Thursday, October 24, 2013

Babylon's burning

Karma is the drug of moral supremacy. It's a long and winding road that leads back - not just to Hinduism, Buddhism, the Upanishads, or the Vedas - but to non-Aryan peoples and before the Indus Valley civilisations ...

What we know today as "karma" originated in a radical cultural change during the period of the Upanishads. These texts reveal that what was in the Vedas - a simple notion of "action" linked to solar cultism and the positive spiritual outcomes of sacrifice and ceremonial rites - was later reinterpreted as holding lasting negative consequences, which had to be mitigated at all costs.

What happened? It was particularly the shramana who were responsible for this development: a non-Brahmanical, non-Vedic, non-Aryan, ancient religious movement. The shramana impacted on the Indus Valley civilisations of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa - and there is now definitive evidence to say that their tradition preceded and ran parallel to historical Vedic religion. Although generally associated with asceticism, sramana practices also included extreme materialism. The tradition embraced a wide range of beliefs spanning self-mortification to the unashamed pursuit of a luxurious life. Yoga originated with the shramana - and they also introduced the notions of moksha, samsara and transmigration into Vedantic society, which would later become major doctrinal features of both Buddhism and Hinduism.

Most of the shramana were not of the Indus Valley civilisation. For example, the oldest strand of the movement, the vratya (now known as the Jains), were the forerunners of Indo-European-speaking peoples who entered northern India from Iran. They were possibly even non-Indo-European in origin. The shramana lived alongside the rishi - the yatis, munis, vaikhanasas and mundaka - a pre-Hindu, earth-based Indus Valley peoples who practised self-cultivation. The rishi sang the nature hymns and directly received the divine wisdom of the universe, which was later written down in the Vedas. Meanwhile the Vedics were Indo-Aryan pastoralists. The ancient texts reveal that they held the ascetics of the Vedic age in considerable contempt. But the same texts also show that from the time of the composition of the Samhitas and Brahmanas onwards, the Vedics were deeply influenced by the non-Aryan and pre-Aryan cultures. After phases of henotheism and pantheism - because of the shramanic influence - the anthropomorphism of the Vedas became the monism of the Upanishads ...

During the time of the Upanishads, shramanic thought began to exert a much stronger influence on Vedic society. Protest against Brahmanical sacrifices, the inequalities of the Vedic caste system and a degenerated brahmin priesthood meant that it was more open to radical streams of opinion. Shramana culture was non-hierarchical and believed that each person was responsible for his own deeds. It had always objected to the Brahmanical emphasis on a world creator and omnipotent deities; the authority of the Vedas as revealed texts; and the complex ritualism of the Brahmanas. In stark contrast, traditional Vedic beliefs upheld the importance of ceremonies and sacrifices performed by a privileged elite to assure the good will of the gods. For them the ideal was an active and ritually punctuated life, without more meditative contemplation until the final stage of life. Man was obliged to study the Vedas, perform sacrifices, and produce male offspring. These ideas were now challenged and the Vedic brahmins abandoned their sacrifice of animals. Developing the notions of Brahman and Atman out of the Vedas and the Brahmanas, they formulated new doctrines from non-brahmanical sources. Between roughly 500 and 300 BCE, the brahmins incorporated shramanical concepts into their religious texts - such as karma, transmigration and samsara - and moksha through ahimsa, renunciation, austerities and solitary contemplation.

It was particularly the shramana we now know as the Jains, the Buddha and the Ajivikas who introduced the notion of karma into Vedantic society. There were three main definitions. The vratya (Jains) argued that karma is the fruit of one's action conceived as material particles which stick to us and occlude our natural omniscience. The historical Buddha said that karma was a chain of causality, leading to attachment to the material world and hence rebirth. (He was in fact forging a "middle way" between the extremes of opinion within the shramana). Meanwhile the ascetics who became the Ajivikas were fatalists, pronouncing karma as pre-ordained and inescapable.

What we now call "karma" then, is an evolutionary mixture of the Vedic notion of "action" linked to sacrifice and ceremony and the shramana concepts of "action" bearing notions of negative result. The Vedics had no need for theories of salvation. They were invested in "timelessness" (aja) and existence as the "unborn" at the hub of a world perpetually in time and motion. For them, "action" was linked to the idea of "non-dying" (amrtam), which originated in the cycles of the sun. The sun continually died and was reborn: this sequence needed constant renewal through the action of sacrifice. Applied to the human individual, man therefore needed to perform ceremonial rites which ensured his life continued. And just as in life, the human existence needed constant renewal through sacrifices and ceremonial rites, life after death also demanded the same type of action to avoid repeated dying.

With the impact of shramanism, this completely changed. Now the continuity of life and the afterlife was thought to happen necessarily and automatically as the cycle of samsara - without sacrificial action and the performance of ceremonial rites. And, it was an individual's religious duty to escape this cycle. This was a profound shift away from the Vedic conception of man operating as the 'stillpoint' of a turning world of time. No longer did man as the "timeless" and "unborn," experience "birth" and "death" in continual succession, throughout this life and the next. No more was his activity completely interwoven with nature, perpetuating its cycles and exerting a profound and unique influence upon them. Now man had become, solely, a creature of time. He was born and he died. According to the new way of thinking, man was a separate individual who needed to regain his status as something timeless and unborn.

It's important to understand that from a timelessness that was inseparable from the procession of time - and was in fact its expression - Indian society now moved to something that was the union of the timeless and time as two separate entities. Here the timeless as the dynamic of time itself was left behind in preference of a "one" that was a "two": a static, ultimate state devoid of the pulse of life. These two concepts were entirely different. While timelessness-as-time was an infinite endlessness with which man was entirely interwoven, the Upanishadic notion of Brahman was timelessness as the opposite of time: an ultimate superstate beyond's man's reach. As agro-pastoralists, the early Vedic peoples were seamless with nature and embodied its cycles. They enacted timelessness through moving with their animals across the seasons and performing their rituals in concert with the sun. This was completely different from the later reinvention of Brahman. Now man was lost in an odyssey of rediscovery, where he would only recover timelessness as another separate entity. In effect, man and his original relationship with timelessness - as experienced in nature - had been ruthlessly carved out of the equation.

The Upanishadic Brahman had two forms. The Maitriyanya Upanishad says that food is the source of the world; time is the source of food; and that the sun is the source of time. So the first form of Brahman began with the sun, was time itself and possessed "parts" (kala) - as opposed to the second form of Brahman - which was prior to the sun, timeless and without "parts" (akala). Thus we see the necessity for a redemptive theology. For liberation to occur, man had to transcend the dualism of time and timelessness and realise Brahman as a non-dual "one." This concept of moksha was therefore constructed by the brahmins and fixed in place using the shramanic notion of karma. Positive actions would see one's identification with Brahman. Negative actions would see one confined to the individual self and unable to attain liberation.

Clearly, the notion of karma is not Buddhist since Buddhism (like its antecedent Jainism) grew out of the shramana movement as a whole, spearheaded by the radical thinking of the historical Buddha. And, karma cannot possibly be Hindu either. Later forms of Brahmanism in conjunction with Buddhism provided the foundation for what was subsequently named "Hinduism" in the medieval period of Indian history. Nevertheless Hindus have done many things with the three notions of karma put forward by the Jains, the Buddha and the Ajivikas. Buddhism formulated karma as a cycle of cause and effect linked to the 12 stages of paticcasamuppada or dependent origination. Some Hindus support this and some do not. Theistic schools of Hinduism such as Vedanta suggest that the personal will of the Supreme God, Ishwara, is directly involved in the forces of karma. Or a devotee may hope that their satguru, acting on a god's behalf, will transmute or work out some of their karma for them. The meaning of karma also further differs depending on which of the Hindu texts you look at. For some Hindus, karma is the performing of yagya - uniting the atman with the paramatman - as described in the Upanishads or prescribed by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. For others, karma is a more general, dispassionate and intelligent action undertaken in the broader appreciation that what we do always influences the future.

