Q: I am wondering why none of the teachings on Advaita/non-duality address the seeker with compassion or answer the question directly in a manner that would embrace the seeker. I have read several questions regarding thoughts and the creation of observed reality. Understanding that the person asking is still seeking, why would the near hostility of the answer that there is “no person to think, no concrete reality to experience, etc.”. possibly be acceptable from the standpoint of pure awareness.
Wouldn’t it be aware that this is not just ‘not an answer’, but a steering away from the question, and in terms of attaining a nondual experience not helpful? I would think awareness should know to first answer the question and then provide the next level view.
This is by far not the only site/teaching/vision of non-duality where this semi-hostility and often circular logic is present. I frequently see angry articles that just say “LOOK, it’s all right there, just LOOK”, as if that is helpful for someone who is seeking to understand. It’s not. It’s off-putting.
By far the worst answer I frequently come across is: “but who is asking?” That answer, while I have yet to see it here, is reprehensible. It is not an answer intended to help; it is intended to put people off and convey a sense of superiority. It shows less than no compassion and is ostracizing.
Why does it seem that the modern teaching of non-duality is hostile, cold and harsh with an almost elitist and upper crust air that defies an idea of an ever present awareness? What am I not seeing? Is there no teacher that can lead without being dismissive?
A: The problem with emailed Q and A is that they are one-off; not part of a continuous, probably years-long teaching. Ideally, a seeker finds a teacher whom they can trust and are prepared to listen to for as long as it takes. Then that teacher begins from the seeker’s present level of understanding and takes the teaching one step at a time. The specific teaching methodology of Advaita is called adhyAropa-apavAda, which means that one explanation is given to begin with. Later, as understanding grows, that explanation is taken back and another, slightly more ‘advanced’ explanation is given. And so on. Obviously this is not possible when someone asks a single question, gets an answer and then goes away, probably never to ask anything again. Accordingly, when someone emails a one-off question, there is a potential dilemma. Does one give an ‘interim’ answer, aimed at where one thinks that particular seeker presently stands, knowing that it is actually not like that? Or does one give the ‘bottom-line’ answer, even though the seeker may not be ‘ready’ for it?
What I try to do is to state the truth of the matter, while at the same time pointing out that to do this is going against the intention of traditional Advaita teaching. And the ‘bottom-line’ answers are inevitably going to seem ‘impersonal’ because the truth is that there are no persons. The answers are going to seem abrupt because it is not possible to give long, complete explanations to everyone. (I usually recommend that they read one of my books. And the one I recommend depends upon what I judge to be the level of their present understanding.) Because answers are inevitably short, I also take great pains to insure that I use language which is clear and unambiguous. I always re-read my answers, often several times, and make changes as necessary to insure this objective is met. Accordingly, it may sometimes appear ‘cold’. But I certainly never say anything like “LOOK, it’s all right there, just LOOK”!
I can certainly sympathize with your general attitude. My book ‘Enlightenment: the Path through the Jungle’ specifically addresses the very many problems with most of the modern-day, Western teachers. I do not even accept that they have precisely the same problem that I am talking about here – namely the need to answer one-off questions out of context – because this problem is one of their own making! If, instead of travelling the world holding two-hour satsangs in different cities, they remained in one place and held regular meetings to the same audience for years at a time, this problem would not arise. If you were to attend the classes of a qualified, traditional teacher, you would soon find that there is no suggestion of a “hostile, cold and harsh with an almost elitist and upper crust air that defies an idea of an ever present awareness”.
I hope you feel that this has answered your concerns. And thank you for raising it – it is a topic which merits clear explanation!