Open Letter From Michael Donner to Prem Rawat, 1987
From Michael Donner This is a letter that i wrote to Maharaji in 1987. I copied it to about 50 others at the time, ex instructors, then current instructors, mainly my cirlce of 'friends and those i wanted to influence at the time. so…fyi
This is a hard letter to write. We have 'shared' so much over the many years together. I have been faithful to you and 'your'work through many ups and downs. I imagine that you will take what is written here as a betrayal, as I have seen you react that way so many times in the past with others. In taking this that way however, you will miss what i am saying and what is in my heart.
I do not write as a devotee. There was a time when that is all that I wanted and tried to be. I see now that devotion to another human being is destructive to me and to you. i write instead as a simple human to another with a deep and growing experience of life due in part to the practice of meditation and the opportunities that the work of spreading knowledge has provided me. That part of me that was a devotee needed a guru and you were it. I see now that that codependent relationship is unhealthy and it is time to move from that to some more mature relationship, if that is possible.
As things have changed and evolved over these past 15 years, I've seen you try to deal with some of the CONTRADICTIONS as they became more obvious. Yet, these contradictions (go inside and know yourself/trust only in me, etc) continue and you…who can do something about it choose not to. Hence, I am no longer able to continue in 'service to you'.
You speak of feeling valuable and capable yet the set up of serving you, not doing this work TOGETHER makes that impossible…implicitly impossible. You want me (us) to do it 'for you', at 'your command'. I guess you mean then 'valuable and capable' within the context of knowing my place, staying in my place at your feet, not at your side.
You view Knowledge as if it were yours. Ownership of a technology so to speak. You assume the sole responsibility of spreading Knowledge as if you owned it. You have often spoke to us about 'your work', 'your mission'; never us, ours etc. Mutual respect has been lacking from the beginning. I use to accept that as my calling (good fortune even) to be a devotee.
This type of relationship make feeling of 'valuable and capable' impossible.
For awhile it seemed that you were moving away from these attitudes but I see that, fundamentally, you are not. This is a very heavy load for you to carry. You say that you do not want us to put you on a pedestal but you yourself will not come down from it. I have at times seen your dedication to spreading Knowledge but you seem dependent upon some role that was given to you when you were very young…and inappropriately given no doubt. This role, the roles we have both played..the matching book ends of devotee/guru is not healthy for you and the world does not need another personality cult, no matter how benevolent.
These must seem like strong words, especially when filtered through the old view of devotee/master. I have wanted many many times to have an honest and open conversation but fear has always stopped me. That has been part my own lack of courage, but you have created a system of fear that has kept us all in box for far too long. I am still feeling fear as i write this, but mostly fear that you will simply blow this off and discount the love that we once shared.
Recently, when we shock hands at your birthday party, it was quite significant for me. I came around a corner and there you were. I had not seen you for some time, and when our eyes met I felt joy and I know you did too. spontaneously, I offered you my hand (married and living in Oregon, that is what we do first with old dear friends…perhaps before an embrace). You took it but it was the 'cold fish' hand shake and you immediately porceeded to joke about it…'gotta wash my hand now…what if everyone wanted to shake my hand', etc. I was hurt and disappointed because my simple spontaneous jesture could not be accepted and reciprocated (I was not accepted).
Upon reflection, I should not have been surprised. Such a reaction I have seen countless times and it flows from who you see yourself as and how you perceive others in relationship to that view. I stongly believe that perceptions such as that must change if you ever hope to be successful in actually spreading Knowledge to more then a few…really to only those 'devotees' looking for a place for their devotion.
Even now, I hope that perhaps one day you might want to know why so many of us (caring, intelligent, dynamic people) have chosen recently to leave. Could be fun even, a working retreat…brainstorming together to identify the blocks that exist within ourselves that are keeping us from doing this important work TOGETHER.
More personally, I hope you can find a way to get healthy and to respect your bodily temple.
In at least memory of love,
From Michael Donner
did not have any illusion that my letter might have some
impact…more written for myself at the time…so thing
about making a good faith effort. it was more important
to me back then to send a copy to various people, freinds
who had left around the time i did and some of the
instructors who were still involved with whom i wanted to
share my perspective.
i certainly had no further illusions after i heard that m referred to my letter during an instructor conference in the following months in very belittling terms. nor was i surprised that he belittled it publicly with those particular folks as he needed to maintain control..and to trash me to them was significant as i was fairly well liked by most of the instructors at that time and not just another idiot…though that is how m protrayed me in reference to my letter.
Naturally i did not hear then nor ever since from m. i became just another disappointment for him, another betrayal.