The first thing to notice is that nowhere in Hinduism is karma attached to the notion of reward and punishment. The Hindu has free will over their actions. Karma is simply the extension or expression of what they choose to think, say and do: whether Ishwara presides over this process or not. Additionally, the effects of any one action can always be offset by other actions. There is no pre-ordained single experience in the future - which could be any punishment or reward - as the direct, one-to-one, corresponding outcome of a single act in the past. Nor is there any such notion of retribution in the Vedas. Latest translations of the Rig Veda show that the brahmins believed the individual went backwards and forwards between Earth and the realm of the ancestors. Here moral behaviour had no bearing on the afterlife. It is only the shramana religious movement that introduced the idea that morality influences the quality of one's actions.

The other thing is that with these varied understandings of karma, we move straight out of the realm of "truth" into that of simple "opinion." Karma is a concept - not an actuality - and once you pick one of its many definitions over another, you are operating according to subjectivity, preference and an individual's own belief. Karma is an interpretation of reality, not reality itself. All concepts are built up by someone: they are manufactured and they are only personal truths. The establishment of the belief in karma in early Indian society was therefore a political act: an attempt to establish a hegemony of knowledge where none existed. There is no single "truth" handed down through the aeons: only a constantly shifting alliance of ideas supported by political expediency and power!

A concept is just a concept: it is never an absolute fact. In Tiruvannamalai however, the "universal truth of karma" has become the calling card of religious fetishists and spiritual drag queens. (Why do you think we invented the character Sister Klaus as a satirical device with which to lampoon these people?) Clothing themselves in its conceptual embrace, certain people declare that Arunachala is a punishing moral arbitrator. According to them, the mountain rewards the chosen few, striking down all who morally transgress. In South India, these ideas intensified with the advent of the Christian missionaries under British colonialism. The Advaita on the streets of today's Tiru is a dualistic Hindu-Christian hybrid ... often laced with a strong dose of Indian nationalism ...

The insistence of a few local residents that Arunachala stands in judgement of those of us who dare not to believe in karma - has nothing to do with Hindus or Hinduism. It is the product of an extremist, fanatical mindset born of ignorance, discrimination and a lack of personal power. It's like trying to explain the early history of Christianity and gnosticism to a Born Again Christian. However cogent your argument, they will always claim that you have been hijacked by dark powers. For them, it is purely a matter of blind faith not open to any form of discussion, let alone a rational argument. We have even been described by some in Tiruvannamalai as "asuras" (demonic entities). It seems that apostates of every generation are denounced in a similar manner. Even the historical Buddha was described as such by the brahmins of his day.

What we find most fascinating is that those who make these claims are so often the victims of their own moral mindset. Many of those passing judgement are the ones engaging in 'immoral' activities themselves. Outward displays of piety hide adultery, same sex liaisons, occult tantric practices, alcoholism and drug abuse ... you name it, any of the so-called vices! In Tiru, the "religious" are furtively indulging up to their eyeballs behind closed doors. Morality always goes hand-in-hand with immorality: prescription breeds addiction. With the adoption of a set of rules, what has been excluded casts a long shadow. It's all talk, no action; saying, not doing ... Truly, this is the homeland of the hypocrite!

Karma ... it's a killer. It's up there with original sin as one of the premier search-and-destroy monsters that cripples our collective mindset. Guilt, fear and oppression are all by-products of our mindless consumption of its pernicious ideas. Mired and trapped in concepts such as karma, the underlying assumptions of religion are never examined and blindly parroted as a form of Über Truth. If you use the building blocks of a collective delusion - even if they are universally accepted - without deep self-reflection, that is where it all goes horribly wrong ...

This blog is satire and employs mockery, research, challenge and personal opinion to prompt that self-reflection. It is not for those who wish to uphold the status quo. Satire is a deadly serious business. It is how each generation calls to account the powers that be. If you don't like what we write, don't read it - as we've said numerous times before. Take responsibility for your own opinions and create something better! You can always start your own blog and say whatever you think. (Just don't blame us if nobody reads it!)

We don't mind other views. But don't expect us to agree with them or to not say what we think. Our view is that it is vitally important to examine each and every religious assumption to see if it squares with lived reality. We hold that there is no such thing as karma except in somebody's personal belief system. Anybody can see with just a little investigation, that the cause of an event is an ever-shifting paradigm. It is only an egoic tendency which distills a single reason out of an endless interconnection of events. If we follow our own experience, in connection with the body, we find that understanding is not necessary for events which just unfold. What actually happens is a mystery and we don't even need to know ... The "teachings of enlightenment" make us follow rules other than our own. They have been imposed upon us by history's winners, disconnecting us from our intuition and direct perception of reality. Karma is a fairy tale concept divorced from the very essence of timelessness. What we have enshrined in our collective belief systems is completely ungrounded. No more than a Dali-esque dream sequence, it's a bad fantasy made real. A collision of ancient worlds which took us away from our natural state!

Isn't it absurd, that in this day and age, a difference of opinion is considered a hanging offence? Stating your own opinion is not a threat to others, unless somebody somewhere is quietly sponsoring "truth." In the absence of the demand for only one set of beliefs, contradictory opinions can quite legitimately co-exist. But when the urge for conformity and suppression of dissident views takes over, we have an open bazaar of personal tyranny - which condemns its friends and neighbours - and then patronises them with pity and asinine compassion. "Truth" and being "right" turns people into little gods. Is the religious identity in Tiruvannamalai - so brittle and so needy - that it needs to eradicate all opposition in order to reign supreme?

Babylon is a metaphor for a harlot's nest of corrupt religious ideas, especially karma. It's an imagined realm of ivory towers and castles in the sky that masks a profound lack of embodiment. We say burn it down. Its day is done!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The prostitution of the dead

Ye gods, please save us from the many headed hydra that is Facebook! If this is the modern age, maybe we deserve a re-run of the Dark Ages ...

Trawling through my timeline, I'm gobsmacked by a quote from Kahlil Gibran which goes like this: "If your heart is a volcano, how can you expect flowers to bloom?" OK, let's get something clear here: Gibran was an alcoholic who died of TB and cirrhosis of the liver. Now if you're a drunk, surely there's a lot of anger there and booze was his pain-killer of choice. - Yet still he managed to produce reams of so-called inspirational prose and poetry. My second point is that volcanoes have some of the most fertile land on Earth and lots of flowers grow on their slopes. So it's a totally hypocritical and bullshit quote: anger and emotional dysfunction was the fuel that produced The Prophet not LURV 'N' LITE!

