19.2.13

Hunt for a baby

Helen Hunt with her baby

When I read about Helen Hunt getting a baby due to an ‘uplifting experience’, I adduced it must have been close to Immaculate Conception. 

What transpired, instead, was a combination of superstition and auto-suggestion.  The uplifting experience was a ‘lift’.  On the David Letterman show, Hunt shared her experience with Indian guru Sri Chinmoy, who has been described as a “United Nations-recognised master”.  The UN has a questionable record on political issues; therefore, one wonders on what basis it might have certified a spiritual guru as a master.  In form of address ‘master’ is quite the norm, but it is by believers. Did the UN test spiritual powers and, if so, how did it measure these?

Bollywood films used to have a standard cure for infertility – a visit to a godman or guru. Often, the person would be a villain with beady eyes, smacking his lips and while showering blessings on the woman giving her a once-over. Depending on how the characters were to develop in the script, the woman would either be forced to succumb or escape. Art-house cinema too explored the misuse of tantric practices. This, unfortunately, is not relegated to cinema.

A scene from the recent Bollywood film 'Oh My God - OMG'

Even today, one reads about charlatans from different cults and faiths using their ‘powers’ to offer women more than spiritual guidance. The better-known gurus have an ostensibly clean image and a celebrity flock. They cater to bruised egos, including their own, and in India while their role in politics was earlier mainly on the sidelines, these days they pontificate on major national issues. This camouflages the exploitative nature of the smaller players.

Hollywood has been a good place for those who managed to charm an international clientele. Everyone seems to have been in some form of rehab, and needs succour. Scientology has already asserted itself. Tibetan Buddhism too has done so, for those with political sympathies for the Dalai Lama.  Beverly Hills easily alternates between the good life and the god life, one feeding the other.  People do feel the need to rejuvenate and/or seek a higher purpose.

However, when someone certifies that an important bodily activity has been performed due to such intervention, one needs to look more closely.

Here is the extract from a report:

The guru, who passed away in 2007, was famous for showing off mind-over-matter feats of strength, and he celebrates the achievements of people he admires by lifting them above his head.

Hunt explains, “He lifted people that he felt had achieved something, that had contributed something to the world… (Archbishop) Desmond Tutu, Muhammad Ali and me.

“I went with my goddaughter… and we pull into this place and women open the car door and they’re dressed in, like, floral gowns, and they walk me into this garden. Then I get on this contraption, walk up four steps and he lifted me up.”

It is obvious that Sri Chinmoy understood achievement. It does call for a celebration, although this is a most unusual way to express it. Why did this single experience convince her that she could become a mother? It coincided with her conceiving. “I wanted to have a baby and he was encouraging me to pray and not give up and I did have a beautiful daughter, so he was right.”

There is place for coincidence and serendipity in our lives, and some of us have had what are known as ‘out-of-body’ experiences. These, if we try and understand rationally, are part intuitive and part strong desire. The mind is an extremely powerful tool. Ask those who suffer from psychosomatic disorders. One needn’t go that far. It is possible to experience a state of suspension merely due to a fever.

But making babies does require some amount of hard work and it is far from being a meditative state. One cannot merely wish to conceive or be so uplifted as to create out of nothing. The concept of Immaculate Conception has fascinated me for long and it is a profound spiritual metaphor for creation. Taking it out of the realm of its religious context, it is symbolic of the purest birth of what could change the world – it could be a piece of art or an ideology.

Helen Hunt’s encounter with the guru lacks this sublimity. It appears to have been at best a spiritual transaction; it was also two famous people meeting as a trade-off. Why could she not pray on her own? How much did merely sharing her deep need for a child have to do with it? Is it not possible that the seed had to be sown in her mind for her body to accept it?

She is fortunate that she is who she is. But, the legitimacy she gives to such errant experiences conveys that although thoughts are potent, she could not even think them on her own.

© Farzana Versey

12 comments:

  1. Pathetic! You really have no idea what she meant.

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  2. Well said Farzana. Suppose some of these spiritual gurus did have extrordinary powers to make things happen, how many do we know who have used these powers for the good of mankind in general, not just celebreties. Imagine how much they could transform the world by getting their followers to care for the environment; help the weak and underpriviledged, respect all faiths, fight corruption, be kind to animals, reject bigotry and make the world a safe place for all?

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  3. Hi Farzana,

    Well, you did say, "Everyone seems to have been in some form of rehab, and needs succour." Thus, your query, "Why could she not pray on her own?"

