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Fool’s Gold–A Study of False Advaita

Fool's Gold - A study in False Advaita
A study by Swami Nirmalananda Giri (Abbot George Burke)

Introduction

“All that glitters is not gold,” is a maxim that can prevent a great deal of mistaken action and thought, including acceptance of ideas that on the surface appear truthful, but if examined prove utterly foolish. Many people love high-flown and seemingly spiritual–and even cosmic–statements that if accepted unquestioningly can appear to be supreme truths throughout one’s life, yet really be foolish or harmful untruths.

When I first read the teachings of the great Nath Yogi master, Sri Gajanana Maharaj of Nashik (see Soham Yoga: The Yoga Of The Self, Light of Soham and Inspired Wisdom of Sri Gajanana Maharaj), I was struck by the way in which without rancor or negativity he spoke of false gurus and false yogas. Further, he insisted that the true yogi–who of necessity must be practicing true yoga–was fearless and unafraid of examining anything and anyone and coming to a conclusion that might be contrary to that of everyone else around him. When I began to practice Soham Yoga sadhana, almost immediately the anxiety and concern about my practice that I had to some degree kept with me through decades of association with false gurus and false yoga practices, simply evaporated and I knew I had found the true yogic path.

Part of the evidence was that I became completely unafraid of looking squarely at what I had never before dared to look at with perfect honesty and application of my intelligence. As a result I came to realize that nearly all “gurus” and “masters” I had bowed before (and some I had even worshipped) were purveyors and repositories of ignorance, superstition and falsehood–all harmful and not only silly (which most were, as well). And the yogas they advocated were like themselves: false, misleading and ultimately detrimental–spiritual blindfolds and spiritual “fool’s gold.” Without careful and informed scrutiny they appeared to be the real thing, but when examined with full intent and simple good sense they were revealed to be iron, just like fool’s gold (iron pyrite).

I recently read an article by an Indian Brahmin who had investigated quite a number of false gurus during his travels in India. One thing he observed over and over was that whenever a fake guru’s teachings broke down on the face of common sense, or the stirring of common sense in his disciples, in panic he would resort to what the author called “Advaita clichés.” And all reason would subside, for who would dare to contradict these sublime platitudes accepted for centuries as the highest truth? But actually, anyone with an operative brain ought to examine and contradict them.

I want to state that I absolutely believe in the non-duality of all things since all things have as their essence the non-dual Brahman. Yet, the human mind being what it is, there can always be a wrong and a right way to understand any concept or principle. Unfortunately, if people encounter any writing or speech about “Advaita” or “Non-duality” they simply bow before it and accept whatever may be said. To express doubt or disbelief would be the ultimate heresy and an indication of inveterate wrong-headiness. Consequently I am not interested in just refuting false Advaita, I am hoping to free the minds of readers so they will realize the necessity for them to detect and reject wrong and foolish ideas themselves, especially if they are coming from some “recognized” authority that merits no acceptance at all.

Swami Nirmalananda Giri

Chapter One
Interpolations in The Crest-Jewel of Discrimination

1. I bow to Govinda, whose nature is Bliss Supreme, who is the Sadguru, who can be known only from the import of all Vedanta, and who is beyond the reach of speech and mind.
Right here at the beginning, with the salutation to Guru Govinda, we are faced with one of the primary falsehoods of fake Advaita–and fake Bhakti as well: the Divine Guru sham.

We are told in this sentence the supposed nature of the guru who is actually usurping the place of Brahman. For only Brahman is Bliss Supreme; only Brahman is known through the experience of the import of the Vedanta; and only Brahman is beyond the reach of speech and mind. To attribute these characteristics to any other than Brahman is utter folly.

However, the Self of each one of us is divine and possesses the qualities of Brahman as a finite reflection of Brahman–a wave of the ocean, but never the ocean. We need only learn the practice of true yoga sadhana and the rest is up to us.

2. For all beings a human birth is difficult to obtain, more so is a male body; rarer than that is Brahmanahood; rarer still is the attachment to the path of Vedic religion; higher than this is erudition in the scriptures; discrimination between the Self and not-Self, Realization, and continuing in a state of identity with Brahman–these come next in order. This kind of Mukti (Liberation) is not to be attained except through the well-earned merits of a hundred crore of births.
This kind of mukti is not be to attained at all! Yet we have many false Advaita treatises that have three acts. In Act One the disciple asks the guru about liberation. In Act Two the guru goes on and on in platitudes and specious reasonings, presenting a thoroughly erroneous exposition of enlightenment. In Act Three the disciple declares himself enlightened and rhapsodizes about his state, often giving absurd, inflated descriptions of his attainments which, of course, he attributes to the guru. End of story.

Let us consider the steps to liberation-enlightenment according to this verse.
1) Being born a human being.
2) Being a male human being.
3) Being born in the Brahmin caste.
4) Being an adherent of Vedic religion: the Karmakhanda.
5) Being knowlegeous of the scriptures (though which ones is not stated).
6) Intellectually discriminating between the Self and the not-Self, even though he does not at this level know the Self–only about the Self.
7) Continuing in a state of identity with Brahman (though how it is attained or the characteristics of that state is not stated).
8) Moksha.

The interesting thing is that the attained moksha-liberation is declared impossible to attain except through the merits earned by the individual in ONE BILLION births. And not just ordinary births, but meritorious births. Where is jnana in all this? Where is tapasya? Where is yoga sadhana? Absent. As my stepmother used to say: Everyone who believes this stand on your head. (And a lot are standing on their heads, aren’t they?)

3. These are three things which are rare indeed and are due to the grace of God–namely, a human birth, the longing for Liberation, and the protecting care of a perfected sage.
A lot more than these three things have just been listed in verse two! And longing for liberation and the protection of a siddha guru were not on the list at all.
The idea that just wanting liberation leads to liberation is folly. And more outrageous and foolish is the supposition that an aspirant needs the protection of a guru. What is needed is authentic yoga sadhana. Yoga that does not supply both protection and guidance directly to the sadhaka is false in both nature and effect.
It is interesting to observe that most “spiritual teachers” in any tradition continually say contradictory things in their teachings and their groupies never seem aware of it. Both teacher and taught are fundamentally unconscious, devoid of any real awakening, even intellectually.
Also in this verse is the favorite tool of the guru-deceivers: the grace of God! Having told us in verse two that we need the good karma of one billion meritorious births, now suddenly it is a gift of God’s grace that does the needful. Confusion is the only result that comes from these kinds of foolish and irresponsible assertion.

