Why Criticize Mayavada So Strongly?

In all the ISKCON books I have read, I find severe criticism for Mayavada and Advaitavada philosophy. My understanding is that these theories are paths of self-realization or liberation. Is it fair to criticize such theories or people who are following these theories? Mayavada and Advaitavada might be difficult paths, but does it mean they're wrong? Also, these theories were propounded by Sri Gautam Buddha and Sri Adi Sankaracarya respectively. Scriptures say that these great personalities were respectively incarnations of Lord Krishna and Lord Siva. Then is it not an offence to criticize the theories suggested by the Lord Himself?

Our Answer:
Yes, it's true that our books strongly criticize Mayavada (the theory that all variety and individuality are illusion) and Advaitavada (the theory that the only truth is impersonal undifferentiated oneness).

Is it fair to criticize these theories? Why not? Theories ought to be open to reasonable criticism. And if they collapse beneath the weight of superior arguments, they may justifiably be looked upon as wrong, and their adherents as mistaken.

As stated in Bhagavad-gita (12.5), Mayavada and Advaitavada are indeed difficult paths. Apart from that, scriptural and logical evidence also demonstrate them wrong. The books of the Hare Krishna movement present this evidence strongly.

In the case against Mayavada and Advaitavada, numerous points can be made. But here, let just one suffice.

According to these monistic theories, the Ultimate Reality is ultimately pure undifferentiated oneness. And all variety and individuality are but products of illusion. Accepting this view, one logically has to ask: Where does this illusion come from? This is a question that Mayavada and Advaitavada can't answer. If only oneness exists, illusion cannot also exist, because then we would have twoness—duality—not oneness. And if we say that twoness only seems to exist—that its existence is but an illusion—then we're back where we started, and going around in a circle.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu therefore taught the doctrine that everything is one with the Absolute Truth yet simultaneously, inconceivably different from the Absolute Truth as well, just as sunshine is both one with and different from the sun. Within the Personality of Godhead, everything irreconcilable is reconciled. The Personality of Godhead, the Supreme Reality, has countless energies, and these are all real—including the energy that places us under illusion when illusion is what we desire. In Bhagavad-gita ( 7.14) Lord Krishna says that although this illusory energy is nearly insurmountable, one who surrenders to Him can at once cross beyond it. The Hare Krishna movement therefore strongly teaches surrender to Krishna, the Personality of Godhead, in preference to all speculative impersonal theories.

In the incarnation as Lord Buddha, Lord Krishna rejects the Vedas and teaches what is in essence an atheistic philosophy. He does this to stop needless animal slaughter being indulged in under the excuse of Vedic rituals.

Later, by the order of Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva appears as Sri Adi Sankaracarya, defeats Buddhism, and reasserts the authority of the Vedas, but to do so he teaches a compromised philosophy that is in essence a covered form of Buddhism.

So even though taught by great personalities, these doctrines of voidism and impersonalism are temporary contrivances, not the conclusive truth. For the true Vedic conclusion, we should turn to Srimad-Bhagavatam, as taught by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and His followers, now represented by the Hare Krishna movement.

A detailed discussion of these points may be found in Sri Chaitanya-caritamrta, Adi-lila, Chapter Seven.