Yes Vedanta is dedicated to teaching and preserving TRADITIONAL Advaita Vedanta (brahmavidya; highest Knowledge of Reality… the final Truth… leading to permanent fulfillment and highest purpose in life accomplished)…
Traditional means, expounded as originally presented and how it’s supposed to be taught according to tradition. Why is this important? Because PROPER ORDER is non-negotiable for a PROPER, TOTAL and DIRECT understanding (aparokṣa-jñānam: I am Whole, Limitless, Free).
Else Self-Knowledge remains at subtle intellectual level, called INDIRECT Knowledge (parokṣa-jñānam). For example…
Imagine a child first learns multiplication before addition. Or learns all, except addition. Consequence in both cases is a limited mathematician. No matter how good he-she may think, feel or believe oneself to be – the incomplete cognition of maths remains true. That’s the risk of learning outside the tradition.
This is EXACTLY the situation with modern non-traditional teachings, disguised as Advaita Vedanta. For example, Neo-Advaita (new-age non-duality originating mid 1900’s). Expounders of such incomplete methodologies attract thousands. Why? Because it neglects the hard multiplication/division – while showing the attractive and easy addition/subtraction.
Effect of this half delivery is artificial sense of freedom / enlightenment. Why artificial? Because one’s vision of “THE” reality is relying on partial knowledge.
For example, once the partially-taught over-confident mathematician is confronted with multiplication/division, he-she suddenly discovers there’s no way of solving the equation.
One now believes something is wrong with one’s calculations. Thus spends years attempting to solve it. Never realizing, nothing is wrong with him-her nor his-her devoted effort. Problem is ignorance of the missing knowledge, once known, the equation is permanently solved.
Similarly, a doctor can’t cure the patient with partial medical knowledge. Yes, patient may be temporarily relieved, but the disease will inevitably resurface in later years. Only complete knowledge of the subject matter can fully destroy that which inherently doesn’t belong.
In the same manner, soon as the spiritual aspirant inevitably returns to ordinary life/kids/work, the spiritual high eventually subsides in context of the real world. The “I” remains unsolved. Emotions continue. Noisy mind returns. One is compelled to return for another satsang high. In course of time, this results in thousands of repeat followers. Innocently building up Guru’s authority. Which attracts even more seekers due to social proof being a powerful psychological influence.
This trap because overwhelmingly transparent to the aspirant after years of basically “killing” time. Then one begins asking if there exists a perfectly complete and down-to-earth solution…
Something which has a proper logical step-by-step methodology of revealing what-is. And the result of it’s revealing is TOTAL vision of the WHOLE (sarvam brahmaḥ). No doubts remain. No confusions are possible. Absolute unparalleled clarity with relationship of the person (jīva), world/matter (jagat) and Īśvara (Brahman – the ultimate/final Truth).
All is expounded in impeccably precise and thorough detail.
This is what TRADITIONAL means. A reliable unfolding of how non-duality is supposed to be systematically and carefully grasped, integrated and lived. Nothing left out.
Before getting stated with traditional Advaita Vedanta below…
In order to help improve one’s clarity, comprehension and integration… Yes Vedanta employs additional educational methods like mind-maps, homework and class interactions (for students attending the free physical classes – which unquestionably remains most effective way to learn and assimilate any subject matter – thus you’re encouraged to attend.)
Meaning we compliment the classic ear-to-ear method (karna-paramparā) with visual/kinesthetic learning. In this way the paradoxical and ambiguous Upanishad / Bhagavad Gita statements can unwrap their profound meaning to the student in a more graspable and practical manner.
Purpose of this accelerated learning method is to counter 70% of heard knowledge, forgotten within 24 hours.
This helps one’s mind remain predominantly contemplative (inquiring) and discriminating (ātma-anātma-viveka; self/not-self discernment) – which ultimately leads to Liberation (mokṣa).
