Sathya Sai Baba Deceptions Exposed

Exposing major deceits by guru Sathya Sai Baba in India, incl. murders cover-up & widely alleged sexual abuse

Posts Tagged ‘egoless’

Advaita Vedanta – a delusory mysticism about illusion

Posted by robertpriddy on May 24, 2017

Intellectually the most complex and labyrinthine mystical ontological doctrine is advaita in its different variations. Advaitic doctrine can be regarded as an end station for seekers after mystical truth in that it would supercede all previous doctrines or theologies, whether religious or philosophical. In that it rejects any god or divinity other than indwelling consciousness, It rejects all theistic doctrines as rationally inadequate, showing them to be incomplete, partial or inconsistent. One might well call it the ultimate in monotheistic pantheism. It is highly speculative and appeals to the highest degree of subjectivity for its raison d’être and ultimate proof. Consequently, to show that it is inconsistent not only with empirical reality and experience, but above all, with itself would be important.

At its core is the issue of the self vs. the non-self, corresponding to being or nothingness. Such ontological debates were already raging at the time of the Buddha, who decided that all argumentation about this was pointless and it should be passed over in silence. Language is inherently dualistic, while advaita asserts that there is but one single reality, the rest being illusion. Thus, true knowledge is only to be obtained by direct perception (pratyaksha), not by “thinking through language.” Advaita went further than Wittgenstein, who only demonstrated that language very of causes “the bewitchment of intelligence”. Thus, “whereof one cannot speak, one must remain silent” was Wittgenstein’s agenda, though – unlike advaita, he held that one could also speak meaningfully and express truth through language if what it referred to was commonly observable. Advaita held only to what was privately observable (i.e. perceived).

Advaita as identified with Vedanta and originated in early Hinduism, coming to revived expression in the early 8th century in the works of Adi Shankara ( A-dvaita – lit. ‘non-dualism’ or ‘non-distinction’) Yet it has since developed many sub-variants, such as Ramana Maharshi’s otherworldly ‘teaching’ and Nisagardatta’s unsystematic explanations and proclamations. Many elements of it have been taken up and integrated in various ways into other Hindu sub-doctrines and by a plethora of gurus, swamis, godmen and women. It has also influenced the so-called New Age movement and their home-grown version of mysticism as also represented by an increasing number of ‘Western gurus’ who have learned the age old methods of the Eastern guru-disciple relationship.

One of the most cogent explanations of how this doctrine came about as a consequence of failures of preceding religious faiths and teachings has been given by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstead in their seminal book ‘The Guru Papers, Masks of Authoritarian Powers’ (North Atlantic Books, Berkeley) . I quote briefly:-

“Oneness, the pinnacle of religious abstraction, is the aspect of Eastern thought the West is currently the most enamoured of. The early Vedism of the Ayran invaders that superimposed itself on indigenous forms was a combination of polytheism, ancestor worship, and ritual sacrifice similar to Greek and other Indo-European religions.”

The authors point out how the more sophisticated non-duality of all being (advaitism) came to be after more concrete had to be discarded and the clash of sects caused a need for more universal religious ideas. This resulted in the increase the level of abstraction towards an ever more abstract monism (i.e. products of thought that refer mostly to thought itself, rather than the deities with form and the particularized doctrines about them) “The more abstract a symbol, the larger range of events it can include”. This is an attempt a making a rational metaphysical ‘spiritual doctrine’, but one which is entirely base on subjective experiences… and least of all those of any empirical or scientific nature. It is, however, easier to incorporate general notions from abstract science into ideas of Oneness etc. while denying physicalism in favour of idealism or ‘mentalism’.

“There is power in being able to incorporate. The more abstract a symbol, the larger range of events it can include one symbol into another. When the level of abstraction that people operate in is no longer satisfying or credible, for whatever reason (often because of advances in secular knowledge), the tendency is to look for a still higher level. “

“The more abstract a concept is the more it generalizes; and at the same time, it leaves out particulars, sometimes even the particulars of life itself. By abstracting the sacred from nature, the different religions in their diverse ways made nature low on the hierarchy of importance.”
“Concepts of spirituality became more abstract, moving from individual “spirits” embedded in nature to abstract principles and powers beyond nature. Through manipulating belief in the sacred symbols that represented these new abstractions, greater control over larger areas of human behaviour was made possible. …. The hierarchies within the emerging systems of sacred symbols mirrored and justified the developing hierarchies of secular power”

And so on, very illumining and showing that force in society which makes use of religion to control people. That what it’s all about and has always been about in most societies. Vedanta is ultimately an empty ideology which entraps ‘aspirants’ in a labyrinth of abstractions and confuses people about reality… like other forms of monotheism theology, it is a social power tool. It is often extremely otherworldly in its orientation, due to its cardinal denial of the reality of matter, the self, the world and so on.

