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Thread: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

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    Default Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    I have been looking into Advaita and discovered Neo Advaita.

    For months I've been wondering what some on the forum were talking about, and where their information came from. This seems to be it.

    I am not trying to be controversial, but just making sure what is being meant. I used to study under the Shankarasharya system, and do not recognise what is being said, in Neo Advaita.

    My greatest obstacle is understanding why advocating doing nothing and negating everything, was being promoted. The first article is from Sri Aurobindo 1932. The second is an unknown author, but rings true, as this concurs with what can be found in buddhism, mistaking the eighth consciousness for ultimate empty essence.

    I was wondering how Neo Advaita can help anyone, as it is a partial picture.

    These articles explain it better than I could.


    Spiritualteachers.org
    Neo-Advaita Demystified
    Although written in 1932 as cautionary words for his disciples, they are more relevant and important today than they were then.

    ...These things, when they pour down or come in, present themselves with a great force, a vivid sense of inspiration or illumination, much sensation of light and joy, an impression of widening and power. The sadhak feels himself freed from the normal limits, projected into a wonderful new world of experience, filled and enlarged and exalted;what comes associates itself, besides, with his aspirations, ambitions, notions of spiritual fulfillment and yogic siddhi; it is represented even as itself that realisation and fulfillment. Very easily he is carried away by the splendour and the rush, and thinks that he has realised more than he has truly done, something final or at least something sovereignly true. At this stage the necessary knowledge and experience are usually lacking which would tell him that this is only a very uncertain and mixed beginning; he may not realise at once that he is still in the cosmic Ignorance, not in the cosmic Truth, much less in the Transcendental Truth, and that whatever formative or dynamic idea-truths may have come down into him are partial only and yet further diminished by their presentation to him by a still mixed consciousness. He may fail to realise also that if he rushes to apply what he is realising or receiving as if it were something definitive, he may either fall into confusion and error or else get shut up in some partial formation in which there may be an element of spiritual Truth but it is likely to be outweighted by more dubious mental and vital accretions that deform it altogether.
    These words by the Indian sage Sri Aurobindo, refer to what he called the Intermediate Zone, a dangerous and misleading transitional spiritual and pseudo-spiritual region between the ordinary consciousness of the outer being and True Realisation.