In most cases, the only way to the highest Truth is by listening to teacher/guru’s words unfolding a proven means of Knowledge (pramāṇa) for removing ignorance (avidyā). This is also our preferred way of elucidating the incredible depth contained in texts of Vedānta.
In short, Yes Vedanta intention is to enhance one’s learning experience while strictly preserving the original teachings of Ādi Śaṅkarācārya and lineage of Advaita Vedanta teachers.
So what is Vedānta…
Vedānta is the world’s most ancient, broadest, highest and deepest spiritual methodology. It’s purpose is to remove one’s limiting, false notions about Reality through means of Self-Inquiry.
It not only expounds who-what you really are – and what is the reality of the universe – it also accurately guides you to realize the Truth for yourself.
When all doubts are resolved and Truth is known with absolute clarity – the false “I” is easily recognized as “not-I” (anātma).
Thus knowledge of oneself as Limitless, unconcerned, ordinary, action-less, non-dual free Awareness (Ātman) – is confidently accepted and re-identified with – as true “I”.
Advaita Vedānta is universal in its application and is equally relevant to all human beings irrespective of country, culture, belief, and background. For example…
You can immediately recognize one aspect of universality in principle of ahimsā (non-injury). It applies to humans, animals, insects, and plants. Fact is none want to be hurt. Including you. This is why it feels painful hurting others. Because ahimsā is built in all Creation.
Now, let’s investigate what is Vedānta and how it can help…
Word “Vedanta” is a combination of two Sanskrit words – veda (knowledge) and antaḥ (end, within, innermost).
“End” in this context does not mean something physically located at end. But the final culmination (message) of the Vedas, called the Upaniṣads or jñāna-kāṇḍa. Therefore “end” also signifies: end of my spiritual progress. As in, nothing more to accomplish after.
Therefore, Vedānta means “the end of knowledge” or “the culmination of all knowledge” or “the highest knowledge” which upon self-inquiry leads to freedom from limitation (moksha).
It’s pointing to THAT which is beyond all relative knowledge.
It’s pointing to the “knowledge” of the final/absolute Reality – knowing which everything else becomes known. * Chāndogya Upaniṣad
Here “Knowledge” means direct and permanent realization of final Reality. It does not mean knowledge memorized from a book, then brilliantly mastered and repeated until it’s known ‘by heart’.
Because that kind of relative knowledge would be forgotten with amnesia (including your own name).
We are speaking of THAT which is independent of your body-mind-intellect. Even though body-mind-intellect is used to apprehend the Innermost Self (Ātman).
Purpose of Vedānta is Mokṣa (Liberation / Freedom / Self-Realization / Wholeness).
Unceasingly knowing with TOTAL clarity (a) who you are, but more importantly (b) who you are NOT, and (c) not confusing a-b, else occasional doubt is a familiar experience.
It also includes discovering the Reality of the WHOLE universe (who is it’s maker), because the reality of the universe and your own Reality are not apart, nor different.
Upon this discovery, one transcends all sorrows and sufferings (atyantika-dukha-nivritti) and ‘attains’ supreme bliss (paramānanda-prāpti). Word ‘attain’ is used with caution because it’s already attained. One can’t attain what is already present and eternal (Brahman). Only to acknowledge and accept it’s presence as YOU.
Although this doesn’t mean that usual problems of life disappear. Let’s get real. One still needs to work for shelter, food.
All that changes is problems are not seen as problems. This results in a life of positive and enduring peace about entire Universe including oneself.
Advaita (Non-Dualism) Vedānta expounds that you are not who you take yourself to be (body-mind-intellect).
Your real Self (Ātman) is one with the ultimate Reality (Brahman) and is of the nature of Existence-Consciousness-Bliss (Sat-Chit-Ānanda), which is beyond all limitations and not bounded by anything, including – time, space, and objects within time-space (satyam jñānam ānantam brahma).
Brahman/Ātman alone is Real (satyam) and everything else that you perceive to be real (ie: whole universe) is false, and you are none other than Brahman (brahma satyam jagan-mithyā jivo brahmaiva nāparaḥ).
