The Test of Transparency
This essay was written by Jeff in 2011 and I find it relevant today (2021). It is one of 10 he wrote in the hope that an open dialogue would help form his community, now without an incarnate Guru. The title of his essays are:
The Test of the Vulnerable Infant
The Test of Free Speech
The Test of Stolen Words
The Test of the True Story
The Test of Pleasure and the Heart
The Test of Transparency
The Test of True Community
The Test of Emmanuel Kant
The Test of Accountability
The Test of the Scapegoat Ritual
The Test of Transparency
I find that this concept of transparency is the hardest for people to wrap their heads around, and it is also one of the most widely misunderstood. But it’s much simpler than the length of the word implies.
Here’s what transparency is not:
* loss of privacy
* loss of the ‘sacred domain’
* unwanted disclosure
* a kind of ‘tell all’ about your life
* political correctness
* idealistic ‘action’
* drawing energy and power to oneself
* monitoring or surveillance
* bureaucrats meddling in your personal business
* anything negative.
Here’s what transparency is:
* vulnerability in communication
* integrity in relationship
* simplicity of speech
* responsive non-passivity
* openness and real connection
* a low tolerance for bullshit
* a high regard for self acceptance
* compassion towards all others
* an absence of power games
* the raising of truth over status
* fidelity to small ‘r’ and large ‘R’ reality
* a renouncing of ego in transparency to the adept
* a self-organizing and self-rightening process
* the cultural expression of prior unity.
Sanghas get themselves into trouble when they pretend they’re up to something more spiritual than they actually are. Non-transparency about the nature and doings of the ego lead to false or ‘seeming spirituality’, and then a massive bulwark of defensive strategies to keep that ‘seeming’ from being punctured by reality or our even talking about it.
If our sanghas aren’t transparent, we have to decide to get a little more real together, and quickly. When non-transparent ego-culture takes hold, it is quite difficult to dislodge. It can take an almost rebellious force to undo it, so it’s best to nip this form of falsehood in the bud.
The road back to transparency, if we’ve lost it, begins with integrity test number two: freedom of speech. When we can get back to a hundred percent honesty as a community, we’re halfway there.
The second half is pushing that honesty all the way through until it becomes a cultural expectation. Transparency is only difficult if we’ve strayed from it. But it is always worth getting back to.
Our esoteric schools have to represent a deep commitment to reality – not just on the transcendental level, but on the mundane as well. This is a test we must pass if we’re to be taken seriously in the culture at large. And if we can’t demonstrate this, then we really do deserve to be marginalized and ignored as we are now. Again, we feel this one is a part of our collective ‘growing up’.
As many of you know, my sangha, Adidam, is in its relative infancy – only three and a half years out from our guru’s mahasamadhi (2011). Over the last weeks, we’ve been engaging in an inspiring dialog with many devotee friends about how our culture might look, feel, and function were it aligned transparently to our guru’s explicit instruction. An instruction that is vast and remarkably subtle, and around which many interpretations circulate, and many deep feelings.
Our guru taught us that spiritual adepts emerge almost universally in opposition to the religious cultures in which they have found themselves. Adi Da himself found it a lifetime struggle working in the culture we made around him. He did not want our esoteric school reduced to word, symbol, ceremony, photographs, and doctrine – I do not have more than a few close friends in my sangha who do not feel this reduction is already underway. So this post is simply an exploration of our feelings and perceptions about that.
This post represents the consensus of hundreds in my sangha, perhaps up to a third of our gathering or more, about some root tests of integrity that might serve not only our own sangha, but others as well. In general, we do not believe any of us should live in a sangha that doesn’t meet the tests of integrity we’re about to describe.
In floating this post around to people in other sanghas we’ve found an interesting fact. Many feel that their sanghas have decided somewhat definitively that they ‘already know’ what is true and real, and even finally binding on their cultures. They’ve found that when they try to initiate heart-intelligent, dharmically-rooted, or even ethical reform, they discover a Han Dynasty wall of resistance. They discover many previously unseen channels and hierarchies of presumed status and power, and people who must defend that power. They encounter the extraordinary ability of the human mind to rationalize, and to employ the highest dharma as a tool to repress and discount reality-intelligent or collective discrimination. They discover the deep impulse of human tamas – which is an almost perfect unwillingness to change, or to allow challenge to what the ego is already doing, and does not want to stop doing.
We feel it’s important for us all to keep a sense of humor about this, and to find a compassionate space with it, no matter what we are considering together. For who really wants to change or be reformed? I certainly don’t. The status quo is comfortable; it always is. My guru taught me this in spades, and to watch for it in myself, and to renounce it.
But I feel it’s also good to recognize that change is what we signed up for. This is what our vows are fundamentally about: the call to reform and a new integrity. A true intervention on and transformation of the individual and collective body. Over and over and over. This is natural and sattvic. Transformation and responsiveness to the adept are precisely what standing in an in-depth position generates. The call of sattvic reform is an expression of true fidelity to one’s guru. And we believe it should be welcomed, and never discounted or feared.
Those of you who know Adi Da are well aware of the intensity of his critical gaze and words. Nothing has served me more in my relationship to him than the sheer force of his critical intervention on what I presumed were pleasing-to-him religious doings. Nothing has been more revealing to me than his critique of my own mummery.
So, any critical words here are offered in that spirit, humbly, knowing full well that I and my friends are implicated in all of this critique, and deeply. And it’s also worth saying that this is fundamentally a critique of ‘pattern’, not individuals. Patterns of non-integrity are often cultural in nature, and we tend to succumb to them, as my guru used to say, ‘in a sheeplike way’, as an oedipal response to perceived authority, and without adult consciousness.
But these patterns are, by the same token, easily discarded, once seen. Of course, we hope you’ll take to heart the ‘scapegoating’ motive in relation to the authors of this post, and see if it is active in any way. We confess to be guilty of failing all these tests. Up to now, we’ve found even the mention of these issues to be a cause for immediate dismissal or hostility. That has been disheartening, but not a cause for us to become silent in the face of our guru’s explicit demands.