An objective framework, of spiritual morality? 
 Doctrinaire TM’ers now aggressively contend that spiritually developed people 
must have a brain wave pattern that science has determined (according to their 
TM system).  Then as people are practicing meditators cultivating consciousness 
as TM brain waves describe this then those cultivated people exhibit “increased 
moral reasoning” as ™’ers use that.  This gets left off then as if, “increased 
moral reasoning” could connote as therefore being more moral and naturally 
ethical as TM’ers can appreciate moral discernment coming in Spontaneous right 
action as the greater alignment (awareness) with natural law. 
 Towards being more objective in framework may be the SAND people should have 
the ™’ers come in and bolster the SAND morality board with TM’s more developed 
‘measured’ framework. 

 skymtsea writes:A strong objective framework for evaluating a teacher’s 
attainments and their method’s effectiveness is testing and measurement ....I 
would think that a group called Science and Non-Duality would be aggressively 
seeking to validate non-duality states with state-of-the-art research (and help 
identify / weed out, non-performing teachers and organizations.) Yet I don’t 
see any research agenda on the SAND website. 

---In, <> wrote :

 Good framework for thinking about this, Sky.  
 However, clearly Science does not yet have a measurement handle on shakti in 
the human psycho spiritual body. 
 MRI’s, EEG’s, blood chemistry and such as tools are yet way too coarse.  
People’s experience and the transparency of the internet age of communication 
about people’s experience with spiritual people is probably the best Consumer’s 
Report about spiritual people that we have to protect ourselves from 
organizational cultures of fraud or bad behavioral morality in particular 
 Already there are some web pages that have comparisons. But the #MeToo means 
of report has its own reality in effect now with the internet.


 skymtsea writes:


 437491Ethics and Non-Dual Teachers and Organizations 

 A core ethical issue for the non-dual community is whether teachers are 
offering something of value, if they are delivering what they promise, and if 
they can speak with high veracity and confidence supporting these claims.  
 That is, 
 a) have they achieved the states and live the attributes that they claim to be 
able to teach others, 
 b) are they able to effectively teach others to attain them, 
 c) if so, what time frames are required, how much commitment is necessary 
(time and money), and 
 d) are all, or only a subset of students, able to attain these states.   

 It seems reasonable that there may be a correlation between teachers and 
organizations pursuing unethical actions and the degree to which they are more 
bluster than bliss, more talk than performance.  Addressing performance could 
in turn address unethical actors in the community. 

 A strong objective framework for evaluating a teacher’s attainments and their 
method’s effectiveness is testing and measurement by the tools of cognitive 
science. For example, a lot could be gained if the teacher, along with their 
top 10 or 25 students offered to undergo a standardized set of evaluation 
measures (fMRI, advanced EEG, blood work, comprehensive sophisticated batteries 
of cognitive tests, etc.)  While the results of these tests do not, at least 
per current models of consciousness, provide definitive proof of any 
Enlightened state, they can provide insight into whether the practitioners have 
achieved various markers of achieved by other advanced practitioners. And 
possibly exceeding thresholds or prior studies, and or novel brain activity or 
cognitive responses. 

 If on the other hand, the results of the test showed nothing special or unique 
of the normal non-practicing populace, one would question what the practice is 
achieving. If no change in brain, cognitive, neurotransmitter or other activity 
is observed, then claims of refined mental, cognitive or emotional capabilities 
would be in doubt.    

 I would think that a group called Science and Non-Duality would be 
aggressively seeking to validate non-duality states with state-of-the-art 
research (and help identify / weed out, non-performing teachers and 
organizations.) Yet I don’t see any research agenda on the SAND website. SAND 
or other non-dual groups could become a powerful conduit of advanced 
practitioners to the many university and research centers doing research on 
meditative methods.  How to facilitate and fund such research is a larger topic 
which I may try to address in a separate post. 

 At a minimum, core ethical values and codes of conduct revolving around full 
disclosure and a culture of transparency would be of value. Some useful areas 
of for consideration:  

 1) Encourage all non-dual teachers and organizations to provide evidence of 
the teachers’ attainments and the effectiveness of their teaching methods. 

 2) Guidelines as to what to do when witnessing or experiencing ethical 
breaches by spiritual teachers and/or organizations. Possibly implementation of 
hotlines or database of unethical reports.

 3) Full disclosure of possible adverse effects of the practices.

 4) Financial transparency. Ability to audit the financials.

 5) Ethical considerations of requesting or promoting “Surrendering to the 

 6) Disclosure (or some indication of) what’s in the back rooms
  (the esoteric teaching, the weird and wild stuff that may not become evident 
for several years after the student has made substantial time, effort, identity 
and financial investments in the teachings, practices, etc.)

