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Spiritual Groups – Giving and Receiving Help
Do you need to belong to a religious tradition or spiritual group? Do you have an obligation to educate others as you make progress on the spiritual path? Everyone is where they are, and not everybody is interested in spiritual topics or changing their lives. Most people are quite happy as they are. The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they have a duty to spread the message about Jesus, so they go door knocking. This is an unwanted nuisance for most people and is a very ineffective way for Witnesses to gain new members for their congregation. If people want to join a church or yoga group they will make their own decision and do so of their own free will.
If you are starting out on the meditation or yoga path, it is very useful to join a group and receive instruction. Few organisations are perfect, and they all suffer from bureaucracy as they grow large, and individual ego’s of fervent followers can disrupt both the large and small organisations. There are countless examples where spats between senior leaders in these organisations result in a split and dissent amongst the other members. The major churches have their problems too, with sexual and paedophile allegations emerging from those who should have been most reliable and trustworthy. Be careful and check out Cult Help Info.
Some seek religious institutions during times of need when they are emotionally vulnerable, such as when a loved one has died or when they are in ill health. True loving, caring, honest people will not ask you for money in return. Donating large sums to Jesus or Brahma or anyone else will not bring about instant miracles.
It is not necessary to have life-long instruction from a Guru. The guru-disciple relationship may work for some people, but there are very few good Guru’s alive on this planet, and the best advice many would give is encourage you to become self-reliant. Dependence on another person will not help you to develop your higher brain functions.
Recommended Spiritual teachers and Organisations
I am not associated with any religious or spiritual group and I don’t want to make any specific recommendations, but I know that some will be keen for suggestions. I have already provided some recommendations for reading material in the mental health and spiritual health pages. I will skip the mainstream religions. There are many yoga and meditation teachers and courses out there if you start looking. Some general guidelines:
- For Hatha Yoga there are many good options. Check your local community noticeboards.
- If you are more interested in meditation, check out introductory Buddhist or Vipassana meditation courses. There are several different Buddhist schools – Theraveda, Mahayan and Tibetan. If the traditions put you off, you could try the Mindfulness meditation centres.
- There are organisations offering a mix of Yoga and Meditation, like Yoga in Daily life run by Swami Maheshwarananda.
- For more advanced meditation instruction that requires more discipline and commitment, look for your nearest Kriya Yoga school. Self-Realization Fellowship has meditation groups in many cities across the world, but it isn’t the only organisation that teaches Kriya Yoga.
- If you are in London, a useful website for information on spiritual teachers is Light in London.
- If you are in UK or Europe, check out Mother Meera.
DO NOT spend large amounts of money with organisations offering spiritual teachings. You can get excellent tuition in meditation for nothing (or a small donation) at your local Buddhist monastery. I was shocked the last time I saw the course fees for Transcendental Meditation – spending large amounts of money does not necessarily guarantee you better tuition or faster results. More likely the opposite.
Some people believe than joining spiritual organisations is a good move in helping them find enlightenment. This may be true for some organisations, but cults do they opposite – they can impede personal and spiritual growth. At the time, it isn’t obvious that you have joined a cult. They don’t tell you that they are a cult. The judgement comes from outside the organisation and how other people perceive the behaviour inside the cult. Cults work by attempting to reprogram the set of moral values in the inhibition centre (the ventromedial pre-frontal cortex). This is part of the conscious brain that we do have control over, and it can be wiped and re-programmed (ie brain-washed). The good news is that there are plenty of support organisations to help with those who escape from the cult. Recovery can require healing from physical, emotional, mental and spiritual abuse.
Following a good spiritual organisation can help you on your path to enlightenment, but following a cult will lead you to sickness.
Check out the following links if you have concerns:
Some examples of cult organisations are listed below (there are larger lists, eg cults.co.nz). I suggest you avoid all of them.
- Alcoholics Anonymous – yes, they do a lot of good but they also fit the classification of a cult
- Aum Shinrikyo (Tokyo gas attacks)
- Branch Davidians
- Illuminati – western occult and conspiracy theories.
- Ku Klux Klan – the KKK. White supremacists.
- Manson family (Charles Manson, now deceased)
- Sukyo Mahikari – relatively harmless. They practice the art of giving light.
- Peoples Temple (Jim Jones)
- Raelism – a UFO religion.
- Rajneesh – also known as Osho. Many devotees did gain a lot of spiritual knowledge from his ashram and teachings, but his other activities (including his collection of 93 Rolls-Royce cars) put him in the category of a cult leader.
- School of Philosophy and Economic Science (Leon MacLaren) – (the actor Hugh Jackman is an active member of the New York school.) In the early days they had a relationship with the Study Group which is a good place to find people practising the Sufi art of whirling dervishes.