Advaita Vedanta – A Long Lost Tradition Revived

The terms  ‘Vedanta’ and ‘Advaita Vedanta’ are used loosely nowadays to describe teachings whose principles do not factually meet the subtlety within the profound truth of  ‘One-without-a-second’ or ‘There is only the Absolute.’ If this principle is corrupted or compromised then guidance to the truth can be affected from the beginning, which may in turn lead to an incomplete realisation. Alternatively, we may only hear statements describing the highest (Paramarthika) Reality without any means at our disposal for approaching such a Truth.

Being the foundation of its teaching, the principle of Advaita need not be compromised in allowing for the ‘mundane’, empirical experience of the seeker and the questions stemming from his or her experience – the entire Vedic system naturally accounts for development at all stages of life and Vedanta gives an understanding of the exact status of the world, as we experience it, in relation to Reality.

Examples of teachings described as non-dual include Kashmiri Saivism, recent Zen, Taoism, esoteric revelations of the Judaic religions and even Tantric lineages; while the interpretations in the Pancapadika attributed to Padmapada, the Bhamati  of Vachaspathi Mishra and the works of Swami Vidyaranya to mention a few – as well as 10-17thcentury texts falsely ascribed to Adi Sankara – are what pass for traditional Vedanta. To a greater or lesser degree these systems deviate from the unique standard of what is the pure expression of Advaitic Truth: the Upanishads.

The Upanishadic teaching is based upon a clear and unshakeable principle out of which a detailed structure of the grades of experience unfolds in a wide-ranging and flawless system of knowledge. This ancient path provides a comprehensive orientation within an unchanging principle for the guidance of those searching for higher truth and can lay the foundation for all who wish to walk the path.

The scope of the teaching and its internal logic as it reveals answers and further guidance at the different levels of experience seems to be so naturally and harmoniously ordered, and recondite, as to demonstrate its transhuman origin. In this sense it may be why the genuine, non-sectarian, Upanishadic or Vedantic system of knowledge is the inner heart of the true Sanatana Dharma – the ‘Eternal Law’ of mankind’s relation to the universe and the ultimate truth of Liberation.

For roughly the last 2000 years in the public domain, since the authentic recorded works of Adi Sankara (the ‘Prasthantraya Bhasya’ and ‘Upadesha Sahasri’), and the works of his direct pupil Suresvaracharya, there has been no unadulterated conveyance of the Upanishadic system which has adhered to its structure and coherence at every turn. The fact that Sankara himself refers to Sage Gaudapada, who preceded him, as a ‘knower of the True Tradition,’ shows clearly that it was an established tradition that Sankara was following and not something invented by himself. It was for the purpose of bringing clarification to the many questions and conflicts arising from the different teaching systems of the day that Sankara composed his commentaries on the timeless Vedic revelation – the Upanishads – which all systems accepted unanimously as the authority. It is for this reason that Sankara holds the status of being the intepreter of the Upanishadic knowledge of this age. It is interesting to see that many of the fundamental approaches of the systems he answered and exposed as lacking we can see mirrored today in contemporary spiritual views.

Oral teachings, genuine Upanishad from Master to disciple may have occurred in remote places ; one meaning of ‘Upanishad’ is that it involves hearing a secret teaching, but no recorded text or teaching which transmits the true Vedantic methodology pristinely and to all its extent has been available in general circulation. We also have the complex problem of knowing whether teachings ascribed to Teachers are authentically theirs or creative interpetations happening hundreds of years later by rival philosophical schools.

Taken together, the worldwide spiritual traditions which include, or culminate in an expression of non-duality, can be seen to have statements which do seem to coincide. It is important to see though at what stage of realisation or sadhana such systems or utterances may be declaring the same truth. The ‘multiplicity-in-the-One’ ? The Cosmic vision ? The highest yogic Samadhi of Patanjali ? The ‘eternal’ cylces of Unmanifest and manifest existence as the play of Shiva and Shakti ? The experience of Unity as ‘I AM’ or That which is beyond experience? Is enlightenment an easily realised intellectual modification of mind only ? What are the actual laws governing life in terms of the intricacies of karma and the end of rebirth ? Where do modern notions of ‘embodiment’ and the ‘evolution of consciousness’ fit in, if at all?

