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
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
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
to Seekers of Truth and Clarity who have the courage to renounce the
Further to this, also from Aziz . . .
Student: Are all enlightened beings
in the same state?
Aziz: 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
Student: So how come certain teachers
who claim to be enlightened don't know that they deceive themselves?
Aziz: 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
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
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.