Author Topic: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.  (Read 5087 times)

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NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« on: February 13, 2013, 01:50:19 PM »
Neo Advaitin Gurus and their Detractors:

(Mountain Path, Jayanti 2012).

Introduction:

The profusion of Neo Advaitin teachers and organizations over the past twenty five years is an under noticed and under researched
phenomenon in the larger study of North American religions.  These teachers / organizations number over 200 as of December
2010, based on careful tracking of Internet sources and various private publications. (See Sarlo's Guru Rating Service).

The term Neo Advaita has been used in a pejorative sense by some commentators, but it serves as a useful designation, in that it
delineates teachers and organizers that claim a spiritual connection to (at least one of ) three Advaitin gurus of the 20th century,
Sri Ramana Maharshi, (1879-1950), Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981) and / or H.W.L Poonja aka Papaji (1913-1997).

These three spiritual teachers are not the only sources for Neo Advaitin instruction, but they are the most significant line of transmission
for its core teaching of non dualism. The designation also indicates that the articulation of Advaita spirituality in these teachers /
groups departs in significant ways from traditional Advaita Vedanta as practiced in India. (John W. Parker, Interview with Eckhart Tolle).

The growing popularity and influence of Neo Advaita has not come without controversy. A small but influential group of critics
(for the most part from the United Staes, India and Great Britain ) has launched a wide ranging critique of Neo Advaitin teachings
and teachers over the past fifteen years. The critics align themselves with a more traditional articulation and practice of Advaita Vedanta
and often cite as their examples of truly realized sages such as revered figures such as Adi Sankara, Vasishta, Sri Ramakrishna, Sri
Ramana Maharshi, Siddharameshwar Maharaj, and Nisargadatta Maharaj.

contd.

Arunachala Siva.               

Subramanian.R

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Re: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« Reply #1 on: February 13, 2013, 05:30:33 PM »
continues.....

This article attempts to identify the main themes and substance of these critiques, which can be plotted along five main thematic
trajectories. The first of these themes centers upon Neo Advaitin teachers'  alleged disavowal of sadhana, or spiritual effort, in
the process of Self Realization. The critics claim that a time tested method of mental purification / preparation is essential in
Advaita and that this purification / preparation is incremental and requires disciplined effort over a sustained period of time.

The second theme follows from the first and entails the charge by critics that Neo Advaitins ignore the necessity for moral development
as a prerequisite for authentic spiritual realization. The critics assert that efficacious sadhana includes the development of specific
virtues and allege that many Neo Advaitin gurus make the insufficient reference to these virtues in their teachings.

A third theme critiques Neo Advaitins for their lack of grounding in Advaitic texts, languages, and traditions. These critics see this
grounding as essential for any teacher who is to be an effective agent of Advatic teaching. Related to this criticism is the charge
that too many Neo Advaitins gurus begin teaching within a short time of their first 'awakening' experiences and thus lack the
necessary 'ripeness' for authentic instruction of others. Critics argue that authentic Advaitin gurus must be well established in the
state of Sahaja Samadhi and have the necessary skills for effective teaching.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       
               
 
 

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Re: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2013, 12:50:31 PM »


continues.....

A fourth theme of the critiques focuses on the Satsangh format itself and the shallowness of the seekers who attend these events.
Critics see the Satsangh events as limited, ephemeral, and ultimately of little value for attendees. They allege that the Neo Advaitin
students eschew ongoing assistance in the arduous task ego transcendence and rather seek an 'instant enlightenment' that bypasses
essential steps in spiritual  development. The critics question whether the seekers are more concerned with psychological empowerment, self help, and the experience of spiritual community than true Advaitic liberation.

A fifth and final theme of critiques is the charge that Neo Advaitins make no distinction between absolute and relative levels of awareness, and thus tend to devalue a life of engaged spiritual practice and balanced development of physical, emotional,
psychological, and spiritual dimensions of the self. By placing all their emphasis on the most advanced state of spiritual realization,
Neo Advaitin teachers and students are seen by their critics as prone to 'pre-transcendence',  the deluded assumption of ultimate
spiritual liberation and a resulting premature de-personalization and disengagement from ordinary life.               

One could  argue that each of these themes resonates with the others and that all five could be reduced to one over reaching critique:
Neo Advaitin gurus strip away essential aspects of the Advaitin system, leaving a pseudo spirituality that is ineffective for the arduous
task of achieving moksha, ultimate spiritual liberation. Nevertheless, a sequential focus upon each of these sub themes will help to
better disclose the depth and breadth of the critiques of Neo Advaita by their Advaitin opponents.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva. 

