I have followed the teachings of Shunyamurti online for several years, but have never visited the ashram. Upon first discovering his teachings, I was instantly captivated and felt a deep resonance with what he was saying, both with regard to his spiritual teachings and what he had to say about the state of the world. That I and many others could be held spellbound by these teachings for so long is testament to the intellect and eloquence of Shunyamurti and his ability to weave new and novel insights from a diverse range of religious and philosophical sources (his many years training as a lawyer, discipleship under the Brahma Kumaris and huge library of books all undoubtedly useful foundations for his incredible intellect.) Even now, I cannot deny that there are some valuable insights to be gleaned from some of his discourses, but what has become increasingly apparent to me is that he speaks from a place of great intellect, not as an enlightened master functioning as an egoless embodiment of the absolute, as he would claim.
One factor which led me to this conclusion, is what seems to be repeated manipulation of the concept of ego in order to control his followers and get them to doubt all aspects of their psyche, thus hindering their development as an individual and unique embodiment of consciousness. The use of the concept of ego in the service of manipulation is very effective because it is an abstract, often loosely defined concept and identifying which aspect of the one’s psyche is the source of thought, intention and inspiration (i.e. ego or higher dimensions of the psyche) can only be determined subjectively. It is my impression that Shunyamurti manipulates the very real need for individuals to address and overcome their egoic identification by encouraging his followers to believe that any thought they have, in particular any thought that questions or doubts his teaching, is the result of an egoic complex. Essentially, it is the use of ego as a form of gaslighting, encouraging disciples to question their own power of reasoning and independent thought.
However, to effectively manipulate the concept of ego in this way, I would argue the disciple must also be complicit to some extent (usually out of fear of being rejected by the group and cast back out into a deeply troubled society, a strong belief they will become the possessor of some great truth, or the desire to blot out personal traumas through identity within a collective psyche.) An excellent explanation for why one might be willing to forsake their independence of thought and critical thinking is given by Jung in ‘Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious: Negative Attempts to Free the Individuality.’ He argues that for many people the allure of identifying with a collective psyche is very great, as through this process the disciple can shirk their individual responsibility for growth and make it the superhuman responsibility of the leader or prophet. As he writes,
"Through submitting the independence of the individuality to the prophet, the disciple becomes unworthy: modestly he sits at the Master’s feet and guards against having ideas of his own. Mental laziness becomes a virtue; one can at least bask in the sun of a semidivine being. He can enjoy the archaism and infantilism of his unconscious fantasises without loss to himself, for all responsibility is laid at the Master’s door. Through his deification of the Master, the disciple, apparently without noticing it, waxes in stature; nevertheless, does he not now possess the great truth – not his own discovery, of course, but received straight from the Master’s hands? Naturally, the disciples always stick together, not out of love, but for the very understandable purpose of effortlessly confirming their own convictions by engendering an air of collective agreement.
Now this is an identification with the collective psyche that seems altogether commendable; somebody else has the honour of being a prophet, but also the more dangerous responsibility. For one’s own part, one is a mere disciple, but nonetheless a joint guardian of the great treasure which the Master has found. One feels the full dignity and burden of such a position, deeming it a solemn duty and a moral necessity to revile others not of a like mind, to enrol proselytes and hold up a light to the Gentiles, exactly as though one were a prophet oneself."
As someone else said in another post, a true spiritual guide empowers individuals to seek their truth and follow their own unique path rather than attempting to impose ‘group think’ and unquestioning obedience upon their followers. So, whilst ego constitutes our surface identity as form and we must persevere to overcome egoic blocks and deeply rooted egoic patterns, this should never be at the expense of losing spiritual freedom and having so little faith in ourselves that we doubt and refuse to act upon the intuitions and thoughts we perceive as coming from the deeper dimensions of consciousness.
Another reason I have come to doubt Shunyamurti’s authenticity, is his reliance upon conspiracy theories to fuel his narrative, generating fear in his followers and an ‘us vs. the blind masses’ mentality. In my opinion, conspiratorial thinking can actually initially be a healthy sign that someone is questioning the established narratives and supposed truths propagated by organised religion and authority. However, this should only be a brief stage, which is quickly recognised as a reactionary response that arises when a person starts to question and think critically about what is happening in a complex and increasingly insane society. A person who engages in a critical thinking rooted in rationality, logic, scientific reasoning, and thorough enquiry whilst constantly mindful of whether they are skewing ideas and theories to fit an unconscious internal agenda would surely question some of the many narratives espoused by Shunyamurti over the last three years, which include unsubstantiated claims such as:
· The various different covid vaccines (I assume not just Pfizer and Moderna – although his narratives are very U.S. centric) are intentional poisons designed with the intention of depopulating the planet.