4. The man who, having by some means obtained a human birth, with a male body and mastery of the Vedas to boot, is foolish enough not to exert himself for self-liberation, verily commits suicide, for he kills himself by clinging to things unreal.
5. What greater fool is there than the man who having obtained a rare human body, and a masculine body too, neglects to achieve the real end of this life?
These verses again insist that having a male body is a necessity for liberation. How odd that male sex organs should be the keys to moksha! And how interesting that we come into a human body “by some means.” That is really vague indeed. This is not jnana, but worthless ajnana. What greater fool is there than a man who either says or believes these things?

6. Let people quote the Scriptures and sacrifice to the gods, let them perform rituals and worship the deities, but there is no Liberation without the realization of one’s identity with the Atman [Self], no, not even in the lifetime of a hundred Brahmas put together.
This is true.

7. There is no hope of immortality by means of riches–such indeed is the declaration of the Vedas. Hence it is clear that works cannot be the cause of Liberation.
I agree with this totally, but why in verse 2 were we told of the necessity for “merits of a hundred crores of births”? This is double-speak produced by double-think, a precarious state of mind indeed. And who in their right mind has ever believed that immortality is obtained by wealth? And why is wealth equated with works? This is a complete non sequitur. Outrageous.

8. Therefore the man of learning should strive his best for Liberation, having renounced his desire for pleasures from external objects, duly approaching a good and generous preceptor, and fixing his mind on the truth inculcated by him.
Moksha comes through awakening into the Self alone, not through fixing the mind on “truth” taught by a teacher. And that awakening comes only through the practice of true sadhana by the yogi.

9. Having attained the Yogarudha state, one should recover oneself, immersed in the sea of birth and death by means of devotion to right discrimination.
Yogarudha means establishment in yoga. And that is sufficient, for only yoga sadhana leads to liberation. What need is there for “devotion to right discrimination” which will arise of itself through continuance in the yogarudha state?
This kind of circular writing is a prime characteristic of the confusion in the minds of those who expound fake Advaita and fake yoga practices. It reminds me of the incident when a man I knew went to visit the best-known guru in California back before the Yoga Boom of the late sixties. When he said that he was a disciple of another, newly-arrived guru that taught another type of meditation, the guru exploded in anger and shouted at him: “Who ever heard of the idea that liberation can come from practice of a technique? All you need is love! NOW GET OUT!” Where was the liberating love?

10. Let the wise and erudite man, having commenced the practice of the realization of the Atman give up all works and try to cut loose the bonds of birth and death.
This is supremely idiotic. No authentic sadhaka will stop all positive and purifying actions, because they are the requisites for successful yoga sadhana! Here we see how a false guru insists that no discipline or “giving up” of anything is needful to be a successful yogi. If negative actions are not abandoned and positive actions engaged in, it is impossible to practice yoga sadhana which alone cuts loose the bonds of birth and death. Certainly, the abandonment of negative acts and the engaging in positive acts is not in any way self-sufficient in attaining freedom from birth and death, but it is absolutely necessary to successfully practice yoga sadhana.
Of this and so much of fake Advaita we can truly say: “Oh, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”

11. Work leads to purification of the mind, not to perception of the Reality. The realization of Truth is brought about by discrimination and not in the least by ten million of acts.
Right action, especially the practice of yama and niyama, certainly does lead to purification of the mind without which sadhana is impossible, and without sadhana Reality will never be perceived.
Realization is not brought about by discrimination, vital as that is, but by constant practice of yoga sadhana which requires purification in deed and thought. So this verse is both a lie and a truth put together. A person of true viveka (discrimination between true and false) will reject it.

12. By adequate reasoning the conviction of the reality about the rope is gained, which puts an end to the great fear and misery caused by the snake worked up in the deluded mind.
The example of a person’s thinking in the darkness that he sees a rope and thinks it is a snake is commonly cited in relation to illusion and its dispelling. But the example never says that the person just pauses and thinks it over and figures out intellectually that the “snake” is a rope. Rather, he either brings a light or goes closer and examines it. His own perception puts an end to his delusion–not “adequate reasoning.” Here again we see the necessity for sadhana, since yoga alone dispels illusion and delusion. Just as we must see the rope for what it is, we must perceive and experience the Self through yoga. There is no other way.
This verse demonstrates that false Advaita is based on mere intellectual mind-gaming and word-juggling and not on direct experience, and thus is itself avidya maya–delusion arising from ignorance.

13. The conviction of the Truth is seen to proceed from reasoning upon the salutary counsel of the wise, and not by bathing in the sacred waters, nor by gifts, nor by a hundred Pranayamas (control of the vital force).
Here again is the false idea that mere reasoning is the door to insight and that reasoning about the “counsel of the wise” leads to true knowledge (jnana), which actually is attained only through knowledge-experience of the Self by a yogi. Jnana is not produced by discursive thought, but by inner yogic perception/experience.
Certainly only realization of the Self bestows enlightenment and liberation, but it is obvious that the author of this interpolation was not a yogi at all, otherwise he would have known from his own perception produced by his sadhana that to bathe in sacred rivers has great benefit. For our bodies are mostly water, and contact with sacred water enables us to absorb into our subtle levels the subtle energies in the water. No conscious yogi can deny the tremendous benefit of bathing in the Ganges, and especially in the Triveni where the Saraswati, Jumna and Ganges rivers come together at Rudra Prayag. I was not much of a yogi at the time, but when I saw the Ganges on the day I arrived in India, I nearly fell in because I saw that it was only superficially water, but was really Divine Consciousness flowing by. When I saw the Ganges I saw God.
I am sure the author of this collection of delusions was also one of those I Never Go To Temples types of “Advaitins.” How wise in their ignorance!

