Friday, January 4, 2013

Spirituality- real or hoax?

Few days ago Chnadu uncle shared a video with me on Facebook. This video was from THiNK 2012, on it's website it says that, "THiNK is designed to be India’s most eclectic, thought-provoking and egalitarian platform for ideas from across the globe". I didn't know about this initiative, but I am very glad to know that something like this has already started in India and people are willing to discuss these issues on open forum. This particular session was about Faith, Reason and Inner Engineering which featured Jaggi Vasudev and Javed Akhtar, session was moderated by Shoma choudhary, here is the you tube link for that session

I enjoyed watching the video, both speakers are very passionate about what they believe and put their argument very assertively. I found Mr. Akhtar very aggressive and passionate about his beliefs, it clearly shows the way he answers questions in this video, I think he should tone down his aggression a little bit, this much aggressive tone might switch off many people, he is trying to convey some very good ideas and raising some very valid questions. These are the questions which most people don't like to answer or try to ignore conveniently and his tone might make their job easy. Religion and spirituality are very complex subjects and both of them are commercialized heavily, it's a big business and in both the fields there are big institutes like big corporate houses. These people try to protect their interests, get new customers and market their product very aggressively and Mr. Akhtar throws very heavy criticism on all these things. He also raises very important point that it's all (religion, spirituality and things related with them) products our mind, our mind is the thing which differentiate us from other animals and is the main reason for our progress as well as problems. He also acknowledges that religion can encourage people to do some extremely good things (charity, social service, etc.) and also shows the other side that at the same time it can incite people to to extremely bad things (communal riots, terrorism). His argument sounds very valid when he says that use of common sense and rational thinking can produce better results than extremist views propagated by organized religions.

Jaggi Vasudev is also at his best in his video, he maintains his calm and gets most of the time in this video. He used his time nicely to tell about his approach towards religion and spirituality but for some reason he doesn't try to confront Mr. Akhtar directly and doesn't even bother to answers many of his questions. He is very diplomatic in his approach and delivers what his devotees expect from him. But as I said he conveniently dodges all the difficult questions for example when he and many others claim that mind and body are different then how come any one who experiences divine always gets message in the language he/she knows (which is in their mind) not in some totally different language? Why they always blame our 'imperfect senses' and then use the same senses for their divine experience? Do we have other tools other than these imperfect senses to experience and understand the world around us?

I found another link where again Javed Akhtar expresses similar views about spirituality at India Today conclave session, 

In this video also he is raising same questions and questioning attitude of whole spirituality industry.  Sri Sri Ravishankar (who was also part of this discussion) posted his reply to Mr. Akhtar's questions on his blog, I like Sri Sri, he never gets into arguments, never looses his patience, he avoids confrontation and is very polite in his approach. He always goes back to his own place and then replies to allegations or questions asked to him, he did that when Dr. Zakir Naik tried to put him in difficult position and he did the same thing with Mr. Akhtar. Sri Sri's politeness is something which everyone should learn from him but at the same time he also never tries to answer any of the questions directly and whenever he answers them uses same words which are used millions of times, like there is no point in arguing with ignorant, spirituality is matter of heart not head, how something can be a hoax if millions of people are practicing it? and things like that. Unfortunately this is same regular response given by many people before him, I expected much more from him and we need much more from these spiritual leaders, they need come up with something better than this to prove their point that they are selling something which is genuine.

There is nothing wrong in marketing and selling your product, nothing wrong in earning money, creating big organizations, spreading your message but then accept that this is what I do for living, this is my occupation, whats wrong in it? why to give label of divinity to it? Why to say that it's not a business? Doing business is not a crime that too a non-profit one which does lot of social work along with earning money, what's wrong in making money legally using your talent and knowledge  Why are they so hesitant in accepting it? Why all these gurus and their followers are so hesitant in accepting that their movements are cult movements?  Do they fear that accepting some of these things will make some dent in their image or hurt feelings of their devotees, or will make it somewhat less divine and godly? Are they scared of loosing their devotees (or customers)? There are many questions like this and I hope that they show some courage in accepting some of these things or offer some reasonable an logical explanations, answer some of these questions. Many people need religion, God or spirituality, for them there is absolutely no alternative to these things and many these Gurus and cult movements fulfill this need. These things are very important for many people and Mr. Akhtar's comments might sound totally insensitive towards their need but the questions he is asking are very important, just dismissing his questions and objections or ignoring them is not a very good option.

These questions and objections need serious consideration, at the same time one should not trash all these Gurus or movements, most of them do this thing for their living or it's their passion. I am sure there are few who genuinely interested in spreading message of peace and love and don't care at all about money. Hopefully people from both sides (who criticize and who support these movements) learn to find  some balance in their approach because we need balance in every section of our life otherwise things get very complicated. There are many people who need such gurus for their survival and mental peace, at the same time people who question them are very necessary to keep check on these Guru's activities, I feel that both these groups are required in current scenario and right balance between both these groups will allow us to run the system efficiently with minimum side effects. 

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright (only for text, videos are from YouTube): Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]



  1. "Mystical explanations are thought to be deep; the truth is that they are not even shallow."
    - Friedrich Nietzsche

    Sir, as such life is meaningless and has no intrinsic value. People require a meaning and purpose in life so that they feel satisfied that all their hard work and struggles mattered and made a difference in the end. This is the reason why people are attracted towards spirituality as it creates an illusion that their life is very meaningful.

    1. your point makes a lot of sense but people need this type of feeling, so this philosophy is going to stay..and please no 'Sir', just use first name, thanks.

  2. Religion and spirituality are not the same things and approach of one guru is not the same as that of the other. Lumping it all together is intellectually lazy.

