There are more psychopaths pretending to be saints than there are real saints. This book will provide you with some understanding of what a psychopath is, what a saint is and how to tell the difference. It is also a sharing of what I have found in my search for inner-peace and for ways to develop my unrealized potential.
Some paths I followed were more like stepping stones which went part of the way, but became obstacles to further progress. Some of these paths were offered by sincere teachers, and others were paths of entrapment offered by psychopaths. I learned something from all my spiritual teachers, if only that some teachers and teachings should be avoided. I hope that sharing my experiences will provide you with some guidelines for avoiding similar mistakes, while encouraging you on your own spiritual quest.
2.1. My spiritual journey¶
My spiritual journey began in 1971. I was then the president of a national franchise company after having a meteoric rise from being a stock broker in the early 1960’s. I purchased a small business from a customer, who was dying of cancer in 1964 and parlayed it into several other small businesses. In 1965 I resigned as a stock broker to devote all my time to my growing business empire. Everyone marveled at how successful I had become, and it seemed assured that I had a great future.
In 1971 I was given some LSD and some good advice on how to make use of it. I was told that I should make a firm decision not to go outside my apartment or answer my phone for 12 hours after I had taken the drug. It was suggested that I do some inspirational reading and listen to inspirational music for the hour or so it would take for full effect
I neither recommend nor discourage people from experimenting with psychedelic drugs. Although they rarely mention it, many of the best Western spiritual teachers today began their spiritual evolution with psychedelics. Most people who try them simply have pleasant, unpleasant or confusing experiences. Although only a minority of people who experimented with psychedelics had beneficial spiritual experiences, there were millions who experimented with them from the mid 1960’s to mid 1970’s. During this time, most of the people who became involved with meditation or who took spiritual journeys to Asia did so as a result of their experiences with psychedelics. This is rarely the case today. It seems that the drug experiences only showed that there were possibilities of altered states of consciousness. Today we have the results of the quests for inspiration.
My first experience with LSD was profound. During it, I had two insights that changed the course of my life. One insight was a transcendent experience of time and space, during which I briefly touched the stream of my unconscious mind. This was the basic seed that inspired my spiritual journey.
The other insight was an awareness that, as I had become outwardly more successful, I was becoming inwardly more uptight and unhappy. Suddenly I saw that all my personal relationships revolved around money. People associated with me because they expected me to invest in schemes, lend, or give them money. I could offer jobs, buy services or merchandise and provide money making opportunities. I saw that I had cultivated unsatisfactory motives in people around me and that I lacked truly wholesome personal relationships.
At the time that I came to these realizations, I was in the middle of developing a public offering of my company’s stock. If I had continued with this process for another three to five years, I could have made a twelve-million-dollar profit on my stock. However, it now seemed to me that making such a large amount of money would sabotage the type of relationship I would like to have with people. I soon began a process of divesting myself of business responsibilities. Within five months, I had found a new president for my company and set out on a full time spiritual quest.
I founded the Orphalese Foundation and gathered a group consisting mostly of psychologists who were interested in creating an intentional community dedicated to developing human potential. We did not feel that we had all the answers, but we felt confident that we could find and share answers. We had a 30-room house in Denver and a 123-acre retreat in the mountains. We explored a wide variety of practices from yoga and meditation to theories of human potential and cosmic consciousness. As with the vast majority of intentional community experiments popular at that time, our group became the victim of greed, aversion and delusion. We could say the same words as to how the goals of our community were also our individual goals, but the words had selfish individual meanings. After two years our group disintegrated, and we went our separate ways.
2.2. Ram Dass¶
During the final phase of our groups’ disintegration, I discovered the book Be Here Now by Ram Dass. I was particularly inspired by the audio tapes of his talks. I could identify with his stories of experiments with LSD at Harvard in the early sixties when he was Dr. Richard Alpert working with Dr. Timothy Leary. At first they thought they had discovered a way to attain enlightenment, but after five years Dr. Alpert decided that drugs were a dead end. After abandoning drugs as a path, he went to India and found his guru who gave him the name Baba Ram Dass. He felt that his guru offered the answer to what he said was, “whatever it was I was looking for.”
Although Ram Dass did not claim to be enlightened, he did describe himself as a seeker offering what he found on the path to enlightenment. Since he said that Westerners were generally not welcome in the place he had found in India, I began a daily routine of the various practices he had described in his books and tapes.
The practices were primarily those of Raja Yoga—a combination of traditional Hindu practices such as study, reflection, breathing exercises, hatha yoga, morality and meditation, which could result in a profound transformation. I was quite impressed with the results I was getting from these methods, and it seemed that I was on the right track. As the community of the Orphalese Foundation was disintegrating, I was becoming more involved with Ram Dass and Raja Yoga.
