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.
“One early morning in October upon awaking from slumber, there arose a sensation of the sense of self being gone. It was seen that there was literally no one there and that all movement was happening spontaneously without central control.” Nancy Dolen, interviewed by Jerry Katz.
Why the Neo-Advaitin is not an Advaitin at all
Recently, I asked the question: “Who or what is it that acts?” And it led me to think that this is a question that many modern teachers need to ask themselves. The above quotation immediately triggered my antipathy (my apologies, Nancy, nothing personal!) In fact, one could pick up virtually any book by modern neo-advaita teachers and find a similar statement. Here are a few:
“What sees through it? There is simply seeing – there is no-thing, no one that sees.” (Nathan Gill – already awake)
“For this body-mind, when liberation was seen, any sense of localization ended for a while. Awareness was seen to be everywhere. The room in which standing was happening, the street in which there was walking, the bodies and lamp posts and benches and space that were appearing, were not differentiated in the belonging from this arm, this thinking process, this seeing, these feet walking the pavement.” (Richard Sylvester – I Hope You Die Soon) Continue reading
Q: Self-Realization is a very rare occurrence – the Gita states something like 1 in a billion, and there are very few authentic, fully realized beings known to us, such as Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj and a few others, (as well as the great anonymous ones). Granted, the world has changed and everything is much faster than it was, but this cannot surely apply to self-realization. The Neo-Advaitins’ awakenings or enlightenments cannot possibly be synonymous with the self-realizations of the great sages such as Ramana and Nisargadatta?
Also, the hallmark of the great sages such as those mentioned above is that they have a transparent, translucent quality that emanates contentment and peace. The Neo-Advaitin teachers that I have observed do not emanate peace, instead, they come across with their body-mind personality traits/baggage as either ‘manic’, ‘neurotic’, ‘depressed’, ‘nihilistic’, etc. The talking, and so much talking at that, is coming from the mind, and not from “mauna”. It is more like a mixture of counseling, psychotherapy and psycho-babble rather than pragmatic Advaitin philosophy.
So my question is … has self-realization been dumbed down and redefined by the Neo-Advaitins, or do they not claim full self-realization, but only to be ‘awakened’ or ‘enlightened’? Tolle comes to mind and Mooji, too… the talking never stops.
Does sAdhana (spiritual practice) empower the ego?
An essay by Atman Nityananda
If you abandon sAdhana in order to avoid this sAdhana-ego you are left with nothing except egoism. Egoism plus sAdhana is better than egoism minus sAdhana.
Liberation is the dissolution or the death of the ego which is a field of energy crystallized in our bodies. Liberation has nothing to do with an enlightened ego. There cannot ever be an enlightened or liberated ego.
Liberation is neither for the ego nor for the consciousness which is already free. Liberation is for the mind. When the mind after intense spiritual practice (sAdhana) becomes free from all egoistic tendencies, rajas and tamas then liberation takes place for none and the mind celebrates its unity with the spirit or Consciousness.
But some neo-advaita or non-teachers as they call themselves like Tony Parsons claim that the spiritual practices empower the ego instead of dissolve it. They claim that is impossible the ego to be eliminated by sAdhana by the very fact that the sAdhana is done by the ego. They say that sAdhana and the dissolution of ego is a contradiction because the ego itself is engaged in sAdhana and this keeps the ego alive. Continue reading
DIALOGUE in Quora
A. Of course, if everything is like a dream (mithyA), then the sages and their scriptures are a part of that dream. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the teachings and the scriptures are not useful for awakening from the dream.
B. That is true, in my understanding. ‘Life is a Dream’ (Calderón de la Barca’s play), ‘All the world’s a stage’ (Shakespeare). As to Vedanta, here is what a sage (among so many others) has said: “Vedanta plays the role of the dream lion in this world. Vedantic knowledge itself is part of the illusory world. But then it dissolves the entire illusion of this world, revealing reality as it is.” Sw. Parthsarathy.
A. If no one dies, then no one is enlightened either, and yet we still talk as if people really do die and really do become enlightened.
