When I started working with students, what I taught them was very conservative, in the sense that the entire lore of yoga from the most ancient times was based on the very same principle. This principle is, in essence, to list all the things I did that resulted in not dying, not going insane, and attaining great spiritual results, and have them re-trace my steps. To introduce anything that varied much from my own spiritual practice would be, in my opinion, insanely dangerous.
You see, I had very good reasons for all the things I did, and those good reasons had very much to do with not dying and not going insane. I didn’t just pull something out of my arse out of sheer boredom and said, “I should be a vegetarian, that’s something that’s currently in”. In fact, there’s an interesting story on how I became a vegetarian, very soon after I started the practice of yoga. I did know a thing or two on how to meditate, having been proficient in autogenous training, and in one of my first attempts after the darshan/initiation I had a very powerful experience of the “OM” vibration throughout my mind and body. When I say “powerful”, I mean it in a sense of feeling as if it could kill me just like that, just because the resistance of my energy system is too great due to impurities, or if anything went wrong. I was very, very glad I stopped smoking weeks earlier, and the argument against vegetarianism that was universally recommended by all the Hindu teachers, “what would I eat”, was immediately ignored in favour of sheer survival. Obviously, I had to follow the instructions of the people who did this before if I wanted to increase my chances, and introduce changes only if I know exactly what I’m doing. This stuff was very real and very powerful, and very scary.
What I didn’t know at the time was that the majority of those people (orange robes, fancy titles) actually didn’t recommend the stuff they did because the opposite is spiritually or energetically harmful, but out of purely traditional and ideological reasons. Vegetarianism is one of such things, and it’s specific to India; in Tibet, for instance, the very advanced yogis like Milarepa ate meat whenever it was available, and he noted a marked improvement in his spiritual and energetic condition after eating meat. Another thing those swamis are actively trying to prohibit is sex, with all sorts of claims about its spiritual harmfulness. While I certainly won’t tell you that watching porn and promiscuity aren’t spiritually harmful, it is my experience that the most harmful aspect of sex is doing it with the wrong people, from a wrong state of consciousness, and feeling guilty because you think it’s spiritually harmful. What I found out was actually harmful was accepting students and talking about spirituality with others. Essentially, working with students creates spiritual/energetic links directly into your mind that are very similar to the links created when you have sex with someone, only deeper and stronger, and those links are bidirectional. They allow your influence to help the students reach things that would otherwise be difficult, but they also allow all sorts of garbage and disturbances from the students to flow into your mind. This meant that controlling the students, in a sense that they should always maintain spiritual discipline, was paramount. What actually happened is that they for the most part explored all kinds of desires and paths they felt they have the power to pull off now, and the extra energy I was feeding them, that was supposed to feed spiritual ecstasy, ended up feeding hysteria, egomania and madness, in a very large number of cases. All of that was fed back to me and drove me crazy; in fact, I didn’t actually go crazy only because I underwent full vajra initiation prior to working with students, so my spiritual core was beyond such influences, but I understood why all those spiritual teachers go hedonistic and insane – it’s caused by the students who don’t obey the instructions, don’t focus on God, and as a result create a stream of madness that is fed back to the guru, destroying his astral body. In my case, destruction of the astral body is not a big deal, because if I’m left alone for a few days I can rebuild it from above, but if someone is not a vajra initiate, the damage can’t be undone. So, basically, what I found out is that eating meat is not a problem, sex (with the right person) is not a problem, but plugging your astral body into multiple undisciplined people who show signs of potential by reacting positively to spiritual energy, that’s where spiritual people go to die.
