About Ted Schmidt

I was initiated into the yogic path when I received shaktipat from Gurumayi Chidvilasananda in 1989. For the next twenty years, Siddha Yoga served as my fundamental spiritual practice. During this time I avidly studied the non-dual teachings of both Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism as unfolded by the teachers in that tradition. Having grown up in a Christian culture and yet having felt little nourishment from its brand of spiritual belief and practice, I was also curious about what the true teachings underlying that tradition might be. After some investigation, I ran across Kabbalah (i.e. Jewish mysticism) and discovered that its teachings paralleled the non-dual teachings of the Eastern spiritual traditions. I also dabbled in Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, and the spiritual tradition of a West African tribe called the Dagara. During that time, I became a certified as both a yoga teacher and a QiGong instructor/healer and after a two-year study of Dagara shamanism was initiated as an Elder in that tradition. Though each of these paths offered valuable insights into the nature of reality, I was repeatedly drawn back to my practice of Siddha Yoga. The bottom line after all this searching and seeking and kundalini tweaking, however, was that none of it did the trick. It wasn’t until I met my teacher, James Swartz, and heard the teachings of traditional Vedanta that I finally understood who I am. Vedanta is the only tradition that I have encountered that offers the complete understanding that constitutes self-knowledge (i.e. Brahma satyam jagan-mithya jivo brahmaiva na’parah explained in all its aspects and ramifications). No other tradition that I have encountered offers prakriyas and practices that so effectively remove ignorance and so clearly reveal self-knowledge.

Bhakti Is the Basis of Brahma-jnan

By Ted Schmidt

One of the chief critiques often hurled at Vedanta is that it is merely intellectual, that it is dry and devoid of heart. This critique, however, is wholly unjustified. In fact, the very foundation of Vedantic self-inquiry is bhakti, or devotion.

It should be understood, however, that truly speaking love, the purest form of which is devotion, is not in its essence the exhilarating emotion it is romantically portrayed as and in whose name intimate relationships of diverse character are universally pursued. Love is simply focused attention. On an exoteric level (i.e., within the context of vyavaharika satyam, the seemingly dualistic empirical reality), we love what we pay attention to. In other words, the focus of our attention betrays or indicates what we love. On an esoteric level (i.e., from the perspective of paramarthika satyam, absolute reality or pure awareness), we can simply say that we are love, that, in fact, love is all there is. For love is attention, and attention is awareness. And since what we are in essence—what indeed everything is in essence—is awareness, love is the essential nature of reality, the “substanceless substance” that is the universal self.

Thus, even dry old pedantic Vedanta is love.

In practical terms, love lies at the heart of Vedanta as well. Only by virtue of focused attention will one be able to imbibe and assimilate the teachings that reveal the true nature of reality. For one thing, the non-dual nature of reality is counter-intuitive due to the fact that maya, or ignorance, projects such a convincing virtual dualistic reality. Additionally, the overlay of conditioning that we as apparent individuals are subjected to from every sector of the apparent reality—parents, school, community, church, government, and media—is so intense that we need a strong constitution, what Vedanta calls mumukshutva, a burning desire for freedom from ignorance, in order to withstand and overcome the constant barrage of obstacles that we as seekers of self-knowledge inevitably face on our quest for understanding and truth. This burning desire can only be characterized as love. In fact, it is essentially the self, limitless awareness, whose nature is love, seeking to know itself through the vehicle of the antahkarana (i.e., mind or intellect) of the apparent individual with whom it has become associated due to the power of maya. Therefore, self-inquiry is nothing but the self engaging in an apparent love affair with itself, an affair that is consummated by the knowledge that negates any and all sense of separation and reveals the singularity of all existence.

It is in this sense that jnana and bhakti are one.

A Unique Form of OCD

One of the great ironies of life in a world that is almost wholly preoccupied with the profit margin of any business transacted within its context – which in more personal terms equates with the degree of personal happiness that is the intended product of any action that one performs – is the fact that most people squander the greatest natural resource at their disposal for procuring the bounty of contentment they seek.


Duped by maya and suffering an innate condition of ignorance, the vast majority of people remain so preoccupied with the alluring objects calling for their attention in the surrounding world that they fail to realize that they themselves – i.e. the quality and texture of their own mind – are the source of the peace and happiness they experience through their acquisition of items, accomplishment of ends, and/or achievement of ambitions.  They fail to see that it is not the objects themselves they desire, but rather the sense of fulfillment they feel so sure these objects will afford them.  Instead of reveling in the joy that is their inherent nature as the limitless self, they dissipate their inner tranquility by training their attention upon objects – both subtle and gross – that they believe are the founts of satisfaction.


However, as Lord Krishna, speaking as the self, says in the Bhagavad Gita, “Fixing your mind on me, you shall pass over all difficulties, through my grace; but if, through egoism, you will not listen, then you shall perish” (18.58).  Rather than an ultimatum issued by a jealous god, this assertion is simply an appeal to practicality.  As long as the mind is distracted by objective phenomena it will be incapable of discerning the true nature of reality and remain unable to discriminate between the real and the apparent, the self and the not self, that which is inherently limitless, free, content, and blissful and that which is inherently limited, bound, agitated, and to a greater or lesser degree anguished.


Therefore, if such discrimination – i.e. atma-anatma-viveka – is the heart of self-inquiry, we might say that attention – and more precisely the ability to turn one’s attention “inward” and train it on the self – is its backbone.  It is no arbitrary coincidence that samadhana, the ability to sustain concentration on a given topic for a long period of time, is one of the fundamental qualifications for a seeker of self-knowledge.  Focused attention is indeed the foundation of all three aspects of the process of self-inquiry – i.e. hearing (shravana), reflection (manana), and meditation (nididhyasana) – that leads to the assimilation of self-knowledge and ultimate inner freedom (moksha).  It requires a mind with a unique form of OCD – a mind whose attention is characterized by the qualities of openness, critical thinking, and determination.

