On neo-advaitin Ramesh Balsekar
Advaita, ethics, authentic & inauthentic sages
By Timothy Conway, Dec. 2007
(with brief additions added on Jan. 15, 2008 and Oct. 2, 2009)
--Short Prologue: the three levels of nondual Reality
--Biographical sketch of Ramesh Balsekar (1917-2009)
--Ramesh's very flawed teachings compared to those of our teacher, the authentic sage Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
--Ramesh is "the world's greatest living sage"??
--Revelations of Ramesh's sexual and financial improprieties
--Critiques by various persons of Wayne Liquorman's "defenses" of Ramesh (with two essays by Timothy, including "The Four Kinds of Spiritual Teachers")
--Critiques by various persons of Mutribo's "defense" of Ramesh
Short Prologue: the three levels of nondual Reality
Any wise pondering of life eventually reveals that there are-- most paradoxically-- three simultaneously true levels of the one Nondual Reality, one of which is "Absolutely True," the others being "pragmatically" or "relatively true":
Conventional truth: The world exists ("stands out") as phenomenal appearance, vividly, palpably experiential, filled with distinct bodymind persons or sentient beings, some of them are well-behaved, some ill-behaved. One is advised to "be good, not bad," and promote justice where there is injustice, kindness where there is cruelty, integrity where there is corruption, and so forth.
Psychic truth: In this Divine dream-play of manifestation, all beings, all souls, are growing more subtle and "ripe" for spiritual awakening, and—though for some souls it may take many lifetimes—they will eventually ALL awaken to the One Divine Self, for there is only this One Self. Hence whatever happens for souls in this world or any world is perfect, Divinely meant to happen (otherwise something else would be happening). In the highest heavenly soul-realm or psychic planes, we are all intermingling, interconnected buddhas, so whatever happens "down in the mortal realms" is dream-like limitation, an evolutionary Divine play of "Perfection perfecting Itself perfectly" (i.e., the process of the One Self transforming all selves into buddhas). In/as heavenly perfection, all of us gazillions of souls are made of the One Divine Love, Light, Joy, Peace and Power!
Absolute Truth: Nothing is really happening and nothing has ever happened—there are no distinctly existing "souls" or "worlds" (high or low)—there is ONLY GOD, only the ONE SELF or REALITY, the Openness-Emptiness-Fullness of Absolute Being-Awareness-Bliss. Entirely birthless-deathless, timeless-spaceless, infinite-eternal, clear and simple.
Biographical sketch of Ramesh Balsekar (1917-2009)
By way of introducing this long webpage with several persons' views of the particular "Divine embodiment" (Atma-swarupa) of Ramesh Balsekar, what he himself would call "the bodymind organism known as Ramesh," we first note that our dear Ramesh (b. May 25, 1917) was a well-educated young man at the London School of Economics, he married in 1940, then, after working his way up the corporate ladder, for a decade he served as CEO for the Bank of India in Bombay until his mandatory retirement at age 60 in 1977. Along the way he was an avid badminton player and golfer and a devoted father to three children. Since the latter 1980s until his passing on Sep. 27, 2009, his several books and his talks and seminars made him famous in certain circles as a teacher or "sage" or even "master" of nondual wisdom, advaita jnana. (The blurb on a 2004 book of Ramesh's teachings hails him with no small hyperbole as the "world’s greatest living sage," a description now regretted by that book's editor--see below.) For three years (1978-1981) in the time between being a bank president and a "sagely" author, Ramesh was one of several translators serving all of us visitors who participated in the daily conversations with the truly illustrious advaita sage of Bombay,
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981) (click on the link to read a long essay on the amazing Maharaj and his teachings).
(Ramesh joined longtime lead translator Saumitra Mullarpattan as well as others who served less frequently in this capacity, like S.V. Sapre and Mrs. Damayanti Dungaji.)
I had some close contact with Ramesh in 1987, 1988 and 1989 when he first visited southern and northern California, driving him on a couple of occasions to different venues (and taking him with a friend to Disneyland [!] at the behest of Henry Denison, one of Ramesh's southern California hosts who planned to take him there but couldn't and asked me to do so). While traveling around India in Spring 1988 on a research trip, i took a friend to the spacious apartment suite (in a Bombay beachfront-area, home to many VIPs) belonging to Ramesh and his delightful wife Sarada/Sharda. She served a delicious dinner for the five of us (including the Balsekars' beloved son Ajit, who died in 1990, and who had taken one of the most beautiful photographs of Maharaj, a photo that Maharaj offered to sign for me in 1981).
By the late 1980s Ramesh, who had struck many folks as being the most aloof and taciturn of Maharaj's translators, was a noticeably friendlier and more heart-felt guy. It should be mentioned somewhere here that Ramesh was considered by some folks to be the successor of Nisargadatta Maharaj, yet Ramesh simply wrote that, toward the very end of Maharaj's life (he died on Sep. 8, 1981), Maharaj wondered aloud to Ramesh, "Why don't you speak?" And Ramesh took this as an authorization to teach aspirants. I am told by Judy Amlin that her mother Jean Dunn (who had many disciples herself and who edited three books of Maharaj's conversations) and the Belgian disciple Jozef Nauwelaerts (who shot the two hours of film footage of Maharaj that we have) were the only two "successors" actually "appointed" by Maharaj, and that no Indians were named.
An anecdote from David Godman's biography of advaita teacher Papaji (H.W.L. Poonja), Nothing Ever Happened, is also notable here. Sometime in 1981, Papaji had been taken by friends while he was in Bombay to attend a group satsang with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj in the latter's residential mezzanine loft. "After, when Papaji went downstairs, he found himself standing next to the translator of Maharaj. Papaji asked him, 'So how long have you been listening to Maharaj?' He responded 'Three years.' Then Papaji asked, 'And what have you learned from Him after these three years?' He responded, 'No, I am just the translator, that's all I do.' Afterwards, Papaji was told that this was Ramesh Balsekar, and later on he was surprised to discover that he was being invited to the States to speak the Truth in the 1980's."
Nisargadatta Maharaj's powerful wisdom and presence had completely eradicated in me any need to seek out other teachers after my in-depth time with him in January 1981. (Spontaneously, i helped serve a few other spiritual leaders, especially the awesome "Hugging Mother" Ammachi from 1987 onward, but there was never again any motive after Jan. 1981 to personally "get" anything or have any "questions" answered or "doubts" clarified). I therefore treasured Ramesh, not so much as a teacher, but as a dear guru-bhai elder brother-disciple, one of several, of the late great Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj.
Ramesh's flawed teachings compared with the teachings of our teacher, authentic sage Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
By 1989 it was only too evident that, while Ramesh was a very good spokesman for certain aspects of authentic Advaita wisdom, there were important discrepancies in Ramesh's teachings compared to those of our great mentor Sri Nisargadatta (e.g., a laissez-faire indifference, fatalist determinism and almost nihilist absurdism had crept into the teachings, despite protests to the contrary). It seems that Ramesh's teachings were being influenced far more by Wei Wu Wei (the Irishman Terence Gray, 1895-1986, one of Ramesh's favorite authors) than by Nisargadatta. I was also concerned to hear about the charging of hefty fees at some of Ramesh's retreats for spiritual aspirants, when Sri Nisargadatta never asked for a paisa/penny from anyone. And so I left off any further contact with Ramesh, inwardly wishing him all the very best. It would not be until early 2005 that I would hear of the charges of serial adultery by Ramesh with some of his female students.
Much more can be said on how Ramesh's teachings have significantly diverged from those of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, and the latter's own Guru, Sri Siddharameshvar Maharaj (1888-1936).
Ramesh essentially teaches what has come to be called "neo-advaita" or "pseudo-advaita"—namely, that a cognitive realization of "the Truth" (that there is only Consciousness) utterly suffices, and so there is nothing to aspire toward, nothing to do, nothing to achieve. "Understanding is all," as Ramesh and other neo-advaitins have so often declared. Whatever happens in the dream of life is "God's will," beyond our responsibility. There are really no individuals or persons who could have "free will" or function as a "doer," and therefore no freedom from conditioning or bodily identification need be striven for or can ever be achieved through effort—unless it is God's will for this to happen! In the view of Ramesh and other neo-advaitins, the world is but a Divinely predetermined mechanism playing out mechanistically, and "you" the personality are just a part of the functioning of this mechanism. "You" have no choice or free will about any of this. Que sera, sera. What will be, will be.
By contrast, both Nisargadatta and Siddharameshvar along with Ramana Maharshi and other "real Advaitin sages" taught a subtler, more nuanced view that involves the PARADOX of effort and Grace. They were not constrained by an "either-or" logic but easily and freely utilized an inclusive "both-and" logic of mystical reality.
So these eminent sages affirmed that, yes, on the Absolute-truth level, there is only unmanifest Absolute Awareness, and this phenomenal play of consciousness—the manifest beings, bodies, experiences—is ultimately insubstantial because it is fleeting and not solid, "a dream," and that, Absolutely-speaking, there are no individual persons or souls, free will or choice, and that whatever happens is Divine Will or the lîlâ (play, sport) of consciousness.
But these authentic spiritual masters also taught, on the more "conventional-pragmatic level", that great earnestness, persistence and "effortless effort" are needed, that "you," Consciousness manifesting as the apparent individual person, can and must dis-identify from narrow identification with the bodymind personality. Through radical self-inquiry ("Who am I, really?" "What is prior to the 'I Am' sense?") and receding-returning-relaxing into/as the Source, there is consequent awakening, by Divine Grace, out of the conditioned "me"-dream into real freedom from binding likes-dislikes (the samskaras or vasanas, that is, the egoic tendencies of selfishness and limited individuality).
In other words, there is a transcending of apathy, ego-attachments, and mere theoretical understanding to actually living and fully being the Liberated Truth of "only God," only Absolute Awareness.
Yes, it is quite true that Nisargadatta Maharaj (and Ramana Maharshi, et al.) often succinctly said, for the sake of balance and to undermine egoic identifications, "there's nothing to do" and "no efforts are to be made," so "just be." But Nisargadatta also many times spoke of a developmental process of stages (from individuality to universal consciousness to Absolute Awareness) and he paradoxically urged that we be tremendously earnest about meditating and abiding in our real Nature as the Absolute beyond false identifications, body-based desires, pride, hypocrisy, fears and selfishness. He often said, "You must enquire and meditate on the root 'I Am-ness' sense and get free of it." The Maharaj accused certain people of being "pseudo-sages" (pseudo-jnanis) because they had not (yet) genuinely awakened to the Absolute but were still "indulging their beingness" on the level of the bodymind ego-personality. Over the decades Nisargadatta certainly echoed in different ways the message frequently uttered by his guru Sri Siddharameshvar, "Realize the Self and behave accordingly!"
Furthermore, Nisargadatta and advaita tradition, while revealing the ultimate truth of "only the birthless-deathless Self, no soul-karma-rebirth," do teach on the expedient level the plain experiential fact of karma-driven rebirth for those still identified with the narrow self, whereas Ramesh and neo-advaita refuse to talk at all on this expedient-pragmatic level, constrained as they are to always talk in a dangerously one-sided, imbalanced, "Absolute-only" style of parlance.
What's more, and not just for persons of a devotional temperament, Nisargadatta and his Guru both occasionally spoke in glowing terms (as did Ramana Maharshi, Sankara, et al.) of the great usefulness of devotion (bhakti), and even mantra-recitation, things that Ramesh has usually ignored or quite glibly dismissed. It is obvious, too, that Nisargadatta speaks much more than does Ramesh about various aspects of living from authentic realization of Absolute Awareness, and his words have the resonant "ring of Truth," a majestic intuition of real Freedom, Power and Clarity. This is no mere conceptual formula about "Consciousness, the world-mechanism, and nonexistence of the individual" (Ramesh's teaching), leaving us stuck, smug and satisfied with status quo mediocrity.
We need not belabor this analysis. Perhaps a few quotes from Ramesh's book Who Cares? will illustrate some of the divergence in his teaching from that of Nisargadatta, Siddharameshvar, and other genuinely free sages (not just "teachers").
Ramesh: "What is the significance of the statement 'No one can get enlightenment'? This is the very root of the teaching. It means that it's stupid for any so-called master to ask anyone to do anything to achieve or get enlightenment. The core of this simple statement means, according to my concept, that enlightenment is the annihilation of the 'one' who 'wants' enlightenment. If there is enlightenment - which can only happen because it is the will of God - then it means the 'one' who had earlier wanted enlightenment has been annihilated. So no 'one' can achieve enlightenment and therefore no 'one' can enjoy enlightenment."
—To which we can say that, on the level of deconstructive mystical philosophy, this is of course all quite true, an ancient truth from India's traditions of nondual realization, especially early Mahayana Buddhism as well as Abhidhamma Theravada Buddhism—e.g., "There is nirvana, but no one in it." Nisargadatta sometimes in fact spoke in this vein. But, "stupid" or not, we have many more hundreds of tape-recorded and book-printed teachings from Nisargadatta Maharaj (and from other genuine advaitins), addressed to Consciousness in the form of "you" (Nisargadatta was often quite "personal" in directly addressing people), clearly expressed with imperative verb-forms urging, commanding, inviting, and requesting aspirants to "be earnest," "you must meditate," "recede into your Self," "stay put as you are prior to the bodymind and 'I Am-ness,'" and so on.
Ramesh: "The joke is even the surrendering is not in your control. Why? Because so long as there is an individual who says 'I surrender' there is a surrenderer, an individual ego... What I'm saying is that even the surrendering is not in [your] hands."
—And yes, Nisargadatta often expressed this very same truth. I heard it from him directly myself on a number of occasions. But Nisargadatta also explicitly told many people, using the imperative verb-form, to surrender, dis-identify from the bodymind, drop attachments, stop clinging, let go, etc. In other words, Nisargadatta could teach both sides of the paradox, the Absolute level and the pragmatic level, he wasn't constrained always and only to speak "Absolut-ish" to his "non-existent listeners." His great compassion wanted people actually FREE, not stuck indulging their bodymind self-sense and high-flown concepts.
Ramesh: "You're truly not responsible for anything that you do. But, that doesn't mean that you have to be irresponsible. Because, the answer ultimately is do whatever you like according to any standards of morality and responsibility you have. The standards of morality and responsibility are part of the programming, and you cannot act other than your programming."