Another thing transpired in ways that are obvious in hindsight, yet defies “spiritual” expectations – money is a huge problem, and not in a sense that “money corrupts” or something similarly silly, but in a sense that not having money is not survivable in this world, and so if you have things to do here you must choose between dying and failing to achieve your goals, and trying to get money in ways that might compromise you spiritually. Lack of money caused a constant struggle and huge problems of all kinds, and the most ridiculous thing is that I heard all kinds of “spiritual people” saying all kinds of nonsense about spiritual harmfulness of having money, as if money will somehow tempt and corrupt you. No it won’t; what actually corrupts you is that you didn’t purify your spirit, you aren’t clear about your desires and goals, you suppress things instead of dealing with them in a transparent way, and when you have lots of money you basically pour lots of energy into all that suppressed and unresolved mess, and then all hell breaks loose. What I found out when I had significant amounts of money is that it doesn’t make me do anything I normally wouldn’t. Basically, it allows me to deal with problems that can be solved with money, and that’s it. If my computer breaks down, I can just replace it with one that’s current and good. If my car breaks down, I can either repair it or buy a new one. I can buy a home instead of renting it, and I don’t have to live in some shithole because it’s cheap. Yes, if you’re a “raw” person and you didn’t do any real work on understanding your desires, motives and so on, and someone just removes your limitations and allows you to do whatever you want, it’s going to end badly, probably in the same way things tended to end badly when I fed spiritual energy into my students that would otherwise be beyond their reach. Feeding energy into an unresolved mess inside someone’s astral body is most likely going to make this mess explode and set it on fire. Money is basically the same thing; however, the path of restriction, of not allowing yourself the means and the energy because you fear what you’re going to do is just wrong. What one needs to do is resolve things within himself and understand his desires, and then practice detachment and focus on transcendence. Restrictions and discipline, in my experience, are a great tool in the beginning, but there is a great danger in just leaving them “turned on”, and not resolving the underlying issues because it’s “messy”. Yes, dealing with messy things can spoil your impression of yourself as a pure and very spiritual person, because sometimes you need to deal with very nasty things, and you might not like yourself very much while you do. However, once you’ve actually dealt with them, you find out that you no longer need rules, restrictions or much of a discipline. Sure, some things in this body and in this world tend to feed themselves if left unchecked, so you occasionally have to say “no” to some fancy gadget, but as for the moral restrictions and regulations, you don’t really need those. The religious people tend to imagine all sorts of nasty things one would do if they had no commandments, laws or restrictions, but in reality, do you really need laws to prevent you from diving into a septic tank and drinking sewage? Not really, I would guess; well, that’s why I don’t need laws to prevent me from snorting cocaine from a hooker’s arse. If I’m left alone and unchecked, I meditate, read books, analyse what’s going on in the world, think, write books and articles, do photography and take walks in nature. The difference when I have endless money is that I do it on a more expensive computer, with a more expensive lens on a more expensive camera, and I go to a place where I actually want to be, instead to a place that’s affordable because it’s nearby, and I drive there using a more expensive car. I don’t just magically turn into a pig-werewolf that rapes and kills teenage girls and is stoned and drunk most of the time, just because I have money and no restrictions. The way religious people imagine these things is ridiculous, and is probably a result of awareness of what would happen if they had no restrictions put upon them. That, however, is not the path of yoga. A yogi would rather revisit his “caged pig” and gradually transform it into an angel of God, and you don’t have to keep the angel of God caged to prevent him from fucking everything that moves and ingesting all kinds of drugs. That is not to say that restrictions and discipline are not necessary; I started with them, and I’m sure my students would have found them very beneficial and it would have spared me many problems if they had, but it’s merely a phase that keeps you from going crazy and doing something you will later regret, until yoga had the time to do its thing.
So, the conclusion would be that some things that are commonly seen as dangerous can in fact be harmless or beneficial, while some things that can be seen as beneficial, such as compassion, can be deadly. This means there really is no substitute for having your brain switched on, and observing what’s going on inside you and around you. You can’t just accept some set of religious restrictions and think you’ll be fine; it doesn’t really work all that well for religious people, if you read up about all the scandals. Also, most of the stuff that the religions try to restrict is just misguided; for instance, trying to regulate people’s sex life and food. Instead, if you learn how to disconnect thoughts and emotions from energy, in a practice of vipassana or yoga, to power anything up or down, to see how things actually function under the curtain, where the cogs and wheels of things are turning, you can make very swift progress and actually control things by removing the energy, instead of applying the brakes. Control is absolutely necessary, because in this world we are immersed in satanic energy that forms the background of our every thought, and if you don’t pay attention, the tide is going to wash you away and you’ll drown. You just need to be relaxed and smart about it, that’s all. Relaxed attention, and the ability to disconnect power from any emotion or thought at will – and you find out that control is not hard, if done properly.