Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Soliciting Topics


Like most bloggers, I utilize a service to let me know how much traffic my blog generates.

The service I use -- Statcounter.com -- is great and free, but it doesn't tell me personal information about you, per se. It does tell me -- based on your IP address -- where in the world you (or your computer anyway) resides. And that's how the map above was produced.

This type of map is nothing new to most of us who surf the net regularly, but it's still pretty cool to look at. Since most of my readers are current and former disciples (I suspect), the worldwide scope of my readership says more about the scope of Guru's reach when he was alive than it does about my popularity.

In any event, it's inspired me to reach out to you all to solicit ideas about where the blog goes from here. What topic or topics do you think still need to be addressed?

At the moment, the only remaining topic(s) I'm inspired to write about concern the role of women in the modern yoga movement and my hopes for my sister disciples in the future.

I also probably won't be able to constrain myself from giving the Center, as an organization, some more unsolicited advice and ideas about how it might address the huge challenges it now faces. Organizations face these challenges -- i.e., allegations of wrongdoing -- all the time and there are ways to do it.

But it takes leadership. So, perhaps I can give those who have the Center's best interests at heart some ideas about how to step up.

I know there must be some other topics of interest to those of my loyal readers (you both know who you are!). So, please use the comment function below or email me privately and let me know what ideas you have and what topics you'd like me to write about.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Crying Wolf?


It's a horrible truth to face.

The idea that all that time I was earnestly leading a celibate life, Guru himself was having sex with his female disciples. That when my innocent, sibling-like relationship with Jayanti was brought to his attention, Guru felt compelled to warn me about inappropriate conduct, while he himself was sleeping with his own spiritual daughters.

In hindsight, it's not the sex that bothers me. It's the deceit. The sheer scale of the deceit is what leaves me reeling even now. With every new revelation -- and there are more to come -- the scope of Guru's gopi network becomes more apparent.

Yet, I owe everything to Guru.

Whatever else might be said about Guru's deception and misconduct, it didn't affect his ability to prime my spiritual life, to effect my occult transformation, or on a more mundane level to give me some much needed positive reinforcement.

So, that's the conundrum I've been wrestling with. How to square the evidence?

Since Sevika's story first broke, there have been a few schools of thought amongst my friends both inside and outside the Center. On one end of the spectrum, there are those (including some prominent former disciples) who reject the allegations of sexual misconduct outright. Impossible, they say.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who say Guru was a fraud. He had no redeeming qualities, they say, and any positive developments his disciples report were the result of either their own self-deception or their own self-disciplined life. In either event, Guru deserves no credit.

Then there are those scattered in the middle somewhere. Some folks sympathetic to Guru, for example, accept the truth of the allegations and shrug them off. Among this small group is one of my best friends, who said "they were all adults" -- no harm, no foul. Others, less sympathetic to Guru, acknowledge he had "powers" of some unspecified kind, but was a fraud nonetheless. A false or fallen master, they say.

I've got close friends in each of these groups, but none of these takes on Guru satisfies me.

Instead, I believe both -- that Guru had access to an exalted spiritual consciousness and engaged in sexual misconduct with his female disciples. And that's what I've been trying to explain over the last so many posts (starting here).

There is one aspect of this equation, however, that I haven't yet addressed in any depth-- the credibility of women who have made these troubling accusations against Guru. I began the discussion here, but as a recent commenter pointed out, I haven't really considered the possibility that Sevika, Rupavati, Phulela and Suchatula might all be lying about their experiences with Guru.

Do women make false allegations of sexual misconduct?

Yes. But not very often, and when they do there's usually a pretty clear motive for it. Our spiritual sisters in this case don't fit the mold.

First, let's talk numbers. The only reliable empirical data on false allegations comes from rape cases, which while not exactly on point here -- nobody has alleged Guru committed rape -- the data still gives us a baseline understanding. Though it makes for big headlines in the news (see the recent Hofstra University case or the infamous Duke University lacrosse case), women do not make false rape allegations very often.

The number is between 8-10%. (Here's a good article from Slate on the topic.) In other words, 90% of the time, women who report rape are telling the truth.

There are reasons the number of false rape allegations are relatively low, including criminal prohibitions against making false police reports, moral prohibitions against destroying an innocent person's life by making such a false allegation, and a general unwillingness by most people to endure the invasive scrutiny into one's private behavior that making such a charge entails. As a matter of fact, most rapes (as many as 60%) are never reported.