True accordance of knowledge, of traditions, is a matter of extremely subtle shades of realisation and validation, which in turn rests on the overall framework of consensus in which such examination takes place. It was this Divine Sruti (the Upanishads) and its consistent network of accompanying yukti (reasoning) which for millenia comprised the gold standard to which every teacher, teaching or text had to be measured; a highest truth revealed to scores of Sages whose realisation reached a refined, ineffable summit in perfect alignment with each other and the Sruti. In this way the Upanishadic teaching is impersonal, it is representative of the highest universal Truth and not founded by the dictates of a single Seer.

We can see that many teachings or statements throughout history may have alignment with the Upanishadic system at one or more of the major stages it encompasses. But teachings may contain other contradictory elements, or lack key correlative understandings, or have vague, unsubstantiated areas or unproven personal claims to enlightenment which reveal them to fall seriously short of providing the seeker with an intact methodology leading to Liberation.

The Ultimate Truth may be strictly speaking, Unknowable and Inexpressible, as it is not finally an object of experience, but that does not mean that seekers should encounter a blank or mystically hazy no-man’s land without an ongoing accessible and thorough approach. An approach validated by those who have gone before and who have bequeathed a clear map. The real Sampradaya and complete navigation through Samsara happens only when in full accordance with the impersonal and authorless Upanishadic system, which is the only one whose final Truth reveals the Teacher, the student and the teaching as completely unreal.

[If you are interested in pursuing these ideas further, there is a residential retreat at Tiruvannamalai in December 2016 conducted by the author’s Teacher. The author can be contacted at original.vedanta@gmail.com ]

12 thoughts on “Advaita Vedanta – A Long Lost Tradition Revived

  1. Dennis,

    “… there is a residential retreat at Tiruvannamalai in December 2016 conducted by the author’s Teacher.”

    It will be helpful for us to know who the author of the Post / Announcement is and who the Author’s teacher is.

    regards,

    • I’ve no idea who the author of the post is, but a quick Google search indicates that the teacher for this event is “Sri Sunil from Kerala.”

      Best,

  2. Dennis:

    ‘… the interpretations in the Pancapadika attributed to Padmapada, the Bhamati of Vachaspathi Mishra and the works of Swami Vidyaranya to mention a few – as well as 10-17thcentury texts falsely ascribed to Adi Sankara – are what pass for traditional Vedanta. To a greater or lesser degree these systems deviate from the unique standard of what is the pure expression of Advaitic Truth: the Upanishads.’

    This extract from your most interesting last post makes me suspect that, whoever the author is, he likely is a disciple, direct or indirect, of Sw. Satchidanandendra (SSS), who is the central figure in my last and following posts on ‘Mulavidya’.
    I can think of two possibilities as to the identity of the enigmatic author Ramesam is wondering about: 1) Sri Subhanu Saxena; 2) Sri Krishnarparamastu.

    No. 2 is unlikely since he would be well over 90 yrs. of age if still alive. The first one I suggest (1), a very competent and knowledgable advaitin, did not take part as far as I know in the remarkable debate prompted (or ‘instigated’) by you in 2004 called ‘Whence Adhyasa’. Atmachaitanya was then the leading debater, obviously associated with SSS one way or another.

    Subhanu Saxena is (must be?) either a disciple of Sri Krisnarparamastu (2) or of SSS directly (unlikely), while Stig Lundgren – who also was one of the more prominent debaters in ‘Whence Adhyasa’ – I take to be a disciple of Sri Krishnarparamastu. I may be completely wrong in my surmises, but we shall see…

  3. Apologies for lack of detail here. I have asked the author to provide some more information – please put a hold on the speculation until he posts! (But the teacher is not Sri Sunil and the author is not Subhanu Saxena. Also the Ashram where the retreat is being held is only a convenient venue and nothing to do with the teacher.)

