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The Black Box of Religion, Spirituality and Faith

May 31, 2011

There is no absolute knowledge. No complete formula, that describes in perfect and unchanging detail the complexities of life, and the universe.

Scientists like Richard Feynman know this, and this humble attitude is the hallmark of science, really. A scientist will speak of “evidence”, not proof. Evidence can be strong, supporting a hypothesis, or it can be weak. Even if the evidence is strong, no good scientist will claim to have complete proof. They speak, as Feynman, in terms of probabilities.

When a scientist sets out to produce evidence, he will do his best to disprove his hypothesis. Let’s say, for instance, that a scientist wants to investigate the hypothesis: “Drug “A” lowers blood pressure to a safe limit, in patients with high blood pressure”. Then he will have to take in to consideration the psycho-emotional factors that have been proven to also have an effect on high blood pressure, and other health benchmarks. Factors like belief, authority, etc. Or, what is more commonly known as the “placebo-effect”.

He does this by designing a controlled, randomized, double-blind study.

Controlled means that every step of the process is described in detail, and replicable for others if they wish.

Randomized means that you test two group of people: those who get the drug, and those who get a “placebo” drug (non-active ingredient). The two groups are comparable, and people are assigned in to the groups at random.

Double blind means that neither the test person nor the scientist knows whether the person gets the real drug, or the placebo.This to eliminate “bias”, the possibility that the test person or the scientist will act differently or interpret the results differently, if he knows who gets what.

A good study tests enough people to minimize the possibility of chance. There are some very complicated statistics involved in this. Science have agreed on some standards that must be met, in order for the study to show statistical significance, and thus be “strong evidence”. The evidence becomes even stronger when the same experiment is repeated, and the same result shown. But you never get 100% proof.

This is the scientific ideal. Let us compare it to spirituality.
Most spiritual theories/hypotheses are put forward by individuals who claim to have special, Divine insight. Prophet speaking with God.  Son of God.  God Incarnate. Through their alleged connection with the Divine, they claim authority: You Should Listen To Me, Because I Speak With God. When asked for evidence of their claims, they will refer to:

  1. Scriptures. Again, just because something is old and believed in by millions doesn’t make it evidence.
  2. Personal, Divine insight. Have Faith in Me, I Know the Way.

In other words, spirituality is all about confirming the hypothesis in stead of disproving it. No effort is put in to really questioning the hypothesis. Those who do -and there are a lot, until they are conditioned to stop asking “stupid” questions- are asked to “have faith”.

Faith is the Black Box of spirituality and religion. Faith is abused, to justify any weird acting and belief. Faith is the reason that superstitions and destructive beliefs are allowed to survive and prosper, because every time you ask a question in to the Black Box, all you get out is “Just Have Faith” or some other bullshit, and the process of how this answer was derived is completely invisible.

I am not saying: Don’t have faith. By all means, have faith in things, I too have faith. All I am asking you to do is:

  1. Recognize that faith has severe limitations as a way of interpreting the world. Your faith could be wrong, as it has often proven to be in the past. Look at faith as “hypothesis generation”, and then rely on your reason to decide whether you should stick to this particular faith, or not. Weigh the evidence.
  2. Be wary of those that claim a particular insight or authority, that cannot be put to the test. The will pull their answers to you out of the Black Box of Faith, and if you buy their answers without reflection, you have lost yourself.

Religion is basically just an authority providing you with cheap, faith-based answers. A Guru is even worse: he is the ultimate, religious authority. His power over his followers is complete, and unsupervised. That makes him very dangerous, as history has repeatedly shown.

When a Guru goes Bad, his followers suffer. Apparently, they all go bad with time.

Reclaim you reason, before it is too late.

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54 Comments
  1. Peaceful Warrior permalink
    May 31, 2011 4:34 pm

    Excellent post!!!