“False” doesn’t mean denial or rejection (eg: God is false). A common misinterpretation of anti-Vedānta critics. (Reason why) In Vedānta all is understood as ONE, without a second.
Eventually, as one is able to acknowledge one Self as Brahman (ayam ātmā brahma; aham brahma asmi) – the One non-dual Reality – then the apparent nature of the whole universe gradually becomes clear and the search/finding permanently stops.
Now the fundamental problem has been solved. Highest life purpose accomplished. And gurus who were irrationally placed on a pedestal, are treated equal to one’s friend, mom, sibling, child.
It liberates you from the wrong identification with the limited body-mind-intellect. Meaning also freedom from death (because the “I” has been shifted from mortal Body-Mind, to it’s original ‘place’).
It also frees you from desires and aversions towards gratuitous things, because the whole universe is appearing within your Self and there is nothing apart from you.
In conclusion, the pursuit of Self-realization, causes: (a) removal of unnecessary suffering, and (b) “I” is re-identified to it’s original identity which is eternal, all-pervading, ordinary, unconcerned, unchanging, ever-free Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
“Ordinary” is emphasized so reader’s imagination/ego doesn’t glorify Mokṣa into some type of extraordinary state to attain in the future. Your nature is not a state and it’s always present. It doesn’t begin in time (because then would end in time). It’s something you’re already familiar with; ordinary AWARENESS because of which you are AWARE OF space and time. Space-time doesn’t exclude your body-mind and it’s experience of reading these highlighted words.
In fact, there is NO experience outside of space-time. Including thought – because every thought begins. And anything that begins – eventually ends. This is one reason why Vedānta easily sees through the fundamental mistake of any philosophy which claims Enlightenment is an experience. Or notion that you’re NOT Enlightened now, thus implying Enlightenment is a future event possible by undertaking certain practices (sādhana).
Thus it saves the seeker lifetime(s) from erroneous thinking – which we also see many “truth-gurus” falling for unsuspectingly.
Vedānta employs a carefully-structured and logically-consistent process to lead one from one’s apparent self to one’s real Self… step-by-step, with each step being completely verifiable through one’s own experience.
Therefore Vedanta has nothing to do with believing something which can’t validated through your own experience. This makes it pleasing to modern scientific-analytical minds who need more then superstitious unprovable mandates to follow.
To hear an introductory description of the the true nature of “I”, watch this 10 minute video by James Swartz – who’s excellent at transferring this knowledge to the listener…
Vedānta comprises of three primary texts, known as the triple canon (prasthāna trayī). They form the foundation of Vedānta:
Upaniṣads (Śruti or Heard)
There are ten principal Upaniṣads which include:
Bhagavad Gītā (Smṛti or Remembered)
Bhagavad Gītā is the essence of the Upaniṣads that teaches how to realize the highest – while living in the world. It consists of 700 verses across 18 chapters and is part of the Indian epic Mahābhārata.
If the Upaniṣads (highest truths) be represented by cows, then Gītā would be the milk of the cows (essence of the truths) extracted by Kṛṣṇa (supreme inner Self; Ātman) for the benefit of Arjuna (individual ignorant self believing is apart from the Whole) – who is unsure of the right path in midst of the battle of Kurukṣetra (struggle of life).
Brahma Sūtras (Nyāya or Logic)
Brahma Sutras (Vedānta Sūtras) is the philosophical treatise of Vedānta that systematically lays out the philosophy of the Upaniṣads. It consists of 555 aphorisms across 4 chapters. It should be studied along with the commentary of Śaṅkarāchārya for a deep and comprehensive understanding of Advaita (Non-Dual) Vedanta.
There are many explanatory texts (prakaraṇa granthās) written by some of the greatest Vedānta philosophers of all times, like Ādi Śaṅkarāchārya and Vidyāraṇya – who did a brilliant job explaining Vedānta systematically. They include:
- Advaita Makaranda
- Aparokshanubhuti (Aparokṣānubhūtiḥ)
- Ātma Bodha
- Panchadashi (Pañcadaśī)
- Tattva Bodha
- Vedānta Dindima
Few more Vedanta classics:
For example – gravity already exists. Whether you know about it or not. Gravity doesn’t care whether you know of it’s presence or remain ignorant to it. It’s still operational and present.
