I personally believe that in essence everyone is pure light, pure consciousness, and divine to a degree. Yet at times it becomes necessary to examine the behavior of others—not to be punitive or judgmental, but to look at our own behavior and ask ourselves if our own behavior needs similar improvement.
In connection with this, I want to discuss the yoga teacher Bikram Choudhury. I consider his story to be a classic tale of a man who had access to great knowledge and wisdom throughout his life, began living in a way that was respectful of that knowledge and wisdom, but who tragically lost his way.
Choudhury came to America in the early 1970s and became popular because he was a charismatic individual and because yoga was a popular trend then. He was in the right place—Hollywood, California—at the right time, and he looked and sounded the part of the quintessential yoga teacher with his brown skin, black hair, and far eastern Indian accent. He became regarded as a guru very quickly And was praised by many people.
His situation was the same as that of the many struggling musicians who become rock stars. The praise, love, and adoration they receive can be intoxicating to them. (This is especially the case if those individuals didn’t have such praise when they were infants.) Thinking of his situation, I’m reminded of what would happen if you gave $30,000 to a 7-year-old child and told him to spend it on whatever he wanted.
I believe Choudhury became emotionally intoxicated. He began to desire things such as gold watches and luxury cars (such as Rolls Royces). At one point he owned 75 incredibly expensive cars. He then became sexually obsessed and was sued by many women because of a great many sexual indiscretions, including rape. He eventually fled the country in disgrace and in complete denial of his own behavior.
Many were aware of Choudhury’s flaws but didn't object to what was unfolding because he had a way of presenting information that was enjoyable for the listener. So it seems that some people “erred on the side of caution” by not judging Choudhury’s behavior because they were avoiding being judgmental of Choudhury himself.
I don't condone Choudhury's behavior. I have compassion for him because I realize that he struggled just like everyone else does. And I have to say that I like his yoga system a lot. But my intention in this book is to talk about what happens to people when they're confronted with temptation but aren't doing enough mental and emotional work to help them overcome their temptation.
Those who aren't public figures might have self-destructive behaviors that primarily affect themselves, their children, their parents, and their siblings. They have limited reach. But people such as popular gurus can cause destruction for a great many people. Those who are called gurus should be humble and consider themselves as having been given sacred responsibility.
Many sincere, venerable, beloved, cherished gurus have brought light to this earth. Those individuals have helped a great many people. And these gurus have lived in the way that they have advised others to live. But the world has also been filled with predators, charlatans, snake oil salesmen, false prophets, and complete frauds. Many naive people have been and will continue to be willing to follow such individuals.
So I'm basically just asking readers of this book to exercise caution when following the teachings of or sometimes submitting to the authority of a guru. It's good to find people with wisdom and expertise who can teach us to become more conscious, more aware, and more mentally and physically healthy.
We can and should respect those who can bring us closer to enlightenment, although under no circumstances should we condone bad behavior. And we should also respect ourselves. We all have strengths within ourselves that we can discover and uncover within ourselves and move closer to enlightenment as we do so.