14. Success depends essentially on a qualified aspirant; time, place and other such means are but auxiliaries in this regard.
What makes someone “a qualified aspirant”? Why make such a statement if that information is not going to be given? One thing is absolutely certain: if an aspirant is not instructed in the practice of authentic yoga there is no hope of his success in spiritual life. And theoretical advaita benefits (or profits) no one but the fakes who dispense it.

15. Hence the seeker after the Reality of the Atman should take to reasoning, after duly approaching the Guru–who should be the best of the knowers of Brahman, and an ocean of mercy.
No. The seeker should flee for his life from contact with someone who teaches that reasoning and a guru are guarantees of true knowledge and liberation, when the truth is just the opposite. Mere intellectual reasoning and false gurus lead to delusion and bondage.

16. An intelligent and learned man skilled in arguing in favor of the Scriptures and in refuting counter-arguments against them–one who has got the above characteristics is the fit recipient of the knowledge of the Atman.
Give me a break. The theoretical, theologizing kind of mind-gaming exalted here is a sure path away from the truth. The only one that is a “fit recipient of the knowledge of the Atman” is an adept yogi. For knowledge of the Atman comes from yoga sadhana alone, not from being “an intelligent and learned man skilled in arguing in favor of the Scriptures and in refuting counter-arguments against them.” What outrageous nonsense this is! Truly this author speaks emptiness from an empty heart.
In verse six he decries obsession with scriptures and now says a fit aspirant is one who can wrangle verbally with those who are not “in favor of the Scriptures and in refuting counter-arguments against them.” Now we have to be orthodox Vedantists who can best all comers in arguments. This is not yoga or a means to enlightenment.

17. The man who discriminates between the Real and the unreal, whose mind is turned away from the unreal, who possesses calmness and the allied virtues, and who is longing for Liberation, is alone considered qualified to enquire after Brahman.
Anyone who is able to enquire after Brahman is thereby qualified to enquire after Brahman. And his inquiry will succeed only through the way to Realization: Yoga.

18. Regarding this, sages have spoken of four means of attainment, which alone being present, the devotion to Brahman succeeds, and in the absence of which, it fails.
19. First is enumerated discrimination between the Real and the unreal; next comes aversion to the enjoyment of fruits (of one’s actions) here and hereafter; (next is) the group of six attributes, viz. calmness and the rest; and (last) is clearly the yearning for Liberation.
None of these attributes can arise in anyone who is not a yogi. The author truly is a Cart Before the Horse thinker, but a boon to those who wish to avoid life-and-consciousness-changing yoga sadhana: those who talk but never walk.

20. A firm conviction of the mind to the effect that Brahman is real and the universe unreal, is designated as discrimination (Viveka) between the Real and the unreal.
This is true, but only a yogi is capable of these things.
This author reminds me of the authors of Catholic catechisms that categorically state that one becomes a knower of God by reading their catechisms!

21. Vairagya or renunciation is the desire to give up all transitory enjoyments (ranging) from those of an (animate) body to those of Brahmahood (having already known their defects) from observation, instruction and so forth.
No. Vairagya comes only by the clarification of the mind and intellect and the resulting revelation of the inner consciousness that is the Self. And that comes through yoga alone.

22. The resting of the mind steadfastly on its Goal (viz. Brahman) after having detached itself from manifold sense-objects by continually observing their defects, is called Shama or calmness.
Thai Buddhists are told to meditate on the defects of sensual objects, especially the sexually appealing human body, in order to free themselves from attraction to them. Yet a Thai Buddhist abbot spoke to us of the silliness of such a counsel, saying he had once visited an autopsy room in a morgue whose walls were covered with pornographic photos! What does not work does not work.
Addicts who know the destructive nature of the things they are addicted to are not at all thereby enabled to rid themselves of addiction. I grew up with weepy penitents who “knew” they should reform and reject their various addictions and who could eloquently denounce themselves and the objects of their addiction with fervor. It did them no good and bored me. This verse just advocates more mind-gaming, which is an admittance of spiritual bankruptcy–an admittance the author should have made many centuries ago and not written these foolish things.
We must face realities: the author of these interpolated verses believes in everything the leads away from the Self, but not that which leads to the Self: Yoga. His teachings are a sure guarantee of remaining in ignorance and bondage, and therefore loved by those who intend to remain in them. Sri Ramakrishna told about a magician who used to say throughout his act before doing a trick: “Come delusion! Come confusion!” That is the magic formula of contemporary “Advaita teachers.”

23. Turning both kinds of sense-organs away from sense-objects and placing them in their respective centers, is called Dama or self-control. The best Uparati or self-withdrawal consists in the mind-function ceasing to be affected by external objects.
As my no-nonsence, down-to-earth friend, Joe Davenport used to say which confronted with such statements: “Well Golleeeee!!!” This verse is like a part of a Monty Python sketch in which the viewers were told that later in the program they would be told how to play the flute. When the time came, the instruction was to blow through one end of the flute while moving the fingers around the holes. And that was it. This verse is the same thing. It is like saying: “The way to be liberated is to be completely free.” Why do people tolerate this stuff? As one of Milarepa’s songs says as a refrain: “Examine your mind; then there may be hope for you.”

25. Acceptance by firm judgment as true of what the Scriptures and the Guru instruct is called by sages Shraddha or faith, by means of which the Reality is perceived.
Here we go again. This is no better than the silly ditty we used to sing over and over again in the church I belonged to: “Only believe. Only believe. All things are possible. Only believe.” Just believe in the Bhagavad Gita? Just believe in the Upanishads… the Puranas… the Itihasas? Billions in the history of the world have believed false political, social and religious philosophies. They had faith. And got nothing else but eventual disillusion.

26. Not the mere indulgence of thought (in curiosity) but the constant concentration of the intellect (or the affirming faculty) on the ever-pure Brahman, is what is called Samadhana or self-settledness.
Concentration of the mind on the idea of Brahman gets us nothing but entanglement in more thoughts. Involvement with concepts leads nowhere–especially concepts about the Inconceivable! What a noble name for an ignoble counsel.

