Realizations The Autobiography
of Julian Lee / COPYRIGHT
2009 JULIAN LEE
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The religion lost it's hold on me because I found out:
The true nature of the religion and its origins had been suppressed and distorted by the organization, and
The Baha'is actually had little interest in the mystical or spiritual life, actually rejected that part of their own literature and were mystic-phobic. They were a shallow people afraid of the inner life and moribund with an overemphasis on a faceless, rigidly authoritative and distant "administrative order."
Baha'is had, in actuality, a very materialistic, outward-focused world view and impulse.
My ideas that "race is a major problem" diminished simply through my own maturity and better understanding of the world.
I realized that agreement about a few intellectual ideas was not a guarantee of this vague (and now boring-sounding) thing the Bahai's were always calling "unity."
Finally, I had been exposed to the rich religious literature and spiritual practices of India and books like the Bhagavad-Gita and Yoga Sutras. The Baha'i literature, wonderful as it is, simply couldn't compare. There were many deficits that this Indian literature revealed in 'Baha'i', but a real and vital understanding of the "guru principle" was among them.
Realization: Agreeing About Few Ideas
Does Not Guaranty Human Happiness or Harmony
I realized that even if you have the smallest little church, and they have the most arcane and specialized beliefs or theology, and all of them say "uncle" or say "I do" to that particular special set of beliefs -- they will still argue! They will still experience division. Even one word is understood in different ways by two people, how much more the complex ideas strung from many words. Giving assent to some common intellectual idea or "principle" does not ensure human happiness or harmony. Inner human happiness assures human happiness.
Realization Two: This Religion Is Not Really Spiritual
I realized that the Baha'i Faith, which had an ostensible approach to the "spiritual," was actually very outer-oriented and material. I took some sayings of its mystic founder seriously, like "Look within thyself and thou wilt find me standing within thee." Or its frequent reference to the world as the "world of dust." I was so serious about the Baha'i Faith that I really went to the core of it, to its scriptural writings, and studied them more and more.
There was a Baha'i "Book of Laws" that was supposed to be one of three "most important scriptures" and called the "Most Great Book." The Baha'is were always saying it "wasn't translated yet." I found out that it had a teaching that Baha'is were supposed to say "the greatest name" 95 times each day. This was a kind of mantra, though I didn't understand it that way just then. The Baha'is would say, "Westerners are not bound by the laws on the Book of Laws yet." But I would say to myself, "Who cares? If you really love the founder and the faith, why would you not want to do all that's in the Book of Laws now?" So, I started, right away as a new Baha'i, doing this daily chant. I got chanting beads numbered 95, and started saying it out loud once a day.
Others were not doing that, but I did. I was devoted. At that time, the first time I started chanting "the greatest name" mantra, I started to get phenomena, strange phenomena in my face. I did not know what it was at the time. But this chanting of the Baha'i mantra (don't say that word to Baha'is, it might scare them) was the beginning of my real spiritual development and my first spiritual experience. But many years later, chanting other mantras, it came back and grew, and finally became something called "yogic kriyas."
But the realization came later that Baha'is were not really that mystical or that devotional. I found that they shied away from the mystical life, the inward life, and the meditation life -- and from the things talked about in "The Hidden Words," which was their 2nd "most important scripture." This frustrated me, especially as I learned more about other religions. The Bahia's didn't have a word for "meditation." They talked about "prayer" but not meditation. Which leads to another realization...
Realization Three: The "One Religion" That Wasn't Enough
I found that though they claimed their religion encompassed the other religions, that it reconciled and contained the truths of the other religions, it did not. It just ignored many ideas in other religions. They were afraid and nervous about words like meditation and karma, even though other religions stressed meditation, and spoke much of karma. Leading to another realization. There are many concepts, and words, in the Bhagavad-Gita (for starters) that Baha'is don't know anything about. Their approach was to minimize and gloss over these things saying things like, "Well, that only applied to that time and that people. It is not relevant to today." Concepts like the ego or ahamkara? The purusha? (God as a person as contrasted to God as an abstraction) Concepts like "vrittis" (mental fluctuations)? These are passing ideas only pertaining to one time and people?