 7) Seva -- work/study/service practices. 
 A time-honored and useful tradition in many circumstances and implementations 
where students work at ashrams, retreat centers, teaching centers, etc. for 
room and board and often reduction of tuition and fees for courses and 
instruction. However, over time, in some situations, this may evolve into a 
type of indentured servitude or guilt-driven labor bondage. Some ethical 
guidelines would be useful in this arena.         

 Rick Writes:


 A Code of Ethics and “The Association of Professional Spiritual Teachers”
 The times are such that there's no longer much tolerance or acceptance in the 
spiritual community for abusive, immoral behavior. Many people are maturing and 
raising their standards. Many sanghas are trying to clean house, ousting 
misbehaving teachers, drafting codes of ethics and policies to try to prevent 
future abuses, etc.
 To help meet this need, the authors of this article have been working together 
since the last SAND conference to draft a code of ethics and to form an 
“Association of Professional Spiritual Teachers”. This organization is being 
registered as a non-profit 501(c)3. We do not presume any moral superiority. We 
possess neither the wisdom, the desire, nor the authority to “police” spiritual 
teachers as organizations governing doctors, lawyers and other professionals 
are empowered to do. Our intention is to articulate a set of standards to which 
spiritual teachers, ourselves included, might aspire, and to raise awareness 
among students as to the behavior they might expect in a teacher, thus 
emboldening them to exercise their own judgement and discrimination. This 
should enrich the partnership between teachers and students, enabling each to 
help the other progress quickly and safely on the spiritual path.
 At this October’s SAND conference in San Jose, we will conduct a panel 
discussion, including audience interaction. We look forward to your attendance 
and participation!
---In, <> wrote :

 A 501(c)3 non-profit. Would be interesting to see the draft of the written 
mission statement, bylaws and statement of membership.  You all want a 
membership association of people who are spiritual in some transformative way 
to some degree and who are moral. With authority. Who is going to rise to speak 
to this with (moral) authority?   

 More broadly, “Morality is the differentiation of intentions, decisions and 
actions between those that are distinguished as proper and those that are 
improper.”  Wikipedia
 a person's standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not 
acceptable for them to do.


---In, <> wrote :

 What is a saint? Start there. 

 Then, what is conscionable?

---In, <> wrote :