I can't think of any good reason why this same trend wouldn't apply to false public allegations of sexual misconduct. While there are no criminal prohibitions against such false claims, there are civil prohibitions. Sevika's allegations, for example, certainly tarnished Guru's reputation. If false, she risked exposure to a defamation lawsuit, which is the civil remedy you pursue to get your reputation back.

Yet, Guru never pursued such a suit. Now, as a trial lawyer, I can tell you that just because you can sue doesn't mean that you should. In these types of cases, for example, filing a lawsuit can exacerbate the very problem you're trying to avoid by bringing widespread attention to allegations that otherwise would get little attention on the Yahoo! message board.

In Guru's case, however, the claims made by Sevika and the others were already attracting press attention by the New York Post and other press outlets. There didn't seem to be much downside -- on the publicity front anyway -- to suing Sevika and the others for their false allegations. Unless, of course, the allegations were true.

Likewise, it seems the same moral prohibitions against making such false allegations in a rape case would also apply in this case. I can't imagine my spiritual sisters any more inclined to lie than the general public. Nor do I think they'd be any more willing to expose their lives to public scrutiny, knowing as I do firsthand the reticence with which one confronts the wider world upon leaving the Center.

On the sheer numbers alone, it seems unlikely that our sisters are making these stories up. Numbers aside, what would motivate these four women to make such allegations?

In all of the other circumstances that I can think of where people make false allegations of sexual misconduct, there's almost always a discernible ulterior motive. In rape cases -- like the Hofstra and Duke cases alluded to above -- the false allegation of rape is used to mask the putative victim's embarrassment at having had consensual sex (with either some undesirable person or with someone other than one's spouse).

In sexual harassment cases, false allegations may be made to gain a financial advantage in a civil suit. In family law cases, false allegations of child abuse are sometimes made by one parent trying to win sole custody of the children. In the political arena, false allegations may be made for both financial and partisan advantage.

I detect no such ulterior motives in any of the allegations made by Sevika, Rupavati, Phulela or Suchatula.

It has been suggested that perhaps they're simply disgruntled. That in order to mask their own respective failures in the Center, these women simply made up these allegations of sexual misconduct against Guru in some crazy-assed attempt to get attention.

Whatever appeal such a theory has -- and I don't think it has much based upon what we've discussed above -- it begins to break down with each successive revelation. One crazy woman, I could believe.

But four?

Last week, seeking some confirmation that I'm thinking clearly on these issues, I checked in with a prominent female disciple still active in the Center. I asked her if she believed Suchatula's story. She confirmed that she did.

When I asked her why she believed Suchatula's story, this disciple (who asked for anonymity) told me that she had had sex with Guru for more than a decade.

These women are telling the truth.

As shocking as it is to contemplate, Guru was not only having sex with his female disciples, but also encouraging some of his female disciples to have sex with each other. This makes me both extremely sad for my sister disciples so taken advantage of and extremely disappointed in Guru's behavior.

This is a very tough pill for my friends in the Center (and even some outside the Center) to swallow. I know that first hand, because it took me a long time to fully accept it as well.

To start, though, you must have not just the willingness but the desire to know the truth.

Isn't that the very definition of the word "seeker?"

That's Krishna and the Gopis, above, in a picture from the Smithsonian found here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Neuroanatomy & Yoga


It's all in your head.

That's the idea I've been toying with for a while anyway -- that there's a neurological component to yoga, which thus far has not gotten the attention I think it deserves. I suspect that this is because so much of our metaphysical lexicon -- the vocabulary of yoga -- is rooted in the past.

Adopting a scientific approach to understanding our yogic development might promise more precision. For example, if I told a room full of new agers that I'd developed some conscious control over my muladhara chakra, I suspect we'd have a room full of people all with very different takes on what I'd meant by that statement.

The term is old and imprecise and not really susceptible to examination through evidence.

But if I told a room full of people that I'd developed some conscious control over my amygdelae, they'd have a fairly uniform understanding of what I'd meant (or they would after first checking its definition on Wikipedia!).

So, I think integrating scientific advances into our practice of yoga can only benefit us. It might also give us further insight into the paradox we've been discussing. In other words, perhaps there's a neurological explanation for how a person could be capable of both an exalted meditative state and sexual misconduct.

