In this book the author has discussed in detail the Guru-disciple relationship in India, explaining its usefulness in the transmission of the spiritual experience, and its pitfalls as well. Through the Hindu example, he presents the basis and requirements of the teaching relationship in the field of spirituality. A description of the Guru tradition itself with its different branches, and then the psychological, social and then the psychological, Social and familial context of India is presented.
The Author has choosen fourteen themes to describe different aspects of the Guru. After that, he speaks of his fieldwork and of his meeting with a dozen significant contemporary Indian Gurus.
An actual comparison between guru and psychotherapist, from the beginning to the end of the relationship has been made. Further he compares and differentiates the psychological transference and guru-bhakti and discusses briefly psychotherapy and meditation.
Dr. Jacques Vigne was born in Paris in 1956; he studied there upto the M.D. and psychiatrist degree. He has been trained as a Medical Doctor, Psychiatrist and Psychothera-pist in Paris and in India in Indology.
For the past eleven years Dr. Vigne is living is India. He has himself experienced the master-disciple relationship. Dr. Vigne can be considered as a second generation representative of the meeting of French people with Hindu spirituality. After travelling widely throughout India, he has authored three books on spiritual psychology and devotes now his time to spiritual practices. He has also written two short stories in French, where he evokes the relationship between spiritual master and disciple in a literary way. His writings are a contribution to a better understanding of East and West, as well as between modern psychology and spiritually. From time to time, he conducts tours of lectures and workshops in Europe, but basically resides in India near Haridwar.
I am glad to see the publication of “The Indian Teaching Tradition” in Delhi by BR Publishing Corporation. This book, as well as my other work “Hindu Wisdom, Christianity and Modern Psychology” has been published in France in the series of spirituality of Albin Michel, which counts over 250 titles, mainly on Eastern teachings. This series has been started just after world War II by Jean Herbert, a translator in the field of diplomacy who thought that the need of that time was not only a material reconstruction, but a spiritual one as well. For that purpose, he turned to the works of India sages and thinkers like Sri Aurobindo, Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, Ma Anandamayi, Ramana Maharshi, Mahatma Gandhi, etc…Since that time, the series has included books by French writes on Eastern or comparative spirituality, and the present title is the first one to have a better understanding between Indian and Westurn culture. I must thank the French Embassy in Delhi for the support it has extended to the present translation. At the time where this book is published in English in Delhi, it is also released in Munich, in German, by Claudius Verlag. I hope these translations will soon be followed by the English version of my third book, Meditation and Psychology, which is a recent synthesis of my ides on the relationship between psychology and spirituality.
After living eleven years in India, I was able to realize that there are quite a few people who are interested in knowing what may be the opinion of a sympathetic Western scholar to some aspects of their tradition. Moreover, some westernized Indians may rediscover in this book forgotten treasures of their spiritual heritage in a somewhat sympathetic way, compatible with but not reduced to a modern approach. After all these years of study, research, meetings and spiritual practices here, I can say that my view on the Indian teaching tradition is both from without and from within, hence the specificity of this book.
Master and Therapist is the outcome of five years’ work in India. Its central topic is the help-relationship, that is how and why a person helps another person. I chose especially to study the model of the help-relationship existing between the spiritual master and the disciple in the Hindu tradition, because I know that it is a topic little known to Western or westernized Indian readers. In the third part, I establish a comparison with the therapist, who is a more familiar personage in the Western culture. Before entering into the core of the matter, it may be useful to give an idea of how I came to write this book.
I started my higher studies with mathematics and physics. They were useful to me in the sense that they gave me the taste for exploration of concepts and of those mental constructions that mathematical models are. But I experienced also with the limits of abstract thinking, where the important relationship between subject and object, body and spirit, is ignored.
I turned then to medicine. These studies too have been useful, because through them I could better grasp the relationship between body and mind, a bit through my theoretical studies but especially through my daily contact with sick persons. I could see, day after day, that the psychic and the somatic were like two mirrors facing each other; in between an internal event is reflected endlessly. But I also experienced the limits of the medical models: in practice, psychology was considered as the fifth wheel of the car, a luxury in which the doctor was able to indulge oneself with one’s patients on those rare days when he had some free time.
Thus, I turned to psychiatry. These studies were useful to me inasmuch as through them I could understand some basic mechanisms of the psyche by observing their pathological perturbations. I saw extreme pathological sickness, often on the occasion of duty with emergency cases: those who have just tried to commit suicide, patients in full delirium once a schizophrenic teen-ager who killed his father and mother, another time an impulsive - the least that can be said - father who murdered his daughter with a gun because she said something that he did not like. I could add those desperate patients who spread AIDS around well aware of what they were doing, before they themselves died of these disease. I was also able to observe pathological states in another culture: I worked for fifteen months as a psychiatrist in Algeria, where, together with a colleague, I was responsible for an area of one million inhabitants.
Having met in India some gurus and yogis who have gone deep into the exploration of their own mind, I could see the other extreme: from a psyche least conscious of itself, to a psyche which is extremely conscious of its own Self. I could see the difference and personally verify that even if they are rare, still there exist some people whose psyche approaches perfection; this fact of traditional psychology corresponds to a realty, an important reality, though at times discreet in its manifestation. Considering itself as a science, psychiatry keeps a radical distinction between the subject-doctor and he patient-object, and this is its limitation.
