FALSE VEDANTA – a warning from Vivekachudamani

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Sri Shankara

Perhaps the most important single text that traditionally outlines the Jnana Marga (Path of Knowledge) is Shankara’s Vivekachudamani.  This text has been used for centuries as a step by step manual to take one from (apparent) ignorance to Moksha (liberation) in which there is no suffering and it has been recommended by all the great Advaita sages including Sri Ramana Maharshi.

There are many gems littered throughout the text, and here is one of them which you may have missed:

160. The stupid man thinks he is the body, the book-learned man identifies himself with the mixture of body and soul, while the sage possessed of realisation due to discrimination looks upon the eternal Atman as his Self, and thinks, “I am Brahman”.

In verse 160 Shankara tells us that the one who is book-learned in Vedanta considers himself to be a mix of ‘body and soul’. In doing so, the one with mere book-learning still retains identification with the body, and so remains in ignorance and continues to suffer. In verse 162 Shankara, as is characteristic of the writing in Vivekachudamani, repeats his point and elaborates on it to make the meaning clear and beyond doubt:

162. As long as the book-learned man does not give up his mistaken identification with the body, organs, etc., which are unreal, there is no talk of emancipation for him, even if he be ever so erudite in the Vedanta philosophy.

There are many who know the scriptures, know the teachings, but still identify with the body in some way. These verses are a warning against this view. Shankara concludes this small section as follows, dispensing his sagely advice:

163. Just as thou dost not identify thyself with the shadow-body, the image-body, the dream-body, or the body thou hast in the imaginations of thy heart, cease thou to do likewise with the living body also.
164. Identifications with the body alone is the root that produces the misery of birth etc, of people who are attached to the unreal; therefore destroy thou this with the utmost care. When this identification caused by the mind is given up, there is no more chance for rebirth [ie. liberation is attained].

So don’t take yourself to be the body, just as you do not take your shadow to be yourself, do not take your body to be your-Self. Also, do not take yourself to be both the body and something else and in doing so retain a sense of limitation. You are That alone, you are the Self.

You are That alone,

You are the Self.

Spiritual, Emotional & Non-Dual Guidance & Counselling

Tom is the only one [teacher] I’ve seen who doesn’t come from his point of view, he always comes directly from the silence and meets the seeker exactly where they’re at. If they need a practice, he has it, if they already have one but are stuck he knows how to move them, if they’re just beginning he knows how to guide them…it’s wonderful to see.
Danny, UK

To arrange a 1 to 1 session with me please contact me via the contact page.

I offer 1 to 1 sessions either in person or via zoom. These sessions can be a wonderful way of clearing apparent blocks and confusion and can provide a much needed short-cut on your spiritual journey.

My Approach

I meet you wherever you are in your journey and guide you from there – whether you’re completely new to this or are a seasoned seeker, whether you want to focus purely on non-duality or instead want to heal emotional issues, deal with practical aspects of life or explore relationship issues.

Even if you don’t have a specific question or issue in mind, I often find I can intuitively feel where you are and advise you accordingly.

Guidance

Here are just some of the many things I have helped guide those who have approached me:

  • Total Freedom – right here, right now!
  • Clarity around the teachings with a focus on ending suffering in daily life
  • Awakening & enlightenment experiences: making sense of what may have happened to you and where to go from this
  • Going ‘in and out’ of enlightenment – why this is happening for you and what to do about it
  • Reconciling various traditional approaches such as Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosticism, Zen, Advaita, Vedanta as well as non-traditional approaches such as law of attraction, new-age teachings, direct teachings, neo-advaita, etc.
  • Dealing with practical issues such as various aspects of daily life and earning money
  • Relationship issues eg. with partners, family and children
  • Not really feeling happy, peaceful, whole & complete despite intellectually understanding the teachings
  • Healing emotional trauma and distress
  • Resolving addictive or habitual egoic tendencies (vasanas)
  • Addressing various issues related to being a ‘spiritual seeker’, eg:
    • a sense of isolation or loneliness
    • loss of interest or passion for various pursuits
    • other more specific issues such as psychic and energetic experiences.

Cost

Cost for an online 1 to 1 session: £75 for 1 hour; £50 for 30 minutes
Cost for in-person 1 to 1 meeting (in the London area, UK): £100 for 1 hour

To arrange a 1 to 1 session with me please contact me via the contact page

Disclaimer

Meetings and sessions are not intended as a substitute for professional therapy, medical care, or legal advice. Please consult a licensed professional in these matters.

