Advaita – Traditional to Neo

Here is an excellent video from Swami Tadatmananda. It presents a lucid overview of Advaita and then examines briefly how the neo-Vedanta of Vivekenanda and the neo-Advaita stemming from Ramana Maharshi and Sri Poonja have discarded key prakriyA-s and thereby short-changed modern seekers. The video is just under 1 1/4 hours but is well-worth watching – easy on the eye and ear, enjoyable and informative.

6 thoughts on “Advaita – Traditional to Neo

  1. Dennis,

    Just more propaganda from the Dayananda school – no doubt will fool people who haven’t read Vivekananda or Maharishi.

    (1) Who is it exactly that teaches ‘Neo-Vedanta’? Is it the Ramakrishna Mission?

    All the great translations of Advaitic texts have come from Ramakrishna monks – notably Swami Gambhirananda’s Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutras and Madhusudana’s commentary on BG; then there is Swami Nikhilananda, etc

    If you listen to the talk I posted from Swami Sarvapriyananda of the Ramakrishna mission (which is like a breath of fresh air in comparison to this soporific stuff), he makes it clear that jnana is the final step, but these other paths are aids along the way, to help purify the mind.

    (2) His ‘critique’ of Vivekananda’s so called ‘Neo-Vedanta’, shows a profound lack of reading and understanding of Vivekananda’s works.

    Vivekananda had no need to parrot endlessly from the scriptures – he could talk from his wisdom. In talking of the four paths leading to the same goal, it is clear that it was aimed for people of different inclinations, because jnana yoga is the hardest path to jump straight to. So Bhakti yoga helped man to devote his attention to the Self, forgetting himself; Raja yoga helped man concentrate his mind to be single-pointed, and not be distracted by externalities; karma yoga helped man to give up selfish activities and act selflessly. From Vivekananda:

    “Vairagya or renunciation is the turning point in all the various yogas. The Karmi renounces the fruits of work. The Bhakta renounces all little loves for the Almighty and omnipresent love. The Yogi renounces his experiences because his philosophy is that the whole Nature, although it is for the experience of the soul at last brings him to know that his is not in Nature but eternally separate from Nature. The Jnani renounces everything because his philosophy is that Nature never existed, neither in the past, not present, nor will it in the future.”

    “The janna-yogi has the harshest of all renunciations to go through, as he has to realise FROM THE VERY FIRST that the whole of this solid-looking nature is all an illusion . . . he has at once and by the sheer force of rational conviction to tear himself away from all bondage to nature”

    Note this renunciation is consistent with what Sankara referred to the final teaching of the upanishads.

    “therefore the knowledge of this self by the process of ‘not this, not this’, and the renunciation of everything are the only means of attaining immortality” – Brhad Up 4.5.15, Sankara’s Bhasya

    (2) He asserts that Ramana ‘ran away’ from home as a teenage, and immersed himself in meditation which transformed him. No, Ramana himself said he gained liberation from the ego, as a result of his meditation on death at home. Maharishi has clearly said that new liberation came after that, whatever Dayanada’s followers may say. He left home, because he saw no further need to participate in ‘normal’ life. In fact this fellow’s gist seems to be to tarnish Ramana, because of Poonja and Neo-advaita.

  2. Hi Venkat,

    Nice to hear from you and my apologies for not fulfilling my promise to ‘write soon’ regarding refutation of your points relating to experience versus knowledge etc.

    The reason I haven’t written is that my short article turned into a new chapter in a rewrite of my book ‘Back to the Truth’. But this then metamorphosed into a completely new book, presently standing at nearly 50,000 words and still growing.

    This will refute in detail all of your criticisms, referring back to direct quotations from Shankara and Sureshvara. And it should hopefully correct your numerous misunderstandings regarding the teaching of Advaita. (Please note I do not mean any disrespect by that statement; I am just being honest.) Unfortunately, it will obviously not be available until late next year at the earliest.

    But, yes, Vivekananda is largely to blame for many of the confusions today regarding the teaching of Vedanta. Ramana to a lesser extent but then many people today claim to be adherents of Ramana and are promoting gross misunderstandings of Shankara’s teaching.

    I don’t dispute that monks of Ramakrishna ‘descent’ are mostly responsible for the translations of scriptures that we read today. For the most part these are excellent. But even someone like Swami Satprakashananda, whose ‘Methods of Knowledge’ I have praised widely, can say the most outrageous things. Here is a passage from him which I use to exemplify the confusion in the new book:

    “Here is an experience called samAdhi, or transcendental experience, which is not easy to attain. Rare individuals attain it after long preparation. This is the only kind of experience that liberates a man from all bondage that satisfies completely man’s deep longing for eternal life, for complete peace and blessedness. None of the three everyday experiences – waking, dreaming or deep sleep – can give us this freedom…

    “The mind should be purified and the understanding made clear, to make deep meditation possible. The mind fails to comprehend That, which is beyond the range of the mind. Yet that Supreme Reality, self-effulgent, can be realized through deep meditation when the mind is purified, through the purification of the understanding…

    “What is samAdhi? We have called it superconscious experience, and it can also be called transcendental experience. This is the realization of God, direct experience of the Ultimate reality… In samAdhi, there is direct experience of God…

    “Superconscious experience is the fourth kind of experience as distinct from waking, dream and deep sleep…

    “The supreme purpose of meditation is to reach the highest goal of life, direct perception of the supreme being, to attain illumination, the light of God-consciousness, which makes human beings free from all suffering, weakness and imperfection. This goal cannot be reached simply by study of the scriptures or philosophical speculation. It is the actual perception of God, seeing God directly, that removes from the heart of humanity the basic ignorance from which arises egoism and all our weaknesses.”

    And I comment on this: “I confess that this was the sort of process that some extracts implied in the first edition of ‘Back to the Truth’ (Ref. 3). I did not always contradict them and it is completely wrong!”

    Again, I apologize for having to delay my responses to you but would like to thank you for your provocations, which are clearly the reason for inspiring me to write what will probably be my most important book.

    Best wishes,

  3. Thanks Dennis. I’m glad to know that my numerous misunderstandings have been a source of help and inspiration to someone. 🙂

    If I didn’t subscribe to karma yoga, I’d ask for a royalty. 🙂

  4. I’ll send you a free copy of the book as soon as it comes out (probably quite a few months before it is available for purchase).

  5. The presentation by that monk is, in my opinion, quite clear and succinct. My one objection is, concerning deviations from the pristine teachings of Gaudapada and Shankara, why he did not start with the latter’s immediate successor Padmapada and then follow with Vacaspati Misra as the first deviants.

    ‘It is a curious irony of our religious attitudes that the dogmatists are prepared to sacrifice Sankara’s commentaries for the sake of the sub-commentaries on them, namely, Bhamati and Panchapadika. It appears all too important for the dogmatist to defend Vachaspati Misra and Padmapada even when they misrepresent Shankara. It therefore required of the Svami courage of conviction and steadfast determination to speak the truth at all costs.’ — From Intro. to ‘Salient Features of Shankara’s Vedanta’ , by Sri Swami Satchidanandendra Saraswati (SSSS).

    These errors persisted in the Vivarana School, and of all Vidwans, it fell to SSSS alone to point to them, for which he came under persistent attack.

  6. I think that time constraints in a one-off video like this prevent one from covering much. As I noted in a recent comment, I am currently writing a book about ‘confusions’ (I will be including Vachaspati and the Bhamatis, and SSSS’s key points, although the main culprit seems to be Vivekananda and the direct sources that influenced him.) This book has grown up from a planned response to Venkat on just a few key points. The confusions are legion!

Comments are closed.