    Too add: By all means, listen and read, but beware of bait and switch tactics. In AOL, initially, it is about spiritual knowledge, and not about following a guru. But sometime between DSN and TTC, the switch happens, under the garb of advanced knowledge, and from then on becomes all about serving SSRS.

  2. The Doctor permalink
    May 31, 2011 9:05 pm

    As someone with a scientific background, I strongly agree with everything you have written in the above post except for:

    Apparently, they all go bad with time.

    What evidence do you have for this? 🙂

    • May 6, 2012 5:38 pm

      If you were to do an evil thing all your life or for a short time, you would think about that thing you do and think, if i can do this cofortably, then i can do another thing which is a ittle eviler comfortably aswell. Soon you would be doing even worser things and those things would make you feel worthless and your personality would worsen. That is why “they all go bad with time”, hope this helped.

  3. The Doctor permalink
    May 31, 2011 9:15 pm

    Joking aside, I do believe somewhere there exist genuine Gurus, and it is unfair to judge all Gurus by what I hope are a few bad apples.

    But your post highlights something which has been bugging me since the start of all this, and that is that these people who have the faith which you describe are so vulnerable to predators who can easily disguise themselves as the object of the peoples’ faith, learn a few scriptures upon which the faith is founded, and then fool these people into believing that they are Godmen.

    We had to learn this the hard way, by going through the experiences and then discovering that charade from within. My only hope is that as a race we evolve sufficiently well enough over the coming years to be able to protect ourselves from this sort of individual, and especially to protect our younger generations. After all, look at who Art of Living are heavily targetting now with their Yes and Yes!+ courses.

  4. Harshal permalink
    May 31, 2011 9:24 pm

    “In other words, spirituality is all about confirming the hypothesis in stead of disproving it. No effort is put in to really questioning the hypothesis”

    100% bull-S%^T. Spirituality is neither about confirming a hypothesis nor is it about questioning a hypothesis. It is about transcending all hypothesis.

    You get a D+ for this essay skywalker..

    • The Doctor permalink
      May 31, 2011 9:42 pm

      Right, just like they teach in AoL’s DSN course, where they tell people they can transcend limitations by handing out flyers for an AoL intro talk to people. And just like in TTC where participants spend the majority of their time learning how to market AoL to anybody and everybody they come into contact with, and have to pay $5500 for the privilege.

      And just like how the more someone gets involved with AoL, the more they become attached to and dependent on both the organization and especially on Sri Sri. Instead of becoming free, liberated, which is what I’ve read so many times a real Guru’s function is.

      Is this what you mean by “transcending all hypothesis”?

    • June 2, 2011 4:05 pm

      D+ is still passed, right? Yes! You let me pass!

  5. Harshal permalink
    May 31, 2011 9:47 pm

    absolute dependence is equivalent to transcendence.

    think about it for a while and then stop , your brain will not be able to process this information…

    • Peaceful Warrior permalink
      May 31, 2011 11:59 pm

      Dependence on what ? Whom ?

      Before you can surrender to the absolute, you must know the absolute. And no, that ain’t someone called SSRS.

      • Harshal permalink
        June 1, 2011 1:24 pm

        “Before you can surrender to the absolute, you must know the absolute”

        I am curious to know who has given you all these BS fundas. First you know it and then you surrender? Its the other way round. Unless you surrender you wont know it.

        Dependence on what ? Whom ?

        On MMY , Amma Prem Rawar, SaiBaba , Nithyananda , rock anyone and everyone. The moment you say ‘ I am not surrendering to ‘him’ ‘this’ because ‘he’ is a ‘con’, ‘fake’ you create a separation and then absolute surrender is not possible.

        Remember the buddha story?…accepting that only one person…and not the whole world..

    • The Doctor permalink
      June 1, 2011 4:49 am

      You know I’m seriously considering writing a book on “Harshal-isms” and selling it. I think he’s left a ton of quality material on this blog, which I can simply copy and paste into the book.

      It’s like he’s some sort of machine which churns out nonsense, logical fallacies and BS ideas about what spirituality should be, this stuff should definitely be captured somewhere and presented to the public.