And we're not talking about the Love and Light of the 90s here, which involved Star Trek style channellings and wacky ideas of planetary ascension. The Lurv 'n' Lite crowd of the new millennium are the confused progeny of Louise L. Hay and Shakti Gawain whose trite moral calling cards banish all negativity and confirm what a good person you are (usually at the expense of the proles beneath your feet!) 21st century spirituality is supine, soporific and saccharin sweet: a totally insipid consommé of neatly manicured sayings stolen from those who have long since shed this mortal coil. Nothing is new and everything is a borrowed simulation - it's all sound bites - emblematic of the banality of popular culture. The irony is that the dead are not only being prostituted - but also the living - because they have become the living dead. Everything is wet and weak and ersatz feminine. A politically correct, emasculated techno-spirituality is the new male principle! How do you ensure a yin-yang dynamic when the balance is so distorted? No one says what they truly feel: they hide behind superficial platitudes that wreak of craven moral cowardice. Now half of the Facebook feed is flooded with this aspirational spiritual dross, parading quotes from the likes of Rumi and numerous Zen masters we've never heard of. By posting some fluffy quote from a dead person, it's safe and secure. You know they're not gonna embarrass you in public (à la Russell Brand) - cos they're eating worm!

Everybody thinks that they are oh-so spiritual - when this is the most cynical form of neo-liberal capitalism yet. In Tiru no one does self-enquiry anymore or retires to a cave on the hill (well, except for the legendary sex saddhu, Sven, but that's another story!) They retreat to their designer shag pads, watch Youtubes and download movies from Pirate Bay - launching their new company on the internet while doing Facebook! These twitching zombies of consumption do their sadhana online (and play the guru too!) in a world of Shares, Comments and Friend Requests. Steeped in gross material and emotional parasitism, they are selling a pretend version of their lived experience. This is patently a lie, but it is legitimated by the economic machinery of the society it serves. No longer required to be honest in everyday expression, our emotionality is simply a commodity to be bought and sold. Spirituality has been privatised and depoliticised so that you can formulate a role-playing version of yourself, which earns you future reward. In this Greek drama, the persona bears no relation with reality. No one dares look at the Gorgon beneath the mask ...

The tragedy of this spiritual affectation is an addiction to temporary pain relief rather than the permanent cure of personal annihilation - cos that's too high a price, right?! It seems to be the modus operandi to commodify the words of the dead and wear them as a badge of one's own attainment and piety. Of course, unlike the Middle Ages, you don't actually have to buy an annulment from the church to remove all your sin. You can just hit the Like button or post another Sufi poem and everything will be all right ... you'll be guaranteed a place amongst the saintly!

Delusional and deeply dishonest. But if it gives you a moment's respite from your inner demons - why not give it a whirl?!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Les fleurs de mort

Sister Klaus is dead!

We are bereft - a true giant of the sacred art of Chi-Ting has left the stage - and we mere mortals are left to pick up the pieces and carry on. The Sister was found at 9am this morning by her cleaner, Kuti, in a deathly slumber. The Divine IT appeared strangely serene with ice blue lips and a beatific rictal smile (kind of Mona Lisa on crack!) with an electric cattle prod rammed up her errr ... well you get the picture!

Hordes of grief-stricken Klausian flagellants have gathered outside the samadhi mandir of Steve (Ibn Al Haq) Woodman at the Manna Cafe. Tempers frayed and the mob became volatile, screaming: "Steve, you're still a wanker even if you're dead!" Steve and Sister Klaus had been involved in a vicious vendetta after Steve's refusal to be the Sister's Facebook friend. He subsequently bad mouthed the Sister in an endless stream of homophobic put-downs (which was a bit rich, considering Steve's background as a London rentboy!) Steve's former partner-in-crime, Suresh, was so freaked out that he barricaded himself in and made an emergency call to his brother-in-law - Shanti Kumar of Shanti Cafe - who arrived post haste in an attempt to calm the baying crowd.

We phoned Inspector Venkatesh of the Dept of Transsexuals And Miscellaneous Perverted Orgiastic Narcissists (otherwise known as T.A.M.P.O.N.) to ask for his advice since the Sister was beginning to get a bit smelly in the midday heat. His reply was forthright and to the point: "Thank God that weirdo has left this plane of existence. This Klaus was an azuric entity of the worst kind! You must perform the Rites of Osiris so that it cannot rise from the dead. Dismember the body into 7 pieces, give them to various villages known for their occult practices, and they will consume the flesh. If there is anything left over, just bury it under the patio."

So the big question remains - who dunnit? The suspects are legion: Garbage Gal Bobbie, Kali Baba, Raging Rosie, Divakaran from the Rip Off Supermarket, Colonel Mustard or the most evil woman in town ... Charlotte Psycho-Sister. Charlotte's chief apologist, Werner von Lick-Spittle, said: "Well, if Charlotte did do it, then she was obviously divinely sanctioned by the deified Radha Ma. So that makes it OK!"

At this point we got so pissed off with Werner's sanctimonious inversion of reality, that we clubbed him around the head with a baseball bat. After he had been reduced to a bloody pulp, we decided to bury him under the patio, next to the Sister ...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The day the world turned dayglo

Ho hum, another day, another apocalypse!

We received this link from our cosmic chum, Aghori:

The Koodankulam nuclear plant went critical this weekend despite stinging criticism from both pro and anti-nuclear experts. Shouldn’t we be terrified that the plant has been dealing with Russian conmen suppliers, missing wiring and electrocution deaths? Shouldn’t we be scared that the nuclear establishment itself admit that they have no disaster management plans? 
[from, July 16 - see more here]

Basically on July 13, the green light was given for a new nuclear plant to start operating in Tirunelveli district, Tamil Nadu. This is despite vehement objection from nuclear experts concerning its risky location close to villages and tsunami resettlement colonies; use of substandard equipment, materials and components; flouting of safety protocols; and serious technical flaws. None other than the former Chairman of India's Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB), Dr Gopalakrishnan, has warned that these shortcomings are a literal time bomb waiting to happen. He has highlighted multiple defects and deficiencies: Indian inexperience in handling pressurised water reactors; substandard parts; electro-magnetic interference; and all the kilometres of power cables that are errr ... 'missing' from the plant’s framework.

And it gets even scarier ... Dr Gopalakrishnan says that once the reactor has been operated for a time, it's inevitable that parts of it will catastrophically fail. Incredibly, detailed, design-specific drawings and documentation supplied by the Russians, were never followed. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) proceeded with instrumentation and control work before receiving the instructions! Rather damningly he declares:

Russians are very well-organised and systematic, and they rigidly follow the rules and expect others also to do so. While Indians, too, have rules and regulations on paper, to expedite work or to minimise cost, they would not hesitate to bend or break rules.

Meanwhile the government ignores, dismisses or criminalises anyone who asks questions ...

It sounds like a Bollywood re-make of the 60s' Bond classic, Dr No and has all the hallmarks of a huge box office hit: dodgy Russian gangsters and corrupt, paunchy Indian bureaucrats twiddling their Dalí-esque moustaches! Everyone has their snout stuck in the trough and it's a feeding frenzy of envelopes stuffed with cash. Imagine the hammy dialogue: "Who cares if South India is a nuclear wasteland, I will be rich, ho ho ho!" It's a guaranteed parable of greed, stupidity and the fuck up factor so prevalent here ... that will probably make Tamil Nadu go Chernobyl ... and then some ... No wonder Aghori is rumoured to be building a nuclear bunker in his back garden!

As for The Papaji Pretenders and satsang clowns of all denominations - please return to Tiru immediately and prepare for final annihilation. Once you've done the Hiroshima Mon Amour and dropped the body, we will boil up your remains and make some nice Soylent Green doggy biscuits, which we will feed to the local sadhus.

Rejoice! You will at last be serving a valuable social and economic purpose. You'll have finally transcended your lumpen and parasitic nature!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Rise of the clones ...

Another listless day at the Chi-Ting office - there is absolutely no news. Even our favourite street troll Kali Baba cannot find any one-legged women to molest. Sister Klaus is so bored that the Divine IT is reduced to smearing prodigious amounts of snot over the furniture in an attempt to transform them into bizarre objets d'art. Then suddenly out of the blue, this whinging missive from Neo Advaitin Jeff Foster arrives in our inbox ...


