Pramāṇam – Means of Knowledge – Part 1

pramaanamPramāṇam the word means, “means of knowledge”. Pratyakṣam is direct knowledge – indriya viṣaya sannikarṣa jñānam – the knowledge gained when objects come into contact with the five sense organs, viz., sight, hearing smell, taste and touch. The sequence in which the senses are listed is meaningful and relevant, as it goes from gross to subtle. Eyes can see hundreds of meters; ears can hear within tens of meters; nose can smell upto a few meters; taste and touch have to be immediate and intimate.

In knowing, the means and the knowledge, there is no option –one has no choice over what one sees, the moment one open’s one’s eyes.

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Ānanda – our Svarūpam

When I went to a school, I asked the Children what are they in the school for? Someone said “to study”. I asked “Study for what?” “So that we can pass the examination with good marks” pat came the reply. “Why should you score good marks in the exams?” “So that we can get a good job?” “Why do we need a good job?” “So that we can earn a lot.” “Why do we need to earn a lot?” “So that we can buy things that we want.” “Why do we need to buy things that we want?” “So that I can be happy.”

What if you are Happiness here and now? What if Happiness is your Svarūpam? Please pause to think about the profundity of this possibility…..

Svarūpam, the word means one’s intrinsic nature. Like even heat and light are the intrinsic nature of fire.

Ānanda – it is a nuetral state; it is neither Happiness nor Sadness. It is neither bliss, for ignorance can be bliss. Ānanda is a state of equilibrium when one is at peace with oneself and the world.

We can logically arrive at Ānanda as our Svarūpam. How? Let’s analyze.

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Prāptiḥ – Attainments – 2 types

Whether I seek artha – security, in the form of food, clothes or shelter, or kāma – pleasures, it is really happiness that I seek all the time; only that I think happiness comes from these external objects and hence my extroverted nature. Even when pursuing dharma, it is happiness in the other worlds that I seek. mokṣa is really being happy here and now, and hereinafter.

prāptiḥ the word means to gain, to attain. Let us analyze this extroverted pursuit for happiness. Everyone agrees that money is essential for a happy life. We see those who don’t have money suffer, and those who have money to be happy; hence we conclude that “money gives happiness”. Based on this conclusion, we orient our lives and that of our dependents, towards earning as much money as one possibly can, so that we can remain happy everafter!!! Continue reading

Puruṣārtha Niścaya – Determining the Purpose of Life

Almost every one of us mostly live our lives mechanically. Having been born, we go through the mill of studies, higher studies, romance, marriage, kids, money, power, old age, disease and death. People who are in positions of power, rich people, and erudite people are looked up to by the society, regardless of how they achieved their ends or by what values they lead their lives. The paradox is that it appears both the classes of people, the ones who lookup and the ones who are looked up to, are satisfied with this pathetic state of affairs.

For some, the immediate unfolding future becomes the purpose; for some others, money and power becomes the driving force. Only a very few, stop to think about what is real purpose of this life? Why was I born? In a particular family? Into a given status? Endowed with a given intellect? Why did our lives take a certain turn?

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Guru – Teacher

For the knowledge “Tat Tvam Asi – Thou art that”, espoused by the Vedas, to become “Self-Knowledge”, tradition says we need to hear it from a Guru. It is important to understand why we do need to hear it only from a Guru. Will not text books, audio recordings, internet and such other facilities do? Even if I were to surrender to the traditional advise how do I know who a Guru is? Where will be come from? How do I identify him to be the one?

गुकारस्त्वन्धकारोवै रुकारस्तन्निवर्तकः। अन्धकारनिरोधित्वात् गुरुरित्यभिधीयते॥

gukārastvandhakārovai rukārastannivartakaḥ| andhakāranirodhitvāt gururityabhidhīyate||

The word Guru is formed from two roots, Gu, and Ru; Gu stands for darkness and Ru stands for removal of that darkness. The person who dispels one’s darkness (ignorance) and leads one to light (knowledge) is called a Guru. Only such a person, who gives one self-knowledge, can be called a Guru; none else. Contemporary phrases such as “Management Guru” are extensions of this understanding, however I deem them to be inappropriate.

The next question that naturally arises is how do I know that this given person is my Guru.

तद् विज्ञानार्थं स गुरुमेवाभिगच्छेत् समित्पाणिः श्रोत्रियं ब्रह्मनिष्टम्॥

tad vijñānārthaṁ sa gurumevābhigacchet samitpāṇiḥ śrotriyaṁ brahmaniṣṭam||

The upaniṣad uses two adjectives while referring to a Guru, Śrotriya and Brahmaniṣṭa. A Śrotriya is one who has learnt the wisdom of the Vedas from another Guru who, in turn belongs to the Guru Śiṣya Parampara. A Brahmaniṣṭa is one who, having gained the knowledge, has made it his own and revels in it. Of these two adjectives, it takes another Brahmaniṣṭa to know one of his own kind; a student is unqualified to make that conclusion. This is the truth; all indicators currently used to identify a Brahmaniṣṭa are motivated and only serve to claim their own leader to be a Brahmaniṣṭa, and that’s precisely why we see so many leaders with diagonally opposite characteristics confusing the day light out of our wits. Therefore, it is the Śrotriya that a student should seek; and his Parampara should vouch safe for his qualification to be a Guru.

