[Advaita-l] Interesting URL

Gerald Penn gpenn at cs.toronto.edu
Mon May 12 16:35:17 CDT 2008

> I certainly did not think I'd hit a raw nerve with my short note about

"Place the last straw" is probably more apt.  The use of this term is
hardly new on this list, and I've been following it for several years
now with growing dissatisfaction.

> I think you will find that what you are referring to is not usually 
> called "Neo-Vedanta" or more generally "Neo-Hinduism" - a term coined by 
> academia in the West to describe the thought of primarily Swami 
> Vivekananda and secondarily, a few others who came after him (e.g. Swami 
> Sivananda, Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Dayananda). Whatever academic

See my earlier reply to Rama.  Sw. Vivekananda was undeniably influenced
by neo-vedantic thinking, as was Swami Dayananda, although my impression
is that this just happened to be what was flying around in
pre-independence-Indian intellectual circles, not any sort of
traditional commitment that had been passed down to them by their
preceptors, nor an original variation on traditional vedantic thought that
they were attempting to overtly assert by formal philosophical arguments.
   The term, as used by Western academics, applies to a whole set of Indian
philosophers and academics, none of whom were sannyasis, to my knowledge.
They attended academic conferences, they wrote for academic audiences, and
they used Western philosophical terminology and arguments.  And yes, it is
called "neo-Hinduism," "neo-vedanta" or "neo-advaita" by Western 
academics - most commonly "neo-vedanta," in my experience.

> The article does make it clear that he is referring to an 
> entirely different group of people from those that academia has come to 
> call neo-Vedantins.

Actually, I've re-read the article a couple of times now, and I still
don't see any attempt to disabuse me of this reading.  In fact, there 
is no mention of academics, and the word 'philosophy' only occurs twice, 
both times in the second paragraph in reference to "the Great Philosophy," 
whatever that is.  So either he happened to come up with "neo-advaita" 
all on his own - which I doubt - or it's a mistaken reference to this

> Oh, there is no racial/nationalistic prejudice at all.

Vidyasankar, I always read your posts to this list with a great
deal of interest.  I've read your website, and I think it's outstanding.
You're obviously a very intelligent person, and a very sincere seeker.
So I'm going to ask you a question, and I know that you're going to
answer me truthfully.  Here are some excerpts from the Jacobs article you
posted the link to:

- "In this watering down of the essential truths in a palatable style made 
acceptable and attractive to the contemporary western mind, their teaching 
is misleading."
- "why is it so attractive to mostly young contemporary Westerners, that 
they are content to by-pass Self Enquiry, Devotion and the Surrender of 
the 'false self' or 'ego' to the Real Self or God, and so hand over all 
the cares and responsibilities of their lives, with great faith, before 
entering the spiritual life?"
- "It is then easy for the radically sceptical Western mind to accept this 
lazy way in our micro wave culture of wanting instant gratification now"
- "Hedonism, without pain, dominates Western culture, religious values are 
at a low ebb, and a humanistic teaching is much more appealing."

Do you sincerely believe that this guy has no axe to grind with Western
culture?  How exactly is this not ethnocentric prejudice?  Now perhaps 
when you posted this, you weren't endorsing the entire article, but only 
parts of it, or perhaps when you first read the article, you simply didn't 
notice these other parts.  But I can assure you, as a person of European
descent, born and raised in the United States, that Western thought has
never and does not now revolve around watered-down truths, hedonism and
laziness.  And religious values, at least of the Christian variety, are
still very much a part of Western culture, thought and law.
   I'll grant that that this is possibly just my perception because I'm no
longer young enough to count as young, possibly not even as contemporary,
or perhaps because my parents didn't buy a microwave until I was much
older.  Five years of post-graduate study in philosophy hasn't helped
either.  Nevertheless, inextricably bound as I am by the knots of my 
Western indoctrination, I am forced to conclude that Mr. Jacobs's
self-loathing is not the product of a serious study of Western culture.
I can only hope that his study of Vedanta has surpassed it.


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