One view on advaita is a that ikt is a tenable philosophy on the supposition that people can be ‘egoless’. Advaitists never define ‘ego’ so as to make clear exactly of what it is possible and desirable to rid oneself. When any advaitist uses the pronoun ‘I’, it expresses individual self-awareness and the assertion of that self. The very idea of ego is rooted in the sense of individual selfhood. Ideas of ‘egolessness’ rely on a combination of language confusions which include vagueness or ambiguity, misplaced concreteness, conflation of words, undue generalization and the observable fact that that people are more or less self-interested to some necessary degree. The common sense idea of being selfless means not being solely selfish, but taking account of others. To extend this to the idea that one can be totally unselfish is an empty speculation. To think that ‘selflessness’ and egolessness can be achieved is a confusion and often step towards giving up one’s autonomy in favour of a very abstract and non-testable doctrine. For advaitists it is a black or white alternative – either one surrenders totally (ones autonomy) or keeps it. However, there are many degrees of individual autonomy and relative selfless action. as to how one should behave.

The extent of giving up one’s self can be taken varies with religious sects and practitioners, from swami to swami and guru to guru. The most extreme are of the advaitic bent. It can take half a lifetime for anyone who really plunges deep into the spiritual exercises (sadhana) to penetrate to the depths of this pseudo-philosophical Advaita Vedanta. It is not just a mental exercise but requires full personal involvement in following the various precepts. If during the process one observes oneself as dispassionately as possible and without suppressing insights and personal experience, while also watching how others who claim to achieve selflessness or ‘self realisation’ behave, one can appreciate fully how it is a life-denying, futile and often dangerous belief system. Good luck to all who pursue real self-inquiry to the limits… this is the best protection against delusion and despair.

Many believe the claims about advaitist recluses (such as Ramana Maharshi see below), Nisargadatta and others like them) that they were in a state free of a sense of being an individual they had no sense of being the doer of actions, or the sense of there being a discreet and separate world the “individual” was living in. Not everybody is going to believe me on that. Ironically, they would say they were not enlightened, because there was no one to be enlightened, no individual there. Maharshi said once that he was like a radio that you hear it talking, but you open it up and there is no one inside.

If there is no sense whatever, how can one even relate any action to oneself in any way, or even regard them as actions at all? The whole idea implodes through it own unreasonability. It is true that intellectual ideas defining selfhood and ego (which have the same simple, common experiential root, the individual embodied existence) are constructs. Thus they are mind-dependent and necessarily die when the mind dies. (In contrast to Eastern religions, I reject the thesis that a living, animated mind survives death). Jean-Paul Sartre gave one of the most convincing analyses of the ego as a (mainly social) construct in ‘The Transcendence of the Ego’ and extended this analysis brilliantly, but somewhat too far into sheer metaphysical speculation in ‘Being and Nothingness’.

Defending the desirability of having no sense of being the doer of actions is to deceive oneself… a form of psychological or even pathological denial (of selfhood, responsibility, dependency – none of which actually disappear until death). That one can perceive oneself as not being a “discreet and separate individual” does not obviate the psycho-physical fact and all that follows from it. The desire to dissolve oneself in some universal bliss or emptiness or whatever – to escape one’s individuality – is understandable. It has its origin in the fear of death – or, as in Indian thought, on the “fear of samsara” and rebirth into individuality and all that it involves. Interestingly, most – but not all religions – reject suicide as the solution to this longing to escape reality.

In the place of human existence, all traditional religions grew from – and still in some fashion depend on – the existence of a spirit world of some kind (some transcendental reality). Ideas of this spirit world as a refuge from earthly woes developed into all manner of notions of paradise (though often with a counterpart world of hell and damnation). The primitive beliefs that the sky was heaven and hell was inside the volcanic earth became untenable in one culture after another. Perhaps the most sophisticated speculation as to the nature of paradise is found in Indian religious speculation – vedantic, dwaitic ,vishtadvaitic, advaitic etc. – as a condition of “being, bliss, and consciousness” (Satchitananda). This is supposedly disembodied, universal non-individual, eternally-existing being is the same as Godhood or Void (or whatever you name it) which creates the ‘physical’ universe as a mental illusion. One can construct all kinds of ideas of God whose divine will this may be supposed to be, but this too remains a mental construct. All of the above speculative ideas are bound together – often quite inseparably – in a wide variety of ways in the ‘teachings’ of Adi Shankara, Ramanuja, Ramakrishna, Aurobindo, Ramana Maharshi, Satchitananda , Sai Baba and a host of others. These ideas are recycled in all kinds of New Age variants and, of course, in all that Kassy writes here, which incidentally is in no way original at all (countless tracts have for centuries been filled with such speculations)-

Looked at from the general viewpoint of modern science, non-speculative philosophy and the many vastly developed areas of understanding of life and humanity today (entirely apart from all theology), the alleged ‘out of body, out of mind’ conditions of Maharshi, Nisagardatta and so on are to be regarded rather as pathological conditions, severe cognitive dissociation, sometimes relating to split or multiple personality. There are – of course – many forms of denial of selfhood. Adolph Eichmann considered his actions against the Jews as enforced by his superiors, and thus not his responsibility at all, this was not done in the name of selflessness, but out of self-preservation. Contrary to that are the amazing excesses of self-punishment and self-sacrifice to which fanatics through the ages have subjected themselves in efforts to rise above the body (i.e. with its senses – the real basis of the self).