    Perhaps since her effort to have a child did not immediately "bear fruit," as they say, she then turned to prayer. Perhaps since she then wasn't immediately getting what she asked for (pray meaning to ask, request, beg) -- and perhaps then believing herself unworthy of what she had requested -- she then turned to the guru. The guru then "lifted" her up, i.e. pronounced her worthy of her request.

    The account kinda reminded me of this parable:

    . . . A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. (Luk 13:6-9)

    >>Is it not possible that the seed had to be sown in her mind for her body to accept it?<<

    Perhaps all that was required was a little fertilizer? :)

    Mark

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  4. Sri Chinmoy was a spiritual master who grew up at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, and came to the West in 1964. He was a very sincere teacher who tried to give something deeply spiritual to America and all the nations where he traveled. Like Rabindranath Tagore, he was a polymath. As an extension of his spiritual capacities, he painted thousands of paintings and composed thousands of songs in Bengali and English.

    What I distinctly get from Helen Hunt is that her brief meeting with Sri Chinmoy energized her and caused her not merely to pray, but to believe deeply in the power of her prayer, and to know that someone is listening.

    A true spiritual master of the highest order is not a mere advice-giver. He/she also imparts spiritual power or capacity. Of course, you are right that there is always a possibility people will follow spiritual teachings in a superstitious way rather than a sincere way.

    I don't believe Helen Hunt is claiming anything resembling immaculate conception, or suggesting that she conceived merely by the power of prayer. I think we should take her at her word that Sri Chinmoy encouraged her to pray and inspired her to persevere, and that these things ultimately helped foster body/mind conditions leading to a happy, healthy pregnancy and safe delivery.

    The subtext of your post is to draw a connecting line between the type of low-grade tantric gurus depicted in Bollywood films who promise boons in exchange for money and exotic rituals, and the very different experience reported by Helen Hunt.

    Sri Chinmoy was a noted humanitarian who taught his disciples to be of service to the world. For example, he founded the the Oneness-Heart Tears and Smiles humanitarian aid organization, which has gotten millions of dollars worth of medical and educational supplies delivered to people in poor nations:

    http://www.onenessheart.org/

    He was a meditation teacher and spiritual guide who never charged a fee for his services and ran his nonprofit organization entirely through voluntary contributions from his followers.

    Political change and humanitarian efforts are both needed, but they are sometimes more successful if grounded in spiritual values. Sri Chinmoy's work at the United Nations and his meetings with world leaders were intended to foster this dual approach. He was in every sense an authentic teacher and an authentic human being.

    As there are both true and false gurus, so also there are true and false seekers. Perhaps false gurus cater to false seekers who (as you say) merely wish to have their bruised egos massaged. Yet, thousands if not millions of people feel a genuine spiritual hunger which is sincerely fed by the true gurus. Let us not overlook this fact.

    Just as to understand art one must study particular artists, to understand gurus one must study particular gurus. A general theory dismissing all gurus is of no more value than a general theory dismissing all art. An informed opinion about Sri Chinmoy would be a more studied opinion, and indeed, he is worthy of much study. His art, music, and poetry are perfect gateways for those of an artistic temperament.

    The Helen Hunt interview is up on YouTube:

    http://youtu.be/o0LkZHML-cs

    It is helpful to note that she did not visit Sri Chinmoy seeking help with any problem or issue, but rather was invited to participate in his "Lifting Up The World with a Oneness-Heart" program:

    http://www.inspiration-lifts.org/lifting-up-the-world/

    Thank you,

    Michael

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  5. Unknown:

    Your views are idealistic, and if only...that said, even if it means expecting too much we really seem reluctant to grasp the nature of such 'sleight of hand'.

    Anon:

    Perhaps you have an idea that is a closely-guarded secret?

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  6. Hi Mark:

    Perhaps since her effort to have a child did not immediately "bear fruit," as they say, she then turned to prayer. Perhaps since she then wasn't immediately getting what she asked for (pray meaning to ask, request, beg) -- and perhaps then believing herself unworthy of what she had requested -- she then turned to the guru. The guru then "lifted" her up, i.e. pronounced her worthy of her request.

    Et tu?! Was it the lift that did it, as she seems to suggest? My issue is not with seeking succour, but to assume that something tangible happens because of such coincident. This really amounts to superstition. The guru told her to do what she was possibly doing. I wonder what she will attribute a second conception to.