Testimonials

Tom is the easiest person to talk to and he gave me the support I needed.
Outi, Finland

Tom’s teaching is unique. His guidance is a non-dual lighthouse emitting a bright light-beam across life’s turbulent expanse to steer the seeker from crashing on the rocks of ignorance, misunderstanding and delusion, to reach the shore of Timeless Being.
His gift is discerning where the individual seeker is at and what is required specifically for that ‘individual’ to support them in their thirst for freedom from suffering. His maturity, as a guide, is evident in how he can appreciate the wisdom teachings, the ‘treasure in the field’,  in traditions not generally associated with non-duality.
This breadth of understanding sets him apart from the smorgasbord of spiritual snake-oil merchants, pedlars, ‘evangelical’ non-dual purists and genuine teachers which, in practical terms, allows a welcoming and genuine spirit of inclusivity for anyone attending his satsangs.
Gerry, UK

I find Tom’s teachings clearer, simpler, and less encumbered by BS than just about anyone out there whom I have encountered. I’ve had teachers from Alan Watts to Adi Da, to Andrew Cohen, and others. Tom has the least ‘baggage’ I think…
Your words always affect me like a clear, clean breath of fresh air in the midst of what is often a lot of misconception and gobbledygook about what there is to ‘attain’ and all the rest of it.
Carl, USA

I chanced upon Tom’s website at a very interesting time in my journey. I had studied traditional Vedanta for many years. I had some good understanding about the concepts and was doing some serious self inquiry or Atma Vichara. That’s when I started tying myself into all sorts of knots. I wasted a lot of time confused by concepts and was in a very frustrated place until I spoke to Tom.
I believe things happen for a reason and you meet the right people at the right time in the journey. Within a couple of sessions, Tom was able to help me unravel some of these knots. As the layers started peeling off and more layers and depth opened up the journey started taking a different shape. Throughout this, Tom was able to ask just the right question and clarified many concepts that would have otherwise taken a life of their own.
I found his teaching style refreshingly down to earth and humble and since he was able to speak from his direct experience, it made everything so real and relatable.
Arvind, India

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Jnana vs Bhakti (The path of Knowledge vs Devotional Love)

Ramana Maharshi downward gaze

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi states in Guru Vachaka Kovai:

722. On scrutiny, supreme devotion [parabhakti] and Jnana are in nature one and the same. To say that one of these two is a means to the other is due to not knowing the nature of either of them.

731. Know that the path of Jnana and the path of Bhakti are inter-related. Follow these inseparable two paths without dividing one from the other.

B13. Attending to Self is devotion to the supreme Lord, because the Lord exists as Self.

Q. Some teachers (eg. Bentinho Massaro, Anadi, Adi Da Samraj) claim to have surpassed the traditional notion of enlightenment and say co-creation is the next evolutionary step…any thoughts?

Questioner: How does this relate to the stream of Spirituality that says we are co-creators of reality & thus can manifest what we wish?

What of Anadi who says he has gone beyond traditional Realizers including Nisargadatta Maharaj (who has Realized the Absolute but only in one axis), & who criticizes the “no doership” of traditional spiritual teaching as only for the mediocre masses of spiritual aspirants & that co- creatorship goes beyond the “no doer” teaching…

Bentinho Massaro, who also claims to be in never before Realization territory, also says co-creation is the evolutionary next step beyond the mere non-resistant acceptance of what is…if Anadi & Bentinho are onto something in this, what of all the Buddhist monk humorous memes of “don’t worry, nothing is in your control”, will they become passé?

Opinions?

Tom: Hi _____, in response to your first question (re co-creators, etc), what I share and traditional spirituality is not in opposition to this. In fact this notion of co-creation and what is now often called the Law of Attraction is present throughout the Vedic tradition.

Regarding your second point, there have always been those who claim to be special and advanced in some way, and the scriptures comment on these stating this is a false view which is essentially egoic and about spiritual attainment for a separate individual (even if this is an expanded notion of individuality).

There is no enlightened individual – you could say there is only enlightenment, but no separate person who is enlightened. Enlightenment itself is an illusion, a part of the dream of an ego that is trying to find security and happiness.