 Article I published at
 Slightly updated version below.
 Ethics and Spiritual Teaching
 By Rick Archer, with Jac O’Keeffe, Craig Holliday, and Caverly Morgan. 
Significant contributions by Timothy Conway.
 It’s a safe bet that everyone reading this article has read accounts of 
spiritual teachers engaging in questionable behavior. Many of you may have been 
on the receiving end of such behavior. It seems that almost every week, the 
transgressions of some prominent spiritual leader are exposed.
 This has caused confusion, pain, and disillusionment among spiritual 
aspirants. We don’t expect movie moguls or politicians to be paragons of 
virtue, but the spiritual traditions tell us their saints and sages were. We’ve 
all been inspired by stories of their lives. Were these stories hyperbolic? Is 
there a correlation between spiritual advancement and ethical behavior? Should 
teachers be expected to embody the time-honored principles of  Ahimsa, 
Loving-Kindness, and the Golden Rule? If they appear not to, have they assumed 
the mantle of teacherhood prematurely? Can one be an enlightened scoundrel? 
 Are Ethics Relative?
 Some argue that moral standards are cultural fabrications with no absolute or 
universal validity, but some values are universally agreed upon. 
 No one considers rape and pedophilia acceptable, except perhaps those guilty 
of them. Many consider working on the Sabbath, eating meat, and polygamy 
sinful, but they are acceptable or even the norm in many cultures.
 Some cultures practice things that most of us would consider barbaric, such as 
female genital mutilation. Hopefully everyone reading this would agree that 
this should be universally unacceptable and forbidden. The fact that many 
people consider it part of their tradition doesn’t mean it deserves our respect 
or tolerance in the world we hope to create.
 So perhaps we can agree that although ethical standards may vary from culture 
to culture and age to age, they are not mere personal preferences, all being 
equally valid. As human beings, there are baseline standards on which we should 
insist, and ideals to which we might aspire.
 Ethical Behavior is Good For You
 Most spiritual traditions regard ethical behavior not only as a reflection of 
spiritual development, but as conducive to it. Most have some notion of karma 
and say that if we hurt others we will reap the consequences and impede our own 
spiritual evolution. Both Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism teach that practicing 
ethical behavior makes the mind more open and subtle and thus more capable of 
deep nondual insight.
 Modern neurophysiology, with its discovery of neuroplasticity, may eventually 
corroborate this teaching. The body is the temple of the soul, the vehicle 
through which the Ultimate may become a living reality. We handicap ourselves 
by coarsening or damaging it, as unethical behaviors tend to do.
 In Buddhism, students are encouraged to develop deep compassion even before 
beginning with teachings on emptiness. In "The Art of Happiness in a Troubled 
World", the Dalai Lama is quoted saying, "If you want others to be happy, 
practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion”.
 Reality is Different in Different States of Consciousness
 People often fixate on one or another of three different perspectives, the 
transcendent, the Divine, and the material. But these perspectives, even though 
they may seem opposed to one another, are paradoxically yet simultaneously 
true, each in its own domain. For the sake of argument, let’s define 
Enlightenment as a state in which one has learned to coexist simultaneously in 
all three. 
 Failing to do so, if one fixates on the transcendent, one might say, "Only 
unity is real and important. The world is unreal, and there is no personal 
self.” Some Nondual teachers have acted unethically, and then claimed that no 
one was doing it and that it didn’t matter anyway because the world is unreal. 
 Others might say that there is a world, but it is perfect just as it is. All 
is well and wisely put; it's all Divinely orchestrated. If you adopt this 
perspective exclusively, you may feel that you can do whatever you like. You’re 
not doing it. God is.
 If we focus exclusively on the material plane, for instance, on the countless 
injustices and forms of cruelty to living beings, we can become angry political 
fanatics, vindictive zealots always finding evil-doers somewhere and throwing 
them out of our heart with the constricted mind of scornful anger and venomous 
disgust over what "those evil persons" are doing.
 The transcendent, divine, and material perspectives all have their relevance, 
but none can be taken to the exclusion of the others without creating 
imbalance. The spiritual luminaries we most admire seem to have integrated all 
 For more on this, see Timothy Conway’s article, “The Three Simultaneously True 
Levels of Nondual Reality”.
 Are Higher Consciousness and Ethical Behavior Correlated? 
 Some say that ethical teachings aren't needed because having realized one's 
true nature, one will inevitably and spontaneously act in the best interest of 
all beings in every situation -- something we might call "spontaneous right 
action." Some scriptures speak of this possibility, and there’s a spiritual 
logic to it, but it's hard to find examples of it. Even if it’s a possibility, 
it would only apply to realized beings. Everyone else would still need ethical 
 Ken Wilber mentions "waking up", "growing up", and “cleaning up”, and says 
that the development of consciousness and behavior are not tightly correlated. 
We may have been taught that our spiritual practice will produce holistic 
development. To some extent it may, but the actual experience of most spiritual 
practitioners seems to indicate that all aspects of life still need individual 
 Free Will
 Some people say the whole consideration of ethics is moot because we have 
absolutely no free will. Ramesh Balsekar contended that we are governed 
entirely by our genetics and conditioning. This has been used by some as an 
alibi for misbehavior.
 People act according to their level of consciousness, their degree of purity 