    SECOND ARTICLE
    It seems that every other day another self-proclaimed 'enlightened' teacher of Neo-Advaita appears on the scene. These Neo-Advaita guru's have reduced thousands of years of Advaita teachings into the spiritual equivalent of McDonald's junk food. No longer is it necessary for the spiritual student to engage in self-inquiry or inner work on oneself. Now all that is necessary to 'realize the Self' is a constant repetitive denial of one's own identity and the (pseudo) 'understanding' that the ego and all and everything else that happens in the universe (essence and belief systems included) is 'simply an illusion'. Everything 'just happens, there is no path, no cause', so consequently there is absolutely nothing to do.
    It's really simple, just like it was for Shankara, Buddha, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Rumi and the relatively few others who are generally agreed to have been enlightened.
    What? Wait a minute, I don't recall that it was easy for the above mentioned Masters. Didn't they spend years, and sometimes entire lifetimes meditating, engaged in self-inquiry and inner work? Oh yeah, they did. And this is the problem that exists now, because the Neo-Avaita movement claims lineage from and history from Advaita, but advocates none of the work. In fact they continue to espouse that it is simply not necessary. Merde!
    No real work on oneself is necessary, only a constant repetitive denial of one's identity and the 'understanding' that the ego and all (and everything) that happens (essence and belief systems included) is 'just an illusion'. Everything ‘just happens, there is no path’, so there is nothing to do.
    Occasionally these self proclaimed 'enlightened or awakened masters' even believe themselves to be superior or more advanced than their own teachers. For example Tony Parsons has declared that Ramana Maharshi was obviously still living from duality and Andrew Cohen has said that his guru Poonjaji was not enlightened – in other words both Maharshi and Poonjaji were asleep and Parsons and Cohen are awake. Yeah, right!
    In addition to Parsons and Cohen, the best known English speaking Neo-Advaitin gurus also include Eckhart Tolle and Ramesh Balsekar. Meanwhile there are hundreds of others in Europe, the United States and Australia.
    And they all have one thing in common, they declare that they have realized the Self, and awakened to their true nature. And of course they all want to teach (and in some cases) prey upon Neo-Advaita adepts in search of their own liberation. In the process these Neo-Avaitins have bastardized and twisted the original tenets and practice of Advaita until it is no longer recognizable except by the most discerning of adepts. Unfortunately it appears that most adepts are not able to discern the differences between Advaita and Neo-Advaita. Perhaps this will help.
    The Path of Advaita according to Shankara
    For the purposes of this article, presented below is a very short summary of the pre-requisites needed by a seeker before achieving Self-Realization or Liberation (as specified by Shankara in his Vivekachudamani - The Crest Jewel of Discrimination translated into Tamil by Ramana Maharshi and from Tamil into English by Sir Arthur Osborne).
    In order to be qualified for enquiry into the Self, a man must have a powerful intellect and ability to seize the essential and reject the inessential besides the various qualities enumerated in the scriptures. What are these? He must be able to discriminate between the real and the unreal. He must have an unattached mind. He must ardently desire liberation. And he must be tireless in practice Only such one is qualified to enquire into Brahman. The qualifications are enumerated as follows:
    1. Discrimination between the real and the unreal.
2. Disinclination to enjoy the fruit's of one's actions.
3. The six virtues of tranquility, self-control, withdrawal, forbearance, faith, and concentration of the Self.
4. Intense yearning for liberation.
    The aspirant must indeed have these qualities in order to attain abidance in the Self; without them there can be no realization of the Truth.
    This then is the simplified version of Shankara's instructions for truth realization.
    The Neo-Advaita Shellgame
    Contrast this with what is necessary according to Neo-Advaita. Which is nothing. Absolutely nothing is necessary except for a strategy of denial. Neo-Advaita teachers simply declare or fool themselves into believing that their identity/ego doesn't exist, in fact, that nothing really exists and everything is simply an illusion.
    This can easily done by anyone, just give it a try and you’ll see. Take a few minutes now and start rebuffing everything you perceive, everything that comes up in yourself, including yourself. If and when you do this regularly, you may find yourself getting hooked by the fundamental Neo-Advaita trickery. Of course there is also a bit of cheating necessary. You need to be ready and willing to deny values and ethics and if you are ready and willing to cheat yourself then you’re ready to be enlightened the Neo-Advaita way.
    Having integrated Neo-Advaita will bring up the joy of a constant feeling of superiority. You will also be rewarded with the feeling of constant rightness and will never be proven wrong anymore no matter what you say or do. Simply because nothing is real – all is illusion. Who is there to be wrong? Merde !
    Traditional Advaita says that the ego is an illusion. The ‘Satsang Prophets’ emphasize this as THE starting point, completely omitting that this realization may only occur at the end of years of self-inquiry and work on oneself (and not necessarily with any certainty). Once this premise is understood and the self-cheating is engaged, one obtains a constant very pleasant feeling of superiority and invulnerability. This is what they regard as being the ultimate accomplishment and they believe that it is the same as that lived and taught by Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj and even Shankara, although in reality it’s nothing but the Neo-Advaita version of nihilism. (If this is what you’re looking for Parsons, Tolle, Balsekar and their cohorts are a good choice for teachers.)
    Giving satsang allows them the opportunity to meet obedient and easily hypnotized listeners to whom they can teach what apparently is so easy to understand: 'Everything is just an illusion.'
    Below are other common features of these teachers:
1. "Uncomfortable" questions are evaded. The evasion strategy is easy because in the background there is a safe haven: neither I nor the other exist.
2. Essence - Essential Value is seen on the same level as identity: as being non-existent.
3. An attitude of utter arrogance/vanity (How can I be wrong? The one who can be wrong doesn't exist, only those who still believe that there is anything other than illusion are wrong). 
4. Total absence of humility ("who cares?") and ethics.
    The result is mind-f_____g at it's purest - spiced with some borrowed and misunderstood Advaita wisdom.
    A real seeker is one who has the desire, commitment and talent to 'make' it. But it's difficult for me to say if a real seeker automatically has the discrimination to avoid falling into the Neo-Advaita trap. There may be a question of destiny, luck and/or grace involved.
    Some adepts who have difficulties in switching off the self-delusion have ended up in mental hospitals (paranoid syndrome), others have had the courage to jump to the teacher role and give satsang which gives their 'non-existent' ego the recognition and food for continued survival.
    Life becomes a play between 'enlightened' nihilistics or between a self-declared nihilist and an ignorant fool who just serves as 'confirmation-that-I'm-right' food. As this is so obvious, there seems to be a kind of collective self-hypnosis that is happening on a relatively large scale.
    Neo-Advaitins tend to evade inquiring questions because these types of questions challenge their axiom 'that they don't exist and everything is an illusion.' Instead they use words that disguise: “How can I be wrong since I don't exist as a separate 'I'? Therefore I am always right.
    This all occurs not as a result of work on themselves but as a starting point of all that is (re)presented. Of course, at a certain point, one needs to cheat oneself in order to do this. When cheating oneself any and all sincerity towards oneself is eliminated. This cheating arises when it comes time to deny the humanness, what Jesus meant with “the son of god” and what Meister Eckhart said when he referred to the “Gottesgeburt im Menschen”, “the birth of God within man”.
    Through constant repeated self hypnosis (telling yourself that everything ‘just happens’, only ‘here and now’ exists, you then slip into a 'super-identity' based on overall denial of ego/identity. Sadhana is an unnecessary burden because the one who does this has simply not understood that all is illusion, even work on oneself (so "why care?").
    Instead of considering the realization that everything is just an illusion as the result of years of inquiry and guided work on yourself, just take it as starting point, an axiom, a self-evident truth. Once this self-generated ruse is accomplished you will automatically come to the conclusion that self-enquiry (Ramana Maharshi) or work on oneself (Gurdjieff) or a guru (Nisargadatta Maharaj) are just illusionary un-necessities.
    If you feel offended by what has been written:
Either you need to become a bit more tricky in denying your own and the author’s existence (isn’t everything just an illusion?). Or you’re not yet completely hooked by the Neo-Advaita game and you might want to reconsider if this is the direction you want to take.
    I offer to you the following dialog from Nisargadatta Maharaj...
    Nisargadatta: “To go beyond the mind, you must have your mind in perfect order. You cannot leave a mess behind and go beyond. He who seeks Liberation must examine his mind by his own efforts, and once the mind is purified by such introspection Liberation is obtained and appears obvious and natural.”
    Q: "Then why are sadhanas prescribed?"
    Nisargadatta: "Freedom to do what one likes is really bondage, while being free to do what one must, what is right, is real freedom."
    Q: "How can the absolute be the result of a process?"
    Nisargadatta: "You are right, the relative cannot result in the absolute. But the relative can block the absolute, just as the non-churning of the cream may prevent butter from separating. It is the real that creates the urge; the inner prompts the outer and the outer responds in interest and effort." "You seem to want instant insight, forgetting that the instant is always preceded by a long preparation. The fruit falls suddenly, but the ripening takes time."
    "The way to truth lies through the destruction of the false. To destroy the false, you must question your most inveterate beliefs."
    POSTSCRIPT
    So by now, since you have chosen to read this through to end, I suppose that you might be asking yourself, “Why should I listen to you? Who the hell are you anyway?” And the answer is that you shouldn't listen me. Anymore than you should listen to Eckhart Tolle or Tony Parsons. At least not without truly listening to yourself. What you can do is search into the very depths of yourself, not taking someone else's (anyone else's word) for anything. Instead listen to your heart and seek a teacher who teaches you how to eliminate the unnecessary burdens and who at the same time promotes the blossoming of your essence (your essential value), your divine nature, the best of the best that resides in the core of your (and his) humility.
    If you have found this article useful, interesting, stimulating, controversial or you just like to 'stir the pot', submit and/or post it to the appropriate websites, forums and newsgroups; perhaps you and I together can play a small part in awakening a few people from the Neo-Advaita trance.
    -- Author unknown