To put it differently, you are already That, fully, or as the scriptures state ‘Tat Tvam Asi’.

The scriptures are powerful as they are not the work of any single individual, but their truth has been verified by many people over many centuries and in different places, rather like the body of scientific knowledge.

Another way of looking into this is not to listen to me or anyone else but to allow your mind to become quiet and still and ask this question to yourself and allow your inner wisdom to give you the answer. You will see, I hope, that emphasis on a separate (albeit expanded) notion of an enlightened individual with a special super-realisation is essentially egoic and based on greed, ego-inflation, a thirst for pleasure and thirst for experience and accumulation rather than the love, peace, humility, egolessness and simplicity that shine forth from genuine teachings.

You will see, I hope, that while this kind of spirituality seems attractive, it is still within the confines of Separation, Ego and Samsara. This means suffering is still very much present and it is this suffering that motivates the thirst for better more pleasurable experiences and further fuels the ego, perpetuating it. This thirst prevents The Simple and The Ever-Present Divine from being Realised, and so also prevents suffering from ending, and it is the end of suffering that we are really looking for, not special experiences or special powers.

One traditional text that in particular goes into this topic and illustrates with many wonderful stories how this is a wrong path is the wonderful Yoga Vasistha. The Buddhist scriptures also talk about this topic too – as I said, this kind of notion of a supremely special enlightened person with a focus on their special powers (co-creation, for example) is not new, and is often very attractive to naive spiritual seekers who are innocently and earnestly just trying to find a way to end their suffering.

I should add that I am not commenting directly on the teachers you mention as I am not very familiar with them, but I am just responding to what you describe in your question.

Questioner: take a look… Google Anadi & Betinho Massaro…these aren’t at all lightweights to be dismissed…your quick criticisms of them is a bit facile… I sure they’re very familiar with your views as they are classic ones,…these guys are way beyond the Realization space normally referred by yourself & others…

In fact Adi Da Samraj commented on the classical Realizers & while in appreciation of them, explains that they are 6th stage Realizers which formerly was felt to be the ultimate Realization but that the 7th level that he demonstrated wasn’t an additional stage as a progressive evolution but an entirely new stage beyond the traditional “path of return” spoken of in the classic literature…

I would like to see you learn more about & thus engage a more profound consideration of these heavyweights, Spiritual geniuses…to have the view that there is nowhere to go from the classic descriptions is untenable…even Ken Wilber, the “Einstein of comparative spirituality” declares that new spaces of Awakening are evolving & that classic Realizers were great but certain depths just weren’t available to them. Let’s get up on this!

Tom: I find what you write very interesting…however in general this kind of stuff doesn’t really interest me to be honest – not that you or anyone else shouldn’t be interested. I was primarily interested in ending suffering, nothing more, and whilst I have actually explored lots of the other ‘fancy stuff’ too, such as psychic powers/siddhis and co-creation, etc, I don’t tend to talk about it much as it’s actually not that relevant to ending suffering in my view, which is where the focus of my sharing lies, and what I think most people are actually looking for when they are looking for stage 8 or stage 9 or stage 100 of enlightenment, etc, etc.

You state that ‘these guys are way beyond the Realisation space…etc’, but I would posit that this is faith on your part – how do you know this is true? Perhaps the entire paradigm is baloney? Are you open to this also being wrong? And you refer to ‘heavyweights’ – again, that is your view, which is fine with me.

I’m sure there is much I do not know, like there are many languages that I do not know how to speak and many things I have not experienced, but that’s ok! I don’t need a better supercharged enlightenment, so to speak, and I would suggest that neither do you! Hope that makes sense, thanks.

Questioner: I’m certainly open to being wrong…after all isn’t it far more exciting to find the truth rather than the mediocre thrill of being right?

Tom: yes, same with me 🙂 Well do keep in touch, I’d be interested in hearing from you as to how your journey is going and happy to learn from you too 🙏🙏🙏

Nonduality: doership, attachment and the world

Remove the notions of:

(1) doership (ie. the belief that I am the thinker and doer)
(2) attachment to outcomes and
(3) the belief that the world (ie. body, mind and world) is real…

…what’s left?

Note that (1) and (2) are implicit in (3) but are elucidated to make the teachings clearer.

Also note that (1) and (2) together could be called the ego, so this could be alternatively phrased as ‘remove the notions of the ego being real and the world being real’.