Neo-Advaitins

This is a reply to a comment from Suzanne on my KiwiYogi Blog.

IMHO the teachers who “eschew traditional advaita practice” do so out of their own limited understanding. In Kali Yuga these ignorant teachers are everywhere.

adi-shankara-acharya-shankaracharyaThe great undisputed Vedic teachers such as Adi Shanaka, the Sage Patanjali, Rishi Narada and Lord Krishna Himself all prescribe practices for awakening to Brahman, paramatman, parabhakti and Bhagavan. They even have advice for those individuals who have already awakened to their no-self nature.

They prescribe to seekers ego-based and dualistic activities for spiritual growth. For example, Sri Ramana encouraged people to walk around a mountain!

Adi Shankara declared that everything is maya and that there is no individuality anywhere, yet he still spent his life walking around India setting up monasteries. Why would he bother if there is no one to benefit from this?

Perhaps these sages don’t know what they are talking about. Perhaps Tony Parsons knows something which they don’t. But I doubt that in the extreme.

Many neo-advaitins often teach what is only appropriate for themselves – abidance in the Self. But the pathless-path of Self-remembrance is not for suitable for everyone. And neo-advaitins give very poor advice when they discourage traditional practices. Lord Krishna says of this, “Let not him who knows the whole disturb the ignorant who know only the part.” (3.29)

In the Yoga Sutras, Sage Patanjali addresses this topic of appropriate practice – particularly with regard to self-abidance versus ego-based meditation:

These afflictions, when subtle, are removed by returning to one’s original state. 2.10

When active, they are removed by meditation. 2.11

This is really a no brainer – in most people vasanas (outward going tendencies) are very strong. If someone has no conscious self-awareness, then they should purify themselves through appropriate action – mantra, vichara, asanas, pranayama, seva, etc. This prescription for action is advocated by Sri Ramana Maharshi, Adi Shankara and every other genuine empathetic sage.

Those who have what Patanjali refers to as “subtle afflictions” (vasanas) often delude themselves into thinking they are fully awakened. Most neo-advaitins fall into this category. Their mind is transparent enough for the light of the Self to shine through but this is like the dawn light before sunrise. Sri Ramana calls this Aham Sphurana and his explanation is here.

Nisargadatta was in this category for a long time. He said that he thought he was fully enlightened, but then he witnessed his own death. If someone with the stature and intelligence of Nisargadatta could make this mistake then what chance has a neo-advaitin?

Neo-advaitins, who have limited vision, do not appreciate the science behind getting enlightened. They think that because they do not know the details of spiritual evolution then no one knows. This is not true. A liberated master blessed with the knowledge of past and future lives and the gift of being able to communicate with Kundalini Shakti Herself, is able to assess an individual’s progress and determine what the seeker needs to do to realize their lack of individuality. Obviously, such insight in today’s world of teachers is so rare that it is almost academic to mention it. In more simple words, the path is not random – it is just that the past causes are obscured making the current circumstances difficult to understand for those with lesser vision.

The biggest deficiency among neo-advaitins is their lack of appreciation of what the relative aspect of creation has to do with enlightenment. A liberated master has dominion over maya, but a neo-advaitin is merely a helpless, ignorant witness. Nisargadatta was asked about this point – he was asked what was beyond simple witnessing. He said that initially awakening is like being in a cage in a jungle full of wild tigers. Next, the tigers are in the cage and you roam freely through the jungle. After that you ride the tigers through the jungle fearlessly.

Understanding how the witness and the individual are the same thing is a very difficult concept for the unenlightened mind to understand because they are entirely opposite. But there is not a Self and non-Self, there is only the Self. And that Self is Saguna Brahman – the One Without Second.

The ultimate truth as declared by the great Vedic Advaitins is Nirguna Brahman. Everything is actually uncreated – Ajata Vada as Sri Ramana calls it – something did not come out of nothing. These states can only be comprehended with experience of them.

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12 Responses to Neo-Advaitins

  1. Suzanne says:

    It’s oneness, no matter what. No matter what the appearance, no matter what subtleties of behaviour or conceptualisation the ego buries itself in to denude itself, all is one. It is one whether it is seen or not, and it is one now, in the timeless presence that is all there is. No matter how treasured the individual’s progress is, or how carefully it is charted, all there is is this, what is, immediate and eternal and infinite. There is no individual. All is one. The appearance, the story, may be tweaked and honed and perfected, but by whom? And to what purpose? No traditional or neo-advaitin or Zen or Hindu or Buddhist teacher can teach anything, for there are no answers, no teachers, no seekers, nothing but this. And this is perfection; it is everything that has ever been sought; life, aliveness, beingness, whatever one wishes to label it, just exactly as it is, apparently unfolding in perfection, for it can be nothing else, for there is nothing else. What the relative aspect of creation has to do with life is an interesting story, but meaningless, as is everything in the appearance, except in its intrinsic meaning in existing at all. Nothing exists, despite appearances; Ajata Vada. And this cannot be comprehended, for it is not a concept. It cannot be experienced, there is no experiencer. It is simply what is, just as it is, so simple, so easily overlooked. And yet the overlooking is also oneness, as is everything that appears. Including blogging, questioning, nit-picking, and indulging in conceptual arguments that boil down to the intensively ego-reinforcing notion that “My nonduality is better than yours! Nyah, nyah, nyah nyah, nyah!” It’s all such great ironic fun. For no one.