Losing one’s ego and/or ‘mind’ is the goal of nearly all gurus. It is a fact that nirvana/sartori/moksha etc. are held to be conditions of consciousness where the ego and the mind no longer exist. However, Eastern philosophy, psychology and scripture continually do insist that the mind survives the body (being known as manas – one of the supposed ‘sheaths’ of the self. This is the basis of alleged rebirth and is the carrier of ‘past karma’ to the new individual. Believe it if you can! Seldom do those who are so focused on the ‘ego’ and ‘egolessness’ define ‘ego’. They use the word in different – often contradictory – ways, conflating the different meanings. Some regard the ego as body-sense, some as the mind itself (preaching “go beyond the mind” etc). There are many in-between positions and variants. The development of a sense of ‘I’ is unavoidable in normal, sane children. The development of an assertive, self-concerned ego à la Freud is simply an absolutely necessary element in human survival. The word ‘ego is, however, also widely used in the sense of undue selfishness, clinging to me and mine, possessiveness etc.. (hence the common put down of ‘ego-maniacs).

To rid oneself of selfishness – becoming ‘selfless’ in the sense of sacrificing one’s own interests to benefit others – is not the same as the advaitic goal – which is to rid oneself of every kind of identification with anything except Atma. Life without any identification is unthinkable. One cannot take temporary enthusiasms and joys (while in good health and secure from threats) as any sort of advaitic self-realization. Yet many in their spiritual arrogance do so. Identification with a mental and wholly unknowable verbal abstraction ‘Atma’ – in hoping it will somehow appear as a real entity (perhaps in some afterlife)- can be described as systematic, long-term self-brain washing. As Paramahamsa Ramakrishna once said, for every one who survives the attempt to know the Atma, a thousand others go mad. The goal of being, awareness, bliss – once attained – means one loses ALL interest in the world. I consider that to be a miasma anyhow. It is supposed to confer omniscience, limitless consciousness etc. But those who supposedly attained it have not enriched human knowledge in any way that has real consequences, or science would have been superfluous.

Subjectively, belief and submersion in all those ideas and practices can give a boost for a time and extraordinary synchronicities often misnamed “miracles” (I know from much experience) but it wears thinner and thinner as one matures and discovers the delusional aspects of it all (if one is lucky or strong enough in personality/spirit!). In the objective world the inquiry into the self along ego-removal lines achieves such results as Maharshi – essentially just sitting all his adult life in a cave – until he withered away from cancer. He was taken as a teacher by the impressionable (including for a time by Dr. Paul Brunton, who made him famous but who eventually broke with Maharshi and his life-denying thought and practices).

I am not defending Brunton’s mentalism or his very different and more insightful view of the Gita and its supposed ‘true hidden’ meaning… far from it. Yet it did exhibit the fruitlessness for human education and social development of Maharshi’s “teaching”. It can best be judged in the light of his actions – fasting a lot and sitting half-clothed all day, not speaking most of the time, being worshipped too. In this – it is presumably claimed – he helped raise the poor souls who visited him to a higher level… but I rather view modern education, health care, and countless other activities express genuine love through action. Those can give true liberation from superstition, the yoke of gurus and pundits and the ills of the world. That is much harder to achieve than self-indulgent concentration on one’s personal salvation, realization… Many who claim to be adherents of advaita indulge in constant worship rituals too… Ramakrishna was a prime example, but there are many gurus today who rake in the money in the name of advaitic beliefs. This illustrates its function in India society as an anti-autonomy and socially repressive element. It is ‘opium for the people’ in dire pain and have no other recourse.

To base one’s life entirely on the speculative imagination and rid oneself of all logical (i.e. systematic conceptual) reason is not exactly helpful to humanity, without which the dark ages of ignorance, diseases and miserable want would still reign supreme. Today we have very hard-won human rights and values and even the proportion of people affected by warfare is also vastly reduced. For all the problems of humanity today, things would be far worse if everyone spent their time in so-called navel-gazing like the confused ‘who am I’ meditation. To a large extent that weakens perceptions and positively helpful involvement in the actual world of real and individualized people, those with a high degree of autonomy in their lives, especially as to their own minds and thought. Besides, not a few I have known became mentally disturbed, sometimes psychotic, or suffered in other avoidable ways largely through their involvement in these ideologies.

