In this essay you will learn about the traditional Advaita Vedanta, the modern Vedanta, and the trap and dangers of the neo-Advaita approach.
This article not only offers a balanced criticism of neo-Advaita, but also presents guidelines for us to navigate the non-dual spiritual life more safely.
Of the several non-dual spiritual traditions, Advaita Vedanta is the oldest. It is based on the teachings of the Upanishads (the oldest of which, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, dates from 900 BCE), the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. Its most famous historical exponent was Adi Shankara, who in the 7th century revived Hinduism in a Buddhism-dominated India, winning over several opponents in debate.
In the last 200 years, with the cross-fertilization between East and West, Advaita Vedanta got modernized, and there was also a new movement that derived from it, called neo-Advaita by scholars. In this article I will explore the differences between traditional, modern, and neo-Advaita; I will also discuss the problems with this latter movement, and propose solutions to integrate it into a more wholesome yet contemporarily relevant form of Nondual Spirituality. While the philosophical framework has remained basically intact all along, the approach to practice and enlightenment underwent radical changes.
If you are interested in Nondual Spirituality, especially Hindu based, this article will give you an overview of the traditional, modern, and post-modern views on practice and Realization/Enlightenment. While writing this article, I tried to build things from the ground up. Yet it ended up being a bit dense, so it’s not the type of article most beginners in spirituality would appreciate.
Just as Yoga has undergone many distortions in the West, which has reduced it largely to a physical asana practice, so too Advaita is often getting reduced to an instant enlightenment fad, to another system of personal empowerment or to another type of pop psychology. – David Frawley