28. Even though torpid or mediocre, this yearning for Freedom, through the grace of the guru, may bear fruit (being developed) by means of Vairagya (renunciation), Shama (calmness), and so on.
Mumukshutwa, yearning for liberation, arises only from within after countless lives of evolution. The only guru, God, has implanted this yearning with us, but it surfaces only after a long evolutionary journey. It never comes from any external teacher, though a momentary enthusiasm or mental attraction may be produced by the words of someone external to us. The idea that a guru’s “grace” will make a negligible and ignorant aspiration bear the fruit of Self-realization is truly delusional. But it gets customers for false gurus and their false yoga.

31. Among things conducive to Liberation, devotion (Bhakti) holds the supreme place. The seeking after one’s real nature is designated as devotion.
If we understand bhakti as total dedication to the pursuit of liberation, then all is well. But if we consider bhakti as an emotional “devotion” we are totally astray. As Swami Sivananda said many times: “Emotion is not devotion.”

32. Others maintain that the inquiry into the truth of one’s own self is devotion. The inquirer about the truth of the Atman who is possessed of the above-mentioned means of attainment should approach a wise preceptor, who confers emancipation from bondage.
33. Who is versed in the Vedas, sinless, unsmitten by desire and a knower of Brahman par excellence, who has withdrawn himself into Brahman; who is calm, like fire that has consumed its fuel, who is a boundless reservoir of mercy that knows no reason, and a friend of all good people who prostrate themselves before him.
Countless expositions of the path to enlightenment insist that knowledge of the Vedas counts for absolutely nothing. A knower of Brahman is a friend to all without distinction–not only a friend of “good” people who prostrate before him.” Here we see that ego remains paramount.
Nothing and no one confers liberation but the total awakening into our own Self. And we do that ourselves through our sadhana practice.

34. Worshipping that Guru with devotion, and approaching him, when he is pleased with prostration, humility and service, (he) should ask him what he has got to know:
35. O Master, O friend of those that bow to you, yourself ocean of mercy, I bow to you; save me, fallen as I am into this sea of birth and death, with a straightforward glance of your eye, which sheds nectar-like grace supreme.
The guru is to be groveled before and adored, and “when he is pleased with prostration, humility and service,” then he can be questioned. Why even remain in the presence of such a demanding ego? Apparently the kind of guru the author prefers is only “pleased with prostration, humility and service.”
The statement that a master teacher is a friend of those that bow to him is ridiculous. A true teacher is the friend of all, those that bow and those that do not bow. And if he is consulted, he will say that he prefers that no one bows to him in the sense of prostration. To clearly see the characteristics of a worthy spiritual teacher, see the perfect example of Sri Gajanana Maharaj of Nashik in Light of Soham.
Another ideal example was Saint John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco whom I was privileged to meet. In the Russian Orthodox Church the bishop sits in the midst of the church on Sunday mornings before the Divine Liturgy. People are coming into the church and lighting candles before various holy depictions (ikons) and moving around the church to do so. If they have to pass before the bishop, they bow to him and move on after he has blessed them with the Sign of the Cross. To not do so is very disrespectful. But there were such people, and it was observed that Saint John would bless them when their backs were turned to him and bless the respectful ones as they bowed. He knew who would show respect and who would not. So, respectful or disrespectful, the saint blessed them. He was a friend to all, as is any truly holy person.

36. Save me from death, afflicted as I am by the unquenchable fire of this world-forest, and shaken violently by the winds of an untoward lot, terrified and (so) seeking refuge in you, for I do not know of any other man with whom to seek shelter.
We have only one savior: our Self, which we must realize in its fulness, which includes the mantric form of the Self: Soham. For as Sri Gajanana Maharaj said, “The mantra Soham is the sole savior.” There is no man whatsoever with whom we should “seek shelter.” Soham sadhana alone brings deliverance from bondage. Blessed are those who find a teacher who will tell them this. But their salvation (liberation; moksha) will come only from their Soham sadhana. There is no other savior.

37. There are good souls, calm and magnanimous, who do good to others as does the spring, and who, having themselves crossed this dreadful ocean of birth and death, help others also to cross the same, without any motive whatsoever.
This is true. But they are not those who are described in these interpolated verses.

39. O Lord, with your nectar-like speech, sweetened by the enjoyment of the elixir-like bliss of Brahman, pure, cooling to a degree, issuing in streams from your lips as from a pitcher, and delightful to the ear–do yourself sprinkle me who am tormented by worldly afflictions as by the tongues of a forest-fire. Blessed are those on whom even a passing glance of your eye lights, accepting them as your own.
Anyone who likes to be spoken to in this exaggerated, groveling flattery such as this is mentally and spiritually ill. Such false teachers say things like the following:

43. Fear not, O learned one, there is no death for you; there is a means of crossing this sea of relative existence; that very way by which sages have gone beyond it, I shall inculcate to you.
44. There is a sovereign means which puts an end to the fear of relative existence; through that yourself will cross the sea of Samsara and attain the supreme bliss.
45. Reasoning on the meaning of the Vedanta leads to efficient knowledge, which is immediately followed by the total annihilation of the misery born of relative existence.
Here we are back at the mind and mere intellectual gymnastics. It is like being lost in a forest and wandering around in a circle. Two friends of mine met an official of the Aurobindo Ashram who was visiting the United States. They went on a retreat with him, and when they came back home they told me that he was continually speaking of “the yoga of Sri Aurobindo.” When they asked him what that yoga was, he told them, “The teachings of Sri Aurobindo.” When they asked him what the teachings of Sri Aurobindo were, he answered, “The yoga of Sri Aurobindo.” And this round-and-round persisted through the entire retreat. It is the same here. As a friend of mine one said about “the secret teachings” of a yoga cult, “The secret teaching is that there is no secret teaching!”

47. It is verily through the touch of Ignorance that yourself who art the Supreme Self findest yourself under the bondage of the non-Self, whence alone proceeds the round of births and deaths. The fire of knowledge, kindled by the discrimination between these two, burns up the effects of Ignorance together with their root.
Thinking does not make anything so. The “fire of knowledge” is the knowledge that comes from direct experience of the Self. And that is gained only through sadhana. This is the truth. Everything else is nonsense and deception.

