Flaws of Modern Vedanta and Advaita
by Jai Maha Dev
There is a big problem with Advaita (the understanding of Non-duality) as it is espoused today, and the problem is this: the big fat ego. Many (most) of those who embrace Advaita and Vedanta as described by Shankarcharya are hopelessly imprisoned in their subtle ego without knowing it. This subtle ego is all over the place and that’s why it is described as ‘big and fat.’ It is all over the place because a neo-vedantist and neo-advaitist mistake their own presumably limitless self-consciousness as the Supreme Consciousness; they mistake their own unique self as the Supreme Self; they ignorantly assert that their own state of being one without a second is that Supreme Self which is One Without a Second.
Each and every one of us is one without a second. There is no doubt about this. Even the most ignorant person in the world knows that he or she has no duplicate. This non-duality of consciousness is self-evident to everyone. However, the more ignorant we are of our real nature, the more confined is our consciousness. The consciousness of a fly, for example, is more restrictive than that of a dog. ‘Consciousness’ here, in this case, refers to its manifestation in the mind. Really what is restrictive is the mind, and what is restricted is the expression (experience) of consciousness.
Knowledge of our real nature (the nature of Consciousness) can cause the expansion of our awareness; this means knowledge of our true Self (as limitless consciousness) opens the mind up to new insights and perceptions. We become aware of ourselves as being beyond the body and mind. It gives us the skill to objectify our body and mind.
This knowledge of our real nature is embodied in the Vedas, and the essence of Vedic knowledge is often referred to as Vedanta, which includes the exposition of that quality or characteristic (of ultimate Reality) known as non-duality (Advaita). A modern Vedantin and Advaitist assert that each of us is, in essence, the non-dual Self. This is absolutely TRUE. In essence, we are ATMAN, and the human condition is a state or phase of Jivatman (the embodied Self), which is the manifestation of ATMAN.
neo-vedantists assert that all there is is ATMAN and that everything
else is an illusion. This statement
is also TRUE, provided one understands the distinction between ATMAN
and PARAMATMAN. Paramatman is NEVER embodied (there is no such thing
as Jivaparamatman). In the scriptures, the term ATMAN is frequently
used interchangeably for both Atman and Paramatman, but this does not
negate the distinction between the two. Clearly, every one of us is
a unique being (one without a second).
Each of us is an immortal soul.
We were never born (created), nor will we ever be destroyed. However, we do take on a body/mind/ego and through
these instruments we interact with the world of matter, and with one
another. We do become ignorant (forgetful of our real nature) in our mind,
and we do suffer pain and
experience pleasure through the body (and mind).
We do identify with this mind and body
through our ego. Ultimately,
if we strive for it, we do
become enlightened and our
ignorance is removed, and when our
ego is completely consumed in the fire of Wisdom or drowned in the
The Supreme Self NEVER takes on a body/mind/ego. The Supreme Self pervades everything and everyone (both Prakriti and all of us: the innumerable Souls). The Supreme Self NEVER becomes ignorant (NOT EVEN IN A DREAM OR IN AN ILLUSION OF MAYA) because the Supreme Self has no mind, no body, and no ego: EVER. The Supreme Self has NEVER strived to remove its ignorance and become enlightened BECAUSE the Supreme Self has NEVER been subjected to ignorance. THIS IS ADVAITA. THIS IS NON-DUALITY.
one of us (including
We are always pervaded by the Supreme Self, regardless whether we are embodied or not. But it is only when we have removed our ignorance from our mind that we realize our real nature (higher nature) as ATMAN (limitless consciousness). By intense TAPAS in the form of consuming our own Self in the fire of Wisdom, Service, and Devotion, only then are we completely freed from every element of ego and ignorance (Avidya), and only then do we stand established in our Real Self (ATMAN) manifesting the Union of the Self with the Supreme Self.
Unfortunately, many (most) practitioners of Vedanta and expounders of Advaita never completely expel their ego because they have fallen into a mistaken understanding of the Self. Their experiences of limitless consciousness (even if more than cerebral) are still limited by the presence of subtle ego, which they generally make no effort to remove (since either they don’t recognize it or they claim to ignore it since they believe they themselves are GOD and are therefore beyond any need to remove it).
Those whose intelligence is colored with the mistaken notion of Advaita (that is, who misunderstand the true meaning of Advaita), have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. First of all, the knowledge of oneself as Consciousness Itself greatly empowers one to objectify the human experience and become free from a great deal of pain and suffering (not to mention the many, many ‘spiritual’ experiences one is bound to have as one frees one’s self from the mistaken notion that one is a body, mind, or person). However, unless one is exceptionally focused and humble, one will not acknowledge one’s own inherent limitation: you are a Soul, you are not GOD. You are an immortal soul, and in essence (free from Ignorance in your mind and established in your own Self), you are already FREE, BUT YOU ARE NOT GOD.
Any modern Vedantin will refuse to even consider the truths espoused here; only an enlightened Vedantin (free from bias) will consider them. The true meaning of the Vedas, and the correct interpretation of Vedanta and Advaita can be found in the teachings of all the great Rishis (sages) since the beginning of the Creation. Unfortunately, many of these teachings (in the Smriti texts) have been interpolated and misconstrued. Even very famous Swamis and Acharayas, though highly evolved, have still missed the mark, even though they may have left their own mark. Fortunately, our own ATMAN remains spotless and is not subject to modification or adulteration. We can also look into our own soul to find the Truth, because that Truth is the Supreme Self that never leaves us.
We should be guided by our own experience, our intelligence, the influence of the noble, the teachings of the Wise, and the Wisdom of the Absolute. If we find inconsistencies, we should dig deeper for the Truth. If we are complacent and comply just because that satisfies our ego and images, then we will never know the Truth.