Advaita Vision


Advaita for the 21st Century

Questions and Answers
Dennis Waite

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How to Meet Yourself cover   The Book of One cover  Back to the Truth cover  Enlightenment: the path through the jungle

Read extracts from and purchase my books: For beginners to Advaita - 'How to Meet Yourself (and find true happiness);
For intermediate Advaita students - 'The Book of One';
For advanced students - 'Back to the Truth: 5000 Years of Advaita'.
For a comparison of teaching methods in advaita - 'Enlightenment: the Path through the Jungle' .

The last rug

Q. I have been busy reading your question and answer section and the discourses on traditional and neo-advaita. Also, I have again read The Book of One and Enlightenment: The Path through the Jungle.

The arguments in the discourses remind me of the differences that arise with every teaching, religion and belief system. It's a shame because both sides of the issue seem valid. I for one have not studied traditional advaita but instantly recognised what the neo-advaita were saying from my own position. I also recognised what many 'teachers' like Alan Watts, Osho, J. Krishnamurti, Eckhart Tolle and traditional advaita were saying. Even U. G. Krishnamurti says the same thing - in a ridiculously inflammatory way. What all these individuals and teachings spoke of simply confirmed what I knew. I found it interesting and useful to see my understanding described in words. They all used varying concepts but it all added up to the same thing. And, as you pointed out in Enlightenment, they all seem to have had a background of interest in these matters, association with various teachings, masters and so on.

I was interested to read your answer to the question (39) of your own awakening. You described it as lasting several decades leading to advaita. I think it is inevitable that any serious 'seeker' would end up on the shores of an advaita-type outcome. It remains in the realm of the psychological and perhaps cultural make-up of the 'seeker' whether he/she gravitates toward a traditional explanation or a non-traditional one. As is evident, I do not deny the 'reality' of a 'person' - although it is obvious that we are ultimately not the body/mind, etc.

Neo-advaita may be what some people need to 'pull the last rug of the mind/body bastion from under their feet.' Others, as you say, not having any preparation need a structure.

Lastly I would say, there are many, many people who are very happy to be only interested in everyday living, or stay in the confines of their cultural beliefs and others who prefer to believe in creators, angels, aliens, etc. Apart from a 'New Age' type of romanticism about 'we are all one', they would probably never approach advaita. It may be that the advaita arguments are all 'preaching to the converted'.

A. I would define a serious seeker as someone who has genuinely decided that life is never going to provide the answer; i.e. not someone who is suffering a temporary psychological setback and is still effectively grounded in the appearance.

I don�t disagree with anything you say really except to emphasize that, for the relative newcomer to serious seeking, traditional advaita provides a clear progression which will eventually lead that seeker to realization. Neo-advaita (as discussed extensively on the site) does not and, for this relative newcomer, is only likely to lead to confusion.

Unfortunately, what you say about everyday living and New Age romanticism is definitely true. The vast majority of authors on the list of my own publisher write books in these categories, communicating with the dead, magic crystals, palmistry etc. � and their books probably sell far better than my own! And you actually find those sorts of book in the high street bookstore, whereas you never find books on advaita (apart from Eckhart Tolle, of course � thanks to Oprah Winfrey! � and his are not exactly traditional advaita).


Q. I have been getting advice from a certain teacher (not as a guru-disciple), who said one should be careful about choosing a teacher because there are so many false teachers these days and that one should Google for scandals around the teacher and check blogs that talk about him/her.

If you were a seeker and found some very negative comments about the teacher who advised this (written by someone who knew him for two years), would you ask him/her about it if you wanted to study under his/her tutelage? Are there really no codes of behavior that a teacher should be held to? Besides Swami Dayananda, who else do you hold in high regard?

A. The problem is that you will often find bad reports about someone if you go looking for them! It is certainly true that there are teachers around who take advantage of seekers, usually in order to make money but sometimes in other ways too. And it is difficult to know what to believe. If you ask someone's opinion, all that you will get is an opinion, coming with no guarantee of truth. This includes opinions given by teachers!

If the opinion is given by someone that you know and trust and that person says that they have justification for their view, then it is reasonable to accept that opinion. If you find many negative opinions expressed on the Internet (say), then you are justified in being suspicious. Certainly you could ask the teacher in question to give their side of the story if you were considering long-term commitment.

But, regardless of all of this, any teacher is valuable to the extent that you learn something useful from them. You should know that someone may be a good teacher and be self-realized and still act in a way that you feel 'unbecoming'. This is possible when the person still needs further nididhyAsana in order to gain the 'fruits of their knowledge'.

From my own experience, I could recommend *any* teacher who studied for a long period with Swami Dayananda. Alternatively, it seems that the Chinmayananda organization is reliable. The only other organization that I can recommend is in Massachusetts, US.

If you want to ask a question, and do not object to its being included in this section, please email me.

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Page last updated: 10-Jul-2012