According to this answer on our site, there is a difference between traditional vedantins and neo-Vedantins.

All the users who posted on that thread, including a moderator, recognize neo-Vedanta as distinct from the traditional Vedanta of Shankaracharya. The person who answered that question is probably a neo-Vedantin himself because his profile picture is of Swami Vivekananda. If so, then this means that a neo-Vedantin acknowledges that he is a neo-Vedantin; a self-described neo-Vedantin.

The comment by the moderator on that post has linked this article as well as this article that both illustrate the difference between traditional Vedanta and neo-Vedanta.

It is therefore established that Neo-Vedanta is a little different from traditional Vedanta.

Now my question is, why was there a change?

One of the core tenets of neo-Vedanta is the adoption of Western, "Enlightenment" values such as gender equality and caste equality.

So is Neo-Vedanta catered towards a Western audience?

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    In short - Yes! Swami Vivekananda without a doubt was trying to cater his, shall we say characteristic understanding of, Vedanta to a Western world by trying to consciously adapt and connect it with western theologies of Christianity. A particularly stark piece of evidence you can read for your own is his English Lecture delivered at Los Angeles in 1900 titled Christ, the Messenger. Jan 21, 2019 at 11:21
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    @SdarshanaSuri: As per you: "Neo-vedanta catering to western audiences" term is used not just for talking about christ etc. Western scholars use "Neo-vedanta catering to western audiences" to mean as if "enlightenment" values such as gender-equality etc have been new things taught to indic traditions. And Neo-vedanta adopted these foreign elements - This view is simply untrue.
    – zaxebo1
    Jan 21, 2019 at 12:55
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    Their gender inequality and racial/tribal inequalities and colonization etc which stems not just from bible's verses supporting slavery, but also the same entlightenment and industrial revolution - also led to killing of millions of red indians etc. But they demarcate it as two separate traditions. BUT in case of india, the persons supporting caste inequality and persons supporting caste equality - are put(by western scholars) into one single tradition; not as separate value traditions. This is hypocrisy
    – zaxebo1
    Jan 21, 2019 at 13:00
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    @zaxe You are mischaracterising my position by adding your own opinions and then giving counters to those - If you feel that Swami Vivekananda actually succumbed to the spiel of "Enlightenment gifting Humanistic values to Vedanta argument holds water" and that it is what defines neo-Vedanta, a correction in understanding is necessary! neo-Vedanta simply stands as label for the teachings resultant as an attempt on part of Swami Vivekananda et al to spread a particular brand of their understanding of Vedanta to the West - rest is contemporary Indian gullibility seeking outer validation. Jan 21, 2019 at 14:33
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    @SwamiVishwananda It is fact that there was an attempt to use Christian teachings to spread a particular understanding of the ideas of Vedanta to Westerners was done by Swami Vivekananda - Then how is this an opinion and not an obviously verifiable attempt at trying to cater to Western Audience? Jan 21, 2019 at 14:38

2 Answers 2


As per https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Vedanta#Criticism_of_neo-Hinduism_label

In the 20th century the German Indologist used the terms "Neo-Vedanta" and "Neo-Hinduism" polemically, to criticize modern Hindu thinkers,.Halbfass regards the terms "Neo-Vedanta" and "Neo-Hinduism" as "useful and legitimate as convenient labels", but has criticized Hacker for use that was "simplistic". Furthermore, he asks, What is the significance and legitimacy of the "Neo" in expressions like "Neo-Hinduism and "Neo-Vedanta"? Could we speak of "Neo-Christianity" as well? In fact, I have used this term [...] and not all my Christian readers and reviewers were happy about the term.


Halbfass wrote that the adoption of the terms "Neo-Hinduism" and "Neo-Vedanta" by Western scholars reflects Christian and European claims and perspectives which continue to be an irritant to Indians today. For Hacker, the "Neo" in "Neo-Hinduism" implies a lack of authenticity, an apologetic accommodation to Western ideas, and a hybridization of the tradition.Halbfass adds that "I have tried to argue that Hacker's radical critique reflects above all a typically Christian and European obsession with the concept of the individual person."


According to Rajiv Malhotra, an Indian-American writer, it was Paul Hacker who popularized the term 'neo-Hinduism' in the 1950s, "to refer to the modernization of Hinduism brought about by many Indian thinkers, the most prominent being Swami Vivekananda." In Malhotra's view, "Hacker charged that 'neo-Hindus', most notably Vivekananda, have disingenuously adopted Western ideas and expressed them using Sanskrit. Malhotra also notes that Hacker was a biased Christian apologist: What is less known about Hacker is that he was also an unabashed Christian apologist who freely used his academic standing to further the cause of his Christian agenda. He led a parallel life, passionately advocating Christianity while presenting the academic face of being neutral and objective According to David Smith, Hacker's belief was that the ethical values of 'neo-Hinduism" came from Western philosophy and Christianity, just in Hindu terms. Hacker also believed that Hinduism began in the 1870's. He saw Bankin Chattopadhyaya, Aruobindo, Gandhi, and Radhakishnan as its most famous proponents.