  2. Kiwi Yogi says:

    Hi Suzanne,

    Thanks for your reply. It’s nice to have intelligent feedback!

    I used to strongly subscribe to the point of view that you put forward – a pure transcendental/impersonal/masculine view. It is logical, reasonable and effective for stripping away all the fluff to get to the real. But it is also a miserable, loveless point of view.

    So while what you say is all true, there is also another legitimate view – the personal/feminine/relative aspect of Reality which in no way contradicts Advaita (how can anything contradict That?) This is the field of personal happiness for individuals.

    I used to believe that the individual who acted was nothing more than the sinful, separated ego to be discarded as the non-self. But individuality is actually the mechanism for enjoying life – there has to be someone to experience joy. And this remaining individual does not contradict Advaita – nothing can negate Reality.

    The point that I really want to stress is that those who get over zealous about the transcendental aspect of Reality can develop a special kind of ignorance.

    For example, I knew a man who was clever with advaita, like you Suzanne. But he also did a lot of psychedelic drugs. He reasoned that the world, the drugs, the body were all unreal and therefore didn’t matter. He also reasoned that there was no one for them to matter to – they were just meaningless events. He chose to violate the laws of nature (which you definitely can do even though everything is perfect). His limited understanding came from neo-advaita teachings. His drug taking behaviour came from his ego’s lust for sensory indulgence and his inability to step off the ego and abide in the Self. So all there was for him was some philosophy, sorrowful joys and increasing bondage to samsara. His understanding that there is no one to suffer did not run deep enough to actually save him from suffering.

    So why, Suzanne, does the Sage Ashtavakra – a very clear non-dualist – advise King Janaka to develop ego-qualities as his first response to Janaka’s question????

    Janaka
    How is one to acquire knowledge? How is one to attain liberation? And how is one to reach dispassion? Tell me this, sir. 1.1

    Ashtavakra
    If you are seeking liberation, my son, avoid the objects of the senses like poison, and cultivate tolerance, sincerity, compassion, contentment and truthfulness as the antidote. 1.2

  3. It is all love. Unconditional love, as everything is accepted; oneness cannot reject itself; it is everything. It is the yin and the yang, the male principle and the female principle. Cultivation of tolerance, sincerity, compassion, contentment and truthfulness may very well happen. But no one can determine this; no individual has ever chosen any action. Oneness lives us, and there is no goal, not personal happiness, not even selfless altruism, although those goals may certainly arise. In the many many stories that seem to unfold, all characters arise. Every character is needed, every character exists, whether they be serial killers whose story is of abuse and mental illness and brain damage, or saints nurtured and nurturing, or the redeemed, overcoming all obstacles to survive and thrive. This duality is oneness, so that oneness may apprehend itself. Mere, or glorious, existence is the only reality, however it tastes, feels, laughs, sings, cries, howls or struggles, and whatever thoughts arise to judge it all. Devoted practices and practitioner arise, as do jaded debunkers, ruthless warlords, committed heroes, duplicitous politicians, all of them, all of us. Some apparent individuals are on a spiritual path, some are not, it matters not, the appearance is meaningless, yet wondrous. And the immediacy of it, the timelessness, the infinite beauty of it has never left; there is no one it could have left; there is no one. Liberation is not contained in words, concepts, experiences or practices; it contains all these, including these words and concepts, however to the point they may seem. It is simple, it is what is here, what is, so simple it confounds the mind, the tool of duality. There is nothing wrong, there couldn’t be, for what is, is what is. It is ineffable and indescribable, for it isn’t a concept that can be described. But it’s certainly fun to try!

    Thanks for commenting back, Mr. Kiwi Yogi, the appearance seems more interesting for it!

  4. Red says:

    Suzanne says: “there is no individual”.

    Of course there is an individual – it’s just not who YOU are. Individuals exist in the same (apparent) way as trees, rivers, carpets and computers.

    Yes, there is only Oneness. But it’s not the homogeneous blob that you sometimes (not always) imply. It’s wonderfully deep and complex and allows for all manner of intricate relations – including teachers, seekers etc…. All part of the One’s marvelous and empty display of course.

  5. Kiwi Yogi says:

    Hi Red,

    Thanks for your good insights. I’ve given my two-cents worth about individuality here: https://sunyogi.wordpress.com/2009/08/02/individuality-is-real/

    Cheers,
    Andrew.

  6. Individuals apparently arise. There is room for it all. It can be labeled an homogeneous blob, or wonderfully deep and complex, these are concepts; ways of describing what is indescribable because description contains it. It cannot be contained. It is all that is, teachers, seekers, relationships, there is nothing wrong with any of this. It is whatever seems to be happening. Whatever that is.