B. True also. That modifier, ‘as if’, is crucial.
In the next para. you write: “…an individual who appears to exist while not really existing (AS AN INDIVIDUAL) has appeared to become enlightened while not really being enlightened (AS THE PURPORTED INDIVIDUAL).” I have taken the liberty of adding the capital letters, for advaitic sense. Further, while ‘everybody is enlightened’, as Neo advaitins claim, ‘no one is enlightened’, as the sage Gaudapada declared. Are these two seemingly contradictory statements true – and in what sense? *
A. I think the problem with brain damage is the possibility that a j~nAnI [sage] would lose most or all of the knowledge (including Self-knowledge) that he gained through his studies.
B. This is as seen from the vyavaharika (empirical) perspective, which cannot be denied (only understood). Jñani/s (sages) also experience thoughts and emotions. With them, these either quickly disappear, or are transmuted or resolved into consciousness; in fact, they are only consciousness, as mind is also a projection of consciousness.
Something more for pondering: “People forget the reality of the illusory world”. Huang Po.
(*) Gaudapada (Shankara, and the whole tradition of advaita Vedanta) deny multiplicity as being real. In essence ‘all is One’. The Neo-advaitin’s dictum (’everybody is enlightened’) is thus true and false at the same time.
- Once self-ignorance is admitted as the problem, then it follows necessarily that self-knowledge is required to remove it. In turn this implies the need for a teacher or material to impart that knowledge and consequently, effectively a path and a seeker etc. We do not have any sense organ for ‘self-knowledge’. All of the usual pramANa-s only provide information about the world of facts, observations and information (which includes our body and the subtle aspects of thoughts and emotions).
- The seeker might well ask why it is that a sampradAya teacher should be better or more worthy of listening to than the independent teacher. The answer is simple – authority (in the sense of proven to work) and training. Why should one pay more attention to the claims of one ‘ordinary person’ than another? If a totally unqualified teacher says ‘This is it’ and my own experience tells me that “no it isn’t”, who is right? Should I not give more credence to first-hand experience? On the other hand, if a teacher is able to say “this is what my teacher told me” and so on, back down a noble line of sages to the shruti itself, then that is worthy of attending to.It might be said that the traditional path is a well-worn one and we are therefore far less likely to stray, whereas the neo-advaitin path is, by its own admission, no path at all.
Three quotes from neo-Advaitin teachers on the value of seeking, and finding the truth (or not):
Spiritual seeking is the art of walking in very small circles. This does two things: it creates the illusion of motion, of getting somewhere; and it prevents one from stopping, from becoming still, which is where one would look around and see the futility of it all. David Carse
We all have a deep longing and a deep fear of the discovery of what we are, and the mind devises any way it can to avoid this discovery. The most effective way it avoids awakening is to seek it. Tony Parsons
Spiritual seekers do not become finders. Nathan Gill
Q: As you know, all spiritual traditions in Tibet, many in India and even the early Christians took reincarnation for granted.
In Advaita however the idea is blatantly refused. Balsekar says, since there is no ego and the idea of an individual person is an illusion, what or who is there to be reincarnated?
Does this mean that the other traditions are wrong or is it a question of understanding, meaning that the people who argue differently do so from a different level of understanding / consciousness? Continue reading
Here are a few short questions, with answers from Dennis, from the as-yet-unpublished backlog:
Q: I am a student of James Swartz. I was wanting to find a good reference book for learning the terminology of Vedanta in Sanskrit. James recommended I contact you to ask which one of your books would the most helpful. If you have time to point me in the right direction it would be much appreciated. Thank you.
A: That’s an easy one! The best book by far (of which I am aware) is John Grimes’ book. See first entry on http://www.advaita.org.uk/library/i_indian.html (and if you click through to Amazon to buy, you will earn me a small commission!)
Q: I am confused about what you mean (in the book ‘Enlightenment: The Path Through the Jungle’) by teachers who teach by Satsang. I understood Satsang to mean an occasion to gather round a master to imbue his teachings and darshan and that this has been a time honored traditional practice of Saints and Gurus in India. Continue reading