Advaita and Western Neo-Advaita
An article by Alan Jacobs
The mark of the true Guru is that peace, Love and Silence are palpably felt in his presence. What Neo Advaita gives in fact boils down to the seductive formula that “there is nothing you can do or need to do, all you have to know is that there is no one there”. That the mind is a bundle of thoughts and that there is no entity called 'me' is ancient Upanishadic teaching, and not a new revelation as some purport. Paradoxically, and for a reason difficult to explain, all of the leading International Neo-Advaita teachers have themselves engaged in spiritual practices of one kind or another, sometimes over a long period, yet they deny this necessity to their pupils.
The suggestion by the Neo-Advaitins that effort builds up the Ego giving it a sense of pride in its ability to meditate, etc. is only true in number of eccentric cases. In fact the effort of developing one pointedness leading to Self Enquiry in order to discover the source of the 'phantom me', the root of all thoughts and feelings , actually undermines this recalcitrant 'egotistical ghost'. Effort can give some modicum of necessary mind control, and one pointed attention. By sidelining Self Enquiry and treating it as an idea rather than a practice along with Devotion and the support practices for Self Enquiry, the student is left in a comfortable conceptual mental zone where it is stated cosily that 'there is nothing to do and nowhere to go'. One can park in this space forever, coming once a month and paying for another satsang, hoping Grace will descend.
In effect Neo Advaita gives the ego licence, without attenuation, to live on under the justification of a seductive, hedonistic argument.
The Neo Advaitin often says somewhat wryly that Awakening is very ordinary and nothing special. Obviously it will appear 'grey' if vasanas are still active. How can living in Sahaja Samahdi and from Absolute Consciousness with unconditional love, great peace and dynamic silence abounding, be called 'ordinary'? For the Neo-Advaitin teacher there is a process of cleverly intellectually deconstructing the 'sense of doership' or the 'false sense of me' or 'phantom ego' which can, if performed intensively, lead to an experience, usually temporary, that there is 'nobody there' and even making the sense of doership temporarily dysfunctional. This is then termed as 'an awakening has happened' or some such hyperbole and the aspirant rests content and may even develop a desire to teach the same technique to others.
The subtle part of the ego believes itself to be 'enlightened' but the vasanas are still active, so the awakening is conceptual, and possibly imagined, rather like the 'born again' experience in evangelical Christianity. No Jnani ever claims to be Enlightened. It remains for others to recognise his qualities. To say 'I am enlightened' is a contradiction, as the I which would make such an assertion is the 'I' which has to be destroyed before Enlightenment can happen. The Neo Advaita teacher is still talking from the mind in reflected Consciousness not from the 'no mind'. To claim to have awakened others' prematurely in this tentative way then becomes further proof of a teacher's ability. This builds up a false sense of expectation in the mind of the naive and gullible adherents that they may become awakened too, if they are lucky.
This then becomes a vocation, and in many cases a very successful means of earning a livelihood. Pupils gravitate to the teacher with this kind of agenda which confirms what he or she wants to believe, that no effort is needed. The result is that the Teacher, still living from the ordinary mind, with vasanas active, can never go back on the promise that he is 'awakened' and therefore forfeit the right to teach. That the vasanas have been accumulated and consolidated in previous 'life dreams' is not examined, and if raised, the teachings about 'samsara', 'maya', jiva, karma and re-birth are often considered too metaphysical to explain or grasp. They are invariably dismissed as old superstitions. Teaching from the 'no mindstate' or 'silence of the Sage' can never happen while the powerful vasanas are active. They have to die down and become harmless, and this means self-enquiry and surrender, until the mind, through Grace, when the Real Self recognises the Jiva with a one pointed mind, has fully turned inwards. The nervous system has been prepared and The Self then draws the mind into the fully opened Heart. This is Self Realisation.
However, Neo-Advaita, no matter how faulty and incomplete, has a distinct advantage. It can serve as an introduction to the true Advaita Teaching. Flawed as Neo-Advaita may be, it undermines 'the phantom ego' intellectually at least, after several 'satsangs'. At its best it is a partial surrender, but without full devotional content and therefore cannot lead to total surrender when the mental occlusion is absorbed in the Heart.
http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/tr ... jacobs.htm