Sunday, September 6, 2009


There is a big rift between Traditional Advaita Vedanta and what has been called "neo" Advaita. The difference is that so-called "neo" Advaita starts with direct Reality - it starts with the "end", so to speak. And realization is that Reality is the present lack of an individual, therefore THIS is it, already. There is no one to do anything because THIS is already IT. Seeking it only assumes the presence of a seeker and something to find.

Traditional Vedanta starts with the seeker, it starts with the idea of an individual who is seeking, and attempts to, using knowledge and logic, questioning what we take as Reality, and leading to the realization that THIS is it. Of course once it is seen that THIS is it and there is no individual, it's the exact SAME realization.

We'll use two opposing viewpoints, one from each "tradition". The first is Jeff Foster, to some one of the "heads" of the "neo-Advaita" movement. Jeff doesn't proclaim himself to be a "teacher" - he doesn't live in an ashram, he takes the bus, lives a normal life. But he's unmistakably clear.

Jeff says "Nonduality (Advaita) means "Not Two". It points to the Oneness at the Heart of all things.

But it's not a "state" to be reached, not something that some individuals "have" and others don't. It's more like awakening from a dream, and realising, with crystal clarity, that it was only ever a dream. It's like being a newborn baby again. Present. Open. Uncontaminated. Seeing with fresh eyes. Seeing for the first time. It's not an intellectual understanding. It's not contained in words or systems of thought. It's your True Nature. And you don't need to do anything to see your True Nature, because you already are It. Fully.

Still, seeking for It may happen. And for the dream character, all that apparently needs to happen, is for the seeking to end, once and for all. And to the dream character, nonduality teachings may appear to be helpful. Until the seeking ends, that is, and the dream teachings dissolve, and with great Laughter, and great Lightness, the dream character dissolves with them. And then it's all over, and there is only ever THIS, and nobody to know it.

Radical nonduality is radical freedom."

The other viewpoint is from Swami Dayananda Saraswati - a traditional "teacher" of Vedanta, living in an ashram, dressing in robes and beards. Swami Dayananda is one of the clearest expressions of nonduality or Advaita Vedanta, although he would be targeted, by so-called "neo"-advaita, as the epitome of the false and progressive path-based teachings. Yet he is equally clear.

"When are you not self-evident? Tell me—when? It is because you are self-evident that you don't need to become self-evident at any time. All my experiences are because of my self-evidence. Therefore, the Self is already experienced—that's what I say. Self is experienced as the ultimate content of every experience. I say, in fact, that our very experience is the Self.

In all experiences, therefore, what is invariably present is consciousness, and no object is independent of that. And consciousness is not dependent on and has none of the attributes of any particular object. Consciousness is consciousness, and while it is in everything, it transcends everything. That's why I say: this is advaita, this is nondual, this is Brahman, this is limitless; timewise it is limitless, spacewise it is limitless. And therefore it is Brahman, and therefore you are everything already. This is the teaching, and what it means is that I need not wait for any experience because every experience is Brahman, every experience is limitless."

The pointing is exactly the same, although it's dressed up differently, expressed somewhat differently. But the mind takes the messenger and throws out the message. The ultimate message is that THIS is IT. Whatever THIS IS, is it. THIS is Reality. THIS is Brahman, to quote the Swami. THIS is Oneness, to quote Jeff.


  1. Hello Randall. I think we want to consider that Swami takes as his starting point the pramana of the scriptures. Although he uses the phrase, "that's what I say", he is not speaking from so-called direct experience (or non-experience). Reality is not an experience. Reality is. This leaves us with a question: What is Jeff's pramana (valid means of knowledge)? Namskarams

  2. Nathan,

    Hello again my friend. Good to hear from you.

    Yes, Swami Dayananda is extremely clear. Many so-called teachers today discount and sometimes completely criticize the traditional Advaita approach and the teachers like the Swami. It's unfortunate because that approach is often the better approach, especially for those who are overly analytical. Swami Dayananda and the approach of starting with the pramana of the scriptures is just as valid as any other method of so-called "pointing out" of reality.

    The point of this blog is to point out the similarity of expressions across all so-called traditions. There will be a strong emphasis on the traditional Vedanta through those like Swami Dayananda, as well as the core of the message from those like Jeff.

    If you have examples of teachers and expressions which may help to contribute to this, they will be very welcome.

    love to you

  3. Hello Randall. Your premise is excellent.

    I appreciate that you are including the traditional Vedanta approach, which starts with the pramana of the scriptures--although I do not agree that any other method is necessarily just as valid. Methods that do not derive from the authoritative basis of the scriptures are considered to be nastika (heterodox). Nastika does not always mean false or invaluable; it simply means we can not have confidence in the approach until we see the fruits of it.

    Traditional Advaita uses proven methods which have enlightened many. Also, these methods have frequently helped to bring out jnana phalam (the fruits of wisdom). Is Neo-advaita similarly beneficial?

    For my list of recommended Vedanta teachers, etc. see the links under "recommended sources" on You may also like to look at Dr. Harsh K. Luthar's massive site

    I look forward to seeing how this blog will take shape. Let me know if I can be of any help.


  4. Life, the appearance, or whatever we're calling it today, is often full of surprises. It has the most marvelous, unpredictable twists and turns. The "fruits of wisdom" often become available in life-stories of struggle, suffering and redemption. Life, just as it is presented, in its ultimate unpredictability, will often carry with it intrinsically the practices that bear the fruits of wisdom; self-questioning, clearing house, accepting what is without needing to change it or run away from it, to name a few. "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,/Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." This phrase conveys the multifariousness, the infinite possibility of what is. Even a grounded common sense informs us that we often don't know what is "good" for us, or how any particular circumstance will turn out; anything might happen. And does. Including enlightenment, or whatever we're calling it today, "happening" for a devoted traditional practitioner, or WHAMMO! It hits out of the blue to someone who was never even a spiritual seeker. There is room for it all. There must be; it all is.