Subramanian.R

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Re: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2013, 01:32:26 PM »

continues.....

Disavowal of Sadhana:

The first of these themes centers upon Neo Advaitin teachers'  allege disavowal of Sadhana, or spiritual effort, in the achievement
of spiritual liberation. From the perspective of their critics, Neo Advaitin teachers wrongly contend that Advaita's essential teaching
of non dual truth has been buried under a layer of myths, practices, and symbols, which are culturally bound and dualistic in thier
mindset. These Neo Advaitin teachers, it is claimed, assert that realization of the One Absolute Being can gained instantly through
their version of satsangh, an intimate, but public discussion between students and their teacher. Because of this, students do not
need to learn foreign terms, master abstruse texts, or engage in mental preparation in order to 'get it'. In fact, all the elaborate
methodology of traditional Advaitic sadhana is seen as inimical to spiritual realization, since it fosters the illusion that there is
'someone' to get some 'future' state of enlightenment.

Full enlightenment is here and now, if one simply realizes the Advaita's Ultimate Truth that Atman (the spiritual self) is none other
than Brahman (absolute Reality). (Waite Dennis, Enlightenment, The Path through the Jungle, Winchester, UK. O Books.)

Traditional Advaitins strongly disavow these claims and emphasize the necessity of life long, sustained sadhana, according to the
teachings of Sri Sankara and Sri Ramana Maharshi, and other respected Advaitin sages.  An essential aspect of this sadhana is mental
preparation. which entails the development of habits of discrimination, detachment, calmness of mind, and a profound desire for
liberation. Only once this preparation is well under way can the mind of the student fruitfully engage with advanced Advaitic teachings.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.               

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Re: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« Reply #4 on: February 16, 2013, 01:41:51 PM »

continues.....

Advaitin writer Dennis Waite specifically criticizes Neo Advaitins Tony Parson and John Wheeler, for their claims that efforts,
doctrines, and progressive spiritual systems only serve to perpetuate the illusion of separate identity. He counters that
practice in its traditional Advaitic sense is mental preparation, which dissolves the conditional and inborn tendencies so that
authentic Self Knowledge can emerge naturally.

Waite quotes Sri Ramana Maharshi, who observed, 'Self realization itself does not admit of progress, it is ever the same.
The Self remains always in realization. The obstacles are thoughts. Progress is measured by the degree of removal of the obstacles
to understanding  that the Self is always realized.'  Put another way, Sadhana and progress pertain to the degree to which
misunderstanding and false perceptions have been removed from the student's mind, not to the Self as it is.

The Advaitin methods for Self Realization, in the view of Neo Advatin critics, have been verified through practice over many
centuries. Thus there is no need for these methods to change with changing trends and conditions. (Cornway, Timothy, Pseudo
Advaita, and Real Advaita - Non Duality.)

Advaitin Timothy Conway alleges that Neo Advaitins 'call off the search' prematurely, eschewing effort or practice and substituting
cognitive knowledge for the authentic realization of the Self.  As a consequence, they remain confused concerning the real nature of the
Self and deeply mirred in karmic habits of attachment and aversion. As he observes, 'Just to merely have the 'Understanding'  that 'only
Self is Real' or that 'Consciousness is all there is' and think  that there is nothing more to spirituality than this conceptual understanding
and a corresponding 'blanked out'  zombification is simply not sufficient for authentic awakening ..... One must be thoroughly liberated
into as this Truth on the affective and motivational behavioral levels, i.e. fully established in real freedom from binding samskaras /
vasanas.


contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                 

Subramanian.R

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Re: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« Reply #5 on: February 17, 2013, 01:20:37 PM »

continues.....

The Necessity for Moral Development:

The second critical theme charges that Neo Advaitins ignore the necessity for moral development as a prerequisite for
authentic spiritual realization. The Advaitins claim that efficacious sadhana includes the development of traditional
Vedic virtues such as faith, devotion, perseverance, and allege that many Neo advaitin gurus not only lack these virtues
but also fail to emphasize their importance in their teaching discourses. Some critics articulate this development of virtues
under the traditional Vedantic practice of Vaidika Dharma (only dharma for brahmins). These rules of conduct that govern
human behavior according to a system of duties to society, the gods and one's family. When a person sacrifices personal
desires to serve the Divine and others, critics observe, vasana-production becomes non binding and therefore no longer an
impediment to realization of the Self. (Swartz James, What is Neo Advaita?).

