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Even If You Meet Buddha In Manhattan

“If you meet the Buddha in the road, kill him” was one of the first Zen koans I ever learned. It disturbed and confused me at first, and then became one of the most useful pieces of wisdom I’ve ever come across.

And it was the first thing that occurred to me when I heard about the Jivamukti sex scandal involving Lady Ruth and Holly.

Do I believe it? Yes. Why? Because Ruth has cultivated the Guru mantle, had her favorites, and I know of other women who’ve been asked to do this with her and agreed out of respect for their revered teacher. Or maybe they didn’t know how to say no. Or maybe as Holly said, because this gave them access to the inner circle where the demi-gods and goddesses of Jiva resided.

My heart goes out to Holly—and yet, and yet—how did she feel in her own soul about what she was doing? The ego is a powerful thing—that choose me, choose me voice that wants to be selected as the favored one, the one that gets the most attention. It speaks volumes louder than the whisper of the soul.

The story reminds me that one of the important lesson of yoga is: Listen to your body, it never lies. Often teachers—particularly the bad ones—want to be worshipped, want to have power over you, and suggest you try out things that you wonder about. (We've all been in this situation.) These are the red flags, Jon Kabat-Zinn says. He also said, you will continue to notice these red flags if you listen carefully to that inner voice.

Holly and others have gotten in trouble because they didn’t listen. Remember, kill the Buddha in the road even if he is on a lovely Manhattan street and upstairs he’s got an apartment filled with shiny religious objects, gods and goddesses, and a quick path to nirvana. It’s a hard lesson, but necessary.

—Cynthia Kling

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