The Most Honest Lie
HWL Poonja, better known as Papaji, instigated what has been recently coined the Neo Advaita Satsang movement. As the name suggests, neo means new—a new approach to Advaita Vedanta—the ancient non-dual teachings of the Vedas and Upanishads of India. Neo Advaita was Papaji’s “great experiment” to see if spreading satsang around the world with his students could alter the course of human history, which for centuries has been on the perilous trajectory of total extinction of the human race. Satsang, Papaji believed, was the only logical solution for ending the destructive nature of the human mind and ego, which is the root cause of all war and conflict.
Advaita Vedanta, in the traditional sense, is known to require years of preparation before a student is fully self-realized and properly prepared to teach, but in complete defiance of tradition, Papaji sent out hundreds of students to teach as soon as they had a direct experience of the truth of their being, which he often described as finding the Diamond. His experiment was simple—as soon as you awaken to the living truth, or have a direct experience of the living truth of your being, he would send you out to teach or share your realization. This approach did spread satsang around the world at a high rate of speed, but it was also a catalyst for a deep misunderstanding of the teaching, abuse of power by several of his students, and opened the door for the proliferation of what is known as the enlightened ego or the shear arrogance of thinking an awakened experience equates to liberation from the karmic wheel of suffering.
Neo Advaita is primarily based on Papaji’s existential statement, “No teacher, no student, no teaching. This is the teaching!” Papaji was primarily focused on the absolute truth, that the living presence in the core of your being is pure conscious awareness, which by its very nature is already liberated. Due to the fact that you are essentially already liberated in the core of your being as pure awareness, Papaji maintained it was possible to be fully liberated in a single instant simply by recognizing this truth for yourself. This perspective is true in absolute sense, but utterly false in the relative sense, or the very strong ego sense or deep feeling you are your body. His perspective opened the door to the utterly false belief that awakening or the direct experience of the pure awareness in the core of your being equates to liberation from the karmic wheel of suffering—nothing could be further from the truth.
Neo Advaita has evolved into the very dangerous idea that none of the traditional practices are necessary for liberation. At this point in time, it is the virulent dogmatic belief of many Neo Advaita teachers that anyone can become instantly liberated without any effort. This idea is based in complete and total ignorance of the science and practices essential for self-realization to take root in your consciousness. This idea of instant enlightenment often leaves the ego very much in charge—the enlightened ego—that keeps patterns of suffering recurring even after the most profound moments of realization or high states of consciousness. It also opens the door for megalomania, or even worse, the gross physical, mental, and financial abuse perpetrated against students demonstrated by Andrew Cohen—a former student of Papaji.
Neo Advaita is at best extremely misleading and at worst the catalyst for profound suffering. It is, however, quite possibly the most honest lie ever told. In extremely rare cases, it is possible for someone to become fully liberated in a single instant, but this is so rare it is hardly even worth mentioning. In other words, in the absolute sense you are already liberated, but in the relative sense, or the deep feeling you are your body, this idea is utterly false and totally misleading. Neo Advaita simply does not take into account the genetics of mind known as the genetic mind, which combined with the naturally deep feeling you are your body or your ego, creates a powerful energetic force in the body or the very strong invisible neuro-net of the genetic mind.
This neuro-net of the genetic mind is extremely resilient and almost impervious to change—it is the bone breaking strong genetic code of survival. Even after profound realizations or moments of awakening this neuro-net retains the power to regenerate itself, which enables patterns of suffering to re-immerge. The genetic mind is basically the huge biological force or the subtle nature of the body clearly documented in the ancient texts of the Vedas and Upanishads. The ancient teachings took this force of nature into account and after careful study developed the science and practices essential to purify the mind and burn through the very resilient neuro-net created by the genetic mind and reinforced by the five senses as well as the genetic and cultural conditioning stored in the human brain.
In other words, the Vedas and Upanishads are not just hogwash, ancient fantasies, or mystical experiences written down by bunch of Advaita Vedanta quacks nor is Advaita Vedanta some kind or antiquated religion—it was never a religion—it is more accurately described as a science. In fact, it is a proven science that provides the methods and practices essential for total liberation from the genetic mind and egoic identity of the human form. Naturally, you can love the idea of instant enlightenment, but it is the pure fantasy of the western mind to think it is possible to bypass the rigors of spiritual practice essential for full self-realization.
The harsh reality is you must work on yourself in the relative sense to realize the truth of you in the absolute sense—there is no bypass or short cut. The continuous practices of the various yogas prescribed in the Vedas, Upanishads, and also clearly indicated by Sri Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, are the practices essential for full and final liberation from the karmic wheel of suffering.
Don’t be fooled by the false promise of Neo Advaita. The practices of self-inquiry, the mantra, and meditation are the essential triad that generates the sacred fire necessary to completely annihilate the genetic mind and ego.
Neo Advaita might be the most honest lie—but the truth always sets you free.