Before we go there, though, let's think about this idea more generally.

Some time ago, my practice included concentrating on the various chakras or subtle nerve centers, which are said to tie one's physical organism to the larger universal forces at play in the world. One day, while I was thus concentrating, it occurred to me that while I was concentrating on my heart chakra, the action was taking place in my brain.

To understand my point, consider the phenomena of phantom limbs.

Some small percentage of people who have a limb amputated report still feeling the presence of their lost limb. The feeling is real, but obviously the existence of the limb is not. What's going on?

As it turns out, the primary motor cortex -- that part of the human brain responsible for processing sensory and motor information -- maintains a neurological map of the individual's body. Though bizarre looking, neuroscientists have produced a visual representation of this mental map, which is called the cortical homunculus or the "little man" inside the brain.

So, while a person might lose her hand in an accident, the neural map within her primary motor cortex might remain out of sync or not updated. Thus, to her the mental image of her hand, along with all its associated feelings, still exists in a very real way. As I began to hear about some groundbreaking work being done by neurologist V. S. Ramachandran to ease "phantom pains" being experienced by amputees, it occurred to me that neurology might have some application to yoga as well.

What if -- even though we experience them in designated areas of the body -- the chakras are actually seated in the brain?

Through the use of magnetic resonance imaging technology, neuroscientists are beginning to map areas in the brain that appear to be associated with our entire subjective life. The nervous systems and sex drive, for example, appear to be strongly associated with the aforementioned amygdalae, small areas within the medial temporal lobes of the brain, which operate below the conscious radar most of the time.

Our more conscious emotions appear to be processed by the ventral prefrontal cortex. One study suggests that those people who engage in consciously accepting and labeling negative emotions tend to gain some control over the autonomously acting amygdalae. Sounds like neurological support for tantra.

Communication and creativity may be centered in the medial prefrontal cortex. See this article about the use of MRI scans on jazz musicians while they improvise.

Insight seems to be associated with the right hemisphere anterior superior temporal gyrus, as discussed in this article.

The "presence of God" -- at least for the nuns in one study -- activated some 12 areas of the brain, quite apart from the areas of the brain activated when experiencing more worldly emotions.

Now, obviously, I'm no scientist and I've grossly oversimplified an extremely complex and new field of scientific study and discovery. (Here's a link to a nice overview of this emerging field by David Brooks.) Nevertheless, I can't help thinking that there is some real value to modern yogis in thinking about these types of studies and their findings.

I suspect that, like the amputee experiencing the phantom limb phenomena, my subjective mystical experiences are rooted in my brain. When I feel a psychic flame reaching out from the center of my chest, the action itself is taking place inside my own head -- just as the images I see, the scents I smell, and the things I taste are all experienced in differing areas of the brain.

That said, I'm not proposing that we are our brains. As I've previously posted, I assume that consciousness precedes matter. But if the process of yoga is a physical one, then it seems to me there's a place for a more modern view of the seat of our consciousness -- our brains.

I think this idea also provides us with another way to think about Guru's paradoxical nature.

Whether it's actually true in Guru's case or not, it's at least conceivable -- neurologically anyway -- that a person could have ready access to "high" spiritual experiences and yet engage in unethical behavior. Particularly, if such traits are governed by different and distinct areas of the brain.

If, for example, a person's orbitofrontal cortex is compromised or undeveloped, then that person will likely exhibit disinhibition or a disregard for social conventions which can manifest in many ways.

Likewise, with damage to (or lack of development of) the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, one's ability to distinguish between right and wrong -- to think in moral terms -- may be compromised (here's an article from the Wall Street Journal on the subject).

That wouldn't mean, however, that such a person couldn't experience spiritual ecstasy in a completely different and distinct area of the brain.

Would it?

To my mind, everything must be learned. We're not born with a knowledge about human relations and how to maturely navigate our sexual desires and romantic feelings. Instead, they're skills that we must learn -- either from others or from our own trials and errors -- and practice.

Just like meditation.

It's entirely conceivable to me that Guru -- born as he was in the first half of the 20th Century, in India, orphaned, and raised in the strict confines of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram (the very model of our own Sri Chinmoy Center) -- never learned about sex, never learned how accept his natural desires, and never learned how to communicate his emotions in a healthy way.