50. The Guru replied: Blessed art you yourself ! You have achieved your life’s end and have sanctified your family, that yourself wish to attain Brahmanhood by getting free from the bondage of Ignorance!
The first part of this verse is a reference to the idea that he who seeks and attains liberation purifies and liberates seven generations of his family before him and seven generations that come after him. This assertion is supremely idiotic and is made solely because the families of those who seek the Self usually do everything they can to prevent his search because it entails renunciation. So it is hoped that this promise will make them want him to take up the search and persevere for their own selfish (and spiritually lazy) benefit. It never works that way.
It amazes me that for over two thousand years people have read this stuff and considered it the highest wisdom. As a high official of Ramakrishna Mission once asked a monk of the Mission in the presence of two monks of our ashram: “Brain Out?”

51. A father has got his sons and others to free him from his debts, but he has got none but himself to remove his bondage.
52. Trouble such as that caused by a load on the head can be removed by others, but none but one’s own self can put a stop to the pain which is caused by hunger and the like.
53. The patient who takes (the proper) diet and medicine is alone seen to recover completely–not through work done by others.
54. The true nature of things is to be known personally, through the eye of clear illumination, and not through a sage: what the moon exactly is, is to be known with one’s own eyes; can others make him know it?
55. Who but one’s own self can get rid of the bondage caused by the fetters of Ignorance, desire, action and the like, aye even in a hundred crore of cycles?
56. Neither by Yoga, nor by Sankhya, nor by work, nor by learning, but by the realization of one’s identity with Brahman is Liberation possible, and by no other means.
Now after all the nonsense we have examined, suddenly good sense appears–sense which contradicts all that has gone before. This, I believe is evidence that the previous verses were interpolated into Vivekachudamani. Especially note the words: “The true nature of things is to be known personally, through the eye of clear illumination, and not through a sage.” This contradicts the previous assertions and grovelings about the guru. The last verse refers to the philosophies of Yoga and Sankhya, not actual yoga sadhana.
So the Fool’s Gold first section has come to an end. From now on in Vivechudamani there is only the true, highest and sublime wisdom. I urge you to obtain a copy and study it carefully and keep it with you always. There is no need for me to comment on the remaining verses, for they are written in the usual careful, clear and complete style of all Shankara’s authentic works.
All writings on Advaita must be approached with caution and without any fear of pronouncing ignorance to be ignorance, and error to be error.
The fundamental wisdom still is: “Therefore be a yogi” (Bhagavad Gita 6:46).

Chapter Two
Effusions of a Glitter Guru

Next we will look at excerpts from a commentary on the Ashtavakra Gita by one of the most glittering of the Glitter Gurus in India–now deceased. I saw him in action in India myself. He made a tour through America, but it was a total failure–so there is hope for America.
Recently a friend and fellow-yogi sent me a great deal of quotations from his writings, many of them from his commentary on the Ashtavakra Gita. They are mostly nuggets of the Fool’s Gold of half-baked “Advaita” that sound good (often the more extreme and bombastic, the better they sound) but are untrue. My friend had not told me who was the author of the following bombastic foolishness, but when he did, I understood the whole matter.

I am the all-pervading essence behind all names and forms.
This is not at all true, in fact it is foolish. What is true is that the Self (jivatman) of each one exists in the Infinite Self (Paramatman), and that the Supreme Self Itself alone is “the all-pervading essence behind all names and forms.” As Shankara wrote: “O Lord, although I belong to You, You do not belong to me. The ocean can say, ‘I am the wave,’ but the wave cannot say, ‘I am the ocean.’”
In the Gita Krishna says, “Truly there never was a time when I was not, nor you, nor these lords of men–nor in the future will there be a time when we shall cease to be” (2:12). Our individuality is eternal, we are without beginning and without end, as is Brahman. But we are not Brahman, although It is the essence of our being and existence. The problem with most “Advaita” is its simplistic and absurd assumptions. Only the yogi really comprehends non-duality.

The world is an image projected by the mind on the substratum of this Consciousness.
No. This world is a concept of Ishwara misinterpreted and thus misperceived by the mind of the unenlightened individual who dwells within it. For example, ignorant “advaitins” say the world is unreal and therefore does not even actually exist. Rather, it is our perceptions and conclusions regarding the world that are unreal–but even they exist, just as a hallucination exists, even though it is false. Unreal and non-existent are not synonyms, though fake advaita thinks they are.
If I am the sole reality, then who are these advaitins that are telling me I am the sole reality, and whose words I should accept?

“My mind” creates my individual world, “your mind” creates your individual world.
Then why do you say the world is unreal? You cannot have it both ways. These are moronic statements, the same specious thinking as that of those who, when caught in a lie, say: “That is my truth, even if it is not your truth.”

The minds of all humans create the common world of us all.
The world is a dream concept in the mind of Ishwara and we are dreaming along with Ishwara. We are not its source at any time, and we certainly are not all in continual contact with each others’ minds.

This universe is unreal, as we realize the illusory nature of this world.
Again, the illusion is in us. But we are real, just as the world is real–though our understanding of it is an illusion.

We are all temporally manifestations of the same formless Self.
Again: “Truly there never was a time when I was not, nor you, nor these lords of men–nor in the future will there be a time when we shall cease to be” (Bhagavad Gita 2:12). This is the truth, not this pointless and meaningless word juggling.

Seeing the Self is formless, then all realized souls are formless and without manifestation.
This is silly. Yes, the Self is formless, but a siddha has transcended both manifestation and non-manifestation. He can take on any form or remain with no form. It makes no difference to him, since it is all conceptual and never took place “in reality.” And he truly sees that All Is One.

The world of names and forms is only the imagination of the total mind.
What is this? Has he decided to get Jungian on us and declare it is all a “collective consciousness”? Since the mind is itself only a concept, what in heaven’s name is the “total mind”? This is crazy.
It has no existence whatsoever.
But it does.

All which have form are false, the formless is the changeless.
Silly. In the cosmic dream we take on a form and “have it.” This does not render us non-existent. This is idiotic. It is not even false reasoning–it is without any reason. It is simply ponderous verbiage that itself is nothing.

