Teachers, or Masters, of the One?

Edited by Theremusst B. Moore

"There are men of enlightenment who cannot throw down a bridge from where they are to where they once were, so that others too can cross over. They do not know or cannot describe in detail the way which others must follow to reach the goal. Such men are not the teaching masters, and should not be mistaken for them.

"The man of enlightenment who has never been a learner, who suddenly gained his state by the overwhelming good karma of previous lives, is less able to teach others than the one who slowly and laboriously worked his way into that state - who remembers the trials, pitfalls, and difficulties he had to overcome."

   - Paul Brunton, Notebooks, (Vol. 16, Part 2, 5.20-21)


This article contains less of my input than others, and is more a set of links for individual investigation. These links explore the differences in the ancient practice of advaitic and other traditional sadhanas in contrast with that often proposed by modern, emerging teachers of what has come to be referred to as "the One", or "non-duality." Alternate titles for this piece I had thought of, but lacked the nerve to include, were:


      "Yoga versus Bhoga"

      "Purna versus Porno"

      "It's All In Your Head - Now What?"


To those unfamiliar with the spiritual vernacular, "bhoga" translates roughly, as "worldly enjoyment", and "purna" as "complete", often used in reference to a spiritual path. The ever-popular ideas that all an individual must do is mentally "erase his personal history", "the story of I", or see that "there is no one there" to make any kind of effort, or discipline, for realization, and so on, are herein tackled with humor, aplomb, and discrimination. Scandals are also unveiled, with no holds barred.

Similar topics have been addressed in the academically detailed and perhaps tortuously argued (for some) "The Integrationalists and the Non-Dualists" and "The Dark Night of the Soul" on this website. The links below get more into the nitty gritty of the current spiritual scene, with the main idea being that some who set themselves up as teachers may be placing the cart before the horse with the dissemination of simplistic doctrines. The following links seem to think so, but far be it for me to make things complicated. To surrender the search, to believe in Jesus, or to have the pure faith of the Lotus Sutra is very appealing. Yet, as someone said, the truth should be made as simple as possible - but no simpler.

In Sufism they speak of achieving fana (annihilation, or ego dissolution), or sometimes fana-fil-sheikh (annihilation in the Master), and only then fana-el-fana (‘dissolution of the dissolution’, which would be non-duality). Some will ask, however, can one have fana-el-fana without first having fana, or is he fooling himself? Another way of expressing this is: "does anyone want to go home anymore, or is everyone satisfied with simply thinking and saying or having a passing glimpse that one is already there?" “Are yearning and effort entirely bogus?” More specifically, "is no spiritual practice necessary?" "Is moral effort passe?" "Are states of deep meditative concentration to be so easily dismissed as of no value, even as intermediate stages, on the way to liberation?" "Is the awakening of the soul or psychic being, what some call the heart, not a key element for genuine spiritual development?" And finally, "is there any particularly good reason for a modern teacher not to advocate study of traditional texts in the interests of gaining a balanced view?"

Many these days have already extracted themselves from one cult or the other, but are not some falling into another much more subtle trap within the neo-advaita-instant-enlightenment teachers? Are awakening and liberation as easy as they say - much more so than ever before in history? Or is the suggestion that no effort is necessary still more or less true only when, as traditionally stated, the Sadhaka or aspirant has actually reached an end-stage or point on the path where effort is no longer possible? Is it really so easy to start at "the end" instead of the "beginning", as many seminar leaders proclaim? To be fair, all such teachers do not take such a radical position, but many do.

Adyashanti, one of the more balanced among the newer teachers, in my opinion, points out again and again that, irrespective of any non-dual philosophy that may appear to suggest otherwise, the universe is so structured that the "illusory I", even though it is an illusion, must surrender itself, or any awakening or realization will not last but will again and again be veiled by ignorance.

