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 the error in mistaken ones.

Content taught in class is based on Traditional Vedanta (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 moksha (Liberation). Why? Because Vedanta 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 (Ātma).

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.

Teaching Lineage

Teaching and language is based on Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya) lineage. Because I agree it to be the most accurate thus most powerful (meaning it’s delivered as originally taught by Adi Shankara – without contamination of new-age “mystical experience based” language). There is also involvement for the time being, with Chinmaya International Foundation – as they too expound brilliant insights into Adi Shankara’s profound logic into nature of Reality.

My first teacher is James Swartz (Taught Vedanta for 40+ years. Learned from Chinmayananda, Dayananda & Paramarthananda from Chennai). Second teacher who most influenced me is Neema Majmudar (Taught Vedanta for 20+ years. Did 3 year course with Swami Dayananda).

Presently guided by 5 senior Vedānta teachers, helping me with exposure to different points of views and teaching styles which are later incorporated into classes. Day consists of 16h average of immersive study of Vedantic texts.

About Andre

andre vas vedanta teacher melbourne

Class involves listening to and contemplating Upaniṣadic declarations expounded by the teacher.

After finishing school at 17… personal improvement, general prosperity and human psychology became a full-time absorption. Probably motivated by a rather innocent desire to improve myself for greater life enjoyments and a lovely future family. Or maybe out of yearning to prove oneself to society. Either way, financial independence prevailed quickly and effortlessly in 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 – was 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? When will I arrive to the final finish line?”.

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

self-enquiry-inquiry“ What is this strange feeling of finality I’m craving? What is finality? Finality to where? Seeking end to what?

How is it that I am aware of these question being asked? To whom are these questions directed? If “I” is directing questions to “I”, doesn’t that imply there are two “I’s”? In that case, which “I” is confused, and which “I” is attempting to solve the confusion?

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 “I” am I then?… 


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 was…

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
Yes, we meet many teachers amidst the Spiritual journey. However there is that ONE guru who after which – vision of ABSOLUTE Truth (Ātman / Sākṣī / Brahman) is revealed in it’s TOTALITY – from whence nothing or noone else can replace that vision from that point onwards. Why? Because there is only ONE Self.

Yes, other teacher(ing) may compliment this non-dual vision of Wholeness in reference to removing remainder of false notions lurking in the mind. This is mainly due to our childhood patterns of insecurity and love issues – which are still hard wired in the brain. Which prevents the appreciation of oneself as the WHOLE, despite Liberation (mokṣa). However it still won’t cause one to doubt “I”.

Metaphor: Upon “wheel” knowledge and it’s purpose known, what more is there to say about “wheel”? Buddha, Jesus (or some Ascended master in a different dimension) – can’t teach anything more about an ordinary wagon wheel then a drunk. A wheel is a wheel!

Noone can claim they know wheel better or less then another (Unless one is projecting own idea onto it – which does NOT affect the wheel). Such KNOWLEDGE is universally understood and agreed by all.

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” 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”.

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, 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.

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”.

In reality, maturity and mind-purification takes years. Also, even after realizing the 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 with Vedānta teachers:

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