[Advaita-l] Interesting URL

Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (GE Infra, Water) vidyasankar.sundaresan at ge.com
Mon May 19 17:36:04 CDT 2008

>There is a very interesting, essay on neo-vedanta,
>neo-advaita written by Shri James Shwartz.
>I am reproducing it here as there seems to have been
>considerable confusion, and I daresay angst, over the
>significance and use of these words in this forum.
>The article can also be found at
>I trust it helps shed some light on this subject. 

Thanks, Shyam, for posting that article. It says many of the
things I wanted to say, so I won't have to repeat them.

Earlier along in this thread, Gerald Penn had asked, re: Jacobs,

>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
>parts of it, or perhaps when you first read the article, you simply
>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,
>still very much a part of Western culture, thought and law. 

Without presuming to explain everything of what Jacobs meant, let me
say the following. I do not intend to pass any judgment on Western
or Western thought. In fact, I admire certain schools of Western thought
whole lot, while ruing the fact that much of it never seems to leave the
confines of academia.

I do have a lot of views (positive ones and misgivings) on how Indian
and thought get re-presented in the West, both by Indian emigrants and
Westerners. Among the Westerners again, I distinguish between those who
are rigorous thinkers and those who are merely latching on to some
sounding "Eastern thought" mish-mash. Among the last group, I find a
significant number of people who claim to have realized and to be
Advaita. I have problems only with this sub-set of a sub-set of people
in the
West and Jacobs's article indicated to me that he had similar

I do not think Jacobs intends to castigate all of Western culture. Even
if he
does, he is well within his rights to do so. After all, many social
of various disciplines do voice concerns about heightened levels of
consumerism, pop watering down of fundamental principles, the increasing
trend where TV images and sound-bites trounce serious discussion, ...
the list could go on. A number of Indians on this list do have major
about contemporary popular Indian culture also and often voice negative
Opinions about it. This should be evident from the statements made by
Posters in the ongoing threads on traditional advaita, neo-vedAnta etc.
does not mean that all of us loathe ourselves. And I would prefer to
give Jacobs
the benefit of the doubt when he makes his statements in a general

What I do agree with, a hundred percent, in his article, is the fact
that he is
grasping the bull by the horns, so to speak, when he finds fault with
those who
*claim* to be teaching advaita. Without naming names, let me just say
that this
trend definitely aims at presenting a modern yoga-studio style of what
mistakenly call advaita. Now, some of those yoga-studios are nothing
than gymnasiums, so even if someone who goes there gets nothing of yoga,
he or she will at least get a decent amount of physical exercise. On the
hand, the ones who claim to offer advaitic enlightenment through their
"empowered satsanghs" could be doing serious mental, moral, ethical and
spiritual harm to those who go to them. This is because they portray the
very arduous and rigorous path of self-enquiry as if it were the easiest
on earth. There is a pat response for every question that is asked,
which goes
somewhat like, "who is the one asking this question". They present a
menagerie of thoughts from Osho (Rajneesh), Jiddu Krishnamurti, Ramana
Maharishi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, etc and call all of this advaita. It is
group of people whom Jacobs is finding fault with and I can't help but
with his criticisms.

Best regards,

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