Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Reader's Review

Marta Szabo’s online memoir, The Guru Looked Good, is now available in paperback and essential reading for anyone once involved in SY, corporate culture, or dysfunction al relationships where they repeatedly betrayed themselves or felt betrayed. So, basically, everyone should read it.

In TGLG, Marta brilliantly lays bare (without ever pointing fingers, attacking anyone’s “experience,” or memories) the dysfunction within SY. Without knowing anything about me personally, Marta clarified most of the questions I had about SY, helped me put together a puzzle I’d resigned to not solve, helped me finally let go and accept SY and GM as a part of my past.

Ironically I bumped into Marta’s blog early last year while searching for GM’s Message for 2008 – I’d heard through the guru-line she’d emerged from seclusion and made a (vocal) appearance at the NY talk. Upon visiting the SY site to see the message (years ago it was always posted there for all to see by Jan. 2nd), I was asked to register and pay $100 and thought with a sigh: Some things about SY never change.

The entrance fee was typical, if outrageous, and I knew that in 2008 someone somewhere would have written something about GM’s talk so made a few free google searches and landed on Marta’s blog.


In a straightforward, here’s-my-story-draw-your-own-conclusions way, Marta’s story helped me look back, trust and accept things I’d always known intuitively. Suspicions and secrets I’d buried as well as SY had buried its own. After I finished her book I felt a combination of great sadness and relief.

I’ve now read TGLG several times, shared it with the person who introduced me to GM in 1989, and the close circle of friends I introduced to GM in the years since. All came away with a similar take.

TGLG inspired me to revisit my personal history with SY (overall positive) as well as the history of SY itself from a sober, absence-of-the -“shakti”-perspective, from where I am now: a parent in my 40s, living in the post- 9/11, internet age, having survived the hell of working for an international corporation, having travelled on three astounding adventures through Asia, having a little more life, growth and experience under my belt (a nd yes, SY was a significant part of that) than I did when I first bowed down before GM at age 23.

Marta’s book also helped me understand why someone would go throw themselves at the feet of a Baba or Gurumayi – a longing that never called me. I was intrigued but could never relate to that kind of devotion. I judged it at a bit extreme, though remained curious about “life on the inside.”

My participation very much took place on the periphery of the devotee fanbase. I loved seeing GM every few years when she glided into town on tour. I chanted, read her books, dreamt about her often . . . but never really did much in the way of seva or time in an Ashram. I did visit SF once for two weeks one summer, just to satisfy my curiosity, and wrote in my journal at the time that “despite all it’s through-the-looking-glass-wonders, there’s something sinister about the place”.

As things began winding down with SY’s active, public presence several years ago, GM gradually fell off my radar. Without my even noticing it, my interest and participation just sort of faded away. It was as if the volume had been turned down to a low, dull hum.

One of the most significant things that became clear to me after I finished TGLG is this:

There was a time when Gurumayi was Malti – and Malti was a young, beautif ul girl living in 1960s India with every aspect of her life dictated to her by her parent s, (and the no doubt suffocating at times for someone with her personality) culture, beliefs, traditions, protocol and religion in which she was raised.

In hindsight, Malti was thrust by her parents at age 13 into the arms of a man she believed or was led to believe was God incarnate. Now, as a parent, the ultimate results of this scenario are heartbreaking to me. Think of Malti at 13; think of her now.

Baba showed her the world, adulation, wealth, fame, and perhaps most significantly A WAY OUT of her oppressive life and the times in which she lived (if only she could hold on . . .).

He also abused her wholly (mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually), abused others, and succeeded in silencing her about that abuse forever, long after his death, long after all his wealth, fame and adulation be came hers. And even, as it turns out, long after she decided she wanted a way out of those things too.

The above conclusions may have been drawn and expressed countless times on countless other blogs over the years – I am posting here for the first time today. They may read as complete speculation but they are truth’s for me that Marta’s book helped me realize I’ve had buried deep in my gut for years, ones I chose to overlook during SY’s heyday in the early 1990s, feelings TGLG inspired me to revisit and accept.

The above conclusions also put together for me the puzzle pieces of GM’s intense rage towards her parents – from everything I can glean she attended neither of their funerals when they both passed away a few years back – her rage against her brother, desire to erase her family from personal history, have control of the organization, all of it.

These are tragic conclusions about a tragic story.

Worst of all perhaps is the epic dysfunction/karma of Gurumayi’s relationship with Baba.

But, sadly, GM’s early years in many ways parallel that of so many of us who were damaged, abused or oppressed as children – and then later sought ways, successful or not, to escape or heal ourselves through our relationships, spiritual seeking, drug use, or our work in the world.

Someone I know who read Marta’s book asked me afterward if I thought GM was a charlatan. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to answer.

Someone else I shared the same question with replied: “She’s not a charlatan, she’s a human.”

I met GM for the first time in 1989 and something big changed in my Life. It was quite a ride. One I don’t regret.

Twenty years later here I am. My understanding feels more complete now. More real.

1 comment:

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