That's why, I expect, he exploited the trust of some of his female disciples.

I'm not convinced, however, that his exalted meditations weren't just that: exalted.

Credit for the photo above goes here. I just stumbled upon this interesting two-year old article on Slate, which suggest how one might wire the brain for spiritual ecstasy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Realization

Well, better grab yourself a cup of coffee -- I'm partial to the Americano these days -- because we're about to engage in some theoretical reasoning. (I'm sorry, chai or herbal tea won't do -- you're gonna need the hard stuff.)

What is realization?

Call it what you will -- God realization, self realization, liberation, moksha, enlightenment, Brahma jnana -- without an answer to this question, we cannot know whether the conventional wisdom expressed by so many is correct. And what is that conventional wisdom?

The conventional wisdom is that realization and sexual misconduct cannot go together. That they are mutually exclusive personal attributes. That a realized person -- by definition -- cannot engage in immoral behavior. That an unethical person -- by definition -- cannot be realized. That's the conventional wisdom.

The conventional wisdom makes intuitive sense and is hard to argue with, but is it right?

If the state of realization is synonymous with moral rectitude, then I think we're on safe ground assuming that Guru was not realized (since we've already concluded that Guru's treatment of some of his female disciples was unethical). From that, of course, it would follow that my paradox conjecture -- that Guru could be both realized and act unethically -- is flat wrong.

If, however, the state of realization is not synonymous with moral behavior, then -- as a matter of logic anyway -- the paradox conjecture might have some merit.

Our inquiry, though, must begin by defining the term "realization." Here's the story of how I began to conceptualize the term and how my thinking about it has evolved over time.

I first began to think about the concept of self-realization when I was 12 years old, reading Paramahansa Yogananda's masterpiece, Autobiography of a Yogi. Swamiji's preferred term, it seemed, was "cosmic consciousness" and it took me in.

"Cosmic consciousness" has some panache. In contrast to the synonymous terms of "God-realization" and "self-realization" -- which both sound like fixed destinations -- cosmic consciousness sounds boundless and adaptable, liquid perhaps. In practice, based upon the examples Swamiji gave in his book, cosmic consciousness appeared to manifest itself in individuals as both free access to a perception of the Divine coupled with some facility within the individual for magical powers.

As an insecure 12 year old grappling with identity issues, the power of control over both oneself and the natural world seemingly promised by the cosmic consciousness described by Yogananda was extremely seductive. (You can read about some of my early "issues" here and more generally about how famed psychologist Erik Erikson explains the stage of development I was going through at the time here.)

Couple that seductive attraction with the seminal pop culture event of that same year (1977) -- Star Wars -- and the basic parameters of my cosmological worldview had been forged. The idea of an undivided and all pervasive intelligent Force -- free from anthropomorphism -- with which I could obtain oneness (or "realize" my existing oneness) with was an idea that seemed natural, if not obvious, to me at the time.

As we'll discuss, over time my concept of the aim of yoga -- realization -- evolved from this first simple understanding of my pre-teen years. One thing that stuck with me, however, was the discovery of my own ideal self-image. Whether it was Sir Alec Guinness as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the brown cloak of the Jedi or Sri Yukteswar in the gerua robe of the swami, both presented the same image to my young, wide-open eyes -- that of the wise, self-confident loner.

That image, that ideal -- of the wise, self-confident loner -- never left me.

As I approached my 16th birthday, I added to my working concept of what realization entailed. It included not just the image of the wise and quietly powerful loner (ala the fictional Ben Kenobi) but it also required a facility with trance.

To my mind, trance -- or samadhi -- became the hallmark of my understanding of realization. Contrary to my initial impression, though, not all masters -- I was learning -- presented the image of the wise, empowered loner. But they all, it seemed, had ready, conscious access to the Beyond.

As I became a disciple, more nuance was added. There were grades of trance, grades of exaltation I learned. While the experience of a trance of some kind during meditation might be personally transformative, it might not necessarily guarantee permanent access to such experiences.

So, realization wasn't just the experience of trance. Instead, it entailed some sense of permanence, some sense of free and easy access to the cosmic consciousness. Guru made this point more or less explicit.