A friend sent me a link to your 'Baby Ben and Jeff: A love story" blog. I have to admit, it was funny. ;) Good to see you have a sense of humour around all this stuff....

I was a little intrigued to read your 'bio' of me! It's amazing what Chinese whispers can produce....

Where did you get the idea that I'm a 'failed Cambridge academic'? I studied there, for sure, and graduated. Never, ever wanted to be an academic. Ugh! Or that I'd secretly lurk at the back of Tony's meetings?? Or that I told Tony about my 'story' and he laughed in my face?? I only ever attended one of Tony's meetings after my 1st book came out. Must have been 6 or so years ago now. Tony had called me and wanted to meet me in person, and invited me to come to his Hampstead meeting and say hi, so I did. I never remember him laughing in my face at all - he was warm and funny and very welcoming and I enjoyed the day.

I find it so funny how these rumours spread halfway across the world.... Amazing.

Anyway, keep doing what you're doing, my friend. Some of your stuff is absolutely hilarious. A guilty pleasure. Hey, spiritual teachers can't take a bit of fun, a knock on the chin, you have to wonder....

By the way, it's a shame you didn't speak to me at the meeting you came to. Might have been fun if you'd challenged me on the spot. Sorry you had to make your own tea! ;)

Best wishes,

Oh oh Jeffy! It's not "Chinese whispers" - it's straight from the horse's mouth - Tony Parsons himself! He said you sought him out. He was very disparaging about your so-called realisation, calling it a "nice story." If you're disappointed with his supposedly revisionist version of events, why don't you phone him for a little tête-à-tête?

We also notice that you have totally avoided addressing the main point of our post, which was that you sound exactly like Parsons. You are yet another "Tony clone" - a pale imitation of a teacher you don't acknowledge. Your talks are dull, insipid, and uninspiring. Just like all the others: Nathan Gill (the Michael Caine of Neo Advaita - "Not a lotta people know that"); Richard Sylvester; Roger Linden; Suzanne Foxton et al. And you all regurgitate the same Tony-isms! ... The Open Secret becomes The Elusive Obvious (Roger). You keep on saying: "This is it!" (Jeff, Nathan, Richard) and "All there is, is this!" (according to the witless Suzanne who is still noticing that her ego creeps in!) Devoid of the pulse of life, you are tailor's dummies wearing someone else's clothes! And what's so special about Tony Parsons? All he's done is a Buddhist makeover of Advaita - after he got scorched by Dennis Waite for being a Neo Advaitin!

Your gang is not the only one in town playing this game. You're just the latest in a long line of banal impersonators flaunting their pseudo-realisation. Sadly it seems to be the leitmotif of our times! The worst offenders are The Papaji Pretenders: Gangaji, Mooji, Madhukar, Pratima Sephton, and Isaac Shapiro (to name but a few). Andy Warhol proclaimed that everybody would have 15 minutes of fame. Bowie said: "We can be heroes just for one day." But all we see are imitation zeroes, shoddy counterfeit copies who worship at the altar of Pop Idol and The X Factor. It's a school of lame karaoke sing along that pretends it has a franchise on the real thing. The recycled wreckage of modernity played out against a Kraftwerk electro soundtrack!

Also Jeff, a failed Cambridge academic is not someone who completes their course, but someone who struggles to get through because they can't handle it. You openly admit you suffered from depression at Cambridge. The whole ethos there is to be a mental superman who can deal with anything and everything. Weakness is seen as the ultimate crime. It's a bit like being a Bond villain from SPECTRE! You are straight out of the Eckhart Tolle school of Cambridge fuck-ups. A prime example of extreme repressed head-wonkery, released on to the world in a spasm of epiphany! (In my school we called it jerking off!) All that elite education to make hideously stupid remarks about "the ocean and the wave" ...

There's not a shred of honesty in your letter. It's all politically correct platitudes without any emotional integrity. A touchy feely response which is contrived and utterly disingenuous. (Just like your books, which read like a teenager's diary!) Jeff, you are saying what you should say to appear unruffled, chummy, and embracing of "all that it is." But your laughter is nervous and hollow. And we've heard a whisper ... that a spiritual heavyweight recently told you that you were "not finished." Apparently they hinted that you're not enlightened and you were extremely rattled ... Would you like to write in and tell us about that? You have put yourself up on a pedestal and now the demons of self-doubt are snapping at your heels.

Jeff, one last thing ...
When dealing with the likes of you there is NO guilt - it's ALL pleasure!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The lull before the storm

It's been a long, hot summer. Brains have been boiled and many hardcore Tiru-ites have collapsed into a permanent state of delirium ...

So it is with trepidation that we report dark rumours that our favourite pet monster, Mooji, may be returning to Tiru. The Rice Mill, scene of his previous visitations, has been refitted and freshly painted. Have Mooji's cronies paid for this refurbishment and will the Lumpy Leviathan be returning to our shores? The last year has been blissfully idyllic without him and his avaricious plague of locusts (or errr ... "devotees" depending on your level of delusion!) Unfortunately it's only been a temporary remission from a fatal disease: Mooji is a parasite who will return with greater virulence to kill its host. No one who lives in Tiru wants him to come back and top of the list of disapproval are the bigwigs at Ramana Ashram. But for Mooji, his attempt to appropriate Ramana's legacy and lineage is what gives him legitimacy. His is a dubious addiction that covers up his profound absence of authenticity and originality. The bottom line is that Tony Moo ain't got no soul!

And then we come to that harbinger of hell, the bypass, which is apparently a done deal and will be finished by Deepam (as predicted by local astrologer, Richard Clarke). Fat chance! - but it will come soon enough, bringing congestion, pollution and more building, which will place greater stress on the infrastructure and resources of the area. Projects like this never resolve the inherent problems. They only inflame them and make the core issues worse. The new road will make Tiruvannamalai bigger, open to more visitors and traffic, further ravaging the landscape and bringing environmental destruction and mayhem in its wake. As it is, at night machinery can be heard grinding away as construction workers illegally plunder the bedrock in the neighbourhoods alongside the road. They have ravaged the plain around the Lake: every morning yet more massive holes appear that have been gouged out of the ground. The area has become a pockmarked abomination, which until only very recently, was a wide expanse of pastureland for the local goat herders. The company overseeing Project NH-66 is Transstroy, which local wags have taken delight in renaming, De-stroy, in homage to the great Johnny Rotten.

The Tiruvannamalai section of the ring road encircles the south side of the town - stretching from the Vellore Road in the north to the Bangalore Road in the west. Easier access to the town promises huge development opportunities. Carloads of Indian real estate prospectors have been seen sizing up the back field due east of the Bund where plots have been pegged out since plans for the bypass were first announced. Unlike Adiannamalai on the west side, where there has already been a huge amount of building, the south side of the mountain remains relatively undisturbed. With the advent of the road, a whole new suburb will spring up. Ideally positioned for direct access to Ramana Nagar and the Ashram area, the mud track alongside the Lake has already been widened and compacted. But there is a problem. No water. The place is drying up and we have been told that in only 5 to 10 years, the whole of Tiru will be a desert. Already a victim of the ongoing Kaveri River water dispute with Karnataka state, this month the Cauvery Panel rejected Tamil Nadu's latest demand for water because of the shortage of inflows after last year's almost non-existent winter monsoon. Rain-bearing winds meant to hit the Indian subcontinent every year between May and September (the summer monsoon) and between October and November (the winter monsoon) are bringing progressively less precipitation to Tiruvannamalai ...

