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Seers and Cults!
|by Dr. Varanasi Ramabrahmam|
Our India is a country of spirituality. Many seers have born here and revealed the truth. Upanishadic seers are the first in this category. Knowledge of Self (Atmajnana or Brahmajnana) is the content of Upanishads.
Spirituality is the essence of simplicity and possession and experience of real knowledge. Simple living and high thinking are its tenets. Sense of independence, liberty, courage, daring nature, compassion, love for knowledge, truth, peace, bliss and longing to be silent are its characteristics. The spiritual person possesses all these traits. We call such individuals as seers. They were, have been, are and will be influencing the society in the right and desired direction by their mere presence. They need not have to participate in any activities as we.
Seers experience the truth and reveal it. And it is interesting that different seers expressed the same truth in different technical terms. Sometimes these revelations appear contradictory. The famous advaita, visistaadvaita and dvaita schools’ interpretation of the Upanishadic contents, The Brahma Sutras and The Bhagavadgita (together called the Prastaanatraya) is a case in point. And more interestingly most of us revere all the three Achaaryaas, Sankaraacharya (Advaita), Ramaanujaachaarya (Visistaadvaita) and Madhvaacharya (Dvaita), with equal veneration.
But the chief question remains: What actually the Prasthaanatraya contain - is it advaita, vissitaadvaita or dvaita or saakaadvaita? An impartial observation informs that the view with which the books are interpreted is more important than the books themselves. How the view is formed and, does it precede or succeed the study of the books, is not clear. This separates the seers among themselves. It informs that same truth experienced can be expressed differently based on individual seer’s kind and quality of experience, affiliation, preference and awareness of experience had. And cults are formed around each seer and his interpretation.
The followers of the seers are less tolerant than the seers and many times “quarrel” among themselves claiming their seer’s view is the “correct” one. Cults mask the teachings of the seers and develop divisions. That is how Hinduism is not following one school of thought about truth. Through centuries many seers have originated from all over India and taught the truth as they experienced and saw it. Upanishadic seers, sage Vyasa, The Buddha, The Mahaveera, the compilers of the shad darsanas (Gautama - nyaya, Kanada - vaisheshika, Patanjali - yoga, Kapila - Samkhya, Jaimini - poorva meemaamsa, Badarayana - uttara meemsa or Vedanta), the Charvaaakas expressed truth in their own way and cults were formed around them.
Veera Saivam, Veera Vaishnavam - offshoots of Saivism and Vaishnavism dominated in the middle centuries. Then many individuals followed with their own interpretations. Even the rationalists do not object to be called as seers. The most famous modern seers who are roughly contemporaries - Vivekaananda (Sri Rama Krishna), Sri Aurobindo, Sri Ramana Maharshi and Sri J. Krishnamurty have experienced the same truth but revealed it in different technical terms giving an impression to the uninitiated as different. [J. Krishnamurty though claimed not to be influenced by any study or learning including ancient Indian thought, the study of the course of his life that led to the experience he had in the USA and subsequent utterances, resemble Upanishadic expressions. (He is independent in the experience of the truth and so are Upanishadic and other seers.) The famous one being, the Krishnamurty’s tem mental conditioning is equivalent of Ajnana, the term used by the Upanishads for the same understanding. ]. Similarly only the technical terms used by Sri Aurobindo, Sri Ramakrishna and Sri Ramana Maharshi differed but in essence are the essence of the Upanishadic expressions.
The cults formed around them in addition to the ones formed earlier and later to them are presently “owned” by different organizations and give us a feeling that all of them are not the same. The current owners of the cults around seers feel it is their obligation to quote the seer or refer to him at every instant trying to give us a feeling that their seer is omniscient.
The present proliferation of commercial spiritual gurus and the cults around them are in hundreds in our country. All of them are individually striving to spread spirituality but are not ready to accept for commercial reasons the reality that what all of them teach is essentially same. The financial empires built around the various seers’ teachings are so lucrative that the individualities will be maintained at any cost. But cults formed around the teachings of respective seers are not reflections and true representations of the seers’ original teachings. Many distortions have taken place. Further the money factor is relegating the spiritual part to the background. Just as we have castes we have cults. Castes are social institutions.
Cults are “spiritual” institutions. We follow the cult of our liking and choice and will be “imprisoned” in it. Cults rob us of our independence. The very essence of spirituality, that is independence, will have to be sacrificed. And individuals with incomplete and imperfect understanding of the seer’s teaching will be our masters and we their followers than the followers of the seer. Cults may do more harm to the spirit of the seer’s teachings and an independent interpretation is always safe and reliable. The intuition in us will be our spiritual teacher and we can guide ourselves. No mediator is necessary. If we feel that we are not capable of such “strenuous” work, we have no choice but to be parrots in the cage of the cult.
But spirituality is not dependence or slavery. It is self-reliance. Let us be self-reliant in spiritual matters. Gurus are necessary. But a Guru is like a catalyst in a chemical reaction. A catalyst only enhances the rate of the reaction, it never participates in the reaction and once the reaction has taken place, its use is over. After proper initiation the Guru must leave. But modern spiritual gurus love to be our masters for our lives and this is not spirituality but something else. The mark of true spiritualist is we feel peace in their presence. We are not told to give them money and the like. Fashion to be called as devotee of such and such a popular spiritual guru or an Ananda or Baba or Amma is not spirituality. Spirituality is essential for us but not fake spirituality.
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