In an uncomplicated (and seemingly contradictory) way, Guru introduced some more nuance into my developing sense of what realization was. In a general sense, Guru used simple metaphor, speaking of the "Golden Shore." The Center was a boat, Guru its captain, and the disciples its passengers. As long as we stayed in the boat -- i.e., never left the Center -- we would, one day, arrive at the Golden Shore of realization.

I didn't find such simple metaphors of practical use, but in some of his early talks and writings, Guru spoke of concepts like liberation, partial realization, full realization, partial avatars, and full avatars.

Whatever those words meant, they conveyed to me the idea that when it came to the "higher" stages of consciousness, there was a continuous spectrum leading from less awareness to more. In other words, despite the simple metaphor of relaxing in the Golden Boat to wake up only upon arrival at the Golden Shore, realization entailed a more organic process of unfolding consciousness.

By necessity, it seemed to me as a teenaged disciple, a seeker's growing sense of awareness would alert the seeker as he or she neared his or her goal. And despite the arbitrary labels -- partial realization versus full realization -- consciousness is not a linear function capable of being fixed with these types of rigid, mental signposts.

By the time I moved to New York as a young adult, my take on realization had been further refined by my introduction to Sri Ramakrishna and his small band of disciples.

My personal style as a spiritual loner -- the wise, self-confident individual inspired by Sri Yukteswar (the "real" Obi-Wan Kenobi) -- was bolstered by Ramakrishna's fiery exhortations to his disciples and the image of its result in the person of Swami Vivekananda.

The Gospel, however, conveyed something more subtle to my understanding of realization. If Sri Ramakrishna was not only realized but a full avatar to boot -- as I believed then and believe now -- then it was apparent that realization itself had far less purchase in the real world than I had previously thought.

As profound and exalted as Sri Ramakrishna's trance experiences were, they apparently had little positive effect on Thakur's ability to interact with the world outside a religious context. In fact, reading about his life from a distance, it's hard not to conclude that in a very real way he was weak and afraid of the world, just as five year old child might be.

Whatever realization gave to Sri Ramakrishna, it did not give him knowledge of the world. It did not give him the ability to read. It did not relieve him of a stutter. It did not give him the ability to earn his keep, look after his young wife, or manage his personal affairs. In short, realization seemingly gave Thakur conscious oneness with the Divine and the uncanny ability to talk and sing about that experience in a singularly unique way, but not much else.

As a young 20-something, my own experiences (humble as they were) seemed to confirm this idea (that an exalted spiritual state didn't necessarily translate into facility in any other fields of life).

So, by the time I left the Center, my concept of realization was already nuanced.

While I was personally attracted to the idea of the wise, quietly empowered spiritual loner (the Obi-Wan Kenobi model), I knew masters came in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. (Ever hear the apocryphal tales of Trailanga Swami?) And while a free and easy access to trance seemed to be a necessary attribute of realization, that exalted state said little to nothing about the individual master's accomplishments in any other field.

After leaving the Center, it would take another seven years before I experienced a reawakening and further refinement to my concept of realization.

Though the further refinements were made over the course of the following couple of years, in essence they came down to two basic ideas. First, that my concept of realization as a singular, static achievement was imprecise. Second, that a lifelong assumption of mine that there was necessarily some connection between my "outer" (objective) behavior or actions and my "inner" (subjective) experience of exaltedness was simply wrong.

On the first point, I credit Sri Aurobindo. I'd never read a book by Sri Aurobindo while in the Center, but I ate them up after my reawakening. It was Aurobindo's idea of the triple transformation (as I interpret it) that really affected my old concept of realization as a singular achievement.

Aurobindo identified three component parts to the human transformation: psychicazation, or the process by which the psychic being annexes the rest of the human psyche; universalization, or the process by which the individual begins to identify with the cosmic influences on the being; and supramentalization, or the process by which the transcendental consciousness takes root in the individual.

Importantly, Sri Aurobindo stresses that these three processes are independent of one another. While these processes may take place sequentially -- one after the other -- there's no hard and fast rule. In fact, they can take place simultaneously or in fits and starts.

This seemed important to me because it suggested -- and Aurobindo may have said as much -- that one may have solidified a direct link to the supramental or transcendental consciousness, as Sri Ramakrishna seemed to have done in our example above, but that alone didn't mean that one had complete psychic control of one's human nature. Realization wasn't just a matter of arriving at the Golden Shore.