This summer for example, locals in the Lake area have been desperately contracting borehole companies to come to their plot to search for more water because their wells have dried up. All to no avail. Multiple test points have yielded nothing and early morning, villagers are forced to bicycle water in huge plastic containers to their houses from further away. Once again the Lake itself has disappeared (up to 2009 everyone was happily swimming in it and catching leptospirosis from the rat urine!) and locals recall how only 30 years ago, they were able to catch eels in the marshland near the soap factory (now designated Paurnami Nagar-II). Local floral fetishist and author David Godman (otherwise known as Godot) residing due south of the Lake has no longer being able to drench his exotic botanical garden because his compound is running dry. Houses at the back of Ramana Nagar close to the Perumbakkam Road have had no water at all for the second year in a row. In both May and June, long lines of women were observed queueing up at the standpipe near the Animal Shelter having walked in from their villages to meet basic drinking and cooking needs. And perhaps most prophetic of all, this season the well at Ramana Ashram filled to the lowest level ever seen.

Local government officials have made assurances to those eager to invest in bricks and mortar here, that water can easily be brought in by tanker. (You can just imagine the chaotic dogfight that's going to break out over the ever-spiralling prices!) The last ten years have seen an unprecedented real-estate boom that has spread like a virus across all areas of India. It's a global phenomenon that has finally brought rapid urbanisation to our dusty temple town and pushed land prices through the roof. The most grotesque example of this morality tale was the suicide of Radha Ma after Vijay of Dreaming Tree fame exposed her fraudulent land deals. Speculators know that if they buy the plots situated close to the bypass now, later they will be able to sell them on to property developers at vastly inflated prices. But it is actually the Indian middle classes from Chennai and Bangalore (many of them Arunachala devotees) who are coming en masse to Tiruvannamalai. They are looking for cheaper land than in the cities for their retirement or a second home. Meanwhile despite the noise and pollution, the Tamil families already living close to the new road are pleased, because the value of their house will rise. The logic of capitalism is more production and more consumption, but we live in a world of finite resources. In T.V.Malai the basic fact is that water is running out. No water; no life. End of story!

Until that moment dawns, every willing shark will try and screw the last shekel out of a game that will inevitably go bust. The sad thing is that no one has an economic Plan B and only catastrophe will force change. As usual our glorious leaders are drunk at the wheel. It's a pyramid of corruption where everyone has their hand in the cookie jar and they will continue looting the store until the lights go out. All that will be left is desolation and a wasteland. It is indeed a strange and savage irony that so many who come to pay homage to a simple man clad only in a loincloth (Ramana Maharshi) end up building temples to their own egos and feeding a cycle of greed. In Mooji's case, it is the adulation of his gullible and naive congregation that he needs for his fix. For others it is the actual buildings of sand, cement and high fashion design. But if you're a simple sadhak, do you really need to spend endless lakhs constructing a fantasy home, all for a premium view of Arunachala? And is Tiru really the best venue for an economic diaspora from India's urban centres, merely in search of investment opportunities?

Everybody assumes that it is the spiritual tourism that is ruining Tiruvannamalai. It definitely is - and for most of us it is obvious that the invasion of bikini-clad bimbos and their stoner boyfriends straight from the beaches of Goa is not sympatico with the deep religious conservatism of Tamil Nadu. But this is only a cultural invasion. It is the cherry on top of the cake: Mooji, Madhukar and their ilk are just the symptomatic rash of a much deeper malaise (the syphilisation of spirituality!) There are several convergent strands feeding into this equation. Tiru is a microcosmic melting pot of the religious and socioeconomic contradictions currently challenging Indian society. In its rush to modernise and exploit its resources, India has succumbed to the fatal embrace of neo-liberal capitalism. But at the same time the religious culture of India despises the moral and spiritual values of the economic model it is aspiring to. Unfortunately these cannot be separated. Further, this is all happening at a point where the West is having to re-examine its economic foundations because its entire system is failing. It's a race headlong into the abyss!

In the quiet of this year's sweltering heat, there has been a long pause pregnant with possibility. There have been many waves of change here and the bypass is just the latest chapter in an ongoing story. We could be on the cusp of a seismic shift. Will Indians do something different with the Western economic model in Tiruvannamalai or will we see yet another round of development and desecration? This is the last moment before modernity and consumerism finally smash through the door. Is it just a disaster movie in the making?

It's that 1914 feeling: except this time it won't be machine guns and howitzers which are coming, but drought and mass migration. As Tacitus so wryly commented: "They make a desert and call it peace!"

Friday, June 7, 2013

The love that dare not speak its name

The world of Chi-Ting has been rocked by scandalous and salacious news ...

Sister Klaus and local Khal Drogo look-a-like, Shunya, have become ensnared in un amour interdit. (Shunya is famed as one of the legendary Gang of 4 who were dragged through the courts by psychotic Radha Ma loyalists for supposedly causing her to commit suicide). The Sister's former paramour, Sven, has been seen in Ramana Nagar renting his clothes while wailing and lamenting the cruel vicissitudes of fate. It had been noted of late that Shunya - despite his macho visage and raunchy mega-Enfield bike - has taken to riding around town in a dress with a suspicious hint of eyeliner and mascara. Rumours have also been circulating about him after Sister K's brief foray into the twilight world of Facebook. Apparently Shunya has been bombarding the Sister with multiple "Friend" requests. (Facebook as is self evident to every common or garden imbecile is the portal to all infamy and perversion!) Shunya's liebchen, Sexy Steffi, has been so distraught at these ugly rumours that she has immediately booked a flight from Frankfurt to confront her lover about his alarming sexual metamorphosis.

Sister Klaus, when cornered by the growing media firestorm, enigmatically said - "je ne regrette rien" - and refused to comment further ...

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Anarchy and "I"

Advaita has been described as the ultimate anarchy: no "I", no boundaries, and a vista of total sensory liberation ...

Anarchism is perpetually dismissed as the ideology of choice for zit-raddled teens as they car crash through adolescence ... Our corporate media trots out the usual fear-based nightmare scenarios, spun from movies like Mad Max, as an example of the hell world that awaits us if we succumb to this dangerous and immature ideology. But what if anarchism is not a political "-ism" but a way of being where all the barriers of conditional existence have fled the stage and totally cease to impinge on our lives?

Some cite Taoism as the earliest form of anarchism, particularly in the figure of Chuang Tzu who famously remarked that the world does not need governing. He said it should be left alone to allow natural and spontaneous order to flower. Chuang Tzu lived during the Warring States period (4th century BCE) when China was in one of its peak phases of disintegration. The Taoist classic of the Tao Te Ching also roughly dated to this time states: "The world is ruled by letting things take their course. It cannot be ruled by interfering" (verse 48, lines 4 & 5). The core of Taoism is to focus on wu-wei, often translated as "non-doing." This is not the total absence of action. Rather, it is action wholly in accord with nature. In the early societies of ancient China, survival would have depended on intuiting and co-operating with the forces of nature in order to successfully grow food. Plants were found to grow best if they were left to follow their own nature. In the same way humans would flourish when least meddled with. In his Inner Chapters (No.11 entitled "Let It Be, Leave It Alone," verse 1), Chuang Tzu tells us that governance can even be dangerous:

I have heard of letting the world be, of leaving it alone; I have never heard of governing the world. You let it be for fear of corrupting the inborn nature of the world; you leave it alone for fear of distracting the virtue of the world. If the nature of the world is not corrupted, if the virtue of the world is not distracted, why should there be any governing of the world?

