On “shraddha”:

Vedanta demands “shraddha” from every seeker who is eager to learn or study Advaita philosophy. It’s a basic requirement. But what exactly is shraddha?

Unfortunately, the Sanskrit word ‘shraddha‘ does not have an exact equivalent in the English language.

tattvabodha asks: What is the nature of ‘shraddha‘? And it answers:
“Faith in the words of the Guru and the scriptures is shraddha.”

aparokShAnubhUti, verse 8 also says:  निगमाचार्यवाक्येषु भक्तिः श्रद्धेति विश्रुता । 

(nigama AcArya vakyeShu bhaktiH shraddheti vishrutA)

It means: shraddha is “implicit faith in the word of the scripture and the teacher.”

vivekacUDAmaNi, verse 25 is a bit more elaborate on ‘shraddha.’ One of the translations of this verse reads: “THAT by which one understands the import of the scriptures as well as the pregnant words of the advice of the preceptor is called by the wise as ‘shraddha.’
The word implies an ability to embrace the Truth, explains another of the translators of this verse. Continue reading

Shankara and Mind

In his comments on the post ‘SamAdhi Again (Part 2)‘, Venkat said: “Dayananda has nothing useful to say about realisation. All of his statements are his mundane interpretations that don’t reconcile to anything that the great masters from Gaudapada and Sankara have said.”

And “Could you provide a couple of quotes from Sankara to support your Dayananda comment:
“Therefore, the knowledge is that I am thoughtfree (nirvikalpa) in spite of the experience of vikalpa . . . mithyA is not a problem – it is useful; mind is useful and that is all there is to it””

This attitude was also supported by Shishya in his comment on the same post: “I think Venkat put it very well.”

Accordingly, I have collected together a number of quotations that support the contention that only knowledge (and not action or samAdhi etc.) produces enlightenment; that ‘enlightenment’ is nothing other than Self-knowledge arising in the mind; and that the mind continues after enlightenment. These quotations demonstrate that those readers who have been criticising Swami Dayananda and his followers have been doing so unjustly.

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A. Bhagavad Gita bhASya

2.21

“(Similarly) the same Self, which is in reality beyond all changes of state, is called ‘enlightened’ on account of discriminative knowledge separating the Self from the not-self, even though such knowledge is only a modification of the mind and illusory in character (and implies no real change of state).

2.56

“Moreover that monk (i.e. man of realization) is then called a man of steady wisdom; when his mind is unperturbed; when his mind is unperturbed by the sorrows that come on the physical or other planes; …and has gone beyond attachment, fear and anger.

and BG 2.55 says that a stitha praj~na is a man who drives away all desires that crop up in the mind. Continue reading

YogavAsiShTa vs. Bhagavad-Gita

A question that is often asked of me is why YogavAsiShTa is not as popular as Bhagavad-Gita.

[Frankly, I am not sure if that is true and if so why it is so. I spell out a few of my thoughts to start a healthy discussion.]

 In my own case, it was Bhagavad-Gita that I was first exposed to, even as a teenager, and it was much later in my life after my pate turned bald and the few hairs that remained acquired a silver gray hue, that I happened to study YogavAsiShTa. I can say with certitude that both books must have been equally present in my house when I was growing up with my parents. Could it be that my parents somehow conspired to see that I did not get access to read the YogavAsiShTa in my youth because of my mother’s apprehension or belief in an adage that was popular in those times that one who reads YogavAsiShTa would surely fling the family life and retire to a forest as a Sannyasi (renunciate)? Continue reading

Bhagavad Gita Classes

I have just been notified of a new, on-line course of classes on the Bhagavad Gita, presented by Swami Sarvananda (disciple of Swami Dayananda). Expected to last several years, at the rate of 1 lecture per week, the course began about 1 1/2 months ago. There is also a Sanskrit course available for students ‘attending’ the Gita classes.

Anyone interested can contact me (via the Contact Form, or the link at the bottom of the home page) and I will forward the details that I received, with links to join the classes.

Who (or what) is it that ‘acts’?