—To which Nisargadatta and other real masters would retort: Then get some new environmental programming by associating with true sages and by deeply contemplating or meditating on the profound wisdom teachings that bring real Awakening and real Freedom!
I was watching, at the request of an acquaintance, a video clip of Ramesh teaching in his Mumbai apartment a few years before his passing on Sep. 27, 2009. Ramesh kept underscoring the point that the only benefit from what he termed "enlightenment" was "peace of mind" and "feeling comfortable with oneself and with the other." He also went on to say that the essence of the Buddha's enlightenment and his enlightened teaching was "acceptance" and realizing there's "no doer of any deeds."
Certainly these elements are a few of the many wholesome factors associated with authentic awakening. But I daresay that Ramesh, with this kind of emphasis, has hereby significantly cheapened and distorted the teaching of authentic sages. For one thing, the Buddha taught much more than what Ramesh summarizes as the gist of his wisdom. In truth, the Buddha urged the cultivation of the "qualities of a Buddha" and complete liberation from all forms of selfish identification and clinging, as, for instance, discussed in his models of the "7 enlightenment factors" and freedom from the "3 poisons" (attachment, aversion, delusion) and freedom from the "10 fetters" (including the subtlest forms of pride, ignorance and any clinging to formless and formed heaven states). As for the "peace of mind" that Ramesh promotes as the acme of spirituality, any sociopath (like Charles Manson and cohorts) can enjoy a certain tranquility as he/she goes about killing or torturing people.
Obviously, therefore, true sages are pointing to—and exemplifying—a much more profound peace beyond the mind, namely, our Real Nature as Absolute Awareness, always infinitely and eternally prior to space-time as Source and Substance of all phenomena on bodily or mental levels. This Awareness is not remote, but right HERE (closer than the mind or separative ego-sense) and right NOW (always already our true Identity before the moment-by-moment arising of any phenomena). This Awareness is not "knowable" as an object, but is certainly quite "be-able" as our vast, open True Nature, Absolute Being-Awareness-Bliss.
And, as for Ramesh's idea of "being comfortable with the other," Nisargadatta pointed to a far more profound realization of being the essential Awareness underlying all sentient beings as their fundamental Truth. Indeed, in line with the ancient Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, he taught that, while we are to "love" "serve," and "take care of" others, truly (on the Absolute level), there are no "others," only the single Awareness, what the Buddha so famously referred to as the Unborn, Uncompounded, Unmade Reality or Nibbana (Nirvana).
This is an invitation to a far more profound, free, clear and lucid awakening than anything Ramesh is teaching with his primary emphasis on (mere) "peace of mind" and "being comfortable with oneself and others."
It might be summarily said here that the sublime way of Nisargadatta, his enlightened co-disciple Ranjit Maharaj (1913-2000), their master Siddharameshvar, as well as Ramana Maharshi, Sankara, the Buddha, and Ch'an-Zen, Taoist, Vajrayana and other mystical-spiritual masters is the way of "supremely effortless effort" for the sake of radical Awakening to glorious spiritual Reality, our intrinsic yet usually undiscovered True Nature.
Whereas, by stark contrast, the "no way" of Ramesh and the neo-advaitins of our era is "no efforts at all" and hence no real awakening from the "me"-dream and its complications.
SOME ILLUSTRATIVE, TYPICAL TEACHINGS OF SRI NISARGADATTA:
Here are a few sample quotes, rich with imperatives, from just two of the dozen primary books of Nisargadatta Maharaj's teachings arbitrarily taken off a nearby bookshelf, which well underscore his sublime views on the importance of "real Realization" beyond bodily-identification, indifference, and mere cognitive-theoretical understanding of spiritual Truth:
"We should realize that we are not the body. This is liberation and realization. [...] Because you identify with the body, all the troubles begin.... The biggest stumbling block is the identification with the body-mind.... You must develop the conviction that you are the Absolute. [...] You must accomplish jnana-yoga [supremely liberating Wisdom-Knowledge], which means: the self subsiding in the Self.... But all you really want is to keep your body-mind sense intact; that just will not do.... You accept body as your identity.... By merely acquiring knowledge [i.e., theoretical understanding of "truth"] one cannot claim to be a jnani [a truly free sage]. The jnani-yogi is [actually] not required to know anything as he is Knowledge itself. Jnana-yoga is the highest state in spirituality. In this state there is no individuality, as this is the all-pervading state.... The sense of individuality and needs are felt prior to jnana-yoga. But after the accomplishment of jnana-yoga, one is beyond needs and individual personality. [...] Since a realized sage abides in perfection, he has no need at all to gain anything. [...] Once you realize that you are not the body and the mind, you have no needs and demands. [...] Do not get involved in your wants. [...] Many people presume themselves to be jnanis, but they are ignorant only. [...] If you have a deep urge, then only will there be illumination.... (Q: How should we get rid of this blindness?) By abiding in the Self through insistence. Meditate on the Self. You must do the yoga of insistence and perseverance to have perfect knowledge about the Self." —Nisargadatta Maharaj (The Nectar of Immortality, pp. 95, 152-3, 100-1, 16, 93, 164, 38, 148-9)
"Only one in a hundred thousand [who hear these teachings] will really understand the Knowledge which is given. Most won't give up their body sense. [...] As long as you think that the body is you, you will not get true knowledge.... This identity with the body has to go.... [This] is not indifference, it is detachment. [...] To want something is natural, so long as there is the identity with the body-mind. Once that is transcended, there will be no wants. [...] When you identify with the body-mind, you become separate, you are not one with anybody. [...] Once you understand that you are not the body then are you not everything? [...] When you come to [awaken to] Parabrahman [Absolute Reality] there are no desires, no likes or dislikes. That is Nishkama [Desireless] Parabrahman.... You have only one thing to do: care for others as much as you care for yourself. [...] I will give you one piece of advice: do not do anything that will hurt another, that is all.... Take care that you do not hurt anyone else. [...] Be that love which is not conditioned by the body-mind. If you are that love, it is total, complete love.... Detachment comes only after you are free from bodily love. Be free from the body-mind state and be in the state of love, and that will be the source of all bliss. [...] You must have a deep yearning to attain the Truth. [...] To understand this you have to meditate.... You [must] follow meditation assiduously.... I insist you stabilize yourself by meditation. Your senses are very active; they are not under control. By meditating, that particular weakness of your mind will be brought under conttrol.... Persistence. That deep longing must be there. [...] To understand what I am telling you it is imperative that you have recourse to meditation. Don't be carried away by concepts, just dwell in the quietude. [...] You must make up your mind what you want.... If the determination [for Freedom or Realization] is that great—then it must come, but if you want something in the material world, it is not possible. The true pupil keeps this in mind and meditates." —Nisargadatta Maharaj (Seeds of Consciousness, pp. 164, 24-5, 69, 108, 146, 195, 72, 103, 102, 194, 209, 177)
THE UNENLIGHTENED AMORAL FATALISM OF RAMESH BALSEKAR
The reader might also wish to read a long interview with Ramesh, "Close Encounters of the Advaita Kind: The Euphoric Nihilism of Ramesh Balsekar," conducted by Chris Parish for the Fall/Winter 1998 issue of the magazine What Is Enlightenment (www.wie.org/j20/balsekar.asp), wherein Chris repeatedly challenges Ramesh on his fatalist philosophy. In light of what would be revealed six years later (Winter 2004-5) about Ramesh's long-running desires to engage certain female students in sexual conduct, the WIE interview is notable for a discussion at one point by Chris and Ramesh of adultery. That section is reproduced here:
WIE: I read something in a pamphlet written by several of your students that seems relevant to this point. It says: "What you like can only be what God wants you to like. Nothing can happen unless it is His will." The pamphlet also says: "Don't feel guilty even if adultery happens. You, the Source, are always pure."
Ramesh Balsekar: That is what Ramana Maharshi said. [Note: But Ramana Maharshi said many other things as a counterbalance to any kind of licentiousness!--Timothy]
WIE: The Source may always be pure, but again, it seems to me that this could easily be taken as a license to act without conscience. You could say, "It doesn't matter if I commit adultery, it doesn't matter if I hurt my friends because that action just happened." It could easily be taken as a license to act out on a desire, just because I happen to have that desire.
RB: But isn't that what is happening?
WIE: It does happen, certainly, but...
RB: Do you mean that it will happen more?
WIE: It could easily happen more. I could say, "Well, it doesn't matter what I do now. I shouldn't bother to restrain myself if I feel a desire." Do you see what I mean?
RB: The question usually asked is this: "If I am not really doing anything, what is to prevent me from taking a machine gun and going out and killing twenty people?" That is what you are asking, isn't it?
WIE: Well, that's an extreme example.
RB: Yes, take an extreme example!
WIE: But I think it's more interesting to consider the adultery example, because many people wouldn't really do something as extreme as machine-gunning other people.
RB: All right. It's the same thing when we're talking of committing adultery. I read that the psychologists and biologists have, based on their research, come to the conclusion that if you're cheating on your wife, you shouldn't blame yourself. More and more, the scientist is coming to the conclusion that the mystic has always held—that whatever actions happen can be traced to the programming.
WIE: I can see that in some cases this might be true, but let's say, for example, that I have the urge to commit adultery. I could say, "It must be God's will that I do it, so I'll go ahead"—or, I could restrain myself and not cause a lot of suffering for my friends. Wouldn't it be better if I restrained myself?
RB: So who is preventing you from restraining yourself? Do whatever you like! What is preventing you from restraining yourself? Restrain yourself!
WIE: My point is that it's better to do so!
RB: That's my point, too.
WIE: But according to your view, I could just as easily say, "It must be God's will because I feel a desire," and then not restrain myself.
RB: You're saying that you know you should restrain yourself—then why don't you restrain yourself? If a body/mind organism is programmed not to cheat on his wife, whatever anybody says, he won't do it. If you are so programmed that you won't raise a hand against somebody, will you start killing people? Now if there is a law passed that you can beat your wife and no action will be taken against you, will you start beating your wife? Not unless the body/mind organism is programmed to do that, and if it is programmed to do that, it has been doing so anyway. So as I said, accepting God's will does not prevent you from doing whatever you think you should do. Do it! Do exactly what you think you should do!
WIE: In the end, though, how can we say that we know it is destiny or God's will? All we know is that certain events take place. Afterward, we can look back on something we did and say, "It just happened," and if we like, we can call it destiny. But isn't it more accurate to say that we don't really know whether it is destiny or not? Saying that we don't know is different from saying "We know that it is God's will." It's different from saying we know that everything is fixed. You see, it sounds to me like you're saying that you do know that everything is the will of God.
RB: We don't know, and that is the bottom line; so if you like, you can drop the concept of destiny and say that nobody can really know anything. Fine!
For a tragic example of how Ramesh's teachings impact some of his listeners' behavior and their loved ones, consider the following report, from the (no longer accessible) website "Peter's Pages" (http://peter.ca/spirit/spiritual-teachers.html; Peter is a longtime practitioner of Ch'an Buddism, Advaita and Aikido, and a critic of neo-advaita and other scams in the name of spirituality). This report is about Peter's friend, pseudonymously named here "Allan":
[For some 20 years] Allan has traveled to India to sit with Ramesh. He has deeply taken Ramesh’s teachings to heart. Allan is a yoga teacher. Before meeting Ramesh he studied yoga in India in the traditional manner, and after many years became very good at hatha yoga. He had many students. But Allan was unhappy. He did not like his life. He travelled extensively, touring the world and teaching yoga. He met various teachers. He tried Vipassana, but never understood what the technique was trying to point toward. He tried a little Zen. He tried tantra. Generally, he always always felt good during his visits with teachers or groups, but the effects never lasted.
Then he heard of Ramesh Balsekar, and went to India to visit him. Ramesh changed Allan’s life. Ramesh told Allan that nothing mattered, that it did not matter what he did for every event was the will of God. Ramesh also said that everything was already ordained so there was no point in fighting it. Allan had been searching all his life for someone to tell him it was okay to do whatever he wanted. He was happy! When he returned home he immediately slept with several of his yoga students, not telling his young wife or son where he was going or what he was doing. When his wife nonetheless suspected what was happening, Allan simply said that Ramesh had shown him that he was free to do whatever he wanted.
Over the next decade Allan saw Ramesh several more times, and each time was reinforced in his belief that since everything was ordained it did not matter in the least what he did. He asked Ramesh about it - was he really free to do anything? Yes, said Ramesh. A friend of Allan’s pointed out to him this site [a now defunct webpage critical of Ramesh], and Allan just laughed saying that Ramesh knew the truth so it did not matter what he (Ramesh) did. Or who was hurt in the process.
Now gentle reader, lest you draw the rather natural conclusion that Allan had simply misunderstood Ramesh, it should be pointed out that Allan spoke at length with Ramesh about his innermost feelings, his take on what Ramesh had to say, and finally often asked if he had properly understood. Again, Allan was confirmed in his interpretation [by Ramesh].
On the Ramesh Balsekar scandal of 2004-5
Given all of the above, it was "an interesting turn in the play of consciousness" to discover that many people had left Ramesh in late 2004 and early 2005 upon hearing revelations coming out of a long seminar with Ramesh in Kovalam Beach in Kerala, India, of more greed and financial impropriety by him and his organizers, and, especially, hearing revelations of Ramesh's longtime exploitation of certain women disciples as objects for his own bodymind's sexual pleasure. At the time, I was asked by some prominent advaita friends to write a few responses, and did so, though beyond this i generally stayed out of things. These writings have been posted to the Internet at different places. The two main essays used to be posted along with other persons' material at a prominent European advaita website (which had promoted Ramesh since 1996) as part of a long critical page ("Real Advaita") uploaded there in early 2005 by the web-hosts, who expressed major concern over Ramesh's behavior. My main two essays on the topic of Advaita, ethics, authentic and inauthentic Teachers have also been posted since early 2005 by Sarlo at his much-visited Guru Ratings website, e.g., http://www3.telus.net/public/sarlo/Yconway2.htm.