Continue reading

The Purpose of Life, Part 6


Inquiry 6:  What is the Purpose of the Apparent?

And even if reality is non-dual, why this seeming duality? Why does this mithyA of life exist?


As has already been established, there is no creation.  The word “creation” implies that something that previously did not exist has been somehow brought into existence, that something new has entered the arena of the old or already-previously-established.  Since, however, there exists nothing other than consciousness/awareness and therefore such is the sole substratum of the entire field of manifestation and all the objects inhabiting it, it is not possible for anything new to arrive on the scene.  All apparent objects, including those making their first appearance in a given form, are nothing other that a reconstitution and/or reconfiguration of the same one substance of which the entire apparent reality consists.


From perspective of both the apparent individual and God/Isvara/the macrocosmic causal body (though it should be understood that the latter is not a personal entity) there is, nevertheless, an apparent creation.   There is, however, a difference between the apparent individual’s projected interpretation of reality (i.e. jiva shrishti) and God’s appearance as “creation” (i.e. Isvara shrishti).

Continue reading

The Purpose of Life, Part 5

Inquiry 5:  What Validity Has Vedanta?


The root problem is that in the end, even Advaitic teachings finally rely on ‘blind faith’ to put their point across. There’s nothing wrong in having faith. All religions ask for blind belief in the almighty to get you your promised ‘Kingdom of God’. It’s only in Advaita that folks try to push their case by saying: “No, it’s not pure faith, it’s by reason and discourse that we reach the truth etc”.

To quote Gaudapada in his Mandukya Upanishad kArikA, “That which is stated in the scriptures ‘and is supported by reason’ is true and nothing else”. The ‘reason/discourse’ argument for following Advaita is pure bunkum, in my opinion. It relies on blind faith not on a deity, but in an obscure ‘Self’.


The implication of this series of questions is that the self is wholly theoretical, that it is some philosophical conjecture cooked up and served to the mindless masses as a means of pacifying their angst over an apparently purposeless existence.  It further suggests that the self is either a half-baked notion to be accepted on blind faith or an intricate intellectual construct whose validity is so be settled through argument alone.


Vedanta, however, is neither a faith-based religion nor a theoretical philosophy.  True, its method of self-inquiry does require faith in its initial stages because the student’s understanding is still clouded by ignorance.  But the truth revealed by Vedanta is verifiable through a conscientious examination of one’s own experience.  This isn’t to say, of course, that self-knowledge is a discrete experience, but rather that the knowledge contained in experience and which can be culled from it through thoughtful, logical inquiry does serve to reveal the truth when it is properly understood and assimilated.


Actually, according to Vedanta, the quest for a discrete experience of the self is completely gratuitous.  The fact of the matter is that we are already experiencing the self every moment of our lives.  If reality is non-dual – which it is – then quite obviously there exists nothing other than the self that can be, ever has been, or ever will be experienced.


This assertion, of course, voicing as it does the fundamental understanding upon which the whole science of self-inquiry is based, begs an answer to the question, “How do we know that the nature of reality is non-dual?”

Continue reading

The Purpose of Life, Part 4

Inquiry 4:  Is There Any Proof That The Self Exists?

This then raises my more fundamental query. This ‘Self’ on which reams have been written – what is the proof that such a ’Self’ exists? 

I know that the self is by virtue of the fact that I am.  Simply put, the self is – I am – self-evident.  More to the point, I know the self because I am the self.

“Still,” you might ask, “how do I know that my self is THE self?”

Some suggest that there may be more than one self.  The singularity of awareness, however, can again be verified by yet another meticulous examination of one’s own experience.

Continue reading

The Purpose of Life, Part 3

The Purpose of Life, Part 3

Inquiry 3:  For What Purpose Would the Self Want to Play?

Question:  How can we believe in lila? What could be its purpose? There is no convincing answer – I am sure you will concur.

Our initial inquiry concerning the purpose of life is, of course, valid only from the perspective of the apparent individual entity questioning life’s purpose and making inquiry into the nature of reality.

But what about the self?

What possible reason could the self have for assuming the appearance of the universe and seemingly enacting its continuous and seemingly interminable cycle of pleasure and pain, joy and sorrow, success and failure, triumph and tragedy, birth and death?

Continue reading

The Purpose of Life, Part 2

The Purpose of Life, Part Two 


Recently, a question – or rather a series of questions – was submitted to Advaita-Vision whose fundamental concern was the seeming purposelessness of life.  This series of questions and comments also directly expressed or implied various other doubts that beg for clarification in order to better understand and more fully appreciate the existential predicament in which we find ourselves as apparent human beings.

The entire series of questions was included in the introduction to “The Purpose of Life, Part One” and can be reviewed therein if you would like an overview of the issue as a whole.  The series has subsequently been divided into several sections, each of which focus on a different aspect of the fundamental doubt concerning life’s purpose, to facilitate a thorough and coherent analysis of each of the issues raised.

What follows is the second in a series of inquiries through which we will progressively consider each aspect of the rather complex and enigmatic issues of whether or not life has a purpose, and if so what it could possibly be.

Continue reading

The Purpose of Life, Inquiry 1

The Purpose of Life


Recently, a question – or rather a series of questions – was submitted to Advaita-Vision that read as follows:

Q: What is the purpose of life?

If, as stated in Advaita, we are actually in a state of sat-chit-Ananda and we are actually this ‘Self’ already, why have these ‘illusions’ and this ‘ignorance’?

How can we believe in lila? What could be its purpose? There is no convincing answer – I am sure you will concur.
Continue reading