Acharya Sadananda new book

Introduction to Vedanta

Bad news: Some readers may have noticed that the series ‘Introduction to Vedanta’ by Dr. K. Sadananda disappeared from my website a few days ago.

Good news: The series has now been published by Sethu R Rathinam in a quality, 218 page paperback and as an E-book on Amazon Kindle.

From my foreword to the book:

‘An Introduction to Vedanta’ was originally serialized on the Advaitin discussion group where it was justifiably well-received. As they say in the advertising media: ‘it does what it says on the box.’ It covers all of the material needed to introduce the subject to a new seeker, clarifying aspects that could otherwise prove difficult or even dampen enthusiasm. He never talks down to his listeners but speaks directly to them using everyday examples that resonate immediately. No doubt he benefits from having been taught directly by Swami Chinmayananda and more recently by many other teachers including Swami Tejomayananda and Swami Paramarthananda, but his scientific background also brings naturally clear reasoning ability to his analysis of the subject with the result that he seems able to explain the most difficult topics.

Anyone looking for an overview of the essential teaching of Advaita could not do better than to read this Introduction.

And I consider myself fully qualified to recommend the book since I editied it myself!

The paperback or Ebook may be purchased now from Amazon:
Buy from Amazon US (book) ….. $10.00 Buy from Amazon US (Kindle) ….. $5.00
Buy from Amazon UK (book) ….. £8.00 Buy from Amazon UK (Kindle) ….. £3.82

Q. 413 – Yet more on free will

Q: The link http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/past_messages/freewill_waite.htm   is about your convincing argument that there is no free will.  The Q ( for which I have no free will!!) is whether the lack of free will  is an obstacle in pursuit of Self- realization? It would seem that one has no ‘choice’ in the pursuit for it will follow the law of cause and effect. What are your views? Incidentally you have a supporter in Stephen Hawking [‘Grand Design’].

“Though we feel that we can choose what we do, our understanding of the molecular basis of biology shows that biological processes are governed by the laws of physics and chemistry and therefore are as determined as the orbits of the planets. Recent experiments in neuroscience support the view that it is our physical brain, following the known laws of science, that determines our actions, and not some agency that exists outside those laws. For example, a study of patients undergoing awake brain surgery found that by electrically stimulating the appropriate regions of the brain, one could create in the patient the desire to move the hand, arm, or foot, or to move the lips and talk. It is hard to imagine how free will can operate if our behavior is determined by physical law, so it seems that we are no more than biological machines and that free will is just an illusion.” Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 13

Part – 12  

2.  FROM DEVIBHAGAVATAM:

Once Narada went to visit Vishnu. Noticing that Narada was approaching them, Laksmi, the consort of Vishnu, moved away from being near to Vishnu.  Narada wondered why she had to move away seeing him who was just an aged Saint. When he enquired the reason, Vishnu remarked that it would always be better to keep distance from other males as anything might happen under the power of illusion. Narada requested Vishnu for a demonstration of his power to create illusion.  Vishnu then took Narada on a ride on his Vehicle Garuda and reached Kanyakubja. Vishnu asked Narada to have bath in a pond there. When Narada came out of the pond, he got transformed into a beautiful lady. Vishnu quietly left the place.

A King by name Taladhwaja saw the lady and fell in love with her. He took her along with him to his city. He made her his queen. They had a few sons. In course of time, some enemy kings pillaged his city. They killed all the sons. The queen was extremely grief-stricken at these developments. Lord Vishnu went to her in the guise of an old Brahmin and consoled her. He taught her about the impermanence of relationships in this world and instructed her on spiritual Knowledge. He took her along with him. He asked her to have a bath in a nearby pond. Immediately after the bath, the queen got back her original form of Narada. Narada prostrated to Vishnu and realized His powers of illusion. Continue reading

Tattvabodha – Part 28

Part 28 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 28 explains why saMchita and AgAmi karma are eradicated on the gaining of Self-knowledge.

There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.

Overview of Western Philosophy – Part 17

(Read Part 16 of the series.)

