Nisargadatta & Neo-Advaita

S:  Why are the proponents of Neo-Advaita so opposed to the teachings of “traditional” Advaita, i.e., those of Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj?

Vishnu: Probably because many modern Advaita Vedanta teachers make it their business to go out of their way to criticize Neo-Advaita (a term created by Advaita Vedantins, not “Neo-Advaitins themselves), as if they fancied themselves to be the great Shankaracharya, riding into philosophical battle to maintain the purity of the so-called tradition.

As a note, Nisargadatta Maharaj, while highly respected by Advaita Vedantins, is not considered to be “traditional” Vedanta, whatever “traditional” may mean (Vedantins can’t seem to agree, although what usually passes for “traditional” Vedanta these days is Vedanta as taught by Swami Dayananda and his disciples). The reason Nisargadatta isn’t considered “traditional” in this sense is that he doesn’t unfold the teaching in a systematic way, using the scriptures of Vedanta (Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutra and later works derived from these three such as Upadesha Sahasri) as the framework for his teaching. Nor does he use the method of self-inquriy (atma vichara) contained in those scriptures, which was further developed by teachers such as Shankara.

Nisargadatta, at least in my experience, is actually championed by many so-called “Neo-Advatins.” So as far as I know, most of them are not opposed to his teachings at all.

S:  Thank you for your answer. I have attended meetings with some of the more well known Non-Duality teachers and asked them the same question. None of them gave any credence to the older teachings and practices, even pronouncing outright that to follow them would be completely useless as they miss the point entirely. I asked JN, for example, if his “liberation” was not identical to Nisagardatta’s.  Surely they can’t be separate? He thought my question ridiculous and became visibly irritated by it. The more modern non duality teachers will stress over and over again the uselessness of spiritual practice as a means to enlightenment. You could liken it to the old story of a zen master burning a wooden Buddha to keep warm, but I can’t help feeling that to throw aside the older teachings of Advaita is both arrogant and futile.

V:   You’re welcome S. While I can’t say that Advaita Vedanta is the only way to directly realize the truth of non-duality, it is certainly a very good, time-tested way that worked for me. My teachers always met me exactly where I was at and never dismissed or ridiculed my questions.

Steady Wisdom: Day 31

Steady Wisdom: 108 Verses On Changing My Thinking

DAY 31

I am other than the body so there is no birth, death, or decrepitude for me.  The senses do not belong to me so I am uninvolved with, and unaffected by, the objects of the senses such as sound etc. 
-Atma Bodha V.33
Meditation

The body is a temporary form that arises in me, pure being, like the form of a pot arising from clay.  Just as clay is present and unaffected before, during and after the arising of the pot, so am I present and unaffected before, during and after the arising of the body.  Therefore, there is no birth, death or decrepitude for me. 

The senses are temporary forms that appear in me, pure consciousness, like waves arising from water.  Just as a wave cannot belong to water because a wave is nothing separate or different from water, the senses cannot belong to me because they are nothing separate or different from me, pure consciousness.  Just as water is unaffected (fundamentally unchanged) by a wave, so am I unaffected by the senses and their objects. 

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Steady Wisdom: Day 20

Steady Wisdom: 108 Verses On Changing My Thinking

DAY 20

I am immutable and indivisible.  For me there is no action or inaction, no bondage or liberation.
– Ashtavakra Samhita 20:12
Meditation

Action and inaction depend on the division between the doer and the action itself.  But I am indivisible–there is no action or inaction for me.  Bondage and liberation depend on a change from one state to the next.  But I immutable–there is no bondage or liberation for me.  I am the non-dual, action-less and changeless self. OM.    

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Steady Wisdom: Day 17

Steady Wisdom: 108 Days of Changing My Thinking

DAY 18

That which has form is impermanent and unreal. I am formless, permanent and real. Knowing this, I am freed from death and rebirth.
– Ashtavakra Samhita 1:18
Meditation

The definition of real is: permanent and unchanging.  For how could something be real if it is here one moment and gone the next?  How could something be real if it is one thing one moment and something else the next?  By that definition, the body and mind cannot be real.  They are mere forms, continuously changing transient objects that are known to me.  Being unreal, they cannot be me.  Being known to me, they cannot be me.  Only the body and mind are subject to death and rebirth.  Knowing that I cannot be the body and mind, I recognize that I always have and always will be free from death and rebirth.  OM.  

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Steady Wisdom: Day 11

Steady Wisdom: 108 Days of Changing My Thinking

DAY 11

I am not limited by the body, senses, or intellect. Good and bad karma do not affect me in the least. Old age and death, hunger and thirst, grief and delusion do not touch me. I am none other than pure consciousness, the ever-free.
– Sarva Vedanta Siddhanta Sara Sangraha V.841
Meditation

I am pure consciousness. The body, senses and intellect are known to me so they cannot be me—nor can they limit me. Good and bad karma, old age and death pertain to the body—they do no pertain to me, pure consciousness. Hunger and thirst belong to the senses—they do not belong to me, pure consciousness. Grief and delusion affect the intellect—they do not affect me, pure consciousness. I am untouched by them all. I am ever-free. OM.

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