2.3. Distributing audio tapes¶
I wrote to Ram Dass about the high cost of his tapes limiting their availability to many people. I had a meeting with him and ended up being responsible for the distribution of his tapes through the Orphalese Foundation. Later, when the Hanuman Foundation was formed in 1974, the tapes were turned over to this new organization and I continued to be manager of this project. My work with the tapes and Ram Dass provided many contacts that became sources for this book.
I was raised as a Christian, but Christianity did not offer all the answers that I was seeking. Ram Dass had been raised as a Jew, but he went beyond Judaism because it was not providing the answers he sought. While I was with Ram Dass, I experienced an eclectic smorgasbord of spiritual traditions and techniques. Ultimately, I found that among the Eastern traditions, the Buddhist meditation he introduced me to is the most beneficial form of practice and, the Buddhist Philosophy is most in tune with Western culture.
2.4. Buddhist vipassana meditation¶
After I left Ram Dass and the Hanuman Foundation in 1977, I gradually increased my emphasis on Buddhist Vipassana Meditation. In 1980 I did my first three-month retreat at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, Massachusetts. The teachers there were Western laypeople who had spent years studying Buddhism and practicing meditation in Asia. They intended to establish a new Western style of Buddhism almost without rites, rituals, or dogma, which emphasized the practice of meditation as its main feature. The method of meditation they taught was developed by Mahasi Sayadaw, who was the preeminent Buddhist meditation teacher in Southeast Asia.
I was inspired enough by the results of my three-month retreat to continue this practice for two years as a hermit in a remote area on Maui, Hawaii, Although I was in a remote undeveloped area, soon after I started my retreat, a stupa of enlightenment was built on the land next to my retreat. The stupa brought me into contact with Tibetan Buddhists, but my practice continued in the Theravada Buddhist tradition. I gained a deep appreciation for the Tibetan tradition during this two-year retreat.
People who made pilgrimages to the stupa would learn that there was a Buddhist meditator nearby, and when I was not doing intensive practice, I accepted visitors. Gradually, I was becoming established as a teacher, but I felt that I had much to learn. I could have continued my retreat indefinitely as a caretaker of the land that I was on, but I felt that I should go to Asia to learn more about teaching.
After two years, I returned to IMS intending to do six months of volunteer staff work before going on to Burma. It turned out that I could not get into Burma because of the political turmoil there. IMS was also going through a painful period of crisis because the social structure of the staff was virtually dysfunctional. Because of my background in tape recordings, a unique role of being quasi-staff, quasi-meditator was created for me. I founded the IMS Tape Library that later evolved into the Dharma Seed Tape Library. I had my own private office at IMS in which I could work quietly and meditatively, mostly isolated from the turmoil of the regular staff. I also did five hours of intensive meditation every day.
After managing the IMS Tape library for a year, the Board of Directors gave me a one year full meditation scholarship in 1984. It was a good time to be on retreat at IMS because four great Asian meditation masters taught there that year: Anagarika Munindra, Dipa Ma Barua, Tungpulu Sayadaw and Sayadaw U Pandita. I had heard endless stories about Munindra and Dipa Ma as they had been primary teachers of most of my Western teachers. Tungpulu Sayadaw was widely regarded as being fully enlightened. U Pandita was the successor to the late Mahasi Sayadaw, and was regarded as the leading authority on this method of practice. U Pandita turned out to be an incredibly powerful teacher, and has been the greatest influence in my developing an advanced meditation practice.
After the full IMS scholarship expired, I was able to continue my practice with a partial scholarship from IMS, grants from a private foundation and gifts from several friends. Finally, after being on retreat for almost five years, I decided to return to the real world. I spent eighteen months traveling all over the United States doing odd jobs and teaching meditation. During this period, my teacher Sayadaw U Pandita taught a ten-day retreat in California, which I attended.
I thought that I had learned the lesson that there is no particular time standard for how the practice unfolds. I expected that the purpose of a trifling ten-day retreat in 1986 was to renew old acquaintances and brush up on my meditation practice. I was surprised that this ten-day retreat turned out to be one of the pivotal experiences of my life. As soon as I could fulfill my teaching commitments after this retreat, I returned to IMS for another year and a half of intensive practice.
2.5. Peace Pilgrim¶
During this retreat, a Tibetan monk visiting IMS did a reading from the Peace Pilgrim book. After reading the book, I became convinced that Peace Pilgrim was a rare case of spontaneous enlightenment that Buddhist texts refer to. She seemed to conform to the Buddhist concept about these cases: she was an inspiring teacher, but she lacked a complete methodology for guiding others to the same attainment she had made. Peace Pilgrim died in 1981, and some followers had compiled the Peace Pilgrim book from transcripts of her talks, newsletters, and letters.