Gods like Shiva, Durga, Vishnu, Lakshmi are also the formless Self and their temporary forms are only for religious stories.
The gods are really aspects of the Absolute, and are symbolic forms of the qualities or tattwas within Brahman. The Bhagavad Gita (9:15) describes Brahman as “variously manifested.” Prabhavananda’s interpretive translation is: “Others worship me, knowing Brahman in all things: some see me one with themselves, or separate: some bow to the countless gods that are only my million faces” (Bhagavad Gita 9:15).
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.9.1) we find this: “Vidagdha Sakalya asked him [the sage Yajnavalkya] “How many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” He answered: “Three hundred and three, and three thousand and three.” “Yes,” he said, “but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” “Thirty three.” “Yes,” he said, “but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” “Six.” “Yes,” said he, “but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” “Three.” “Yes,” said he, “but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” “Two.” “Yes,” said he, “but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” “One and a half.” “Yes,” said he, “but how many gods are there, Yajnavalkya?” “One.”
The numbers are according to the perceptions of the individual.

The individual (jīva), the universe (jagat) and the Lord–the Creator (Ishwara)–are all different manifestations of the same infinite Consciousness.
No. The jiva is co-eternal with Brahman and not a manifestation of Brahman. Yet Brahman is the essence and the basis of the jiva’s existence.
The universe is a concept within Brahman, and Ishwara is an expansion of Brahman as a conceptualization within Brahman. But since the limited intellect cannot understand this, I am in a sense saying nothing.

Light is my very nature. I am nothing other than that Light.
No. Consciousness is our essential nature. Jyoti (light) is a sensory experience within samsara.

The life, as consciousness, brings to our awareness all our experiences–physical, mental and intellectual.
No. All our experiences are within consciousness–are consciousness which yet transcends them. It is our conclusions about them that are erroneous.

The sense of individuality (ego) is experienced, within one’s own bosom, as the “I-ness” and the very same ego experienced, in terms of the objects around it, is the “mineness.”
True awareness of oneself as a conscious entity is known as Asmita: I-ness; the sense of “I am;” “I exist;” the sense of individuality. And the true awareness of the Self is expressed as “Soham asmi” (I Am Soham). Ego does not come into it.

The combination of this “I” and “mine” is the individuality, which is a product of the ignorance of the nature of the Self.
No. Asmita is recognition of the truth of our being. Aham, the root of ahamkara (or ahankara), arises from ignorance of the Self. That is the ego.
The Self is always existent–actually self-existent–within the Supreme Self. They are inseparable but not identical.
Why did he put ignorance in quotation marks? Because ignorance is not really ignorance?

So long as the ego exists, it asserts itself in the sense of doership, and in the sense of enjoyership.
No. Although those two exist in potential form before the experiences of “I do” and “I experience” occur, the ego itself is their basis and empowerer.

To stand as a witness, detached from all that is happening within and without us, is one of the most effective early exercises in meditation.
No. This experience is a result of the practice of meditation, not a “meditation exercise.” That would only be a mind-game, like a child pretending to be an adult.

Meditation is an attempt to consciously withdraw our identification with the body, and abide ourselves in Consciousness.
No. Genuine meditation is not an attempt at all, but is itself the experiencing of ourselves as consciousness. Whatever does not do this is neither meditation nor yoga. (See Soham Yoga: The Yoga of the Self.)
There is no need to set in mind the idea of ending false identification. That happens automatically, spontaneously, through meditation. Sri Ramakrishna gave a very homely simile regarding this: “Going to bed, a child said to his mother, ‘Mother, please wake me up when I feel the call of nature.’ ‘My son,’ said the mother, ‘that urge itself will wake you up. I don’t have to wake you.’”
One of our problems in considering these matters is that we tend to reverse the true order of cause and effect and thus misunderstand the process.
Soham sadhana–japa and meditation–is the way.

We have to renounce all our desires and aversions; these two feelings (likes and dislikes) represent the entire activities of the mind. 
We do not renounce raga/dwesha, desire/aversion, but we rise above them–free ourselves from them–naturally through meditation. Intellectually renouncing something is concentrating on it and strengthens our bonds to it. Rather, we turn from it and lose all attraction for it through the atmic experience in meditation.
The mind does a great deal more delusive things than just engage in desire and aversion!

To contemplate upon the Self as the one constant witness of all agitations of the mind, intellect and body, is to bring about complete dissolution of the ego and the world interpreted by the ego.
No. You do not “contemplate the Self” you attain/experience true Self-awareness through meditation. Enlightenment is not an intellectual exercise. It is the intellect that has tied us up! We must KNOW the Self as the witness by experiencing it in meditation. Without meditation there is not even simple understanding, much less awakening into reality.

The universe is the common field where all the existing minds can experience freely their own individual worlds of joys and sorrows.
So?
The total universe is not the projection of an individual mind but it is the play of the total mind, or we may call it as the universal mind. All disturbances in the individual life and in the universal life around are all illusory confusions projected by the individual mind and the universal mind.
The universe is not projected by the “total mind” in the sense of all minds together–again the collective consciousness myth, including the idea of a “universal mind.” The universe is a concept held in the consciousness of Ishwara. All disturbances in the individual life originate in the illusion-bound mind of the individual jiva.

This is just the babble of the childish intellect fully in the grip of the ego and its attendant delusions/illusions. It is no more than childish prattle.

Slavish obedience of the individual to the endless demands of the body, mind and intellect for sense gratifications, among the objects of the world outside, is the state of bondage.
What is described is only a small part of bondage–as deep consideration of one’s own mind will reveal.

Freedom is attained when the mind does not desire or grieve, does not reject or accept, does not feel happy or angry at anything.
Of course not. Dreamless sleep is not liberation, and there the mind does not engage in these things. Numbness of mind is not freedom of the mind.

