Yes Vedanta purpose is to preserve and share the original message of Advaita Vedānta sampradāya (tradition revived by Ādi Śaṅkara) – by revealing the depth of their evergreen non-dual teachings contained in texts (sourced from last section of Vedas called jñāna-kāṇḍa) like: Upaniṣads, Bhagavad Gītā, Brahma Sūtras, Vivekacūḍāmaṇi, Nārada Bhakti Sūtra, Aparokṣānubhūtiḥ, Pañcadaśī, etc.
Advaita Vedanta is not a philosophy, not a school of thought, not a system of ideas, not a set of contentions. It is a means of knowledge (pramāṇa) for something that has to be understood rather than believed.
It is a means for revealing the nondualism nature of Reality. It does so, not by replacing one set of notions with another, but by showing the error in mistaken ones.
Content taught in class is based on Traditional Vedānta (originally 100% in Sanskrit), but it’s simplified in basic English, while also making use of Sanskrit words when necessary, so essence is strictly preserved.
Most importantly, we do NOT mix Advaita with other philosophies. Because doing so is disrespectful and negligent what original non-dual Advaita Vedanta tradition is about (as succinctly revived by Ādi Śaṅkara).
Furthermore, mixing greatly minimizes chance of mokṣa (Liberation). Why? Because Vedānta carefully establishes a precise vocabulary and TOTAL vision of life. It’s already perfected. Like a wheel. Any attempt to improve a perfectly round wheel is impairment to the wheel.
So while on surface, it may appear alternative schools (eg: Neo-Advaita, Buddhism, Western philosophers, Taoism, etc) are complimenting Advaita. But in reality this irresponsible mistake causes student to develop preferences for which particular philosophical teaching makes more sense – according to one’s own limited knowledge.
“I’ll take this just because I like it irrespective of whether it’s in line with Absolute Truth or not, and reject that!“. It’s basically how children choose – and adults are not exempt from this physiological mishap.
Meaning student won’t invest as much time (if any at all) contemplating on eternal and unchanging Upanishadic declarations. Which are meant to remove Ignorance and reveal the Self (Ātam).
Since student is too busy contemplating on “better sounding/more reasonable” teachings; it’s a self-defeating game. Hence we caution student to discriminate between traditional Advaita, and modern “pop” Advaita (little bit of this, little bit of that – then justified as “we’re living in a different age where it’s reasonable to mingle philosophies”).
Yes Vedanta is not experience-oriented. It is for those who seek Self-Knowledge (parā vidyā), not ephemeral mystical experiences. One listens to the teacher, reflects on what has been taught and ascertains it through contemplation.
Also we’re not an institution, nor a business, nor donation-dependent. All classes are free as has been the case for thousands of years in this Vedic tradition. Teacher is self-supported financially.
No commitment of attendance or academic qualification is needed, and no race, gender, religion or nationality is excluded.
Lineage is of: James Swartz (disciple of Chinmayananda), Chinmaya International Foundation, Neema Majmudar (disciple of Swami Dayananda) and Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya). Teacher’s own days are immersed 8±hours daily study of Vedic and Sanskrit texts.
“ Around age 17, a world of knowledge opened by timidly peeking, out of sheer curiosity, into the “Self-help” section of the local library. Like a child in a theme park, I gleefully said to it all “Yes please, show me how because I don’t know!”.
After finishing school… personal improvement, general prosperity, and human psychology became full-time absorption. So was reselling goods for healthy profits.
However decent success up until 23 raised suspicion in form of inquiry. A gradual recognition of impermanence of money, friendship, intimacy, security, social status, self-help, ecstatic states of consciousness – was overwhelmingly noticeable.
Noticed it was, there is no end or finality to anything performed or experienced… no matter how efficient or brilliant effort may have been invested into work/life.
Thus escalated a whisper to a resounding orchestra called “Symphony of endless inquiry”, which consisted of…
“ What is this strange feeling of finality I’m craving? What is finality? Finality to where? What is this end I’m seeking? End to what?
When will I stop (end) asking questions? How is it that I am aware of these question being asked? To whom are these questions directed?
Am I the one asking questions OR the awareness of the questions asked? If I am awareness, then WHO is doing the question-asking? How is it that I know of both entities simultaneously? Could I be both or just one or neither? Which one am I then! ”
This sort of enquiry directed majority attention inwards out of motivation to remove this agitating craving for finality. (“Finality” as later discovered, means the end of the unresolved doubt every human is eventually confronted to ask and solve, “What is my TRUE/FINAL Identity?“)
So next 8+ years for about 10-12h per day was invested into comparing, mastering and implementing techniques contained in various methodologies, religions and instructions to “Knowing Thyself”. Like an innocent infant willing to do anything for however long to taste the candy.
Pilgrimages explored, Sages spoken to, certificates in various arts obtained, hundreds of hours reading, breathlessness achieved (samādhi), Ayahuasca, various transcendental experiences, Spiritual Qigong, Kriyā Yoga, Chanting names of God, Prayers, Mantras, affirmations, hypnosis, etc.
Trouble was, most worked, but none provided a PERMANENT solution. The high wore off hours/days/months later. In any case, still Ignorant of WHO/WHAT I AM… and awed by the words of the scriptures (Vedas, Bible, Kabbalah, Buddhists texts, etc) and wise sages.