    The Emperor Has No Clothes
    A Critique of neo-Advaitanism and Adyashanti
    By Dhammaccariya Jhanananda (Jeffrey S, Brooks)
157th day of a solo wilderness retreat
Inyo National Forest
October 7, 2005
    (copyright 2005 all rights reserved)
    In the first week of June, 2004 Elliot Isenberg, of San Francisco, took me to Mountain View, California to see Adyashanti speak. The discourse was in the rec. center of a neighborhood church. Adyashanti appeared to be in his 30s or 40s at that time.  It was my second time to see him. The first time I saw him was in Tucson, AZ, during the winter of 2003. Each of the two times I saw him lecture I found his discourse and teaching method mostly unchanged.  Both times I was very happy to see that he began each of his talks with about 15 minutes of meditation. 
    Even though Adyashanti claims to have come from a Zen based practice tradition he calls himself an 'Advaitan,' or non-dualist spiritual teacher, His discourses he calls "Satsang," which is a Sanskrit term used in Hinduism for spiritual discourse.  The term 'satsang' literally means the "company of truth."  Sat, or truth, is understood to be spiritual truth.
    Before Adyashanti began to teach he was a competitive touring bike racer who worked in a bike shop among other things then later as a machinist for his father who produced medical device prototypes. During 14 years of that time period Adyashanti studied Zen meditation from one of the American, South SF Bay area, Zen teachers (Arvis Justi) who was a student of Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center.  After 14 years of ardent practice and study under his teacher, Justi recognized her student, Adyashanti, as an "awakened" one.  He now teaches around the San Francisco Bay Area, Tucson, Santa Fe and other localities.
    This teacher is a pleasant break from the typical non-dualist, or neo-Advaitan, because he meditates and he recommends meditation to his students.  This is in stark contrast to the typically neo-Advaitans who rejects meditation as something they call 'striving.'  Striving, under their belief system, is seen as an ego driven activity.  The reasoning behind the neo-Advaitan rejection of meditation, and any other spiritual endeavors, is because the Advaitan is interested in cultivating an egoless state, and since meditation, which they believe is 'striving,' and is thus an activity of the ego, is consequently rejected. 
    The neo-Advaitan rejection of spiritual aspiration, discipline and practice, and their method of dialog to trigger a non-dual state in their students, reminds me of Nancy Regan's 'Just say, 'No' to drugs,' campaign.  To just say 'no' to drugs is naïve, because people become addicted to drugs.  To deal with drug addiction, which is the number one social problem of the industrial nations, one needs more of a program than to just say 'No.'  Drug addiction is a consequence of a history and a life-long pattern of unproductive thinking, and so is the addiction to thinking and egoism. It is just naïve to just say 'No' to dualism and the ego, because people are addicted to their mental constructs, thus they need a methodology to relinquish their thought patterns and their ego clinging.
    This rejection of meditation and other spiritual endeavors has brought some people to say the neo-Advaitans are pseudo-Advaitans because, for the most part, it seems their method is a pretense.  However, in Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayana), they have a school that is based upon the cultivation of the view, or concepts and beliefs of the enlightened mind, which is much like the neo-Advaitan concept. This school is called 'Dzogchen.'
    One could consider that cultivating the view, or concepts and beliefs of the enlightened mind seems rather superficial, however we must keep in mind the Buddha's Noble Eight Fold Path was articulated with the first of the 8 folds as 'samma-ditthi,' which means 'right view.'  Thus Dzogchen, Advaita and other schools and teachers who work toward cultivating the point of view of the enlightened mind, which is called 'Bodhichitta' in Mahayana Buddhism, are working on the first of the eight folds of the Noble Eight Fold Path.  Which is very good in deed. But, what about the remaining 7 folds?.
    This rejection of meditation by the pseudo-non-dualists is in fact in stark contrast to the key figures in Advaita Vedanta and non-dualism.  Sankarachara, one of the early patriarchs of Advaita Vedanta, taught a rigorous meditation practice.  Sri Ramakrishna, a key 19th century non-dualist, taught a rigorous meditation practice, as did Ramanamaharshi, who was a key 20th century non-dualist.  Therefore we probably should conclude those "teachers" of non-dualism who reject meditation as an aspect of ego striving, are most probably simply fooling themselves and others.  Therefore they really should be called 'pseudo-non-dualists.'
    The typical method of the non-dualist is to use dialog to "trigger" a non-dual state in their student. This method was used by Nisargadatta, Ramana Maharshi and others in the "Who am I" question and its variations.  Adyashanti's "satsang" method is geared toward this model. 
    In the Adyashanti' "satsang" model he invites people to join him on his dais where a dialog takes place.  It is through this dialog that he endeavors to cajole the mind of his student into submission.  While his satsang method really comes from this Advaitan dialog, it however manifests as a kind of New-Age personal growth modality with a non-dualist philosophical construct laid over it.  It is in fact reminiscent of Gestalt.
    While it is refreshing to find a non-dualist, like Adyashanti, embracing meditation as a means of cultivating an egoless state, it seems rather peculiar to me that Adyashanti seems to invoke more Hinduism than he does Buddhism, even though he claims to have been a student of Buddhism for 14 years.  In fact in the two discourses of Adyashanti's that I have attended, I heard very little Buddhist philosophy spoken.  I found he seems to mostly come from a Hindu and Advaitan theoretical construct.
    There is certainly ample context for the dialog and the cultivation of the view within Buddhism and even Zen.  So, we really should ask why Adyashanti has resorted to Hindu and Advaitan constructs.  I can only conclude he simply did not do much reading of Buddhist literature during his 14 years of "study" in Zen. Thus, he is probably not familiar with the various schools of Buddhism, or even the foundations of Buddhist thought as found in the Discourses of the Buddha, where he would have found the Buddha's concept of 'anatta' which is fundamentally a non-dualist premise.
    While it is admirable that Adyashanti has arrived at a place of suspended thought, which he calls a non-dual state, if he was more familiar with the foundations of Buddhist thought he would have found that The Buddha call the silence and stillness of the non-dual state 'passaddhi,' which means 'tranquility.'  And, for him tranquility was simply the second stage of meditative absorption or ecstasy (jhana), which is certainly a noble attainment, however there are six more stages of meditative absorption for Adyashanti to attain.
    It seems rather curious, why one would follow a teacher who does not teach a method or a goal.  It would seem that it would leave one with nothing whatsoever for consolation, such as the security of a method.  But, then maybe those who are drawn to pseudo-non-dualism do not have a meditation practice, so perhaps they are consoled by the lack of a method.  This is called a faith-based religion.  The world is full of them.
    The foundations of Buddhism, if Adyashanti even understands them, are based upon the Four Noble Truths, which state that the Noble Eight Fold Path is the means by which one comes out of dukkha (suffering), thus central to Buddhism is most definitely a practice path and an endeavor or seeking for freedom.  And, the Noble Eight Fold Path specifically articulates a practice path that includes a meditation practice as described under 'samma-sati' in the Maha-satipatthana Sutta (DN 22). 
    In that sutta the Buddha even defined the culmination of the Noble Eight Fold Path as 'samma-samadhi,' which means 'right absorption,' which he defined in terms of bliss (piiti), joy (sukha) and ecstasy (jhana), so there is most certainly an intention, and a practice, and a goal within the Buddhist methodology. 
    So, this may explain why Adyashanti has chosen to express himself in neo or pseudo Advaitan terminology, since he rejects a practice and a goal for that practice.  However, the historic record is clear that it just took many hours and years of meditating to bring Sidharta Gotama, Sri Ramakrishna and Ramana Maharshi to full enlightenment.
    In conclusion if Adyashanti bothered to do a little study in Buddhism he would have found the Pali term 'dhamma-desaná’ which is the Buddhist term for 'satsong.' with further study he would have found the Buddha's reflection on no-self, which he called 'anattá;' and with still further study he would have found the view of Dzogchen, which would be very compatible with his idea of cultivating a non-dual view of an enlightenment mind.  Even some study in his own tradition of Zen he would have found various methods to trigger a non-dual state, such as the koan, and even the slap, as well as other methods, which were used by various Zen masters to startle the mind into submission, and thus producing a silence or stillness that produces a non-dual state. Thus Adyashanti would not have had to invoke Hinduism and Advaita Vedanta out of thin air.
    It does not seem that Arvis Justi did a very good job of training her student. Perhaps we should ask, who is Arvis Justi to recognize anyone as enlightened?  By presuming that she can recognize someone as enlightened, must mean that she accepts herself as an enlightened one.  Or maybe it is just a deal that the two of them made between themselves, "Hey, I'll recognize you if you recognize me."  Lineage is one of those things everyone seems to have to need if they are going to teach meditation and philosophy these days.  And, lineage works best if the teacher is enlightened as well as the student. Let us just hope that Justi is not a diamond studded, drug addicted, alcoholic sex addict, as so many of these gurus are these days.
    I can only hope this writing has served to inspire and direct skillfully.
    May you be enlightened in this very lifetime,

