Who are the pseudo-advaitins referred to by Shringeri Acharya? Does Adi Shankara state characteristics of true advaitins?


Thanks to Rickross and Partha for their answers. You are not wrong. But this question is significant even in Advaita circles and deserves a level of detail which neither have covered.

Advaita, during the course of time, has been morphed in to a confused, hodge podge of philosophical diversions.

In the same book quoted in the question, on page 604, the acharya says:

They will do well to bear in mind the declaration of the Kaṭha-upaniṣad, “One who has not desisted from bad conduct, whose senses are not under control, whose mind is not concentrated and whose mind is not free from hankering for the result of concentration cannot attain the Ātman through knowledge.”

This statement basically buries all the new age movements who claim to show oneness through myriad of meditations or the ones which claim to give diksha through sexual experiences or the ones that say “oh you don’t have to follow any rules”, “you are God, you just don’t know it”. None of them are grounded in siddhanta but only in money and toxic fame.

In this page, Swami Sivananda is quoted:

“The superstructure of Vedanta can only be built when the foundation has been laid strongly by the practice of Yama-Niyama, when the heart has been purified thoroughly through untiring selfless service and Upasana or worship of Saguna Brahman.”

So, one who does not practice yama-niyamas and shirks worship of Saguna Brahman, as identified by Shankaracharya, is certainly a pseudo-advaitin.

I came across a rather curious site here. Though I am not entirely comfortable with the whole site, it does a pretty good job of explaining what is pseudo-advaita. I will summarize it.

  1. Engaging in sophistry, in trying to glean meanings from scriptures on their own or from questionable sources.
  2. Trying to always show oneself as rooted in non-dualism out of plain ego. This is highlighted by the constipated compulsion to always talk about paramarthika level for everything when entirely in this reality
  3. Mechanically acting out detachment, while hooked to firmly in this material world
  4. Applying dual-nondual definitions indiscriminately to everything except what it is truly meant to denote
  5. Preaching to others about duality and nonduality when it is very clear that they themselves haven’t renounced anything in this world.
  6. Condemning devotional service as maya or selectively showing devotion while claiming nonduality

There are a few things to be elaborated from the above. Generally, advaitins nowadays have strong personal preferences on ishta devata. Technically, it should be fine, seeing how they should see everything as (theoretically) just the same. But without actually realizing oneness, denigrating another’s preference of ishta devata, even when that choice is soundly grounded in vedantic conclusions, as sectarian and intolerant is a sure sign of a pseudo-advaitin.

Then comes the confused, unconscious hypocrisy of vociferously stating all devas are equal, and in the same breath claiming superiority for a particular devata. That all devatas are equal itself is not a position held by Adi-Shankara as seen in his Gita Bhasya (Ref 1, 2) and other works of his.

Another common symptom of pseudo-advaitin is when someone says “Seeing Shiva and Vishnu as different itself is dualism since they both are parabrahman”. It only betrays the immaturity of such a speaker because advaita and other siddhantas do not even deal with that type of comparison. The siddhantas are only concerned about nature of brahman. (Of course there is another huge debate raging on who Adi-Shankara considered as saguna brahman, though several of his own sampradayic disciples as well as acharyas from other traditions have clarified on that point ad infinitum, but on internet forums it is just an inconvenient truth.)

In this paper on “Misconceptions about Advaita”, David Frawley (A) Pandit Vamadeva Shastri makes a very important statement:

“However, if we read traditional Advaitic texts, we get quite a different impression. The question of the aptitude or adhikara of the student is an important topic dealt with at the beginning of the teaching. The requirements can be quite stringent and daunting, if not downright discouraging. One should first renounce the world, practice brahmacharya, and gain proficiency in other yogas like karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga, and so on (the sadhana-chatushtya). One can examine texts like the Vedanta Sara I.6-26 for a detailed description. While probably no one ever met all of these requirements before starting the practice of self-inquiry, they do at least encourage humility, not only on the part of the student, but also on the part of the teacher who may also not have met all these requirements!”

So, this basically reiterates what several scholars, that I have heard, hold as a deviation in practice, albeit one that is unavoidable in this age: if one wants to practice advaita truly, the process begins with, not ends with, renouncing this world. A pseudo-advaitin neither renounces the world nor embodies the humility needed to accept their inability to do so. There are some examples for people taking sanyaasa though they were not direct disciples of a Shankaracharya. Here is an example where a staunch follower took up sanyaasa, though not directly from another yati. There are other examples where people take up sanyaasa shortly before passing away, but evidence is mostly anecdotal.

A few final observations:

It has become a new fad these days to believe that with mere mastery of a few languages esp. Sanskrit, and a few sciences, they can hold themselves to the level of the great acharyas. One shameful example of this phenomenon was the declaration on twitter by one such ‘Arya Acharya' that Lord Rama was not biological son of King Dasaratha. Other instances are happening today with so called followers of advaita going overboard due to influence from other traditions and come up with completely unacceptable and shameful works like the one shown here.

pseudoadvaitin crazy

On top of this, when faced with facts from Adi-shankara’s own words and works, they resort of word play and grammar to twist the acharya’s words to their convenience. In instances, they even insult Shankaracharya’s teaching, and by extension the acharya himself, while claiming to follow his siddhanta. Unfortunately, a pseudo-advaitin won’t hesitate to brand others as abrahamic, sectarian, hatemonger and what not (that other can even be a fellow advaitin) simply because others disagree with their own concocted views.

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