[Advaita-l] Interesting URL

Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (GE Infra, Water) vidyasankar.sundaresan at ge.com
Tue May 13 15:21:42 CDT 2008

Okay, let's step back a bit and clarify what we all mean.

In the URL I posted, Alan Jacobs is using the term neo-
Advaitato refer to a certain group of people. This group of
people, by the way, is not one with a cohesive group
identity, but is merely a convenient classification of
certain individuals who share certain traits.

However, the term neo-Advaita or neo-Vedanta has been
used, primarily in academia, to refer to the thought of
some key teachers of Vedanta, starting conveniently with
Swami Vivekananda (in a historical sense). Non-Sannyasi
thinkers like S. Radhakrishnan, Mysore Hiriyanna and
others are also typically included in this classification of
neo-Vedanta. Among the Sannyasis, both Ramakrishnan
and I have mentioned the names of Swami Sivananda
(of Divine Life Society) and Swami Chinmayananda (of
the Chinmaya Mission). I also mentioned Swami Dayananda,
who is by the way, a contemporary teacher (Arsha Vidya
Gurukulam), not the Swami Dayananda of the Arya Samaj.

I don't think anyone labels Swami Dayananda (the founder
of the Arya Samaj), or Aurobindo, or Raja Rammohun Roy
as belonging to the neo-Vedantic trend of thought. I suppose
this is because these thinkers represented themselves as
presenting new and different ways of thinking.

Before going back to the people whom Jacobs criticizes, let
me just say that in the final analysis, I agree with what Rama
has already posted with respect to authors like Swami
Vivekananda and others. For most members of this list, no
matter how steeped in the tradition our families were, our first
introduction to Vedanta thought has been through their English
language writings. On a philosophical level, I recognize that
their audiences, motivations and backgrounds were not the
same as those of the classical Sanskritic tradition, but that
does not mean I dismiss their contributions and insights. I
would be untrue to my own audience, motivations and
Background, if I were to do so. Sure, I would translate some
things differently and I would not write an apologetic, but that is
because I live and write a hundred years after their times.

Let me also add that, given India's history and the way its society
is changing, the formally appointed Sankaracharyas of tomorrow
are all going to be men who have been schooled not only in the
Sanskritic legacy but also in the English language and they are
going to greatly esteem those who are called neo-Vedantins today!
In fact, I would say that the Sankaracharyas of today already do
esteem the neo-Vedantins much more than one would think.

As this response is already getting to be too long, I will address
other issues in a separate post.


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