Later I became interested in astrology. The Baha'i writings had been positive and affirmative toward the study of astrology, but I found that Baha'is didn't like it when I started to study it; seemed uncomfortable with it. Then later, the organization came out with different "translations" of those writings that were more astrology-negative. They changed what the founders had been saying, in these new editions. So I started to see that they had glossed over and ignored many ideas in other religions, and they were intellectually shallow and religiously shallow.
One day I was handed the book Autobiography of a Yogi and it blew my mind open wider than I had thought possible about what religion is. I was gripped by that book, illumined, excited, and blessed. I realized then that I hadn't known much at all; I was just a dabbler and there was a whole world of knowledge I'd been unaware of. The idea that God really IS within. And that you actually CAN know God directly. That this is the real purpose of religion and of life. It was all there. The idea of saints was there. I had grown up with that, but it was only vaguely present in the Baha'i faith, which had an institutionalized aversion to assigning any special status to any person, or even acknowledging leaders on any level. I was happy to find there was so much more to know.
I realized, too, that this search for God was higher, and bigger, than any of these world-fixing concerns of the Baha'i Faith. Finding God was more important than "trying to make sure all the races smile at each other and pat each other on the back." It was more important than pushing a family-wrecking "equality of men and women" (another Baha'i propaganda plank). It was more important than establishing "one world government" to enforce "no frowns, no troubles, no sorrows," worldwide. (A ridiculous idea if there ever was one.)
The Hindu material made in clear that this was the over-arching concern and interest of the truly spiritual man, the real God-seeker. And that it was possible. And there was a lore, scriptures, techniques, and "sages" who could show you the way. My religious life truly began when I was handed that book by a Canadian native American named Larraine. I also started subscribing to Yogananda's meditation lessons by mail, which were published by the organization he left in California, Self Realization Fellowship. I remember when those came, and how when I started to read them, how spiritual it felt. Just seeing one in the mail became bliss for me. This was real knowledge.
When I got the lessons from Yogananda, I finally felt I had a true spiritual friend and mentor. My faith was that he, himself, knew God and had attained the attainments of the sages. This was clear from his book. I also felt connected to all those other saints, yogis, and sages that he had visited, and to his own yogic lineage. I was very moved by all this. I read every word with great eagerness and faith.
The lessons contain a lot of material that is like filler. Things that he might say at a public meeting on "positive thinking" or "harmonious human relationships," -- the "quality of living" things that a good teacher will try to present to the great unwashed masses; the people not that comfortable with hard mysticism. I also realized later, or found out, that these lessons had been edited or 'sanitized' by SRF monk editors over time. But still, it was my Yogananda's words, mostly, and I sensed his spirit. Over time I read his material more and more, and got so that I could sense his personality, his heart, and his mind. I felt that I could be right there with him in my mind just thinking of him. I started to develop bhakti, or the attitude of devotion for Yogananda. I made him my own. This is what you do when you have a guru. This is the secret.
I read "Autobiography" again and again. One of my most special sections was the part where Yogananda first meets his true guru, Yuketeswar, after searching long and hard for a true guru. Yogananda was a canny analyzer of gurus and could not be fooled or accept false goods. And one day he is with a fellow monk going to the marketplace. He passes a little alleyway. At the back of the alley he sees a "sage" standing and looking straight at him down the alley. At that time, in that moment, he knew. He knew that was his guru. He thought in passing, "Who is that amazing sage?" Then is he tried to walk away, he felt himself pulled back as if walking against a current. It got harder to take each step as he tried to walk away. He says humorously that he tried it again (ever the experimenter) to see if it was imagination. He realized, "The sage is pulling me to him." Then in a trice he is at his feet claiming him as Guru.
That scene was very moving to me, and I read it over and over again. I also had a fondness for Yukteswar, which came partly from the way Yogananda wrote about him with such respect, awe, and devotion. And partly what Yukteswar said, and the wise, profound personality there. Many years later a meditating friend I knew said Yukteswar was "the Clint Eastwood of gurus" which brought a smile.