      Maybe one day they’ll even sell it in the Art of Living Divine Shop 😉

      • Harshal permalink
        June 1, 2011 11:27 am

        ” which churns out nonsense, logical fallacies ”

        Its high time you understand what logic is. There are orders in logic, for example
        order 1 logic would be- he drank water -so he must be thirsty.
        order 2 logic would be- he drank water-so he must be thirsty-so he must have exerted.
        order 3 logic would be he drank water-so he must be thirsty-so he must have exerted-so he must be a hard worker.
        and so on….

        Logic will not give you the ‘truth’ but a maximum likelihood estimation of truth with some degree of error.

        As the intellect sharpens the logic order increases. For people with primitive intellect like yours, it doest go beyond a few orders. When the intellect it shadowed by ignorance and arrogance the level of ordering decreases or rather undershoots.

        So your logic is

        I do meditation and I have prostate problem. So meditation causes prostate problems.

        Your intellect will tell you that it is absolutely correct and then you can even start bloging about it, like you are doing here.

        For example- I gave a video of Anna Hazare in AOL. Your logic told you, he gives video of AH- so he means that who-s0-ever is associated with AH is clean. This is shortened order of logic.

        If your intellect was clear, you would think that

        AH goes to AOL-AH is well-known, wise intelligent – so must be doing his homework before establishing his association- so the maximum likelihood estimate of his associations being clean is high.

        There is a difference you see.Your brains could not process this higher order logic. opaque intellect.

        Sometimes the intellect becomes even more dark. So then you use twisted logic.
        For example:I was in AOL-I did not drink. I am not in AOL-so I should drink.

        So the moral of the essay is that your intellect is clouded, dark and opaque. I am sure most of you don’t meditate. I dont see much hope for you. You have zero surrender, zero grace and almost zero self-effort and thus your karmic equation cannot be balanced towards positivity. The only goal of your life it seems is to entertain me.

      • Jr. permalink
        June 1, 2011 1:10 pm

        Harshisms hahahaha. Brilliant.

        The one I remember most is “I’m here to throw salt and watch you squirm.” lol or the one where he was rambling something completely incoherent and at the end said “got it?” 🙂

      • JaiHarshal permalink
        June 1, 2011 6:58 pm

        Jai Harshal. JH!!!!

      • Doubt permalink
        June 1, 2011 7:15 pm

        The most intellegible post from harshal.

      • Peaceful Warrior permalink
        June 1, 2011 7:37 pm

        “For example:I was in AOL-I did not drink. I am not in AOL-so I should drink.”

        Nothing like that. Craving and aversion are two sides of the same coin. When you grow out of these rules – it is not about going from aversion to craving and indulgence. Whether you consume or take alcohol it becomes immaterial when you have risen above it. You act naturally and spontaneously. Read and understand the story of Sikhidhavaja in yoga vashistha.

    • Jr. permalink
      June 2, 2011 4:22 pm

      This might be Harshy’s first comment with some truth. I agree, we are dependent on nature, the planet, the air, food, the divine, etc. But being dependent on any one person is dangerous, as shown by Harshy’s asshole personality and stupid comments. Harshal is just too stupid to realize he’s incredibly damaging AOL by posting here.

  6. John permalink
    June 1, 2011 2:45 am

    Hey Harshal – when will your story be published on artoflivinglifestories.blogspot.com?

    • Harshal permalink
      June 1, 2011 11:27 am

      John: it is there. Look carefully.

      • freeOne permalink
        June 1, 2011 1:45 pm

        Link please!

  7. stupidseeker permalink
    June 1, 2011 3:47 am

    Mankind will never ever stop having faith,or wondering about his origins.
    Exactly this urge separates mankind from the animal kingdom. And there always will be pretenders who will take advantage of this very human need for spirituality.

  8. June 1, 2011 4:00 am

    Here is what I think , no evidence, no proof. Just what i have learnt so far.

