The Advaita Worldview and its Modern Trajectories

Professor Anantanand Rambachan joins Dr. Saad Ismail in a deep dive into the professor’s brilliant book The Advaita Worldview: God, World, and Humanity.

The discussion covers the limited nature of various human quests and the consequent human need for the Infinite. The role of scripture in furnishing knowledge of one’s deepest Self/Atman, which as Brahman is also the Self of all existence. How do the Upanishads impart this knowledge of the Infinite? Ultimately, what is the nature of Brahman, and what is It’s relationship to the world. Dr. Rambachan argues against the unfortunate over-emphasis in the traditional discourse on the ‘illusory’ nature of the world. Another point of contention is the misappropriation of the language of Nirguna and Saguna Brahman in the service of demarcating between the ‘higher’ and ‘lower’ God. The professor delves into the deep repercussions of such theological language for leading a meaningful and socially committed life in this world. The import of ‘Dukha’ from the context of individual suffering must be expanded to include social, political, and economic injustices.

In conclusion, the discussion touches upon the unfortunate disconnect between scholarship and spirituality in much contemporary neo-spiritual discourse. Tracing a brief historical genealogy of neo-Vedanta and its departures from classical Shankarite views, the professor concludes with a comment on the Rg Vedic verse: “Truth is One, the wise name it differently” emphasizing that Unity/Non-duality must never mean a disregard for difference and diversity. Not-two (Advaita) is not one.

Anantanand Rambachan is a Professor of Religion, Philosophy, and Asian Studies at St. Olaf College. His books include: Accomplishing the Accomplished: The Vedas as a Source of Valid Knowledge in Shankara, The Limits of Scripture: Vivekananda’s Reinterpretation of the Vedas, The Advaita Worldview: God, World and Humanity, A Hindu Theology of Liberation and Essays in Hindu Theology. Prof. Rambachan has been involved in interreligious relations and dialogue for over 25 years, as a Hindu contributor and analyst. He is active in the dialogue programs of the World Council of Churches, and was a Hindu guest and presenter in four General Assemblies of the World Council of Churches. He is also involved in the consultations of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue at the Vatican and currently participates as a Hindu theologian in the Ethics in Action dialogues at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Prof. Anant serves as an advisor to the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, a member of the International Advisory Council for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, and a member of the Theological Education Committee of the American Academy of Religion.

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