Many times after seeing that story, I would go back there in my mind. I felt cheated by life that I could not have been there, been there to see that moment. So I would picture that all time exists now, and the past too, and I would visualize that I could be a spirit, in the air, in the ether, and get to a consciousness that could put me back in the past, and I could float there in the air, back in the past, back in the alley, and I could watch Yogananda discover Yuketeswar. Sometimes I felt I saw it, and I was there, and that moment was mine, too. Because that moment of devotion and destiny was so delicious and luminous, it was the great luminous moment of Yogananda's life. And that is how he spoke of it.
So as I studied Yogananda and the saints, I started to have these little meditations, trying to connect to them in different ways, trying to wish myself into their presence and be part of their lives, like a sprite from the future hanging in a past-moment air. Later I realized, and Yogananda taught me, that imagination plays a part of spiritual practice and spiritual realization and these efforts at imagining my guru and lineage were actually a potent spiritual practice that bore fruit.
Realization Four: Trying to Save The World As Outer Obsession and Materialism
I realized that all these Baha'is, all these world-fixers, dreaming of "one world government" and "race unity" were actually materialists. They were totally outer focused. They would get high seeing some black people mixed with Whites. We were racial fetishists. Baha'is get endless thrills from seeing different racial types among them, and they consider this to be a sign of their great enlightenment, power and reach. They're thinking was constructed like this: "Lack of race unity is the great 'problem' in the world. And look at us! We are showing people the way. We are showing that we have race unity. We have The Answers." It is really a childish thought, but that is how they thought, and I did, too, at the beginning.
Then there was that "power" aspect. They got high on seeing their expensive Grecian buildings and gardens on Mount Carmel in Israel which were to be the "seat of world government" in the age when all people convert to the Baha'i Faith. I realized that these people were power-trippers, and that power tripping and the desire to control peoples through outer means was not a spiritual or enlightened impulse. It might have been "logical" to them as a way to "fix problems" (though stupid), but there was an element there of getting high on power. Seeing those glorious buildings you'd think "We're the tops. We're the best. We're gonna show 'em. We are the future world government." Eventually the more active ones -- myself included -- ended up dreaming of becoming a "Continental Counselor" or "Auxiliary Board Member" and giving speeches like these others and being a de facto Baha'i celebrity. People would fawn over these "Continental Counselors" in a covert fawning culture. (People do need spiritual leaders, even though the Baha'i faith didn't want to allow them.) This fame orientation, and especially a basic outwardness, was strong in the Baha'is. I realized that it was antithetical to the kind of spirituality of inward realization presented in Hindu yoga. Spiritual development involves renunciation and austerities. And one of the things you renounce is the desire for outer power and fame.
Realization Five: Duped by Baha'i Faith Salesmen
Later I realized that "Baha'is" had been duped. I began to get curious about this "Most Great Book," the Book of Laws, and why it "had not been translated yet." It was now 130 years on. I understood it had been written in Arabic. I started really wondering, "Is Arabic such a hard language to translate? Are Baha'is unable to afford translators though they can afford all these Grecian buildings made out of rare Italian white marble?" I went up to an "Auxiliary Board Member" in Alaska one day and said, "Has the Book of Laws been translated yet?"and she said "No," and I asked her when it would be, and she gave me a canned answer, and was mealy mouthed about it. I could see she was uncomfortable, too.
Soon after that I found myself perusing the Baha'i community "lending library" in Palmer, Alaska. Baha'is could go there to borrow Baha'i books. It was run by one of the families who had been there a long time. It was in their attic. I had asked if I could go up to see if I wanted to check out any books. That's what it was there for. I was very familiar with the Baha'i literature. My eye glanced upon a little black book spine with the words "Kitab-i-Aqdas" in big serif letters, like English Times Bold. I had never seen this book before in the panoply of Baha'i literature, black, with those gold letters in that particular typeface. There was a "Synopsis and Codification" of the book available, which was supposed to be a "stop gap" collection or summary from the actual book. But it had a different looking black spine and the covers were read. I thought, "Could it be?" I pulled it out. Indeed I had full translation of the "Book of Laws" suddenly in my hands. How did it get there? Why had nobody ever heard of it? Because we weren't supposed to know. It had been done back in the 1930's or 40's by an English scholar of Arabic who had lived long in Arabia and translated many Arabic works.