In response to the Neo Advaitin mantra that there is 'nothing to do', that 'nothing really exists' and that 'everything is simply
an illusion', the Advaitin critics cite Vedanta's longstanding teaching concerning the qualifications for authentic self inquiry.
Included in these qualifications is samadhisatsmaptti, a set of six virtues that bring about mental purity and qualify the student
to hear and understand advanced Upanishadic truths. As articulated by Swami Dayananda of the Arsha Vidya Peetha, they
include contentment or self composure, (sama), self discipline and sobriety (uparama), the capacity to bear small difficulties with
patience (titiksha), faith in one's teacher  and in the words of Vedanta to deliver true knowledge (sraddha) and the power of inner
concentration so that the mind can become  Self-absorbed, (samadhanam).

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.             

Subramanian.R

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Re: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2013, 10:37:13 AM »

continues.....

Swami Viditatmananda emphasizes the pressing need to foster a pure and of an orderly mind free of likes and dislikes, lust and anger,
and greed. These distractions or 'enemies' cloud the mind, making it unreceptive to transcendent knowledge. They also perpetuate
unrighteous and unmeritorious patterns of action that lead to a life our of harmony with cosmic order. (Swami Viditatmananda, The Qualification necessary for the Study of Vedanta.).  Teaching on the developments of these virtues is sorely missing from Neo
Advaitin satsanghs, according to their critics, and this lack of attention to the need for the cultivation of virtues and ethical living
bypasses an essential step in the process of self realization.

Progress in the development of these virtues has traditionally been seen as a prerequisite for the maturity required to 'hear' the
higher Advaitic teaching. Thus a teaching that there are no prerequisites for Self Inquiry, that the practice can be undertaken by
anyone, regardless of their life style or qualifications,  and that little change of personal behavior is necessary -- though it may
appeal to the libertarian, egalitarian and democratic attitudes of North Americans --- is self defeating according to Neo Advaita's
critics. Advaitic writer David Frawley reiterates this theme, asserting that Advaitic tradition is unbendiing with regard to practices
of asceticism and moral purification, unappealing as these practices may sound to Western attendees of week end enlightenment
seminars. (David Frawley, Misconceptins about Advaita.).

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.           

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Re: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« Reply #7 on: February 19, 2013, 12:56:44 PM »
continues......

Lack of Grounding in Vedantic Teachings and Premature Guru Status:

A third theme critiques of Neo Advaitin teachers for their lack of grounding in Vedantic language, texts, and traditions, and
their concomitantly premature assumption of the guru role. The critics see this grounding as essential for any teacher who is to
be an effective agent of Advaitic awakening. Without it, they contend, the Advaitic system of Self Realization gets watered down,
key Sanskrit terms are misinterpreted and Neo Advaitic teaching becomes little more than  a psychological massage for stressed out
North Americans.

Dennis Waite insists that Sanskrit training is highly desirable since there are often no suitable words to translate Sanskrit words.
Even in cases where a relatively accurate word can be found in English, it likely will not carry the subtle nuances of a Sanskrit term.
The use of an ordinary English word, he maintains, also makes it less likely that the concept referred to, will be examined thoroughly.
It is a tradition in Vedanta that during the first stage of life, brahmacharya, students become proficient in Sanskrit and then engage,
in a comprehensive study of Vedic texts and Upanishads, with the Guru.  (Enlightenment: The Path through the Jungle,)

Some critics question the independent Neo Advaitin teachers who stand outside the ancient tradition of Advaita. They communicate it
in changing contexts has survived in the sampradayas of India. Moreover, these traditional guru lineage, have protected the teachings
from innovators who believe it is necessary to "make them palatable for modern audiences or hide them for want of qualified aspirants.
(Swartz James, The Horse's Mouth - An Essay on the Lineage of Game.)

For these critics, the genius of the Vedantic tradition is that it reaches humanity where it lives, in the dream of duality, and provides
an effective road map and tools, including teachings on core issues such as the nature of the mind, the cosmos, and the Self.
(ibid.,)

continued......

Arunachala Siva.               

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Re: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2013, 01:17:01 PM »
Shortcomings of the Satsangh Format:

A fourth theme of the critiques focuses on the shortcomings of the satsangh format. The usual model of Neo Advaitin satsangh
begins with a period of quiet reflection, followed by the questions and answers from attendees. The attendees come up to the
teacher, who is most often seated on a raised platform or stage. They talk about challenges in their spiritual life, ask questions,
and hen enter into an intimate dialogue with the teacher. Given the Osho-Poonja connection, it appears likely that this method
originated in teaching dialogues that were common in the Osho community. The method is suited to North American seekers
conditioned by the public confessional approach found on day time talk shows such as Oprah and Dr. Phil and who expect
personal attention or 'therapy' from their spiritual teachers. (Lucas, When a Movement is not a Movement.). As one critic of
the Neo Advaitin teacher Adyashanti put it, 'his satsangh dialogue ..... manifests as a kind of New Age personal growth modality
with a non dualist philosophical construct laid over it. It is in fact reminiscent of Gestalt.' (Jeffrey Brooks, 'The Emperor Has no clothes.').
Some of these critiques also question the core motivations of attendees and allege that many of them are simply seeking self
improvement., 'self help' and an ephemeral experience of spiritual community, rather than assistance in the arduous task of ego
transcendence.

