Author Topic: What is Neo Advaita? James Swartz.  (Read 1747 times)

Subramanian.R

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What is Neo Advaita? James Swartz.
« on: March 05, 2016, 10:13:37 AM »
(This article appeared in Mountain Path, April - June 2007)

*

In Eighties, the Western spiritual world became reacquainted with Sri Ramana Maharshi, a great
Sage in Vedic tradition who had achieved international recognition, around the middle of the
20th century but, though greatly respected, did not have a significant following since His death
in the Fifties.  The rediscovery of Sri Ramana roughly coincided with the rise of  'Neo-Advaita',
a Satsangh based 'movement'  that has little in common with Sri Ramana except the idea of moksha,
freedom from the problems of Samsara.

What accounts for the popular of the Neo Advaita movement?  I think it would be fair to say that
the secret lies more in the Sang than the Sat.  The Sanskrit word Sat means 'what is', in other words
the non dual Self.  The word Sang from Sanga means an association or a company of like minded
people.  When Sat and Sanga are combined it means 'keeping the company of truth', the Self,
in other words an inquiring mind fixed on the Self.  Since only a mind that is properly prepared is
capable of achieving this condition and Neo Advaita has no techniques for producing this kind
of mind, we have to look elsewhere to understand its appeal.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.         

Subramanian.R

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Re: What is Neo Advaita? James Swartz.
« Reply #1 on: March 06, 2016, 11:27:15 AM »
The breakdown of the traditional family structure in Western societies  since World War II, has produced
two generations of love starved middle class people.  The amazing popularity of Ammaji, the 'hugging'
saint, testifies to this sad fact. So I think it is not unreasonable that the sense of 'community' provided
by a Sanga  explains the appeal of Neo Adviata, not its power to transform the mind or its teachings     
of enlightenment.  Perhaps it would have an even greater appeal were it to teach that the inner Self   
is Parama Prema Swarupa  -- the nature of non dual love.

Neo Advaita then, it seems, is actually a life style dedicated to solving the Western problem of alienation
through providing social contact with a legitimate sadhana.  In Vedic culture the life style that prepares
the mind is called Sadhana, 'the means of attainment'. Sadhana is a time honored method that creates
an inner sanga between the various conflicting parts of the psyche.  It is an evolutionary approach because
the mind is a very conservative instrument, much extroverted by the pressure of vasanas, the subconscious
tendencies that produce the samsaric sate of the mind.  So progress is incremental, if not downright glacial.
It is not uncommon that many years are required to produce an integrated, clear and balanced mind,
one capable of Self Realization.  Neo Advaita does not endorse Sadhana because the children of the
modern age are conditioned to the idea of instant gratification.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                     

Subramanian.R

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Re: What is Neo Advaita? James Swartz.
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2016, 11:18:55 AM »
The Neo Advaitic saying, 'No method, no path, no guru, no ego' seems to echo the 'not this, not this'
approach found in traditional Vedanta. Negate everything and the ever free Self is realized by default/
But here the apparent similarity ends.

Perhaps the best way to approach Neo Advaita is not so much by what it teaches as by what it does not.
Probably the most obvious omission from the standpoint of traditional Vedanta is the notion of Adhikara,
the qualifications necessary for enlightenment.  Neo Advaita is burdened with a democratic ethos,
the idea being that anyone fresh off the street, can gain instant enlightenment.  Traditional Vedanta
disagrees, insisting instead that a seeker be discriminating, dispassionate,calm of mind, and endowed
with a 'burning' desire for liberation along with secondary qualifications like devotion, faith, perseverance
and so on.  In other words, it requires a mature adult not under the spell of his or her likes and dislikes,
with a one pointed desire to know the truth.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.       

Subramanian.R

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Re: What is Neo Advaita? James Swartz.
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2016, 12:15:17 PM »
The reason for this insistence is based on the fact that enlightenment takes place in the mind.  An
unprepared, immature mind, buffeted  by strong winds of fear and desire, is incapable of grasping
and retaining the knowledge 'I am limitless Awareness and not this body mind'  And it is by this knowledge
alone  - to quote Ramana and Sankara before Him, the freedom is realized. A Neo Advaita guru espousing
this view would find it difficult indeed to find disciples.