Here the prevailing ethos was not to forget the interests of others. This was not a sullen selfishness but a pursuit of personal good, which involved a concern for general well-being. The more a person does for others, the more he has. The more he gives to others, the greater his "" (德) or virtue ...

The similarity between wu-wei in ancient Chinese culture and an-archos in ancient Greek is quite striking. Wu-wei is being without "wei": that is, an absence of contrived behaviour. In the political context, the imposition of authority would be entirely absent. Meanwhile an-archos means "lack of a ruler." But anarchism is much more than this. Not just seeing governance as undesirable, unnecessary and even harmful, it entails opposing authority and hierarchy in human relations as well as politics and big business. Anarchism is therefore a reaction to the ego as represented by the machinery of society and the state. In the popular imagination (often encouraged by right wing discourse), this has fuelled images of rioting in the streets and violent insurrection. In fact anarchism is subtle, because it is so entirely anti-dogma. It does not offer a fixed doctrine; it draws on multiple currents of thought; and it weaves and flows as an ever evolving philosophy.

Modern anarchism as it is espoused by contemporary advocates such as Noam Chomsky is usually a form of libertarian communism. Here the needs of the individual and the collective flow seamlessly and organically together. Common ownership of the means of production predominates in a society whether there is neither state, capitalism, wages nor private property. Critically however, production and consumption are based on each person's precise needs and abilities. People still retain personal items and engage in pure democracy (voting directly on political policies without a political representative). These ideas developed out of the radical socialist currents of the French Revolution. Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, was the first to call himself an "anarchist." He favoured workers' associations and co-operatives over nationalization of land and the workplace and is famous for the slogan, "property is theft." Meanwhile the Russian revolutionary, Mikhail Bakunin, laid down the foundation of collectivist anarchist theory. For him, workers should directly manage their own means of production with "equal means of subsistence, support, education, and opportunity for every child, boy or girl, until maturity, and equal resources and facilities in adulthood to create his own well-being by his own labour."

What would a libertarian communist society look like? During the Russian Civil War, in late 1918, a stateless society known as the Free Territory operated in the southeast of the Ukraine under the protection of Nestor Makhno's Black Army. This was organized according to the theories of Peter Kropotkin with voluntary associations and a type of free exchange occurring between rural and urban communities. He expanded the definition of libertarian communism by developing its pro-organizationalist and insurrectionary anti-organizationalist aspects. In particular, Kropotkin emphasised co-operation over competition alongside the gift economies and non-accumulation of private property practised by the indigenous peoples of Siberia. There were also the anarchist territories that operated during the Spanish Civil War. A social revolution in 1936 saw much of Spain's economy placed under worker control. Factories in the stronghold of Revolutionary Catalonia, most of Aragon, and parts of the Levante and Andalusia were run through worker committees; agrarian areas were collectivised and run as libertarian communes; and even shops, restaurants and hotels were managed by their workers.

These two examples were birthed during the stress of war. One played out against the backdrop of the collapse of imperial power in Russia while the other was the product of the fight against Fascism in 1930s' Spain. This was a clear battle for dominion between known forces. Our globalist quagmire today is born of the Baby Boomer culture of narcissism. This is a society of supposed individualism where Freudian psychoanalysis has been used for decades to give the illusion of choice and freedom. In his documentary, The Century of the Self, the polemicist Adam Curtis exposes how from the 1920s onwards, the ideas of Edwards Bernays were used first by governments and then by big business and the CIA, to control "the dangerous crowd" in an age of mass democracy. Bernays invented public relations. He took the theories of his uncle Sigmund Freud and showed America's corporations how to make people want what they didn't need by linking mass produced goods to their unconscious mind. Freud introduced us to the notion of the control-complex named the ego. He believed that man had a monster lurking in his psyche in the form of hidden passions and dark instinctual drives, which must be repressed. His ideas were born out of a deep pessimism which only intensified with the mass slaughter of the First World War and they were taken further by his daughter, Anna Freud. She said that not only should the ego be strengthened in order to help repress our inner drives for the good of the individual and the stability of the society, but that those drives should be removed. Bernays therefore suggested that as passive recipients of material goods, man's irrational and aggressive tendencies could be managed and eventually eliminated. By stimulating the people's inner desires - then sating them with consumer products - they would be made happy and thus rendered docile.

This was the start of the all-consuming self, which has come to dominate our present world. In a later development in the history of psychoanalysis, the ideas of Wilhelm Reich came to the fore. Once a devoted disciple of Freud, Reich believed that rather than being bad, man's animal instincts were good. It was their repression by society that distorted human consciousness and made people dangerous. This led him to teach that sexuality was the primary energetic force of life. He named this orgone and said that if the libido was released and allowed to express itself, the human being would flourish. In the 1950s, Reich and his students were condemned as a "cult of sex and anarchy." But his ideas ultimately provided an even bigger opportunity for the political and corporate elite. Now there were unlimited feelings and desires, these could be satisfied by unlimited products. This cycle further intensified with the protests of the American Student Left against the illegal Vietnam War, segregation and Western consumerism. When the state proved simply too powerful and the activists were ruthlessly put down, they again invoked the Reichian self. The idea was that they would change society by changing themselves. Using new forms of therapy such as Gestalt and EST, they would unleash their "true self" and produce an "I" capable of overthrowing the old order. This fed the corporations even more. With the further expansion of the parameters of emotional expression, a much stronger sense of personal identity emerged. Now the companies could design more targeted products linked to people's values, attitudes and lifestyle (VALs). Today the battle lines have become blurred and we are led by the nose, victims of a sinister "engineering of consent." (What do you think Starbucks and Facebook are up to: quality coffee and a nice cosy chat?) The 60s was supposed to be a radical epoque, but gave birth to a ruthless Counter Reformation led by corporate elites fed on the milk of the Randian cult of supreme selfishness. Now all the old hippies have become rightwing CEOs!

The novel, Q, by Luther Blissett (a pseudonym for a collective, bizarrely named after the Watford and A.C. Milan footballer!) offers us a potential anarchist response to today's neo-liberal hegemony. The book has been interpreted as an allegory of the decline of European society after the 1960s and 1970s, based on what occurred during the Anabaptist Revolts and the Catholic Counter-Reformation, which repressed any heretical theological current or alternative social movement. This is a metaphor for the vengeful rebirth of conservative ideologies towards the close of the 20th century. An IMF-driven corporate globalization of the economy has been ruthlessly deployed to rout any form of resistance. The story chronicles the journey of a nameless Anabaptist radical across Europe in the first half of the 16th century. Over a 30 year period, he joins numerous causes which have grown out of the Protestant Reformation and each time adopts a new name. This is because he is constantly being stalked by a Catholic spy named "Q" who has infiltrated these revolutionary movements in a deliberate attempt to undermine them. Here the anarchist is a collective "phantom" of dynamic, transformative capacity with a subversive, shifting identity. The protagonist has no name. His influence reaches every part of society. He incites rebellious acts and organises hoaxes, swindles and mischief to undermine authority and its institutions.