Indifference to the enchanting objects of the outer world is a discipline for the body.
That is really mistaken. It is not the body that draws us to folly, but the mind–which likes to blame the body and make itself guiltless. I had a friend whose church had taught him to say: “I do not sin; my body sins.” That is utter perversity, however well it might sound to the ego, which is guilty. Sri Ramakrishna used to say: “Mind is everything.” That includes both the manas, the lower, sensory mind, and the buddhi, the intellect. These have to be purified and freed by a great deal of japa and meditation of Soham.

Equanimity, maintained by not allowing the mind to dance to the rhythm of its likes and dislikes, is an exercise for the mind.
No. After a while the mind will go right back to where it was before–and be even more powerful for negative influence. Meditation alone does the needful.

To learn to logically reason out the illusory nature of the world around and to come to detect the eternal Self is a training for the intellect.
And then what will you have? A trained monkey. The idea that the mind (intellect) can perceive the Self is truly is like setting the thief to find and arrest himself. It is mistaking the shadow for the object.

The giving up of desires is the renunciation of the world.
Yes? And? The world is not at fault, it is the ego and its delusions. Desire is not the problem–that is a symptom of the problem: delusion. This is like the Positive Thinking of the negative to make themselves Better Persons. Again, it is mistaking the effect for the cause.

Vasana is essentially the very seed from which a desire springs forth. All the vasanas put together in an individual, constitute his causal body–that which determines the nature and quality of that individual’s subtle and gross bodies.  The total vasanas of all living creatures together becomes maya.
This is just pseudo-metaphysical techno-talk that has no basis in reality. This and most of the foregoing is just a manifestation of the delusion that if we “understand” the situation that will clear it up. It is like thinking that if you define and understand the causes of the sinking of the ship you are on you will not drown. You will.

God (Self) is the Creator of all and there is none else here.
Oh, yes? Then who are you talking to? And why?

We must avoid both our sense of I-ness and mineness with the body.
We must dissolve–not just avoid–all sense of I-ness (ahankara) and My-ness whatsoever, and not just in relation to the body.

One is not the doer who does his activities through the body; nor is one the enjoyer who enjoys the outer world, the doership and the enjoyership together constitute the ego sense in us.
No. They are functions, results and illusions of the ego. The ego (ahamkara) is even more basic. It must be realized that we do not “get rid of” or “suppress” the ego. When we attain atmajnana–direct knowledge of the Self–the ego mirage is dissolved and is no more.

Passions and aversions are the qualities of the mind. The mind is never yours. You are Intelligence itself free from all fluctuations.
The passions and lusts, likes and dislikes, joys and sorrows–these are all fluctuations in the mental stuff and they all belong to the mind. 
The twin expressions of the ego are the I-ness and the my-ness.
SO WHAT? As long as these are theories–mere mental concepts–they are worse than nothing because they fool us into thinking we really understand and are “jnanis,” when we are just ignoramuses spouting ignorant “wisdom” about something of which we have no real insight or experience. Only the enlightened yogi knows these things truly. Otherwise it is like thinking the recipe for a cake is itself a cake!

Individuals may be different from each other, the tree is not the animal; the animal is not the human. But the Existence in a stone, in a flower, in an animal, in a plant, in the star and in the sun and moon seems to be one and the same. This Existence is the expression of the infinite Reality behind names and forms. This one Self is your real nature.
No. The Paramatman is all these things, not the jivatman which is a part but not the whole. The jiva is eternally finite and the Paramatman is eternally infinite. They are one, but they are not the same. Again, only the enlightened buddhi of the yogi is able to comprehend these things. Otherwise it is like someone merely reciting the alphabet and thinking they are speaking intelligent words. And why does he say that Existence (Sat) only seems to be everything? It is everything.

The idea of “this is mine” takes you to bondage; the idea “I am not” leads you to Liberation.
Only direct experience of the Self reveals its ever-present state. And that revelation is liberation. No idea can liberate, though it can bind.

To end in the knowledge of the Self, all perceptions of the world, and to destroy all our desires for sense objects, is the unique state of Liberation.
Stones do not perceive the world or desire sense objects, and they are not liberated. The same with basic life-forms. Only direct experience of the Self is knowledge of the Self. And nothing “leads” to it–it is ever-present. We only awaken in and into it.

Ashtavakra does not recognize the existence of anything as God or the universe or the ego other than the one transcendental Self.
How nice for him. Cosmic Unconsciousness and Cosmic Non-being. This is simply poorly spiritualized Nihilism.

In the Self there is no universe of plurality.
There is no universe of plurality in the consciousness of those with total dementia, either. In fact, in Omkareshwara a man was found wandering around unaware of anything. He had to be force fed and looked after like an infant in all things. He showed no awareness at all. Yet fools were coming and prostrating before him as a liberated being with non-dual consciousness, when he had no consciousness at all.

“When a man thinks of objects, attachment for them arises; from attachment desire is born; from desire arises anger; from anger comes delusion; from delusion loss of memory; from loss of memory the destruction of discrimination; from destruction of discrimination he perishes.”
[More correctly translated:
“For a man dwelling on the objects of the senses, attachment to them is born. From attachment desire is born. And from [thwarted] desire anger is born. From anger arises delusion; from delusion, loss of memory; from loss of memory, destruction of intelligence (buddhi). From destruction of intelligence one is lost” (Bhagavad Gita 2:62-63).]
True. But if we merely reverse this process and go no further, the man is not “found.” Only sadhana does that.

Even if Shiva, Vishnu or the lotus-born Creator–Brahma–be your instructor, yet, unless you forget all, you cannot achieve abidance in the Self.
You cannot achieve conscious abidance in the Self except through becoming established in the consciousness that is the Self. “Forgetting” has nothing to do with it. It is a positive, not a negative, state. “Not this, not that” will take you nowhere but into “Not.” Atmajnana is not the absence of something, but absolute consciousness itself.

There is no meaning in complaining about the quality and ability of the spiritual Teachers. Their capacity to convey experiences to the students are limited and the grace lies not in the guru but in the students themselves.
Indeed so.

Even if you get direct instructions and guidance from the Trimurti (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) themselves, yet, the student cannot awake to the higher plane of Godhood unless he, himself, cuts off his attachments to his past memories.
There is no “higher plane of Godhood.” This is the language of ordinary Western philosophy. There are two states: knowing and not knowing. The very concept of “godhead” is not part of genuine advaita or yoga.