'Indra's Net' book(written by Rajiv malhotra) extensively refutes Neo-Vedanta and Neo-Hinduism as artificial fabrication.

book review - of Indra's Net : 'The present book(Indra's net) exposes the influential narrative that Hinduism was fabricated during British rule and became a dangerous new religion. The central thesis which I seek to topple asserts that (VVVVVIMP) Swamy Vivekananda plagiarized Western secular and christian ideas and then recast them in Sanskrit terminology to claim Indian origins for them. Besides critiquing this nexus and defending Vivekananda’s vision, this book also presents my own vision for the future of Hinduism and its place in the world. Hence the book has two purposes: to defend the unity of Hinduism as we practice it today, and to offer my own ideas about how to advance Vivekananda’s revolution to the next stage.'

Conclusion: Hence, using "Neo-Vedanta" terminology is nothing but a christian evangelist and western-civilization agenda to discredit the Indian Philosophers by showing that their ideas came from Western sources, whereas it was just genuinely coming from Indian sources. And the same proponents of "Neo-vedanta" , never approved of "Neo-christianity" terminology for the christian re-interpretations/re-telling of last century.


Few sample example of classical humanism thoughts:

Gita 9:29

समोऽहं सर्वभूतेषु न मे द्वेष्योऽस्ति न प्रिय: | ये भजन्ति तु मां भक्त्या मयि ते तेषु चाप्यहम् || 29|

I envy no one, nor am I partial to anyone. I am equal to all. But whoever renders service unto Me in devotion is a friend, is in Me, and I am also a friend to him.

“ Sam samidyuvase vrishannagne visvaanyaarya aa | Ilaspade samidhyase sa no vasoonyaa bhara || “ – Rigveda: 10-191-1

Oh Almighty and Adorable God ! In the whole universe Thou dost the work of harmonizing and uniting, and most fully reveal Thyself in the world. We therefore, beseech Thee to bestow upon us in every way all the means that will enable us to live in peace and harmony.

Sangathan Sukta of Rigveda (from last sukta of Rigveda)

“ Sam gacchadhavam sam vadadhvam sam vo manaamsi jaanataam IDevaa bhaagam yathaa poorve sam jaanaanaa upaasate II “ – Rig: 10-191-2

God says :- Let all your activities be so directed as to lead you to one common goal (for which) let there be conferences held among you in a common language. Let all of your minds be one for according to acquire knowledge of the various lore’s. In short do as the enlightened before you in all ages did, performing their tasks in life in cooperation and harmony, with minds in full agreement for the acquisition of knowledge. Like the ancient seers also, Worship alone, Who, the only real object of your devotion.

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    It seems you agreeing with the fact, by the way of explaining how and who it was that coined this term, that neo-vedanta is geared towards Western audience! Jan 21, 2019 at 11:27
  • (as "neo-vedanta" has been termed just only as "vedanta", by the internal dharmic authors.) So, this "content" of "vedanta" is same, and always as "universal" as it belongs to sanatana dharma. Some may call it X or Y, it does not matter.
    – zaxebo1
    Jan 21, 2019 at 12:42
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    Under 'Conclusion' you write "whereas it was just genuinely coming from Indian sources" - where is the source for this? Jan 21, 2019 at 16:59
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    @sv. : For seeing comprehensive review on Indian sources of humanistic thought the few example resources are as (1) The 59 page PDF on "Humanism in Indian thought: Classical and Contemporary" ref: shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/69506/9/… (2) Book= Vedic humanism: Path to peace by by Dilīpa Vedālaṅkāra (Author). ref: amazon.com/…
    – zaxebo1
    Jan 22, 2019 at 18:47
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    @sv. : sample added here above . But For entire rigorous formulation of thesis I intend to write my own book on this topic someday, because this is really a book size topic.
    – zaxebo1
    Jan 22, 2019 at 19:07

Yes, neo-Vedanta is targeted towards Westerners and Indians who copy Westerners.

According to this article titled Neo-Vedanta: The problem with Hindu universalism – Frank Morales, Neo-Vedanta is a modern interpretation of Hinduism that incorporates Western values. The author says this:

During this short span of time in the 19th century, the ancient grandeur and beauty of a classical Hinduism that had stood the test of thousands of years came under direct ideological attack. What makes this period especially tragic is that the main apparatus that the British used in their attempts to destroy traditional Hinduism were the British-educated, spiritually co-opted sons and daughters of Hinduism itself. Seeing traditional Hinduism through the eyes of their British masters, a pandemic wave of 19th-century Anglicized Hindu intellectuals saw it as their solemn duty to “Westernize” and “modernize” traditional Hinduism to make it more palatable to their new European overlords. One of the phenomena that occurred during this historic period was the fabrication of a new movement known as “neo-Hinduism.” Neo-Hinduism was an artificial religious construct used as a paradigmatic juxtaposition to the legitimate traditional Hinduism that had been the religion and culture of the people for thousands of years. Neo-Hinduism was used as an effective weapon to replace authentic Hinduism with a British-invented version designed to make a subjugated people easier to manage and control.

So, Neo-Vedanta is a modern interpretation of Hinduism, particularly Advaita Vedanta, that incorporates Western beliefs.


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