Guru-Student Tradition in Advaita Vedanta

guru-śisya-paramparā – Self-knowledge passed down from guru to student.

Yes Vedanta purpose is to preserve and share the original message of Advaita Vedanta sampradāya (tradition revived by Adi Shankara) – by revealing the depth of their evergreen non-dual teachings contained in texts (sourced from last section of Vedas called jnana-kanda) like: Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutras, Vivekachudamani, Narada Bhakti Sutra, Aparokshanubhuti, Panchadasi, 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 (pramana) 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 errors in mistaken ones.

Content taught in class is based on Traditional Vedanta (originally 100% in Sanskrit). Although it’s simplified, frequent use of Sanskrit words is employed for sake of strictly preserving the original essence of Vedantic tradition.

Most importantly, we do NOT mix Advaita with other philosophies. Because doing so is disrespectful and negligent towards the non-dual Advaita Vedanta tradition as succinctly revived by Ādi Śaṅkara.

Furthermore, mixing  schools of philosophies destroys any chance of moksha (Liberation). Why? Because Vedanta carefully establishes a precise vocabulary and TOTAL vision of life. It’s an already perfected methodology. Like a wheel. Any attempt to improve a round wheel is ironically an impairment to the wheel.

Meaning, on the surface it appears that 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 philosophical teaching makes MORE sense… according to student’s LIMITED knowledge.

Choosing Spirituality BlindI’ll take this just because I like it, and reject that just because I dislike it! “. It’s basically how children choose. And adults are not exempt from this physiological mishap.

The like/dislike method is as good as a 3 year old being left alone in a candy store. You know what’s going to happen. Why? Because the child innocently picks what appeals to one’s personality or level of knowledge about the sweets that are to be consumed.

When it comes to an adult seeker of truth, there is no single solution to this psychological dilemma. For example, an aspirant who is sincerely motivated to understand God/Truth as non-separate from oneself… still innocently picks subject matters which appeals to his/her personality  or  existing level of knowledge. It’s because ignorance can’t predictably discriminate what’s Absolutely True and Relatively True. To such mind, even Falsehood is True.

Eventually time causes the seeker to exhaust his or her fascination towards different options to Enlightenment. Meaning one recognizes that none have provided permanent peace/happiness with oneself, world and God. Eventually one acknowledges that 99.9% of spirituality continues to leave one ultimately unsatisfied with the world, including one’s own spirituality.

For this reason alone, pure and traditional Advaita Vedanta is not popular and never has been. Because it only attracts those who’ve sufficiently exhausted their options through much effort of self discovery, owning to endless lifetimes of playing in saṃsāra. Or those with sharp and clear minds who can easily detect logical inconsistencies and irrational claims which have no way of being proven nor grasped (EG: God is sitting in some location and one will go to His Heaven/Vaikuntha if one performs XYZ).

Being fed up with countless philosophies with seemingly sound ideas, one recognizes the subject “I” still remains confused, restless, unhappy and worried…

Then Vedanta shows up and erases all the rubbish accumulated in one’s psyche throughout endless births. One is freed from the false conclusion (owning to eternal unaddressed ignorance) that one is not already free right here and now.

Yes Vedanta

Teachings are for those who seek Self-Knowledge (parā vidyā), not ephemeral mystical experiences which all come and go. One listens to the teacher, reflects on what has been taught and ascertains it through contemplation.

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 the 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.

Teaching Lineage

Teaching and language is based on Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya) lineage. It’s agreed to be most accurate thus most effective (meaning it’s delivered as originally expounded by Adi Shankara – without contamination of new-age “mystical experience based” language). There is also involvement with Chinmaya International Foundation – as they too unfold brilliant insights into Adi Shankara’s profound logic into nature of Reality.

james-swartz-ramj-advaita-vedanta-non-duality-teacherMy first teacher is James Swartz (Taught Vedanta for 40+ years. Learned from Chinmayananda, Dayananda & Paramarthananda from Chennai). James (Ramj) is king of cleaning up the spiritual mess created and spread by modern confounded non-dualists and spiritual “know it all” Einsteins. Both ironically (despite best efforts) contributed in derailing sincere seekers into realms of “quick fix”. Thus James Swartz major contribution to the Western world is restoring purity of traditional unspoiled Advaita Vedanta and protecting the Vedic tradition from being blurred with dysfunctional Western ideas of Oneness. His outspoken courage to pinpoint “false” guru’s with partial knowledge… alone saved thousands from looking in the wrong direction.

neema-majmudar-discovervedanta-advaita-vedanta-teacherSecond teacher who most influenced me and continues to do so is Neema Majmudar. Neema attended the 3 year course with Swami Dayananda decades ago. Knowing and learning from the best Vedanta gurus… I’m yet to meet a sharper, thoroughly detailed in explanation, more down-to-earth, honest and precise teacher then Neema. She presents Vedanta’s most sacred and crucial aspects, and converts them into a living-breathing-applicable reality for oneself. Her shining brilliance is my greatest motivator.

