, I was madly and totally and blissfully in love.

(When we love, how much are we only loving what we wish were true? Oh you gracious gods, how terrifyingly alone one can feel.)

I believed in bhakti yoga. Now I don’t know. I do believe that giving oneself over entirely to a religious leader of any persuasion is often an act of self-abdication, an act ultimately counter to self-realization (whatever that means).  If it is an act of love, it is an act of the kind of love that often comes from fear

( I am afraid of making the wrong choice I am afraid of loving the wrong person I am afraid of wasting my life I am afraid of being alone I am afraid of a meaningless existence I am afraid of being green and becoming old and never being ripe I am afraid of never knowing truth I am afraid of losing I am so afraid of losing and I am afraid I am alone I am afraid)

or from an innocence one is unwilling to surrender, or a consuming desire for something to give yourself to utterly, or a need for an ultimate authority, or…

(please! just give me anything I can point to and say, “yes, THAT” and never let my heart falter or mutiny please anything but a gnawing agnosticism with its rotund and dangling ellipsis, For there is nothing neither good nor bad but…

Stop. Let me simply be faithful and good and satisfied somehow. please. )

and if those longings seem to be answered by a guru, a political leader, a lover, a gospel–answered totally, leaving no room for doubt, asking only your complete devotion–who can be blamed for diving headlong, passionately enacting a suicide-pact of Psyche and Sophia?

(Oh I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space…)

I miss certainty. I wish I had never tasted it. This freedom frightens me. How pleasant it was to surrender, how much pleasure it gave to pull with all my might and trust that someone else would do the driving. How I loved feeling that every day I did kriya brought me closer to …Something.

(and yet to me, what is this quintessence of dust?)

The one and only necessity is to believe that life is worth living. The rest is chaff and sprinkles. That single beatitude must stay. I must hold on to that, at all costs. Sometimes I feel it slipping, and that frightens me. That way madness lies.

(Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs? Your flashes of merriment that were wont to set the table on a roar?)

The rest is…

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow–


About theartofleaving

Former devotee and member of The Art of Living organization reflecting on the process of joining and leaving cults, abusive relationships, and sundry obsessions. Trying to draw the line by connecting the dots.
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4 Responses to Scenes from Hamlet

  1. I should mention a touch of Lear and Macbeth also crept upon our talk. Nature must obey necessity.

    oops. Julius Caesar now too.

  2. observerjr says:

    The thing that took me a long time to accept in life is that there doesn’t seem to be any one path that has all the answers. I was naive enough to believe that AOL was probably the answer to todays world, and the ideal spiritual path for those enlightened or smart enough. I have found a huge sense of relief and freedom with not being aligned with any one path anymore. But I agree, it can be a bit intimidating at times, and confusing. Just remember the freedom have now is giving you more of the real you and the previous life in AOL was not.

  3. anonymous says:

    Dear Art of Leaving,

    I never wonder why I was so consumed by AOL and Ravi Shankar. I know why: Manipulative genius, and my deep desire for enlightenment, permanent and absolute. He promised all that, personally, to me. He made many claims to people when there were not crowds around him. He was simpler and kinder (although a growing streak of sadism could be seen, if one looked a bit) and seemed to really want to teach us something wonderful. His energy made me assume that he must be enlightened and could guide my path. I was wrong. It was just energy, a result of years of practices, and a “loan” from his master, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. How he uses that energy is his problem. The empty promises he made are his problem. They were mine for a bit, and now they are not. He has his karma. I have mine. I don’t know how people get involved these days, with all the big crowds and no access to the ‘master’. I would never do that. It’s not my taste. But maybe it’s fun for some to go and feel high, like a drug, dance around, breathe, meet other people doing the same thing? Like a social club? So what. You picked the wrong group of people to be ‘friends’ with. Now you’ve grown and moved on. That sounds like just part of life. The hard part is dismissing that really, undeniable, high feeling that does definitely come from being around him! And it makes people question “how could he not be the master I dreamed of??” Lots of people in the world have had such energy and controlled large crowds of people. Some of them were good, and some of them were very bad. Energy flow from an individual does not necessarily mean he has your best interest at heart. It took me some time to see this. Having been an insider, I learned too much about this person to overlook it and stick around. So I left. I was frightened. I was confused. But I never went back, and quickly found that my ‘friends’ in AOL were not friends. They were simply acquaintances who wanted to stick with this man no matter what his behaviors were. In India, people like to claim that terrible behaviors on the part of their beloved guru are part of the “Divine Play”. My question always became: “If you saw your next door neighbor doing this, would you call it ‘Divine Play’? Or would you call it perversion, manipulation, crooked behavior, and then caste the whole family out of your society?” Nobody likes that question 🙂 I don’t know what is or isn’t Divine Play. But I do know that until I’m willing to accept every person on the earth doing particular behaviors as ‘okay’, I’m unwilling to exempt any master from the same standards of basic, decent behavior. In Indian culture, Ravi Shankar would be considered a huge sinner, and someone to be avoided at all costs by 85% of the population (if they knew about him). In other cultures, only a portion of his behaviors (like taking money and saying it’s for charity and using it for personal gain) would be considered bad. Why should we exempt him? Why should you even ask yourself why you fell for a manipulative genius? He’s at fault, not you. It’s like the rape victim saying “why didn’t other women passing by get raped? They were in the same area, wearing the same clothes, but somehow I fell for the guy’s conversation, and now I’m the victim!” Not to say you should think of yourself for a victim, but you have been victimized. It’s not a shadow on your character, but on Ravi Shankar’s. Others escaped for various reasons, but not because they are “better” than you are.

  4. Sandeep says:

    I did the basic ourse after my 12th board exams and my mind i dont know lost its way actually.i thought something good was happening to me and practiced it for 4 more years.i wasted my best years of my life.i regret that time

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