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Advaita: A Contemporary Critique

by Srinivasa Rao

Advaita - coverAbstract

The book proposes a contemporary framework for critiquing Advaita and formulating its basic thesis in a more logical and convincing way. Any proper theory in philosophy and science has to follow from accepted assumptions. Hence the book begins by identifying basic presuppositions required for Advaita and determining the different cognitive possibilities arising out of them. After thus determining what is logically and conceptually possible and impossible in Advaita, the new framework is used to assess whether the traditionally held Advaitic concepts and theories are satisfactory and acceptable.

This is done in many chapters covering discussions of the notions of:

not-Self (anātman),
cosmic ignorance (māyā),
individual ignorance (avidyā),
illusoriness (mithyātva),
sublation (bādha),
entities that are different from the real and the unreal (sadasadvilaksana)

…and so on.

The book argues that all these concepts (as specifically formulated and defended in traditional Advaita for centuries after Śankara), are simply faulty and untenable both individually and as related clusters of concepts.

Traditional Advaita has also defended an elaborate ontology of experiences like mistaking a rope-for a snake. It has also heavily defended the metaphysical thesis of the empirical world of our experience being a total illusion. The logical faults and conceptual inadequacies of this ontology and metaphysics are also discussed in great detail, offering absolutely new criticisms of them.

Despite this almost totally negative portrayal of traditional Advaita, the book is also quite positive in showing that any belief in non-duality is still very much philosophically possible and necessary.



About the Author 

Srinivasa Rao is former Professor and Head of the Department of Philosophy, Bangalore University. Affiliated to IIT Kanpur, he earlier taught at Mysore University. Advaita has been extensively studied by various schools of philosophy in classical India. In contemporary times [keep in mind the original printing was in 1985], however, it has only been compared to the philosophies of Immanuel Kant and F.H. Bradley.

Srinivasa supplements the classical Indian analysis with many special concepts and techniques extensively used in contemporary Western logic and analytic philosophy. He also discusses whether what classical Advaita had maintained centuries ago can still be maintained, and if at all it is possible, in exactly which way.

This book, from Oxford University Press, will be of considerable interest to scholars, teachers, and students of Indian philosophy perhaps.


*All the above text is from the author and Oxford University Press/Scholarship Online website.


4 responses

  1. Kaioatey

    A belief in nonduality?

    March 18, 2013 at 9:05 am

    • “Kaioatey,”

      Don’t know – ask the author of the book: Srinivasa Rao.

      Although I don’t agree with much of what he says, he does make some interesting points/arguments nonetheless (from his own experience).

      BTW we posted the ABSTRACT and book description from the publisher as-is. Have you read the book perhaps?
      It was originally written in 1985.

      Thank you for your comment/question and for checking out NDA!


      March 18, 2013 at 5:49 pm

  2. James Waite

    Heady stuff.

    Be well Matt! James

    March 18, 2013 at 11:05 am

    • Hi James,

      Ha – HEAD vs HEART maybe?

      Well, you know that philosophers generally like to philosophize or debate about various topics.

      The author -Srinivasa Rao is a former Professor (and Head of the Department of Philosophy) at Bangalore University. So that explains a lot.
      I assume he wrote this while he was still active at the college cira 1985.

      Never the less, it seems he felt that the study and scope [of Advaita] had been limited by the rigid frameworks of classical Indian philosophy and decided to examine and evaluate some basic misconceptions.

      Most folks don’t want to hear any critique or questioning these days but I don’t have a problem with someone writing a book on a topic and expressing
      their point-of-view from their own experience.

      Thanks for stopping by!


      March 18, 2013 at 6:26 pm

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