With the complete removal of anything on Ramesh at the European advaita website, the consequent dead link at the Wikipedia article on Ramesh for the critical endnotes, and the nearly complete absence of any pages critical of Ramesh or his teachings in any Internet-search "top returns" on his name at Google, I have reproduced here, for the historical record and for the sake of true Dharma, some of the materials that were written on the controversy by different persons back in early 2005. These writings by various concerned parties on behalf of true Advaita are important documents in helping sincere spiritual aspirants and anyone presuming to teach spirituality not to get confused about mixing up the two simultaneously-true "truth levels" as distinguished centuries ago by Sankara, Gaudapada, Nagarjuna and other Hindu and Buddhist advaita sages and more recently by Nisargadatta and other true adepts: namely, 1) the level of Absolute-truth (paramarthika-satya), i.e., the teaching that there is only the unmanifest Absolute prior to and beyond the dreamlike manifest play of consciousness; and 2) the conventional, pragmatic truth (vyavaharika-satya or samvriti-satya), i.e., that in this world of relationships and activities there is a meaningful distinction between true-false, right-wrong, appropriate-inappropriate, skillful-unskillful, helpful-harmful, kind-cruel, and so forth.
On the Absolute level and on what could be called the sublime soul level, "nothing is really happening," there are no problems whatsoever, "whatever happens in the life-dream is perfect," and all of this is "perfect Divine Comedy," not tragedy. Yet speaking on the conventional-pragmatic level, it is certainly unfortunate and sad that my old friend Ramesh has to serve here as Exhibit A in this ongoing need to clarify truth-levels and to distinguish true Advaita Dharma over the rampant "cheap" pseudo-advaita.
I sincerely wish the soul of the late Ramesh and his family, friends and disciples everything wonderful, and full realization of the "No-thing" that is our Source: Pure Awareness, Absolute Reality, Divine Peace.
[Note: much of the flow of information in the e-letters below was facilitated in early 2005 by a longtime concerned advaitin friend whom i will only refer to here as "L."]
L wrote to me [Timothy] in early February 2005:
"Here is an email I got from [a friend, anonymously abbreviated "E"], a co-founder along with his wife of a group ... that has distributed books and videos of various modern spiritual teachers, including many Vedantin teachers. I know [them] from India, and have visited them when I was in [Europe]. Their integrity is impeccable. I met them in India originally, they both ... are avid students of genuine Advaita, they were close to both Papaji and Ranjit Maharaj. I have very high regard for them.... This is E's report about the recent retreat that Ramesh Balsekar held, where Ramesh was confronted by many of the people there on his atrocious behavior. --L"
[From the advaita-oriented European husband-wife couple, evidently written sometime in late January, 2005:]
A client and friend of ours (who we trust very much) just came back from Bombay 10 days ago. He discovered Ramesh Balsekar through us about 2 years ago. He became totally addicted to Ramesh and his teaching and went to Bombay every 4 months. During his stay in India each time, he spent a week at Sri Ramanasramam. He adores Ramana and Nisargadatta. This time he attended the Kovalam Seminar [in India's Kerala state] for the first time. The first thing which bothered him was that the organisers and Ramesh kept insisting that the attendees of the seminar who had already paid a fortune [by Indian standards] for the seminar (1000 Euros) [approx. $770 US] could always donate more money. On top of this, the man who organised the whole thing, gave each of the 150 attendees an envelope to contribute 1500 Rupees [c. $40 US] each for the workers in the hotel, to thank them for the hospitality, etc... It was obvious that this money was not going only to them. Ramesh and money is not a new story!
Finally, the last day comes along and one woman starts attacking Ramesh, asking him why he psychologically manipulated her into doing 'services' for him. (F---ing services!) Then another spoke out, then another, and this went on for 2 hours. It turns out that Ramesh has been doing this for many years behind his wife's back. (It appears that his close disciples knew this was going on but shut their mouths because they were riding the Ramesh wave!) He's a horny old Indian man and not a great advaita teacher that he pretends to be. He figures out whom he can manipulate and then slowly moves in. I don't think he told them they got enlightened [unlike Rajneesh, et al.]. He just obliged them because he was the guru. It seems that there have been many. Most of his Indian disciples have been shocked and now no longer visit him. Many westerners haven't heard about this yet but I think it will soon get around. [Note: the large majority of Ramesh's followers have always been Westerners, not Indians.]
Ramesh had already prepared a letter for the last day. I guess he knew someone was going to spill the beans in front of the video cameras. He basically said it is his body-mind and not him chasing after women. Great excuse!! How can he behave as a guru and say such things? He takes people for idiots! I'm sure a lot more stories will come out in the future! I just wanted to let you know about it and I thought perhaps you had also heard things. We are going to stop promoting Ramesh. Our friend told us more details but they all confirm what I have already written. I would be interested to hear what some of the other attendees of Kovalam have to say. It definitely doesn't smell good, all of this! It shows how strong and clever ego can be!
[Update:] I think its normal that people doubt all this, but now
they want to find out if it is all true, which is a good thing. I know it's true because the two people I spoke with (the man came to our office and spent 90 minutes telling us about it) are sincere. I know that. They were both shocked because they just didn't want to accept the fact that their master wasn't free from lusting, etc. and it was hard for them to speak about all this. I am hoping that some of the Kovalam attendees will start speaking out as well as the women who were asked to perform 'services' for Ramesh. Of course, the moment you do this you will be under attack by the Ramesh clan, but who cares (a title of one of Ramesh's books). I feel that my role is to inform and let the news circulate, but it's better that first-hand info also comes out. That will take more time, but surely it will come out. (The Truth is never in a rush.) Now, people just have to accept it. People who want freedom, will accept it. People who want to believe and depend, won't accept it. What more can one say! I can't forget Ranjit Maharaj's one-liner: "HOW CAN SOMETHING EXIST IN NOTHING? Mind is always projecting 'this and that' but ultimately it's all untrue. The one absorbed in this nothingness, the Self, is free from all 'this and that'." As Maharaj would say, "You suffer because you have taken the touch of mind and are in love with the illusion. The choice is yours now."
A Revelatory Letter on Ramesh from Patrick / Nirodhananda
March 25, 2005 [with some editing by DM]
[Writes Patrick:] I hope that what I have written below will serve to reveal actual facts, and thereby lead the reader to investigate the reality of the deeper meaning behind those facts.
Two years ago [2003?] I traveled to Bombay for my first meeting with Ramesh Balsekar, in order to verify whether his teachings were genuine or not. I subsequently went there to see Ramesh again several times. The last time I saw Ramesh was in Kovalam, Kerala in December 2004. These are some of the things, which I observed occur in Bombay and at Kovalam.
In Bombay, in the large room, next door to the satsang room in Ramesh’s residence, I noticed numerous photographs of Ramesh, some of which showed him when he was young, posing like a statue of a Greek athlete of antiquity. Every photograph was for sale at a rather high price for India. I was puzzled, ill at ease, finding it surprising, and even out of place, that a "sage" would expose his physical body in such a way and make money out of selling photographs such as these.
Before seeing these photos, I had just been listening to a rather basic talk on humility and on the absence of pride and arrogance in a sage. And, here I was face to face with these more or less questionable photographs being sold in apparent total contradiction to the discourse I had just heard.
I also noticed books being sold on the premises. Many people purchase books there, and I often heard Ramesh himself encourage visitors to buy copies. The sale of the audio recording of the day's talk on a CD caught my attention because of its price: 500 rupees, (approximately $11 US [when the unit cost for a recordable CD is less than $1])!
One fact which always surprised and shocked me was that Ramesh often told his listeners that he only teaches those who already live a comfortable life, those who have no material worries. Clearly, Ramesh's visitors are neither poor or financially needy, and many are actually wealthy. One cannot avoid noticing that money appears to be quite important to Ramesh.
On one of my stays in Bombay, I asked Ramesh questions on the absolute essential truth (paramartha satya), and on the relative expressed truth (samvritti satya). These words relate to traditional Indian teachings. I ever only received vague and superficial answers from him, which did not help me at all. If Ramesh was not responding clearly, I wondered whether it was due to ignorance on his part, or due to lack of understanding of the questions?
Then, I made my way to the 2004 Kovalam seminar. Among the 155 participants representing about twenty countries were two wealthy Indians. Half of the attendees were meeting Ramesh for the first time. A group of Germans, who seemed to have known Ramesh for a long time, were organizing and running the seminar.
The general content of what was being taught at the seminar was identical to what I had already heard in Bombay.
The first thing which struck me was Ramesh’s response to a psychiatric medical doctor of Jewish origin who spoke of the suffering that had pursued him all his life. His father had died in the Nazi camps. The fact that he had never met his father had always been a source of major suffering for him. His sincere account was touching as he expressed it openly in front of everyone.
Ramesh's callous response was, "This is just a happening, and you have not had any choice. You can only accept!"
I will add that on several occasions Ramesh put "a Hitler and hundreds of Mother Teresa's" on the same level. I wondered why Ramesh approached someone's suffering with such shocking and useless words. (I will remark here that several participants were of Jewish origin.)
Then this same doctor asked Ramesh, "I have the impression of a feeling of energy in your presence, could you explain why to me?"
Ramesh’s nonsequitur response was, "You have spent a thousand Euros for this seminar, but if you come to my house [for the daily 9 a.m. talks], it is free. Although this should not prevent you from making a donation." The German staff had a lot of fun with this reply.
The topic of donations was raised several times during the seminar. Each time, Ramesh reminded the audience that the donations which benefit the donor, are those which "pinch" the donor, and that without "feeling this pain" the donation cannot be positive for the donor.
A young American of Russian origin, who was very shocked by these words, spoke to several of us and expressed his indignation, "But how can a guru ask for money like this?" Right up to the last day, this chap was very unhappy about how the seminar was turning out. He was not the only one to be so shocked.
Several of us came to understand that the profits from the seminar turned out to be quite a large sum for Ramesh. It is a known fact that using pseudo-spirituality as a means to pressure people into giving large sums of money has always been a handy way for the teacher to grow rich at the expense of others.
On the second to last day, the German organizer handed each participant a paper which explained how hard the cooks worked in the hotel where we had our meals. On this paper, he suggested that each one of us give a tip of 1,500 rupees at the end of the seminar. A tip which he would personally hand out. (To the cooks, we wondered?) Several people expressed their indignation at being requested to give such a large sum of money (the price of the seminar being already high), as well as their doubts as to where this money was actually going.
One of them told me: "It is impossible that this organizer would hand 225,000 rupees, [approximately $5,625 US] over to the cooks. I do not believe it!"
I also saw that the price of the books being sold at Kovalam was higher than their usual price.
Toward the middle of the seminar, several women appeared to be quite ill at ease and unhappy, whereas they did not appear at all like that at the beginning.
Ramesh's German staff themselves appeared a little agitated, distant, preoccupied and difficult to approach.
I observed all of this wondering what could be the reason.
A young American woman, who appeared to be unhappier than the others, seemed quite affected. She remained isolated, sad and withdrawn in her own corner. An American man, whose origins I think are Mexican, was comforting her. He did the same for several women who appeared to go to him for support. Two other men were also offering them help. Again, I was wondering what was going on.
At the end of the second to last satsang, a young western doctor, who had studied traditional Indian medicine, asked Ramesh: "Do you think that a guru can use his teaching to justify his own actions, to justify his own behaviour?"
The question was direct. Ramesh appeared to be taken aback, and gave a vague reply, "Whatever happens is only an event, the will of God, a cosmic law... and the guru is not concerned by the event." As it was the end of that satsang, a woman came out to play the harmonium and sing a devotional song.
During the week Ramesh told a story, (which he also told in Bombay), about the sex life of a well known guru who lived not far from Bombay. A disciple, who had been with this guru for over twenty years, caught him in the middle of a sex act with young boys. He had never previously known that his guru did this. Very shocked, he came back to see the guru telling him that he could not tolerate such act, and that he was leaving the ashram immediately. The guru’s response was, "You have created the problem. Now you have to solve it!"
Ramesh expressed his agreement with this response and said, "Everything is only an event ruled by cosmic law and by divine will... It is the programming of the body-mind mechanism... and nothing can be done about it... the guru is not concerned!"
Ramesh then told us another similar story about another guru living near Bangalore. Then he told us that Nisargadatta Maharaj (supposedly) accepted the services of a local prostitute.
I asked myself: "Why is Ramesh telling these upsetting/sordid stories that shock so many people in the assembly?" I had the feeling that he was attempting to "destroy" authentic gurus.
Ramesh added that Nisargadatta Maharaj taught a "positive" path and that, he, Ramesh, taught the "negative" path! I remember that these words raised indignation in several people. After the satsang, an English lady came to share her annoyance with me: "Nisargadatta teaching a positive path?!... What does Ramesh mean to say about him? It is not true. Maharaj has always taught the Negative Way!" [i.e., the way of dis-identification from the body-mind]. I also disagreed with Ramesh's words.
[Notes DM, the editor of this letter: In traditional advaita vedanta teachings, first comes the negation, as in "neti, neti," "(I am) not this, not this"; and then the positive assertion, or pointing to "That," which you are, as in "I am That."]
An important moment took place when Ramesh stated that bhakti [devotion] was totally useless and had no meaning, and that only jnana [nondual wisdom] was important [contrary to Nisargadatta Maharaj's own teachings to different disciples, depending on their temperament]. He added, "You are probably surprised to hear this, because it must be the first time you are hearing it, isn't it?"
A man seated behind me started crying, as if he had just lost all his references. I tried to comfort him as well as I could. I was troubled and disturbed seeing the impact Ramesh’s words were having on the psyche of this sensitive spiritual seeker.
Simply speaking, I felt that Ramesh was trying to say to us that he was the only one who had right understanding, and not the gurus who had gone before him. I was bewildered. Later, a young Australian student in neuro-psychology told me that Ramesh's behaviour and demeanor were troubling to him.
On the second to last day, I was informed by a lady participant that Ramesh had had a mistress for a number of years (as well as other women before that), and since the relationship had to be kept hidden, his mistress was suffering from this abnormal and difficult situation. I also was told that the events with women taking place in Kovalam also took place in Ramesh's Bombay home. I could not believe my ears. I also discovered that Mrs. Balsekar did not like it.
Then came the last morning. The organizer of the seminar gave a long speech to us from the platform. He went on for about twenty minutes before Ramesh arrived. The organizer appeared visibly troubled and ill at ease. He said, "I have known Ramesh for twenty-five years. Each one of us has his faults and his qualities... Even if Ramesh has some faults, I am ever grateful to him. For me this seminar is important..." Then, he traced back his history with Ramesh.