I knew immediately it was probably a forbidden book. I was enough of an insider to know it. The Baha'is had the habit, going back decades, of suppressing certain books. They used to steal them from libraries, especially books by so-called "enemies of the faith" and the more sinister type known as "covenant breakers." I remembered going through the belongings of an historic Baha'i personage, Ruth Moffett, after her death. I had become very close to this Baha'i notable in her extreme age of 98 and I was helping with her estate committee. She even had some little vials that contained actual hair from the head of the founder, Baha'u'llah, who Bahai's consider to be an incarnation of God. We also happened across a stash of strange books about the Baha'i Faith we'd never seen. I was informed in hushed tones they were books attacking the Baha'i Faith by "Covenant Breakers." I remember viewing them as evil and not even wanting to look into them. I didn't want anything to upset the positive ideas and lifestyle I was developing in the Baha'i Faith. I didn't want any doubts. Faith is good. I was not ready for my faith to grow or change yet. Religious understanding always grows and changes as our minds grow. To attack the religion of another person, when it is providing him with good, stability, or virtues is destructive behavior. Anyway, I didn't want to see the books, because I was happy in my understanding of the Baha'i Faith, and growing as a person in it.
But now, finding the book was an epiphany for me because I needed answers, and I had a creeping hunch that we had all been scammed. At that time I was ready for some new information. I was ready to grow into something new. And there was this forbidden book. I took it home with a stack of other books and began to discover the truth about the Baha'i Faith. Later I found a copy of this Aqdas at an unusual bookstore in Anchorage Alaska called "The Source, It had an astounding stock of mystical and eastern religious texts in hard-cover first editions and used to haunt it during all my lunch hours while working at the PIP Printing facility a few blocks away.
I remember wondering if this was a translation by some "enemy of the faith" trying to make the faith look bad, and if this was why it was suppressed. But it turned out this "Book of Laws" was honest and straight-forward with no agenda. It had been translated easily long ago by an impartial Arabic scholar from England. And it was short! It was clearly being withheld from the Baha'is, and the public, because it presented a very different picture of the faith" than what Baha'i teachers were constantly selling. It was far more Islamic in feel. More rigid. More harsh. More doctrinaire in that Quranic way. It contained odd daily rules and practices and it felt like culture shock. Strange things about women and their periods and what they had to do, which seemed to fly in the face of the "equality of men and women" idea. Rules about the haircuts of men. Odd little rules about how to eat food. Apparently allowing for polygamy among Bahai's, it merely considered it virtuous if men had no more than two wives, which also flew in the face of the Baha'is feminist teachings. I also noted that the book was palpably spiritual and full of devotion and piety, and that Muslim spirit of rectitude before God. It painted the picture of an amazing, deeply devout religious community. I saw in my mind the spiritual community that Baha'is were meant to become, but didn't. Because they didn't even have their "most holy book" I realized that what the sellers of the Baha'i faith concocted to sell to the masses was engineered for simply that: selling. The Baha'i Faith had become a concoction to be sold to "progressive" people.
There was always this thing the Baha'is had called the "ten basic principles" of the Baha'i Faith. They would print it up on a card and recite them at teaching events. I realized that if you asked ten scholars come up a "ten basic principles" from Baha'i scriptures, none would arrive at the list the Baha'is were using. The "equality of men and women" -- on the Baha'i "ten basic" list -- is not even mentioned directly in any of the "three important scriptures." Martyrdom, on the other hand, is mentioned and extolled possibly a hundred times in these scriptures. But "the glory of martyrdom" is not on that card. The "oneness of mankind" is on the card. Yet the founder Baha'u'llah mentioned this idea only just a bit. No more than the average mystic. He did speak of devotion, or bhakti, in numerous places. Yet that's not on the "10 basic principles" card. Their scriptures are filled with references to the inner mystical life. Nothing on the card about that, either.
The card mentions "the harmony of science and religion" as a "basic principle." This is taken from, perhaps, one statement from the founder that science and technology should accord with religious values and truths. Baha'is were listing this with a shallow understanding of it's import, and for disingenuous effects.
