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 →
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 →
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 →
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 →
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!