[Advaita-l] Interesting URL

Gerald Penn gpenn at cs.toronto.edu
Mon May 12 15:25:30 CDT 2008

> As far as I know, the Western academic Paul Hacker used the term
> "Neo-Hinduism", see "Philology and Confrontation", edited by Halbfass.
> Some academics started using the allied term Neo-vedanta to modern
> masters such as Vivekananda, et. al, who claimed to be advaitins, but
> who THEY felt were not true to "actual vedanta".
> The problem which at least Vidyasankar and I have with what we
> sometimes called "neo-vedanta" has nothing to do with Western or
> Eastern teachers, or with Western academic notions.

Then it isn't neo-vedanta/advaita.  I can disagree with the Neo-vedantins
without accusing them of being confused megalomaniacs who force their
students to drink poisoned kool-aid.  That doesn't seem like too much
to ask for.  This is a serious philosophical school, by the way.  They
may be at odds with traditional advaita, but the works of these people
are well worth reading, IMHO.
   In fact, ignoring the traditional referents of these terms for the
moment, I'm not sure that "neo-advaita" in Mr. Jacob's use even has a
denotation.  There's an interesting paragraph near the end of his essay, 
in which he demures on the question of whether his remarks apply in their
entirety to any single teacher, insisting nevertheless that the basic idea
of his remarks is "generally applicable."  Have another look at this 
essay - there's as much cultural subtext here as factual objection, if not 

> Some academics started using the allied term Neo-vedanta to modern
> masters such as Vivekananda...
> The teachers who are classified as neo-vedantins by
> Western academics - Sivananda, Chinmayananda, etc., actually emphasize

Try Kokileshvar Bhattacharya.  Sw. Vivekananda, maybe.  Sw. Sivananda,
actually, no, I don't believe so.  He wrote in English at the beginning
of the 20th century, but to my knowledge the similarity ends there.
Actually, it's interesting that you should bring this up, because writing
in English to the acclaim of Western audiences seems to be enough on
this list to qualify as a "neo-advaitin" under the careless/disparaging
use of that term.  Sw. Chinmayananda I know a great deal less about.

> But rest assured, I doubt if any Indians here
> think Westerners are not qualified to be advaitins! Re: the
> brahma-sUtra itself admits people outside the four-fold varNa system
> are qualified.

This is somewhat unrelated, but as a matter of fact, it's unclear to
me that Westerners (as an intension) necessarily fall outside the
four-fold varNa system.  I have yet to find a Hindu scriptural authority
to attest to that.  Do you know of one?


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