I and some of the participants looked at each other. We felt we knew what was troubling him, (the news about Ramesh and women). But we were far from imagining what was about to happen, of which we were all going to be witnesses.
At the very beginning of the satsang, a woman, who was about fifty years old, and who had known him for a long time, spoke to Ramesh in tears, saying, "Why? Why do you do this... with your teaching...?" She was distraught and at a loss, apparently torn between a teaching which she considered to be essential, and a series of facts which she was now discovering.
Then the young western doctor asked Ramesh, "Do you have a mistress?" Ramesh responded, "No, no." At that point Ramesh was lying. He went on to then say, "Each event is just a ‘happening’, a part of the body-mind mechanism's programming, and the guru is not affected..."
Ramesh then pulled out a paper which had been placed next to him, and read a letter of apology which he had prepared before-hand, "If I have hurt you I apologize... But all this is only a happening and it does not concern me..."
I observed the German organizer at the back of the room, who seemed very uneasy. It seemed to me that he had known about it all, and for a long time.
In the end, it appeared to me that Ramesh simply did not give a damn about the hurt he had caused. He said, "You have created the problem. Now solve it... you have been asking me for hugs and whatever happened afterwards is your fault... I have nothing to do with it... It is you who are creating the problem."
The young American woman, who had appeared unhappy and withdrawn on the previous days, and whose emotional condition was caused by her reaction to Ramesh's sexual advances, stood up and addressed herself to him by reading a quote from Shakespeare. Ramesh responded by saying that he had never read anything of Shakespeare.
She then asked him several times: "Do you plan to stop behaving in this criminal way?" She spoke quite forcefully. (Oddly enough, some of the participants said later during the meal that she should not have spoken out.)
This appeared to be a very difficult moment for Ramesh, as this young woman had been very determined in her manner of speech.
Then another woman of German origin, (but living in the US), stood up and expressed her indignation by telling him how much she had trusted him, saying that Ramesh was going to have to face others, as well as those who still trusted him, and those who did not trust him any longer, including some men.
An old time disciple, whose name is Elka, tried to defend Ramesh, but she was not very convincing considering what had just been said and heard.
I was struck by the way people looked at the end of the seminar, by the way that denial seemed to play its part as a protective mechanism against anguish and anxiety, and by the emotional shock which the poor participants seemed to be in, not knowing what they should do or think.
For my part, I left the seminar with a feeling of disgust, as well as a feeling of compassion for all those who undoubtedly would be suffering from such a strange experience. What shocked me the most at the end, was to see that what had just been undeniably heard, was already being "denied" by some of the participants.
I have written all of this from memory, and I regret not having had the presence of mind to write down or record what I heard as it was happening. I know that some of the participants did so, and I would encourage them to share with others their direct recording of the events which took place.
I would also advise everyone to practice viveka (discrimination) in considering the events which occurred, and in considering the worth of Ramesh Balsekar as a spiritual teacher in the light of such events. I am in full agreement with Timothy Conway's two essays [see further below]. They show an evident erudition guided by an authentic understanding of the paths to realization, one of which is Advaita Vedanta.
March 25, 2005
[The next section is by Timothy Conway, compiler of this lengthy webpage:]
All of this from early 2005 constituted interesting revelation, because since the late 1980s and especially since the 1990s the "play of consciousness known as 'Ramesh'" had been garnering increasingly more lavish praise from people, almost all of whom had never met Nisargadatta, as the latter's "successor," and "a great Advaita sage in the lineage of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj."
In a book edited by Alan Jacobs, with a title suffering from a bit of hyperbole, The Wisdom of Balsekar: The Essence of Enlightenment from the World’s Leading Teacher of Advaita (London: Watkins Publ., 2004), the blurb refers to Ramesh Balsekar as the “world’s greatest living sage,” and to Wayne Liquorman (who writes the Foreword) as “his leading disciple.”
In that Foreword, Wayne Liquorman stated: “There is something heroic and inspirational in Ramesh’s unflinching attempt to do the impossible... to describe the indescribable.” (xiii)
We can and should realize that there’s nothing particularly “heroic” or “inspirational” in Ramesh’s doing this writing and teaching “to describe the indescribable.” Real heroism has to do with self-sacrifice, self-surrender and abiding as Absolute Awareness, not sitting around writing and spouting deeply flawed fatalist philosophy while privately soliciting women students for sexual favors and having cronies pressure attendees of seminars for more money.
In his Introduction to the book, Jacobs says that Ramesh’s main way is “surrender with self-enquiry as an addition.” But in his own life, Ramesh was evidently not at all self-surrendered, but rather was somewhat grasping and self-aggrandizing, though, I would hasten to add, NOT NEARLY as voracious or pompous as certain other cult figures.
My friend L, who has widely traveled throughout India over many, many years, meeting countless people at various ashrams and centers, wrote me in July 2006: “Alan Jacobs is an old friend of mine, he ran the Ramana Maharshi Foundation of the UK, in London, and now he is living full time in Tiruvannamalai. He considered Ramesh to be his guru for many years. He was very upset and disillusioned with Ramesh and his behavior and excuses for it, and Alan seemed embarassed that he put all that effort into creating that book! He told me personally that 'Ramesh has lost his way'!”
Meanwhile, Wayne Liquorman, Ramesh's leading disciple, and publisher of most of his books since the late 1980s with his Advaita Press in Redondo Beach, California, both of them financially benefiting from their partnership, has a biographical work on Ramesh: The Happening of a Guru: A Biography of Ramesh S. Balsekar (98 pages; $25) [—And notice here the rather inflated price for this very slim volume!] The blurb for this glorifying biography reads: "A magnificently produced hardbound presentation of Ramesh's life in photos and text. In addition to the fascinating historical look at the man and his family, the reader is treated to a recent piece by Ramesh entitled 'How Do I Live My Life?' in which he describes in simple yet exquisite detail the daily experience of the Sage."
Wayne, along with an Englishman named Mutribo (who also has benefited financially from his sales of videos of Ramesh), both tried to deflect criticism from Ramesh in early 2005 when the reports surfaced of various improprieties around Ramesh.
Wayne Liquorman wrote, under his pen name "Ram Tzu" in his newsletter Advaita Fellowship News, February 2005, a condescending bit of verse and then some further prose as explanation or rationalization for Ramesh:
You want your purveyors of Truth / To look and act special.
You want them different / And separate / And powerful. / You prefer to imagine them / Cloaked in light / Than sitting on the toilet. / You like them passionless, sexless, / Mellow, gentle and kind. / You like the idea of miracles / And will invent them when necessary. / Your strategy is to keep them / Out there / Far away from you / Exotic and mysterious. / You revel in the myth / Of the Enlightened individual / Hoping to someday be so empowered. / What you can't tolerate / Is for them to appear / As ordinary as you.
Ram Tzu know this . . .
You always miss the Truth / Because it is too plain to see.
[Continues Wayne / Ram Tzu:] I was very fortunate to have been given the opportunity in the early days of my spiritual seeking to spend quite a bit of time with my guru Ramesh outside of the formal confines of the satsang. This intimacy brought substance to Ramesh's repeated statement that the sage is truly ordinary. I was able to observe his various human qualities, most of which I liked, a few of which I didn't. Even with those human characteristics I didn't personally like, I remained very much aware of his presence in my life as my guru. Blessedly the actuality of the ordinary man named Ramesh and the guru coexisted peacefully for me.
The tendency among most spiritual aspirants is to idolize and idealize the guru. He is dehumanized, placed in a distant and exalted position and then expectations are heaped upon him. He is held to a variety of standards of Enlightened Behavior that are quite impossible to fulfill if for no other reason than the fact the standards vary depending on the values of the evaluator. The irony is that enlightenment and behavior are not linked. All of the great sages have pointed to the fact that Enlightenment is transcendent. It is not personal. Still, the emphasis of most seekers is on the personal. The perpetual satsang question revolves around, "What will I be like when I (the seeker) gain enlightenment?" The perpetual hope of this "personal enlightenment" vision is that the seeker turned enlightened being will now live a perfect life. "I will never again hurt anyone or be hurt by anyone. I will always act in accordance with my values" (whatever they might be) which is simply another way of saying I will become what I am not now....a Perfect being.
This teaching suggests we are ALL already perfect beings. Even what we call our flaws are perfect in that they are the product of Universal forces. We did not create these aspects of ourselves we don't like and most importantly others did not create those aspects of themselves we don't like. As this understanding deepens there is less and less room for guilt and blame, hatred and self-loathing...this is Peace.
Timothy Conway responds to Wayne Liquorman's message regarding the Ramesh controversy [An email to L and his various lists of correspondents, February 14, 2005]
Namaskaram, dear L
(Thank you for keeping us all informed with the correspondences of various parties regarding my old friend Ramesh, whom I've not seen for many years. Feel free to send this along to anyone on your email list...)
Wayne Liquorman's recent essay on this matter of Ramesh's behavior (and the behavior of gurus in general) is a classic case of misguided rationalization and setting up a "straw man" argument.
The straw man that Wayne sets up is the image of the seeker who wants to idolize and idealize the Guru. Certainly there are many, many seekers who fall into this puerile form of fantasy, expectation, and dependency. But there are also many mature spiritual adepts and practitioners who simply don't want counterfeiters pretending to be fully liberated and abusing their students in various ways. Such abuse can take several forms, but the most common are exploiting people financially and sexually and using students/disciples/visitors' needs (and, sometimes, needy-ness) to puff themselves up in pride and psychic inflation (see C.G. Jung’s warnings).
On financial exploitation: Every authentic sage I've ever met charges no fees for his/her work. Donations might be allowed, but no charging of fees. There is a kind of universal Divine support for anyone who has truly surrendered to the Dharma, clearly promised by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. I can tell you from direct experience that this is so. I've never had to charge a dime for any advaita understanding I've ever shared in satsangs (which I've been holding on and off since 1990), even when there were times of great financial challenges due to my wife's health and disability issues. Everything has worked out okay, by Divine Grace. There were a few times in the earliest years when I allowed unsolicited donations to be made to help pay for a rental space, but nothing since then, and I've never gouged students for money, the way so many pseudo-teachers do.
Even charging anyone $10-$15 for a 2 hour satsang is outlandish. Ramana never did this; Nisargadatta never did this; Ammachi doesn't do this. And the earlier Ramesh did not do this, at least when I visited at his home in Bombay in 1988 (incidentally, his wife Sharada was one fine cook and would hospitably, freely share the delicious fruits of her culinary labors with a visiting friend and myself!).
By the time I saw Ramesh at Janice Chase Weininger's home in Santa Barbara (circa 1989), the last time I cared to spend any time with him, it was obvious that Ramesh's teaching had become quite imbalanced. The stories that began to emerge about him and his cronies charging outlandish sums for workshops in India and in the west indicated to me that Ramesh no longer trusted Divine Grace to provide support for his teaching work.
As for sexual exploitation: anyone working in the helping professions in the civilized world, be this a doctor, schoolteacher, therapeutic counselor, lawyer, etc., has clearcut and very strict ethical guidelines, especially male professionals, about not mixing sexual activity with clients-patients-students. Even for situations wherein there is a mutual attraction, the professional is required in no uncertain terms by the ethics of the profession NOT to engage in any sexual behavior with the client/patient/student until the nature of that relationship has been formally changed and transcended—i.e., there is no longer the student-teacher, patient-healer relationship. Mature professionals know that, if there is to be any kind of sexual relationship with their former student/client/patient, one does well to wait at least a few years so that the relationship has a better chance of being transformed into a more egalitarian one of adults on equal standing.
These caveats help guard against the natural human tendency for someone in a position of perceived power to abuse that power by seducing those who are naturally deferential to a person holding that power. When Ramesh (or Wayne or anyone) presumes to play the role of Guru, he is adopting a "one-up" power position, and that power, if it is to be held and maintained (and not relinquished in an egalitarian way, as the best teachers know how to do) must be honored in the most sacred, careful way.
Soliciting more-or-less vulnerable female students with requests for sexual favors is a highly unethical abuse of power. I'm not even aware of whether Ramesh's wife Sharada is still alive; if she is not, and Ramesh is lonely or needs sexual companionship, he ought to be mature and straight about it and try to cultivate an egalitarian, committed relationship with a female partner. If he is incapable of that and needs sexual experience, he could go visit Bombay's famous prostitutes—actually, he's got the money to pay for an expensive call girl if he wants. Or he could simply get his kicks with videos or the internet. But messing around with the bodies and psyches of his female students indicates a lack of ethics and appropriate psychological boundaries.
When Wayne writes, "The irony is that enlightenment and behavior are not linked" —he is radically mistaken. So many of the sages have made it clear that appropriate behavior is a “given.” Sri Siddharameshvar, Nisargadatta’s Guru, would frequently state: “Realize the Self and behave accordingly.”
Yes, on the absolute level, everyone is nothing but Atman/Brahman, pure Saccidananda Being-Awareness-Bliss, and everything that happens is, on the highest level of understanding, nothing but Lila, Divine play or sport (Lord Krishna to Arjuna: "No one slays, no one is slain.").
But on the relative or conventional level there needs to be ethical behavior and accountability. To say otherwise is to make a travesty of all our "engaged spirituality" traditions endeavoring to enact social, racial, gender, economic, political and environmental justice. DO NOT CONFUSE the absolute truth level of Dharma teaching (Paramarthika Satya) with the relative truth level (Vyavaharika or Samvriti Satya), which is the level of our humanity and decency, the commonweal or public good.
It is has become quite common for persons identified with and invested in their particular guru (Ramesh, Satya Sai, Rajneesh, et al.) to rationalize their guru's indecent, unethical, abusive behavior by pathetically confusing the Absolute level with the conventional level. Many naive folks are misled by this. Anyone wanting more clarity on this can read a long interview I had with The Sun magazine (April 2003; available in succinct form
at our Enlightened Spirituality website), wherein I clearly distinguished between the three levels of nondual reality (all simultaneously true, paradoxical though this might seem): 3) the conventional level of the appropriate and inappropriate, right and wrong, good and evil, justice and injustice; 2) the "Divine Comedy" subtle-level of the soul wherein "everything's perfect," everything's happening for the good of all souls in their "soul-ular" evolution and journey HOME; and 1) the Absolute Truth: no-thing is really happening, it's all a dream in the one, nondual Awareness; only God IS (no world, no souls).