It was more complicated than that.

On the second point -- that my actions didn't seem to bear on my subjective spiritual experiences -- I had my own life to show for it. I wasn't a celibate disciple; I drank, swore, got angry, spent my days studying "worldly" subjects, gave up meditating on Guru's picture. And yet, the psychic flame within continued grow and grow.

Again, I took surprising comfort in Sri Aurobindo's writings on this point, in particular his epic poem Savitri. Writing of Princess Savitri's father -- a king, and unknown to most, a sage -- Sri Aurobindo wrote the following lines, which I think underline this idea that there's no required connection between one's subjective consciousness and one's objective actions.

One and harmonious by the Maker's skill,
The human in him paced with the Divine.
His acts betrayed not the interior flame.
This forged the greatness of his front to Earth.

Apart he lived in his mind's solitude,
A demigod shaping the lives of men.
One soul's ambition lifted up the race;
A Power worked, but none knew whence it came.

He made great dreams a mold for coming things,
And cast his deeds like bronze to front the years.
His walk through time outstripped the human stride.
Lonely his days, and splendid like the Sun's.

I've grown to love this idea of the "interior flame" hidden from the sight of all others, of no outward appearance of "spirituality," of loneliness and inner splendor coexisting. And, of course, these particular lines appeal to my notion of the wise, self-confident loner.

Well, that's about it.

With the exception of one last component -- the neurological basis of spiritual experience -- this is where my understanding of realization stands. While conscious oneness with the Divine -- presumably through free and easy access to trance -- is the defining aspect of realization, as a practical matter that says little about the realized individual.

To my mind, realization does not mean -- necessarily -- that the realized individual has transformed the rest of his or her human psyche or organism.

That's the young Cambridge graduate, Indian revolutionary, and burgeoning yogi, Sri Aurobindo above.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Circling Back

As I worried might happen, over the course of the last few posts I started losing sight of my larger point.

If I'm losing sight of it, I worry that you -- my reader -- may also be losing sight of it. So, I think it best to slow down now and review.

I think Guru both realized God and engaged in unethical behavior.

It is this paradox that I'd like to explain. Actually, to be precise, I'm not trying to explain the paradox itself. Rather, I'm attempting to explain the reasons why I think such a paradox is possible. I'm suggesting an alternative view of Guru -- one that rejects each extreme end of the extant opinion spectrum.

Unlike his most ardent supporters, I don't believe Guru was born into this world free from all human foibles. Unlike his most strident detractors, I don't believe Guru was a fraud.

I'm suggesting a third way to think about Guru.

The emphasis here should be on the word suggesting. I'm doing my best to articulate how I think about Guru. I do so in the hopes that it will spur you, too, to think about these issues in a nuanced way and, hopefully, to share your own views either as comments to these posts or, better yet, in your own future writings.

So far, I've stated the ethical case. What Guru did to Suchatula and the others was unequivocally wrong.

I've suggested that ethical standards alone may not be sufficient to judge a person's spiritual development (a topic I'll try to expand upon shortly).

I've stated my view that rejection of the world isn't the goal of yoga, rather a state of non-attachment is the goal.

And finally, we've discussed the principle of gaining control of one's nature through acceptance rather than through rejection and repression.

In essence, I suppose, I'm arguing in a long-winded way that that there is no necessary or fundamental connection between one's actions and one's subjective consciousness. To be perfectly frank, I'm arguing that there is no connection -- per se -- between your spiritual development and whether or not you engage in sex.

Think of Arjuna. He found enlightenment by killing hundreds (if not thousands) of his relatives over a real estate dispute. Certainly, we can have sex.

To explain the paradox, however, two questions remain to be addressed.

First, what do we mean by God realization? In my next post, I'll explain how I think of the concept.

Second, how can a state of high occult development like God realization coexist with a state of emotional and sexual dysfunction? Doesn't God realization mean, by definition, perfection? I'm not so sure and I'll share my thoughts in a following post.

At the very least, I hope you'll find some of these ideas thought provoking. And if you think I'm wrong, tell me why. It is only through the clash of ideas -- a civil clash, please! -- that together we can move closer to a more synthetic and complete truth.

Above is another of my favorite photos of Anandamayi Ma. When you get the chance, check out this library of photos of the beloved Mother.