Thus, Newton didn’t create gravity. He only discovered what was already accomplished and present all along. But due to lack of inquiry, it remained apparently absent and unknowingly ignored.
So no amount of action, meditation, mantras, devotion, āsana on Newton’s part would produce gravity. It was only matter of being pointed out what’s obvious. (Acknowledged – then accepted gradually through self-inquiry on your part.)
You don’t need to do anything to “become” Ātman. Because you already ARE Ātman. In fact, there’s NOTHING you can do to gain something which you already HAVE and ARE right now… AWARENESS (Ātman).
However, some are unable to accept this ridiculously simple Truth, because we have accumulated false notions about Reality and “I”, preventing our full, unconditional and absolute acceptance.
So the practice of Vedānta is intended to remove ignorance about your real Self. It’s not to give anything new. Because you already EXIST.
Answer this: what greater gift can one ask for then to EXIST?…
Because if you don’t EXIST… then who’s there to enjoy a sunset, your spouse, friend, Upaniṣads, God, food, knowledge, ignorance, sex, beauty, etc?
It’s amusing that despite EXISTENCE (synonymous with Awareness / Consciousness / Brahman) being the greatest gift (which you already HAVE and ARE – since you EXIST) – we’re not totally happy with just existing.
Instead one constantly generates and put series of experiences on-top of one’s EXISTENCE. Then spends 99.9% time talking about his/her experiences. Completely missing the OBVIOUS… the ONE WHO EXISTS to report about the never-ending Experiences.
Yes, it’s as simple as knowing the depth of what this means “I Exist“.
Experiences are different. But Existence is same for everyone. For example we can’t say “I exist more then you!” or “This rock exists less then the tree!”. Fact is, they both Exist. 🙂
So to realize this simple Truth, we have several solutions…
Just like there are myriad ways getting to the mountain-top from its base. Yet the top is SAME for any arrival.
Similarly there are myriad ways of realizing your real Self from where you currently stand – but the eventual Reality (Existence) is same for all.
Consider: If the final Reality wasn’t the same for every arrival, then there would be no freedom for anyone – and all scriptures would be useless. Because that would mean if one gets to mountain-top A, then they’ll eventually start wondering what’s mountain-top B like. Then mountain-top infinity like, etc. Hence final Reality must be same.
These myriad ways can be broadly classified into four different paths.
Each of these four paths are based upon four different and powerful faculties of the human mind – intellect, emotion, action and concentration. Their purpose is integration; that’s why head and heart are shaking hands.
It’s best to practice all four Yogas as they complement each other resulting in a rapid and holistic spiritual growth:
- Jñāna Yoga (Path of Knowledge)
- Bhakti Yoga (Path of Devotion)
- Karma Yoga (Path of Action)
- Not part of Traditional Vedānta: Rāja Yoga (Path of Meditation / Mysticism)
What’s important to know is all paths ultimately lead to the highest path; jñāna-yoga (Path of Knowledge). Other 3 are catalysts – and do have power to show final Reality – but only temporarily.
For example, take Nirvikalpa-samādhi through Rāja Yoga, as expounded in Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali. Only infinite bliss is present (experiencER, experiencED and experiencING are ONE). But it’s subject to time. It starts and eventually ends.
Or the peace of a Sāttvic pure mind (Karma/Bhakti/Rāja Yoga) – needs to be consciously maintained. As soon as mind and thoughts become noisy and impure (eg: walking into a night-club), so does person’s so called Enlightenment subside. This is NOT Mokṣa.
Only path of Jñāna Yoga has power of permanent resolution (mokṣa). See prāptasya prāpti for reason.
Om Tat Sat
– Bhagavad Gītā 17.23