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    I've been genuinely struggling for months to understand an idea that is often expressed here on PA, that meditation is of no benefit and that following a path is foolhardy.

    I hope it goes without saying that spiritual practitioners show respect for other practitioners.
    This is not an attack on another path (it can't be anyway - they say neo-Advaita is not a path): it is, hopefully, a clarification.

    This has always seemed to me to be an insidious idea (sorry to sound melodramatic)... meditation has brought clarity, confidence and genuine happiness into my life - and most importantly, an aspiration for compassion - is this the state of mind the PTB would want to flourish in society?! I think not.

    Then, today, I did some research, and my eyes have been opened and my head is still reeling All has been explained! And it is very simple.
    I'm so relieved to have found out where this idea came from.

    Here is one of the articles I read just now - it makes very easy reading, and is written by someone who was a Neo-Advaitan.
    I'd love to hear the thoughts of others here.


    Tom Huston
    Hello, my name is Tom, and I was addicted to spiritual heroin.

    As a recovering junkie, I feel an abiding obligation to share my story with others—to help spread the truth, in whatever ways I can, about the numinous narcotic that nearly destroyed me. And as an editor of WIE, I also feel that I’d be remiss in my moral duty if I didn’t take the opportunity, for this fifteenth anniversary issue, to reprint “Who’s Transforming Anyway?”—the most hard-hitting exposé I’ve ever read of the dangers and dead ends of the divine dope I once craved.

