An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Swami Nithyananda Scandal: Dangerous and Tough Road to Spiritual Liberation

A few weeks back, when I first saw the video of Swami Nithyananda preaching, my impression of him was that of a person who has gained lot of knowledge at a very young age but probably not an enlightened being. Now, I don’t consider myself an authority on Enlightened beings, lesser still an agency to proclaim who is and who isn’t.

Spirituality is a tough road with many pitfalls. One can intellectually know what is the Truth but not necessarily able to implement it. On the other hand, what seems like “violation” of the Spiritual “creed” may be an acceptable action from the overall Spiritual standpoint. It is not unusual for lay people to get confused between the apparent lack of consistency between actions of Krishna or Guru Gobind Singh and that of Buddha or Guru Nanak with respect to linkage between Non-Violence and Enlightenment. It is as if these two groups would talk different languages and live in different worlds.

One of the biggest issue also of Spirituality is of inability of the language to express the Infinite Truth. The books try it but fail and that is why the Enlightened beings from Krishna to Nanak to Sadhguru Jaggi have chastised people on just repeating the words from the books without understanding them. Expressed in different semantics, what they have tried to impress is that its important to get to the core of the words and explore the land at which they point to. Literal reading of these books can often lead people to get into the quagmire of Sin, Virtue, Heaven, Hell, Good, Bad and all kinds of useless moral dichotomies.

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That is the level – of being held by dichotomies – is where Nithyananda was, as I understood him. His understanding of the scriptures was sometimes literal and sometimes profound. But that he was even trying at his age and made it as far as he did made me respect him.

A few weeks back a video surfaced of him or someone looking like him (Nithyananda’s spokesmen have alleged that the video is morphed) having intimate moments with a lady (an actress from South India). Interestingly, it is not just this video that has surfaced, strangely for some unknown reason so have several other “scandals” without any evidence come out in media.

.. And media, voyeuristic and thoughtless as it is goes out and starts repeating ad nauseum without any investigation.

Krishamurti and my dilemma

A few years back I had “discovered” Jiddu Krishnamurti. A spiritual soul without compare. Very few people in history have had that kind of incisive intellect as JK. He could debate and discuss on any topic with a sharp razor and lay the inanity of the society and the listener threadbare! Within a few months of reading and immersing in his amazing wisdom, I came across a story of Rosalind Rajagopal. In the story, written by her daughter, Radha, it was alleged that JK and Rosalind were in sexual relationship for almost 25 years during which the lady lover had gone through multiple abortions. Rosalind was the wife of his friend Rajagopal who was his manager as well. (Book: Lives in the Shadow With J. Krishnamurti by Radha Rajagopal Sloss)

After the story had come out during his time, many of his “friends” – including David Bohm, with whom he had numerous vidoes, books and discussions – decided to part ways.

Here I was – completely immersed in this giant of a thinker and spiritual revolutionary and here I got to hear something that society at wide finds “sinful”. What was I to make of it? My fight was my own. There was no one watching and no one debating with me. I, despite my reasonably good understanding of JK’s rather tough line of thought (or so I believed) was struggling to view him in the color that society views all.

Here was a man and a woman who had, ostensibly, on their own accord developed attraction and chose to give it a physical manifestation on a regular basis. Yes, both had their own relationships and attachments and their own baggage… but was that all of any importance?

Relationships

Osho had once said that marriage is probably the most Immoral Institution known to mankind. Probably, what he meant was its the most unspiritual. I tend to agree with him.

All relationships are “unspiritual” in the way they are practised and lived. Relationships in the general society entitles the related a right over other’s mind and body. “My so and so (sister, daughter, brother, son, friend.. ) cannot do that!” is a common refrain. Such sentiments are a reflection of a yearning to have ownership.

Sex, being what it is, is the poster child of degree to which a relationship attributes the right on a related to ownership. No other act in a person’s life even comes close!

Going back to Nithyananda now. So, here is this guy, who is in his 30s and has lived the life of an ascetic with the hope and the aim to get enlightened probably pushed by his innate instinct for liberation. He started a lot of things and in this age and world deprived of even basic and most rudimentary self-introspection, he seemed to set fire to many people’s imagination.

Even as he interprets and talks of Spirituality, he treads on the track which is very difficult to walk and emulate when he says that “sex outside of marriage is sinful”, without properly reflecting the potency and the power of desires.. sometimes buoyed by the Karmic impressions embedded for centuries / millenia in the Karmic Mind. Very very rare are those who can live beyond the power of their desires and be free from them.

Two aspects of Spiritual Journey

Path to Spiritual liberation is a tricky one. It has two aspects: Experiences and Dissolution.