  4. Thank you for your interest in this article and also to Dennis who correctly points out that the Teacher is not Sri Sunil and also that there is no affiliation between the Teacher’s ashram and Anantha Niketan other than simple hiring of a retreat venue.

    The Teacher won’t be submitting a name voluntarily because the Sages of the tradition lay no importance on names at all, do not want to be construed as ‘personalising’ an eternal and impersonal Truth, and at the same time not deflecting from the fact that it is the teaching that is important not the name of a Teacher. And that point is made by the Sages’ names being usually unrecorded at all, without writings under their name. No written works, referencing or information can be found on the Internet about the Teacher. A name in actual fact adds nothing to what is truly at issue.
    Sankara is one of a few exceptions and may have had a specific function to fulfill in his works but he never claims what he clarifies as his personally.
    Also the issue of the credibility of a name (and authorship) to a suggested lineage, and a said lineage as faithful to the Upanishads is also an area which needs to be seriously examined, as suggested in the article.
    For further info people should contact the given email address. The contact is given primarily for people who are genuinely interested in attending the retreat or possibly those who seriously want to explore the teachings. No teachings will be discussed online though because the tradition itself says they must be heard from a qualified Teacher.
    Thank you amartingarcia for an interesting article about a crucial area, ‘mulavidya. I do know of some of Sw. Satchidananendra’s work, his booklets, his lifelong commitment led to work closer to revealing the methodology of the true tradition than many others in the mainstream but maybe not completely without error as far as I have been taught. His disciple A.J. Alston wrote a 6 volume Sankara Sourcebook and a good translation of Upadesa Sahasri which are useful references as far as English translations go, for anybody interested. I am not connected to Sw. Satcidananendra though..
    With fond regards,
    the author (Deva)

    • Just joined today…I think you’ve capitalized the letter ‘t’ in the wrong places…

      I could leave it at that but your post is…, oh no, I am going to leave it that.

      • Welcome Shri Guru.

        Your cryptic statements are too enigmatic to be intelligible.
        Will you please tell us which Post are you referring to and which capitalized ‘T’ bothers you? And if you are ” going to leave it [at] that ,” why even bother mentioning?

        regards,

        • Dear Dr. Ramesam:

          Thanks for your response, wasn’t sure my comment would see the light of day.

          I was responding to Deva’s comment above where the second para begins…

          “The Teacher won’t be submitting a name voluntarily because the Sages of the tradition lay no importance on names at all, do not want to be construed as ‘personalising’ an eternal and impersonal Truth, and at the same time not deflecting from the fact that it is the teaching that is important not the name of a Teacher.”

          I felt it should be Teachings, truth and teacher.

          Why bring it up? as you ask…

          Irritability, sir, just irritabilty!!!

          In 1932 Einstein told the Spinoza society:

          “Human beings in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free but are as causally bound as the stars in their motions.”

          • Dear Shri Guru,

            Thank you for the clarification.

            Deva’s reply was “disappointing.” I have no doubt there.

            “The Teacher won’t be submitting a name voluntarily because the Sages of the tradition lay no importance on names at all,…”

            It is odd that some people think that a proper name as an ID smacks of ‘ego’ and assiduously stick to being referred to as ‘Nameless.’ They ‘cling’ so much to being ‘Nameless’ which itself is a conspicuously clear ‘Flag’ for their larger than life ‘ego’!

            “.. that point is made by the Sages’ names being usually unrecorded at all, …”

            If one is so fastidious in emulating the Sages of the yore, I wonder which ancient Sage is their example to conducting ‘Retreats’ and ask for pre-paid charges and ‘Donations’ for their program.

            It would have been far more inspiring, educational and enlightening if some information on in what way the post-Shankara philosophy deviated is provided rather than just denigrating everyone including SSSS in one big sweep, though using the same terminology of SSSS as pointed out by Martin.

            regards,

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