In this article, I am presenting a dialogue on what is the ultimate reality according to Advaita, with a teenage girl who is a student of the Facebook Psycho-Philosophy Group. As I started posting this dialogue, I thought it would be interesting to examine the role of women in the history of Vedanta because it is based on the study of scriptures, dialogue and wherever necessary debates: traditionally the bastion of males. I particularly examine the roles played by two women Gargi Vchaknavi of the Upanishadic era and Ubhaya Bharati of Shankara’s era. Going through the dialogues and roles played by these women, and subsequently going through my dialogue with the teenage girl, one can appreciate the fact that though times have changed- dialogues are held online instead of the forests – the method of transmission of truth, and the way of dialogue between teacher and student in the tradition of Advaita Vedanta remains unchanged, ever since Lord Brahma revealed the Vedas to Rishis and who transmitted this truth to a spiritual family-sampradaya: the lineage of teachers and students who pass the eternal truth down to the present day in an unbroken succession. Women are part of this eternal stream. … Read More You Are Awareness/Brahman: Dialogue with a Teenage Girl & Women in Vedanta
The Gita is a revolutionary and syncretic scripture in the canon of Vedanta. It brings down the Vedic truths from sequestered Himalayan caves into the active field of political life and crisis evoking tensions of fratricidal war. Religion is philosophy in action. Through the words of Krishna, who acts as his friend, guide, seer and prophet, Arjuna receives the practical application of teachings founds in the Upanishads. Throughout my active public life, I found myself in the position of Arjuna, facing a war, and asking the same questions he did, to Krishna. Thus it was that it was my favourite book till the time I did not renounce all organizational life. In this article, I discuss the Gita as a scripture of Advaita Vedanta along with its unique reformulation of action and renunciation, through what it calls action in inaction and inaction in action. I also discuss Shankara’s queasiness with this reformulation and his grudging acceptance even though it does not sit very well with his ideal of Upanishadic monasticism for a liberated being. … Read More Prasthana Traya: The Triple Canonical Base of Vedanta Scriptures Followed by Shankara – Part 3/4: Bhagavad Gita
Forming the end portion of the Vedas, the Upanisads have had a vast and pervasive influence in Hindu Tradition. Upanishadic teachings and Upanishadic type realization run through a wide range of Hindu religious literature as dye through a cloth. It is well known to those who follow the Veda that the phrase ‘the method of the Vedanta’ refers to the method for teaching knowledge of the Absolute observed in the Upanishads which crystallizes around a number of key terms, the most important of which are Atman and Brahman. Atman, “the Self”, is at the root of the experience of self, or “I”, which is found in every human being. It is the Formless Reality which one is, above Life and Death, and above space and time. Everyone is that Reality, although without being aware of it, and It shines in the heart and mind of all living beings. In this article, I discuss the origin, the message and the unique traditional method of teaching the message found in the Upanishads, by Shankara, through superimposition and negation.… Read More Prasthana Traya: The Triple Canonical Base of Vedanta Scriptures Followed by Shankara – Part 2/4: Vedas/Upanishads
I spent the first seventeen years of my inquiry with the teachings of J Krishnamurti (JK) after which I reached a stalemate. JK was primarily a master in investigating the psychological causes of suffering and despite having learned immensely from him in this regard, something within me kept clamouring to get metaphysical answers for questions like what is life, birth, death, self and creation. Moreover, like most Yoga-based teachings, Krishnamurti used to hammer at thought which according to him, in line with the teachings of Yoga based dualist schools, veils reality. However, unlike the depictions of Yoga based teachers like Buddha, Mahavira and other Hindu Yogis, Shankara is never depicted in a posture of meditation with eyes closed: always with a bundle of scriptures in his hand. This is a great testament to the fact that Advaita Vedanta, the path followed by Shankara does not believe in ending or shutting thought, but its science of Jnana Yoga is about using the subtle organ of thought, called intellect, and sharpen it to such an extent that it takes one to the reality that lies beyond thought, called Self/Brahman/Witness/Awareness, as revealed by the scriptures. In this series of articles, I shall be discussing the canonical base of scriptures and their paramount importance for the teachings of Advaita Vedanta of Shankara, where I found myself at home ultimately and received all my answers. … Read More Prasthana Traya: The Triple Canonical Base of Vedanta Scriptures Followed by Shankara – Part 1/4: Introduction
The Upanishads are hailed as one of the most profound scriptures of mankind. Departing from the ritualistic traditions of the earlier Vedic age, the Upaniṣadic sages were engaged in a radical rethinking of the nature of self and reality that was destined to deeply influence the course of religion, philosophy, and life in India and beyond. Their main purport is to attain immortality. However, an examination of the contents of the Upanisads themselves will show that they were never confined to profound philosophical doctrines. All sorts of miscellaneous ideas, injunctions, incantations, theological interpretations, conversations, traditions, and so forth, regarded at the time are secret principles, or secret teachings were assembled and set down without any sequence. This article shows how the paradoxical contents of Upanishads have baffled ancient and modern scholars alike. Ultimately the article shows that the secret of the Upanishads cannot be unlocked by human reason. … Read More The Puzzle of the Upanishads
There is a widespread notion that Shankara is the founder of Advaita Vedanta. Still, others think that he may have introduced some personal innovations in Vedanta by borrowing teachings from other schools. This article seeks to conclusively put an end to such speculations, by showing that Shankara gave ultimate authority to the Upanishads/shrutis. He followed a traditional teaching method of Upanishads called Agama: stretching back right up to Brahma, the Lord of every cycle of creation, who reveals the Vedas to the Rishis, and who further transmitted this knowledge to a chain of teachers constituting the Advaita tradition/sampradaya. Shankara was just a link – a powerful one – in this sampradya, which continues till today amongst those who know the Agama – traditional method of teaching found in the Upanishads/shrutis. Finally when Brahman is intuited even the shrutis are transcended.… Read More Shankara: Not The Founder of Advaita Vedanta But A Link in the Timeless Tradition
In Part 2 of this series, I examine the multifarious teachers and schools of Vedanta that existed before the advent of Shankara. I also show how Shankara refers to some of them as knowers of his tradition(sampradaya) in his various commentaries. This goes on to show that Shankara was not the founder of Advaita Vedanta as commonly believed. About a dozen pre-Shankara Vedanta schools and their teachers have been discussed, whose works are lost in history. Knowing all the views of these schools which do not belong to Shankara’s Advaita helps a seeker because at some points he/she holds similar erroneous views in one’s journey of self-inquiry.… Read More Difficulties in Finding the True Method of Advaita Vedanta of Shankaracharya – Part 2 : Pre-Shankara Schools
Self inquiry has its root in solving the riddle of death. Though most of us live in denial of this fact, it has the secret to the truth. No wonder this was a question which not only set me on my path of self-inquiry but also Buddha and Nachiketa in the Katha Upanishad, and every other inquirer across space and time. In this article, I describe my journey of self-inquiry with this question, interwoven with the other historical characters I have mentioned. … Read More Self inquiry: Have you questioned Death?