The Advaita Disease:
On the Tendency to Proliferation

Perhaps there have always been so many gurus. They were certainly never so able to have such a high profile though, nor such a worldwide following. Mind you, this is a Good Thing; we need lots of them in these trying times. But my skeptical mind wonders: how many of them, especially in the burgeoning field of Advaita, are really enlightened? Is there any kind of quality control here?


To see more of Sarlo's cartoons

The Advaita position is unassailable. Almost a non-position, it is consistent with the experience of all the mystics of all traditions. It is its insistence on the process of attainment – in fact a non-attainment, because blah blah, etc etc – that puts it at odds with the weight of tradition. In many ways. The most important here rests on the observation that all other processes take time, lots of it. Never mind that time is an illusion. Never mind even that some of the processes, such as zen, admit theoretically of an instant enlightenment, but in their practice take years to bring the disciple to the point where it can instantly happen. Much preparation is needed.

It can be argued that in the case of Papaji's disciples, they may well have done the preparatory work before they come to him, so they are ready for that last nudge. It can also be argued that Advaita is such a superior "path," the direct path that is no-path, that it leaves all others in the dust. Bullock cart methods are no longer needed for the modern intelligent seeker. Etc etc. And there are so many women, especially among Papaji's disciples, who have come this way. If nothing else, this is an equal-opportunity method. It can't be all bad.

There are some large but's here though. One is the certainty that this direct enquiry, "Who am i?" is not suitable for everybody. Even assuming all the apparent successes of Advaita to be genuine – a big assumption – there is only a very narrow segment of the population who can benefit from this. And the path has its dangers. Not the dangers of the devotional / surrender to the master path, the chief of which is exploitation, but the dangers of self-aggrandizement, of getting lost in the mind. To be sure, that danger is always present, but here, with all the conceptualizing about "There is nowhere to go," and "I am a buddha as i am," etc, it is easy to see the possibility of enlightenment as the biggest ego trip. And it has happened.

In the early 90's a sannyasin couple who went to Papaji "got enlightened" in very short order, started holding satsangs and pretty soon had a group of fifty people around them who had also "gotten it." The bubble did burst and no harm was done. In this instance quality control was achieved because Papaji was still in the body. Since he died in 1997 however, many who were with him only a short time are getting into the biz. The number of people who have actually been told by him to go and give satsangs is said to be quite small, ‡ (more on this below) much smaller than the number of claimers. So there you go.

The most prominent of Papaji's disciples is Gangaji, who, if size of org and links with Papaji's site are any indication, gives the impression of being his "official successor," though he did not designate anyone as such. Nor for that matter did he personally claim a lineage from Ramana Maharshi, though his org and the orgs of his quasi-successors promote that connection as a lineage. Gangaji's prominence is in spite of the fact of being with Papaji only a year and of coming across to some as fairly lightweight and even inarticulate. It is not my intention to pick on her, and i have rated her fairly high by my "tough" standards as she is also said to have inspired many seekers including some others claiming enlightenment. My point is more that if she is shaky, many of them are shaky. Mira, now calling herself Ganga, who spent almost thirty years with him, is obviously not in this category, but almost all the rest have been "drive-throughs" by comparison. It should give one pause. It does give me pause.

Then there are those who are so new or so retiring that they have not yet stood out from their masters very much. It's a booming business, so they want in, but their individuality – what's a good word for a master's persona, whatever they project to the public that is their uniqueness, their market niche? – is not very developed. Nothing much can be said about them although they may have web pages, so i will throw them and their links, at least for a while, into Nonduals.

Another Take on This:

(Not my original analysis, seen at NonDuality Salon):

Papaji made it clear in the book "Nothing Ever Happened" that those he sent to teach not only are not enlightened, they are not even temporarily enlightened.
#1. When asked about those he sent to teach, Papaji said that the purpose was to have them point the way to Lucknow, not to pose as awakenened teachers.
#2. Papaji said that many can fool others into thinking they are liberated but they are the false coin.
#3. When asked about the experiences that so many people had in Lucknow, he said they were false experiences.
#4. When asked, "Why did you give them false experiences?" he said to get the leeches off my back.
#5. Papaji said he met only two Jnani's in his lifetime. One was Ramana Maharshi. The other was a man who appeared from out of the jungle into the town of Krishnagiri.
#6. Ramana Maharshi said that there is a false sense of liberation that aspirants reach that very few ever go beyond.

Navigation: Site Map   Home