It would be impossible to underestimate the importance of Karma Yoga in the Vedic tradition.  Karma Yoga
is an attitude that one takes with respect to one's actions and results of one's actions.  It is based on the
understanding that a person has every right to act with the idea of getting a certain result, but that result
is not under the control of the doer of the action.  The result is a consequence of the appropriateness and
timeliness of action and the nature of the field in which the action happens.  Because the results of one's
actions are not up to the doer, whatever result, positive or negative, comes, it should be gladly accepted
as a 'gift' from God.  Because it is the identification of the doer with the action and its result that produces
binding vasnas, the Karma Yoga attitude reduces the vasana load and eventually causes the attention to
turn inward and meditate on the Self.  A mind prepared for Self Realization becomes peaceful, pure,
and rock solid.  It takes pleasure in itself and is indifferent to the temporary joys that come from the senses
and their objects.  A mind prepared by Karma Yoga is well qualified for Self Realization.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                           

Subramanian.R

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Re: What is Neo Advaita? James Swartz.
« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2016, 11:21:40 AM »
Karma Yoga is not taught in the Neo Advaitic world, not only because it dismisses the idea of doership
outright, but because the application of the Karma Yoga attitude requires patience and diligence,
qualities not in evidence in people seeking instant enlightenment. Karma Yoga requires continuous monitoring
of one's motivations and reactions to objective and subjective happenings and the willingness to change one's
attitude when observation reveals it to be Vasanas-producing.  It requires great awareness and diligence
because Vasanas continually divert one's attention away from Self observation.  And, as is the case with all
spiritual practices, change is incremental and gradual/

Another glaring omission in the 'teachings' of Neo Advaita is the Vedic idea of yagna.  A yagna is a sacrifice.
Sacrifice plays a central role in Vedanta sadhana.  The vasanas  extroverting the mind need to be sacrificed
to produce a mind that is capable of meditating on the Self, reflecting on the non dual teachings and assimilating the knowledge. Neo Advaita cleverly gets around this teaching by claiming that there is no
'doer' to make sacrifices.         

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

Subramanian.R

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Re: What is Neo Advaita? James Swartz.
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2016, 11:09:52 AM »
Traditional Vedanta also deals with the vasanas by insisting that the seeker practice Vedika Dharma,
a duty oriented approach to life. When a person follows Vedika Dharma binding vasanas are neutralized.
But when there are no teachings concerning the relationship between the Kamya Karmas, desire prompted
activities, and the production of binding vasanas, is it any wonder that whatever non dual experiences are
acquired in Satsangh quickly vanish with the dual experiences with the appearance of the next binding vasana....much less the knowledge " I am non dual Awareness' that sets one free?  This is why the Neo
Advaitin world is little more than thousands of people, including the teachers, who have had scores of non dual
experiences, but who at the end of the day, are still prisoners of their conditioning.

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                     

Subramanian.R

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Re: What is Neo Advaita? James Swartz.
« Reply #6 on: March 10, 2016, 12:05:04 PM »
Why are binding vasanas such a major problem for anyone, seeking enlightenment? Because they disturb
the mind to such a degree that one's contact with the Self, as it reflects in the mind to such a degree that one's contact with the Self, as it reflects the mind, is broken.  It is meditation on the reflection of the Self in the mind that allows that allows the intellect to investigate the Self and gain the knowledge 'I am the Self' that breaks down the subject-object distinction and ends one's sense of duality.

Another essential component of any valid spiritual path, Vedic or otherwise, is Bhakti, devotion to God or the Self.  Ramana gave devotion to God equal status with Self Inquiry as a spiritual path, because devotion to God
paves the way for Self Realization, by  breaking down the concept of doership.  'Not my will,  but Thine'.  It also teaches that God, not the ego, is the dispenser of the fruits of one's actions. But Neo Advaita sees devotion to God as 'duality' and has nothing to do with it.  This shunning of the devotional aspect of life
is based on ignorance of the value of devotion as one of the primary requirements for emotional happiness   
and Self Realization.  In fact, dvaita works just as well as advaita in preparing the mind for Self Realization
because the Self understand the heart's yearning for freedom and functions through one's chosen symbol to
prepare the seeker for Self Realization.               

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.

Subramanian.R

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Re: What is Neo Advaita? James Swartz.
« Reply #7 on: March 10, 2016, 02:31:42 PM »
Some schools of Neo Advaita subscribe to the notion that enlightenment can be transmitted in some
experiential way via the physical proximity of a master.  Traditional Advaita disagrees with this view,
for the reason that ignorance is deeply entrenched in the aspirant's thinking and it is only by constant
reflection of the teachings that the ultimate assimilation of the knowledge is achieved.  This ultimate assimilation is often called 'full' or 'complete' enlightenment.  The 'transmission' on the other hand, fits nicely into the Neo Advaitic conception of easy enlightenment as it does away with the need for serious sadhana. One need do nothing more than attend a Satsangh presided over by a 'master' and presto chango!...one wakes up for good.  If this were true, however, the tens of thousands who sit at the feet of enlightened masters everywhere would be enlightened.