Advaitin writer Sadhu Tanmaya Chaitanya sees the satsangh experience as doomed to failure because it bypasses the necessary
preparatory stage of purifying the mind.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                     

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Re: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« Reply #9 on: February 21, 2013, 10:46:42 AM »

continues.....

The 'self appointed' savior of Neo Advaita, in his view, claim that they can transmit their realization to attendees in their
satsanghs,  but in truth they are only communicating intellectual insights  that do no nothing to burn out the ego's
identification with the body and its desires. By disparaging the power of conscious sadhana and claiming that nothing must
be done, that 'enlightenment has to happen on its own', they lull the 'gallery' into a false sense of well being. In the end,
attendees walk away with the conviction that their present values, attitudes, and life styles are fine as they are and that
nothing they can 'do' can hasten their awakening. He concludes by warning his readers that the 'parodies of modern Advaita'
rest on a fallacious logic that countenances a life of self indulgence. The satsangh events never mention the words devotion,
surrender, renunciation, and perseverance.

Rather, 'they speak of understanding, but never 'self realization' in which false identification with the body form is eradicated.
The attendees return to their habitual lives of sensory pleasures and egocentric striving secure in the knowledge hat have goottn
it.' (Sadhu Tanmaya Chaitanya, Modern Advaita - Its Lure and Snares. Mountain Path, Advent 2007.)

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         

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Re: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« Reply #10 on: February 22, 2013, 01:30:29 PM »

continues.....

Another critic Durga ( Durga, Comment on Guru Ratings Forum.) sums up the general Advaitin view of satsangh attendees.
In her experience, many of the seekers were unclear about what to expect from the satsanghs and were mostly interested
in finding new friends, a sense of spiritual community, and a few moments of epiphany, which were interpreted (with the help
from the over all context) as 'glimpses of the Self.'  Attendees engaged in a pattern of jumping from one Neo Advaitin teacher
to another, comparing notes, with other attendees concerning what they had experienced in each of the satsanghs, and
attempting to place  all of the teachings and experiences  into some coherent framework of spiritual understanding. Durga
questions whether attendees are receiving anything of lasting value, given the common pattern of responses from Neo Advaitin
gurus is off the cuff, idiosyncratic, and without prior reflection.  She complains that no overview is given of the basic Advaitic principles
and methods. the books and tapes published by the teachers do not help, since they are usually simply transcripts/ recordings of the
satsangh events. (Durga, ibid).

Alan Jacobs does acknowledge, unlike many critics, that Neo Advaita satsanghs can at lease serve to INTRODUCE attendees to
authentic Advaitic teachings. Attendance at satsanghs flawed as they may be, does 'undermine the phantom ego intellectually
at least. (Alan Jacobs, Advaita & Neo Advaita, A Study, Mountain Pah Deepam 2004.).   At best he maintains, a partial surrender
of he ego  can be achieved, but without the full devotional component that leads to 'total surrender when the mental occlusion is
absorbed in the Heart' .

He observes that many attendees after a period of chasing the latest hot Neo Advaitin teacher, do begin o earnestly inquire
into the full and traditional Advaitic sages like Sri Ramana Maharshi. He expects the Neo Advaitin movement to continue as a 'valid
if imperfect stepping stone', that draws seekers into the net of authentic Advaitic teaching. (Alan Jacobs. ibid.)

continued....

Arunachala Siva.     

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Re: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2013, 01:39:25 PM »

continues.....

PRETRANSCENDENCE, DEPERSONALIZATION AND LEVEL CONFUSION;

A fifth and final theme of the critiques is the charge that Neo Advaitins make no allowance for the Advaitin distinction between
the Absolute and relative levels of awareness.  As a result they allegedly tend to devalue a life of engaged spiritual practice and
the balanced development of physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual dimensions of the self. By placing all their emphasis
on the most advanced state of spiritual realization. Neo Advaitin teachers and students are seen by their critics as prone to fall
prey to 'pre  transcendence',  the deluded and premature assumption of the ultimate spiritual liberation that leads to de personalization
and disengagement from ordinary life.