The essential point here is that one can and must honor all three levels, or one's spirituality becomes quite imbalanced.
All authentic traditions of nondual spirituality—the Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir Saiva traditions of India, the Ch'an/Zen/Son traditions of China/Japan/Korea, the Shingon and Vajrayana tantric traditions of Japan and Tibet, the nondual Sufi traditions in regions of Islam, and the western nondual mystic traditions within Christianity and Kabbalah/Hasidim Judaism—are rooted in and express themselves in ethical, moral behavior. Yes, one can find a relative few "holy fools" in various traditions (the avadhutas, majdhubs, yurodivye, et al.) who are quite beyond conventions of "gentlemanly" or "ladylike" behavior. But these people don't play the conventional guru role, either, with formal satsangs, charging money for their teaching, writing and selling books of teachings, etc., the way Ramesh (and others) are trying to do.
Just looking at Hindu Advaita Vedanta, the teachings of Sankara (founder of the formal Advaita tradition) clearly enjoin impeccable behavior for both the aspirant and for the jnani, the realized sage. The classic "fourfold pre-requisites" for any aspirant are viveka (the ability to discern Absolute Awareness from the phenomenal events), vairagya (utter dispassion and equanimity over the phenomenal world), mumuksatva (great yearning and earnestness over Truth), and shatkasampatti, the six great virtues (inner control of the mind, sense-control, fulfillment of one's duties, patient endurance of all opposites, spiritual faith, and concentration on Truth). If this is to apply to the novice, how much more so does it apply to the authentic sage or Guru! Upon realization of Brahman, Absolute Spiritual Reality or Being-Awareness-Bliss, the sage is not suddenly given license to act out old samskaric patterns. No, these patterns have been largely if not completely burnt out by the fire of Realization. Any residual arising samskaric tendencies of likes and dislikes (raga and dvesha) are simply noticed, "seen off" and not acted upon, especially when acting out these tendencies might harm a student, if only by confusing the student with what is appropriate and inappropriate. (And anyone who seriously tries to argue that there is no distinction between appropriate and inappropriate behavior is utterly deluded and probably psychopathic.)
Endeavoring to seduce women or bring in piles of money are clearly signs of someone who is being pulled and pushed around by their samskaras, treating others as objects to be exploited, and lacking empathy. As I have written before, one of my favorite definitions of liberation comes from our dear Annamalai Swami, arguably Ramana Maharshi's best candidate for "successor" (if one were to try to argue the inarguable); Annamalai Swami in 1980 clearly defined enlightenment (when I asked him to do so): "It's like zero-gravity. Nothing is pulling you anymore." Notice that this teaching pertains more to the motivational, behavioral level rather than merely the cognitive/mental level of "understanding." Annamalai's expression of enlightenment comes from someone who is authentically FREE, not a pretender who has cleverly rationalized a lack of freedom as some kind of true "freedom," the way Ramesh, Wayne, et al. like to do.
I can also tell you that the behavior of Nisargadatta Maharaj (Guru to Ramesh, myself and others) toward his visitors and students expressed true impeccability. Yes, he could be tough on them, and yes, he would smoke those beedies (uggghh, the second-hand smoke) or chew tobacco, but I never got the least impression that the venerable old man was exploiting me or anyone else for his own benefit. No, he was all about empowering people, not disempowering them. He was a real GIVER, not a taker. (This was made quite apparent during private time with Nisargadatta and during the beautiful bhajan sessions, where I remember him working with me energetically, despite his cancer-caused infirmity, in a wonderfully kind and empowering way.)
It is terribly important to distinguish "the Understanding" on a mere cognitive level (one of Ramesh's favorite terms to describe the "final state") as distinct from authentic liberation/moksha/nirvana. It's pretty easy for anyone to come to the former, a clear mental-intuitive understanding of nondual teachings, which brings a certain clarity, confidence and mellow state, rather like what Alan Watts once joked would provide most people with a "mystic experience": walk around for a week with two-pound weights in your shoes and then take the weights out and walk around... (Ramesh's teachings on "no doer," "no karma," "no purpose," etc., have the same "weightless" effect for most people long burdened by their concepts of self, responsibility, and so on!) Yet it's quite another thing to be authentically free or liberated from the samskara-forces fueling an ego sense and pulling and pushing it around via the binding likes and dislikes. Just to have "the understanding of freedom" without genuine freedom is a colossal illusion, and easily degenerates into the kind of narcissism, lack of empathy, and tendency to exploit other sentient beings that we have witnessed among so many half-baked teachers. This is why, incidentally, the great Ch'an/Zen masters distinguish between the preliminary, temporary "enlightenments," what the Japanese Zen masters term "satori" or "kensho," and the final, real freedom of total liberation: anuttara-samyak-sambodhi.
Yes, there is only the nondual One Awareness, right HERE, right NOW. Yes, ultimately "nothing matters." Yes, there is no need to fabricate and carry around any baggage of egoic striving, regrets, loathing, or self-loathing. But there needs to be accountability. One must genuinely LIVE the liberated state. Not just talk about "the Understanding."
Jesus is alleged to have said, "By their fruits ye shall know them: a good tree produces good fruits, a rotten tree gives rotten fruit." That pretty much sums it up.
All the best (and authentic, total FREEDOM!) to anyone who reads this...
In Love and Grace
Your Own Self
Timothy, Santa Barbara, CA
Email from L:
Dear Timothy, Thanks for your fiery rejoinder!!! I will pass this on. Incidentally, Sharada, Ramesh's wife, is still alive, and didn't know about this. I don't know if anyone has told her, she has had a heart condition for many years, and had a big operation about 6 years ago, so the news might kill her. Keep up the flame of Truth! Om, --L
Another email from L, February 23, 2005, with a couple of very pertinent quotes:
“A true Guru will never humiliate you, nor will he estrange you from yourself. He will constantly bring you back to the fact of your inherent perfection and encourage you to seek within. He knows you need nothing, not even him, and is never tired of reminding you. But the self-appointed guru is more concerned with himself than with his disciples."--Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That, p. 422.
A quote from Samarth Ramdas, submitted by DM: "Beware...of the false prophets who pretend to be spiritual Gurus, but are as worthless as straw...Posing himself as an Advaitic Vedantin, he dismisses all distinctions of good and bad, right and wrong, holy and unholy and behaves as promiscuously as he wishes...one must take utmost care to see that the Guru he wishes to resort to is one who has himself realized God and who has the capacity to make others also realize Him..." --Sant Samarth Ramdas (a major 17th century advaita sage of Maharashtra whose Dasbodh and other books were a major influence on Maharashtra state's advaita tradition, and figures such as Sri Siddharameshvar, Nisargadatta's guru.)
Email from L, Feb. 26 2005
To: Timothy Conway
Subject: Fwd: letter to Wayne and his response
(Dear Timothy - Namaste Brother! - Here is an exchange between my friend [abbreviated here anonymously as "C"] who helps run the group in Europe... and Wayne Liquorman. She told me I could send this email off to others.... Her group has stopped distributing books by Ramesh Balsekar, and removed the interview they had with him from their website. You have commented on her messages before, and she liked what you wrote. I'd love to hear your comments, if any, on this. --L)
[Note: "C," the interlocutor here with Wayne, originally posted all of this at her website, but has since taken down all references whatsoever to Ramesh, not just favorable but also critical.]
[Letter from "C":]
February 23rd, 2005
I am responding here to your 'message to all' sent by e-mail a few days ago and sharing with you, and others, my feelings about the recent events around Ramesh Balsekar.
[An opening quote from Annamalai Swami:] "Forgetfulness or non-forgetfulness is not a part of your destiny. It is something you choose from moment to moment. That is what Bhagavan (Ramana Maharshi) said. He said that you have the freedom either to identify with the Self and have the understanding that the body is performing its predestined activities, animated and sustained by the power of the Self, or you can identify with the activities of the body and the mind, and in doing so forget the Self. If you choose the latter course, don't blame God or God's will, or predestination. God did not make you forget the Self. You yourself are making that choice every second of your life." - Annamalai Swami (Final Talks)
In your message to all, the discursive poem that says 'you', 'you', 'you', 'you', 'you', 'you' - so many times to the reader, and concludes with 'Ram Tzu knows this' makes it sound like Ram Tzu is above everyone else. Who is this 'you'? Who is 'Ram Tzu'? Are they different? As far as I know, the Truth is usually spoken of by Sages as what we are, not as something to see.
Is it hard to see whether behaviour and enlightenment are linked? For me, the moment someone opens his mouth to answer seekers' questions is the crucial point where the issue of motivation has to be raised. In India, it is often traditionally encouraged of seekers to test Masters by asking questions to find out what they are truly made of and try to discover what motivates them. The problem is that when we hear of some teacher being great, we tend to go by what others say and we forget to check for ourselves. Moreover, it is an easy thing to speak the Truth by using an elaborate intellectual understanding, but another to live It. Thus, by only listening to a Master, we can forget to look and see how the Master actually lives his/her life.
Today's seekers are often well informed because they have read many books and met several teachers and surf the web. Thus most seekers probably feel that a Guru is a being that can be trusted and one who would not take advantage of them in any way.
For me, a true Guru is what we all truly are; being your true Self, the Guru has no self-interest, no motivation. No desire springs from Him towards any name or form. Why? Because He knows them all to be unreal. Why run after an illusion? The Guru knows that a seeker is an illusion, but the seeker doesn't. When a seeker meets a true Guru, never would the true Guru ask for anything from the seeker, even by hinting (money, objects, special treatment, physical comfort, sex, special food, medicine, etc.). The seeker might initiate an offering, a service or a request, out of his/her ignorant ego. But the true Master (who doesn't have an ego and whose vasanas are completely destroyed to the very last one, knows all the tricks of the ego because He has seen them in Himself during His own search) will never respond personally or with an interest, because He knows all is the Self and therefore the idea of gain and loss no longer applies. Why take advantage of yourself?
From what I have been told by friends who were with Ramesh recently, it sounds to me like there is a contradiction between what I know of the Truth and of a true Guru and how Ramesh seems to live. He seems to live in contradiction and duality, behaving shamefully, rather than living in Truth and Unity. Ramesh (and perhaps you also) might see no problem with what he does, but I do.
Don't get me wrong, I am not looking at a Master in terms of behaviour, nor do I idolize, idealize, and dehumanize Masters, etc, and I know that I have not fallen into the tendencies that you mention in your message. Enlightenment being transcendental, for me, means that interest in anything: name and form (mind) is totally gone. As a result, behaviour gets affected. When tempting gooey chocolates are being presented to you, the issue is not whether 'you will eat them or not', and 'the reasons for doing or not doing so', and 'whether it is God's will', or 'the will of the Source', 'personal or impersonal doership', 'good or bad' - but that Knowledge is immediate. If a vasana is there, a self-interested action will take place. If no vasana is there, there is no attraction, no repulsion and no interest; immobility, peace and silence prevail. Interest in the Self (Truth) is not to be confused with self-interest (ego).
For me, telling people: 'you are all already perfect' can be a trap. If people are not also warned about who they truly are, they can think: "yeah, all is OK, why worry? Who cares!?" Then they will go home and something will happen to them and they will be unhappy again. They might then say: "Oh, OK, it's God's will. I have no choice. Such is my body-mind mechanism's destiny". Meanwhile, the nitty-gritty of spiritual search for Self-Knowledge has not been addressed: Who has the problem? Which vasana is causing this? Where does it come from? etc. Discrimination and earnest searching are of crucial importance. If a teacher only encourages seekers to just accept and accept only, but he does not encourage them to discriminate the real from the unreal at the same time, then the teacher can make them his slave; thus falling prey to all kinds of ego-based behaviour on the part of both teacher and student. We have for example, the impact of the way that Ramesh speaks which can lead seekers to abandon both their search and their inquiry into themselves. It’s almost like people get disabled rather than enabled. You may not think that struggling for freedom is not important because it will only happen if God wills it so or if it is the destiny of the seeker, therefore I suggest that you read the [early medieval advaita text] Yoga-Vashistha and see how many times 'self-effort' is being mentioned (The Supreme Yoga. A New Translation of Yoga Vashistha by Swami Venkatesananda - Divine Life Society Publication. I think it is also published in the US by SUNY Press, New York).
From Ramana Maharshi's Supplementary Forty Verses: "What use is the learning of those who do not seek to wipe out the letters of destiny (from their brow) by enquiring: 'Whence is the birth of us who know the letters?' They have sunk to the level of a gramophone. What else are they, O Arunachala ?"
In my eyes, an honest Teacher can figure out what motivation a woman approaching Him has and He will not try to take advantage of her. I heard that women were disturbed about what happened between them and Ramesh, and that Ramesh treated their attitude rather casually with: "I'm not concerned" and "Just a happening", "You created the problem" types of answers. This is a bad sign. I just hope to hear from these women one day, but mostly I hope that they are not struggling all alone somewhere in a corner feeling betrayed, maybe even scared or ashamed and trying to overcome the situation. Just like some of the other people who were totally shocked at the last Kovalam and did not know what to make of what they saw and heard!! I spoke to several of them already.
Also, for me it is clear that the true Guru would never request any money for the Truth, partly because He does not feel the need to speak in the first place. Ranjit Maharaj once quoted Tukaram, who said that masters who take money for the Truth go to hell. Ranjit Maharaj - who was the Guru-Brother of Nisargadatta Maharaj - devoted His every last rupee to the devotion to Their Master (Siddharameshwar Maharaj) keeping only the strict minimum for Himself. I have seen Him wearing ripped clothes, living with lousy furniture in a rotten Bombay building, always travelling by the cheapest ways and very caring about everything and everyone's well-being, never wasting, never requesting anything for Himself, never complaining. When He was here in France, all was up to us (the organisers of the meetings). He told us "I am at your mercy. Do as you please." When we suggested to Maharaj to take a rest day, His response was: "What for?" A true Master is at the service of His students and helps them to remove the veil of ignorance which blinds them and want nothing from them.
