The Dangers of Pseudo-advaita
by Anadi, formerly Aziz
on the proliferation of "unqualified" Satsang Service Providers.
This is an updated version from 2008, with some small and 
middle-sized changes, plus some supplementary material at the bottom)

We would like to express our concern regarding the recent phenomenon of 'satsang-culture' which has degenerated seriously the original spirit of advaita. Many individuals, who have very little or no knowledge of the awakening process, feel qualified to give satsang and speak on the subject of enlightenment. Enlightenment has become very cheap these days. Nobody actually really knows what this term means, as it virtually means too much to mean anything at all. Nowadays, it is sufficient to say 'I am awakened' in order to give satsang to groups of immature seekers and guru hunters.

Because of the unverifiable nature of enlightenment, this notion has been much manipulated. Satsang has been Americanized. In an average satsang-gathering everybody is laughing, showing signs of euphoric and unauthentic joy, while the teacher tries to look like he or she is in bliss. Just like a TV show. Very few actually meditate. Why to meditate if we are all already awakened?

But is this really advaita? Is advaita a poor repetition of a several slogans like 'There is nobody there,' 'You are That,' You are already Awakened' or 'There is no Path', etc.? Has this anything to do with teaching of masters of high degree like Nisargadatta Maharaj or Ramana Maharishi? Ramana sat in caves for 20 years before he could be really complete. In his presence disciples had to meditate for months and years before they could receive from him the glimpse of the Self.

It is true that New Millennium is a time of spiritual awakening. But this awakening is mostly partial and relative to the level of most people's unconsciousness. It was Jesus who said that there would be a time when many false teachers will teach in the name of Light. It seems to be happening now. Many of these teachers are not necessarily 'bad people' but simply unqualified and lost, in truth. They have believed too quickly in the thought 'I am now ready to teach!' Somewhere on the way, they have lost their innocence and sincerity, and the reason why they entered the path in the first place.

It seems that the pauperization of satsang culture began after the death of Poonjaji, a disciple of Ramana Maharishi. He himself has lost the practical aspect of advaita and simplified the teaching of Ramana to the point of becoming very unrealistic. On the other hand, Poonjaji did not understand the twisted ego of western seekers. Many of his followers started to claim that he actually approved their 'awakening.' It seems that so desperately desiring spiritual attainment and approval, they were just too keen to take him literally. It is an advaita custom to say 'you are already awakened.' This is however more a teaching device than a reflection of reality. And even if some of his disciples had a glimpse of awakening, Poonjaji made it clear that none of his disciples reached the actual enlightenment. Only at the end of his life he realized that most of his western disciples were insincere, seeking not true self-realization but to assume the role of ‘satsang-givers’. He expressed it on many occasions that none of his followers was worthy his teaching.

We can observe the gradual process of decline of advaita from Ramana to Poonjaji, and from Poonjaji to his followers, and from his followers to their successors. One may naively believe that advaita has been reborn on the higher scale in our century. In truth it is a time of the death of advaita.

It is not our intention to suggest that nobody reaches enlightenment. We just wish to make it clear that complete enlightenment and understanding of its nature is still an extremely rare phenomenon in this reality, which is a plane of low evolution. And equally important, we wish to emphasize that a partial or pre-mature experience of awakening does not qualify one at all to take a role of a self-realized being.

Enlightenment is not that cheap. Many seekers seem to be unaware of a very simple fact that there are actually many levels of self-realization. There is an enormous difference between initial awakening and the actual state of enlightenment. One has to go through many stages of realization to become complete and whole.

But who cares? Most seekers would not bother to study these matters, for in their case there is really 'nobody’ there, ­ just a collective seeker's mind. And most teachers would refuse to enquire into the true nature of enlightenment because they already have a hidden doubt and deep fear concerning the validity of their own attainment.

We would like to suggest not to rush too fast with announcing oneself 'awakened,' and to rush even less with the idea of giving satsang. In Zen tradition one had to wait 10 to 20 years even after real enlightenment before one could guide others. These days we hear about individuals who give satsang the next day after their highly doubtful awakening experience! This is not merely a lack of wisdom but an expression of spiritual idiocy.

Most teachers giving so-called satsang have realized only partial and unstable state of awakening if any at all, but due to their ignorance lack higher perspective to view their realization as relative and incomplete. Following naïve concepts of enlightenment they convince themselves that they have reached the ultimate and block the possibility of further evolution thus jeopardizing their own path.

We recommend to all students and teachers of advaita to be more critical. Follow advaita, if you wish but know that the truth of self-realization is simply much more rich and complex than any linear philosophy, with advaita included. The practical advaita and the theoretical advaita are very different. In the theoretical advaita, the Self is the only reality, there is no path and we are all already awakened. But practical advaita includes the understanding that there is a long way to go before the truth of these statements can become our living reality.

