adhyAsa (part 1)

Notes on Shankara’s examination of the nature of ‘Error’ in the introduction to the brahmasUtra.

adhyAsa is possibly the most important concept in Advaita – certainly in Advaita as ‘formulated’ by Shankara, since he wrote an extended introduction to his commentary on the Brahmasutras on this topic. I wrote this article originally for Advaita Vision but (as far as I know) it is no longer available at that site so I am reproducing it here. It will be in 4 or 5 parts.

These notes are essentially a rewording, omitting most of the Sanskrit, of the notes provided by Achacrya Sadananda on the Advaitin List and I gratefully acknowledge his permission for this. In turn, he wishes that I acknowledge his own indebtedness to H.H. Swami Paramarthananda of Madras, himself a student of Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Dayananda. His lectures form the basis of these notes.

The brahmasUtra is the third of the so called ‘Three pillars of vedAnta‘, the first two being the upaniShad-s (shruti – the scriptures ‘revealed’ and not ‘authored’ by anyone) and the bhagavad gItA (smRRiti – the ‘heard’ scriptures passed down by memory). The brahmasUtra is a very terse and logical examination of the essential teaching of the upaniShad-s, seeking to show the nature of brahman and the superiority of the philosophy of vedAnta. It is usually studied with the help of a commentary or bhaShya, the best known being the one by Shankara. Continue reading

The Pursuit of Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy. This is the motivational force for everyone. The Vedas acknowledge this. The first part of the Vedas – karmakANDa – is effectively aimed at those who look for their happiness in external, limited, objects and pursuits; the latter part of the Vedas – j~nAnakANDa – is aimed at those who are looking to find the happiness within, through gaining knowledge of their true nature.

Here is a brief article from Ramesh Pattni, called


The pursuit of happiness has been the foremost goals of humanity from time immemorial. There is, however, a diversity of understanding and experience of happiness across traditions and cultures around the world. Eastern traditions which offer great insights into the human condition and psychological processes, have a universal appeal which point towards attainment of happiness by different means.

The development of Positive Psychology in recent decades has focused on the study of happiness and wellbeing and examined evidence for the ways and means to happiness.  Currently there are two dominant Western approaches to human happiness and well‐being: Hedonic and Eudaimonic perspectives. The former is based on the idea that pleasure is the only intrinsic good, and obtained through the contact with the world of objects. The eudaimonic approach is that happiness is an end in itself and the highest good and based on a life of virtuous living and contemplation. Continue reading

Modern knowledge and the Vedas

Do the Vedas really contain any advanced knowledge as so many people claim they do?    QUORA

15.3.15 – I’d say the Vedas contain the most fundamental and ‘advanced’ knowledge there is, though mostly portrayed  in the form of paradox (analogy, metaphor, story, etc.), so that one has to crack the code in order to find the wealth hidden in them. That knowledge is not like empirical science, which is cumulative and provisional, and which could be said to be somehow contained in it, even if in embryonic or potential form. That knowledge or perspective is metaphysical rather than mystical. According to the Vedas there is one and only one reality: consciousness (brahman, the Absolute, etc.), which pervades the whole universe; it is immanent in it as well as transcendent… “the smallest of the small, the largest of the large”. It cannot be measured out or understood by the mind, for which it is ineffable, but it is that by which the mind comprehends… it cannot be expressed in words but by which the tongue speaks… it is eye of the eye, ear of the ear, mind of the mind, as expressed in the Upanishads.

Modern physics is having a hard time trying to explain away what consciousness is in terms of physical phenomena (neuronal activity in the brain), but consciousness is not just an irreducible phenomenon or datum; it is reality itself, everything being comprehended in it (theories, doubts, projections, emotions, things, thoughts, intelligence, observer and observed, you and I). The part (for instance, an ‘external’ observer) cannot understand the whole into which he/she is enclosed. For the Vedas, to repeat, reality is one, and contemporary physics is trying to find out in which way it is so (‘theory of everything’, ‘unified field’…). Not all physicists are reductionist, some of them having seemingly mutated into philosophers with a workable understanding of the core of Vedic teachings.


Necessity of karma kanda

According to Shankara, the entire Veda is important in that, till the seeker reaches the stage of pursuing the higher knowledge (jñana kanda) the duties enjoined in the other parts (karma kanda) are necessary for him. Otherwise, the Veda would not teach them. So, a spiritual seeker has to undertake scriptural study.

The path of action (karma yoga), states Shankara, is the ‘means to the supreme bliss indirectly’ in that it prepares the mind of the spiritual aspirant for knowledge, and thereby makes him competent for adopting the path of knowledge (jnana yoga), which is the direct path to liberation. Man cannot abstain from action, and as action binds man by resulting in karma… it is essential to know how to act without accruing further karma. This is the secret of action, called naiskarmya in the Gita… true renunciation is a mental disposition wherein the mind becomes serene without the distractions of the world.

(Spiritual Path). The Roots of Vedanta – Selections from Shankara’s Writings, p. 326