Morality (part 2)
One way of classifying the various theories is as follows:

  1. Morality might exist as absolute truths – so-called Moral Realism or Ethical Absolutism. Just as we believe that 1 + 1 = 2 must always be true, so perhaps it is somehow necessarily true that we should not kill another human being. This is effectively what Plato believed, with the truths somehow existing in the world of Forms. We discover these principles through philosophical insights rather than inventing them or devising them to suit our own purpose. And they necessarily apply to everyone irrespective of their inclinations or the nature of the society in which they live.In the absence of absolute certainty regarding these truths, we are obliged to act according to what we think they are.In this view of morality, things are ‘good’ irrespective of whether a God decrees them. We ought to be able to see that ‘loving our neighbour’, for example, is going to be beneficial to ourselves and society, whereas committing adultery is likely to upset a few people. We should not really need any outside agency to endorse such attitudes.

Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 12

Part – 11  

We will now take a brief look at the Stories of Narada appearing in different purANa-s. Some of the stories repeat themselves in different purANa-s with slight to significant alterations.

Shri Vemuri Srinivasa Rao

What I write in the next 3-4 Posts will be a copy paste type of job from the magnum opus in the Telugu language authored by my Father, late Shri Vemuri Srinivasa Rao, a Lawyer. The reference is:

pUrvagAthAlahari – An Anthology of the Stories of all People and Topics Arranged in an Alphabetical Order from the Eighteen purANa-s,” by Vemrui Srinivasa Rao, Venakatrama &Co, 1958.

1.  FROM BHAGAVATAM:

Narada was the son of Brahma. He originated from Brahma’s thigh. He had neither a family nor any offspring. He never stayed in one place. The reason for that was the curse he received from Daksha. He wandered through all the worlds playing devotional songs on Lord Vishnu on Mahati (Mahati is Narada’s vINa – a stringed musical instrument). Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 11

Part 10: 

In the last ten Posts, we have had a quick synoptic view of the contours of the subject matter that we will be discussing in the coming days.

We touched on the efficacy as well as the infirmities of the only tool we have, namely the mind, to explore the various nuances of Narada’s teaching. We found that we are easily deceived by our sensory apparatus which shows us what is needed to be known at the moment in the interest of the preservation and perpetuation of the body-organism but it goes only to hide the absolute reality that exists out there. In other words, the sensory apparatus has no capacity to know what actually exists.

We have come to know that a lot of processes go on within our mind-brain system beyond our conscious awareness of the activities that go on inside our brain to show a world that is projected for us to see. We have also discovered that ‘things’ out there in the world lack physicality and even the “me” who we think “I am” is only a ghostly imaginary entity.

We had a brief look into the way our mind fantasizes a “me,” an “other,” and how it conceptualizes a savior, a world etc. The mind imagines that its unhappiness in the world is due to some “lacks and limitations.”   It tries to compensate for these lacks by conceiving a protecting Godhead in which those “lacks” don’t exist. Devotion is the way by which it gets connected to the God of its conceptualization and it hopes to get its wants fulfilled by deference to him. Continue reading

Q.412 Definition of ‘Enlightenment’

Q: In your writings you use quite often the word ‘Enlightenment’. In ‘Back to the truth: 5000 years of Advaita’ you give the following definition of “Enlightenment”:

“Enlightenment is a sudden recognition that non-duality is, has always been, and will always be the reality of our experience”

and further you explain:

“[…] it refers to the transition from the position of believing oneself to be a person – body, mind etc. as described earlier – to the position of knowing, that there is only the non-dual Self […]”

This is probably a pretty good definition, however the words ‘recognition’ and ‘knowledge’ here can be easily misunderstood.

‘Knowledge’, in the view of most people, including most of the spiritual aspirants, is a kind of intellectual knowledge or insight. As a result these people hearing the Advaitic non-dual doctrine usually just add to their ideas a new one: ‘I am non-dual Self, I am Brahman’, thinking that this is the required knowledge (or recognition) they have missed so far and that this is the Enlightenment.

