Reincarnation – Q.335

Q: As you know, all spiritual traditions in Tibet, many in India and even the early Christians took reincarnation for granted.

 In Advaita however the idea is blatantly refused. Balsekar says, since there is no ego and the idea of an individual person is an illusion, what or who is there to be reincarnated?

Does this mean that the other traditions are wrong or is it a question of understanding, meaning that the people who argue differently do so from a different level of understanding / consciousness? Continue reading

Different Teachings – Q.334

Q: How do you explain two enlightened people (in the advaitic sense) that have different teachings?  For instance, I think someone like Greg Goode and Swami Dayananda would disagree on many things despite both arguably being enlightened. For example let’s take Greg’s essay on idealism (http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/teachers/idealism_greg.htm).  

 I don’t think Swami Dayananda-ji will agree with the core position that an object doesn’t exist unless perceived.   In fact I have asked Swami Tadatmananda this question (in the form of ‘does a rock exist before someone sees it?’) and he answered in the traditional sense saying that it does.   From your point of view does this still fall under the umbrella of differences in teaching style?    I also believe we could get a debate between the two on the topic of Ishvara and freewill. Continue reading

Kaṭha Upaniṣad Review

The Kaṭhopaniṣad with Śaṅkarabhāṣyam
Based on Swami Paramārthānanda’s lecture
Compiled by Divyajñāna Sarojini Varadarājan

The main teaching of the Kaṭha Upaniṣad is Death’s response to the request by a young seeker, Naciketas, for Self-knowledge. Any serious student of advaita will want to know the answer as this is our own question too: using logic we may well be able to arrive at what we are not, but we still need to know clearly what we are. For this reason this book by Smt. Sarojini Varadarajan, based on Swami Paramarthananda’s traditional unfoldment of the Upaniṣad and Śaṅkara’s commentary theron, is a valuable addition to any seeker’s library.

One way of approaching this Upaniṣad is to note that Naciketas standing at Death’s door (literally) remained steady-minded enough to press his request for Self-knowledge – in spite of Death’s initial resistance to answer. And, by the end of the Upaniṣad, after Death finally gave in to the young man’s request, Naciketas ‘became pure and immortal’. Is it really possible that we can also reach the same point by closely following the teaching that Naciketas hears, especially as we are living lives grounded in fear? Continue reading

Does practice make any difference? (Q. 315)

Q. Dennis–I have read your books( and appreciate them) and many books and tapes from many teachers on advaita and “neoadvaita” .  There have been glimpses and experiencing here in the last 15 years  resulting in much lightness in this life. The real freedom came when it was realized there was no more need to “decide” “who to listen to or follow” and “I” have followed them all.   I have one question which seems to separate your views from Parsons yet he, you and the others all state that “the bottom line is “nothing matters”  and whether or not an apparent person “gains” self knowledge makes not the slightest difference to reality-oneness.  The question is this: 

If the truth is ultimately only oneness always present, what difference does it make whether “I” as a separate individual meditates or doesn’t, “prepares myself for awakening or doesn’t etc, etc or does whatever “I” thinks it is doing??.  If I rob a store which seems to be out of the nature of this ‘I’,  why do you( or the traditional Advaita scriptures) say this is “dangerous” if not prepared??.  Whatever apparently  happens is going to apparently happen anyway with no “doing” by “me”  The freedom here has come from having intuitive trust and let life guide. Continue reading

What is traditional advaita?

My teacher is a teacher of traditional advaita. I believe she is the only such teacher in the UK, if not in Europe. Some might look at what she teaches – Gita, Upaniṣads, Prakaraṇa Granthas (philosophical treatise) and stotras (devotional hymns) – and believe that they too, not only follow traditional advaita (because they too read these texts), but also have an additional, and arguably more powerful, key in the form of meditation or yoga or other such practice. Despite the surface similarity, however, I stick to my opening claim and will attempt to open up clear blue water between the teacher of traditional advaita simply by making clear what is mean by ‘traditional advaita’.

Two words set apart the traditional approach to teaching advaita from all others: sampradāya and pramāna.

Sampradāya is the established approach to unfolding the vision of Vedanta transmitted from one teacher to another. It is the traditional interpretation with a traceable lineage of teachers. Continue reading

shrutisAra samuddharaNam

The shrutisAra samuddharaNam

of

shri toTakAchArya

An Overview by C.S.Baskaran

A rare and much less known secondary scripture shrutisAra samuddharaNam is a composition  by  Shri Totakacharya, one of the four disciples of Shri Adi Sankara Bhagavatpada. Though most of the secondary Scriptures are on the same subject of oneness of jIva and brahman, ideas basic to Advaita Vedanta, this work is unique in certain ways. Firstly, it is composed in a meter that is named after the AchArya as toTaka meter. These verses are melodious when sung with their breath-taking rhythm, they remind us of Sri Sankara’s famous bhaja govinda stotram. He elucidated the nature of Brahman as one and non-dual, real, knowledge and bliss through a number of scriptural texts. Secondly he does not refer to the mAyA concept that is important to Advaita Vedanta nor discuss the tenability of the reflection theory (bimba pratibimba vAda) nor the limitation theory (avachCheda vAda ). The reasons are the possibility of his explaining the oneness of inner self (jIva ) and supreme self ( brahman ) of Advaita Vedanta without resorting to those concepts. He later became the Pontiff of the Sankara Matt established by his Guru at Badari, North India. With the blessings of my Guru, I shall try to give a short overview of this text. Continue reading