    >>Is it not possible that the seed had to be sown in her mind for her body to accept it?<<
    Perhaps all that was required was a little fertilizer? :)


    More like a lawn mower to get the overgrowth in the brain out!

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  7. Michael:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    To stick to the topic, from Helen Hunt’s account, she was more enthused about the ‘lifting’ experience than the prayer. I have read and had my share of what might be called spiritual experiences in a constant search for what is not easily explained. However, conception and birth are deeply personal experience and to treat it as a quick fix does not quite work as spiritualism for me.


    I don't believe Helen Hunt is claiming anything resembling immaculate conception, or suggesting that she conceived merely by the power of prayer…


    I have used immaculate conception as metaphor, and corollary to push the envelope. And quite the contrary, I suggest that it is not possible.


    The subtext of your post is to draw a connecting line between the type of low-grade tantric gurus depicted in Bollywood films who promise boons in exchange for money and exotic rituals, and the very different experience reported by Helen Hunt.


    I added that what we see in Bollywood films takes place in at least the poorer nations, and most certainly in India. Helen Hunt has the luxury of celebrity and would not fall prey to the cheap charlatans.

    Having said this, I do believe that the West has given way too much importance to pop spiritualism. I do not think it works much differently from rehab.


    Political change and humanitarian efforts are both needed, but they are sometimes more successful if grounded in spiritual values. Sri Chinmoy's work at the United Nations and his meetings with world leaders were intended to foster this dual approach.


    Spiritual leaders if they stick to humanitarian efforts is fine. I would most certainly not like them to get involved in political advisory roles. We have enough of religious factions, and although one might put spiritualism on a higher plane, which it is, the chances of it causing a subliminal divide are rather high.


    As there are both true and false gurus, so also there are true and false seekers. Perhaps false gurus cater to false seekers who (as you say) merely wish to have their bruised egos massaged. Yet, thousands if not millions of people feel a genuine spiritual hunger which is sincerely fed by the true gurus. Let us not overlook this fact.


    It is not quite a quid pro quo. True seekers do end up with bad egg gurus, while a good guru would not really be damaged by a badseeker. (Although, isn’t a bad seeker the one who ought to be transformed into the good one by a good guru?) I think we exaggerate the figure of those with spiritual hunger.


    Just as to understand art one must study particular artists, to understand gurus one must study particular gurus. A general theory dismissing all gurus is of no more value than a general theory dismissing all art.


    I would so like to agree with this theory. One may or may not understand art to appreciate it. Often, modern art is unfathomable and deliberately so. It is to let our imagination perceive. In many ways, this works as a spiritual experience. Therefore, one has to understand oneself to understand art/spiritualism. What we seek is affirmation of what may already be there.

    Much appreciate your feedback, despite some disagreement. Am glad you stopped by…

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  8. >>Et tu?!<<

    Erm, not hardly, Farzana. As regards Ms. Hunt, you wrote, "She is fortunate that she is who she is." Perhaps. However, there is room to suggest her comparatively unnnatural prominence in media, her place in the 'celebrity' spotlight, may be a mixed blessing lending to some psychosomatic curtailment of natural bodily function. Viz the "poor little rich girl" syndrome, likely she is served by folk she knows to be worshipful sycophants, with her peers then -- friends and significant others -- necessarily a 'balancing' opposite, i.e. catty, embittered cynics. All of which makes any encouragement (i.e. "lifting up") from either group playing a 'supporting role' in her life suspect, i.e. likely less than genuine in her eyes.

    Enter the guru with an entourage ("women . . . dressed in, like, floral gowns") who are, apparently, not on his payroll but, rather, pay *him* in goods, service or money for the privilege of being a part of his charitable works (charity in certain quarters = love). Irrespective of the genuiness of any of it, to one of Ms. Hunt's "stamp," so to speak, such unconditional devotion was likely drink to the parched -- his elevating affirmation, then, food to the starved.

    The parable I cited suggests even the lofty crave quality care and individual attention. :)

    However, even respondent Michael allows that, "As there are both true and false gurus, so also there are true and false seekers" . . .

    >>Bollywood films used to have a standard cure for infertility – a visit to a godman or guru. Often, the person would be a villain with beady eyes, smacking his lips and while showering blessings on the woman giving her a once-over.<<

    No less the past practice in Europe and the Middle East. Indeed, there is some suggestion that certain inbred royal blood-lines in Europe retained a modicum of genetic viability due to the kind and timely intercession of family confessors or wild-eyed spiritual mediums . . .