or impurity, their conditioning. Someone who is rather stunted by those 
measures can't simply decide to act like a saint. Ethical guidelines give 
people something to adhere to within their capacity to do so, like traffic 
 Walk Your Talk
 The Upanishads state, “Aham Brahmasmi” – "I am Brahman," and "Tat Twam Asi" -- 
"Thou art That." If we're really living Nonduality, then chairs, people, and 
everything are just as much a part of us as our arm is. As Jesus said, 
"Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you have done it to me". If someone 
is claiming Realization, yet behaving harmfully, maybe we should question their 
realization: "You shall know them by their fruits".
 If a spiritual teacher is using people to fulfill lustful, greedy, and 
ambitious desires, chances are they do not perceive “the Self in all beings, 
and all beings in the Self” (Bhagavad Gita: VI, 28). They still regard persons 
as objects and lack authentic empathy.
 If we claim or imply that we have realized our true nature and are offering to 
help others do the same, is it consistent for us to behave deceitfully, 
perversely, selfishly or cruelly? Deceit might include lying about one's level 
of spiritual attainment, one's lifestyle or adherence to vows – such as 
claiming to be a celibate renunciate, when that is not really the case.
 Most traditions contain accounts of saints performing miracles. Maybe they 
have, but some famous gurus have been excellent stage magicians and have used 
their “miracles” to fool naïve villagers and even many Westerners.
 And then we get into grey areas, people claiming to be channeling beings from 
other star systems or parallel universes or other times or dimensions. Should 
there be any ethical standards for such performances?
 Ayahuasca and Psychedelics
 Should people administering them be trained and certified? By whom? Should 
people be interviewed before they are given such substances to find out if they 
are psychologically strong enough to cope with the experiences they may have? 
What if there is a latent psychosis? What if someone admits beforehand that 
they have a history of schizophrenia? Should they be given  large doses of such 
hallucinogens? There isn't much regulation or oversight.
 Financial Issues
 Churches routinely ask their members to tithe, therapists charge for their 
time, seminars and courses nearly always have a fee, most retreat centers have 
to charge in order to keep functioning, and spiritual teachers have to pay the 
rent, just like any others. The most popular spiritual teachers have become 
quite wealthy. Is that an ethical concern?
 We’re All Works in Progress
 Shortly before his death, Nisargadatta Maharaj said, "Forget ‘I Am That’. I've 
realized so much more since then, it’s so much deeper." 
 Perhaps we're all works in progress and that to believe that there's an 
ultimate, static terminus point that we will eventually reach, or that a 
particular teacher has reached, will result in disappointment and confusion. If 
we think that a teacher has reached the pinnacle of spiritual attainment, then 
by implication, he can do no wrong. If he appears to be doing wrong, we may 
doubt our “lying eyes” before we doubt him.
 There are numerous stories of Vedic sages who were tripped up by some latent 
tendency or subtle remnants of ego they didn't know they had. There are many 
degrees of awakening prior to the final enlightenment, if there even is such a 
thing. If harmful, selfish behavior is displayed, it shouldn't be rationalized 
away; it indicates some lack of development that should be addressed.
 Sri Nisargadatta’s teacher Sri Siddharameshvar Maharaj was always strict about 
the comportment of anyone claiming “enlightenment.” He used to pithily say, 
“Realize the Self and behave accordingly!”.
 Crazy Wisdom
 One point of confusion is that teachers who behave unethically often seem 
spiritually advanced and their teachings beneficial. They may be eloquent, 
charismatic, and knowledgeable; their presence or “transmission” palpable. If 
their questionable behavior is exposed, they or their followers may use these 
redeeming qualities to rationalize their behavior as a “crazy wisdom” teaching 
 There have been legitimate examples of crazy-wise adepts, holy fools, rascal 
gurus, but for every genuine one there have been many who use crazy wisdom as 
an alibi for bad behavior. Traditionally, these holy fools were humble, meek, 
and self-abnegating. They went to extremes to avoid adulation or appearing 
special. In contrast to this, recent or contemporary teachers whose behavior is 
excused as crazy-wisdom have often been self-indulgent, ostentatious, and 
 Timothy Conway writes, “It may be 
argued by some ill-behaving teachers that the abusive-looking behavior they 
enact toward students is part of a ‘venerable Crazy Wisdom tradition’ going 
back to illustrious spiritual adepts. Rigorous historical scholarship has shown 
this to have been a literary invention by later writers 100-300 years after the 
periods in which the supposed early Crazy Wisdom adepts lived. In China, 
stories of Crazy Wisdom behaviors were invented and elaborated as a literary 
device to make certain Tang-dynasty Chan teachers look more interesting and 
 After the literary invention of the Crazy Wisdom trope, later generations 
witnessed numerous spiritual teachers behaving abusively - shouting at 
students; kicking, beating, humiliating them; and otherwise ‘testing them’ in 
extreme ways. Today we know that such ‘bad boy’ behaviors imitating the 
literary trope were scathingly critiqued by numerous esteemed spiritual masters 
as an unfortunate, inauthentic development, an aberrant style of spiritual 
 Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing?
 Papaji warned, "This is the kali Yuga. Even rakshasas, demons, will incarnate 
as teachers to mislead you." 
 Timothy Conway further writes, 
"Buddhists and Hindus refer to the "asura titan" or demon types of 
consciousness which can seem very powerful, very bright, very charismatic and 
enlightened, but are more insidiously a syndrome afflicting someone who might 
