To Seek Enlightenment Is Passé

Steven Harrison, U.S. author and international speaker on consciousness, relationships and alternative education, tells Prema Manmadhan that there is no need for gurus or self help books in one’s life.

He’s been there, done that, experimented with spirituality, studied Buddhism, Hinduism, yoga, written books on a couple of subjects, one of which is Doing Nothing – Coming To the End of the Spiritual Search. And now, Steven Harrison, US author and international speaker on consciousness, relationships and alternative education, has written a book called What’s Next after Now? Post-spirituality and the Creative Life.

Think out of the box, chant management gurus. But there are probably not many who think as much out-of-the-box as Steven Harrison.

He has been up the spiritual path, and back, and feels there is really no need for gurus or self help books in your life. Seeking enlightenment is also passé, he holds.

Be yourself

In Kochi recently in connection with the release of his latest book, he spoke of his views on life and education. It is published in India by Stone Hill Foundation Publishing, Kochi. Mohan G. Nair, managing director of this publishing house, says there is renewed interest in books on philosophy, spirituality and consciousness studies in the country.

Harrison, in this book, tells you to be yourself, truthfully and stop searching for any answers outside.

He speaks about a post-spirituality condition, in which spirituality becomes `much like a reference to the weather last year, which occurred but has no specific reflection in our life today’. He elaborates, `The monk who has meditated for 50 years and the average person on the street are essentially the same, although their behaviour may be relatively different’. Harrison has an aversion to self help books, for he says, eventually, you will be yourself, not something that the book says you can be.

“Spirituality builds itself around self location… … while post-spirituality `abandons the myth of self in all its forms and deals directly with the actual self, the manifest self, just as it is, giving up all sense of improvement’.

What about spiritual gurus and godmen who have become very popular in the recent past, attracting more and more devotees?

“Well, ask them to go out there and drive a car in the Kochi traffic and then, you will find out,” he retorts. Harrison denies he is either an agnostic or an atheist. “I am open to anything. God can be a he or a she, if I can be convinced about it,” he remarks.

On a non-philosophic plane, what Harrison is passionate about are the changes that can be brought about in the education system so that there is freedom to think and chart out on your own, instead of getting influenced and suppressed by a system in place that is made out to be sacrosanct.

“We bring up our children, teaching them to respect authority and to never say `no’ to authority. That is why there is so much malaise in the system. Each child has his/her own pace of study and subject of interest, but 20 or 30 children are in one class and forced to study at the same pace, which does not bring out the best in every child. There is no freedom to grow on your own.”

Harrison has started the Living School in Boulder, Colorado, where he lives. It is an experimental school, where kids have no grades, no fixed syllabus and the staff merely helps students study on their own or tutors them, if they want tuition. They learn from `books, newspapers, magazines, television, movies, radio, and yes, the Internet too’. In short, they learn from living.

The utopian scenario is like this in Harrison’s school, according to the information given to those who are interested in putting their kids there:

Students can create a business, grow a garden, explore nature, create a complex game involving the whole school, sit and read quietly, converse about the meaning of life, share secrets, paint pictures, learn to play an instrument – whatever the child is interested in doing and learning.

Students and staff collectively determine school rules.

Harrison started the school five years ago. “There are no failures in my school, for children learn what they are good at. Nobody forces them to do anything. Forced authority is the cause of all failed civilisations. In a world charged with selfishness, there is no space for human potential, he feels. Relationships should mean more and that is why he has started from scratch, a school. Right now, the private school has just 20 students. The changes in the children are already visible and encouraging, he says.

Charitable Causes

An ability to relax or express happiness is going out the window in this mad rat race. In such an ambience, the urge to work for others’ happiness is hardly found. Harrison has been deeply involved in another project, in this direction, which he founded: All Together Now International, a charitable organisation to help the destitute in Nepal, India and Tibet. Street children in Nepal are being helped to find their feet. It’s not because it makes him feel good that he does charitable work, but because he feels inadequate, he explains.

This brings us to another nagging subject, morality and amorality, which he discusses in his book. Post-spirituality is the total absence of morality, he states. “To live in `what’s next’ is to live in continuous unknowing…and `what’s next’ doesn’t give a damn about our good and evil – thankfully,” Harrison believes. He has written six books so far, including one on The Happy Child. The others are the result of exploring the nature of consciousness. What’s Next After Now is available in city bookstores.