Guru-Student Tradition in Advaita Vedanta

guru-śisya-paramparā – Self-knowledge passed down from guru to student to help remove beginningless ignorance; cause of rebirth in saṃsāra. Then shift ‘I' from false body-mind to truth of self, Brahman.

Yes Vedanta purpose is to protect and elaborate the original message of Advaita Vedanta — and how to sensibly apply it in modern times.

Vedanta is a tradition sourced in Vedas — revealing the depth of non-dual teachings in scriptures like Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutras, Vivekachudamani, Tattva Bodha, Aparokshanubhuti, Panchadasi, etc.

Vedanta is not a philosophy. Not a school of thought. Not a system of beliefs which can be negated from different angles. Not a set of contentions.

It remains independent of your thoughts about it. Just how your existence remains independent of whether you verbally acknowledge your existence or not.

It is a means of knowledge (pramana) which establishes absolute clarity of reality. Which comes through your own self-inquiry in light of the methodology — carefully unfolded by the teacher.

The methodology reveals the truth of self which we miss owning to beginningless ignorance (avidya).

Avidya causes us to seek reality as though it's separate from me. Thus one attempts hundreds of practices for decades, hoping to discover something bigger.

It's like never finding the pen because it's sought everywhere but it's one true source, the ear. It was never away from me.

Similarly, no amount of effort can reveal the absolute reality (Brahman). Because effort or technique implies “I am not the reality right now, and I need to DO something to become the reality”.

Imagine a chair meditating for years, hoping to discover itself as the wood. Yet it's entire being is made out of the wood which is also the reality of the entire wooden universe.

Nor can the word become the ink. Because it's already pervaded by the ink. Thus any word's attempt to attain the ink will fail. For this reason, the final reality can only be pointed out by an ācārya through Vedānta pramāṇa.

For this reason,, our classes are taught according to traditional Vedanta — as originally expounded by Adi Shankara.

And frequent use of Sanskrit words is employed for preserving the Vedantic Indian tradition. Because advaita (non-two) taught in English-only is insufficient to communicate the full vision of oneness.

“Traditional” Indian Advaita Vedanta has nothing to do with western Advaita. IE: The passive listening satsangs on non-duality.

How to identify? Most emphasis is on “self / not-self”. Sharing feelings or down-to-earth family affairs and emotions is typically discarded as “an illusion arising and dissolving in consciousness”. No Sanskrit language. No scriptures. Trivial emphasis on devotion or love-for-all (bhakti) – without which results in subtle spiritual superiority or arrogance. Topic of “God” (Ishvara) is either avoided or vague. And dharma (personal duty to family/society) is omitted.

Such style doesn't acknowledges that Advaita (non-dualism) is strictly of Vedas. Also verse or text which contains the concept is unmentioned. This causes listeners to unintentional glorify the guru, thinking all examples are his.

In truth, all examples come from Vedas (source of Upanishads) from India. It is duty of every teacher to acknowledge and protect the source — just like father's duty to protect his son being spoiled by immorality from other uninformed school children.

Partial knowledge leads to intellectual superiority and snobbish attitude like, “I am beyond this world. I am Enlightened! Why pray to forms? That guru is NOT enlightened! Free-will is an illusion“. One becomes a spiritual judge, adjudicating what's what.

Choosing Spirituality Blind

Why else aren't spiritual seekers progressing fast enough? One has a need to mix schools of various philosophies. This choice creates contradictions about vairous terminology and promotes intellectual knowledge (dvaita) — rather then abidance in the truth AS the truth (advaita).

Therefore Vedanta establishes a precise vocabulary so student-teacher is on same page at all times.

Mixing schools of thought is like a 5 year old left alone in a candy store. What happens? Child innocently picks whatever appeals to his-her personality – whether it's healthy or not. The child's mind becomes dull and body tired. Consuming sadhana-sweets in the in the spiritual candy store – yields same outcome.