Paul Brunton wrote:

"Those who believe in the Short Path of sudden attainment, such as the sectarian following of Ramana Maharshi and the koan-puzzled intellectuals of Zen Buddhism, confuse the first flash of insight which unsettles everything so gloriously with the last flash which settles everything even more gloriously. The disciple who wants something for nothing, who hopes to get to the goal without being kept busy with arduous travels to the very end, will not get it. He has to move from one point of view to a higher, from many a struggle with weaknesses to their mastery. Then only, when he has done by himself what he should do, may he cease his efforts, be still, and await the influx of Grace. Then comes light and the second birth." (Notebooks Category 23: Advanced Contemplation > Chapter 2: Pitfalls and Limitations > # 65)

The proliferation of non-dual teachers with an advaitic bent, including many filtering down from Papaji with an implied but not officially designated connection with Ramana Maharshi, has, no doubt, been a breath of fresh air to many seekers burnt out from years of what they may feel to have been unfulfilled practices and burdensome beliefs, but is it possible for the pendulum to swing too far in the other direction? As Stephen Bodian warned:

"Of course, Buddhism also teaches the crucial importance of discriminating wisdom, called prajna, but contends that it cannot be cultivated without the benefit of the mind training provided by meditation practice [this is also the Dalai Lama's view]. Without such deliberate cultivation of awareness, Buddhists believe, the mind will continue to repeat the same negative patterns and the eye of wisdom will remain closed. Emphasizing the dangers of not having a practice for guidance and support, Buddhist teacher Stephen Levine has called Advaita the “high path with no railing” because seekers can fall off so easily. Whereas Buddhism risks becoming rigid in its insistence on certain prescribed practices and forms, the Advaita approach risks leaving seekers with no external guidelines or moral precepts to prevent them from becoming smug or complacent or assuming they are already enlightened when in fact, as Jean Klein used to say, they haven’t yet left the garage.” (Tricycle, Spring 2005, “Remove The Seeker, Remove The Sought”)

I ask many of these teachers, therefore, whether they are even being true to the more traditional experiences and sadhanas as described by their root gurus - such as Papaji or Sri Nisargadatta - or is it possible they may be bypassing a few steps?

Reader, make your due diligence, employ discrimination, and enjoy the following at your own leisure and risk.......


“Next to dharma, enlightenment is the most important thing in the world.” - Dogen

"Freedom to do what one likes is really bondage, while being free to do what one must, what is right, is real freedom."
                                                             - Sri Nisargadatta

"Do not mistake understanding for realization, and do not mistake realization for liberation."
                                           - Tibetan saying

"Gold is gold." - Kirpal SIngh


   GOING BEYOND KINDERGARTEN AWAKENING   by Ed Muzika

   Varieties of Non-Dual Realization: Divine Play as One/Many   by Timothy Conway

   Neo-Advaita or Pseudo Advaita and Real Advaita-Nonduality   by Timothy Conway

   Who's Transforming Anyhow?   by Jessica Roemischer

   Why The Notion That You Cannot Become What You Already Are is Such Bullshit   by Daniel Ingram

   Traditional versus Neo-Advaita   by Dennis Waite, et. al.

   Misconceptions About Advaita   by Dr. David Frawley

   Advaita, Concepts, and Responsibility   by Melvyn Wartella

   What Is Neo-Advaita? by James Schwarz   (read)

       and a critique of "The Dangers of Pseudo-Advaita"   (read)

       also "The Lineage Game"

   Spiritual Humanism vs Neo-Advaita   by Möller de la Rouvière, Tony Parsons and Alan Stoltz    (must read)

   Advaita and Western Neo-Advaita   by Alan Jacobs

   Neo-Advaita Demystified   - anonymous

   A Realistic View of Vedanta, Parts I-XI, by Chittaranjan Naik   (knows his Advaita and covers alot of ground)


The next several links relate to other spiritual teachers and issues:

   The Wilberian Paradigm: A Fourfold critique by Alan Kazlev   (read - especially sections: "The problem of abusive gurus”,
    “The Intermediate Zone” and “Soul-realization and genuine Spirituality”, which discusses whether the awakening of the
    Psychic Being or Heart as discussed by Sri Aurobindo is an important factor missing from many non-dual paths).

   The Spiritual Crucible   by David Lane

   Traumatic Abuse in Cults   by Daniel Shaw, C.S.W
     (Thoughts on individuation, separation anxiety, and cult psychology. Useful considerations for facilitating mature
     relationships to spiritual teachers and spiritual paths)

   Saga of a Disillusioned Seeker   by "Morpheus"   (humorous audio clips)

   Critical Zen


The last two links are not directly about advaita but are serious articles addressing the same issues from a multi-traditional point of view:

   To Practice or Not to Practice   by Joel

   Never Underestimate the Ego   by Joel