    Officially, it’s known as Neo-Advaita, a Westernized version of the ancient Hindu mystical teaching of Advaita Vedanta, but its most common street name is “nonduality.” Vastly more powerful than most postmodern spiritual opiates, Neo-Advaita is also cheap, easy to acquire, and addictive as hell. I was only sixteen when I injected my first dose, and I’ll never forget the first time I felt the intense euphoria of its fast-acting high. Within days, even hours, of injecting that nondual bliss, the whole world took on an ethereal, dreamlike appearance, as all distinctions and dualities melted before my eyes, and I became firmly convinced that everybody around me was completely insane. I have vivid recollections of walking through the halls of my high school near Seattle, Washington, with an inner smile bubbling away as I looked upon everyone and everything as nothing but an illusory display of light and energy. Nothing was real, nothing was important, for all was nothing but a timeless dance of purest Consciousness.

    Even the global crises of the mid-nineties appeared empty to my eyes. Global warming? Ha. Species extinction? Please. The Rwandan and Balkan genocides? Atrocities, sure, but all part of the same illusion. In me, the overarching apathy of Generations X and Y had reached an all-new high. And why? Because the truth revealed by Neo-Advaita makes nihilism seem sublime. Through its warped lens, the entire universe appears, beyond all doubt, to be ultimately pointless and absurd. It’s a game, or play, or lila: God’s strange dream. Yet as a contemporary expression of the same revelation that mystics from every religious tradition have testified to—namely, the profound realization that “all is One”—Neo-Advaita initially appears to be perfectly divine. After all, a deep understanding of universal Oneness, or the seamless “nonduality” of Being, seems to be exactly the kind of spiritual truth the world needs to help bridge the countless divides that continue to keep human beings separate and conflicted, within and without. In fact, that’s what spiritual enlightenment is all about, and it’s what saints and sages throughout history have willingly died to defend, convinced that the sacred truth of nonduality is more important than anything else. But Neo-Advaita serves up the glory of cosmic unity with a distinctly sour twist.

    Unlike most mystical traditions, it prides itself in being nontraditional, nonsectarian, and ritual free—an ideal form of spirituality for a secular Western world—and like many other things in the land of fast food and MTV, it offers a quick and easy path to abiding happiness. But in casting off the common Hindu strictures of traditional Advaita Vedanta (as espoused by such luminaries as Shankara and Ramana Maharshi), it places no explicit value on moral growth, spiritual purification, or character development. Anyone and his Nazi brother can be a Neo-Advaitin, no prerequisites or special skills required. Moreover, once you declare yourself a member of this all-inclusive club, you’re free to embrace that other idiosyncrasy of its ever-popular philosophy: the odd, unnatural (or at least outmoded) mystical conviction that life is but a dream. For if all duality is ultimately illusory, then the entire evolving world is too. Up/down, good/evil, self/other, higher/lower, night/day, mind/matter, space/time, and all other mind-made distinctions simply blur, converge, and vanish across the infinitely still surface of the nondual abyss. To someone hooked on Neo-Advaita, nothing in the vast multidimensional universe has any inherent reality except That and That alone.


    Now, to those who have never tried it, it’s probably impossible to convey the unique feeling of aloof empowerment that such a perspective affords you, especially when you’re a bookish, geeky, lonely adolescent with no friends, few ambitions, and very little self-esteem. As I shot up Neo-Advaita 24/7, for months and then years on end, even my ongoing state of existential depression began to seem unreal, and I became increasingly numb to the inner cries of my soul. Boosted by the self-satisfied confidence that the Neo-Advaita perspective on reality provides, my apathetic smile through the aimless halls of the real world eventually mutated into a righteous rampage through the electronic corridors of cyberspace.

    Online, they knew me only as “Soulplex,” and I dealt my drug of choice with freewheeling abandon, not caring one whit whose dualistic reality I offended or denied. Night after night, day after day, I’d storm Zen Buddhist forums, atheist forums, Christian forums, and even Natalie Portman fan discussion forums with my proselytizing passion for the Neo-Advaita way. “You morons think you’re real? Try this,” I’d say, as I dished out the intoxicating truth that renders human beings and their concerns into utter irrelevancy. Even though it was to some extent intended to be all in good fun—a personally amusing respite from my drearily depressed days—in the context of a postmodern culture that already has difficulty making clear distinctions and judgments (especially of the moral variety), the perspective of nonduality can quickly turn disastrous and be easily abused. “If all is One, then nothing is wrong,” said the notorious murderer Charles Manson. And while I didn’t actually kill anybody as I spread my love of Neo-Advaita far and wide, I probably did as much damage as one can with words alone, subverting all beliefs, trouncing all opinions, actively denying all values, hopes, and dreams—and loving every second of it, as I savored my absolute power over all relativity. Like a spiritualized teenage Terminator, I couldn’t be reasoned with, I couldn’t be bargained with, and I would not stop until all unenlightened views of reality were dead.

    So what, if anything, turned me around?

    It started with me nearly failing to finish high school, after having spent my senior year in a Neo-Advaita daze. All year long, my teachers were concerned and my parents were upset, but I couldn’t care less, as I wiled away my time insisting that worrying about anything meant being lost in ignorance. It was only at the beginning of the last week of school, as graduation day approached and my Fs in many classes suddenly loomed large, that the reality of my situation hit me hard. In panicked desperation, confronted by the real-world implications of my esoteric apathy, I did everything I could for four sleepless days and nights to raise my grades to a passable D average. And although I miraculously managed to succeed, my victory left one fact resoundingly clear: something was wrong.

