Andrew Cohen, upfront and across the table

We were in Rishikesh yesterday. We spent time with Swami Shankaradas again.   I felt a sense of sadness leaving him as he stood smiling goodbye on the rooftop balcony of the Rajdeep Hotel. We had to take an early leave of Swamiji to have time to reach the Sivananda Ashram auditorium where Andrew Cohen, the American spiritual guru would be giving a talk on Evolutionary Enlightenment.  I told everyone to choose what they wanted to do with their time, that we would meet at 7:30 pm at the arranged place to board the bus back to Haridwar.  Some people chose to remain with Swamiji, surely Swami  who had lived in a cave his whole life would have more for them than this American would.

 Most of us rush back to the Sivananda Ashram, down the hill and across the Ramjhula bridge and up the winding street and back up at least a thousand steps to the spacious open reception area that had been set up for Andrew in the Auditorium.   The room was flooded in sunlight and beautiful bouquets of purple orchids, yellow gerbera daisies and red gladiolas were set out around the chair upfront.   A lady in a dark blue kirtan pulled curtains here and there, blocking some of the direct sunshine and allowed  a cooling breeze to flow throughout the  room.   I had entered the room looking for Govindan who had already arrived and was seated in a chair next to a window; it’s curtain was flowing lightly in the breeze.   Ah, he  had saved me a chair near the window and close to the door, perfect!

 I sat down and enjoyed the next fifteen minutes, watching all the variety of  people who had come to the  Sivananda Ashram to hear an American iconoclast speak on the Evolution of Enlightenment.   There were a lot of serious people seated in these chairs and on the floor. There are swamis and lay-people, westerners and Indians.  Although the majority were western,  almost all were dressed as yogis in ochre and orange and pink and yellow or white. There were a lot of shaved heads.   

 Andrew, on the other hand, walked into the room laughing and wearing the loudest outfit I have seen since the 70s!   He was wearing a  charteuse long sleeve shirt and a vest of gold with flowers printed all over it.  His hair is cut short and he is sporting his characteristic moustache. He has more grey hair than I expected, but then so do I. 

 He took charge of the room immediately.   He begins  to talk about the deep states of meditation and even Samadhi that many of us are experiencing.    He says that is in those states where the thoughts disappear and the breath disappears and time disappears and the body disappears that we can find God as Ecstatic Urgency.   He says that God wants us to want to be here fully expressing life.   That Spirit is within each of us and It shines as Positive, Creative Urgency.    He says that Kundalini is God and that She can be seen in the as an expression of Creative Urgency, evidenced first as sexual desire.  

  He says that we have to some extent developed the strength of our separate selves by having experienced high states of consciousness but that many of us have become lost in our own self-infatuation. We don’t lack for confidence; we are self secure. A huge problem in society is today is the opposite, narcissism. 

Andrew also speaks of an overwhelming numbers of young people in their twenties and thirties who suffer from negativity.   Their mind so full of confusion and existential angst,  they can see no reason for life, no reason to be here participating in the play of Consciousness.  They sit and stand as if they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

 Some of the people in the audience respond by shifting their posture.

 The world, he says, has never before seen a time when so many people are able to live so well. Never before have so many people had so much money and the capability to do whatever it is that they want to do.  Of course, he admits, as a sense of compassion flashes across his face, there are also millions who are without the basic necessities of life and live lives of suffering. But, also, he begins again,  there are so many millions who do live with all they require for a good life and still they suffer.  

The suffering  is because they do not understand that God is within their very own self.   God is closer than their own lifeblood and the meaning of life is that God wants “you” to be here, to be present, enjoying and creating anew.   God is positive dynamic energy.  God is available to each one of us in our evolution into more conscious human beings.  God is expressing Himself each time we do something creative, in each “impulse to create something that is new.”   It is in those people who are so full of dynamic creative energy and a sense of  urgency that they work without sleep, fully fixated on the task at hand.

The talk lasts two hours, but there are many questions from the audience afterwards–some interesting, some merely narcissistic. 

Govindan goes to shake hands with Andrew. Andrew reaches his hand out before he gets over to him.   “Hi Marshall, Andrew says!  We finally meet. Carter Phillips sends his regards.”  They have known of each other for a long time.  Govindan had given a rather provocative interview  with Carter Phillips in “What is Enlightenment” many years ago. 

The next day I am sick with a headache, nausea , congestion and cough.  I do not get up to walk over for morning sadhana at the camp. I go down to the lunchroom around noon and see a few of our group enjoying a late breakfast.  We chat about when do we know what it is we are supposed to do in life?

Govindan comes into the restaurant with Andrew Cohen, his wife and an entourage of about ten others. I meet Andrew personally for the first time. He is very easy to be with. He has no airs about him, none of the “guru” personae he maintains when he is on stage teaching.  His wife is Indian and lovely, also very open and friendly. She orders food. She seems to know precisely how much of everything to order. She tells me I should try kechari without spices to help my body heal. Unfortunately, the kechari still has spices and so much salt, I can eat only a small serving.  It doesn’t hit the spot.

We talk about many things, his magazine, Kriya Yoga movement and various spiritual personalities we have met and not met, conspiracy theories we have recently heard of, and also seriously about young people and this particular “me” generation and their lack of energy to be here.   He says this generation require strict mental discipline and he says, “Don’t you want to just shake them and say snap out of it? “ He wants to take them by the shoulders and shake them and smack em across the face saying, Wake Up!   I ask if he has written a book yet addressing this Generation.   He says no.  I ask why not and suggest he writes a book directed at reaching them,    He says it is a good idea.   I say they need a guru, to whom they can relate.    Both Andrew and his wife smile broadly. I hope it is an idea that manifests into a book soon. 

 I like Andrew Cohen.

Govindan spent the rest of the day with him and his group. They visit Nagababas. One who is 95 looks about 60 and demonstrates how he has been able to eliminate all all sexual desire. He wraps his penis around his sword and tucks it under his legs. He says that this action destroys all sensual sensation, eliminates all sexual desire and transmute energy. All sexual energy rises to the higher chakras. Andrews group film all the meetings. None of the naked sadhus refuse to be filmed.

After visiting the Junakhada camp, they visit Pilot Baba and spend about an hour with him discussing various things. Pilot Baba recognized Andrew immediately, but Andrew does not recall ever meeting Pilot Baba. Pilot Baba tells him that they spent an hour in his hotel room in NYC about 5 years back! Finally both Andrew and his wife recalled the meeting. Andrew thought it was so strange that he had forgotten the meeting. Andrew asked PB if his goal was transcendence or transformation. PB says, transformation and says that transformation is not possible in Maya. This is a classical argument that was not possible to continue due to the particular circumstance of the meeting. It would probably have been most interesting for both of them to have been able to delve into both sides of the issues deeply.

Govindan tells me how much he likes Andrew and that he felt he and Andrew had struck a sort of “friendship” by the time the group left Haridwar for Rishikesh.   

 Today is Holi, the day of triumph of good over evil, devotion over ambition.  It just seems to be another crazy day in India…a day when everyone seems to delight in dropping water on unsuspecting strangers  and throwing brightly colored powders all over each other.  The colors tend to stain clothes and the skin, so it is important that one not wear anything that they hope to ever wear again. Everyone in the hotel is splattered with colors, even the restaurant servers and room maintenance men.

Everyone is  in a very good mood. It seems that this particular  holi day  is just a day of fun and frivolity.

    • nilanjana
    • March 2nd, 2010


    i want to know more about babaji.
    i am reading auto biography of a yogi
    and every day try to gather as much info as i can.
    will you give me a hand to explore more .
    With deep regards

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