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Mary: Dear Ram and Sundari, thank you for being the Western voice of Vedanta. These teachings are great, and like you say, the doorway to freedom, if assimilated.
However, I don’t understand why you guys practice on an ongoing basis the criticism of other spiritual paths, teachers and now the public in general. Many spiritual teachers I have listened to, sat with and connected to on the internet over a number of years, never hearing a sour word directed at anyone or any other path. We are all aware that duality is a mixed bag with every extreme within it, so from a jiva’s standpoint, not interested in your (another jiva’s) opinion of Mooji, yoga or even Brits on the South Coast of Spain.
Ram, you are a great orator and teacher of this wonderful tradition, surely that’s enough. I have heard students of yours voice the same criticism. This breeds vasanas of elitism and arrogance; surely that goes against everything Vedanta stands for. Si/no?
~ Sincerely, with love and peace, Mary
Ram: Hi, Mary, lovely to hear from you! Let me try to address the issue you raise. In the first place, it only breeds elitism and arrogance if a person is an arrogant elitist to begin with. Secondly, it is true that some people do not like criticism, but many do. Criticism is here to stay and it is useful, depending on the way it is done. The notion that if you are spiritual you should not be critical is what I call SC, spiritual correctness, the kissing cousin of PC, political correctness. It is a good idea up to a point. It stops being a good idea when it compromises discrimination. The fact is that there some spiritual paths and spiritual teachers are good, some are not so good and some are bad, assuming certain values. Those values should be critically examined.
Vedanta is not a spiritual path so you cannot really compare it with all the paths out there. It is a means of self-knowledge. For a means of knowledge to work, the inquirer needs to critically evaluate his or her life on all levels. To say that reality is non-dual love is true but it does not apply to the apparent reality, or if it does, it only apparently applies. So the idea that what happens in the apparent reality should slavishly mirror the non-dual nature of reality is not appropriate. We call this tendency superimposition, projecting on one thing what applies to something else.
The danger of this “we are all one and we should not say anything ‘bad’ about anyone or anything” is the tendency to silence discriminative thinking. Some ideas of enlightenment are nonsensical. Some spiritual teachers, enlightened or not, are lousy teachers. In fact, your email was actually a criticism of James. How do you justify it with reference to your idea that spiritual people should not criticize? If you love me, you should let me express myself according to my nature. If you try to censor me, do you love me? In fact, I welcome your criticism. Vedanta welcomes criticism. There is very little criticism of Vedanta except by uninformed people because it is actually a perfected means of knowledge. That it is a critical tradition is one of its strengths, not a weakness. If you criticize Vedanta it means that you don’t understand it. It is like criticizing the eyes. The eyes do their job, assuming you want to see. Vedanta does the enlightenment job, assuming you want to be free and are qualified. You can legitimately criticize paths that don’t do the job. In my case, I don’t feel criticized by you and if it is a criticism I see the love behind it, the value you place on harmony. So it is good.
Let’s take up the newsletter statements, the Brit issue, first. One of the biggest criticisms I have of Spiritual Correctness is humorlessness. The tone of that whole rant was humorous. It was actually about the perversity of Isvara, how Isvara definitely loves TV-watching morons as much as it does us holy spiritual types. Otherwise, why would it keep us from beaming the truth worldwide? : -) Secondly, I never said that I was a saint. Actually I can’t stand sanctimonious teachers with their smarmy smiles and holy demeanors. It does not ring true. It is as if they have to edit their dark side just to con the public into thinking they are saintly. I don’t buy it. And many people don’t buy it either. For every letter I get criticizing Vedanta’s critical aspect, I get ten thanking me for daring to stand up and say that the emperor has no clothing, or that his clothes are ill-fitting, tattered or unattractive. You should also know that the criticisms you see in my writing and in my talks are well supported by experience and logic. They are not just uninformed opinions.
The idea that I am criticizing the general public is simply not true. I was criticizing only those seekers that come to Tiruvannamalai, satsang-hop, babble non-dual nonsense and hang out in the tea shops and restaurants trying to be spiritually cool. The people who come to Tiruvannamalai are hardly the general public; they are only a very miniscule subset. You cannot argue that such people don’t exist. Tiru and Rishikesh are full of spiritual poseurs. Yes, yes, they are the self and worthy of love – and I do love them – but I don’t have to teach them unless they show respect for the teaching. And finally, you will be happy to admit that I did welcome sincere seekers who stumble on the teaching.
And I can’t stand teachings that are full of logical inconsistencies and that stifle independent thinking. For example, the idea that thinking is contrary to enlightenment. Put this idea in the mind of an ambitious, powerful person and you will find that person surrounded by easily exploitable sheeple unable to think for themselves and dependent on the teacher.
I am popular basically for one reason: My criticism of the experiential idea of enlightenment in Chapter 2 of How to Attain Enlightenment. To date not one spiritual teacher has written to refute the logic of the ideas in that chapter even though most espouse the experiential view, consciously or unconsciously. Why? Because if reality is non-dual, which most say it is, then how will a practice-induced experience produce enlightenment? It is simply not possible. If someone says that, am “I” criticizing? I am not. Truth is critical.
As far as Mooji is concerned, I have always said that Mooji is a lovely person. I give him the benefit of the doubt as to his enlightenment. But if he does not have a valid means of self-knowledge, if he doesn’t even understand the value of a valid means of self-knowledge and the importance of the qualifications required for a means of knowledge to work, and he cannot give his devotees a practical method of discriminating the self from the not-self and he allows them to get completely attached to him when the proof of enlightenment is freedom from dependence on objects, particularly teachers, then I am remiss in my duty as a Vedanta teacher not to point it out.
It is one thing to criticize someone or something from a purely personal point of view without offering something that does solve the problem, in this case, enlightenment. It is quite another to offer a complete proven means for enlightenment, which I do, not in the form of “my” ideas but in the form of Vedanta.
Personally, I find it sad that these days people’s egos are so fragile, their self-esteem so low and their discrimination so faulty that they get upset when they hear something that tweaks one of their likes and dislikes. I know you appreciate Vedanta and I know you appreciate me. I also like you a lot. But I am not going to be something I am not just because it upsets you or anyone else. I don’t try to upset people. I am actually a very polite and well-mannered person, and I always make it clear that my criticisms are not directed at people but at ideas, and that unfortunately certain names are associated in the public’s mind with certain ideas. If you actually understand the teachings on yoga you will see that I endorse yoga heartily. In fact, I have said many times that yoga is as important as Vedanta insofar as you can’t get knowledge without a prepared mind. However, the idea that you can get enlightened through yoga, except indirectly, does not stack up because it is based on the idea that reality is a duality and that the doer is real. Neither idea is logical if reality is non-dual. Anyway, thank you for writing. It is good that you gave me an opportunity to set the record straight. I hope I have not offended or alienated you.
~ Much love, Ram