    >>More like a lawn mower to get the overgrowth in the brain out!<<

    It certainly does seem a tangled web that humanity weaves. :)

    M.

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  9. Mark:

    Seeking individual attention would have worked, except that as Michael said, "It is helpful to note that she did not visit Sri Chinmoy seeking help with any problem or issue, but rather was invited to participate in his "Lifting Up The World with a Oneness-Heart" program".

    Now, we can talk of tangled webs!

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  10. I see what you mean, Farzana. But Michael says "thousands if not millions of people feel a genuine spiritual hunger". The question then becomes whether we can draw a parallel between so-called "spiritual hunger" and hunger of the more commonplace, material kind. Is spiritual hunger more discriminating, say, than material hunger? With genuine material hunger, one will eat bugs if one is starved. Does the same apply to spiritual hunger and, if so, what would be the spiritual equivalent of bugs?

    Of course, it goes without saying that bugs are considered a quite tasty delicacy by thousands if not millions of people in certain regions of the world.  :)

    Likewise, one can easily discern hunger of the material kind. Is it as equally easy to discern hunger of the spiritual kind? I guess I'm just wondering whether the condition of spiritual hunger for thousands if not millions isn't truly known or understood by them until after the fact -- until after one has been spiritually "fed", so to speak. I mean, such a condition does seem an entangling sort of chicken-and-egg type of scenario, i.e. in order to know one is starved spiritually, surely there must have been a time when one wasn't thus starved, with the only alternative then being that one cannot truly grasp that one is/was in the throes of a spiritually starved condition until after one partakes of some spiritual repast?

    If the latter, Ms. Hunt initially may only have accepted Sri Chinmoy's invitation so as to punch her philanthropic ticket (de rigeur, apparently, in certain celebrity circles as noted) without really being aware of her spiritually starved condition. Can we then not say Ms. Hunt craved quality care and individual attention without really knowing it -- without really knowing what she was missing?  :)

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  11. Hi Mark:

    {With genuine material hunger, one will eat bugs if one is starved. Does the same apply to spiritual hunger and, if so, what would be the spiritual equivalent of bugs?}

    Spiritual hunger lacks this rats in stomach urgency. The equivalent would be charlatans. See, I knew you'd come around!

    {Likewise, one can easily discern hunger of the material kind. Is it as equally easy to discern hunger of the spiritual kind?}

    No. But sometimes when well-plated food is placed before us we might salivate. In the spiritual context, a guru's rehearsed words might work in the same manner.

    {... in order to know one is starved spiritually, surely there must have been a time when one wasn't thus starved, with the only alternative then being that one cannot truly grasp that one is/was in the throes of a spiritually starved condition until after one partakes of some spiritual repast?}

    More like dessert. Little to do with starvation, more a completion of a meal. So, you might develop a sweet tooth, or crave an ice-cream. It is not your main course, so it does not solve hunger pangs. What people confuse for being in the throes of spiritual quest is being in deep shit.

    True spiritualism is more like thirst that rejoices with a drop.

    PS: Missing Al...I'd said I wanted to start a non-religious cult. He was willing to sign up :-)

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  12. Hi Farzana,

    Indeed, near as I can tell, there's no real hurry (notwithstanding how a certain urgency might be inferred, as you note, with expressions such as "spiritual hunger").

    >>See, I knew you'd come around!<<

    :)  Perhaps you recall my aversion to running?

    >>What people confuse for being in the throes of spiritual quest is being in deep shit.<<

    Well, for some, such an immersion may presage its commencement -- for others, the onset of flatulence is signal enough. I've also seen it compared to birth-pangs.  :)

    >>True spiritualism is more like thirst that rejoices with a drop.<<

    Evocative, certainly -- I can see how it might thus be compared. Of course, some may seek to push the analogy further than your intended meaning, i.e. give 'em an inch, etc. There's also the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man . . .

    >>PS: Missing Al...<<

    Me too.

    >>I'd said I wanted to start a non-religious cult. He was willing to sign up :-)<<

    Al?! No way! Likely he was joking. One doesn't "sign up" for a non-religious cult (next thing you know, they're calculating seniority, electing officers, arguing about what to call themselves, contracting with masons, commisioning jewelery designs and wearing hoodies, lol -- presto, a religion is born). He was joking, right?

    M.

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