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Buddhadharma : Summer 2014
34 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SUMMER 2 0 1 4 about your spiritual experience, you reify it and begin to identify with it and believe it. The more you talk, the more you convince yourself that something special really did happen. Worse still, others might start to believe it and feed the reifi- cation. Word of your awakening can spread like a virus, and before you know it, everybody may become infected with strains of your nyam. When this happens, a subtle codependent rela- tionship develops between “master” and disciple. The disciple unwittingly enables the “master” by revering their nyam (and projecting their psycho- logical issues onto the “master”); the “master” then enables the disciple by showering them with attention (and similarly gets tangled in a swarm of their own projections and shadow elements). They think they’re lifting each other up, but they’re actually pulling each other down. Every- body buys into the experience of the “master,” and soon a cult is born. A “guru” has been force- fully delivered into the world. This is not the beautiful birth of a realized guru but the deformed birth of guruism. Guruism is based on the spiritual experience of the “mas- ter,” and the cult is all about spreading that experience like a disease. Everybody catches the fever and wants to have the experience. These “gurus,” in an effort to protect the nyam and their exclusive role as its transmitter, often quar- antine their disciples from outside influences. They claim they’re protecting their disciples, but in reality they’re just defending their own egos and empire. The Branch Davidians, Jonestown, and countless other cults have followed this clas- sic formula. It’s another expression of grasping after elite experiences, a natural consequence of a nyam run wild. The danger in confusing authentic gurus with guruism is that both involve surrender. Surrender has a powerful place in spirituality, if you surrender to the proper authority. When you intelligently surrender to a guru, their pure realization can pour into your open heart. The result is awakening. If you ignorantly surren- der to guruism, that tainted experience can also penetrate your heart, and the result is often catastrophic. In my years on the spiritual path, I have seen many teachers cemented to their nyam. There’s no doubt that many had genuine spiritual experi- ences, but there’s also no doubt that they were points out, “Ordinary people don’t get enlight- ened because they don’t meditate. Yogis don’t get enlightened because they don’t stop meditating.” They can’t get enough of their high. There is no tyranny as great as the tyranny of success—material or spiritual. Success leads to pride and attachment. Nyams are markers of success, but the tyranny of that triumph can boo- merang. When nyams are solidified, they must be defeated. Honest meditators invite that defeat; charlatans shun it. Guru vs. Guruism There’s another reason why it’s dangerous to talk about spiritual experiences. When you talk PHOTOGRAPHERUNKNOWN