An excerpt from Earl Rosner’s On the Road to Freedom illustrates the value of purifying the mind. The first speaker is an early proponent of Neo-Advaita. Rosner himself offers the cogent reply:
“All of these things are only for weak-minded people. You should just go on thinking ‘I am That,’ ‘I am That,’ and you will realize the Truth of it one day.”
“I think that you have overlooked an important point in the philosophy of Vedanta,” I objected. “All of the texts and teachers of that school thought insist that, before one even takes up the study of it, one must have certain qualifications. A child in kindergarten cannot possibly do justice to a college textbook. He may even pervert the meaning. In the same way, before one takes up the study of practice of Vedanta, the mind should be rendered unmoving [i.e., free of attachments and aversions] […] There is not even a trace of bad in the Supreme Reality and one who had not given up such negative qualities as lust, anger and greed cannot be taken to be one who has realized the Truth. A safer course would be to consider oneself as a child of a Realized Soul or of God. To benefit from being the child of such a one, we must try to approximate his character. Only if we can do this, will our mind gradually become pure and unruffled by passions and the Truth will be seen, and not until then.”From Timothy Conway, “Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (1897-1981), Life & Teachings of Bombay’s Fiery Sage of Liberating Wisdom“
The mind, as it is and thus untutored, is not to be trusted. Instead, the mind must be taken in hand and slowly purified.
What can be seen in seated meditation and in meditation throughout the day is mind arising “out in front.” Samskaras, “subtle stirrings” as Nisargadatta called them, arise and can quickly take shape in the form of thoughts. Especially sticky thoughts seem to come up time and again, carrying the veneer of veracity.
Samskaras can be sticky, in key part, because the mind can actually take up the teachings and noodle on them. Repetitive thoughts, for instance, concerned with the welfare of other sentient beings don’t initially reveal the fact that they too need to be purified and dropped. They too are obscurations of the Ocean of Reality. As such, they need to be seen through with a steady gaze. To realize their unreality is to see them fade away.
Neo-Advaita is just one name for what the Ancient Greeks called “sophistry.” Just as sophistry is a corruption of the spirit of philosophy, so Neo-Advaita is a corruption of Advaita-Vedanta. Just thinking, for example, “I Am That” can very easily become a spiritual game played often, greedily, and selfishly by the finite mind. This is why, in the early phases, “polishing the mirror” may be urged upon those young aspirants truly longing to be completely what they always already are.
Yes, just as you are is Reality. Now, go clean the bowls.