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Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru Paperback – January 1, 2003

3.9 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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About the Author

van der Braak teaches philosophy.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Monkfish Book Publishing (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0972635718
  • ISBN-13: 978-0972635714
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,807,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book is harrowing and took a lot of honesty to write. Andrew Cohen is a guru who underwent something like two weeks training with a teacher in India--supposedly in the lineage of Sri Ramana Maharshi--before being turned loose on the public. He's so out of control that his own mother wrote an expose' of him (Luna Tarlo and her book, "The Mother of God", is available on amazon). I suppose the people who believe in Cohen are just good but immature kids. And for those still capable of hearing a dissenting voice, I offer this anecdote.
I once knew an American who was a direct disciple of Ramana Maharshi. In the late nineteen forties he flew to India at age 17 and arrived at Ramana's ashram unannounced. The Maharshi was in the meditation hall sitting on a slightly raised dais, as always. He greeted the american kid warmly, asked some questions about his hometown of new york city (for example: "Are the buildings really that tall?") The Maharshi already had advanced cancer and could only hobble around painfully with a cane, but he personally got up, took the kid's hand, and led him to a dilapidated cabin where he could bed down. Having made certain the kid was comfy, Ramana left. My friend then practically fainted from exhaustion (trans-oceanic flights then were still endless propeller-driven marathons).
The kid was awakened nine hours later by a soft tapping at his door. He opened it. There stood Ramana, all alone, holding a palm leaf filled with food. Ramana sat down, like a good dad, and watched the half-starved boy scarf the meal. Apparently satisfied that the boy was recovering, Ramana Maharshi slowly stood up and limped back to his seat in the meditation hall.
This is a true story.
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By A Customer on June 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is an appalling tale of abuse. One of the sadder incidents, as told by van der Braak, occurred when Andrew Cohen and a couple of his students pressured a confused woman into giving $2 million (which was most of her money) so that Andrew could purchase his community center at Foxhollow. This resulted not only in a serious financial loss to the woman, but caused her to risk losing her family relationships as well. Van der Braak recounts how Andrew then broke a confidence with the woman, publicly revealing that she donated the money, and publicly ridiculing her for not being able to give up her "ego." In my opinion, such manipulation and abuse of power call into question what Andrew and his community are attempting to do today in the name of "enlightenment."
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By A Customer on May 25, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Four instead of five stars only because it's not a great book, although it's an important one and the author does a commendable job recounting his experiences as honestly as he's able.
As long as "enlightenment" is viewed as an object to be obtained or won, there will always be con artists to pimp the idea that you either have it or you don't, that I have it and I can give it to you (and take it away just as easily). It too easily becomes nearly impossible, then, not to conflate "enlightenment" with said con artist's (always increasingly paranoid) judgments. So how "enlightened" you are with Andrew Cohen, for instance, means how "powerful" or "revolutionary" you make his words seem when editing them (on his website, Zen teacher Brad Warner makes a nice point about this: something like, "Andrew, you oughtta try writing your OWN book. Some of us do it that way, y'know").
Andre van der Braak is a very sincere seeker who got hooked by a professional. It's also true that van der Braak wanted a kind of Daddy, someone to love him unconditionally, to give him "enlightenment". This happens, of course, and a true teacher would've held up a mirror, would've deflected such adoration, and would've helped van der Braak learn to stand on his OWN feet. Someone like Cohen, however, starts licking his lips and shopping for real estate in Massachusetts.
After reading it, I ventured to some of Cohen's websites, expecting to find a particularly charismatic schlep. But I don't understand the attraction: he's just a schlep. I viewed an "engaging" clip of him and Ken Wilbur "in dialogue".
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Format: Paperback
This book is a fascinating account of what people will do and believe when under the influence of a charismatic leader. I have read other books by former followers of gurus such as Osho (Rajneesh) and Chogyam Trumgpa , but Andre van der Braak's is probably the most compellingly written. I had heard of Andrew Cohen as a writer of spiritual books, but I had not known that he was a cultlike guru. This book, as well as any other, confronts the age-old problem for spiritual seekers --should you place your complete trust in someone you regard as enlightened? Furthermore, how can you judge whether the master really is enlightened, and if his bizarre tactics are a form of "crazy wisdom" (see another good book by that name, which talks about several other guru figures) or merely expressions of mundane neuroses and power trips? From what I've read in Enlightenment Blues (and, since then, elsewhere), it seems that Andrew Cohen is, at best, someone who lost sight of any enlightenment he may have found, becoming intoxicated with the taste of power. Accounts such as this seem to suggest that enlightenment is not a permanent state, but something glimpsed at. Rarely, some may hold on to it, but it is easy to lose it and having many adoring and obedient students is apparently one of the easier ways to lose it. Andrew Cohen's own mother (who is mentioned by van der Braak) has written a book extremely critical of him, entitled The Mother of God.

Van der Braak describes his meeting of Cohen as something akin to falling in love. Along with many other students around the world, Cohen's simple and powerful message that enlightenment is available to us all the time was very persuasive. More importantly, Cohen seemed to perfectly embody this truth in his very presence.
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