See, the founders, including the Bab and Baha'ullah, were actually anti-technology and this had been suppressed. I found in my new unbiased translation that the Bab, an important earlier spiritual figure among the Baha'i founders, had forbade the use of certain new inventions and technologies. He even forbade traveling more than a certain distance from your home, probably in an anti-technology stance. (That would blunt any cultural need for automobiles.) His successor, Baha'u'llah, made other anti-technology statements. One I remember by heart was, "We have heard that an infernal engine hath been devised. Soon it's fire will consume the cities." This was a prediction that the automobile, the new sacred cow of the west, would destroy neighborhoods, towns as real human places, and culture itself.
But I knew that Baha'is took this item about "the harmony of science and religion" and made it backwards. They believed it meant that science and technology should be accepted and pursued unhampered by religious ideas or "superstitions." That there was no fundamental conflict between them. The founders had meant the opposite thing: That technology and inventions be only pursued inasmuch as they comported with religious and social ideals, and not to the destruction of those. Science and technology were to be in accord with -- in compliance with -- religious cultural values. Not the other way around. Technology and invention were not absolute values for their own sake.
So, this "Book Of Laws," in full translation, showed me that the 'Baha'i faith' we were sold had been concocted by modern marketing minds, intended to appeal to liberal or "progressive" thinkers in the west.
Although by that time I could see the value of the mystical attitude in the text, and the austere rules orientation to daily life, I could see that it was not the faith I had bought. At that point, too, being so exposed now to yoga, meditation, the Yoga-Sutras and such, I could see that it was too primitive, to anciently Islamic, to really be my religion even in its true form. I was already becoming spoiled by the lofty voice of the Bhagavad-Gita and the rich arcana of mind and manifestation in the Yoga-Sutras.
Quite disgusted with this discovery, but also quite illumined and freed up, I stopped activities and involvements with the Baha'i Faith. I had begun to find the people annoying anyway. Cut off from a real spiritual life, they were just like any other westerners. In fact, Baha'is seemed, by then, to be a motley crew of fairly flawed and dysfunctional people, just enjoying the community connection their faith afforded, along with the power-tripping elements and White guilt bandages it afforded. What the Baha'i Faith did have, and for this I am grateful to it, was the mystical scriptures dripping with the spirit of bhakti, and strict moral rules, though they were not encompassing and full. Hinduism and yoga seemed to offer even more noble visions of morality and devotion.
Realization Six: "Racial Disunity" is not a Major World Problem
I realized that "racial disunity" was not really, truly, one of the basic problems of the world. This idea had been concocted, I realized later, largely by Jews who came to gradually influence our academic and media environments. This propaganda was for their interests. It helped foment the destruction of racial identities and unique national identities, and this benefited Jews in their host countries. But that is another subject.
I gradually outgrew my programming about how "bad" my White ancestors were and how important "racial" division was. I realized that it is entirely natural and appropriate to favor your own type, your own family, and your own people. I saw that this is what the "diversity" of the world is about. Baha'is always threw around the phrase "diversity. Most Baha'is had grown up with a white-guilt program from the schools and media, and like me, were looking for an "answer" to all the anguish it caused them, and felt they had found that answer in the Baha'i faith. So, most Whites in the Baha'i Faith are there, in part, because it helps them get rid of the "white guilt" sliver that has been inserted under their skin.
As I grew, I realized that Whites were the ones who freed the slaves, and flirted with slavery only briefly in historical terms, that Africans themselves had been enslaving each other for ages, and that's how we came into contact with it. I also realized, much later, that it was primarily Jews who were the big slave traders, and that "Jew" means a race or ethnic group just as much as a religion, or more so. But Whites were taking all the blame. Also that slavery is still practiced in Africa, and even in Israel, while Whites long ago, in classic noble-minded fashion, outlawed it. We were always getting a bum rap in the media.
I realized it was natural for different peoples to congregate together. This is the real "diversity" of the world. When you mix them all together, the diversity of the world has to perish, both culturally and genetically. Yet this gray-paint was what Baha'is were creating, and later culture and media in the west followed suit.