And so, I turned to psychotherapy, where one is expected to have an experience of one’s own self before taking charge of other people. This study has been useful to me in the sense that it made me aware of the extent to which the psyche of one who helps and of one who is helped are interdependent, and also of the difficulty of being objective in this domain. But I also experienced the limits of the model of psychopathology and of a study on mind based on its false turns. I felt as if I was attempting to become a great pianist by learning by heart lists of mistakes that beginners are prone to make in reading Beethoven’s Letter to Elisa or Mozart’s The Turkish March; to put it differently, one should not extrapolate spiritual psychology from psychopathology. I could see that as long as psychotherapy remains within the limits of its domain, it retains its usefulness. But, if it claims to become a world view, an “erzatz” of philosophy or religion or especially of the spiritual path, it is being misleading.
Notwithstanding all the emotional emphasis surrounding it, Western psychotherapy remains, as I see it, at the level of an odd and amateurish job, when compared to the traditional ways of exploring the mind, if the latter are well understood. I shall develop this idea in the last chapter. Certainly, a “ bricolage” is better than nothing at all, and many people are satisfield with it. But it could also be that neither the patient nor the therapist know that there exist other time-proved means for exploring and developing oneself.
Then, I turned toward India, and deepened my experience in meditation. I had practised some traditional techniques of interiorisation even before starting my studies in psychiatry; they had already taught me how to tackle negativities within myself first, and then these which come from clients in everyday practice. This problem of transference exists for all therapists, but talking about it from time to time or reading some articles on the subject is clearly not sufficient. For some therapists, this problem of transference may take dramatic proportions: there was for instance a young doctor doing his internship in the psychiatric hospital of Villejuif near Paris who, ten years before my own there, lived in the room near the one I occupied; he committed suicide one Christmas night.
One could ask me, after these years in India, what limitations I have found in the practice of meditation. I could answer that a definition of meditation could be: “to sit and to accept one’s limitations here and now”, which is a concrete means by which to transcend them. Dogen, a XIIIth century Zen Master, said: “ By accepting one’s own limits, one becomes without limits”. This is an advice to be meditated upon, even if one feels that one’s capacities for meditation are limited…
My work in India was to identify what this help was-be it called psychological or spiritual-that guru could give to their disciples. To my mind, it was the logical continuation of what I had studied in psychiatry. I had been learning by watching the sessions of experienced psychiatrists with their patients. Now I was continuing to learn by examining the relationship of the gurus with their disciples. In this way I felt that I was meeting my responsibilities as a psychiatrist: to find some therapeutic methods that would be really effective on a long term basis. While studying Indian teachings, I could see how their techniques of exploring the mind had stabilized into tradition over many centuries of experimentation. They have their internal logic and such psycho-spiritual logic was worth studying and examining carefully. It was these considerations that pushed me to go to India, rather than any attraction for the occult, which-I have to say-as a professional- I mistrust.
Another thing which attracted me at the same time towards authentic gurus is that they refuse to be pigeon-holed into small conceptual boxes. Generation after generation they have eluded the systematic attempts of philosophers and pandits (traditional learned people) to explain them, and they still elude today in the same way the attempts them, and they still elude today in the same way the attempts of armies of psychologists encircling them with their batteries of tests and bombarding them with psychopathological labels… They reaffirm, in this way, the supremacy of experience, of life, over concepts; these could be compared to a number of coffins gathered together in these great cemeteries called systems.
Some people may think that, after having passed these years in India in the company of gurus, I could come back to France and practice as a kind of gurus. But this is not a future medical specialisation, neither a diploma that can be obtained by patiently attending classes in an institute. After having closely studied some authentic gurus, I could measure all the distance that there was between them and me. If I learned something, it is rather in the “art” of not being guru than in the art of being one; the art of not letting myself be involved, even unconsciously, in a long term relationship that I do not have the capacity of undertaking.
Purposely, I mixed the styles and the levels of approach in this book; I am not keen to be labeled, either as a psychologist, indologist, traveller, mystic, orientalist, historian of religions or a literary person. I am what I am.
Why have I written this book? First to repay the dept acquired towards those who have financed my staying in India : “La Formation des Francais a I’ etranger”(The Training of French People in Foreign Countries), then la Maison des Sciences de I’ Homme (House of Human Sciences ) in Paris. I thank also UGC of Delhi, professors H.G. Singh of Hardwar, R.H.Singh and L.N.Sharma of Banaras, who have helped my staying from the administrative point of view. I left Paris with a Scholarship Romain-Rolland, and my work is inscribed somehow in the continuation of that writer’s own action: to let “the other” –whether German or Indian- known and recognized by French people. He wrote biographies of Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, and entertained a correspondence with Sigmund Freud.
The principal aim of this book is to let people share in certain ideas that I found interesting in India, regarding the counseling relationship, and to compare them with Western psychotherapies. This topic is so broad that a book is not too much. The sources on which I draw are not new, but are difficult for a public living in the West to access; actually they are widely spread throughout India in the from of ashram publications or books released by small editors with limited distribution. As for the reading of Indological sources, they are difficult to access because of their very quantity. I have written more for my pleasure than because of I feel vested with any mission. To write is not, for me, a vital necessity, and I surely shall not do it all my life. Among the yogis whom I have met, few were writing, few seemed to feel to be vested by a special mission , and I have been influenced by their attitude. They say there are four methods to progress on the spiritual path: study of books, meeting with gurus,- or yogis who do not consider themselves as guru-, personal experience in meditation and life, and interaction with people interested in this spiritual path.
Brahma Sutras (81)
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