    Humbled and confused as the tainted rug of my addiction began its rapid slide out from under me, I turned to the writings of a spiritual teacher who, with the aid of his Indian guru, had attained enlightenment through the power of traditional Advaita Vedanta back in 1986 but had since renounced the path of Advaita completely. His name was Andrew Cohen—the founder of What Is Enlightenment?—and, intriguingly, in his roles as both spiritual teacher and magazine editor, he seemed to be on a decisive mission to stop the deadly trafficking of Neo-Advaita in the postmodern world.

    In fact, the very first issue of WIE, produced in the fall of 1991—years before I discovered it—featured an article titled “The Advaita Shuffle,” which detailed the insanity and inhumanity of the Neo-Advaita view. In this and many of the early issues of WIE, Andrew and his team of editors explored the idea that no matter how effective a mystical teaching Advaita might have been in India’s ancient past, its newborn Western child, Neo-Advaita, seemed to be missing something significant. Isolated from its Eastern religious and historical context and taught as a quick-fix, no-frills contemporary path to spiritual enlightenment, they noticed its tendency to ignore traditional values like ethics and the cultivation of personal integrity. What’s more, it didn’t give much credence to the values of the Western Enlightenment, either. Rationality, critical analysis, and common sense all took a back seat in its mind-transcending philosophy. Yet throughout the early nineties its popularity was only growing—a situation that helped inspire the staff of this magazine to begin asking that all-important and ever-relevant question: “What is enlightenment?”

    When I first saw that title on the newsstands, as an arrogant seventeen-year-old Neo-Advaita addict, I’d immediately dismissed it as being hopelessly naïve. “They’re a spiritual magazine and they don’t even know?” is what I mockingly thought at the time. But when the Neo-Advaita toxins finally began to leave my spiritually tattered bodymind, I started seeing life, spirituality, and other human beings in a whole new light, and I began taking steps onto a far more wholesome path: the slow but steady repentance of my disturbingly arrogant and life-denying ways.

    As a survivor of the one-dimensional nightmare that is Neo-Advaita, I’ve taken great pleasure in writing a few all-out attacks on my former source of spiritual sustenance during the past three years that I’ve been on the editorial staff of WIE, and I hope to continue this public service until the true hazards of this particular brand of pop spirituality are widely acknowledged. Which is, again, the reason I’ve elected to reprint the following article—the final installment of our short-lived and outrageously satirical “Stacey Heartspring” series. Shocking and extreme, it illustrates in graphic detail the ins and outs of the Neo-Advaita philosophy and why we at WIE believe it poses such a problem to spiritual seekers today. By splicing together select quotes from some of the most popular Neo-Advaita teachers around, this wildly creative dialogue aims to educate, entertain, and, above all, explore the real implications of people like you, me, and Stacey attempting to embrace this modernized version of an ancient ideology. I had the biggest grin on my face you can imagine when I first read this article in the fall/winter 2002 issue of WIE, and I sincerely hope that many of you out there will feel the same way as you either read it for the first time, or savor its over-the-top humor and eviscerating insights once more.

    by Tom Huston

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    'Meditation' is a word free to be used for any projections.
    How about 'becoming consciously aware of all-that-is-and-is-not'?

    'Supernatural' abilities come naturally during the process of 'meditating' and they can be quite a distraction, when the focus wanders away too heavily towards wallowing in the feeling of having or using a certain 'new' ability or awareness.

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    Hello pie'n'eal and Tarka the Duck,

    thanks for this interesting posts. It triggers quite some emotional response inside me.
    I have a long background in exactly that what is called Advaita Vedanta. I studied the Upanishads and Shankaras commentaries and still like to read them today. I also like some of the Neo's very much like the books of Karl Renz.
    I am initially coming from Maharishi and its Transcendental Meditation. You can find some of my experiences with that on my blog bhusunda.wordpress.com.

    Basically, my take on it is, whatever name you give it, what ever you may write, its a concept. It has absolutely no bearing to reality, the nature of which is your experience. I hate to interpret the idea that your intellect and ego are living their life and are trying to enhance and protect themselves, as something bad.
    Its their nature for gods sake.
    I hate to give the realization that everything is an illusion any name. Be it so, but you created that illusion by partaking in it, so take responsibility for experiencing duality.
    If you want to avoid it, you are sacked and caught in an endless loop, which becomes quickly hypnotic. You can't avoid pain or joy, so say to it "even this will pass" if something becomes unbearable.
    For gods sake, duality is here, because you want to experience it, good and bad.

    I like the Buddhists attitude of serenity, patience and non attachment, but often I find their stance to life too passive.
    I like the clearness of thought of Advaita that leads the intellect to bite into its own tail in an endless loop, until it gives up and pure experience remains. But often people on this path get high, not realizing, that even this will pass.

    So, the Buddhists are often passive, the Neo-Vedantins often high.
    Both is part of my own experience in life. Ups and downs, periods of being caught in rigid focussing, and periods of getting lost in heights. I do not want to give up any of this experiences, really.
    Its very enjoyable, once you don't try to avoid any of your experiences.

    To make it short, my realization is:
    As long as you want to avoid the experience of you being an individual, you will end up being neither, not an individual, nor a non-dual entity in any way.

    As a consequence of this, I started to accept my talents, becoming more creative, writing more poems and articles, painting, and enjoying life as I thought was not possible before, when I was caught in my search for eternal peace. I accept the suffering that is part of it, not trying to escape it, but try to stay in it until tears dry up and I have no wish to escape anymore.

    Cheers, Bhusunda
    --Happily looking forward to a 10 day Vipassana retreat in April. :-)

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    Dear Bhusuda,

    I totally concur with what you say. I smile at Buddhism being too passive - you must mean the Theravadan tradition!
    If you want a bit of fire try Dzogchen.