What particularly inspires me about the Friends of Peace Pilgrim, the nonprofit organization distributing her book, was that they give books, audio and video tapes away free. Anyone writing to Friends of Peace Pilgrim, 43480 Cedar Ave., Hemet, CA 92544 and requesting the Peace Pilgrim book will receive a free copy. They rely only on unsolicited donations to continue the distribution of Peace Pilgrim’s message. Peace Pilgrim believed that spiritual teachings should never be sold. This is an ideal in the Buddhist tradition followed in Asia, but no one had been successful with free distribution in the West. For years I had been trying, without success, to figure out how to distribute audio tapes for free.
At the end of my retreat in 1988, I went to Hemet, California to do one year of volunteer work for the Friends of Peace Pilgrim. I did this partly to support the teachings of Peace Pilgrim, but also to learn how to do free distribution of spiritual teachings. I learned that it could be done when free facilities are provided and the volunteers have independent incomes.
2.6. Insight Recordings¶
In 1989 I returned to teaching vipassana meditation in different parts of the United States. In 1990 I gave up teaching in order to found Insight Recordings that distributed audio tapes of Buddhist teachers. I took a one year sabbatical in 1993 to do volunteer work for the Vipassana Support Institute and to do a period of intensive practice with Sayadaw U Pandita in Burma. The retreat in Burma brought my total time spent in intensive meditation retreat to over seven and a half years. When I returned from my sabbatical, I found Insight Recordings in a dysfunctional state. Since I felt that the best service I could do was to write, I shut down Insight Recordings and put its equipment in storage.
2.7. My life is my message¶
I have included the details from my personal melodrama in this preface so that you can have some understanding of the bias of my view. Also, I have been inspired by a quotation from Mahatma Gandhi. Once when Gandhi was boarding a train, a reporter asked Gandhi to give a message to the people of his city. Gandhi replied, “My life is my message”. In this book I have intertwined the message of my life with the messages of many different religious traditions.
I find that identifying myself precisely in religious terms is difficult and paradoxical. I consider myself a Christian who finds great value and truth in the teachings of Jesus. What we know of Jesus and his teachings gives me a strong suspicion that he was enlightened. I see strong evidence that contemplative Christian practices have resulted in a few people attaining enlightenment, and this reaffirms my Christian tradition. I separate with Christians who believe that an experience or rites and rituals can assure eternal salvation. I share the Buddha’s view that eternal salvation comes only from purifying our consciousness from greed, hatred and delusion. I see strains of purity and true understanding in Christianity that I can identify with.
At the same time, I have difficulty identifying with many aspects of the Buddhist tradition. Enlightenment has been defined in part as a disbelief in rites and rituals, but Buddhism has evolved a plethora of them. Buddhists believe in previous incarnations of the Buddha where moral values are exemplified, in my view, in improbable fairy tales. One of my teachers believed I should not have a buddha statue in my room because the buddha statue would see dirty, filthy parts of my body if I undressed in front of it. Buddhists can be fundamental and dogmatic in their beliefs and negative about other Buddhist traditions and other religions. Often good Buddhists believe that Buddhism (and possibly only their particular tradition) has a monopoly on enlightenment
Despite these reservations, I find difficulty disassociating myself from the Buddhists. Enlightenment is very clearly of central importance in Buddhism. Logic and personal experiences are officially stated by the Buddha as being more important than dogmatic belief, scriptures or any authority. At his death, the Buddha refused to appoint a successor saying that everyone should be a light unto themselves. The Buddhists, by far, have the most extensive and systematic understanding of what enlightenment is and how to attain it.
Joseph Campbell once said, “God is like a computer and religions are like programs.” “All the programs work” He discretely did not mention that, as with computer programs, some work much more efficiently than others. Also, different programs are intended to do different things. Although I don’t particularly think of myself as a Buddhist, I have noticed that when I explain concepts to people, I invariably use the Buddhist program. Today, when I seek teachings and guidance in meditation, I look for a Buddhist teacher. I am using the WordPerfect computer program to write this. I must be a Buddhist as well as a WordPerfectist.
In this book, I take an eclectic view of enlightenment from many different religious traditions. However, my area of expertise is in the Buddhist tradition, and when I describe details of a saint’s evolution I use the Buddhist model. A couple of the people who read earlier drafts of this book completely missed the point that when I discuss the process of evolution in the meditation practice, I am describing the Buddhist view of the evolution of a saint. Many people who are qualified to judge the relationship between Buddhism and Christianity have concluded that there is an essential relationship between enlightenment and saints.
Enlightenment is emerging from being a vague experience of Eastern mysticism. It is becoming a scientifically verified, quantified and qualified experience as it enters Western culture. In the past, when Buddhism entered new cultures, enlightenment eventually became the highest ideal of the culture, and perhaps even a fad. It could happen again.
If it does, there will be an abundance of false teachings and teachers that will go along with it. This is why I chose to write on the subject of Saints and Psychopaths. I want to share my experiences to help others avoid the mistakes I made. Also, I want to make a clear statement, in Western terms, as to what enlightenment is, in order to help people determine which teachers and teachings are leading to freedom and which are leading to slavery.