It seems that every other day another self-proclaimed ‘enlightened’ teacher of Neo-Advaita appears on the scene. These Neo-Advaita guru’s have reduced thousands of years of Advaita teachings into the spiritual equivalent of McDonald’s junk food. No longer is it necessary for the spiritual student to engage in self-inquiry or inner work on oneself. Now all that is necessary to ‘realize the Self’ is a constant repetitive denial of one’s own identity and the (pseudo) ‘understanding’ that the ego and all and everything else that happens in the universe (essence and belief systems included) is ‘simply an illusion’. Everything ‘just happens, there is no path, no cause’, so consequently there is absolutely nothing to do.
It’s really simple, just like it was for Shankara, Buddha, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta Maharaj, Rumi and the relatively few others who are generally agreed to have been enlightened.
What? Wait a minute, I don’t recall that it was easy for the above mentioned Masters. Didn’t they spend years, and sometimes entire lifetimes meditating, engaged in self-inquiry and inner work? Oh yeah, they did. And this is the problem that exists now, because the Neo-Avaita movement claims lineage from and history from Advaita, but advocates none of the work. In fact they continue to espouse that it is simply not necessary. Merde! (read more)
By Michael Lydon,
Realization Process® Certified Senior Practitioner
"There are many pathways to awakening that assume a ripening and maturing process in one's experience of realization. By analogy, you grow from a child (pre-awakening) into an adult (somewhere on the awakening continuum). The problem with neo-advaita teachings (the one's I've been exposed to) is that they maintain that it is an illusion to be a child in the first place.
This is because they make no effective distinction between the person who has gone through the ripening and maturing process, and the one who hasn't. They do this by taking an ontological stance that the self is unreal, and because it is unreal, it never actually existed, and thus does not exist now (even if, for the student, their self does feel real as an immediate experience of life and being). For this reason, the method of teaching is often a form of repeating or discursively arguing to students that they are simply under some illusion of a self that doesn't exist. And this is why I believe (and have experienced in my early 20s) that neoadvaita (and similar teachings) can be harmful to one's psychological development...
Unless a student is able to learn and practice a pathway of transformation that follows the mind-body system's own innate rules of ripening, what will happen is a form of counteracting, overriding, and bypassing. Any legitimate pathway, in my view, must acknowledge the experience and development of the self that is to be transformed. Without this premise - which many neoavaita teachings, so far as I can tell, do not grant - a student is left to believe that one or more of their most basic experiences of life and being are false, and they will then try to override these aspects of experience in a way that doesn't offer any real transformation - it is just an intellectually sophisticated form of denial.
All of this prompting from neoadvaita teachings that lead students to disbelieve their various self experiences are, in my view, practically not much different from the prompting of narcissistic parents - who convey that their children's needs, emotions, or other self-related qualities don't actually matter. People who get into nondual spirituality are often looking for something to resolve their personal suffering. By taking a hard stance of denial of self and self-qualities, neoadvaita teachings convey, in my view, the same types of messages that gave rise to this suffering to begin with, vs. actually providing a skillfull means as a way forward.
Also, there are plenty of folks who work as nondual or nonduality-informed therapists, the only difference is that they see nonduality in a developmental context. Also, the idea that there is "no free will" is a metaphysical statement that is still controversial even by scientific standards. If someone is a rape victim, it's both unkind and unhelpful to tell them that they were never raped because there's no one there to be raped, or to tell them that "there is no free will" - so that must have been the only way it could have happened. I'm not suggesting that the OP is recommending either of these responses to a rape victim, but in my experience (as someone who works as a nondual therapeutic practitioner), it's about helping that person resolve and heal the impact of that experience, and not about imposing some agenda of nondual metaphysics.
Anyway, the reason I really can't get behind the neoadvaita teachings I've been exposed to is because they begin with a closed logical circle that denies self, denies development, thus denying the need for practice; and in my view this can closely emulate the messages of narcissistic caregivers. From a teaching point of view, they seem to not acknowledge relationships, regardless of whether they are in healthy relationships themselves.
A lot of the neoadvaita teachings to me, read as implicitly dualistic, as they seem to be in their own type of shadow struggle with all of the self qualities that they are emphatically denying all the time, or they locate themselves as something unique and special - outside of or siloed from other areas of human psychological development - which they are not. The experience of nonduality *can* actually alleviate a great deal of suffering, though in my experience, ontologically denying the self that suffers is not the most skillful way or compassionate way forward."