Q: Undaunted by my belief that meditation to find the self (soul) is difficult, I would like to try, but there are no teachers in my area. Therefore, in the first instance, I would really appreciate your advice regarding a book to follow for this type of meditation that is suitable for a beginner.
A: The purpose of meditation is to help gain control of the mind and senses so that you can cultivate dispassion and discrimination and still the mind when listening to the teacher.
Meditation cannot enable you to ‘find the self’. You are already the Self – you just have not realized this. What has to happen is for the mind to receive knowledge about the Self, clear any misunderstandings, resolve any doubts etc. Ideally, you need a qualified teacher for this – someone who knows the truth and is able to convey the relevant steps (via story, metaphor etc.) to help someone else come to the same understanding.
As an introduction to Advaita, there are three books I would recommend:
1. ‘Introduction to Vedanta’ by K. Sadananda – see https://www.advaita-vision.org/vedanta-introduction-sadananda/;
2. ‘Book of One’ (2nd edition) by myself – http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/thebook/thebook.htm;
3. ‘VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem’ by D. Venugopal (This is serialized at the website (https://www.advaita-vision.org/vedanta-the-solution-part-1/).
Swami Tadatmananda has given a fine series of 42 talks about meditation and the spiritual life on YouTube based on Vedanta, Gita, and the Yoga Sutras. The talks are based on his book “Meditation, A Journey of Exploration”.
Thanks for that, Rick. I did not know about this book. Having just looked, I see it is available at Amazon on Kindle for a reasonable cost but much more expensive in paperback.
However, there is another book with a slightly different title:’Meditation A Practical Guidebook… Based on the Teachings of Vedanta, Bhagavad Gita & Yoga Sutras’. This is much cheaper. Any idea what the difference is? I would certainly be interested in purchasing.
Hi Dennis. Same book, different publishers.
Thanks, Rick. I’ve ordered from Vedic Books (link at bottom of main website home page). Book appears to be slightly cheaper from Amazon UK… until you find it is £9 for postage!
Make no mention of pence, or of pounds: for the price of wisdom is above rubies.
[Dennis] “What has to happen is for the mind to receive knowledge about the Self, clear any misunderstandings, resolve any doubts etc. Ideally, you need a qualified teacher for this – someone who knows the truth and is able to convey the relevant steps (via story, metaphor etc.) to help someone else come to the same understanding.”
If we are to believe Shankara, the guidance of a qualified teacher is not an ideal but a real need. He continually stresses the need for a teacher to help seekers come to know brahman. Brahman is known only through scripture, but scripture is understood through a teacher. This is why Shankara repeatedly tells us that brahman is known ‘through scripture and a teacher’, often coupling the two in a single Sanskrit compound (For instance Ch Up Bh 6.1.2, 6.15.2, 8.1.6, 8.7.1; Ka Up Bh 2.2.12; GKBh 3.32; GBh 2.21, 2.63, 8.8, 13.30, 18.17; Ka Up Bh 2.3.8; GBh 3.41.) Scripture and interpretation stand together, each inefficacious without the other. A teacher’s interpretation, ungrounded in scripture or gained through a non-Advaitin school, is misleading if not downright dangerous. It suffers from the faults of unguided reason, On the other hand, scripture not mediated by an Advaitin teacher may yield book-learning at best. But this is not the same as realization of brahman, which will occur as the teacher skilfully teaches the pupil to come to know brahman, using the methods as well as the content provided by scripture. It is these very methods, employed by a previous Advaitin teacher, which have brought the present teacher to realization. This realization is the pragmatic criterion of the truth of Advaita. (It works; it does set you free.) It qualifies the teacher to draw others to the truth, precisely because it is the result of the correct interpretation of scripture.
Thank you, Rick! I agree almost entirely. The proviso is that I believe that, although very difficult, it is still possible to realize the truth without actual contact with a teacher. Nowadays, one has access to so much material, including video or audio talks by qualified teachers. By judicious selection of the ‘right’ books and media, supported by reason applied with the benefit of increasing understanding, one can eventually grasp the truth. It is a great pity that qualified teachers are so few and far between!
Dennis, perhaps you’re right. I do however like what a wise and well-traveled student of Vedanta, Dhruv Kaji, has written from his own experience about one vital aspect of being in live, physical presence of the teacher: “The words of the Upanishads assume a different kind of liveliness and relevance when personally unfolded by the guru; the ring of truth in the teachings is heard and felt instinctively and unambiguously in the presence of the true guru. The tranquility, the quiet conviction, the healing, and the wholeness felt in association with the guru is a joy and blessing which needs to be actually experienced because, like love, it defies description or explanations. Without this special touch the teachings of Vedanta can remain inert and be ineffective beyond pandering to idle or scholarly curiosity.”
I am going to go with Dennis on this one. Since I am Brahman, and by stilling the Mind, have developed Intuition / Inner Tuition, then it stands to reason that The Atman is my teacher. The dearth of qualified teachers extant on the planet today, tells me that we all have our own Master within.
– rik gibson-dee
You need to be very careful where you go with that one. Even Hitler was ‘The Atman’!
Dennis, good point! I chuckled when I wrote it! I look forward to an eventual discussion of evil as it fits into The Grande Schema da Thinga. Wrapping one’s head around the co-existence of Infinite Good and Infinite Evil simultaneously is very challenging!
Someone of the Erudite Caste should fire a shot, write something and we can kick it around the paddock!
You might find these Q&A’s relevant, Rik:
85, 100, 120, 134, 416.
Dennis, Q.416 did the trick! Brilliant piece of wordsmithing! Thank you Brother!
You speak very highly of Swami Dayananda! Do you have any recommendations as to which of his books would be good starting additions to one’s Advaita Vedanta Kindle Library? Thank you Sir!
The ‘Bhagavad Gita Series’ (which I presume is the Kindle name for the ‘Home Study Course’) is comprehensive and suitable for all levels – quite brilliant. The 2-volume Mundaka Upanishad is also excellent.
A good starting point with Swami Dayananda is ‘Tattvabodhaḥ’. It’s the first book he had his Vedanta students study and as Swamiji said, “Tattvabodhaḥ helps you appreciate the beauty, profundity and vastness of the vision of Vedanta. It is an eye-opener in terms of human problems and their solutions.”
Tattvabodha for Hoi polloi, I liked it.
I found this interpretation of Katha Upanishad, Chapter I, Part III, Verse13…
I would love to know what you think of it, with respect to Advaita Vedanta…
“The Wise Person, by inhibiting speech or ideation by language, should retreat to and stay speechless at the speech center of the brain or mind. Then by inhibiting the conative impulses, he should stay (by thus quieting involuntary and voluntary activities of the mind) in the (remaining) cognitive element — the Knowing Self or I-Know Feeling. Quieting next, (by practice), the effort involved in knowing, he should merge in the Great Self or pure I-Sense which is Knowing Par Excellence.
After that by abolishing all phenomenal knowing, he should realize the Metempiric Self”.
Keep in mind that I design machinery and am NOT an academic, so I might have screwed up the verse/chapter numbers :<)
I would always recommend avoiding someone who uses words like ‘conative’ and ‘metempiric’. The purpose of writing about these things is to explain. If you have to look words up in the dictionary, the writer is not doing his or her job. Rather than communicating understanding, one gets the impression that the author is saying ‘look how clever I am’!
This verse is talking about doing nididhyAsana to ‘internalize’ the teaching. To move from an initial, intuitive understanding to a deep and firm realization. To go from a j~nAnI to a jIvanmukta.
We cannot ‘merge into’ the Self because we already ARE the Self.
Of course, Ramesam and Venkat will have a different view no doubt…