I’m learning from different Vedānta teachers at any one time, which helps with exposure to different points of views and delivery styles which are later incorporated into own classes. Day consists of 15h average of immersive study of Vedantic texts as my life is solely dedicated to preserving and disseminating this tradition until last breath.

About Andre

andre vas vedanta teacher Australia

Class involves listening to and contemplating Upaniṣadic declarations on what is Real/Unreal.

After finishing school… personal improvement, general prosperity and human psychology became a full-time absorption. Probably motivated by a rather innocent desire to improve oneself for greater life enjoyments and stable future family. Or maybe out of yearning to prove oneself to society. Either way, financial independence prevailed quickly and effortlessly through various self-started businesses.

However decent success up until 23 raised suspicion in form of inquiry. A gradual recognition of impermanence of money, friendship, intimacy, financial security, social status and self-help – grew overwhelmingly noticeable.

“There seems to be no finality to any of this!” I thought. “Why is there a constant drive to achieve ever more? At what point will I feel no longer driven to accomplish and just be at peace with what I’ve already gotten? When is the arrival of the final finish line?”.

Thus began “Symphony of endless inquiry”, whose nature of questions eventually turned to the subject “I”…

self-enquiry-inquiry“ What is this ceaseless yearning for finality I’m craving? What is finality? Finality to where? Seeking end to what? How will I even know I’ve arrived? And how is it possible that on one hand there is a yearning for finality, and on another hand I have no knowledge of what it is? Doesn’t this mean one aspect of me is in touch with finality?

Then WHO or WHAT is this aspect that’s in touch with it? Is this finality the true “I” which the sages speak of? Is this what I’m looking for… my real self?

This must mean there is a false “I” and a true “I”! But if this is the case, then WHO or WHAT is paying attention right now to this inquiry between false and true “I”? Doesn’t this signify there is a 3rd “I” who is witnessing this self-enquiry? Hmm… it’s obvious this third “I” can’t be questioned nor grasped. It remains prior to whatever I think, experience or say about it. It’s clear this “I” continues to be free… watching the inquiry of this conundrum between which “I” is true and which is false.

But wait! If I AM this unceasing witnessing-watching principle… then to WHOM are all these questions directed to? There seems to be a person left called “Andre” who is confused and skeptical. Is this person the ego “I”?

And how do I consistently know the difference between the true witnessing “I” and ego “I”? What guarantee do I have that I’m NOT being tricked right now by the ego “I”, cunningly disguising itself as true “I”?…

This is my greatest fear! To live a life falsely believing “I got it!” when in fact I’m living a lie.

Since I can’t confidently identify the distinction between the two “I’s”… I can’t even trust myself!  🙁  My inquiry isn’t over… I need help! 


In short, enquiry was about What is my TRUE/FINAL Identity?” (the question every human being is eventually confronted with).

So next 8+ years, majority of daily hours were lunged into attempts of comparing, mastering and implementing techniques contained in various methodologies and religions to “Knowing Thyself”. Like an innocent infant willing to do anything for however long to taste the candy.

Results were…

pursuit-of-spiritual-enlightenment-checklistPilgrimages 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, in stage of non-apprehension of Truth (ignorance of unchanging “I”) – almost every ‘guru’ seems convincing and worth listening to! This alone contributes to so much wasted time with good people who may (or may not) know the Final Truth… but don’t necessarily know how to teach it.

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 systematically reveal the formulas? Later of course. Student learning from physicist would quickly get overwhelmed and give up because of impressive language, advanced formulas, and negligence to speak at student’s level.

Then as it goes, when the aspirant (sādhaka) has demonstrated enough zeal – the right individual crosses his-her path. (This isn’t true for all cases of course. As some find their guru naturally and effortlessly.)