If you read Annamalai Swami's book Living by the Words of Bhagavan you will see that the Maharshi kept an eye to make sure that money was never requested by devotees at the Ashram, even when times were dire. Recently, still, when I was at His Ashram I didn't feel that there was any demand for money or even mention of it. It is totally up to the visitor to give or not; he can easily spend some time there, eat great food, enjoy the Peace and not spend a cent. The Ashram is a place of Truth and Peace available to all.
Don't get me wrong. My observations and remarks are not based on whether a Spiritual Teacher should or shouldn't have sex or on whether He/She should or shouldn't have money. Nor are they based on what He/She does, doership, nor on events and happenings. They are based on the disappearance of self-interest (egosense) in favour of True Identity (no more ego). Advaita is always here, so there is really no need to claim anything about It. I feel that a true concept is no concept, a true teaching is no teaching, a true teacher is no teacher, true interest is no interest, true love is no love. Truth is. Let's focus on That.
PS. Please know that I have sent this message to a couple of friends for their feedback and also as a form of dialogue on the Truth between seekers (something the Scriptures highly recommend too).
[Email from Wayne Liquorman written to "C":]
Thank you for your response to my writings in the newsletter. Please note however that I have no more concrete information regarding the rumors around Ramesh than you do. The rumors were simply an excuse to briefly examine the very nature of the many misconceptions that surround the notions of the guru and Guru.
You obviously have very strong opinions about Ramesh and his Teaching and its dangers and you are welcome to them. Blessedly, guru's come in a variety of flavors to suit different tastes. It is unfortunate that you were unable to attend any of my Talks in Paris. Had you been interested, we might have been able to address some of your obvious misinterpretations of what Ramesh is pointing to.
Quotes from Scripture and various dead Indians aside, your assertion that the seeker should test the guru to see what motivates him presumes that the seeker can determine such a thing. All that the seeker can observe is behavior, he cannot possibly see the motivation or absence of motivation behind the behavior. Motivation and behavior are two entirely different things. Unfortunately, if one presumes to be able to discriminate the real from the unreal, the True from the false, the egoic from the selfless, someone else will always disagree. How do you determine who is right? Most people are convinced that their opinion is Truth.
You wrote "don't get me wrong I am not looking at a Master in terms of behavior" and then went on to indicate that you have ideas about what enlightened behavior is (absence of interest in money or sex etc) and then made the giant leap that such behavior is an indication of the absence of ego/vasanas. You pointed to your guru Ranjit and admiringly proclaimed his shabby clothes and lousy furniture as representative of something significant. You can't have it both ways. Behavior is either an indicator or it is not.
I very much liked your concluding paragraph, it was beautiful and concise. Perhaps you might reread it and ask yourself how it relates to what precedes it.
[The following is a fairly widely-read post that was uploaded to various websites devoted to the subject of Nonduality. Sometimes it went untitled, sometimes it was titled "Advaita and Ethics," or else "Four Kinds of Spiritual Teachers." I have given it the following title for this webpage:]
Advaita, Ethics, Authentic and Inauthentic Sages
(Timothy Conway's open letter regarding Wayne Liquorman's email to "C" on the Ramesh controversy)
Sunday Feb. 27, 2005
I will be briefly discussing this matter of Ramesh Balsekar’s behavior and Wayne Liquorman’s assessment of the same, but first a rather lengthy prelude…
Within the nondual dream conjured up by Consciousness, made of nothing but Consciousness, we have the “relative reality,” the conventional world of “rights and wrongs,” “justices and injustices,” “wellness/ease and unwellness/dis-ease(s).”
To heal the various forms of dis-ease and injustice, we have three kinds of genuine spiritual teachers and, alas, also the inauthentic pretender.
The three types of authentic spiritual figures are as follows:
1) The free beings who conduct themselves in the traditional manner of a sage, saint or adept, that is to say, exemplars of genuine disidentification from the bodymind and freedom from attachments and aversions (the samskaras or vasanas, as Hindu and Buddhist sages term them). These are the shining exemplars of peace, bliss, loving-kindness, compassion, empathy, generosity, courage, equanimity, and selfless sacrifice on behalf of apparent sentient beings (recall the wonderful paradox given by the Buddha in the Vajracchedika [Diamond] Sutra: “one must save all sentient beings” / “there are no sentient beings”). These exemplary free beings communicate a traditional wisdom emphasizing the transcendence-immanence of the Absolute, as well as the impermanence, insubstantiality and unreliability of all phenomena, the need for awakening from the constricted egocentric dream, various ways or methods for awakening, the need for great earnestness in “striving” toward this Divine freedom and also the always freely available divine Grace.
Then there are: 2) The wild men/women or holy fools (avadhutas, majdhubs, masts, saloi, yurodivye, idiota, yu jen, mahasiddhas, et al.), within what is sometimes called the “crazy wisdom tradition.” These rather mysterious folks have spontaneously or deliberately gone beyond all societal conventions, sometimes simply because God-realization came for them in such an unusually powerful way that it blew out the circuits of normal psychological and social functioning. These wild ones, who usually display no regard for their own comforts and even many basic bodily needs (food, liquids, sleep, shelter, basic hygiene), are not usually known for any conspicuous "loving-kindness" on the conventional interpersonal level. They have been known to grunt at, scream at, punch, push, piss on, completely ignore and in various ways “abuse” those whom they encounter—yet with an unexpectedly quite positive, beautifully transformational affect on the recipients of such “holy abuse.” In other words, just as with the free beings of category #1, so also there can be a palpable, edifying sense of divine blessing (saktipat, kripa, baraka, wang, descent of the Holy Spirit, etc.) that is experienced by the recipient during or after the bizarre encounter with a “wild fool” of category #2. This blessing force brings with it an amazing sense of freedom, peace, equanimity, bliss, love, and nondual identity with the One and all beings.
There is a third type of genuine spiritual figure: 3) the “good friend” (kalyana mitra in Buddhism) or spiritual teacher-mentor-counselor who may not be 100% established in spiritual freedom, fully awake and always lucid within the dream, yet such a one is nevertheless a very helpful, enlightening figure who empowers those s/he encounters. This person does not try to “role-play Guru” by presuming to be fully awake or take full responsibility for the welfare and direction of disciples. This friend-teacher just serves as much as possible, sharing from the heart the clear wisdom, caring compassion and gratitude for Divine grace that has served him/her thus far on the pathless journey HOME to full, free Awareness. Such a person may actually be quite a gifted teacher, healer or catalyst for fellow sentient beings, truly empowering them with certain wonderful breakthroughs, strengths and gifts. Some persons may even become fully awake through their association with this type of teacher-healer who is not yet 100% free and awake.
In addition to the above two types of authentically free or fully liberated spiritual adepts (the Guru-Sage and the Holy Fool) and the not-quite-fully-realized but very helpful "good spiritual friend-teacher," there is another figure, a very tragic figure, in the Divine dream of manifestation: the inauthentic pretender. This is someone who is, at best, no more spiritually accomplished or free than the teacher-friend mentioned above in category #3, but is pretending to be someone in category #1 or #2. In other words, here there are flashes (even frequent flashes) of brilliance but there still occur occasional or perhaps many lapses of lucidity into egocentric states of attachment-aversion toward dream phenomena. These attachments-aversions, the binding likes and dislikes, what Hindu Vedanta-Yoga terms “raga-dvesha” and Theravada Buddhism calls “lobha-dosa,” are also generally known as one’s samskaras or vasanas. The inauthentic pretender, bless his heart, cannot admit to others and probably not even to himself that he is still samskara-driven and bound, i.e., not totally free, and so the pretender must rationalize (in a classic Freudian defense mechanism against anxiety) that his lack of freedom is somehow “okay,” “Divinely ordained,” “part of the perfect manifestation,” “not really a problem because whatever happens is perfect.”
Rather than earnestly endeavor to realize the insubstantiality of the deluded ego-sense with its attachments-aversions, and actually live from FREEDOM, the pretender tries to convince others and himself that he is, in fact, free, while still dragging around his samskaric chains. Freedom, for these pretenders, is INSIDIOUSLY RE-DEFINED to include states of being bound (e.g., a misinterpretation of the old Mahayana idea: “Nirvana is Samsara”).
In a competitive marketplace of “spirituality,” whether in India, Japan, China, Europe, the USA, etc., we see quite a lot of this last figure, the pretender. Such persons chronically present themselves as higher and freer than they actually are, in order to draw attention and recognition, lure followings of students/disciples, make money, attain fame, and get high (psychically inflated) on the subtle or not-so-subtle adrenaline rush that comes with being granted power, influence and concomitant comforts by a social group that fawns over them and defers to them as a “spiritual authority.”
And now we must look at a very specific phenomenon: what happens when such pretenders, such not-quite-free teachers (or not-very-free-at-all charlatans), are exposed for certain exploitative behavior, usually around the good ol’ issues of “lust and greed”—inappropriate sexual or financial behavior.
At this point of being exposed, the spiritual pretender and those among his followers who identify/align with the pretender rather than with the Dharma (authentic spirituality) usually fall into deeper trouble. The pretender and his lackeys (peace and divine blessings be upon them!), rather than act with authentic courage, sincerity and remorse—which would include humbly admitting their own lack of freedom and also include issuing heartfelt APOLOGIES and making some kind of meaningful AMENDS toward the parties exploited—instead thicken their samskaric web of complications. Problematic defense mechanisms against anxiety are hastily deployed, not just passionate identification with “our righteous cause” (a major samskaric attachment!) but also rationalization that nothing terribly wrong has happened, denial of either the claims of injury or severity of the situation (this denial often involves blatant forms of lying and aggressive cover-ups), and, of course, projection in the form of blaming the victims and also any sympathizers who try to bring further light to the dark situation and remedy the injustice by enacting forms of justice and healing (including clarifying what is true Dharma and what is not).
One of the classic rationalizations, remember, that the pretender and the cronies chronically deploy, especially when the flaws of the pretender are being exposed, is the idea that “nothing is really wrong,” that his lack of freedom, as reflected in the exploitative behavior, is somehow “perfect,” “Divinely willed,” “part of the Divine dream,” therefore “not a problem.” Unfortunately, this rationalization is easily available to pretenders who labor in the field of mystical nondual spirituality, because nondual traditions usually articulate quite clearly this Absolute level of truth, the paramarthika satya, over the conventional or relative level of phenomenal truth, the samvriti or vyavaharika satya.
It needs to be stated in no uncertain terms that these pretenders are actually anarchists, for they attempt to destroy any rational or intuitive basis for morality and ethics. In this pseudo-nondual realm, “anything goes”—at least for themselves and their cronies. There are no ethical standards by which to determine appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.
The discerning reader will notice that the type of “wild holy fool” of the crazy wisdom tradition, briefly discussed above as an authentic spiritual figure in category #2, also doesn’t abide by the conventional-looking ethics of human societies. Clothed in rags, sometimes virtually or completely naked, usually ungroomed or even unwashed, often abnormally silent or using language in bizarre forms, frequently maintaining strange postures or movements, such wild free ones, as mentioned, have been known to roundly “abuse” their visitors and would-be “disciples” (such holy fools often do not let anyone stay around them for long in the conventional apprentice relationship found in the traditional lineages of gurus-disciples, masters-novices, or teachers-students). Again, one hears tales of folks being hit, struck, yelled at, utterly ignored, and in other ways treated rather shockingly by these crazy wisdom characters.
But there are huge DIFFERENCES between the pretenders and the authentic holy fools.
For one thing, disciples of the holy fools feel blessed, not exploited, after their contact with the holy fool, the opposite of what happens when trusting disciples are exploited by the pretenders. The disciples of the pretenders feel, not empowered, but exploited for the gain of the pretender. The pretender, in short, functions as a taker, not a giver.
Secondly, the authentic holy fools are quite unattached to whatever happens in the dream of life, especially concerning their own bodily welfare, whereas the pretenders are usually quite interested in making sure they are properly fed, clothed, sheltered, honored and, yes, remunerated. Rather than rely on spontaneous Divine Grace for whatever happens, these pretenders and their cronies make definite plans, arrange things to insure the most pleasing and lucrative outcomes, and so on. They are clearly operating from the mental level, not the transmental/transpersonal Identity, in their strategic planning and calculating of revenues and expenditures, marketing strategies, schedules, meeting site set-up and configurations, writing and publishing ventures, etc. Obviously, some of the pretenders aren’t so much involved in this side of things—they have their willing cronies to manage everything or nearly everything for them, and so the pretender can easily “flow with situations” and trust that their acolytes (not God) will take care of everything while the pretenders can appear to be serene and “above it all.”
Thus, for such pretenders and their “true believer” slavish followers to make the claim that they are part of the crazy wisdom tradition is utterly bogus. They are not utterly “abandoned unto Divine Providence,” they are not thoroughly surrendered. No, they are to some extent or another quite attached to outcomes. In short, they still labor under the sense of “doership,” i.e., being egocentric agents of action.
Such persons, I would also submit, are trying to have it both ways: they want to be seen and valued as lineage-holders of a tradition—this obviously adds to their status and influence as “an authority.” And yet they have the audacity to ignore and/or distort their tradition’s teachings about morality and ethics, and the need for staying as free as possible from samskaric attachments and aversions. And when anyone tries to raise the issue of traditional moral requirements for disciples and gurus, they immediately will say that “they are not bound by tradition,” that “this is a living tradition that must shock people out of their hypnotic trance state,” and other such malarkey.
This might seem persuasive to those who chronically defer to them, but anyone with any discernment can see that these pretenders are trying to have the best of two opposing worlds: traditional authority and anarchistic “anything goes” license to act out their samskaras. To put it in still more words, they exploit, for their own recognition and aggrandizement, the concept and social institution of the Guru and the lineage of Gurus, but they do not want any accountability within the criteria set by that tradition’s previous Gurus for who is and who is not an authentic spiritual master.
Hence, one finds here a major violation of “Truth in advertising”: the pretenders are passing themselves off as “Gurus” in a “lineage” within a “tradition” of “advaita”—and then, whenever it suits them, these anarchists depart from what that tradition values as authenticity and they proceed to engage in rogue behavior.
These pretenders (may the God-Self spare them from their karmuppance) are claiming special immunity in putting themselves above society’s rules on basic decency, and also putting themselves beyond the conventions of their own sacred traditions from which they try to draw their high status.
Now the case at hand: Wayne Liquorman is defending the sexually and financially exploitative behavior of his teacher, Ramesh Balsekar. I’ve already written a bunch of words about this a few weeks ago, so I’ll restrict myself here to just a few points.