  7. Sthita Prajna says:

    Sri Kiwi Yogi. I concur with most of what you have said regarding pseudo advaita, ajata vada etc.. But how do you know Sri Nisargadatta was not libertaed in his life time? Maybe he was liberated as a videha mukta also. Sri Nisargadatta had a death experience like Sri Ramana even while alive and he himself said he was libertated. So why doubt him? What is your authority to make a claim like you have done? You should give reasons, dont you think so?

  8. Sthita Prajna says:

    Sorry about the typo error for “liberated”. LOL.

  9. Kiwi Yogi says:

    Hello Sthita Prajna,

    Thanks for visiting this blog. I’ve never doubted Nisargadatta’s enlightenment.

    Nisargadatta at one stage thought he was fully enlightened. Then he witnessed his own death – ie the death of his ego. Then he realised that real enlightenment requires the death of the ego. After that experience, when people came to him and said they were enlightened, he would ask them if they had witnessed their own death.

    Nisargadatta said that there is a big difference between the morning sun and the full brilliance of the midday sun.

    I call Nisargadatta a neo-advaitin because he discouraged traditional practices like yoga, etc. And because he taught advaita to everyone. The traditional texts say that advaita is only for qualified students.

    I get mad when people who are deeply suffering ask neo-advaitins for help and are told, “Why don’t you just abide in the Self? You know, why don’t you just be enlightened?” This kind of advice is suitable for only a very small number of seekers. Everyone else should be encourage in the direction of sattvic actions and purification – like it says in the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras, Bhakti Sutras, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, etc.

    The qualifications are given in the Yoga Sutras, the Ashtavakra Gita and Vivekachudamani. I am sure they are elsewhere too.

    Apparently, at the end of his life, Nisargadatta was disappointed at the small number of people who got enlightened around him.

    Also, you may be interested in Buddha’s advice that “To one who has arrived the way is foreign.” This is why many neo-advaitins discard spiritual practices.

    https://sunyogi.wordpress.com/2009/07/30/rich-and-enlightened/

    And Swami Dayananda makes a distinction between mystics and Vedantins here. While everyone considers Sri Ramana to be a great enlightened master, not everyone considered him to be educated.

    https://sunyogi.wordpress.com/?s=dayananda

    The traditional path of self-inquiry comprises shravana, manana and nididhyasana – hearing, reflection and realisation. I discuss it at length on this blog. Most neo-advaitins dismiss the first two as “mental gymnastics” and advocate going directly to realisation. But with this advice, they aren’t really helping anyone.

  10. Sthita Prajna says:

    Sorry Andrew, I must have misunderstood you about Sri Maruti Kambli. My apologies. What do you think of the joker Sri Ramesh Balsekar? I thought he was just a philosopher who never saw the light that sets one free forever. One could make out from his writings and talks. He was actually boring to listen. It was all stuff from his brain. He was an intellectual like Wei Wu Wei, his hero.

    But then which Guru has many students who can reach the peak of the mountain? It has always been just a few. Sri Nisargadatta only planted the seed in the peoples’ Hearts who came to see him.
    He had more people from the West who came to see him than people from Mumbai or India. That is the impression I have.

  11. Kiwi Yogi says:

    Hi Sthita. Yes, Ramesh definitely had a boring side to him. I visited him in his apartment in Mumbai and I got the impression that he knew what he was talking about.

    In the world of advaita teachers, most “enlightened” people I have met have been honest and open to talking about their experience. There is only one person who I was doubtful about. She clearly had some kind of experience happening, but it didn’t sound like pure consciousness.

    I stayed in an ashram where the teacher was truly abusive and used very dirty words all the time. He didn’t really understand the philosophy and had an extremely high opinion of his own enlightenment, but nevertheless I felt that he had had some kind of awakening to self-awareness.

    I’ve met lots of teachers with faulty personalities. Even Nisargadatta had a rough side. Many people think that because they have faults in their personality that they cannot be awakened. It just isn’t true. I know plenty of ordinary householders who are awake to some degree but people don’t notice them because of their personality. Some have anger, others are annoying or boring, some like sex, some are fat. If you can look past these things there are a lot of wonderful, spiritual people hiding in plain sight.

    Who are the best gurus to associate with? This is a good question. It’s like asking which doctor gets the best results. I used to hang around Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s organisation because there were a lot of people who got really good results. Papaji is another one who seemed to have a lot of people wake up around him. I think some people are sent with the mission to wake people up. Others can be extremely enlightened, but only have one or zero disciples.

    Nisargadatta said that if you don’t have a guru, then get busy preparing yourself for the day when you do meet him or her.

    Do you have a guru or spiritual practice?

  12. Sthita Prajna says:

    Kiwi Yogi. The Self or Bhuma is my Guru. The practioner who is the mere abhasha does not exist at any given time. This is so for everybody whether they realize it or not.

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