The former is easier to encounter. Many have. Even rudimentary healing powers which normal people using taught techniques can learn are part of that realm. But that is not the real thing. For example, the greatness of Jesus was not his healing powers – calling that his greatest gift is to denigrate his soul really – but his complete dissolution of identity.

Further experiences could be like feeling of “Oneness” or experience of “Nothingness”.. etc. Even that, as amazing as it may seem, is still just an experiential aspect. Its not liberation. Liberation is far beyond that.

Unfortunately, when people encounter such experiences, which defy mind and logic and the “normal”, they assume Enlightenment or Liberation. And that leads them to lower the guard. They are “there”, they think so they are invincible and untouched.

But is that so?

None of the Enlightened souls had it easy. Nanak had a lot of rabid critics as did Buddha.. as did Jesus. And people like Duryodhana had even painted Krishna as a virtual demon and low life!

If experiences was everything, then it would have been very easy to startle the hell out of the critics and beat them up by sheer miracles of the most rudimentary level. But that is not all. Something else is even more important and critical in this journey. It is not to do with relationships or with others.. but with Self. One’s own self.

Becoming a Guru is not a trivial act. It is very serious. If one runs out to declare at the first experience about what the “Truth” is, then the chances are that all will be lost for that person. That is why, students used to wait years after the first experiences of Enlightenment before they were asked by the Teachers (Rishis) to leave the ashram and go out on their own. The wait was not to quash competition but to make sure, the person going out won’t hurt others and get hurt himself.

Such discipline is, unfortunately, absent now. And as for Nithyananda, he has not failed anyone.. but himself, irrespective of the video being morphed or not.

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10 Comments
  1. Carol Stall says

    Your article is thoughtfully written and well received. I have been in the presence of Nithyananda when he was teaching about one of the yoga sutras of Patanjali. He is a good and clear teacher and seemed intent on helping his audience to understand some deeper implications of the sutra’s intention and meaning. I agree with your assessment of him as a spiritual teacher, and I too respect his efforts to assist humanity. Every teacher serves at the level of his or her own command of the teaching and ability to communicate it, and every student learns at the level at which he or she is able to receive.

  2. Carol Stall says

    Your article is thoughtfully written and well received. I have been in the presence of Nithyananda when he was teaching about one of the yoga sutras of Patanjali. He is a good and clear teacher and seemed intent on helping his audience to understand some deeper implications of the sutra’s intention and meaning. I agree with your assessment of him as a spiritual teacher, and I too respect his efforts to assist humanity. Every teacher serves at the level of his or her own command of the teaching and ability to communicate it, and every student learns at the level at which he or she is able to receive.

  3. Carol Stall says

    Your article is thoughtfully written and well received. I have been in the presence of Nithyananda when he was teaching about one of the yoga sutras of Patanjali. He is a good and clear teacher and seemed intent on helping his audience to understand some deeper implications of the sutra’s intention and meaning. I agree with your assessment of him as a spiritual teacher, and I too respect his efforts to assist humanity. Every teacher serves at the level of his or her own command of the teaching and ability to communicate it, and every student learns at the level at which he or she is able to receive.

  4. Carol Stall says

    Your article is thoughtfully written and well received. I have been in the presence of Nithyananda when he was teaching about one of the yoga sutras of Patanjali. He is a good and clear teacher and seemed intent on helping his audience to understand some deeper implications of the sutra’s intention and meaning. I agree with your assessment of him as a spiritual teacher, and I too respect his efforts to assist humanity. Every teacher serves at the level of his or her own command of the teaching and ability to communicate it, and every student learns at the level at which he or she is able to receive.

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  7. Desika Nadadur | I Am My Own M says

    Desh,

    Very nice article! I agree with you on the two aspects to the spiritual journey. After first awakening experience(s) the dissolution of personality may happen instantaneously on very very rare occasions and in all other cases it is gradual. If one declares oneself as guru without complete dissolution of the ego, it has found a back door to gain access again and use that awakening experience to its own advantage.

    Very thought provoking and well written!

    Thanks,
    Desika

  8. Desh,

    Very nice article! I agree with you on the two aspects to the spiritual journey. After first awakening experience(s) the dissolution of personality may happen instantaneously on very very rare occasions and in all other cases it is gradual. If one declares oneself as guru without complete dissolution of the ego, it has found a back door to gain access again and use that awakening experience to its own advantage.

    Very thought provoking and well written!

    Thanks,
    Desika

  9. rajeysha says

    I am also read about osho, jk, swami rama and other’s guru’s sex life, but it’s really a matter of discussion for us? why? because we do that and also feel bad about…no??

  10. rajeysha says

    I am also read about osho, jk, swami rama and other’s guru’s sex life, but it’s really a matter of discussion for us? why? because we do that and also feel bad about…no??

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