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3/10/04


Home______Ramesh Balsekar's Inconsistencies

Former general manager of the Bank of India in Bombay, Ramesh Balsekar studied under Nisargadatta, often translating as Nisargadatta's native language was Marathi. After the sage's death in 1981, Balsekar held speaking enagements in countries such as Germany, the United States and India. The author of many books, he is retired in Bombay, recently still meeting with visitors almost each morning although he is favored mainly by Westerners rather than by Indians. A good summary of his teachings can be found in the anonymous Consciousness Writes, a title styled after Balsekar's own book, Consciousness Strikes.

Having read his accounts of the enlightened life, I find his explanations are sometimes contradictory as well as self-gratulatory. These two items provide an example.

Item. Here he aligns against mechanistic determinism. "Sir Isaac Newton's physics assumed that the future of the world was precisely predictable from the state of the present. However, the new physics of quantum mechanics has come to the confident conclusion that the future is not determined totally by the past [my emphasis]. In other words, quantum mechanics says that the Source, or Consciousness, has a causal influence on the future. At any point in time, we are told, out of the thousands of probabilities, one probability collapses into an actuality in the present moment. The scientific conclusion is precisely what the sages have been saying for ages." (The Ultimate Understanding)

My comments: In the wave function collapse of quantum physics, the observer begets one observation out of all probabilities allowed by Superposition Theory. One interpretation is that the experiment seems to be a function of its intersection with consciousness. Balsekar means that the present moment contains within itself the probabilities of Superposition Theory until human consciousness "collapses reality" into a deed or thought upon "observation." (For Superposition Theory see Schrödinger's Cat, 2 January 2004.) Balsekar also means that with wave function collapse this situation is indeterministic. Balsekar indicates that "sages have been saying for ages" that the present moment is indeterministic. What does indeterministic mean here? Note his phrase, "the future is not determined totally by the past." He means that randomness in the present moment creates a situation undetermined until the outcome is observed.

Item. In this interview he says the opposite: "If you analyze any action which you consider to be your action, you will find that it is the reaction of the brain to an outside event over which you have no control. A thought comes--you have no control over what thought is going to come. Something is seen or heard--you have no control over what you are going to see or hear next. All of these events happen over which you have no control. And then what happens? The brain reacts to the thought or to the thing that is seen, heard, tasted, smelled or touched. The reaction of the brain is what you call 'your action'."

Elsewhere in the same interview, he is asked this: "Are you saying that everything is predestined? That everything is preprogrammed from birth?"

Balsekar: "Yes. I use the word "programming" to refer to the inherent characteristics of the body/mind organism. "Programming" to me means genes plus environmental conditioning"
[my emphasis]. (What is Enlightenment magazine interview, "Close Encounters of The Advaita Kind," no date.)

My comments: In one instance, he says that indeterminism is the case while in another he argues for determinism and this second instance is clearly counter to most quantum theory. The difference between him and Ramana Maharshi is that Maharshi spoke from what he understood and had no interest in intellectual discourse. Maharshi: "There is neither freedom nor destiny. This is the final truth." In his own teachings, Ramana kept the conceptual to a minimum, and by this freedom/destiny statement he again regards concepts as pointless in matters of Consciousness.

On the other hand, Ramesh Balsekar perhaps appeals to people of the West, analytic by culture, because he reflects the analytic tendency in some of Hindu discourse, as distinct from Zen Buddhism's resistance to excess analysis. With his penchant for intellectual explanations, Balsekar reveals a notable inconsistency for somebody who hangs a "guru" shingle outside his shop window.

Admonishing against a desire for explanations, an old Zen parable has a student asking Master Ichu to write something of great wisdom.

With his brush, Ichu stroked "Attention."

"Is that all?," asked the student.

Ichu stroked "Attention. Attention."

That seems shallow, said the student.

Ichu wrote three times, "Attention, Attention. Attention."

The frustrated student asked, "What does this word mean?"

Putting down his brush, Ichu turned to him and answered, "Attention means attention."

  • For more on problems with Ramesh Balsekar's explanations, see Two Sages & A Taoist, 9 January 2004 and The Illusion of Free Will, 28 December 2004. Also see Some Notes on Enlightenment, 17 December 2003.

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