In Shadow Strategies (pages 192-195) I describe the characteristics of false guru or spiritual psychopaths, drug dependence, and delusional paranoids. These are general warnings concerning what the seeker should probably avoid. However, as Hatsumi-soke says, “you get the teacher you deserve.”
Hatsumi-soke teaches from all three categories and mixes his style, but the Confucian in him prevails. Those of us in the Booj who have observed each generation of young masters returning from Japan with “the word and the way” continue to be grateful for the annual taikai for many reasons.
What giri do we owe the half-baked “master,” the ignorant master or the incompetent? Not much as long as you are paying for the lessons. Usually, one moves on to a better teacher and when you are in a ryu, you can move on as the obligation is to the soke, not the instructor.
The scary question becomes what is our obligation to a false teacher and on a certain level, does such a thing exist? Hermetic wisdom states that if you’ve followed a teacher for twelve years with no progress, you are free to leave. Personally, I’d run fast and far. However, the attentive person learns from everyone with whom they interact and the astute realizes that all relationships are opportunities for advancement. If we escape the insincere, what have we learned and if we don’t what is the lesson we have yet to learn? I think it is very important for a deshi wannabe to carefully investigate and observe the master before committing to the lineage. The student should search for rumors of sexual harassment, rape, coercion, manipulation, grave physical injury, drug dependence or dealing, and death. A real master usually has followers. Take a long hard look at them. Are they people you admire?
Take a hard look at the master. When shorn of the title, is this someone you’d chill with? If the master has more problems than you do, the relationship will probably benefit him or her more than you. There is/was a 5’11” female guru in Pennsylvania who selected her male deshi on the basis of youth and being over 6′ tall. A discreet check of her medical record showed many abortions though she claimed celibacy. She spent considerable time in the hospital for various conditions and her followers told me that she was bravely taking on the karma of drug users all over the world. Her overdosing was a sign of her holiness. She published a bunch of new age psychobabble and charged her followers a small mint to live in her presence by supporting her. Hers was a very successful ministry and her third husband was quite rich. Now her followers believe in her totally and may even benefit from her manipulations. She seems pathetic to me, but not to them.
I knew a martial arts instructor who liked to have sex with his student’s wives. The perversity and risk increased excitement. He videotaped two. As the universe is sometimes fair, one of the sex videos got mixed in with some training videos he was sending out. The resulting scandals and divorces fed the rumor mills for quite awhile, but did not end his career.
When I was studying Anthropology at Wayne State, I was aware of two young women who went to Africa to study and marry and came home in coffins. I have another friend who followed a “guru” back to his own culture and was damn lucky to escape with her life.
A general rule regarding obligation is the maxim of To Country (meaning laws, environment, political leaders), Family (meaning parents or relatives), Teacher (those who prepare us to succeed), and Self (notice it’s last). This simple statement means don’t break the laws, honor your parents above yourself and teachers. When a guru attempts to separate you from your normal environment, friends, family, and money, start paying attention because things are about to get real expensive.
Crazy Wisdom types aren’t supposed to permanently injure or impoverish, but they do alter your perception and don’t mind twisting your wish. Some tantric experts believed chi prevented viral infection until AIDS proved them wrong. Just because one is a guru does not mean one knows all the details of the universe. Be careful out there.