Moreover, the term ‘Enlightenment’ is used by many religious/spiritual traditions/movements and is differently defined/interpreted by them; in fact there is a wide range of interpretations/definitions of the word ‘Enlightenment’. Further, many claim that there are stages of ‘Enlightenment’, saying that that there can be a deep or shallow enlightenment, full or partial.

Advaita defines ‘knowledge’ or ‘true knowledge’ differently and according to Advaita such an intellectual knowledge or mental recognition of non-dual truth is not the true knowledge at all. So such an ‘Enlightenment’ has relatively little value in Advaita spiritual system, being seen just as an intellectual understanding of the non-dual truth. From this point there is still a long way to the authentic realization of the truth, called ‘true knowledge’.

Taking all that into account I am rather against using the term ‘Enlightenment’ in the context of authentic Advaita teaching. In my view it doesn’t bring much clarity, confusing many. Why not use original Advaitin terms, which are meaningful, concrete, almost free of misconceptions and leave little room for interpretations?

Would you please explain if the term ‘Enlightenment’ has any origin in traditional Advaitic texts? Which ones, please give the exact examples. What is the original Sanskrit word which is translated into English as ‘Enlightenment’? Continue reading

Q.411 Action and Knowledge

Q: Brief scenario: While walking I notice the  floor is wet. I decide to walk carefully because I fear I might slip and fall otherwise.

I could think that the entire situation takes place within Consciousness (Jnana) , all of it is in fact Consciousness (Jnana) alone. That would mean that  the  fear of slipping and falling, and the  decision made to walk carefully (or even the decision not to walk carefully) are  also Consciounsess  (Jnana). Am I correct here or do I depart from Consciousness each time I make a decision and execute it etc as in that scenario ?

If “yes”, why? If “no”, why ?

A (Dennis): Floors, walking, slipping, deciding etc. are all mithyA – they are not real IN THEMSELVES. Their substratum – Consciousness – is the only reality. But neither are they unreal. From the standpoint of Stephen, in the world, they are real. so walk with care!

Swami Dayananda often referred to the story of the sage running from a rogue elephant. Here is how Krishnan Sugavanam told it:
“I remember a story which once Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati narrated. There was a King in whose court there were a number of preceptors from various philosophies, including one from Advaita. The King was very close to the Advaitin and the other philosophers were looking for the first opportunity to prove the Advaitin wrong. One day, when the King and his retinue were walking in a forest, suddenly there appeared a wild
elephant. The Advaitin was the first one to take off and run for cover.

Later, when all of them assembled in the King’s court, preceptors of other philosophies wasted no time in grasping the opportunity to point out to the King, that though the Advaitin taught everything was “Mithya”, he was the first one to run on seeing the wild elephant – and they asked “Why would the Advaitin run on seeing the wild Mithya elephant?” The Advaitin queried them back calmly “yes I did run – but who said my running was Satyam – it was also Mithya”. :-)” Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 10

Part – 9

Modern Evolutionary Biologists are increasingly realizing that “thought” evolved its own survival tricks. Thoughts get replicated and passed on by ‘memes’ just like biological traits are propagated by ‘genes.’ A Meme is “an information pattern, held in an individual’s memory and gets copied to another individual’s memory” with variation and selection. Slogans, catchy tunes, many beliefs, culture are examples for memes.

Our mind has a tendency to forget certain things. Strangely it may also show things that were never seen previously by us. This is because somebody else’s experience infects our mind as a “meme” and we begin to believe that it was our own experience. Dr. Grant says, “An idea can parasitically infect your mind and alter your behavior.” It then causes you to tell your friends, “thus exposing them to the idea-virus.”

Thus Memes spread like viruses using human beings as carriers. In a way all our thoughts are infections. There is nothing like an original thought. The word ‘meme’ was coined by Prof. Dawkins in the late seventies. But our sages recognized the havoc memes could play thousands of years ago. Maharshi Vasishta tells in Yogavasishta the delightful story of how Sage Gadhi was confused and befuddled when his mind was infected by other’s experiences. Continue reading