Fundamentalism vs the eclectic

In common with many people in the West who are pursuing a spiritual path, I went down a couple of blind alleys before finding my present teacher, Swamni Atmaprakāśānanda, who had been given the vision of the truth of the Self by her guru, Swami Dayānanda Saraswati.

Of course one doesn’t know that one is going down a blind alley at the time and some alleys are so long that it takes several years before you bang up against the wall beyond which there’s no understanding. This was the case for me. The first alley was long. In the mid 70s, I came across a Philosophy School in London that offered a tantalising and a balanced diet of Upanishad and Gita study, meditation and other practical exercises and disciplines, Sanskrit, fine music, fine food, opportunities for service, regular retreats and the guidance of a ‘realised master’ from India (whom we didn’t personally meet, but received transcripts of his ‘Conversations’ with the founder of he school. These had been translated from Hindi and edited before we got to hear them – and the original recordings erased so no authentication possible). It took several years before discovering that all the right ingredients without an experienced cook will serve up a meal that might satisfy the hungry for a while, but is eventually one that’s lacking in real nourishment. I eventually left to follow my own direction. Continue reading

Neo-Advaita versus Traditional Vedanta

A highly subjective view

By Tan

Introduction

I was on the “spiritual quest” for more than 12 years after success in the material world did not keep its advertised promise of lasting happiness. I started my quest with Greek Philosophy, Krishnamurti, Taoism, Zen, Neurological Science and Physical Science and had read more books and attended more “satsangs” than I can mention without being thoroughly embarrassed. The quest led me in the final stages to “Neo-Advaita” and then in the end to Vedanta. I had spent the considerable amount of 3 -4  years in meetings – with so-called “Neo-Advaita“ teachers such as Tony Parsons, Karl Renz and only very recently had developed an interest in traditional Vedanta teaching. There I had spent some short time with the books of Dennis Waite whose friendly input had led me to Swami Dayananda, Swami Chinmayananda and in the end to James Swartz. I have no profound knowledge of Vedanta teaching methods nor an encompassing view of Vedanta, but can only report the impact of Vedanta once revealed by a true teacher such as James Swartz. Continue reading

Who do you think ‘I’ is? (Part 2)

PART 2/3: PREPARATORY STEPS
Go to beginning

Having established the principles involved in escaping from the torments of living a false identity, we can examine how traditional advaitins approach the journey.

Preparedness. Am I fit for the journey? Three essentials are needed:

1) Clarity of purpose. This is the conviction that self-knowledge is the over-riding goal of life. Of course other activities involved in day-to-day living do carry on, but the fruits of wealth and pleasures are not to be over-valued. They give a respite, no doubt, but they will never deliver peace. And, without peace, how is self-knowledge possible? We do the needful: pursue security and pleasure, in conformity with universal values, for the sake of self-knowledge. Continue reading

Advaita – neo, traditional… and music!

Here at Advaita Vision, we are aiming to bring you the very best of both traditional teaching and modern Western approaches. We acknowledge that the traditional route has a proven track record of over a thousand years, with many of the stories and metaphors working just as well now as they did then (think of ropes and snakes, wave and water). And yet it is also true that many modern seekers are not yet willing to make the effort to look into the scriptures or find a teacher capable of unfolding them. Satsang and neo teachers speak to them directly of the truth, rather than leading them by the hand along the well-worn paths which, though they will reach the destination, appear to take a lot longer!

The method of teaching is like the pole used to vault over the high bar. Whether we use an old wooden pole or a carbon fibre one, we have to discard it before we can cross over.

So the aims are the same and there is an opportunity for some integration! Traditionalists need to speak more directly to the modern seeker, perhaps distilling the wisdom of the scriptures and representing it in a more modern format, shorn of references to concepts which are alien to today’s society. And the neos need to acknowledge that the old approach cannot be all wrong – else how can it have survived for so long, and how can it have led so many to enlightenment?

A useful metaphor for this can be found in the Indian fusion group ‘Advaita’ – eclectic in music in the same way as this site is eclectic in teaching. They are aiming to marry Hindustani classical music from India’s traditional roots with modern Western rock – and they seem to be doing it very well indeed!