This movie had to happen because it was destined to happen. When I first saw Bhagavan Das chanting at Harbin Hot Springs in 1998, I had the strongest sense of familiarity, like I had known him before or was destined to know him one day. There was a karmic tie-in. In 2004, he came to Toronto to chant and we became fast friends. He then encouraged me to go see Amma- the Hugging Saint- when she came to Toronto soon thereafter. That night, I was resistant, and one of the founding members of the Open Heart Gang- Vanessa- encouraged me to go. I went, and that evening met a very significant person in my relational life- Tarini. Interestingly, she was going to leave earlier but decided to stay after a woman she met there- Mira- encouraged her to stay until the morning chant. I met Tarini soon thereafter, looking for her lost “key” in the parking lot. As it turns out, Mira was a former partner of Bhagavan Das who had come up from Pennsylvania to volunteer at the gathering. Of all the people on the planet Tarini could have met that night, she met Mira. Even more interesting, Tarini became my partner and is the woman in the film who caught Bhagavan Das stealing her picture of Amma in the film. And Mira ended up being interviewed for the film with her current partner, David Newman. It is clear that this soulpod gathered together because we had some work to do karmically. And it appears to be no accident that me and Paul Hemrend ended up being the two co-producers on this project. It is my understanding that somewhere around 10 films were attempted about Bhagavan Das and none were completed. Paul and I finish most everything we start. We were chosen for a reason.
This movie had to happen because we are moving in the direction of transparency and accountability in the culture at large and the spiritual teaching community has been unfairly sheltered from this to some extent. There have been many books, but very few films that explore the questions at the heart of this documentary. To a large extent, there have been (convenient) rules put in place in many spiritual communities that prevent questionable behaviors from leaving the walls of the temple. These rules were often put in place by the gurus themselves, for obvious reasons. Even when things came to light within communities, the devotees were so lost in the perfection projection that they couldn’t take in the possibility that the guru was imperfect and still struggling with their own personal demons. And those who did question guru behavior were often met with some of the ungrounded defences against wrongdoing that plague the new age i.e. It is all a projection; Judgment is unacceptable; There are no wrongdoers- both people signed a karmic contract to make this happen and learn lessons; The guru is on a different plane of awareness- you cannot possibly understand what is moving through her/him; The soul and the personality are distinct from one another- the Soul is the truth, The personality is an illusion; and my personal favorite- The guru has transcended ego, which is deeply ironic given that most of the gurus who act out do not even have the egoic strength to directly admit their mistakes. You would think that their moving beyond ego would mean it wouldn’t be particularly difficult to reveal and admit their own humanness. At the end of the day, all spiritual communities who have protected misdeeds need to inquire into their own motivations and vested interests. If someone is doing damage in their name, shouldn’t they courageously draw a line in the sand the moment it is revealed? Of course they should.
This movie had to happen because the profound contrast between perspectives it illuminates needs to be debated. Although the movie has been out only a few weeks, it has already inspired intense conflicts between spiritual bypass communities and those who believe in a more grounded approach. Consider the profound differences between these perspectives: (1) Theft is wrong vs. Why are you so attached to your possessions?; (2) Bhagavan Das had a bad intention vs. BD did it all to uncover your blind spots and teach you just what you needed to learn; (3) Bhagavan Das was the wrongdoer vs. There are no wrongdoers- everyone got exactly what they wanted; (4) There are fissures and fault-lines all over the non-dual field. We still have work to do in the dualities before unity consciousness can be genuinely experienced and sustained vs. We are All-one; (5) Forgiveness after accountability and healing vs. Forgiveness first; (6) It’s all in the details vs. Bigger picture; (7) Healthy and appropriate anger expression and release is essential to emotional well-being and restores the integrity of the organism vs. Anger is a sub-standard emotion that should be shunned; (8) You cannot be enlightened, if you are not in integrity. There must be consistency across all channels vs. Enlightenment exists independent of integrity; (9) There is nothing funny about unnecessary harm vs. It’s all a big cosmic joke- Don’t take it all so seriously!
This movie had to happen to help others to stop feeling ashamed of their own relationship challenges and defeats. It is my view that the world gets better when we take our truth out from below a bushel of shame and self-reveal, warts and all. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t been disillusioned by someone they believed in and had to decide whether to walk away or heal the connection. The most important thing is that we own it, heal it, learn from it. If showing my own challenging journey with Bhagavan Das invites even one person to stop beating themselves up for past relationship choices, then all this hard work was truly worth it. The School of Heart Knocks doesn’t care where we learn, so long as we do.
This movie had to happen because it is essential that we understand the inextricable relationship between our spiritual and emotional lives. For far too long, many in the feelings/spiritual bypass communities have distinguished between their spiritual and emotional life, both in an effort to remember the bigger picture and to disconnect from the pain body. Of course, witnessing the pain body doesn’t make it go away- it just sends it underground where it lives itself out in all kinds of insidious ways (“the power of then”) and eventually summons the exact lesson it needs to be excavated and healed. In Soulshaping, I said that we need to “cell our soul”- the idea that repressed emotions are unactualized spiritual lessons. To the extent that we raise them from their burial ground and work them through, we mature in our spirituality. The emotional body is the karmic field where the souls lessons are harvested. When we call our issues an illusion, when we split off from them in our quest for a non-dual experience, we limit our spiritual expansion. In Karmageddon, we made every effort to bring it all together- to reveal what happens when individuals- and I am surely one of them- do not work their material through. It leeches out everywhere, demanding recognition and healing. There is NO distinction between our emotional and spiritual life. It’s all God, even the dust that falls off our awakening hearts.
This movie had to happen.