The emphasis here is on anonymity. It is the act which is important - not the actor - and this act could be done by anyone. In contemporary terms Wikileaks is a prime example, publishing secret information, news leaks, and classified media from anonymous sources. Its Twitter account provocatively promises: "We open governments. Everywhere." This is the world of the cyber attack and hacktivism: the work of the faceless saboteur who continually pokes our moral conscience. It can also be no coincidence that the Luther Blissett collective writing the book Q, later changed their name to Wu Ming. In Mandarin Chinese (无名), this translates as "without a name" or "nameless." It can also mean "anonymous." In China the term is used to pay tribute to dissidents and as a rejection of the machinery by which an author becomes a celebrity. It is also employed by Chinese citizens to demand democracy and freedom of speech. Further, in Literary Chinese, wu-ming (無名) alludes to the beginning of heaven and earth, mentioned in verse 1, line 3 of the Tao Te Ching (無名天地之始 - wúmíng tiāndì zhī shǐ). The collective may also be claiming a metaphysical status for their work, where writing itself is seen as an anarchic act.

But does anarchism really work? The evidence suggests not. First of all we are not ready for anarchism. In his current state, man cannot even engage in a simple act of sharing. One of the most persuasive descriptions of an anarchist world is provided by the science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin in her novel, The Dispossessed. But even this puritanical and selfless utopia is riddled with jealousy and the corruption of subtle hierarchy. Le Guin writes of a planet named Urras and in particular its moon Anarres, where there are no government or coercive authoritarian institutions. The main character, Shevek, discovers that the revolution which brought his world into being, has resulted in massive stagnation with power structures relentlessly starting to creep back in. Meanwhile both the anarchist societies formed out of the Russian and Spanish Civil Wars were transient flashes in the pan, lasting in both cases no more than two or three years. Even the legendary Spanish anarchist, Durruti, was rumoured to have been murdered by one of his own men for imposing too much discipline on his militia.

In fact anarchism is a reaction to the state and subtly reinforces it. The two are hopelessly intertwined. The yin-yang symbol of Taoism expresses this dynamic. It depicts seemingly contrary and opposed forces as inseparable with one never being found without the other. This can be seen in the ironic juxtaposition of how an agent of the Catholic Counter-Reformation has become the modern cultural image of anarchist insurrection. Guy Fawkes unsuccessfully plotted to blow up the parliament of King James I of England but his mask - spawned by the 2005 movie, V for Vendetta - has become the accessory of choice for both the Occupy Movement and the Anonymous group. Separated from religion, Guy Fawkes' image has been usefully inverted from that of a traitor to a modern-day hero fighting an unjust state. But there's an even more ironic twist ... The mask is licensed by Time Warner, which released V for Vendetta. So anti-big-corporation protesters buying these masks are helping to enrich one of the targets of their demonstrations! Any attempt to challenge social and economic inequality is found to be hand-in-glove with the capitalist state. Who's fooling who?

Additionally, we seem to be confined to an endless swing between "inner" versus "outer" solutions to state domination. Neither solution seems to work. There are those committed to transforming the world through working internally on their fixations and emotions, while others attempt to build externally, the sustainable communities and cashless societies of the future. Anarchism offers an outer solution: a practical political alternative to the madness of a system which installs an all-powerful elite in order to force (so-called) democracy and capitalism on to the populace, ensuring they will never think or act for themselves. But exterior political forms reflect our interior worlds: so where shall we start, on the outside or on the inside? One thing is for sure: past revolutions have created a greater tyranny than the ones they replace. This sees us back once again with institutional oppression and the reinstatement of kings. As it is, in a world where everyone is reduced to being buried alive under the bullshit of hierarchy and authority, people retreat to their own private fascist universes, sculpting themselves in the image of exactly the same mindset of oppression ...

But isn't the biggest problem, fixed views: attempting to apply a formula to what is essentially, a mystery? Anarchism still presents us with a theory and a set of rules for solving a problem. Any formula is an imposition and not an organic arising (i.e. free from control and hierarchy). Returning to the Tao Te Ching, we have its timeless first line - 道可道非常道 - dào kě dào, fēi cháng dào. It means that anything which you can speak of, tell, express, describe or explain can never be living or eternal. That is, to attempt to encapsulate or grasp something is to lose it. Verse 1, line 9 describes life as 玄之又玄 - hsuán zhī yòu hsuán or "mystery and again mystery" - pointing to its wonder and the total impossibility of it ever being understood. The human tendency is always to form hierarchy and modes of dominance out of spontaneity and immediacy, fuelled as we all are by self-interest and personal ambition. While life is dynamic, fluid and ever changing, to be an anarchist is to preside over that dynamic and demand that certain things or actions do or do not occur. There is a belief system in place; a given way of thinking. Surely this is the act of violence: insisting that the world sees everything the same way that you do!

Anarchism is engaging in an act of oppression similar to that of the state. But despite its fundamental flaws, anarchism is an expression of what is best in us, an invocation of our hopes for a more open and inclusive society. It is an outburst of idealism in a dark world where nothing seems to be working and the relation between domination and subjugation is becoming ever more extreme. Anarchism is simply an outer materialist expression of an inner knowing: our fumbling attempt to know what cannot be known. Critically, from birth the human psyche is inducted into social and cultural straitjacketing. Layer upon layer of mental and emotional conditioning breaks our connection with the primal source. We've never had a chance: what links the inner and the outer and flows across them has never been left alone to flower. In the ancient Vedic cultures, for the first 40 days, a newborn baby was reared in nature without any human contact beyond that of its natural parents. This allowed the child to become strong in an unbroken communion with itself and the raw universal forces by which we are all shaped. The need for liberation was never envisaged because we were already born free.

Advaita also offers the promise of eternal freedom. Its strategy is to focus on the inner world at the expense of the outer. Through an internal journey of contemplation and self-enquiry, it negates the external world in order to surrender to the ultimate reality of the Self. Even Ramana upheld the basically Hindu belief in fatalism where everything unfolds according to a pre-ordained script. Steeped in predestination, he had nothing to say about the inequality of the caste system or the prolific sexual violence against Indian women. This was because as far as he was concerned, these things did not need to be any different from what they were. For him, political action constituted a conscious turning away from the Self in order to pursue a self-centred agenda, entirely ignoring the Self's plan. Change was only necessary or possible at the personal level, with Self realisation being the sole means of helping the world. This fission between politics and spirituality is well known in Indian society. The famous anecdote of Mahatma Gandhi's 'non-meeting' with Ramana is a good example. In the 1930s, Gandhi was scheduled to give a talk some 400 yards from Ramana Ashram and it was hoped he would first visit Ramana. But when the time came and the car stopped near the ashram gate for a few minutes, Rajagopalachari, an accompanying congress politician, ordered it to drive straight on. Ramana himself said that Gandhi had wanted to visit him but that Rajagopalachari had prevented him from doing so. Knowing that he was an advanced soul, Rajagopalachari feared that Gandhi would fall into samadhi and fail to fulfill the political destiny of the Indian nation.

This 'split reality' is symptomatic of the problem inherent in both Hinduism and Advaita. Brahman alone is real so the rest of the world is unreal. Effectively this is saying that things like maiming Indian beggar children in order to make money doesn't really matter. Not only is this a clever control mechanism for diffusing dissent, it's a mandate for a dangerous passivity and enforced victimhood. It's a pitiful exploitation of the human being. Because the Self is an ultimate, unchanging state, it is the individual self which must always change - necessitating a theory of man's worthlessness and inner corruption to be corrected by spiritual practice. Advaita is rooted in a Manichaean mindset of moral dualism where the key to heaven is a stark choice between the forces of good and evil. Man is deeply flawed and nothing is ever perfect. Everything is hopeless and beyond salvation, derived of a dark, pessimistic mindset where only the internal spiritual world has value. This is the crucible in which Saint Augustine's ideas of original sin were formed: these have travelled to South India via British Colonialism irrevocably shaping 20th century Advaita. Thus today's Tiruvannamalai exhibits a highly disturbed blend of extreme Hindu moral conservatism. Upper class Indians and wannabe sadhaks alike, sneer at "low caste locals" and "inferior Westerners." Then they dismiss everything with their mantra of supremacy: "But who is the one who is doing/saying this?" You only have to take one look at the fucked up fanatics in town to see the future ain't so bright!

