Balanced View’s Twisted Views in India
As you may have gathered from my previous article on hippies in Arambol, when I first encountered an organisation called ‘Balanced View,’ I didn’t like them. I still don’t like them to be honest. However, as I set to work on an article about the pitfalls of atheism I realised that there was a contradiction afoot that I must now address.
In the original piece my description was a tad negative: “Think tofu meets Scientology and you’re on the right track. Then add a bucket of putrid of cat vomit for good measure.”
I then likened their followers to the South Park depiction of people from San Francisco who love the smell of their own farts, casting their speakers as ‘minions’ who, “Look like they’ve had the inside of their colon massaged with Valium as payment for their brainwashing of the needy.”
Like I said, I’m not their biggest fan. They creep me out.
Conversely, as I sit here contemplating the merit of spirituality, religion, and any other belief system, I have to question where this outrage is coming from? Why am I directing it at this organisation that appears (although I’m still not completely convinced) to be trying to do nothing more than help people? What does that say about me as a person?
My Grandfather always taught me that it is very easy to think in black and white about things; it takes intellect to see the grey. So why am I hissing and spitting at a bunch of dippy vegans?! Surely, there’s more worthy causes such as Monsanto, for example, who could do with being at the receiving end of my keypad wrath? (Yeah that’s right, be afraid Monsanto, be very afraid!)
To understand what it is that made me feel so uncomfortable I had to first pinpoint exactly what it was about belief systems, both religious and not, that I despise. After some deliberation I have concluded that my contention centers around my belief that when any set system gains too much power it is, more often than not, used to control and manipulate its followers for the personal gain of those in charge–the Catholic Church being a classic example of this. That or used as a tool to condemn and oppress those judged unworthy which, in the case of established religions or politically based ideologies, has caused countless wars and atrocities. In more recent times, it is my view that the use of psychic mediums and alike has also been abused in a similar fashion. So-called ‘Psychics’ utilise methods such as cold reading to fleece participants into ‘establishing a connection’ with the dead thus, potentially, providing false hope and prolonging their grief. All these systems and ideologies, both new and old, can essentially be interpreted to excuse self-serving behavior, in direct opposition to the principles governing their development in the first place.
Nevertheless, that still doesn’t explain why I am raging at Balanced View so vehemently? I think my problem stems from the language used at the meetings, and the general uncomfortable feeling I felt talking to its members. For starters; the words and phrases that their members were using left me at a complete loss. For instance; the first of the four “mainstays” which they call “Open Intelligence.” To me it doesn’t mean anything, yet simultaneously insults me by implying that by not adhering to this principle, which I still think is meaningless jargon, I am somehow bigoted and thick. Knock my self-esteem to then offer the answer, thereby recruiting me.
With regards to the members’ attitudes, the moment anyone starts really pushing any kind of new philosophy on me and trying to convert me, I immediately raise my heckles. First off, I was tricked into going there. I was led to believe by one of the members, who knew about my interest in teaching, that I would be attending a seminar addressing the problems with mainstream education which is a subject close to my heart. Instead it was a seminar about ‘re-education of the mind’ in some four-step program that left me feeling on edge, insulted, and then a member had the audacity to ask me for money. Maybe it was a genuine misunderstanding, but it certainly didn’t seem that way.
Secondly, when I tactfully challenged some of the principles with one of the members and explained that I was more interested in looking at traditional Indian techniques for tackling mental health issues, she was quick to start preaching how that was a waste of energy. At least techniques such as Vipassana meditation have withstood the test of time is all I am going to say.
Finally, there was something altogether unnerving about the uniformed manner in which all of the members were talking about how happy they now were. To me it seemed like they really could have taken a sedative and forgotten to send me the memo. Their overly calm and ‘balanced’ demure was just downright unsettling from where I was sitting.
I have agonized over my latter grievance, and I think the core reason behind it is that all the figures that I admire, and in some ways idolise, were, at least initially, fueled by strong emotions such as anger and frustration that I identify with. Figures such as Bill Hicks, or Hunter S. Thompson or even Gandhi may not have done the things they did, or wrote the things they wrote, had they not embraced this anger and directed it at what they perceived to be the cause of their anguish, instead choosing to balance their views.
Such an alternative reality would have left the world at a sad loss in my opinion. Yes, the differences in perspectives and beliefs that exist around the world cause a lot of problems, some would argue more than they solve, but I personally would hate to see a world in which we are all homogenised and perfectly balanced. United in trying to push the world in a positive and equal direction; yes, but uniform in our beliefs and cultures; certainly not.
That said, I am sure there are just as many balanced individuals who have inspired just as much, they just never particularly appealed to me! Maybe I am lucky in that I am able to embrace my inner crazy, or am stronger than I thought I was in that I don’t need the four mainstays or any other set belief system to feel complete. On the contrary, maybe I’m unfortunate in that I’m so distrusting of these organisations and am missing out, but I’m just not wired that way.
What’s more, I’m not saying that I ‘m without my own issues, my friends will testify to that end! I have my hang ups and insecurities just like everyone else but am fortunate in that I’ve been able to develop my own code of ethics and spiritual beliefs that help me rationalise events should I fall from a peak to a trough. Additionally, it’s an ongoing learning curve that involves constant assessment, reassessment, and evaluation so, just like Balanced View, it’s not for everyone. Furthermore, it’s not my place to tell you what my beliefs are as they’re none of your business. I think everyone has to figure out what works for them as individuals by themselves, be it religion, atheism, or Balanced bloody View!
The subject of spirituality and religion vs. science and reason is a topic that will no doubt be the cause of intense debate from now until the end of time. I think the key lesson that I have learnt in my experiences with Balanced View is that, in keeping with the fast-paced nature of our society, we in the western world (and I include myself in this category) are so fast to judge other beliefs to be wrong. Judge, without really taking our own egos into consideration.
There are so many different paths to discovering meaning in life. Some do it through religious practice; some do it through alternative systems of belief. Some use music and the arts to find solace from their life situations, whilst others use extreme sports to connect with the moment. The point I am trying to make is that we need more compassion when trying to understand the concepts governing the actions of others.
Whatever grounds you, or brings you into the here and now, or connects you with the universe, or provides purpose to your life, or speeds up your own personal evolution, or Balances your View, whatever you want to call it–is your business. Don’t get all fundamental about it and don’t push your beliefs onto others unless they’re really curious.
India has been a MASSIVE eye opener for me when it comes to the subject of spirituality and self-discovery (in case you hadn’t noticed) and upon my return home I look forward to debating these concepts with my grandfather. I think I will start with something along the lines of:
“It is very easy to believe in red or yellow. It takes self-awareness to find the orange.”