I have closely observed several ‘’spiritual communities”, especially in India, where there is massive talk about service to mankind as service to God – but the results are a flea-bite compared to the vast sufferings and grinding poverty of hundreds of millions that life-denying ‘advaita’ religion has served to bequeath to that country. Mostly it is a form of self-advertisement to attract more unwitting followers who would do good. It is the scene of some of the most ghastly inhumanities and horrors known today – with a highly devoted but a criminally corrupt ruling class, where lip service to (Hindu-dominated) religion still plays a major role. Maharshi is one of the “spiritual pillars” of Hindu beliefs – along with other such unworldly escapists like Yogananda and others I have mentioned. One thing advaitists and other self-appointed proselytizers of the faiths related to it are never short of is words, words, words… as will doubtless be proved here shortly again. To be consistent, advaitists should begin by giving up the use of language, which individualises reality into discrete objects and ideas. Even Advaita recognizes this problem. Actually Meher Baba and others observed mouna for long periods (but they still couldn’t refrain from writing notes instead, amusing!).

According to the poetic mythology – the Mahabharata (including the Bhagavad Gita) written millennia afterward the mythological events depicted, Arjuna was encouraged to do battle and kill his relatives by Krishna who convinced him with the argument you promote that he is the deathless Atman (i.e. all-pervading divine consciousness), thus overcoming the fear and trembling from which he suffered. Fear was the crucial factor and we are supposed to believe there is something wonderful, subliminal about this. Though conscience and sympathy for others etc were also promoted, the overall doctrine is that everything is an illusion (‘maya’)… so none of it really matters. That, however, is the otherworldly delusion in a nutshell.

Ramana Maharshi

An uneducated recluse from Tamil Nadu born in 1879, who would have remained a nobody but for controversial writer on Eastern mysticism, Dr. Paul Brunton who made him famous but who later dissociated himself from Maharshi and his teaching. Brunton’s writings eventually attracted countless visitors to Maharshi in his cave at Tiruvannamalai.

Maharshi’s life exemplified how observing silence for many years of sitting and praying, repeating mantras and the like, eventually impressed others to revere him and induce him into offering ‘teachings’. He mostly practiced mouna or refraining from speaking, the belief being that language creates paradigms at all levels by individualising reality into discrete objects and ideas. Maharshi and many others (such as Meher Baba) practiced mouna, but – contradictorily, couldn’t refrain from writing notes instead (i.e. using language).

His belief was that ‘consciousness alone exists’ and that the awareness of those who doubt this alleged truth is obscured by the self-limiting ideas of the mind. To remove those limitations required a very long period of ‘spiritual practice’ of the kind he did. This is an age-old and entirely speculative religious doctrine which has led many to believe in going to the often unimaginably extreme lengths of isolation, self-denial (tapas) and rejection of life in the world.

Maharshi’s teaching was entirely traditional, its unoriginal unworldly idea typifying Hindu advaita applied by constant self-attention and negation of the world as an illusion. His remote otherworldliness did not add anything to the sum of verifiable or useful knowledge, though it attracted many people in search of mystical solutions to their life problems. He died of cancer in 1950.

Nisargardatta Maharaj

His informal talks have been published in books, the most prominent one being ‘I am That’. This title itself encapsulates the root advaitic idea and, at the same time, expresses it’s inherent contradiction. I did not avoic using the assertive ‘I’ and identify it with ‘that’ i.e. something else. It virtually amounts to ‘This is That’, yet ‘this’ is claimed not to exist!

Sathya Sai Baba

Around 1990, Sai Baba recommended “I Am That” by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. This book is a verbatim record of quite incisive questioning by truth seekers and the answers by Nisargadatta, claimed to be a totally realised Advaitist. It is not as vague and generalised as the constantly repeated standard teachings of Sai Baba or the stock answers he delivered to questions put to him, if and when he happened actually to answer rather than avoid the issue or change the subject.

The following question and answer helps encapsulate his position:
Questioner: What is realization? Who is a realised man? By what is gnani recognised?
Maharaj: There are no distinctive marks of gnana. Only ignorance can be recognised, not gnana. Nor does a gnani claim to be something special. All those who proclaim their own greatness and uniqueness are not gnanis. They are mistaking some unusual development for realisation. The gnani shows no tendency to proclaim himself to be a gnani. He considers himself to be perfectly normal, true to his real nature. Proclaiming oneself to be an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent deity is a clear sign of ignorance.” (`I Am That` Ch. 43, p. 193)

This book was recommended by one who claims just these things. One wonders if he actually read the book, assuming himself so exceptional as not to need to learn anything.

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