beyond betrayal…Posted: November 12, 2012
Once upon a time I was told that my Spiritual Guide had engaged in a three year retreat at a cottage somewhere in the wilds of Scotland and had achieved great things there. As a result that place had become so blessed that it would be an especially sacred place to visit and that one’s meditation would be particularly effective there. Since then I have heard that many of my Spiritual Guide’s disciples have been to that place to do retreat, especially extended retreats, making the place even more blessed in the same way we know that any place becomes more blessed the more frequently meditation and spiritual practice goes on there. The place had become holy, and holier over the years, so I was told. Consequently it had become an essential , and ever more important, part of the tradition that I belonged to. Then the tradition, many years later, betrayed and abandoned me, in spectacular fashion. Then I learnt that the tradition had already betrayed all the disciples of my Spiritual Guide by selling the very place where he had been in retreat for so long. Such was the scale of the betrayal that the tradition could not bring itself to explain honestly why it had sold its holiest place; all kinds of bizarre and patently untrue excuses were made for the sale.
Why do I say all this? Because now I know that my betrayal was just a small part, just one instance, of the myriad wider, and bigger, betrayals within the tradition, itself betrayed by those who hijacked it. And my Spiritual Guide has therefore himself been betrayed. All his good works, all his meritorious deeds, apparently undone by the betrayal of those he trusted to carry on his legacy. Bittersweet moment indeed for me: my betrayal was not uniquely directed against me but was part of the betrayal of all my fellow disciples, and there is some bitter comfort in knowing that we were all in it together, but there is also the tragic realisation that something precious has been lost for so many and that one more Spiritual Guide has been undermined. But perhaps he knew, like so many Spiritual Guides before him did, that it would always come to this, that traditions inevitably end up betraying their own founding principles. Yet maybe such betrayals don’t matter in the end because what is taught by the Spiritual Guide is a direct mind-to-mind, heart-to-heart transmission from him to the disciple, unmediated by the tradition itself, which merely sets the stage, the background, for this existential relationship between the Spiritual Guide and the disciple, who are, in the end, the only two people in the room, the only couple who know what is really going on, who are in love with each other even if nobody else in the world is in love with them, who are in union within the silence of the viaticum. As a mystic poet once said: “I have drunk the lord’s sherbert, glory to the lord…”