think he is enlightened but is not, because he/she is still fueled by greed, 
aversion, delusion. It is especially alluring and misleading when some lovely 
deva karmas are mixed in - certain talents or virtues. Such a combination of 
powerful light and dark entities can be very confusing to those lacking 
 Another perspective on the issue is that of Kundalini Vidya, according to 
which there can be a “deflected rising”, in which kundalini has risen to a 
certain point then gotten deflected or stuck. Such a person can display the 
symptoms of enlightenment such as intellectual brilliance and powerful 
transmission, without actually being enlightened. Something is “off”, and as 
their ego is fed by adoring followers, that “offness” can become extreme. 
 Discrimination and Discernment 
 It is often suggested that an enlightened being's behavior is beyond our 
capacity to understand and that we should accept on faith that he is acting in 
accordance with Divine Will. If this is so, then it seems the Divine has a 
fondness for Rolls Royce’s or young women or young boys. Those are obvious 
allusions to actual situations in which people said, "This behavior concerns 
me, but I'm just going to go along with it because I’m too unenlightened to 
understand an enlightened being." 
 Discrimination and discernment are critical on the spiritual path. Jesus said, 
"Judge not that ye be not judged," and, "why beholdest thou the mote that is in 
thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?, and 
yet Jesus often railed against those whom he considered hypocritical. To 
exercise judgement is not necessarily to be judgmental.
 We've all seen examples of people adopting holier than thou attitudes, laying 
trips on people, and perhaps even we've done it ourselves, so we don’t want to 
be judgmental, but we must be discriminating. 
 In evaluating a teacher perhaps we should ask ourselves, "Do I want to become 
like this person?"
 We have a right and an obligation to evaluate a potential teacher, to call 
them on their stuff if necessary and to leave if they are not receptive. At a 
symposium of Western Buddhist teachers, the Dalai Lama had strong words for 
teachers who abuse their power and students who give theirs away: "A teacher 
who behaves unethically or asks students to do so can be judged as lacking in 
ultimate insight," His Holiness said. 
 "As far as my own understanding goes, the two claims - that you are not 
subject to precepts and you are free - are the result of incorrect 
understanding. No behavior is free from consequences. For this reason, true 
wisdom always includes compassion, the understanding that all things and beings 
are interconnected with and vulnerable to each other." 
 "Even though one's realization may be higher than the high beings," His 
Holiness said, "one's behavior should conform to the human way of life. When 
teachers break the precepts, behaving in ways that are clearly damaging to 
themselves and others, students must face the situation even though this can be 
challenging. Criticize openly," His Holiness declared, "that is the only way."
 "If there is incontrovertible evidence of wrongdoing, teachers should be 
confronted with it. They should be allowed to admit their wrongs, make amends, 
and undergo a rehabilitation process. If a teacher won't respond, students 
should publish the situation in a newspaper, not omitting the teacher's name," 
His Holiness said. "The fact that the teacher may have done many other good 
things should not keep us silent."
 Who Should Evaluate Spiritual Teachers?
 Should evaluation of teachers’ behavior should be the sole responsibility of 
their followers? P.T. Barnum said, "There's a sucker born every minute." Some 
people are going to excuse their teacher's behavior no matter how egregious. 
 Spiritual seekers are often rather naïve and innocent, ungrounded and easily 
taken advantage of. If they've been around for a while they may have learned 
the hard way – if they survive the disillusionment that entails. Many have 
reconciled the brilliance of a teacher with his foibles by realizing that a 
great teacher can still have a great shadow.
 Prospective students should feel entitled and even obligated to evaluate 
teachers. One question to ask is, "Do I want to become like this person? If he 
is an alcoholic, a sexual predator, etc., are those qualities I wish to 
embody?" One might argue that one can learn a lot from a person without 
mirroring his personality. That may be true of a mathematics professor but is 
less so of a spiritual teacher. The spiritual aspirant entrains with the 
personality and consciousness of the teacher. The scenes around some teachers 
have reflected their personalities - lots of drinking and promiscuity. 
Spirituality is all about attaining inner clarity. Our behavior reflects our 
inner state. What inner state does debauchery reflect?
 Premature Emmaculation?
 Some feel that many spiritual teachers have been in too much of a hurry to 
take up the profession.
 On the issue of readiness to teach, there is almost always a lag between 
realization and its full embodiment. Assuming the role of a spiritual teacher 
will confront you with challenges you wouldn't otherwise face. The very act of 
teaching channels some sort of higher energy. You tend to become brighter, more 
eloquent, more charismatic. People are attracted to you, sometimes sexually. 
They may start thinking you are special, that you know something they don't 
know. It can easily go to your head. 
 We need teachers. We’re not saying that everybody should wait ten years after 
realization before beginning to teach, although some traditions advise doing so.
 After his awakening, Ramana marinated in a cave for years. Swami Atmananda 
never gave satsang until he and his master agreed he was ready – years after 
his awakening. Thich Nhat Hanh was always diligent in his own actions and 
motivations. He felt that if he ever slipped in some way he would immediately 
stop teaching. He felt that his life was his teaching.
 (an excerpt moved up above) 
 Rick Archer
 Buddha at the Gas Pump






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