    Ravi Shankar and other god men use and abuse the term spirituality. Spirituality to me is matters pertaining to spirit and a good awareness of spirit rather than matter. For eg. a child finds joy playing with materials and inanimate objects and can be called more materialistic and less spiritual. As awareness matures, one needs to play in the world of spirit and hence becomes more spiritual.

    People experience some sort of transcendence (beyond the world of matter and spirit) in their daily life where logical mind doesn’t ‘seem’ to work and people have described it to be a state where you are filled with gratitude, joy , wonder , total focus, flow and so on. This is still a bit different from the concept of nirvana or complete transcendence I think.

    The complete transcendence should be a state where you have reached zero restlessness and an absolute zero need to play. So, in theory when one reaches this state, it should be a point of no return to this material/spiritual universe as we know it, almost a like a consciousness black hole.

  9. Harshal permalink
    June 2, 2011 10:06 am

    “Whether you consume or take alcohol it becomes immaterial when you have risen above it”

    Why,if I may ask, do you use this blog as your spiritual potty? You miss no chance of letting loose your bloody verbal diarrhoea. Whatever you have been eating, or whosoever has been feeding you,it just stinks..

    Has someone not told you yet, that there is a difference between blabbering about spiritual path and actually walking on it?

    • Peaceful Warrior permalink
      June 2, 2011 10:56 am

      Look who is talking. The only potty mouth here is you.

      • Harshal permalink
        June 2, 2011 1:19 pm

        Has someone not told you yet, that there is a difference between potty style and potty content?

      • Peaceful Warrior permalink
        June 2, 2011 4:32 pm

        You know it best, coz you have both. Seriously – look at the filth coming out of you. Ugh!

  10. Vishal.H permalink
    June 2, 2011 11:26 am

    Jgd. Excellent web seva Harshalji. JGD.

    • anonymous permalink
      June 2, 2011 12:15 pm

      LOL! Now seva for AOL consists of consistently insulting people to stop them from expressing their opinions and experiences of AOL? Really guys, it’s too much!

    • Krish permalink
      June 2, 2011 2:17 pm

      Vishal – you may or may not know it but just by visiting this blog, you became immune to AOL’s ‘surrender to the guru’ disease. Now that seed of doubt will always be there in you.

  11. Harshal permalink
    June 2, 2011 12:32 pm

    “The most intellegible post”

    don’t encourage him.

  12. Raghav permalink
    June 2, 2011 1:24 pm

    When the so-called “enlightened master” has no integrity and lies about his education (“advanced degree in modern physics”) and about him supposedly being nominated for the nobel peace prize three times (this information will never be available to anyone outside the nobel committee till after 50 years) one has to be an utterly shallow drone, himself with no integrity or honour, to believe and follow this charlatan masquerading as a saint and man of god. Like attracts like, Ravi Shankar only has shallow people devoid of any self respect staying on and serving him.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 3, 2011 6:15 pm

      “Shallow drone” is a very good description to Art of Living full timers who know the truth about SSRS. If someone is around Ravi Shankar for only a year or two, and they still don’t see what and who he is, then shallow they are, and continuing on and on and on with him means they are either drones, or terrified to leave and re-enter society, or totally brainwashed by him. I fell into the last category: brainwashed. But only partially, as I did leave. When they do finally leave, he sues them if they say what actually happened. What kind of spiritual “master” sues people? He is not spiritual.

  13. Anon permalink
    June 5, 2011 12:12 am

    Here is an article in Hindustan Times of 3/6/11 that questions spiritual claims of Yoga gurus Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:

    http://www.hindustantimes.com/The-new-Babalog/Article1-705388.aspx

    • Conscience permalink
      June 9, 2011 3:02 am

      When some one is in Public life . it is very normal to face with Fame , Praise and Criticism. In the case of Spirituality, there is more Praise and also more Critics around. This essentially do not make a Person less spiritual.
      This is question of Faith that one is having in Sri Sri or any other Spiritual Person. The faith can not be shaken so quickly, Though i have no connection with Art Of Living, i belive Sri Sri RaviShankar to be spiritual and Divine, because, since 1990’s i have observed him not to stray into unneccessary things.