Advaita is a schizoid religious response born of a beguiling paradox: in order to be free we have to submit to the narcotic glamour of yet another control regime of domination, hierarchy and subjugation (a bit like a Stalinist dictatorship!) We're back in the sadomasochistic world of states of spiritual attainment and the deviant pleasures of sadhana and self-denial (see A prison without bars). Advaita will never be truly anarchic. It exists only to uphold the authority of the Upanishads: it is a secondhand philosophy featuring a set of rigid rules to be followed without question. Shankara was far from being a radical: he merely systematised Gaudapada's earlier attempts to patch up Vedanta, which was badly in need of rebranding. And he stole these ideas from Buddhism, corrupting them for the purposes of his new super-theology. Today's Advaita is actually produced out of two control regimes conjoined: the world of ancient Indian philosophy and spirituality and the modern corporate world of individualistic, commoditised desire. Just look at the cross-cultural disaster of Rajneesh's famous fuck factory/ashram in Pune, which has successfully manufactured some of the most self-obsessed, sociopathic entities in the known universe! Back in the tight assed world of Advaita, with its focus on the inner world so similar to the Freudian model, desire originates internally and is objectified as something evil and immoral. The Self is found within and Advaita's version of the ego - the small self - oversees final realisation. In the hell-hole of our hidden urges, we must repress our sexuality and turn celibate or risk succumbing to a Dionysian orgy of excess. According to Reich, all those dried up sadhaks need is one hell of a good orgasm!

Freedom can never be born out of oppression, whatever form it takes. Anarchism and advaita are not so different: they are both caught in the jaws of the infrastructure of the "above" and the "below." But surely the issue is no longer about coming up with new political or religious theories: in the end both are an epistle of "I" beholden to the apparatus of state domination. This is not about filling the never-ending inner void with the light of spiritual fixation. Neither is it about the feeding of our limitless desire for enlightenment in the outer world. It is about an end to the system of hierarchy and imposition which keeps these activities in place. The question is whether we wait for the inevitable collapse of the machine which so obviously enslaves us or whether we initiate for ourselves, a new way of being. To make the switch away from hierarchy and imposition, we are speaking to a different kind of human impulse. One that finally leaves behind the cacophony of mad ideas all serving to build up the illusion of a separate self, which must then be done away with. This would be to abandon the vicious circle of bondage and liberation: to never enter into it. It would require a quantum leap in consciousness with anarchism becoming a metaphor for primordial freedom - rather than a collectivist solution to the ills of society. All it takes is the 100th monkey ... What will be the evolutionary tipping point?

It's a glorious endeavour even if it is doomed to failure ... But just like Don Quixote, is it not better to dream the impossible dream than live a sham shadow life as slaves to the self? We may be chasing windmills but in our imaginations we are slaying dragons. When one fire is lit, it can start a conflagration ...

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Now that the season is over and the seasonal flotsam has been flushed out of Ramana Nagar only a few hardcore residents are left to sweat it out in the 40 degree heat ...

Even the famed Shanti Cafe is closing for the month of May and Chi-Ting favourite Kali Baba (alias Ali Baba and the 40 Personalities!) is now homeless and left bereft of Bambi-esque victims to molest. Kali Baba is the founder member of the T.V.malai Münchausen Society and is renowned as a world heavyweight champion fantasist. (His claim to the title is disputed by Karl Renz who is a direct descendant of the legendary Baron and the two of them were involved in a no-holds-barred bun fight that ended with spittle and invectives flying in all directions!)

Kali Baba spins fantastic webs of reality for the gullible while pretending to be the Anglo-Siberian, "Mayok Shamaan." Apparently he regularly travels the world ... yet hasn't left India in years. (Must be his amazing shapeshifting skills!) His fake mobile conversations have become legendary. Recently the boys at Shanti decided to phone Kali Baba during one of his monologues broadcasting his latest land deal in Tiru. Of course there was no one on the end of the line and his mobile rang in the middle of his fake conversation! And even more bizarrely, he has recently been overheard saying that one of his students complained that he had not even attempted to rape her! (Standards must be slipping!) The Black Clad Wonder announces to all and sundry how he is purely devoted to service and saving the planet ... Mirror, mirror, on the wall who is the biggest liar of them all?

But Kali Baba does not hold the franchise on fantasy and self-delusion in Tiruvannamalai. In Adiannamalai, a select group of ex-pats host endless dinner parties in a re-run of some neo-colonial twilight zone. Jane Austen Society Queens bitch and pontificate, compulsively meddling in each other lives to give themselves a frisson of excitement. Here cruelty dresses as kindness. It's a game of musical chairs with each of them waiting for the slightest hint of vulnerability: an upper class dog pack getting ready to tear apart the weakest (they are vicious in a way that would make even a sexual predator like Kali Baba blush!) In this magic realm of therapy, psychic predictions, and Hindu moral conservativism, the privileged and the effete discuss philosophy and enlightenment at closed circle luncheons. Like an out-take from a Merchant Ivory production, this is Club Sari with its anti-sexual morality of celibacy and denial. It's a cult of purity where the moneyed, 50+, born again virgins buy land and set up their esoteric empires. Living off the funds of rich daddies, divorce settlements and capitalist investments, they are all the spoilt children of the system who have washed up on these shores to purify their souls and join the elect in heaven!

Here the celibates hang out with the tantrics and it's all very feminised. Even the men are like girls: Peter Pan figures and clean-cut devotees in freshly pressed linens, frolic in the meadows of Arunachala, drinking and dining their way through a never-ending programme of social niceties. But while everyone looks very white and crisp and clean, there's an undercurrent of extreme moral violence. This is a bastardised Hindu-Christian mindset laced with the explosive cocktail of rightwing elitism. Behind the polite veneer of all-loving friendship there is the ever-present threat of expulsion. If you do not conform to the code, you will be cast out of Eden. The unspoken rule is that you do not associate with the hoi polloi as you may be polluted by their grubby sins. Safe in their bubble of specialness, the Dinner Party Set have retreated to their secluded villas in order to avoid contamination ...

This is the land of the Lost Boys. Trapped in a parallel reality of narcotic fairy glamour, both the boys and the girls suffer from a dissociated male energy. This is because the active principle has been forbidden. Religious prohibition prevents expression of the sexual instinct in the world at large. This leads to the creation of an etheric pseudo-realm, where this repressed male energy can only wreak havoc and become self-destructive. There is a twisted inversion: a sublimation of sexuality where celibacy, homosexuality or a furtive promiscuity goes on behind closed doors ... Ageing women with dyed hair attempt to look like young Indian girls who have never been touched. Supposedly celibate career marriages espouse the cult of brahmacharya as a higher principle than lower chakra lust. Designer French sadhus who believe it is the dharma of every girl to give them head while their apparently enlightened wives take refuge in the family home ... It's a crucible of stunning hypocrisy and sexual angst. In this pleasure garden of enlightenment, vanity cases reign supreme and the beautiful is abhorrently ugly. Innocence has been lost like a crushed flower!

The beautiful people from Adiannamalai would be outraged at the comparison to a Père Ubu grotesque like Kali Baba. But in Neverland, Peter Pan goes hand in hand with Billy Liar and both whistle the same tune ...