Bhagavad Gita Classes

I have just been notified of a new, on-line course of classes on the Bhagavad Gita, presented by Swami Sarvananda (disciple of Swami Dayananda). Expected to last several years, at the rate of 1 lecture per week, the course began about 1 1/2 months ago. There is also a Sanskrit course available for students ‘attending’ the Gita classes.

Anyone interested can contact me (via the Contact Form, or the link at the bottom of the home page) and I will forward the details that I received, with links to join the classes.

Who (or what) is it that ‘acts’?

Those who have read any of my books, or the brief biography that is available on this site and others, will know that I began my ‘philosophical investigations’ with the School of Economic Science, as it is known in the UK. And you will also know that I have commented frequently upon the misguided notions that were propagated by the school in the name of Advaita. One of the key misunderstandings that I had, which was not cleared for many years, despite reading widely and discussing Advaita with many people on the Internet, relates to ‘action’.

As usual, this was a Sankhyan idea effectively being passed off as belonging to Advaita. It was the notion that it is ‘the guNa that act’, or that action is a function of prakRRiti. In the first edition of ‘The Book Of One’, I actually had a chapter called ‘The Myth of Action’ and the first section of this was entitled ‘Only the guNa Act’. Here are several paragraphs from this:

 “The three qualities of nature, the guna, of which all of nature is constituted, are in constant motion and this is the only ‘action’. Yes, the body acts – it is constituted of the three guna – but we do not. Here is a useful practical example of this: It may be that you cycle from time to time. I enjoy cycling in the New Forest, where I live – free exercise in beautiful surroundings and fresh air. However, there are a few hills along the routes, and sometimes you have to go up these rather than down. Many people just get off and walk their cycle up. Others take it as some sort of challenge and insist on trying to cycle to the top without having to dismount. When the going becomes hard, they make an extra mental effort, along the lines of ‘I am damn well going to get to the top, even if it kills me’! This is the hard way! Continue reading

Foundation Sources for Advaita

Below is a compilation of two dozen + one of the Mantra-s/shloka-s from various shruti /smriti sources which form the Basic Foundation for the Concepts of Advaita. The selection is arbitrary and purely based on what appealed to me to be significant. Other learned seekers may like to add to or delete from or suitably emend this list in order to make it comprehensive and authentic. If any authoritative lists are already available in public domain (preferably online), a reference and a link to them will be appreciated. Continue reading

CIF Webinars

Here are further details about the on-line Vedanta courses being provided by Chinmaya International Foundation:

Chinmaya International Foundation is offering courses of Vedanta, Bhagawad Geeta, Sanskrit, Vedic Mathematics, Bhagavad and Make It Happen (Course on Self-Transformation) in the postal and online modes.

CIF has recently launched the Learning Sanskrit Grammar – the Paninian Way, a Webinar Course, and this has received enthusiastic response.

On the occasion of the Chinmaya Centenary Year, CIF is happy to announce launch of the Webinar Mode for its Foundation and Advanced Vedanta Courses and also its popular Bhagavad Gita Course. The uniqueness of the Webinar Course is that  participants will be directly and actively assisted by Chinmaya Mission Acharyas during their course study.  Hence the advantage of doing the courses through Webinar, as compared to the postal and online modes, cannot be overemphasised. Continue reading

A Comparison of Bhagavad Gita Versions

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are very many versions of the Bhagavad Gita in print, although you will have to look to Indian bookstores to obtain most of these. This can be very worthwhile. Not only are they a lot cheaper there but it is not necessarily the case that the best versions are those which are most popular and are therefore available through Amazon.

You really need to look at each of them yourself to decide which ones appeal most. I can make a few general observations but only you know what your priorities are. (It goes without saying, of course, that the Bhagavad Gita is a ‘must read’ for anyone seriously interested in Advaita!) If you want to see original Devanagari, you are restricted in choice. If you want Romanised transliteration, again not all will provide this.

