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In the article below, Dr. Pillai gives you the checklists to identify fake spiritual teachers and false teachings. This checklist will help you stay away from their false propaganda and practices. They will also help you identify positive and healthy enlightenment teachings and avoid abusive, overly ascetic, or cult-like atmospheres. Have a look at this article and keep your spiritual and material life safe free of exploitation.

To get the most out of these checklists, watch the video as well. This article is an excerpt from Dr. Pillai’s book, Life-Changing Sounds: Tools from the Other Side.

 Negative Enlightenment and Ignorant Gurus

The following section is for those on a spiritual path. It gives you some checks and balances to help you on your way.

Everything is changing constantly. We call this evolution. Evolution is brought about by time. Time, as it progresses, reveals many hidden secrets about knowledge and the material universe. What was once unknown is known now. What is unknown now will be known someday in the future.

The bottom line is that everything is changing every moment. But, there are institutions that have resisted change: Our religious institutions and our fanatical attachments to particular faiths.

We say God is beyond reason and logic. It is a matter of the heart and inner knowingness. I totally agree with this. But I want to warn those on a spiritual path about ignorant gurus and negative enlightenment. These terms may be considered oxymorons, but they exist.

Evaluate Spiritual Teachings along with the Teacher

Many years ago when I gave a New Year’s Eve lecture in Los Angeles, I talked about the ignorance of the Buddha. I said the Buddha lived in a primitive society without electricity, air conditioning or antibiotics. Science and technology, as we know them today, did not exist then, so the Buddha suffered along with his contemporaries. They slept on hard floors, walked in the hot sun, drank dirty water and died of epidemics or clogged arteries.

Although enlightened, Buddha was not only conditioned by lack of scientific or technological knowledge, but by a crippling monastic and ascetic culture. The Buddha, though he called himself a rebel and was known for his polemics against Hinduism, nonetheless was a victim of Hindu asceticism and celibacy imposed by the Upanishadic tradition of pre-Buddhist and post-Vedic India.

This is what made the Buddha leave his kingdom, father, wife, and son in search of enlightenment. The ideal was renunciation and asceticism. The desire was seen as the root cause of misery: Seek nirvana through meditation and end the cycle of birth and death. The Buddha is understood to have followed the so-called “middle path” which avoids extreme lifestyles. Did he follow one? Apparently not. He took to begging and didn’t allow women in his monasteries for a long time.

So far I have dwelt on the negative qualities of the Buddha and his way of life. Is there anything positive about him? Yes there is a lot. The Buddha knew about the unknowable. He was a great scientist of super-consciousness and nirvana. He acquired tremendous amounts of superhuman and supernatural powers. He lived like a superman, which in his opinion was better than being a prince or king. Life to him was worth renouncing for the sake of Enlightenment.

I want you to ponder the question: Do we have to renounce life in order to reach enlightenment? Most religions, if not all, would say yes to this question.

That is how the split between the layman and the clergy—the profane and the sacred—was created. It is time for all religionists to join together and to develop a hard-nosed look at their holy men and women, along with the teachings within their respective traditions. I know that this will create a lot of turmoil and confusion among congregations emotionally tied to their particular religions and beliefs.

Yet, I am not professing a rationalistic theology. Religion and spirituality are beyond reason. However, I urge you to look at the neglect and lack of interest that churches, temples, mosques and monasteries have suffered. People are less able to relate to their religion easily except through some form of fundamentalism, which is not a desirable option for those desiring Enlightenment.

We need to contemporize our religion, faith and spiritual practices. In order to do this we have to use discernment. Particularly we need to discriminate between positive and negative enlightenment, ignorant gurus and enlightened gurus. The following comparisons will help you decide the key factors about the four categories that I have described for yourself.

Negative Enlightenment Teachings

  1. Desire is the cause for misery and the senses cause bondage to the world. Practice renunciation.
  2. Annihilation of the ego.
  3. Sit in meditation all the time.
  4. Lead a life of poverty with minimum resources.
  5. Live in the moment and don’t plan for the future.
  6. Work is distraction from enlightenment, therefore don’t work.
  7. Sex is evil.
  8. Senses are evil.
  9. Emotions and fantasies are evil.