An idea that has gained currency in the Neo Advaitic world is an experiential notion of 'awakening'. While
sleep and waking are reasonable metaphors to describe the state of Self ignorance and the Self Knowledge, Neo  Advaita assigns to them a meaning that is not justified.  Just as anything lives, dies, anything wakes,
sleeps. But the Self never sleeps or awakens. This 'waking up' and 'going back to sleep'...all of which
takes place in the waking state ego incidentally... is a consequence of play of the gunas in mind.  When the
mind is sattvic, the reflection of the Self in it causes the individual to 'wake up' to the Self, but when rajas
or tamas reappear, as they invariably do, the mind is agitated or clouded and the Self experience is lost. ...
causing the mind to go back to 'sleep'. Until the rajasic and tamasic vasanas are purified one is condemned
to a frustrating cycle of waking and sleeping.

One of the most common Neo Advaitic misconceptions is the idea that the ego must be surrendered or destroyed for enlightenment to happen.  But my understanding, through the study of scripture, reflection
and experience, is that the realization of one's self as non dual awareness does not destroy the ego but
provides a limitless space in which it can relax and face life with equanimity. 

contd.,

Arunachala Siva.                   

Subramanian.R

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Re: What is Neo Advaita? James Swartz.
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2016, 02:52:27 PM »
Many Neo Advaitic satsangh teachers use a picture of Sri Ramana to lend legitimacy and gravitas to their
satsanghs, and promote the idea that silence is somehow the ultimate teaching.  While understanding
the nature of the Self in 'silence'  may finish the sadhana of a few qualified seekers, experiential silence
is not superior to the skillful use of words in bringing about enlightenment.  This is so because silence is in
harmony, not conflict with Self Ignorance...  as it is with everything.  One can 'sit in silence' for lifetimes
and never realize that one in Silence, meaning limitless Awareness. Knowledge, however, which is the result
of Self Inquiry in line with scripture, destroys destroys Self, ignorance like destroys darkness. 

Additionally no experience, including the experience of non duality may temporarily suspend thought or increase one's conviction that one is limitless Awareness, but the notion of the 'I'  is limited, inadequate, incomplete and separate is hard witted.  It is only diligent practice of the knowledge 'I am non dual Awareness and not this body mind' in every life experience, that one's understanding of reality gets in life with the nature of the Self.  I was informed recently by a friend with considerable knowledge of the Satsangh world that we have now entered the 'Post Neo Advaita' period.  Not surprisingly Neo Advaita has no live up to its promise as a quick and easy means of liberation and people are now looking for the next 'most incredible' path to enlightenment!       

Does Neo Advaita have any redeeming virtues?  In non dual reality everything somehow eventually serves the
Self..... appearances to the contrary notwithstanding. Just as kindergarten is a prerequisite for grade school,
people seeking enlightenment need to start somewhere and Neo Advaita, imperfect as it is as a vehicle for
spiritual practice or Self Realization, provides an entry level access to the idea of non duality. And because
satsangh provides a sense of community it will probably continue in some form or other for the foreseeable
future.  It will however, undoubtedly remain little more than a lifestyle fad.. unless it investigates its roots and
discover the wisdom of the Vedas.

concluded.

Arunachala Siva.           

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Re: What is Neo Advaita? James Swartz.
« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2016, 07:13:31 AM »
"One of the most common Neo Advaitic misconceptions is the idea that the ego must be surrendered or destroyed for enlightenment to happen.  But my understanding, through the study of scripture, reflection
and experience, is that the realization of one's self as non dual awareness does not destroy the ego but
provides a limitless space in which it can relax and face life with equanimity.  "

So out with Bhagwan and other Jnanis who have spoken emphatically about mano nasa or destruction of the ego.  Instead we have this rubbish about the ego continuing to exist in non dual awareness!  No questions allowed on how this can be called non duality when there is clearly the observer and the observed as two distinct entities. Relaxing ego, no less.

Obviously does not speak highly of the editorial staff to allow such drivel to be published in Mountain Path.