“People always ask ‘what do you think about unknotting the karmic knots’? That’s Vedanta. Unknotting your tendencies by techniques, by meditation or something. You come to me, we are doing the opposite! I put so many knots in your bloody brain that you cannot even imagine that they ever will be gone. Because succeeding by ‘unknotting knots makes the first knot, that there is one who has knots, stronger and stronger. No, I go the opposite way. I make so many knots for you; maybe there is a point of giving up even trying to unknot them. Because then laziness is there, your Nature. The laziest of the laziest.
Welcome to Circus Renz! Are you ready for a high-speed roller coaster ride through spiritual concepts that might blow your mind and turn your understanding upside down? The experience of reading Karl Renz might just take you somewhere where your mind can’t follow, leaving you with a refreshing sense of wonder about what just happened. ‘May it be as it is’ is a collection of talks Karl gave in Mumbai in 2010 and 2011. Enjoy the ride!
After giving ‘Self-talks’ around the world for many years, Karl Renz came to Mumbai to give talks for the first time in 2010. He doesn’t fit into any category but calling him an ‘Advaita Punk’ might come close to describing the experience of the talks. Most people who discover him get addicted to the careless irreverence and ‘sixth sense of humour’ of this brilliant Advaita entertainer.
After many years of giving talks in Tiruvannamalai, as well as retreats in Ladakh, Rishikesh and Coimbatore, Karl talked in Mumbai for the first time in January 2010. In 1995 he met Ramesh Balsekar there for one day, and the next day he left for Tiruvannamalai, where Arunachala became ‘the final cut’: ‘By that what I am, seeing that even the most superior awareness, which is pure light, is still imagination, and you are still prior or in spite of it - that takes the last hope of home away. If even the divine light of Shiva is just an imaginary light - what else can happen?’ Since then he has been to Tiruvannamalai every winter where he has given talks for more than 10 years.
Landing at Bombay airport from Thailand after midnight, a small group of us traveling with Karl were more than curious about the first talk in Bombay. Sitting in a tightly packed living room at Cuffe Parade the next day it quickly became clear that the Bombay talks would indeed be something special. The talks in Tiruvannamalai had been attended by large crowds of Westerners, but only a small group of Indians from Tiru and Chennai. In Bombay there were as many Indian visitors as foreigners. Most of the people attending had been with Ramesh Balsekar for many years or met him briefly at some point. So there were many questions referring to Raniesh’s concepts, as well as the ‘teachings’ of Nisargadatta Maharaja, UG Krishnamurti and Ramana Maharishi. More than in other talks around the world there was a focus on Advaita and other Indian concepts, symbols and techniques, as Karl kept surprising his audience with refreshing new twists on well-known traditions. The talks were high-energy and fast-paced with a lot of serious questions about spirituality, philosophy, science, psychology and many other topics. Karl says he isn’t really interested in the questions but in the questioner revealing himself, but dearly the Bombay audience had good questions. There was a sense of urgency so the talks were argumentative, dense and most extended well past the scheduled two hours. Karl’s irreverence, carelessness and infamous use of language in the face of Indian traditions seemed more shocking than in Western countries but didn’t appear to offend anyone, even when it came to concepts like ‘Advaita de toilette’.
What doesn’t come across in the book is the incredible speed of the talks, and Karl’s comedic imitations of the ‘sick seekers’. ‘Talks’ doesn’t really capture the full flavor of the experience except that there is a lot of talking going on. Karl calls them entertainment, and they are a much more colorful, unpredictable and chaotic performance than the usual question-and-answer satang. To me they feel like a mix of punk concert, circus, stand-up comedy and jam session - a mind-blowing, mesmerizing high-speed firework with words. It is a new way to experience language, a mix of poetry, rap, twisting and juggling, hammering and pounding and finally pulling the rug out from under you. Karl contradicts and changes meanings again and again until the mind is twisted into knots and all that’s left is a refreshing sensation of blankness or hysterical laughter.
Karl’s brain doesn’t seem limited by the usual laws of biology and doesn’t stick to down-trodden connections between synapses, wildly creating new connections in all directions, unavailable to the normal brain. He constantly invents new words, doubling and tripling meanings, making word plays across languages, answering questions before they are pronounced and pushing every mind that tries to challenge him into checkmate. When someone called one of the talks in Mumbai a ‘discussion’ his reply was: ‘Discussion? I am always right and you are always wrong. Is that a discussion?’ No wonder he has been called the ‘Advaita punk’. There is a total carelessness of talking, not the carefully pronounced statements and pointers of other spiritual teachers. There is obviously no one who tries to present any precious teaching or who cares about anyone understanding anything, but ‘a loudspeaker who doesn’t care what comes out of it’. Karl will claim he never said anything anyway. For him the beauty of language is its emptiness and he makes sure to take this freedom of words to the absolute limit. The listeners are bombarded with mind-twisting contradictions and every question is turned inside out ad absurdum. Any attempt to understand is drowned in endless complex variations of language which can feel beautifully hypnotic yet leave nothing to bold on to. The verbal destruction of everything that can be destroyed is painful when there is resistance or holding on to anything, but mostly people leave the talks with an amazing feeling of lightness.
Karl denies that there is anyone who has compassion and emphasizes that he is not our friend but our worst enemy. The experience in the talks is more the opposite. When called on it he just says ‘What would you do if you see yourself suffering from a misunderstanding?’ Some complain that he is too negative, but when after years of seeking and striving the last hope of ever reaching any spiritual goals is taken away, the sense of liberation is intoxicating.
The second year the talks took place in a home near Nepean Sea Road. Often his words were drowned out by the ever present honking of traffic and construction noises competing with bhajans from the apartment below, interrupted by arguments over the speed of the ceiling fans and the obligatory Indian cell phones going off.
After some time those who were still engaged in listening and talking could witness what someone in Mumbai called the ‘nerve gas effect’ — most of the audience lying on the floor motionlessly like empty shells, knocked out or in some kind of trance. And Karl sitting up front, looking fresh as always and continuing with endless energy, despite the heat, noise, pollution and jetlag.
I don’t know what is really happening in these talks, I just know it is totally unique, a lot of fun and the effect are an case and carelessness that is dangerously addictive. Sometimes the mesmerizing variations of modern sutras remind me of Kaa, the snake from the jungle book and I wonder if the show that is going on is just a distraction while the brain is being re-wired and any understanding that has been collected in years of spiritual searching is deleted, including the seeker himself.
The talks in this book are a selection of seven from 26 talks Karl gave in Mumbai in 2010 and 2011. They have been slightly shortened with only a minimum of editing to preserve the original tone and Karl’s free use of language.
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