In one of his letters of response, Wayne glibly uses the pejorative term, “dead Indians” to dismiss the case made by sincere teachers who endeavor to illustrate the impeccable moral criteria of the Hindu Advaita Vedanta tradition by quoting passages from highly respected texts and teachers in the tradition. Wayne implies: they’re all just “dead Indians,” so why bother referencing them when you have someone of Ramesh’s incomparable freedom and loftiness upon which to rely for your guru-connection?
But one can ask Wayne or anyone in agreement with his position, just where would he be today without those dead Indians? Specifically, his fame comes from being Ramesh’s “spiritual son,” and Ramesh’s fame, in turn, comes from exploiting the name and memory of dead Indians—starting with his physically deceased Guru, Nisargadatta Maharaj, and the lineage of “dead guys” before Nisargadatta in the Navnatha Sampradaya (i.e., Siddharameshvar Maharaj, Bhausaheb Maharaj, et al.). As I have written before, it is most likely (one can’t ever say for sure) that Nisargadatta would strongly chastise Ramesh for sullying the memory of the Navnatha lineage of teachers with his financial and sexual shenanigans and trying to dismiss it all with some rationalization that confuses the absolute and conventional levels of truth. This is NOT authentic advaita. Nisargadatta was always acutely interested in whether people who claimed to be jnanis [sages] were actually, entirely free of “desires and fears.” That’s a matter of public record and was directly heard by those of us who spent any time with the Maharaj. Wayne never met Nisargadatta, and, to my recollection, never met any teacher of advaita before he met Ramesh in the late 1980s (I am open to being corrected on this latter point). Even if Nisargadatta authorized Ramesh to do any teaching, that does not mean the authorization stands for a lifetime and cannot be revoked due to bad behavior and distortion of Maharaj’s teaching, which behavior and distortion by Ramesh have also now been more-or-less documented.
Further on this topic of “dead Indians,” for one of Ramesh’s most important early projects, he dared to write a commentary/interpretation (and Wayne has published it—both of them benefiting financially from the project) on the famed 13th century poet-saint-sage Jnaneshvar, and his Amritanubhava. And on it goes….
So, again I ask, where would Ramesh and Wayne be today if not for these illustrious dead Indians?
Well, enough of such words, save to say that I wish Wayne and Ramesh full enlightenment and liberation at their earliest possible convenience, and that they be utterly forgiven (“Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”) for their lack of clarity and consistency, which is no ultimate fault of their own—Divine Sakti is, as we say on the absolute level, doing everything, responsible for all karmas.
I and many others interested in authentic advaita would have no problem if Ramesh and Wayne came along and said they were representing the “anything goes” “bad-boy” school of pseudo-Dharma, and not claiming (in Ramesh’s case) to be the successor of Nisargadatta Maharaj and thus, by implication, a lineage-holder in the Navnath Sampradaya. But then, if Ramesh and Wayne marketed themselves in this way, I doubt they’d have much of a following, or at least any following worth having.
So let me lay down a friendly challenge: either Ramesh and Wayne 1) formally announce that they have nothing to do with the lineage of Nisargadatta and authentic nondual Vedanta (including Yajnavalkya, Sankara, Jnaneshvar, et al.) and are on their own as representatives of a new “anything goes” school of “Understanding”; or 2) they make proper apologies and amends to those they’ve exploited and then try to straighten out their own behavior.
I hope that none of the above words offend, but are taken in the spirit of Love and Truth in which they are offered. Ramesh, I treasured my time with you, and Wayne, I enjoyed seeing you those few times inside and outside of satsang with Ramesh in the late 1980s. I wish you both all the very best!
May all be awake, free and, yes, also deeply, compassionately, and lucidly “involved” in the Divine Dream.
Your own Self,
Santa Barbara, CA USA
Interlude: An Assessment of Wayne Liquorman
It is worth hearing an eyewitness report on a satsang with Wayne Liquorman, Ramesh's first "spiritual son," by Peter, a longtime student of Advaita and Ch'an Buddhism, posted at his (no longer accessible) website critical of neo-advaitins, "Peter's Pages" (http://peter.ca/spirit/spiritual-teachers.html) (this essay was more recently posted at www.peter.ca/o-Section--22.html, but that website, too, is no longer operational):
Went to a satsang with Wayne Liquorman. Wayne said that he had an almost twenty year long history of being an alcoholic and of being a drug user. He said that as a successful business person he used up much of his money on these vices. Then apparently he was blessed in that suddenly one night, the need for these crutches left him. He no longer drank to excess, but wondered why - what had happened to change everything so suddenly? He went to India and sat with Ramesh Balsekar in an effort to find out. He said that Ramesh had declared Wayne to be his spiritual son.
At the satsang others who had been with Ramesh in India questioned some of the things Wayne said about Ramesh, particularly one woman who had been singularly unimpressed by her visit with Ramesh or his honesty and conduct. But Wayne shouted them down (literally - Wayne is a big, loud guy). At one point when someone was being a tad insistent that he had something to say, Wayne literally screamed at him to shut up, saying that if he wanted to speak he could leave and set up his own satsang somewhere. Several people were visibly upset by Wayne’s action.
Of the perhaps thirty attendees at the satsang, all but five left at the break. The remaining five (myself, my wife, Wayne’s wife, Wayne’s host, and someone else) then had a nice chat with Wayne, laughing and telling jokes and discussing non-dualism. I liked very much that he could laugh and be ordinary; but did not particularly like his insistence that he had the answers and others did not. Very silly. None the less, I had a good time there.
In Wayne I again felt that as with so many of those neo-Advaita folk who set themselves up as teachers… that they have an epiphany, a profound earthshaking experience which changes them forever, and suddenly they feel they are ‘there.’ Yet it seems to me that any epiphany no matter how profound, is just another experience. The permanent absence of the presence of the one to whom the epiphany appears to occur is, I would suggest, far more interesting.
Wayne, I felt, too, was something of a bully - perhaps from his background in business and such. He seemed to rejoice in harsh treatment of what he perceived to be foolish questions from people, rationalizing of course that he was just exposing their habits. But to me he was exposing his own needs instead. He seemed, too, to like the long eye-contact unblinking gaze that Gangaji and others of her ilk indulge in. Sigh. Such long staring seems to me to be rather, well, fake. While I enjoyed chatting with Wayne it did seem to me that that his inner heart was afraid; the deep quiet and simple ease of being seemed to me to be absent.
Wayne Liquorman: Not recommended
[This is a letter from early Feb., 2005 by a longtime student of Advaita Vedanta in the traditions of Shankara and Siddharameshwar Maharaj (the latter being the guru of Nisargadatta Maharaj and Ranjit Maharaj), who comments on the recent public revelation of repeated abuses of power by Ramesh Balsekar. He is mainly concerned about the dangerously misleading teaching of Ramesh, Wayne, et al.]
Whether or not a teacher has a sexual relationship with a student, is to me, not really the point. The point is, first of all, is the teacher behaving in other ways, which might be considered unethical? And secondly, and actually more importantly, is the teacher a good teacher and are his/her teachings true?
With regards to Ramesh, I would say that he is neither ethical (though certainly not so bad as some), nor are his teachings genuine. What he is saying is wrong. It is incorrect, and it has caused a lot of damage.
Of course in absolute reality there is no doer. But in relative reality there is. If a person is still identified as a body/mind/sense organs individual, which most people are, then whatever actions they do have consequences, i.e. karmic repercussions.
Another thing that Ramesh is saying which is wrong, is that everything is predestined. According to traditional teachings of advaita vedanta this is also not true. There are certain circumstances within an individual's life which are givens, such as parentage, place of birth, things like that, (also a result of past karmas or actions on the part of the individual in previous births) and much of the individual's life flows along in a certain prescribed way. But within that way, or set of circumstances, there is free will, individual responsibility, and consequences of actions.
What Ramesh and, especially, Wayne Liquorman and others teaching who have been authorized by Ramesh, are saying causes people to ignorantly behave in ways which causes pain to themselves and to others. In my opinion, Ramesh's teachings are an incorrect interpretation of the nature of ultimate reality as applied to "relative" reality. Until and unless one knows the truth of one's own nature, and truly understands the teachings of nonduality, for a person to say, "Well, hey, it doesn't matter what one does. There is no doer, and it is all predestined anyway," can cause great harm, which is the net result of Ramesh's teachings as far as I can see. I have personally seen a lot of harm and confusion come from this.
I am glad that all of this came out. I do hope that people will re-examine what Ramesh is saying in light of better, more grounded, traditional teachings of advaita, and examine his morality and authenticity as a teacher. I attended a seminar with Ramesh in Germany in 1999, and I definitely thought that he was very interested in acquiring money, and that his teachings were useless.
All of this has made me think about more about the subjects of relative and ultimate truth, and what traditional advaita-vedanta teachings have to say about that, which is a lot. Traditional teachings are very clear on these subjects, and I wish more people, who are genuinely interested in the subject of nonduality, had access to those teachings, as I think it would help to straighten out a lot of damage which has been done by the teachings unskillful neo-advaita teachers to the minds of unprepared students.
This is a letter written by a student of classical advaita vedanta, as taught by Shankara, in response to Wayne Liquorman's article in the Feb. 2005 Advaita Fellowship News.
I had a couple of thoughts about Wayne's letter after reading it over. I haven't analyzed it completely, but there were some glaring mistakes. I feel that Ramesh's and Wayne's teachings are incorrect, and I have always felt that way. When I heard their teachings, I thought that the, "no-doer, it is all predestined, and there is no free-will" message was far too convenient to be true.
I directly asked Ramesh, Wayne, and some other teachers authorized by Ramesh, about this when I attended a seminar with them in Germany. They were all sitting up on the stage taking questions. "How do you know that it is all pre-destined, and there is no free-will," I asked. "It's an intuitive knowing," was the reply. And they all agreed. That did not convince me at all.
Here is the take on all of this from the point of view of traditional advaita vedanta teachings as far as I understand them. For Brahman, for the Self, which is the Self of all beings and substrate to all that exists, there is no change whatsoever. Nothing can touch this Self. It is free from time, free from space, free from karma. For the Self there is no doership, as actions take place in duality, i.e. time and space. Within time and space, within duality, there is a certain amount of free will for the individual jiva. There is doership, and there are karmic results of actions, both positive and negative.
The problem I see with most neo-advaitic teachings is that they mix orders of reality, without truly first understanding the ways in which the absolute and the relative orders are different. In the end, the relative is nondual, but that must be understood properly. How is all of this, which appears dual, actually nondual? It is nondual because, when you take all of it apart, you cannot really find anything here. Every component of time and space can be broken into smaller and smaller parts. The smallest particle of time and space cannot be found. In the end, all of time and space are ultimately nondual, as am I, as are you, as is everything. And there cannot be more than one nondual, because that would make for two, for duality.
That being said, within duality, there is an empirical order, there are consequences for actions, there is a certain amount of free will, which creates karma, which carries the individual on and on to future births, until the truth of myself as the unchanging substrate reality of all that is, is apprehended. That apprehension is called liberation, but even then the jivan mukta's body exists within duality and is subject to its laws, until such time as the body drops.
What Ramesh and Wayne are saying IMO is not correct, and has led to a lot of wrong thinking and adharmic actions, justified by the incorrect understanding of the concept of no doership.
Now having studied traditional advaita vedanta, I do understand what is what about these matters (at least much better than I did before), and as far as I can tell, Ramesh and Wayne are mixing orders of reality, (the relative and the absolute) in a way that is very confusing for many people, and which encourages people to behave in ways that are unethical, and which are harmful to themselves and others.
So, if all of this 'scandal' leads others to question Ramesh and Wayne's teachings that would be a good thing. But it may not. Who wants to take responsibility for their actions, when it was so convenient not to?
Here are two of the most glaring faults in Wayne's letter that I see. There are probably many others as well. It is very sad that people listen to this man and take what he says as true. He is actually quite mixed up.
"The irony is that enlightenment and behavior are not linked. All of the great sages have pointed to the fact that Enlightenment is transcendent. It is not personal."
So anything goes? That is an incorrect premise, backed by incorrect logic.
"This teaching suggests we are ALL already perfect beings. Even what we call our flaws are perfect in that they are the product of Universal forces."
Advaita Shuffle anyone?
And the results of these flaws will also be products of Universal forces. Perhaps he hadn't considered that. "What me? No doer here." Oh well.
An insightful blog by Steven Sashen gives his assessment of a Ramesh satsang from 2006 in Mumbai, its completely deterministic teachings making ludicrous the attitude of those who go to hear Ramesh for "understanding" or "enlightenment." (See http://sashen.com/blog/13/back-away-from-the-enlightened-guy-nothing-to-see-here/)
Email from L, 1-31-05
Our friend L posted to his relevant email contacts and to several online "nonduality discussion forums" this message from Mutribo, Ramesh's defender, disciple, and video-producer. The Mutribo message was roundly critiqued by a number of more mature advaitins, and their responses are worth reading for the various insights generated.
The following is from Mutribo, an Englishman living in India, who is very much on the inside with Ramesh, he made videos of him and whatnot. [Note from Timothy: And so Mutribo has a financial interest in protecting Ramesh and rationalizing his behavior as OK.] Previously Mutribo was with Osho [Rajneesh, well-known for his amoral approach to advaita, and his own immoral behavior—Timothy].
I was not at the [Kovalam] Seminar but have heard fairly detailed feedback. Apparently a few women started talking to a very sweet Mexican guy called Carlos at the Seminar and sharing how Ramesh had come on to them sexually in the past and their discomfort with it. Carlos then respectfully confronted Ramesh about it and on the last day of the Seminar Ramesh made a statement. He said that he regretted any hurt that his actions may have caused and said that truly there was no one to blame. He also said that it would never happen again.
My first reaction was "how great!" A great many of the people who hang around Ramesh have clearly not gone into their own insides and darkness in the same way that many sannyasins did around Osho [e.g., at the controversial, intensive sex and violence psychotherapy groups that Osho Rajneesh sponsored in the 1970s]. It is very common for women to want to project some kind of untaintable "purity" on the Guru and then have to suffer a painful disillusion and "wake-up" when they are faced with an imperfect body/mind... with the Understanding. For me it was a wake-up call for those who were living under such a misunderstanding and who had clearly not listened to Ramesh and not fully understood what he talks about. That said, I have known about this side of Ramesh for a while and have spoken to women who have had that experience with Ramesh. In every case that I know of the advances were very respectful and stopped as soon as the woman expressed her own discomfort. I have also spoken to one woman where the shock was very painful and I can totally empathise with those feelings as well.