    All the very best,
    Tony

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    Quote Posted by pie'n'eal (here)
    Dear Bhusuda,

    I totally concur with what you say. I smile at Buddhism being too passive - you must mean the Theravadan tradition!
    If you want a bit of fire try Dzogchen.

    All the very best,
    Tony
    Thanks Tony for giving me the room to express myself by opening this thread.
    Yes, indeed I do know only of Theravadan buddhists, so my view may be partially.
    I will keep an eye open for Dzogchen from now on.

    Bhusunda

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    To be or not to be?
    Just become.

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    Hi Tony
    Regarding the second article its not accurate.
    Ramesh Balsekar was a translator for Nasargadatta for years--- and said "Just try doing nothing and see what happens"-- he also acknowledged Ramana as the gurus guru and kept a picture of him prominently on display at his talks--- I was at a seminar put on by him and can say first hand that he was a true Advaita teacher.
    He advocated meditation.
    Eckhart Tolle was blissed out for two years as the enlightenment matured.
    Eckhart does give quite a lot of doing advice--- which worked to quite a degree in my case though I am not enlightened.

    Dr David Hawkins who I believed to be enlightened and is of the old school so to speak. He advises removing obstacles and explains how to. That requires a lot of work.
    Hawkins maintains that only about one in 10 million are enlightened.
    He also says there are levels/degrees of enlightenment though each seems complete.
    Hawkins does say that at this time the chances of becoming enlightened are 1000 times greater.

    I agree that there are a lot of border line cases.
    It may be that the lowest level of enlightenment has become more obtainable though.


    Whatever I agree that one is completely safe with the teaching of Ramana and Nasargadatta and of course the Buddha
    Ramana of course had an awakening in his teens and it was instantaneous without any particular spiritual practice.

    On the whole it seems absolutely necessary that time, effort and devotion to spiritual truth are required to remove all concepts, belief systems, the works!!!

    It may be becoming easier--- who knows.
    I dont
    Regards Chris
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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    Thanks Chris,
    If people are going to exercise free will and choice, they have to examine all sides of the picture.
    One problem is people are becoming too Nilhistic - and losing a sense of humour and fun!

    These are essential for de-stressing !
    Last edited by Tony; 29th February 2012 at 21:44.

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    Regardless of beliefs I think there is at least one thing that is true.
    You cant make enlightenment happen other wise millions of spiritual prctioners would be enlightened now instead of just a few.
    Ultimately its by the Grace of God.
    I continue with the Gyatai Mantra and several other ones--- not through expectation but because I get enjoyment in doing it.
    I am also thanfull for many things and bless food before eating as it has been proved to raise the vibration.

    Chris
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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    Quote Posted by pie'n'eal (here)
    Thanks Chris,
    If people are going to exercise free will and choice, they have to examine all sides of the picture.
    One problem is people are becoming too Nilhistic - and losing a sense of humour and fun!

    These are essential for de-stressing !

    In the first half of the sentence free will and choice is presented, in the
    second half the condition is presented, ie wot you have to do to use free will.

    Have to in connection to free will? Kinda weird, isnt it?

    De-stressing? Hmmmmm.......

    Humour and fun? Hmmmmm..........

    Tavistock? Hmmmm...........

    Keep up the speed. Hmmm.........


    Jorr

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    What I understand re Advaita philosophy is that...

    Beyond Oneness, or Monism, we are eternally individuals.

    Yes, there is Oneness, nonduality, but beyond this we are eternally individuals, each with our own distinct spiritual natures.

    Beyond the Bliss of merging in universal consciousness, is our true spiritual nature, all of us, individuals forever.

    Simultaneously one, yet different.

    Achintya beda beda tattva

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    Quote Posted by Lettherebelight (here)
    What I understand re Advaita philosophy is that...

    Beyond Oneness, or Monism, we are eternally individuals.

    Yes, there is Oneness, nonduality, but beyond this we are eternally individuals, each with our own distinct spiritual natures.

    Beyond the Bliss of merging in universal consciousness, is our true spiritual nature, all of us, individuals forever.

    Simultaneously one, yet different.

    Achintya beda beda tattva
    LTBL - thank you for your elegant summation of the Advaita path!

    The line "Yes, there is Oneness, nonduality, but beyond this we are eternally individuals, each with our own distinct spiritual natures" seems, from what I have read (I am not a student of this tradition), to be the element that is missing from the Neo-Advaita approach.

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    Quote Posted by jorr lundstrom (here)
    De-stressing? Hmmmmm.......

    Humour and fun? Hmmmmm..........

    Tavistock? Hmmmm...........

    Keep up the speed. Hmmm.........


    Jorr
    What an enigmatic post, Jorr! In the interests of clarity, could you please elaborate on what are trying to say here?
    As it stands, it sound rather like comments about a person, rather than insights into the issues raised in the OP...
    Last edited by Tarka the Duck; 1st March 2012 at 10:08.

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    Nobody likes labels, but we do label ourselves. We achieve this through our attitude.

    I do not know if there is the same in Advaita, but Buddhism there are nine vehicles, which can be divided into three plus one. I written about this before, but it is worth repeating here.

    There is the:
    Hinayana/Theravadan.
    Mahayana.
    Vajrayana.
    And Dzogchen/Mahamudra.

    To simplify, The Hinayana do not go near emotions. The Mahayana use antidotes to emotions.
    The Vajrayana see the emotions as wisdoms. Dzogchen/Mahamudra realise that the emotions never existed in the first place.

    It does not matter what you say you belong to, one's attitude reveals all. There are Theravadans who have a Vajra approach, there are Dzogchen practitioners who have a Theravada approach. I've met them.