Now to the question of why should we hear it only from a Guru. Here is why. To understand a single word of a given upaniṣad, mere knowledge of Sanskrit or just that upaniṣad, is not sufficient; but that of the entire śāstra, is required. However, knowledge of the whole śāstra, is gained only word by word; how does one break this catch-22? The Guru Śiṣya Parampara provides the answer, for, when you hear it from a Guru, you hear the meaning of a given word from the one who knows the whole. That Guru, as a student, would have heard it from his Guru, who knows the whole, and so on. What about the 1st Guru, the ādi guru? He is none other than Sadāśiva or Nārāyaṇa, whose nature is “All Knowledge” and hence do not need a Guru.

Vedanta is like Mathematics. 1+1 should always yield 2, irrespective of which part of the globe you are taught, which language you are taught in, who teaches you, or what time it is. Knowledge we have seen already is vastu tantram – so there should only be one answer, one solution, like even in Mathematics; yet there seems to be many schools of thought, opinions and conclusions. A proper teaching methodology, that’s time tested and proven, will resolve this conflict. This is what an aspiring student should opt for, for this is not only the surest method, but the only one to gain self-knowledge. More on this later.

It should be evident by now that this knowledge cannot be gained from mere textbooks, for, our prejudices will interfere with the purport of the words. Constant and consistent interaction and clarification with the Guru is required in order to grasp the intended meaning.

Lastly, how do I come across this Śrotriya who has the proper methodology to teach. That is just by Īśvara‘s grace; to get that grace, sincere Prayer is the only way.

Śraddhā – being open minded

सदेव सौम्येदमग्र आसीदेकमेवाद्वितीयं ब्रह्म – तत् सत्यं – स आत्मा – तत्वमसि श्वेतकेतोः।

sadeva saumyedamagre āsītdekamevādvitīyaṁ brahma – tat satyaṁ sa ātmā – tatvamasi śvetaketoḥ

This, is an extract from chāndogya upaniṣad. It declares, in effect, that you are the cause of the universe; you and iśvara are one and the same. Before we analyze, have a doubt-free understanding and assimilate this teaching, it is worthwhile observing that it is only the Advaita tradition that makes such a monumental empowering declaration.

Supposing this (the teaching) was true, we would have gained everything that is to be gained in this life and hereafter; and supposing if this wasn’t true, what are our choices?  Every other religion, philosophy or cult propounds a theory that appeals to your sense of belief, separates you from God, postpones the knowledge about the truth until after your death, and enslaves you for exploitation. Not a very attractive proposition, is it? So why don’t we have śraddha (meaning, being open minded, and not faith or belief as is commonly mistakenly translated), and give the possibility of the teaching being true a chance, and allow it to operate without prejudice. Please, for God’s sake, and your own. Continue reading


Namaste! Let me start by thanking Sri Dennis Waite and Sri Peter Bonnici for having invited me to think aloud amidst you and share the traditional wisdom of Advaita Vedānta with you. This very site and all its contents are for the amelioration of the Individual and through that, the whole Society and hence a lot of puṇya accrues to them. May them and their families and friends be blessed by īśvara.

Over a series of blogs, I intend presenting the complete Vision of Advaita Vedānta, not swerving from the tradition and yet applied to current day context. There will be continuity of Ideas between the blogs and I would like readers to be aware of this when they read the individual blogs; afterall, isn’t the individual always connected to the total? I shall endeavor to publish the blogs within reasonable time of each other so that the overall vision is not lost.

I commence my first blog entitled “Success”, with my prayers to īśvara that may my attempt in presenting the Vision of Advaita Vedānta be successful and may its readers benefit from the wisdom contained therein.

Everyone wants to succeed in life, whatever be their definition of success. The definition varies according to the stage in life in which they are. For a Student, it is success in exams, for a Youth, it is success in love, for a Married Middle Aged Person, it is success in his profession and for an Old Person, it is healthy life.

Whatever one’s definition of success be, one has to setup “Clear Goals” with timelines and measurable indicators for one to assess oneself as successful. Unfortunately, most of us do not have enough clarity on our Goals; that needs to be fixed first. “Goal Setting” is not my topic and hence let us assume that one has a very clear idea of one’s goal; now it becomes important to know what the factors that contribute to success are. This is what ṛṣis (seers) have to say in this regard; Continue reading