Yes Vedanta


Yes Vedanta only presents the purest Self-Knowledge from original Sanskrit to English, as presented by our greatest sages. It is not over-simplified or partial in hopes to attract masses. Teachings are detailed and structured step-by-step.

Yes Vedanta is for those who seek Self-Knowledge (para vidya / brahmavidya).

parā vidyā: The higher knowledge which when assimilated – leads to permanent recognition of the Supreme Reality (satcitananda Brahman).

The student listens to the knowledge, reflects on it and ascertains it through self-inquiry.

Yes Vedanta is not an institution, nor a business, nor donation-dependent. All classes are free. Teacher is self-supported financially.

No race, gender, religion or nationality is excluded. Only your sincerity, regular attendance and attention is expected.

Teaching Lineage

Teaching and language usage is based on Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya) lineage, most prominently Paramarthananda. There is also involvement with Chinmaya International Foundation (Kerala) – specifically Advayananda.

Both lineages perfectly compliment each other. Former strictly adheres to classic language utilized by Adi Shankara. Later excels in modernizing Vedantic wisdom and applying it amidst family, job, business, relationships, etc.

james-swartz-ramj-advaita-vedanta-non-duality-teacherMy first introduction into proper Advaita methodology was through James Swartz. He is king of cleaning up the spiritual mess – constructed by confounded non-dualists and spiritual “know it all” Einsteins. Both (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 unbroken lineage from being blurred with dysfunctional new-age views of oneness.

neema-majmudar-discovervedanta-advaita-vedanta-teacher Neema Majmudar, I look up to most. Because never met anyone who excels her unique ability to explain so clearly, and convert abstract concepts into concrete and down-to-earth living. Her way of teaching perfectly balances the intellectual need to firmly grasp, and the emotional need to integrate. She opened my eyes to the true meaning of not-two. Neema's shining brilliance is my daily dose of inspiration because through her I see what's it like to breathe the wisdom of our scriptures.


About Andre

andre vas vedanta teacher Australia

Class involves listening to and contemplating Upaniṣadic declarations on what is Real/Unreal. Result is clarity & objectivity.


“Shortly after achieving financial freedom by early twenties, an unsettling inquiry grew pertaining to impermanence of financial security, friendship, world exploration and self-help. “How will more make more difference and to whom?“, I thought. Nature of questions eventually turned to the subject ‘I'. One day an urge compelled me to visit Arunachala to pay respect to Ramana Maharshi. Attracted to a 25 day program nearby on Bhagavad Gītā by James Swartz – and unceasingly persisting with prescribed inquiry for months later – the first dawn of self-knowledge ensued. Clarity was further elucidated through participation in Chinmaya International Foundation (Kerala, India). Finally meeting Neema Majmudar (of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Arsha Vidya) – her style meticulously expounded the vision of Reality and meaning of not-two (advaita). The definition of ‘guru' came fully alive upon meeting her. My sole life purpose is to protect and disseminate the saṃpradāya of Advaita Vedānta as highlighted by Ādi Śaṅkara.”


After finishing school – personal improvement and psychology was love-at-first-sight. A treasure which had to be explored. Possibility of becoming better was irresistible. It supported the vision of family's tradition: find a wife, have children and provide them a safe happy environment.

Although looking back, exploration was motivated out of insecurity. Silent voice of inadequacy was the foundation. Either way, it was enough to cultivate analytical and creative thinking. Leading to early financial independence.

However decent success in early 20's raised suspicion in form of inquiry. I began to notice the impermanence of financial security, friendship, intimacy and self-help benefits.

“There seems to be no ending to any of this”, I thought. Why is there a constant drive to achieve more? Why am I not at peace with what already gotten? How will MORE, make more difference, and to whom?”

Thus began “symphony of endless inquiry”, whose questions eventually started suspecting the subject “I” —

self-enquiry-inquiryWhy this ceaseless yearning for an end in the future? End to where and to what? What does the end look and feel like?

