The subject of enlightenment, and in particular the enlightened status of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, is something which has been brought up and questioned on countless occasions on this and other blogs. To date, most claiming that RS is an enlightened Guru have not been able to provide any reason why they believe this, and more importantly how we can test this in any objective manner.
In response to questions recently asked on the subject of enlightenment, drpetersutphen offered the following:
Submitted on 2012/04/29 at 7:46 pm
Of course I consider SSRS to be enlightened. Why would I follow the teachings and the techniques of a spiritual teacher that wasn’t enlightened? Now, how do I know SSRS is enlightened? That is the million dollar question that all seekers struggle with. To look for an ego ideal is a huge mistake because who knows what vasanas are unwinding in your guru (see the Tripurya Rahasa for a fascinating discussion on this that helps explain the personality differences between enlightened gurus.) I know SSRS is enlightened, a knower of Brahman, from my own experiences around him and through the practice of his techniques. I think every seeker needs to resolve this question on their own. There is no objective criteria. But there are very clear subjective experiences that have made my understanding of SSRS’s enlightenment very obvious to me.
Firstly Peter, thanks for being honest in telling us this. There are many in AoL who secretly believe this but publicly deny it.
Peter then adds the following:
Submitted on 2012/04/29 at 8:21 pm
Doctor said,”I’d actually like to hear YOUR definition of “enlightenment” as well since you have already told us in your above post that you believe RS to be enlightened? And I’d especially like you to describe “enlightenment” from a clinical psychology perspective.”
Actually, clinical psychology can not describe enlightenment because it is outside the conceptual domain of this science. At best clinical psychology would define enlightenment as some sort of disssociative state! My model of enlightenment is greatly informed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and later by many traditional yogic texts. It is also informed by my own direct experience. You practice a serious sadhana for 40 years, you have serious experiences! I started TM in 1972 and became a TM teacher in 1973 and was deeply involved in the TM movement all through the late 80′s. In fact, I practiced TM up until last week when I finally decided to take the Sahaj Samadhi course at the upanishad course in LA. My friends thought it was hilarious that I would take Sahaj after 40 years of doing TM. I just felt like it! My definition of enlightenment focuses on the mechanics of it.
The first stage of enlightenment is the recognition that there is no localized, psychological “I” or private self or ego. The mind experiences this lack of localization as emptiness or “shunyata” because the mind can only experience in time and space. What has created this emptiness is the withdrawal of the projection of consciousness into body/mind boundaries. Patanjali uses a great metaphor to explain this identification. He says that pure consciousness is like a transparent jewel placed upon a colored cloth. The jewel takes on the color of the cloth and appears to be that color. But this is an illusion. The jewel is inherently transparent and no color at all. The first stage of enlightenment is the recognition of consciousness of its own “isolation” or “separateness”, or “aloneness” (i.e. Kaivalya as Patanjali would call it) from boundaries. A perfect duality is created in this state: Atman on one side, as it were, and all subjective and objective phenomena on the other.
In my experience, the pranic manipulation through SK profoundly calms the mind and allows Atman to “recognize” itself. This is nirvikalpa samadhi. I experience this a lot when I practice meditation, but it cracks me up that that it is also produced during the vigorous activity of SK. In nirvikalpa samadhi the mind is “absorbed” by the Self and this absorbsion is not known until it comes to an end.
I’m going to stop here for now! Obviously a lot left to talk about
Now, to date this is actually the best reasoning anyone has come up with so far on this blog or even elsewhere when it comes to the subject of enlightenment and more importantly being able to determine is someone truly is enlightened. In fact, it was discussed at length in the post How to Recognize a True Guru, but even then no one was able to come up with any means of determining whether someone is enlightened or not.
The most important things to note from Peter’s comments are:
I think every seeker needs to resolve this question on their own. There is no objective criteria. But there are very clear subjective experiences that have made my understanding of SSRS’s enlightenment very obvious to me.
My model of enlightenment is greatly informed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and later by many traditional yogic texts. It is also informed by my own direct experience.
[Added emphasis mine – Doc]
This is absolutely fair enough, and I’m not about to challenge Peter’s model. He has been very honest in stating that there is no objective way to determine if someone is truly enlightened and that he has come to his own conclusions about what it is.
What all of this does make me think though is simply this. Why do AoL even need to describe or define RS as being enlightened at all? If there is no way to test for enlightenment other than by essentially having faith in scriptures which are after all simply words which describe what enlightenment is? Yet at the same time and usually in the very same scriptures we are told that enlightenment is something beyond anything which can be described using mere words?!
Also, can people follow a teacher of “spiritual wisdom” without that teacher being enlightened? Or at the very least without caring if the teacher is enlightened or not? Wouldn’t it be enough to follow the wisdom that the teacher imparts, see if it has any positive impact on their lives, and then conclude that this teacher’s teachings are worth following?
These are from discussions I have had with various friends over the years, particularly Hindus in recent times. One friend did tell me that the situation in India is such that Guru’s had to have people believe they were enlightened otherwise they wouldn’t have any followers because they wouldn’t have any credibility. Has anyone else here had this experience?
I too could write a lot more on this subject, but let’s take things from here for now and see where they go.