If you listen to the Teaching, you [know] that Ramesh's statement was almost wholly consistent with what he has been saying for many, many years and he has blatantly alluded in the past to sexual desire naturally arising in the body/mind of a Sage. The only thing that I can find fault with is him saying that it will not happen again. No one can say what will happen again nor how a particular body/mind will respond in a particular set of future circumstances. I also heard that two pieces from recent writings have him talking about how he was blessed in not being plagued by desire. The latter is clearly not true.
To sum up...... I think it's great all round! It's another wake-up call for those who still prefer to project rather than see that any Guru is still an ordinary human being. Ramesh too must face the consequences and fall-out from his actions as we all have to do in daily life. And lastly it takes another needed broom to the dark closet of sexuality that always hovers around spirituality and those cobwebs get shown the light of day. It once again exposes the repressive sexual conditioning of the Hindu culture and again shows that sex needs to be addressed clearly and consciously. And all of this in no way negates the very real feelings of shock and disappointment that some women have had to feel. I can happily see most angles in this story and I find all of them refreshing and good. I have no idea what the repercussions may be on Ramesh and his Teaching but for me I never met him with expectations that would have caused me any hurt. It is simply just as it is and it's fine.
Ramesh is still, by far and away, the cleanest and most honest and available Teacher that I have ever had the good luck to meet and I will always feel grateful to that. You may know the story of Muktananda being discovered with a young boy by one of his chief disciples. Ramesh tells it often. On being confronted by the disciple's outrage, Muktananda is reported to have responded, "You created the problem, now you solve it!" If I had been Ramesh, I would have opened my statement with this often-told story, expressed the regret for any hurt caused and insisted that no one is to blame, as indeed Ramesh did, but I would not have said that it will never happen again. I would also have made sure that any writing did not contain things that events have proved to be dishonest. Then the Teaching would have inevitably shone even brighter. I find I can play the devil's advocate to whatever opinion I see in front of me and the story is currently very much doing the rounds here in Goa. I have also delighted in taking a very sharp sword to the neck of those who delight in seeing the mighty humbled by clearly pointing out what I have described above. It's a win-win-win situation from my perspective.
Comments on Mutribo’s piece at Lightmind Ken Wilber forum at
L writes, on 2-2-05:
The guy seems to be quite juvenile and oppositional - "I find I can play the devil's advocate to whatever opinion I see in front of me" - well mate, so can any teenager! Meaningless. This reminds me of the spin about Maezumi Roshi in an issue of Shambhala Sun about a year ago - his whole deal with alcohol and [sexually] banging lots of students, and the resulting emotional wreckage, was described as "a great thing for the community" or some such. "It forced people to deal with their projections!" Ugh.
A disciple of Ranjit Maharaj & Papaji comments on the letter from Mutribo, circa Feb. 1, 2005:
Thanks for the forwarded letter from Mutribo. He was the one who did the recently filmed series '"LET LIFE FLOW' with Ramesh in 2003. I honestly feel that when you set yourself up as an Advaita Teacher, it means that you live Advaita. Your permanent experience is that All is One. When you manipulate, lie, cheat, abuse and profit from another, it means you are well established in duality. When you know that there is no 'other', who are you then going to manipulate and take advantage of? Ranjit Maharaj explained this very well. 'How can nothing affect you?' For me, it is clear that Ramesh is not living Advaita. He is a preacher deeply-rooted in duality and who is trying to profit from the Advaita wave, but at the same time he claims to be beyond all this. He is exploiting Advaita and is mocking his master, Nisargadatta and also Ramana. I honestly cannot accept this behaviour! That is why I cannot accept when Mutribo says, 'Ramesh is still, by far and away, the cleanest and most honest and available Teacher that I have ever had the good luck to meet and I will always feel grateful to that.' Is he a fool or what? It seems that he has only met crooks, our poor Mutribo. The quest for the Truth is not a joking, casual matter. (It seems that Mutribo was probably bothered by all this and is now playing the strong cowboy who pretends nothing can disturb his peace of mind. Keep smiling and pretending you are strong and hopefully the problem will go away) I can't believe that he has the nerve to say 'To sum up...... I think it's great all round!' He doesn't realise what all of this really means. But what can you expect to hear from a manipulated disciple who has studied Ramesh's dualist, contradictory teaching! He says at the end 'It's a win-win-win situation from my perspective', but in fact for many people who trusted in Ramesh, for them it’s a lose-lose-lose situation. That is for sure! Many are deeply shocked and are not speaking because of this.
Ranjit and Papaji, two great masters that I had the fortune to meet: they never once thought about taking advantage of anything or anyone. And I'm sure that Ramana and Nisargadatta were the same. These four were definitely living from the Absolute and were absorbed in the Truth of the Self. When you compare their beingness with Ramesh's beingness, there is no comparison.
Timothy Conway responds to Mutribo's Apologia (sent in to L and then by L to the Lightmind forum)
(Timothy Conway is a direct disciple of Nisargadatta Maharaj, and he wrote the book Women of Power and Grace. Here are his comments about Mutribo's explanation of Ramesh Balsekar's behavior.)
Mutribo's rationalizations are "nifty," aren't they? Actually quite bizarre and utterly ridiculous. A few points:
Ramesh saying he "regrets" what happened doesn't cut it; this is neither an authentic apology nor a proper "making amends" to those whom he targeted with his advances.
When Mutribo writes: "[...] he has blatantly alluded in the past to sexual desire naturally arising in the body/mind of a Sage..."
I say, yes, but a true sage does not ACT on it in a way that exploits others. In other words, a sage is free from being pushed around by samskaras. After all, what is a true sage but someone who is free from the bound condition of being pushed and pulled by samskaras? Annamalai Swami told me in 1980, when I asked him what enlightenment was like, "It's like zero gravity... Nothing is pulling you anymore." Nisargadatta, a true "Maharaj," would always ask his visitors who claimed any kind of enlightenment, "What do you do with arising desires and fears?" He would not have seen indulging them as any kind of “enlightenment,” that's for certain. If Nisargadatta was still alive, I bet he'd be hammering Ramesh and telling him not to presume to teach until he was fully cooked [just like he often did with Wolter Keers and certain other visitors].
When Mutribo further writes: "To sum up...... I think it's great all round! It's another wake-up call for those who still prefer to project rather than see that any Guru is still an ordinary human being. ... I can happily see most angles in this story and I find all of them refreshing and good. I have no idea what the repercussions may be on Ramesh and his Teaching but for me I never met him with expectations that would have caused me any hurt. It is simply just as it is and it's fine."
I can only respond to this pseudo-Advaita drivel: what would this guy have said had he come to the Nazi death camps in 1945? "I think it's great all round!"?? Advaita that does not take a stand for [compassion and] justice is no advaita at all, but merely clever mind games. WAKE UP!
Julian responded to Mutribo's Apologia on 2-2-05
Thanks so much, guys, for pointing this out. Wow!
The rationalizations [by Mutribo] are thick and tangled.
--The purpose of the construct is to help us see through the construct?
--The point of having a guru is to trust him completely and then be disappointed because after all your were projecting?
--It is great that a system not set up for processing the depth of the shadow evokes it and then inadequately fails to deal with it?
Of course the problem here is
a) with the set up, the construct, the illusion that the "enlightened " guy doesn't have psychological material to process.
b) that the zetgeist itself denies the psyche! and
c) that naive, wounded people prone to magical thinking would get drawn into these kinds of games, people who can least handle the shock and disappointment at finding that the rules have suddenly been changed on them......
--Ah the lila! [Mutribo’s view]
--Ah the opportunity to see our projections crumble and grow up by being traumatized. [Mutribo’s view]
--Ah, the crazy wisdom of the perfect one who shines from within the limited bodymind named ramesh. named trungpa. named osho. named da. named andy. named muktananda. named sai baba. named gurumayi. who gives us all the teaching we are ready for. [Mutribo’s implicit view]
Hurl and heave.
Wake up and smell the pathology! (and the vomitus.)
Submitted by Lightmind forum member “T,” 2-2-05:
"Ramesh"’s apologia is filled with rank and disingenuous absurdities. Who has regrets, the body-mind or the Self? This, however, points to the crux of the problem. Since the body-mind is an untrustworthy area in this implicit context, the one who regrets and the one who had sex are equally irresponsible/responsible. The fact of the matter is that Ramesh’s excuse that it was only the body-mind and not himself or himSelf categorically contradicts his other statement of regret. However, we must include his statement that it was only the body-mind as an example too of untrustworthy speech along with his other statements. Thus, we must cancel out not only everything he says but everything he does to honor his version of the dharma. After all, as regards thought, speech and action, it’s only the body-mind.
At the body-mind plane, the poor quality of his relationships is reflected in the manifest situation. If "Ramesh" were a true master, he might be able to bring the disaffected together under the roof of understanding and love or at least make a strong gesture in that regard. This would require relating at the body-mind level from the POV of the Self. Let’s see "Ramesh" do that.
We'll close this long webpage with the following neo-advaita farce:
At a separate Nisargadatta Maharaj forum in early 2005, Timothy’s response and a second person’s response to the Mutribo letter were both posted by a member of that forum. A typical neo-advaitin named Toombaru (Toombaru2004) then responded to a few of our sentences with the “fundamentalist” neo-advaitin clever deconstructivism, nihilism, absurdism, amoralism and refusal to distinguish the Absolute-truth (paramarthika-satya) from the conventional-truth levels (vyavaharika-satya) that is so much in vogue. So yet another forum member, Dan (Dan330033) wisely responded to Toombaru in more mature fashion.
Here’s the URL for all this:
[Timothy had written, in part, in his response to the Mutribo letter:] ... A true sage does not ACT on it [sexual desire] in a way that exploits others.
[Toombaru:] Bullshit. For the sage...there are no others.
[Timothy:] In other words, a sage is free from being pushed around by samskaras. After all, what is a true sage but someone who is free from the bound condition of being pushed and pulled by samskaras? Annamalai Swami told me in 1980, when I asked him what enlightenment was like, "It's like zero gravity... Nothing is pulling you anymore."
[Toombaru:] Only because there is no one there to pull.
[Timothy:] Nisargadatta, a true "Maharaj," would always ask his visitors who claimed any kind of enlightenment, "What do you do with arising desires and fears?" He would not have seen indulging them as any kind of enlightenment, that's for certain.
[Toombaru, avoiding the point altogether:] I seriously doubt if a lot of women wanted to have sex with Nisargadatta......He was a stikey little cigarette smoking fellow.
[Timothy:] When Mutribo further writes: "To sum up...... I think it's great all round! It's another wake-up call for those who still prefer to project rather than see that any Guru is still an ordinary human being. ... I can happily see most angles in this story and I find all of them refreshing and good. I have no idea what the repercussions may be on Ramesh and his Teaching but for me I never met him with expectations that would have caused me any hurt. It is simply just as it is and it's fine."
--I can only respond to this pseudo-Advaita drivel: what would this guy have said had he come to the Nazi death camps in 1945? "I think it's great all round!"?? Advaita that does not take a stand for justice is no advaita at all, but merely clever mind games. WAKE UP!
[Toombaru:] Advaita that takes a stand for or against anything ...is not advaita.
[Toombaru then responded to a second person who had commented on the Mutribo post:]
[2nd Poster:] Thanks for the forwarded letter from Mutribo. [...] I honestly feel that when you set yourself up as an Advaita Teacher, it means that you live Advaita. Your permanent experience is that All is One. When you manipulate, lie, cheat, abuse and profit from another, it means you are well established in duality. When you know that there is no 'other', who are you then going to manipulate and take advantage of? Ranjit Maharaj explained this very well. 'How can nothing affect you?' For me, it is clear that Ramesh is not living Advaita.
[Toombaru:] Everyone is living advaita.
[2nd Poster:] He [Ramesh] is a preacher deeply-rooted in duality and who is trying to profit from the Advaita wave. [...] I cannot accept when Mutribo says, 'Ramesh is still, by far and away, the cleanest and most honest and available Teacher that I have ever had the good luck to meet and I will always feel grateful to that.' Is he a fool or what? [...] I can't believe that he [Mutribo] has the nerve to say 'To sum up...... I think it's great all round!' He doesn't realise what all of this really means.
[Toombaru:] No one understands what anything means.
[2nd Poster:] What can you expect to hear from a manipulated disciple who has studied Ramesh's dualist, contradictory teaching! He says at the end 'It's a win-win-win situation from my perspective', but in fact for many people who trusted in Ramesh, for them its a lose-lose-lose situation. That is for sure!
[Toombaru:] Just the dream of losing.
[2nd Poster:] Many are deeply shocked and are not speaking because of this. Ranjit and Papaji, two great masters that I had the fortune to meet: they never once thought about taking advantage of anything or anyone.
[Toombaru:] You don't know that.
[2nd Poster:] And I'm sure that Ramana and Nisargadatta were the same. These four were definitely living from the Absolute and were absorbed in the Truth of the Self. When you compare their beingness with Ramesh's beingness, there is no comparison.
[Toombaru:] You want your gods to be pure....your sages to be pristine........... WAKE UP! This is Life...blood and guts LIFE... Everything is only what it is.
Dan (Dan330033) then wrote a wise response to Toombaru:
You are addressing “others” when you speak like this, Toom.
By speaking on a list, you are relating. In the world of relationships, there is a difference between manipulation and sincerity, integrity and deceit, love and selfish desire.
These are not unimportant distinctions, and skimming over them because one is supposedly "nondual" just makes everything fuzzy. Fuzziness isn't more nondual than clarity, including clarity about relating.
Life doesn't preclude purity. Water that is pure tastes better than water that has sludge in it.
Life being all-inclusive, includes purity as perceived, impurity as perceived, blood and guts as perceived, love as perceived.
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For anyone wanting to read an essay with more about the distinction between real Advaita and pseudo-advaita, please click
For those wanting to read more on the illustrious Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (and peruse a long list of books of his teachings), click