Panchadasi Part 2

A series of posts, presenting a new translation and commentary by James Swartz on the Panchadasi. This was presented by James as a week-long course during July 2012 and was very well received.

This is Part 2 and contains the teaching on the pa~nchikaraNa (‘quintuplication’ of the elements),  macrocosm and microcosm, pa~ncha kosha (five sheaths) and the ‘elimination’ of these.

What a Wonder!

The teachings of nonduality are very popular in the West these days. One of the reasons I feel many people are attracted to these teachings is because they assume the teachings circumvent or do away with the idea of ‘God.’ I mean if there is only one thing here, one thing that truly exists, that does way with the troublesome God concept, right?

The word God itself is used and defined so variously these days as perhaps to be rendered useless anyway. However, when one examines the dual world of experience, there is one thing that cannot be denied. It seems to be put together and functioning in an intelligent manner. Continue reading

saMskAra-s, svadharma and karma (Q. 320)

Q: I read about the above topics in your book and struggled with them, not only because there are a number of things to remember, but also because how exactly they function is complex.

 I thought about what you said regarding svadharma and how not going with it, with the example of Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, would have been bad for ones karma and thought about Hitler.

 You might say that it was Hitler’s svadharma to do as he did and that to go against that, in other words, to be an ordinary politician or something for example, would have given rise to bad karma for him, the same way as going against his duty would have caused Arjuna bad karma, as explained by Krishna: ‘slay thy foes’. But then that seems unfair to him (Hitler), since surely his ‘bad actions’ (genocide, etc.) that his svadharma would have had him following would have brought him bad karma any way, so either way, things, from that perspective, looked pretty bleak for him? Then one might say that what Hitler did was not really his svadharma, but this I personally would agree with, as a ‘person’ cannot act outside of Brahman, that is, everything we do, feel, think is Brahman, so even Hitler’s ‘evils’ were also Brahman? Continue reading

upadesha sAhasrI part 2

Part 2 of the serialization of the  presentation (compiled by R. B. Athreya from the lectures given by Swami Paramarthananda) of upadesha sAhasrI. This is the prakaraNa grantha which is agreed by most experts to have been written by Shankara himself and is an elaborate unfoldment of the essence of Advaita.

Subscribers to Advaita Vision are also offered special rates on the journal and on books published by Tattvaloka. See the full introduction and part 1 of the new series.

Inception: Dream or Not?

Here are two (related) book reviews which may be of particular interest to readers of our new serialization of ‘The Dream Problem’.

Nearly 2 years ago, the film of the moment was ‘Inception’, directed by Christopher Nolan. And this justifiably went on to win four Academy Awards. Friends told me how good this film was but, as is quite normal regarding films, I did not actually get to see it until some time after it came out on DVD. Since I have been a fan of science fiction ever since my childhood, I realized fairly quickly what this film was about in a general sense. Nevertheless, it was obvious that the story was quite complex and that all of the nuances could never be fully appreciated with one viewing. Accordingly, even at the time, I wondered whether anyone would write a book about it. (Of course, I realized that there would be a deluge of blogs on the subject but there is the slight problem of not having sufficient time to look, as well as not knowing which ones would be worth reading.) Continue reading

Apparent contradictions in Advaita (Q. 319)

Q: I read some serious critique of Advaita by a philosophy professor in a web page. If you have time, I`d like to know your thoughts about it.
Here it is:
. The View is Self-Contradictory: The first problem with the core of Sankara’s philosophy is that it seems to be self-contradictory. As advocates of the other Hindu schools of thought have pointed out, if the only reality is Brahman, and Brahman is pure, distinctionless consciousness, then there cannot exist any real distinctions in reality. But the claim that this world is an illusion already presupposes that there is an actual distinction between illusion and reality, just as the claim that something is a dream already presupposes the distinction between waking consciousness and dream consciousness. Moreover, Sankara’s idea of salvation–that is, enlightenment through recognition that all is Brahman–already presupposes a distinction between living in a state of unenlightenment (ignorance) and living in a state of enlightenment. So this view contradicts itself by, on the one hand, saying that reality (Brahman) is distinctionless, while on the other hand distinguishing between maya and the truth of Brahman, and by distinguishing between being enlightened and unenlightened. Continue reading

Panchadasi part 1

A series of posts, presenting a new translation and commentary by James Swartz on the Panchadasi. This was presented by James as a week-long course during July 2012 and was very well received. It will be posted in around 35 parts at the rate of one part every 2 – 3 weeks. I will be editing and commenting on the material as we go and James may provide additional commentary if time allows. So there may be scope for readers to provide feedback. Please email me via the ‘Contact Form’ if you do not understand anything and wish to seek clarification.

Read Part 1 of the Panchadasi.



For most spiritual seekers ‘consciousness’ has a positive connotation; they want to extend, raise, deepen their consciousness, or simply become more conscious. But as with so many other terms – soul, spirituality, freedom, love, truth, bliss, energy – everybody understands something else by them.

In Advaita Vedanta every term is defined unambiguously. In our normal usage of words, depending on the context, one defines consciousness in diverse ways. Generally, however, a material viewpoint forms the basis of the Western view. We think that consciousness depends on the brain, for example that one can switch it off or can raise and extend it (temporarily) by certain drugs. Also we think that we can direct our consciousness, align it to something or withdraw it from something.

We consider ourselves as conscious if we remember whether we have switched off the iron and as unconscious if we forgot it. Also, we should always remain conscious of internal processes – we consider ourselves more conscious if we note that an emotion has arisen inside us at the time that is arises, than if we note this only afterwards or not at all. Continue reading

Now, Now, Now

There is a picture that is making the rounds on Facebook of an old fashioned clock, and each number on the clock face is replaced by the word ‘Now.’

Although this is a fun picture to share, I wonder if in some ways it doesn’t give the wrong impression.

Is there a now, and then another now, and then another now, as if each now is different and separate from the other? Is there a now, now, now, which flows along in time and which changes, or in reality is there only the Now? Continue reading