On Finding Your Guru...
We meet many teachers amidst the Spiritual journey. However there is that ONE ācāryaḥ who after which – vision of ABSOLUTE  Limitless Truth (Ātman / Self / Limitless Consciousness) is revealed in it’s TOTALITY – from whence nothing or noone else can replace that vision from that point onwards. How is this possible?…

Totality (Self) has no parts. How can totality be shown in a new vision, since “new vision” is also inclusive within Totality. TOTAL means nothing in existence is excluded or missing. Total doesn’t exclude past/present/future, nor beyond space-time, nor God, nor any wisdom from any religion in any world.  Hence, Total is the non-negatable Supreme Truth.

satcitananda-guru-teacherMetaphor: Upon “circle” knowledge, what more is there to say about “circle”? Buddha, Jesus (or some advanced Ascended master in a different dimension) – can’t teach anything more about an ordinary circle then a drunk. A circle is a circle! Noone in existence can claim they know circle better or less then another (unless one is projecting own idea onto it and using that as argument). Such KNOWLEDGE is universally understood and agreed by all.

Similarly, Absolute Limitless Truth is universal. To say it’s a lie or non-existent, is to say YOU are a lie and YOU don’t exist. Why? Because you are not apart from the TOTAL. The wave is never apart from the total Ocean (which comprises of all the waves in creation).

Thus to insult one wave, is to insult yourself. Because both you-wave and another-wave are of the ONE SAME water. Owning to ignorance, a worldly wave puts focus on it’s appearance, thus gives itself a reality separate from other waves in the One SAME Ocean. It glorifies itself, becomes famous, and fulfills endless desires.

While the enlightened wave recognizes all waves in creation (including itself) are permeated by one same Water (Truth; Brahman). Such an individual is silently and unceasingly established as “I AM the Truth. And the Truth is I”. As they are ONE, the statement need not even be said, nor thought of.

Guru is one who makes this a living, actualized reality for a sincere student… tired of helplessly identifying oneself as the limited wave… when in fact it’s the limitless water… which inheres in all waves and the total Ocean.

After hearing the Vedānta teachings magnificently expounded by James Swartz… I stuck with the program by mere faith that what Bhagavad Gītā and Upaniṣads are saying, must be true. Despite having no way of verifying the Vedic authority to be any better then alternative schools of thought.

“Stuck with” means unceasingly self-inquiring in light of what’s been heard and written down during class.

Eventually, Self-Knowledge (parā-vidyā) was-is firmly and permanently established, without again sporadically confusing “I” (Ātman) with what I am NOT (Anātman). 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 (Brahman). 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”.

It’s one reason why mokṣa seems like a far-away event. Because we are interested in anything BUT ordinary. We want EXTRAordinary! Which presupposes a future based event that’s supposed to happen. Which arouses all kinds of spiritual pursuits. For example…

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 are accepted conclusions within the Spiritual community. We don’t have problem with their method. Problem is they’ve become or advertise themselves as the end. Implying “future based result of something extraordinary”.

The correction is that they are all, but means (mind purification) to an end (mokṣa: which can only be ‘attained’ through Self-Knowledge/jñāna-yoga).

Anyhow…

grateful-freedom-vedanta-liberationThe uncomfortable pressure of seeking, sage-fascination, concerns to improve, desires for worldly accomplishments, Love-validation from others, intimidation by authority-gurus, anxiety over not-becoming someone better, worries of dying-rebirth, motivation for connection/intimacy, need to belong… all gradually, painlessly and organically dissolved. These psychological issues belong to the person consisting of body-mind-intellect. The eternal “I” (Ātman) is free of the person and was never bound.

Please understand, none of this happens automatically and instantaneously as falsely imagined.

Therefore only further unceasing self-inquiry (nididhyāsana) – and continued study of scriptures can remove subtle doubts preventing fruits of Self-Knowledge. 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 session”.

In reality, maturity and mind-purification takes years. Also, even after knowledge of Self… dissatisfaction may still arise from Love-issues obtained in childhood from parents/society.  Thus we need to cultivate patience with ourselves. It’s mark of wisdom in action. Mokṣa (Liberation) is not like winning the lottery, and such false ideas are nowhere mentioned in Vedānta.

Therefore only with patience and perseverance is one’s success 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. 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-vidya). Thus establishing clarity of:

(A) Who/what you are (Atman; non-changing)

(B) Who/what you are not (Anatman/anitya; changing body-mind-intellect)

(C) Not confusing A and B.

When distinction of A and B is clear, the final Reality (Consciousness/Brahman) is directly understood as NOT apart from A nor B.

Meaning…

All is Consciousness. And YOU are THAT (tat tvam asi).

This is the highest purpose and accomplishment of human life as much as when first man-woman walked on earth, as is today, as is in the endless future.

In Service to Lord,
Andre Vas (AV)

 

Random pictures of events:

uttiṣṭhata. jāgrata. prāpya varān nibodhata
“Arise! Awaken! And Realize the Truth!”
– Kathopanisad 1.3.14