If you want word-by-word translations, only a few give this (see Refs. 1 – 3 below). If you are interested in the Sanskrit – parts of speech and which verses contain which words, you want Ref. 16 (but this contains neither the text nor a commentary).

If you want the most comprehensive, understandable commentary and expense and time are no hindrance, then Ref. 15 is a no-brainer!

Finally, there is the all-Devanagari version with Shankara’s bhAshya (Ref. 18). This is a huge, hardback book, beautifully produced but, of course, totally useless unless you can read Sanskrit very well indeed. I have a spare copy of this and hereby offer to send it to anyone in the UK free of charge (or anyone elsewhere in the world if they pay the postage) in exchange for the following: you agree to be available to provide a literal translation of any (short) text by email from time to time if I need this for my writing. Email me if you are interested in this offer. Continue reading

What is Brahman? (Part 3)

(Read Part 2)

The superficially contradictory ‘descriptions’ of Brahman as ‘neti, neti’ and ‘sarvaM khalvidaM brahma’ [all this is verily Brahman] are brought out in adjacent verses of the Atma bodha, attributed to Shankara (Swami Chinmayananda translation):

 

  1. Brahman is other than this, the universe. There exists nothing that is not Brahman. If any object other than Brahman appears to exist, it is unreal like the mirage.
  2. All that is perceived, or heard, is Brahman and nothing else. Attaining the knowledge of the Reality, one sees the Universe as the non-dual Brahman, Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Absolute.

Here, it is first stated that the universe is not Brahman. But it is also said that any other appearance will be unreal, like a mirage. The mirage is a powerful metaphor because the water that appears is in reality only the sand upon which the appearance takes place. I.e. sand is the substratum of the water appearance, just as Brahman is the substratum of the world appearance. It is then stated that all appearances are, in fact, nothing other than Brahman. But this is realized, of course only upon enlightenment. Until then, the world remains very real. Similarly, to the seeker after water in the desert, the mirage is very real. Continue reading

Thoughts on Seeking and Seekers III (adhikaris)

599101_web_R_by_Günther Dotzler_pixelio.deShravana for Western Students

Shravana is the first phase on the path of knowledge in the tradition. Preparation is all about becoming eligible to do shravaNa – listening to the scriptures.

This is another feature of the traditional teaching that rarely can be transferred to Western students.

Excerpts from the ‘Upanyãsa’ rendered by Brahmashi Mani Dravid Shastriji:

Vedanta shravanãdhikãri’, the requisites of a person that make him eligible for listening to Vedanta (…)

The term ‘Adhikãri’ refers to that person who is capable of attaining the fruit as a result of performance of some action (karma). Possession of some basic prerequisites are laid down by scriptures in order to attain the fruit of ‘Vedanta shravana’ (listening to Vedanta). Continue reading

Action – Morality

“When you understand and are able to act from right action, morality is no longer necessary. It’s instantly obsolete and discarded. This is at the heart of the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna, as a moral creature, throws down his weapon and refuses to launch a war. Krishna converts him to a creature of right action by freeing him from delusion and Arjuna takes up his weapon and launches the war. Right action has nothing to do with right or wrong, good or evil, naughty or nice. It is without altruism or compassion. Morality is the set of rules and regulations that you use to navigate through life when you’re still trying to steer your ship rather than let it follow the flow”

from ‘Spritual Enlightenment; The Damndest Thing’, Jed McKenna, Wisefool Press, 2002. ISBN 0971435235. Buy from Amazon US, Buy from Amazon UK

Book Extract – Bhagavadgita: The Celestial Song

raphael_gita

Extract: Action in Non-Action from the new book by Raphael.

Raphael interprets Shankara’s comments on the famous verse IV.18 from the Bhagavad Gita:

One who sees non-action (akarma) in action (karma) and action in non-action, is the wisest among men, he is one who has realized yoga, who has fulfilled everything.