By Thomas Moore May 2003 Writer of spiritual and philosophical books such as The Mechanics of God and On the Elephant’s Knee, American-born Thomas Easley is also an accomplished painter whose clients include Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana. Associated with many spiritual organizations, Easley made headlines in the 1990s after exposing an oppressive cult movement in California. Recently, on a visit to Delhi to exhibit his paintings, Easley spoke to Sunit Bezbaroowa on the global guru phenomenon, the dangers of cults and his own bitter-sweet experiences with several gurus. What is the role of a guru? Can one do without a guru? We do need a guru when we tread on the spiritual path. That is primarily because the human species has not yet completely evolved. Some kind of leadership is necessary to guide us in the right spiritual direction. But we should realize the pitfalls of following a guru blindly. We must judge the guru`s sayings with our own rational thoughts and broader sense of perceptions. How do you see the global guru phenomenon, made possible thanks to modern means of communication?It is, overall, good because through modern means of communication, we have access to the world`s different spiritual organizations and their leaders. Spirituality is no longer confined to selected listeners in some faraway ashram. Every global guru`s main task should be to make people aware of their spiritual potential. What are the precautions that a disciple needs to take while joining a spiritual organization? It is better to be alert while joining a spiritual organization because it might not be genuine and people do get tricked many a time. In fact, a lot of cases have been reported in the world where spiritual leaders have been accused of sexually assaulting their disciples. A spiritual teacher`s job is to open the doorways of consciousness of one`s mind. If he touches your body in a manner it should not be touched, it is actually sexual gratification, which is an extension of the mortality he is trying to free you from. How do we determine if a spiritual teacher is genuine or fake? A spiritual teacher need not be idolized. Rather, a good teacher must be respected. A spiritual teacher never has the right to touch his disciple. The job of a spiritual teacher is not to be nice, but to be more honest towards his disciples. As a disciple, one should be competent enough to measure and evaluate whether a teacher is apt for him or not. A spiritual aspirant needs to remember that consciousness cannot be given, it has to be earned. At one point of time, you were writing a book on how spiritual organizations can get oppressive and coercive… After having been associated with many spiritual leaders of the world, at one point of time, I realized that many of these gurus were just fooling around with people. Acquisition of power is the main motive behind claiming oneself to be a `guru`. Once you attain power, you automatically attain a cult status, and then corrupt practices start flowing in the entire organization. In fact, the prevailing corrupt practices made me quit one such California-based organization and I tried to raise all these issues by writing a book. So which guru, according to you, is good and genuine? Till date, amongst all the gurus I have met, 70% proved to be corrupt and fake, while only 30% turned out to be good and genuine. And is your art spiritual? Yes, my art is spiritual. In these days of terror, something that can uplift our spirits and contribute to the lightening of the load is spiritual. I try to infuse in the elements of fun and celebration and portray a greater sense of vision through my paintings.
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