We would like also to create a few practical anti-pseudo-advaita statements: 'You are not awakened unless you awaken' 'You are not That, unless you reach unity with the Absolute Reality', 'There is no path, but only for those who completed it!', 'There is nobody here, but only when the somebody has dissolved’;

Giving satsang and convincing oneself of being awakened when in truth one is fragmented inside is not an option for someone who possesses the basic wisdom, integrity, honesty and honor.

Blessings to Seekers of Truth and Clarity who have the courage to renounce the False

Further to this, also from Aziz . . .

: Are all enlightened beings in the same state?

: In most cases, those who announce their Enlightenment represent only a certain type of Self-realisation. Most often they represent the realisation of pure awareness. And even among them not all are stabilised in this experience. Not to be established in the State of Presence means that one is still losing it from time to time. In Zen, they say that after Enlightenment, twenty years practice is required! It is because, in their understanding, Enlightenment initially means to see one's true nature; and then one has to practice hard not to lose it. There is a level called 'beyond practice' where the state is spontaneously and permanently present, but it is not easy to reach. The problem with the popular view concerning 'sudden Enlightenment' is that its interpretation is rather naïve. This idea can be very misleading because many seekers assume Enlightenment is a sudden, complete and permanent shift of perception. They think that after Enlightenment everything suddenly changes and one is free from problems; that one is continuously happy and lives in bliss. But this is not true. Even those who are considered the greatest masters had to take many steps in their evolution towards completion. In most cases, a master reaches complete Enlightenment in old age.

: So how come certain teachers who claim to be enlightened don't know that they deceive themselves?

: First of all, they don't necessarily deceive themselves. They've possibly experienced a shift into pure awareness, and it is an enlightened state. The only question is whether it is the Final Enlightenment and whether they possess the complete knowledge about the awakening process.

You see, it is a very subtle area. It does not work in such a way that you become enlightened and then you know everything. You may know nothing. When you become suddenly enlightened, it is similar to being transported, in one instant, in your sleep, to the top of Mount Everest. And you say: 'Oh, I'm so high but how did I get here? What am I doing here, actually?' You don't understand your situation yet, for your intelligence has not caught up with the experience. You must see that if there is no intelligence, any experience is meaningless. It is like an enlightened cow ­ the cow may become a Buddha, but her mind is not capable either of understanding or appreciating the gift of Freedom.

We are in the process of a multidimensional evolution. Even if one has experienced a certain shift of consciousness, it takes years for such a person to understand his or her state and much longer to be able to teach. It is not enough to be enlightened in order to teach. A spiritual master has to understand the process of awakening. It is a very complex process.

It is not just to be there, hiding oneself behind the Guru-image and projecting energy onto seekers. Teaching is a responsibility and most teachers, because of their egos, want to become masters as quick as possible. They have some spiritual shift and immediately they start to give Satsang! It is ridiculous what is happening on the spiritual scene.

It is not to judge. It is not to walk around saying: 'this man is enlightened' and 'this one is not enlightened.' Just know that the term Enlightenment designates many stages and possibilities of awakening, and not everyone who awakens is completely enlightened. Use your sensitivity and discriminative wisdom in order to feel what level of Enlightenment the teacher represents and if you wish to choose him or her for a spiritual guide. 

It is irrelevant for you whether a particular master is enlightened or not. It is their problem. It is not your life, it is theirs. The question is: how can such a teacher help you? What is important is whether he can give you a teaching that leads you straight to the Self. There are many pseudo-gurus who do not have any real understanding of the awakening process; they tell their followers, 'just stick around and everything will happen.' A real master never over-emphasizes his own presence but is humble and hidden behind the light of Truth.

Do you understand? That is the point. If a spiritual teacher can help you, see this as an opportunity to grow, until the point where perhaps you may go beyond. I have personally met many masters which from my present perspective were not in a complete state. But still I have learnt from them and I am grateful because they shared their truth as much as they could. 

Next, it is not necessary to be completely enlightened. Complete Enlightenment is the destiny of very few Souls. What an average person, an average seeker, needs to awaken to is a certain relatively permanent experience of the I Am, and the ability to come back to this experience at any time ­ to have this inner home. Such a person does not need to reach the Absolute State. Enlightenment is not the only purpose of life. You want to live life, you want to be happy, you wish to reach a certain essential amount of emotional fulfillment, you want to adventure in life, to express your creativity. If the purpose of life was only Enlightenment, this universe would not be created.

Yes…there are many elements. You are multidimensional and you need to have in your perspective the vision of your blueprint, your destiny and your completion. You are heading towards the point in your experience of the inner and the outer where you simply feel complete and done with this dimension.

Somebody can be enlightened and be an asshole, while someone else may be only partially connected to I Am but be a wonderful person. Enlightenment doesn't necessarily make you a better person. It gives you a foundation of inner peace, a continuity of awareness, and a depth of Being. But if the Heart is not awakened, the ego may still be arrogant. Apart from awakening, the Soul needs to still evolve emotionally, mentally and in many different areas.

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