Those who have read any of my books, or the brief biography that is available on this site and others, will know that I began my ‘philosophical investigations’ with the School of Economic Science, as it is known in the UK. And you will also know that I have commented frequently upon the misguided notions that were propagated by the school in the name of Advaita. One of the key misunderstandings that I had, which was not cleared for many years, despite reading widely and discussing Advaita with many people on the Internet, relates to ‘action’.

As usual, this was a Sankhyan idea effectively being passed off as belonging to Advaita. It was the notion that it is ‘the guNa that act’, or that action is a function of prakRRiti. In the first edition of ‘The Book Of One’, I actually had a chapter called ‘The Myth of Action’ and the first section of this was entitled ‘Only the guNa Act’. Here are several paragraphs from this:

 “The three qualities of nature, the guna, of which all of nature is constituted, are in constant motion and this is the only ‘action’. Yes, the body acts – it is constituted of the three guna – but we do not. Here is a useful practical example of this: It may be that you cycle from time to time. I enjoy cycling in the New Forest, where I live – free exercise in beautiful surroundings and fresh air. However, there are a few hills along the routes, and sometimes you have to go up these rather than down. Many people just get off and walk their cycle up. Others take it as some sort of challenge and insist on trying to cycle to the top without having to dismount. When the going becomes hard, they make an extra mental effort, along the lines of ‘I am damn well going to get to the top, even if it kills me’! This is the hard way! Continue reading

Foundation Sources for Advaita

Below is a compilation of two dozen + one of the Mantra-s/shloka-s from various shruti /smriti sources which form the Basic Foundation for the Concepts of Advaita. The selection is arbitrary and purely based on what appealed to me to be significant. Other learned seekers may like to add to or delete from or suitably emend this list in order to make it comprehensive and authentic. If any authoritative lists are already available in public domain (preferably online), a reference and a link to them will be appreciated. Continue reading

CIF Webinars

Here are further details about the on-line Vedanta courses being provided by Chinmaya International Foundation:

Chinmaya International Foundation is offering courses of Vedanta, Bhagawad Geeta, Sanskrit, Vedic Mathematics, Bhagavad and Make It Happen (Course on Self-Transformation) in the postal and online modes.

CIF has recently launched the Learning Sanskrit Grammar – the Paninian Way, a Webinar Course, and this has received enthusiastic response.

On the occasion of the Chinmaya Centenary Year, CIF is happy to announce launch of the Webinar Mode for its Foundation and Advanced Vedanta Courses and also its popular Bhagavad Gita Course. The uniqueness of the Webinar Course is that  participants will be directly and actively assisted by Chinmaya Mission Acharyas during their course study.  Hence the advantage of doing the courses through Webinar, as compared to the postal and online modes, cannot be overemphasised. Continue reading

A Comparison of Bhagavad Gita Versions

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are very many versions of the Bhagavad Gita in print, although you will have to look to Indian bookstores to obtain most of these. This can be very worthwhile. Not only are they a lot cheaper there but it is not necessarily the case that the best versions are those which are most popular and are therefore available through Amazon.

You really need to look at each of them yourself to decide which ones appeal most. I can make a few general observations but only you know what your priorities are. (It goes without saying, of course, that the Bhagavad Gita is a ‘must read’ for anyone seriously interested in Advaita!) If you want to see original Devanagari, you are restricted in choice. If you want Romanised transliteration, again not all will provide this.

If you want word-by-word translations, only a few give this (see Refs. 1 – 3 below). If you are interested in the Sanskrit – parts of speech and which verses contain which words, you want Ref. 16 (but this contains neither the text nor a commentary).

If you want the most comprehensive, understandable commentary and expense and time are no hindrance, then Ref. 15 is a no-brainer!

Finally, there is the all-Devanagari version with Shankara’s bhAshya (Ref. 18). This is a huge, hardback book, beautifully produced but, of course, totally useless unless you can read Sanskrit very well indeed. I have a spare copy of this and hereby offer to send it to anyone in the UK free of charge (or anyone elsewhere in the world if they pay the postage) in exchange for the following: you agree to be available to provide a literal translation of any (short) text by email from time to time if I need this for my writing. Email me if you are interested in this offer. Continue reading