The perils and pitfalls of Neo-Advaita
Q. There appear to be an increasing number of Neo-Advaitin teachers, satsang leaders, spokespersons, etc., in the world today. Would you outline the perils and pitfalls of the strictly Neo-Advaitin position?
A. The fact of the matter seems to be that most of those in the West (and increasingly in India, too) who feel that there must be more than the outward appearance of things do not want to make the effort to convince themselves that this really is so. They want the �instant gratification� that society has taught them to expect in other areas. They certainly do not want to hear that they must embark upon a prolonged course of learning self-control, discipline, discrimination, compassion etc. and then possibly many years of listening to a teacher, asking questions, reflecting, meditating etc. Any attempt to convince them of this is usually rejected out of hand as too much of a threat to their predispositions.
Is Advaita a cure for life?
Q. What do you think about the fact that many people (e.g. the aboriginals in Australia) have never even heard about nonduality and enlightenment; maybe they don't suffer from the dual thinking problem of the mind (although most of them generally create a God who is different from their �selves� or their communities). The same holds for the early years of a child: it experiences likes and dislikes where the thinking process is not yet linked to a central I-reference point. Is all this just a matter of programming/education?
A. I�m afraid I don�t know anything about the beliefs of other cultures, and our interpretations of the thought processes of young children can only ever be speculative. You can postulate whatever beliefs you feel happy with to account for empirical reality. In the end, though, you have to come to come to terms with the fact that, from the absolute standpoint, there has never been any creation, no one has ever been born, etc.
Q. I started reading Oneness by John Greven. Your comment on his book was the catalyst for my asking the question: �The description of how the ego-sense arises in early childhood and subsequently deludes us as to our true identity is particularly good.�
What I meant is that Advaita only serves the purpose of being a cure: for people with a different education (e.g. the aboriginals) or small children (before their ego-sense arises) it is possible to live in a nondual manner, so that they don't need an Advaita or nondual approach to be cured. Or would you say like Professor Subhash Kak, in his The Gods Within, that the two sides of the brain mirror the split between subject and object. In which case, every human being would be born with the disease of dual vision (the exile from paradise).
A. I don�t accept that *any* aspects of empirical life can be nondual. All perception, thought and action are necessarily dualistic � how can anyone live without these? The purpose of Advaita is not to �cure� them so that they can �live in a nondual manner�, it is to enable them to realize that, despite the continuing, empirical duality of life, the nature of absolute reality is nondual. Thus, they can appreciate that life is only a seeming reality; that who-they-really-are is that nondual reality, and that the world is only a seeming manifestation of that same reality. Dual vision is not a �disease� of humanity, it is intrinsic � a sine qua non.
Q. What do you call �reality�? I see no difference between a seeming reality (I versus creation) and a nondual reality (I am creation). And what is the impact or benefit of realizing the nondual reality?
A. Reality is that which never changes; that which is the only existent, conscious �thing�, which lacks nothing and is limitless. Every, seeming �thing� in creation is, on the other hand, transient and limited. The benefit of the realization is the knowledge that *I* am that reality, and consequently need have no fear of any sort, knowing that I am perfect, complete and unlimited.
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