The Neo Advaitin position, according to critics like Waite, ignores the Advatin teaching of Absolute Reality and apparent day to day
reality.  Neo Advaitins, Waite alleges, only recognizes Absolute Realiy and deal seeker, seeking and something to be sought.  But from
the standpoint of the seeker, Waite maintains, the apparent reality is real enough, just as the dream is real enough for the dreamer.
Thus there is identification with the body-mind form, suffering, the search for enlightenment, and a very convincing objective world for
most seekers.  Pretending this is not the case does not help those whose moment by moment experience is deeply conditioned
by this identification.

In traditional Advaita the phenomenal world (vyavahara) of objects and people has a relative reality.  Neo Advaitins make a grave
mistake in the eyes of their critics, therefore, when they deny the existence of this phenomenal level, insisting that only Absolute
Reality exists. The strong delusion of relative existence requires strenuous effort to eradicate, and Advaita provides unarguable logic
and various subtle methods to reduce the hold of the limited ego self.   
                     
continued..... 

Arunachala Siva.

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Re: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2013, 11:58:23 AM »

continues....

When students with unprepared minds are forced to accept the Absolute Truth, --- for example by asserting that in reality,
there is no seeker, no doer, and no path, 'this is it' --- they are left in a state of cognitive dissoance in Waite's view. For at the
same time, as they accept the that the ego and the world of forms is an illusion, that only Brahman is Real, the conviction
persists that they are the body-mind organism and that they exist as separate, discrete levels. It is of little use to deny the
existence of a reality in which most people are trapped, asserting that it is a result of ignorance and that it is ' a part of the
story'.  Far better, Waite maintains, is to provide the means, methods, practices that can dispel that ignorance  through 
knowledge, as happens in traditional Advaita.  Otherwise, the seekers are left in a position of the beginning  math student
who insists upon learning quantum mechanics before even mastering elementary arithmetic. (Dennis Waite, Traditional Vs.
Neo Advaita)

Timothy Conway believes that Neo Advaita's misunderstanding of Advaita's relative and absolute levels leads to inadequate efforts
to overcome the Vasanas and continued rebirth and suffering at that relative level of empirical experience.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

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Re: NOT SO FAST, AWAKENED ONES - Philip C. Lucas.
« Reply #13 on: February 24, 2013, 07:14:13 PM »

continues.....

Moreover, the compulsion to focus solely on the absolute level of reality, neglects "the multiple worlds being emanated by
the God-Self for the sake of Divine Lila or relationship play."  A resulting tendency to devalue human relationships can lead to
a state of depersonalization., " a syndrome marked by a strong, pathological dissociation and detachment, apathy, and loss of
empathy.

Basic humaneness, warmth, and tender loving can vanish in preference for a cool, robotic, demeanor"  This state of pre
transcendence. Conway asserts, dishonors the significance of the Divine's expression as unique and beautiful human persons. (Conway,
Timothy, ibid).

Conway also argues that Neo Advaita's denial of the relative level of ordinary experience can lead to indifference toward what he
terms 'engaged spirituality', the forceful addressing of economic, environmental, gender and racial and political injustice in the world.
Because from the Absolute level of reality, such injustices are merely Maya or samsara, Neo Advaitins can come to view political action
in the world as absurd and not worth the trouble.  For Conway, authentic spirituality requires detachment from the world and at the same time a paradoxically compassionate  engagement with the relative world of sentient beings caught in the webs of suffering.
He cites the example of Sri Raamna Maharshi who carefully read the newspapers each day and listened to radio broadcasts out of
a genuine interest in the welfare of human persons, society, and the animal realm. (ibid.P

Conclusion:

In  conclusion, it should be acknowledged that it is not the first time in religious history, that new versions of an older tradition
has caused consternation and criticism from the upholders of orthodoxy. Gautama Buddha's stripped down version of Brahminical
religion and Saul of Tarsus' law free version of Late Temple Judaism roused unrelenting opposition from traditionalists and eventually
led to the formation of independent religious systems..  In each case, the most virulent critiques came from those who saw their     
religions as systems of interlocking and mutually reinforcing doctrines, rituals, ethical codes, scriptures and spiritual methods.
Selective choosing of these elements for either rejection or special focus was seen to be a dangerous weakening and debasement
'of the entire religious system and as an unwarranted attack on  time tested methods of salvation and awakening.  Whatever the
merits of the  critiques described in this paper, they clearly constitute at the very least a predictable defense of a venerable   
spiritual tradition tat is believed to have proven methods for awakening and built in safe guards against the abuse of authority and
self deception.

concluded.

Arunachala Siva.