Since it is “I” who wants to know the answer, this means the end matters to “I”. Meaning “end” is complete, and “I” is incomplete. Logical! Because it's always the INCOMPLETE which desires the COMPLETE – and not the other way around.

Hmm, so far this much is known: (1) I = incomplete (2) End = complete.

Aha! Then maybe “I” is referring to mind, since mind is limited in capacity. It doesn't even know the whole English vocabulary, let alone all knowledge in the universe.

But wait! How can a FINITE MIND know about an INFINITE END? That's impossible! A little fish can't know about a vast ocean. Only the ocean can know of the fish.

It's obvious I am not a fish. Else there would be contentment and security in my small coral-reef world. But there isn't!

Which means there is ALREADY knowledge of something greater then this limited Andre-mind.

Aha! This means the true “I”, the self, is already the ocean. And the limited Andre-mind is, as though, superimposed over self.

Therefore the infinite self is always shining in-and-through this finite mind. Hence the self mistakes itself as the finite mind! Bingo!

This means the MIND must be treated, and not the self.

Now forumla changes: (1) I = already complete (2) Mind = incomplete (3) Solution = treat the mind that's denying full knowledge of I, the self.

But how to treat a limited mind in attempt to realize the infinite self?

A decade later of feeling like a tourist within the vast and confused spiritual zoo…

pursuit-of-spiritual-enlightenment-checklistMost means (sadhanas) worked, but none provided a PERMANENT remedy. The high wore off days/months later. “Nothing lasts”, I thought. So what's the point of attending one more satsang. One more ayahuasca session. One more biography of a saint. One more meditation. One more __.

What's more, in stage of sincere seeking, almost every guru seems convincing. Especially when word “enlightenment” is mentioned. It's over-abused.

Today we have “Enlightened Cooking! Dating for the Enlightened! Enlightened Abundance Seminar! Buddha's Enlightenment 10 Day Retreat!“.

So what happened? Bursts of freedom, of seeming salvation. But that too dissipated upon reentry into atmosphere of ordinary life.

Eventually an urge compelled me to visit Arunachala to pay respect to Ramana Maharshi. There, I came across James Swartz who was unfolding essence of Vedanta for 25 days. Took dozens of pages of notes. Skipped only one day, because had to fly to Kolkata to get initiated into the 6th lineage of Kriya Yoga. Gives idea of desperation. 🙂

After hearing the program magnificently expounded step-by-step… I stuck with it by mere faith that what Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads are saying — must be true. Despite initially having no proof that Vedic authority was superior to other methodologies.

Through hard work – false notions are forever burnt in fire of Self-knowledge. Which brings permanent clarity pertaining to ātma-anātma viveka (satya-mithyā distinction). Meaning “I” doesn't mix up the mortal body-mind with the immortal self. Thus one is released from all puṇya/pāpa-karma, since they belong to body-mind and not to “I”.

Self-Knowledge was further elucidated through participation in Chinmaya International Foundation (Kerala, India) – by help of their erudite acharyas. Much respect to Chinmaya Mission for upholding the Vedic tradition through creative channels like the 52 episode TV series “Upaniṣad Ganga”  – portraying the wisdom of Upanishads in entertaining format.

Finally, I was introduced to Neema, whose style meticulously expounded the vision of Reality and meaning of not-two (advaita). Upon meeting her, the definition of ‘guru' came fully alive for first time in my life.  Only then understood the infinite value of guru-śiṣya-paramparā. (see top pic)

Today, my average day consists of 10-15 hours of Vedanta/Sanskrit study.

How Vedanta solves the beginingless problem?

What is the beginingless problem? I confuse myself with this limited body-mind of mine. Consequence of this is the constant feeling of “I'm small”.

This feeling of inadequacy, insecurity… is the driving force behind all action.

In fact, every action we ever do is an attempt to relive ourselves from sense of smallness.

Even to pursue spirituality, the underlining motivation is…

If I do that technique, meditate for this long, apply this method, go to that retreat – then I'll have or become some BIGGER experience then these mundaine small daily experiences.