      This blog has opened many avenues about the Organization, which i was not aware of.
      Despite all the Criticism’s i have read in this blogs and others, i belive Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is spiritual and he has not moved from his core values.

      • Dev D permalink
        June 9, 2011 7:23 am

        ” Sri Sri RaviShankar to be spiritual and Divine, because, since 1990′s i have observed him not to stray into unneccessary things.”

        You observe what you want to observe. I had real fun watching this conman during his so called assasination attempts, the flip flops and megalomania he displayed was all there in the open.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 9, 2011 12:02 pm

        @Conscience,

        I feel I should not answer you at this time because I read that Ravi Shankar’s father passed away yesterday. The time to criticize someone is not when they are in mourning for a parent. But after 14 days, I will answer you. I was an insider, and you are mistaken because you do not know this man.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 9, 2011 12:05 pm

        Whatever anyone thinks of Ravi Shankar, it is distasteful to express these negative opinions, imo, when he has just lost a parent (June 8). I will refrain from my opinions here, as will some of my colleagues, until the end of 2 weeks, out of respect for life and death, not the people involved.

      • freeOne permalink
        June 10, 2011 9:18 pm

        I suppose now they have to cancel their festival celebration (Jul 2-4) for a year due to death of ‘Pitaji’.

  14. Harshal permalink
    June 9, 2011 3:26 pm

    “I will refrain from my opinions here, as will some of my colleagues, until the end of 2 weeks”

    Is there any logic behind this deadline of 2 weeks ? or is it just arbitrary? such silly people.

    • Krish permalink
      June 9, 2011 4:47 pm

      Harshal is so eager to know… can’t wait just 2 weeks 🙂

    • Jr. permalink
      June 9, 2011 4:59 pm

      It’s called being nice – something you don’t understand yet.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 9, 2011 7:07 pm

      Harshal, You would understand if you knew Hindu Brahmin ritual. This is just giving the benefit of the usual time for formal mourning according to the man’s caste. It’s possible that you are unaware of this, Harshal, so that’s okay. But it’s neither “silly” nor “arbitrary”, if the man happens to be an observant, fairly orthodox Hindu Brahmin. If he isn’t, then some us are, and don’t wish to insult him, no matter what faults we might have perceived, at this inauspicious time for his family. You might wish to keep barking like a dog, even to people who are trying to be considerate, but that’s just you. Try it this way — you don’t hit a man when he is down. EVen if you don’t know anything about what is generally done in India at the time of death, then you should understand that last. It doesn’t matter what the man is. A parent is a parent. You may have zero compassion for anyone, but some of us have compassion even for people we have lost respect for and who may have injured us. Try it, you might find it surprising.

      • Anoop permalink
        June 10, 2011 7:12 am

        caste system is stupid..

  15. Harshal permalink
    June 9, 2011 9:06 pm

    you didn’t get my question. Why two weeks? Why not 2.5 weeks or 3.5 or 7.4 weeks?

    You will follow this silly conditioning which the society has imposed on you without asking a questions however, if someone else does the same you write hateful blogs about them.

    If you are a Brahmin, have you not heard about gurudroha which you are doing here? or wait…..have you not heard how Eklavya kept high regards for Dronacharya inspite of what he did to him? You have no idea what a guru is , what a guru means and you are giving this stupid blabber-headed knowledge of never hitting a man who is down?You and your colleagues(!!!!) keep barking like a dogs here all the time. I just have to put a piece of bone…a single post…. and look how you all start licking it all over like dogs.

    • Chamiyaar permalink
      June 9, 2011 10:56 pm

      “You will follow this silly conditioning which the society has imposed on you without asking a questions however, if someone else does the same you write hateful blogs about them.”