Positive Enlightenment Teachings

  1. Life should be full of positive desires, but one should remain detached from both joy and suffering.
  2. Nurtures positive ego, which leads to self-esteem.
  3. Sit in meditation for a period of time, e.g. an hour, but be mindful all day.
  4. Live a comfortable life with moderate luxury.
  5. Live in the moment but secure your present and future needs.
  6. Work is divine and better than inaction and unemployment.
  7. Sex is divine.
  8. Senses are nourishing, but keep them under control.
  9. Emotions and fantasies give meaning to life.

Finding an Authentic Guru is Hard

During the month of February 2000, I took a group of my American students on a pilgrimage to India. We went to a sacred mountain in search of the Siddhas (perfected Beings).

I met a guy in a deep saffron robe and long matted hair. He would not speak and it was said that he lived on one meal a day. I gave him some money. He wanted to have his picture taken with my students and me. I complied, though feeling uncomfortable. When I was leaving, he asked me to write something. I wrote to him that he should give up his pretensions about silence and fasting and try to get a job.

Later on, the temple priest told me that the so-called saint became silent because he didn’t know the answers to the questions of his people. All that he needed to do was fake a mystical look and raise his hands in blessings. He raised one hand if the donation was poor and two hands if it was generous.

Many years ago when I was young, I studied with a guru who has been a university professor for 30 years of his life. He was a high school dropout, but his knowledge was greater than most PhDs. Most universities recognized him and awarded him honorary doctorate degrees. He would never teach for money, but selected one or two people whom he would teach individually.

He introduced me to Sri Vidya, an ancient Tantric tradition. The day he initiated me, the Goddess appeared to me in a dream. This is an example of a real teacher. However, this does not mean that anybody who doesn’t collect money is a master teacher. Many teachings are available free of cost from gurus in India who act like the guru I mentioned formerly. It is very difficult to find an authentic guru.

Checklist for Discerning an Ignorant Guru

  1. Fanatical, fundamentalist. Robes and beard are more important than their inner development.
  2. Follows institutional bureaucracy and hierarchy in order to keep political power.
  3. Manipulates students to stay with them through fear, guilt and eternal oaths.
  4. “I am God or the only one who holds the truth. Everyone else is either false or mistaken.”
  5. Wealth is bad and you should give up your belongings (perhaps to him for safe custody).
  6. Outwardly condemns sex although it is contradictory to his conviction and practice.
  7. Does not socialize with students in order to keep the students in awe and wonder.
  8. Donation to the guru or his institution will wash away your sins.
  9. Doesn’t talk about his struggles with thoughts and desires, but lies to the world that he is in samadhi and without thoughts.
  10. Full of diseases in the body, and blames them on to the karma of the students and the world.
  11. Claims that his personal suffering is due to taking on the karma of the people of the world.

Checklist for Discerning an Enlightened Guru

  1. Totally free from concepts, constantly moving forward and progressive. Robes are not as important as inner development.
  2. Not attached to institutions and hierarchy. Least political.
  3. Always asks his students to feel free to quit without fear or guilt.
  4. “I am on the path still evolving.” Respects others’ teachings and recommends their books and teachings.
  5. Wealth is freedom. You should save money for your rainy days.
  6. Affirms sexuality and its divinity.
  7. Mingles with his students and is easily accessible.
  8. Talks freely about his mistakes and shortcomings.
  9. Donations may help, but has to be on the basis of true inner transformation.
  10. Talks about battle with the body and tries to be healthy.
  11. Claims that his personal suffering is due to his lack of knowledge to handle karma successfully.

It is very vital to be lead by an enlightened guru. Going after fake gurus ruin both spiritual and material life and can cause severe damages psychologically and physically. Remember these checklists and be guided by a qualified guru, and tread on the path of realization and Enlightenment.

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