    In your first link:
    Where Jaggi gives nuances, Javed paints gurus with generalizations.
    Where Jaggi points out limits of senses, Javed argues as if Jaggi is suggesting to “kill” our mind.
    Where Jaggi makes rational arguments, Javed interrupts with insults, and pretends to appeal to “common sense”.

    In second link:
    Javed seems to be looking for another pig fight. The problem with that is you only get dirty in a pig fight. Who can blame Sri Sri if he chose to stay clean?

    One need to question the “rational” credentials of these people and measure them in that context. Any question raised, is worthy exploring if posed in manners suitable for a public debate. I appreciate you are bringing attention to “limits of senses”, and “tools” for transcending senses. Both Jaggi and Sri Sri has quite a bit to offer in this department. One could explore these techniques and take up this debate in that context. That kind of rationalist can bring more constructive debate.

    1. Thanks for your comment, you are right that Mr. Akhtar need to tone down his aggression, he seems to be too passionate about his ideas that he can't tolerate that alternative way can be possible. At the same time people who blame our senses to be imperfect don't offer any alternative (which is perfect) and even if it is there how to experience it using our imperfect senses.

      Desires are root to all our problems at the same time they are also responsible for all our progress and they all serve our senses, even spirituality is practiced to satisfy our senses, so blaming our senses only for our miseries doesn't make sense to me, if they get the blame they should also get the credit.

      I heard many lectures to get some clear answer for this paradox but no one goes beyond blaming them..let me know if you have some links where this topic is discussed in detail with some conclusive outcome.

  3. I think they point out limits of sense, and that is not same as blaming senses. The difference is subtle but important. Nor spirituality promises to satisfy your senses or desires.

    The first place to begin could be to appreciate and acknowledge the limits, not as blame or problem but as a cold fact. If one can't take that for fact, then it should easy to prove otherwise. Agree?

    Second, if you get past first part... Maybe try a technique (eg sri sri's kriya or Jaggi's shambavi mudra)Investigate their yogic claims by doing your own experiment instead of relying other people's conclusions about them. See if it takes you over horizon. That would be a clinical approach. To be able to be your own litmus test is IMO the real promise of spirituality

    1. True, they have limits and everything we have with us is evolved according to our needs. That is the reason we have invented telescopes or reading glasses or hearing aids, yoga or many other things which assist us to improve abilities of our senses or assists us to overcome some of its limits, but limited doesn't mean imperfect and it's not fault of senses because they are not designed to do certain tasks. I try and use all these techniques and many of them I find very useful but not because my senses are imperfect but because I need to maintain their proper function and make sure that they work properly. I wrote couple of posts in this regard sometime back may be you will find it interesting.


  4. Senses serve well to preserve the body. I would call senses as adequate and that too for limited time and range. Even within their range the information they provide is far from being complete and accurate representation of reality. It would be going too far to call them perfect. I think it is sloppy to equate limited adequacy to perfection.

    Not only senses reflect a poor subset of reality, the minds that process their data are not without bugs. They can be so full of fervor and un-verified notions. Javed in your links seems to be a loud case in point. He can't process what he doesn't want to listen. Bye bye reality!

    But one can only speak for oneself. It is possible that you are blessed with perfect senses and perfect mind too, and reality is eternally reflecting to you in its full glory. I guess you don't not need any tools....all I can say to that is....Really?

    But those us who come to terms with these limits, explores instruments if we are curious about reality and not just survival. We try tools and experiment.

    Hoax or not, how scientific is it to draw conclusions without experimental data? What do you consider as scientific thinking?

    1. senses are all that we have, without them no human can experience anything, they need to work inorder for us to undersrand anything happening around us. It seems you are more inclined to draw a conclusion here, who is right? Javed or Jaggi Vasudev? I dont think there any is right or wrong answers here, they both have some valid points and they both try to push those points.

      There is nothing called perfect or imperfect senses, it all depends how we use them, there is nothing called peaceful or violent gun, all are same are designed to do some particular job and its upto the user how they use it, same thing with senses, thats all.

      Always ultimate decision is taken by your brain, unless it accepts it you wont agree or understand no matter what, so the ultimate power lies with human brain, it decides which direction to go, very simple, everything we undertand, think, design, create, destroy, imagine, or whatever is product of our helps to recognise our limits and also helps to overcome it, as simple as this.

  5. This ink you posted above concludes in bold, "senses are perfect" Any research to back this? In last post you tone it down to "senses are all we have" Have you experimented enough to conclude that? That' why I'm curious what you understand as scientific thinking..

    Anyway, we agree that senses are limited, and we should strive to expand their luck

    1. You are right I wrote that but the actual sentence is "Our sensory organs are perfect for our survival on this planet" and proof of this is our survival itself for so are just using part of that sentence which can sound confusing or even misleading...

      In same paragraph (rather in the beginning of that para) I also wrote "All our senses or organs have certain limits of detection, they all have certain minimum (below that they can't detect) and maximum (above which they cant tolerate)"

      My all these observations are based on theory of evolution and personal experience. I know that I can not feel or experience anything without my senses, so at least for me they are essential, most needed and perfect tools which I have and I say exactly same things in my post.

      Everything around us is continuously evolving and changing including our body and environment and whatever we have around is most probably is most advanced version till date, it might improve further or deteriorate depending on which direction we go. As far as humans are concerned we are more advanced compared to any of our previous generations.

      Yes, they are limited and that's what I said, and according to me there is huge difference between terms limited and imperfect.

      Thanks for nice discussion and sharing your opinion on blog. All the very best to you too.

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