      @Harshal

      Attaboy! You should engage in such questionning within AOL. How about asking Guruji about the relevance of that four month period during which followers are advised to refrain from adventures, partying http://bawandinesh.name/a-time-to-go-inwards/

      How about asking where charity money goes! Is SSRS willing to disclose assets like Baba Ramdev ?
      http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/ramdev-declares-assets-but-ducks-many-queries/articleshow/8795420.cms

    • stupidseeker permalink
      June 10, 2011 3:58 am

      @ harshal,
      What you eseentially want is that this blog close down, isnt it. A lot of whats posted here is uncomfortable to you, and the good believer you are, you feel outraged (apparently) by it and consequently feel obliged to keep posting ripostes.

      You said it right “I just have to put a piece of bone…a single post…. and look how you all start licking it all over like dogs.” Its ok with me if im a dog harshal. Thats a lesser burden than constantly having to put on a facade of spirituality and learnedness.

    • Anonymous permalink
      June 10, 2011 6:16 am

      Abusing people here is your “entertainment” ! congrats – u have already passed TTC. don’t waste your money there – donate it to aol “charity” instead!

    • Dayalu permalink
      June 10, 2011 2:57 pm

      This guy’s problem is:
      1) Reading comprehension skills so poor that he does not understand most of what is written here
      2) Inability of his mind to process whatever little he comprehends
      3) Inability to apply critical reasoning on the very little he processes
      4) Inability to frame appropriate responses to whatever his mind registers after these multiple layers of attenuation and contamination.
      The result is abusive language, total disconnect to the topic being discussed, the obviously apparent anger and frustration and the futile attempts to maintain the pretension of being “entertained”.

      Bear with him folks, years for practicing SK and cult brainwashing has brought him to this state. Please have compassion for Harshal.

      • Anonymous permalink
        June 10, 2011 3:58 pm

        Wow, that explanation was right on. I agree, although it’s hard to have compassion for an asshole, but yes, Harshy is suffering a lot – it’s quite obvious.

  16. Harshal permalink
    June 12, 2011 12:10 pm

    @Dayalu: if whatever you said was true, you would have stopped entertaining me long time back. But you keep doing so. Or you are perhaps more inept that I am as it takes a bigger fool to continue arguing with a lesser fool. The reality is that I keep hitting you at the right points and you keep giving the wrong response. As far as compassion is concerned , you should save it for yourself.

  17. Dayalu permalink
    June 13, 2011 5:42 pm

    He does not realize that I always refer to him as a third person and was in no way arguiing with him, the self described “lesser fool”. Again the same problems that were highlighted in my earlier comment.

    Perhaps, along with the motto, “Fake a smile even when you’re in pain”, AOL should also add “Pretend you’re being entertained even when you’re making a fool of yourself.

  18. Harshal permalink
    June 14, 2011 4:44 pm

    @Dayalu: you can refer to to me third, fourth or fifth person you will still continue to engage and entertain me.

    When will you realize that all you and everyone else are doing is- creating a drama to keep your ‘I’ entertained? As long as you wont realize and accept this, your misery will continue.

    • Dayalu permalink
      June 15, 2011 1:31 pm

      Of course. “Everybody in this world is miserable except the ones in AOL” – that is the summary of what they ram down your throats in TTC.

      • anonymous permalink
        June 16, 2011 4:38 pm

        And everyone is miserable who is not a Catholic, or Protestant of a particular type, or a Muslim who prays 5 times daily, or or or or……Unfortunately, Dayalu, you are right. All dogmatic groups whether it be ‘spiritual’ groups or religious ones, have some misguided notion that they are the only people who are happy, and that if someone is not onto their path, they are lost, miserable and crying. That’s exactly why I left AOL — I knew and know plenty of people who are critical of religions and ‘spiritual groups’, and they are perfectly happy living their lives without the supposed help of such ‘wisdom’.

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