When the mind’s passion is satisfied, the intellect regains its command and the mind feels a deep regret at the honest criticisms of the intellect!
What is “the mind’s passion?” What is the “command of the intellect” that is “regained”? The rest is anthropomorphic mythology. There is not a single practical point in it.

The Liberated in life is no doer, but only an indifferent observer, a patient witness.
Not so. There is a great deal to enlightenment, not just some quality.

It is the ego which arrogates to itself the false attitudes of the doership and the enjoyership.
No. The ego is both the author and the product of those attitudes.

Thought upon the Self, is not, in fact, a thought. A thought must have necessarily an object. The thought of the Self is a thought on the subject and, therefore, it has no object.
No intelligent yogi or teacher of Sanatana Dharma has ever advocated “thinking a thought” about the Self. This is mere verbiage like the Renzai Buddhist koans that are meant to baffle the mind, leaving the ego and its ignorance very much intact.

When the sense of doership and enjoyership is completely eradicated, the ego disappears into the vision of the Self.
It takes a lot more than the erasure of some illusions. When the Self is experienced through yoga sadhana the ego is understood to be a temporary mirage. There is nothing to disappear!

Even in the absence of outer objects of temptations, the inner mind, through its own stored up memories of past experiences and its fresh imaginations of future indulgences, can create storms within all by itself!
It is the sense of doership and enjoyership that makes actions full of agitations and restlessness.
As long as we are identified with our physical body, we cannot really grow desireless towards objects that are conducive for the happiness of our physical body.
Body-consciousness cultivates in us tremendous attachments, endless desires, vulgar passions and incorrigible lusts. 
As an incisively-minded friend of mine used to say about such expositions: “Talk, talk, talk! When do we eat?” meaning that philosophizing was not enough, we need experience of Reality to understand what is unreal.

For the Liberated in life there is neither attachment (raga), nor lust for the objects of the world, nor has he any aversion nor desirelessness (vairagya). He has no identification with the body and, therefore, he is not aware of the objects of pleasures at all.
This is mere unconsciousness, not jnana. “With attraction and aversion eliminated, even though moving amongst objects of sense, by self-restraint the self-controlled attains tranquility” (Bhagavad Gita 2:64). Unawareness of pleasure objects has no virtue at all. A brilliant aunt of mine once said to me: “I am more virtuous than George Washington. He said, ‘I cannot tell a lie.’ I, however, can tell a lie but will not.” If you are not aware of something how can you be indifferent to it?

Vāsanās, expressing in the intellect, are called desires; ­­­­­desires expressed in the mind are called thoughts; the mind so agitated soon gets lost in its own fancies and imaginations. Mind can be controlled and brought under our command only when we rise above the mind. Mental control is the path.
This is just word juggling and completely false in conclusion. The statement “mental control is the path” is totally wrong, because if you rise above the mind that is not control at all, for there is then nothing to control.

To the realized sage there is no ego. He has neither the sense of ‘doership’, nor has he the attitude of ‘enjoyership’.
Read the Gita. Krishna absolutely has the sense of doing and enjoying, but on a transcendental level that cannot be comprehended by the unenlightened intellect.

These three qualities are essential for any seeker who dares to walk the spiritual path: (1) patience, (2) discrimination and (3) fearlessness.
Yes. But how does a seeker cultivate them? Through sadhana alone.

Every experience is a thought.  Every thought entertained is a subtle memory of the past.  Thought bundle is the ego–therefore, the ego is nothing but a heap of dead experiences, a mass of memories!!
There is no māyā nor ‘ignorance’ other than our own mind.
Apart from the mind there is no ignorance (avidyā). The mind itself is the ‘ignorance’, which is the cause for the bondage of rebirth. 
When the mind is destroyed, everything else is destroyed. When mind manifests, everything else manifests’.
Empty, irrational and cheap slogans! Ignorance in totality is what must go. And that goes when true Seeing arises through perfection in yoga–not through reading this tripe.

Through faith, devotion and meditation you come to know yourself.
There is a great deal more required. And it would be good to put the word “right” before these three, as did Buddha.

At the end of the foregoing “Dummies For Advaita” I told my friend the following:
In your email you said, “I think that it would be better that you explain the concept of Advaita as understood by you.” The truth is this: true advaita is an experience-realization. Concepts and descriptions are as pointless as attempts to describe how salt tastes or what light looks like. Salt tastes like salt and light looks like light. Nothing more can be said. So the person with no sense of taste and the person who is blind will just never know.
The Upanishads give us a hint–but just a hint since the intellect cannot encompass or know the Self. They say:
“If you think that you have understood Brahman well, you know it but slightly, whether it refers to you [the individual Self] or to the gods. So then is it to be investigated by you [the pupil] [even though] I think it is known.
“I do not think that I know it well; nor do I think that I do not know it. He who among us knows it, knows it and he, too, does not know that he does not know.
“To whomsoever it is not known, to him it is known: to whomsoever it is known, he does not know. It is not understood by those who understand it; it is understood by those who do not understand it” (Kena Upanishad 2.1-3).
I know this sounds like word juggling, but it is not. True knowing is beyond our small mind’s idea of knowing. It is a matter of awakening.
Therefore: “The Self resides within the lotus of the heart. Knowing this, devoted to the Self, the sage enters daily that holy sanctuary” (Chandogya Upanishad 8:3:3).
All true paths of inquiry regarding the Self lead back to yoga sadhana.
There we are. Soham kevalam–Soham alone.

Afterword

There are two antidotes to the spiritual insanity we have been considering in the forgoing two chapters: 1) The continuous japa and the meditation of Soham, and 2) daily study of the Bhagavad Gita.

The first awakens the spiritual consciousness and the second awakens the spiritual intelligence through the immortal words of Sri Vyasa that are embued with his perfect Realization.

For the first read Soham Yoga: The Yoga Of The Self, Light of Soham and Inspired Wisdom of Sri Gajanana Maharaj.

For the second read The Bhagavad Gita For Awakening and The Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God (my translation).

Further Reading:

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