Add to that, constantly overwhelmed because in stage of non-apprehension of Truth (not knowing nature of unchanging “I”) – almost every ‘guru’ seems convincing and worth listening to! This alone contributes to years wasted with those who may (or may not) know the Final Truth… but don’t necessarily know how to teach to successfully transfer the Understanding. This is a crucial point every seeker needs to be cautioned about…
For example, to learn basic mathematics (which gets the job done in ordinary life)… would you listen to a quantum physicists… OR a professional school teacher who’s been TAUGHT how to teach? Later of course. Student learning from physicist would quickly get overwhelmed and give up because of impressive language, advanced formulas, and negligence to teach at student’s level.
Then as it goes, when the aspirant has demonstrated enough zeal (one’s every breath is ONLY for sake of Liberation, willing to die for) – then the right individual crosses his-her path. (This isn’t true for all cases of course. As some find their guru naturally and effortlessly.)
After Vedānta teachings expounded by James Swartz, I stuck with the program by mere faith in the teaching, despite having no proof of it’s claim. Meaning constantly self-inquiring in light of what’s been heard and stubbornly refusing to be swayed by life’s ephemeral joys constantly enticing one to dive into and enjoy the electrifying and exciting ocean of saṃsāra!
Eventually, Self-Knowledge (parā-vidyā) was-is firmly and permanently established, without again sporadically confusing “I” with what I am NOT. No more lights going on-off.
Total and unceasing clarity of Self ensues not as some kind of “transcendental state” as mistakenly believed and immaturely glorified within the confused Spiritual marketplace. But clarity owning to ordinary Existence. In fact, one can’t say “I exist more then you!” or vice versa. One just exists. That’s all there is to it.
It’s OBVIOUS you EXIST! In fact, there’s nothing profound, deep or mystical about this ordinary fact which every human being already knows about… and yet erroneously discards it because it’s such a consistent ordinary, down-to-earth, normal “experience”.
That’s why it’s so hard to get. Because we are interested in anything BUT ordinary. We want EXTRAordinary!
Give me some ecstatic Kundalini raising. Or 3rd eye opening experience, and I’ll pay you $10,000! Take me to some sacred site. Connect me to an Ascended master. Give me the latest Vipassana-like technique, twice effective! Let me find a tantra-partner where we’ll orgasm ourselves through our bodily fluids to God!
These insane statements are the norm in the Spiritual community in varying degrees. Today “pop” spirituality has become a subtle-sophisticated means of escape from wordily duties, thus denying oneself from living life of a complete, holistic human being.
The uncomfortable pressure of seeking, sage-fascination, concerns to improve, desires for worldly accomplishments, Love-validation from others, intimidation by authority-gurus, fear of not-becoming, worries of dying-rebirth, motivation for connection/intimacy, need to belong… all gradually, painlessly and organically dissolved.
Please understand, none of this happens automatically and instantaneously as falsely imagined. Neither does ignorance magically dissolves by itself, but only appears to because it’s replaced by Knowledge in line with “what-is”.
Therefore only further unceasing self-inquiry (nididhyāsana) – and continued study of scriptures… can remove remnants of ignorance… even after stage of realizing the Self. In fact, this work continues until one’s last breath.
Person doesn’t want to hear this, as one prefers the portrayed image of “Buddha sitting under a shady tree who got Enlightened in one extended sitting”. In reality, it’s not like that.
Firstly, the buildup and mind-purification takes years. And secondly, even after Realizing the Self… there’s still chunks of subjective ideas lurking in the Mind – creating further agitation.
Most common cause of agitation in form of low self-esteem (even after realizing the Self) comes from Love-issues obtained in childhood from parents/society.
These issues need to be addressed before one can fully appreciate the full implication of “I am the eternal, limitless Self”, despite already comprehending directly that self-esteem/agitation has nothing to do with the “I”.
None of this is supposed to be expedient. Open the rose bud before it’s blossomed – and the whole bud is damaged. In fact, one would feel humbled that mokṣa (Liberation) is not like winning the lottery.
Therefore, only with patience and perseverance, one’s success is mathematically predictable. For example…
Imagine trying to describe to a 3 year old boy why it’s right to share with his sister. Best of luck! Student-child’s capacity isn’t ready to accept nor fully comprehend.
(Similarly for the spiritual aspirant. At beginning, goal of mokṣa [Freedom, Liberation] is something far away, mysterious and hard to grasp, only enjoyed by the “special few”.)
Thus, teacher-parent continues loving and educating… contributing to student-child’s comprehension.
One day, sharing is the new normal for the adult and gains much joy from giving. Who then is grateful he/she succeeded because of (1) right knowledge imparted by teacher-parent, and (2) willingness to continually LISTEN and CONTEMPLATE on the knowledge.
Hence Yes Vedanta purpose is to educate the student’s mind in light of the highest knowledge (brahma-vidyā). Thus establishing clarity of:
(A) Who/what you are (Ātman; non-changing)
(B) Who/what you are not (mithyā; changing body-mind)
(C) Not confusing A and B.
When distinction of A and B is clear… the final Reality (Consciousness/Satyam/Brahman) is directly comprehended as NOT apart from A nor B.
All is Consciousness. And YOU are THAT (tat tvam asi).
This is the highest purpose-accomplishment of human life.
In Service to Lord,
Andre Vas (AV)
Random pictures with Vedānta teachers:
uttiṣṭhata. jāgrata. prāpya varān nibodhata
“Arise! Awaken! And Realize the Truth!”
– Kathopanisad 1.3.14