    There are those who say nothing is real, but act as if everything is real! They might say, “You and I do not exist!” but spend much time arguing about it!

    This is not to condemn, it is important to know where you are, and how 'you' work. Which will be different from someone else. If one does not understand this, one will always talk at cross purposes, this is clearly seen on the forum. It's not wrong, it's just useful to know that we sometimes come from different points of view, that's all. The sad side of this, is that someone can take a different point of view as a personal attack. This is merely ego at work again!

    Oi, that will get me into trouble!!

    Understanding one's own temperament and attitude is very important, and precise. If one lumps a group all together, things can seem vague and confusing. I sometimes wonder if that is meant to happen!

    New age gurus, and even some old age gurus, can be very alluring, and unfortunately in 'some' countries seem 'awesome'! I once served a sandwich to a customer in Denver, who said, “That was awesome!” I replied, “No that was a cheese sandwich, mountains are awesome.” For some reason in the modern world we tend to exaggerate and personalise things. This usually manifests in saying 'something' is so wonderful and extraordinary, therefore, see how 'I' appreciate it.

    There are many seemingly wise old men who talk like an old wise uncle, they might even sound wise. But they are not enlightened, it is easy to talk the talk...I do it all the time, but I'm just an ordinary student.

    On retreats, there are always a handful of people that regard themselves as 'special'. But they display all the traits of self importance, and very little compassion. I've spent hours having to listen to them talk about themselves.

    There are supposed to be types of enlightenment. The Dharmakaya Buddhas, Sambhogakaya Buddhas and Nirmanakaya Buddhas. Nirmanakaya Buddhas manifest here on Earth for the benefit of 'all' sentient beings.

    Wishing you the best,
    Tony

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    Quote Posted by Tarka the Duck (here)
    Quote Posted by Lettherebelight (here)
    What I understand re Advaita philosophy is that...

    Beyond Oneness, or Monism, we are eternally individuals.

    Yes, there is Oneness, nonduality, but beyond this we are eternally individuals, each with our own distinct spiritual natures.

    Beyond the Bliss of merging in universal consciousness, is our true spiritual nature, all of us, individuals forever.

    Simultaneously one, yet different.

    Achintya beda beda tattva
    LTBL - thank you for your elegant summation of the Advaita path!

    The line "Yes, there is Oneness, nonduality, but beyond this we are eternally individuals, each with our own distinct spiritual natures" seems, from what I have read (I am not a student of this tradition), to be the element that is missing from the Neo-Advaita approach.
    As a very rough anology.
    The hands have a different function from the feet yet they are one with the body and work independently yet in harmony.
    The hands would not hurt the feet.
    I dont see that "Individual" awareness is absent.

    Scott Kiloby in essence says that. Form - formless both and neither are This.
    There is nothing which is not God.
    Advaita seems to acknowledge Oneness as being God yet in humility is aware of God/Creator at the highest level.
    Not understandable to the mind that wants definition in black or white.

    Chris
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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    Thanks Chris. Lovely words!

    As the Buddha taught in the Prajnaparamita:

    Here, Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form;
    emptiness does not differ from form;
    form does not differ from emptiness;
    whatever is form, that is emptiness;
    whatever is emptiness, that is form;
    the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.

    By understanding the 2 truths - absolute and relative - it is said that they merge into an indivisible union: ‘the non-dual wisdom of unity’.

    Can I ask you something? Do you personally feel that, in the Neo-Advaitan teaching, the importance of respecting relative truth is being denied?

    Thanks
    Kathie

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    Quote Posted by Tarka the Duck (here)
    Thanks Chris. Lovely words!

    As the Buddha taught in the Prajnaparamita:

    Here, Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form;
    emptiness does not differ from form;
    form does not differ from emptiness;
    whatever is form, that is emptiness;
    whatever is emptiness, that is form;
    the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.

    By understanding the 2 truths - absolute and relative - it is said that they merge into an indivisible union: ‘the non-dual wisdom of unity’.

    Can I ask you something? Do you personally feel that, in the Neo-Advaitan teaching, the importance of respecting relative truth is being denied?

    Thanks
    Kathie
    Some seem to some dont.
    Scott Kiloby ---- do a search here http://www.conscious.tv/
    Has a nice way of explaining what happened to him (non duality) his book goes in to further detail but in essence he says the illusion-- duality and non duality are all one and that it is a mistake to see non duality as separate--- all is one.
    Everything comes from Source which is what we are.
    Words dont do it--- thats as close as I can get.
    Scott went the traditional route, as did most Neo Advaita "people" the main difference is that when they gave up searching Nonduality happened.

    I dont claim to know, Im still in ignorance and I dont mind being wrong Lol.
    Chris
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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    I'd never heard of Scott Kiloby until you mentioned him just now (hardly surprising...I hadn't heard of Neo Advaita until yesterday!!). I've just had a quick look on his site, and the thing that leapt out at me was this:

    What is Scott's overall message?  It's the Middle Way.

    There is no mention that the Middle Way is actually a teaching that is 2500 years old...

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    Default Re: Advaita and Neo Advaita.

    the Prajnaparamita or heart sutra can so easily be misunderstood:

    Here, Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form;
    emptiness does not differ from form;
    form does not differ from emptiness;
    whatever is form, that is emptiness;
    whatever is emptiness, that is form;
    the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.


    It is showing the union of the two truths.
    The nature of everything is emptiness, but everything can arise in emptiness.
    One is there be virtue of the other.
    It does not mean that nothing exists, they exist in relative terms.
    That is the middle way.

    Respect for the relative is very important.

    That is why compassion is so important!!!!
    Last edited by Tony; 1st March 2012 at 10:52.

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