· The Earth will soon be wiped out (or spontaneously regenerate?) through an instantaneous matter-antimatter collision.
· Elites have built large, underground cities and are working in collusion with alien species.
· The Sandy Hook school shooting was a carefully planned ruse. (He didn’t clarify if Sandy Hook was an exception in being a ruse or if this also applies to other school shootings.)
· The Wagner uprising in Russia was actually a brilliantly orchestrated psy-op, with Putin and Prigozhin working together to undermine Ukraine and NATO. (This particular conspiracy has demonstrably been proved to be wrong with Putin’s not so subtle and barely veiled takedown of Prigozhin and his deputy.)
These are just a handful of the conspiracy theories put forward by Shunyamurti, any theories always expressed as certainties, the source of this information typically being ‘downloads’ received from God. Rather more likely, in my opinion, is that the source of his information lies with other conspiracy theorists whose work he has clearly read (such as James Fetzer) and those he has worked closely with in the past (such as Jeff Berwick). He has previously participated in the Anarchapulco conference and his videos can be found on Berwick’s Vigilante TV website. Thus, a reinforcing loop is created, with each feeding off the other’s ideas to ensure there is some consistency across the conspiratorial network, the enemy always conceived as being on the outside, with no credence given to the idea that the conclusions they have come to could ever be wrong or incorrect.
Unfortunately, we live in an age so poisoned by lies, that it seems to convert everything it touches into a lie. Additionally, with so many conflicting narratives swirling about us, it can be extremely difficult to discern what is true from what is false, to the extent that it is easy to be driven to question if anything is real or any fact is true. Whilst it is healthy trait to question everything and rarely accept anything as definitive (in particular the narratives of governments and the often self-interested individuals whose obscene wealth gives them undue influence and power in the global capitalist system) this does not mean rationality, deductive discernment and scientific reasoning should be abandoned in place of unverifiable and unsubstantiated second rate theories. As truth is arguably one of the core needs of the human being, we often find narratives to cling to in order to satisfy this need – it was initially hard for me to accept that Shunyamurti is probably an artful duper and almost certainly not the enlightened being I initially thought he was. It was particularly difficult, since some of Shunyamurti’s general premises, especially the idea that global society will collapse sooner or later (something he seems to have been proposing avidly since the time the Mayan calendar ended in 2012) continue to resonate with me strongly at a deep level. In fact, this instinctive drive to survive a coming collapse was one of the factors that made me want to move to the ashram (which fortunately I never did due to the pandemic). Furthermore, had I arrived it is highly possibly I may have concealed my doubts and real feelings in order to guarantee my own survival. Nothing is as strong as the survival drive and I am sure that this is the predicament facing many followers at Sat Yoga and similar institutions– follow the narrative of the group and adhere to the leader’s every word, thus guaranteeing one’s own survival, or speak what one feels in one’s heart and risk expulsion into a dark, dangerous and unpredictable world.
It can be devastating to feel that one has been duped for a long period of time, and it requires great courage to speak one’s truth at the risk of potentially compromising one’s survival, but perhaps it is better to die in truth than live in lies? Whether Shunyamurti genuinely believes that what he says is true or whether he knowingly deceives is difficult to say, although I would assume the latter because of his great intelligence. If this is the case, he should be ashamed of himself for emotional damage he has undoubtedly caused many people and for wasting his great intellect for the intention of manipulation. The road to truth is long and the way is hard, nowadays more so than ever, but look inwards, listen deeply to your heart and you will know that you are never alone and always loved. Perhaps, it could be expressed like this:
As I walk, as I walk,
The Universe walks with me
In beauty it walks before me
In beauty it walks behind me
In beauty it walks below me
In beauty it walks above me
In beauty it walks within me
As I walk, I walk with beauty.
(Please let me reiterate that the conclusions above are entirely my own that I have reached after following Shunyamurti’s teachings online for several years and I accept that others may have reached different conclusions. I also accept that having never visited the ashram my understanding of this man and the Sat Yoga institute is far from complete.)