But in reality, all these attemps are futile. Because they start out with the wrong assumption, “My nature is smallness”.

When in reality, you are the limitless whole, right now.

So Vedanta isn't about giving you anything new. How can anything be added to the WHOLE.

Instead Vedanta removes the false assumptions about “I”. It undoes mistaken conclusions.

The result is a complete transformation in every aspect of life. Perception, communication, decision making, everything has a 360 degree reorientation.

Because you're no longer living from smallness. But recognizing, there is an apparent limited body-mind. But I AM so much more then this body-mind given to me for a short while.

Such a person with this transformation is called a jñāni (liberated one).

For a jñāni, upon physical death, the body-mind dies, but “I” don't.

And what happens to this “I” (for a jñāni) after physical death? I remain as limitlessness. As infinite bliss.

Whereas an ignorant person (ajñāni) continues getting a new limited body-mind instrument – having to go through yet again… dependence as a baby, hunger, fatigue, disease, old age and death.

As you can see, the implications of liberation are enormous.

Why liberation seems difficult?

Remember when you were a child. What was the condition of your mind? Daydream. Fantasizing. Imagining.

Your body was here. But mind was elsewhere. You weren't present to reality at all. But present to your own version of reality.

The phenomena to project continues throughout adulthood.

That's why you'll hear some of the biggest nonsense coming from various spiritual communities. Countless ideas of what liberation means.

Most common is, “I did this technique, or I went to this place, and I had a spiritual awakening!”.

Over time this made enlightenment one of the most difficult, unaccomplishable and extraordinary events.

Here's a few more you may have heard…

Raise our Kundalini. Open our 3rd eye. Clean my chakras. Take us to a sacred pilgrimage where divinity can be experienced. Willing to pay $2,000! Connect us to an ascended master. Teach us siddhis (powers). Initialize us into 2nd level kriya-yoga. Dismiss everything, just believe in Jesus. Let's find tantra-partner so we can orgasm ourselves to states of Godhead. No, the shortcut lies in DMT, LSD, Ayahuasca, Shrooms. Actually, I want shaktipat through WhatsApp!

These are accepted notions within niche spiritual communities. They won't die because mind's imagination knows no end.

Vedanta has no problem with their method.

Although it becomes damaging when the method is advertised or implied as the ultimate END.

The correction is that they are all MEANS (mind purifiers) to an END (moksha/liberation).

Toddler's toys are only meant to exhaust fascination with those toys. The toys are not the END. They are MEANS to toddlers maturity into a full grown man. Where is the sensibility of a grown man still playing with toys from childhood.

Immediate or gradual?

Clarity doesn't occur instantaneously as falsely imagined. For example, do you get a promotion in company overnight OR it's result of years of prior hard work?

If nature bypasses a season… the food chain collapses.

There's no skipping inherent laws which can't be broken.

Only a greedy mind entertains “I want to bypass!”. It's as good as saying “I can outsmart God!”.

For this reason, ongoing self-inquiry and continued study of śāstra (vedic scriptures) is requeired to remove false notions denying happiness.

Most dislike hearing this because mind holds the portrayed image of “Buddha sitting under a shady tree who attained Enlightenment in one extended sitting session“.

Matter of fact, it's symbolic of his immense PRIOR EFFORT and BURNING DESIRE for liberation.

Whereas majority seekers, secretly keep one foot in world and another in Liberation. Then lament, “I'm not the choosen one. I'm not up to this. It isn't working for me! Not in this lifetime”.

Maturity and mind-purification takes years!

Even after gaining self-knowledge from guru/teacher… dissatisfaction may and likely will arise from childhood love-issues and lifetimes of impressions.

Moksha (liberation) is not like winning the lottery. Such false ideas are nowhere mentioned in Vedic literature.

Therefore only with patience and perseverance is one's success mathematically predictable.



Random pictures of events:

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