Ishvara or God

Vedanta uses the word ‘Ishvara.’ When teaching, my teacher, who is western, never uses the word ‘God.’

Why? Well, the word ‘God’ can be very loaded, and often for us born in the west, negatively so.

So what is Ishvara? When I first met my teacher, I noticed she used the word ‘Ishvara’ a lot, and I never really know what she meant by it.

The first time I met Swami Dayananda and heard him teach, he said, “If you want to see Ishvara in action, look around you.” Continue reading


The teachings of advaita/vedAnta list several qualifications necessary for a student of self-knowledge to have. The first two are known as viveka and vairAgya. viveka is often translated as discrimination, which definition is further expanded to mean the ability to discriminate between the real and the unreal.

The real is defined as that which never changes. It is also known as Atma, brahman, the self, or absolute reality. The unreal is everything else. The hallmark of the ‘unreal’ is change.

vairAgya is often translated as dispassion. But as my vedAnta teacher has often pointed out, this isn’t really a very good translation of the word because it can conjure up images of a person with no apparent emotions who holds the world at bay. Continue reading


Question: Can you learn to be presence, or show someone how, or do you just have to wait for presence to arise?

Answer: ‘Presence’ is. It neither arises nor diminishes.

There is nothing one can do to ‘be’ presence, because one already is presence, but rather there are things which can be done in order to bring about the recognition of the presence one already is. Continue reading

Belief versus Faith pending understanding

sraddha kidrsi? guruvedantavakyesu visvasaha sraddha

Of what nature is sraddha?  Trust in the words of the teacher and Vedanta is sraddha.

Quoting from Swami Dayananda’s commentary on the above verse from Tattvabodha:

Visvasa is trust, faith, in the words of Vedanta, vedanta-vakyesu.  What is that trust here?  That they are a pramana, a means of knowledge.  You give the status of pramana to the words of Vedanta.  You do not look at them as theory, speculation or philosophy, but take them as words that are an independent means of knowledge.  That is called visvasa.”

Dhanya’s thoughts:

This type of faith is considered to be one of the qualifications for the gain of self-knowledge. There is a beautiful saying in the Bhagavad Gita that Swamiji quotes a lot ‘shraddhavan labhate jnanam.’  (Chapter 4, verse 39). Continue reading

Ecstatic Spiritual Practices

Who doesn’t like to get high? Let’s face it getting high is what we human beings live for. Getting high can also be called getting happy. Getting very, very, very happy. People pursue a high in all sorts of ways, from negative ways like drinking alhohol and taking drugs, to more positive ways like spiritual practices such as ecstatic chanting and dance.

When we do spiritual practices like ecstatic chanting and dance we feel we are entering another ‘zone,’ a place that is not available to us in ordinary life. We may feel we are progressing on the spiritual path. We may even assume that the goal of spiritual life is to always feel as high, or even higher, than when we do when we engage in ecstatic practices. Continue reading

Q.345 – The Purpose of Life, part 4

Go to Meenakshi’s answer to this question

Part 4 – Dhanya’s answer to this question

Q345: 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.

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

 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’.

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

All One

When you have a dream at night, the dream comes from you, is sustained by you, and resolves into you; and yet when you wake up in the morning, nothing has happened to you.

Your being was the very being of the dream. The material of the dream was your being. Even the intelligence was your intelligence. Continue reading

If You Doubt You’re Out

More than 30 years ago I spent a brief time in a spiritual scene which had all the hallmarks of a cult. The leader famously used to say, “If you doubt you’re out.” What that statement meant was that if you voiced a doubt about the many questionable things that were going on, you would be forced to leave.

‘If you doubt you’re out’ is a kind of interesting statement in my opinion; and from the point of view of trying to understand that nature of reality the statement itself might be interpreted in different ways. Continue reading

The Ego

The following was written in reply to a correspondent of mine who observed that people often act from ‘a basic egoic condition.’

Although some people may occasionally criticize others for acting from ‘the basic human egoic condition.’ I think it’s important to understand that the ego–at least according to the teachings of Vedanta–isn’t a bad thing to have.

The basic human egoic condition in Vedanta is known as ‘self-ignorance,’ or in Sanskrit ‘ajnanam.’

It’s important to note that self-ignorance is considered to be a condition of birth and not the fault of anyone who has it. Everyone, every single living being has self-ignorance, or that being wouldn’t have been born in the first place. The only living beings that don’t have self-ignorance are the ones who have self-knowledge. And these are considered to be quite rare individuals.

What is the definition of the ‘ego’ in Vedanta. First of all it is known in Sanskrit as the ‘ahankara,’ the aham ‘I,’ kara ‘maker.’ The ego, or ahankara, is considered to be a type of thought, which is the hallmark of self-ignorance. Continue reading