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 myself. Thus I attempt hundreds of practices, for decades, hoping to discover something bigger then myself.

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

advaita-vedanta-swami-chinmayananda-dayananda-paramarthananda-adhi-shankara-ramana-maharshi

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 mainly 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.

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)

Some years later… day consists of 10-15 hours of Vedanta/Sanskrit study for sake of sharing.


How Vedanta solves the beginingless problem?

Vedanta gradually burns up ignorance (who I am NOT) and firmly establishes self-knowledge as direct understanding and not mere intellectual idea.

Now one never again sporadically confuse “I” (limitless Self) with what I am NOT (limited Body-Mind-Intellect). Saṃsāra is no longer seen as saṃsāra. “I” shifts from time-bound body-mind TO the timeless self (Ātman).

Upon physical death, the body-mind dies, but “I” don't. Whereas ignorant person (ajñāni) gains a new body-mind.

Finding an Ācārya (Teacher)...
We meet many characters amidst the Spiritual journey in various forms. Each benefits us in some way. However there is only ONE ācārya who after which – vision of absolute truth (Ātman/Brahman) is revealed COMPLETELY in it's TOTALITY. How is this possible?…

Like space, it has no parts. And it accommodates everything. It accommodates the smallest particle to the largest form. For example, a person's body needs space. Earth needs space. Galaxies also need space. So forms are many, space is ONE. Space accommodates all forms. Without space, forms cannot exist. Therefore in this metaphor, space and all forms accomodated by it are considered the TOTAL (Īśvaraḥ).

In the same way, the absolute truth or TOTAL even accommodates space/time/forms. It doesn't exclude past-present-future, nor God (Ishvara), nor any wisdom from any religion at any age by anyone.  Hence TOTAL is the absolute Supreme Truth. And YOU are not apart from this Supreme Truth, because you are ALSO inclusive of the TOTAL.

Therefore ācārya's duty is to lead the student to come to this realization by oneself. This is the highest accomplishment in human life. Some call it self-realization, discovering God, mokṣa, liberation, enlightenment, salvation, nirvāṇa… but all terms are pointing to this one Supreme Truth.

Why permanent freedom seems difficult?

Highest reality (Ātman; self) always was, is, will-be. Self is present as ORDINARY awareness right NOW. Self is never not available. Self never escapes you. Because YOU are that. Can you escape from yourself? Try. Try not to be aware of yourself.

This is exactly why moksha (liberation) seems like a far-away SPECIAL event. Because we are interested in anything BUT ordinary. We want EXTRAordinary! Which presupposes a future based event that is not true right now. This erroneous assumption arouses all kinds of spiritual pursuits like:

fake-pseudo-spiritualityRaise 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. We don't have a problem with their method. Although it becomes damaging when the approach is advertised or implied as the END. Such carelessness reinforces that salvation is located in the future – and the key is through the claimed technique.

The correction is that they are all MEANS (mind purifiers) to an END (mokṣa/liberation). Just like toddler's toys are only meant to exhaust fascination with toys so toddler can progress onwards.

Immediate or gradual?

Clarity of self (ātma) and not-self (anātma) doesn't occur instantaneously as falsely imagined. For example, does one get 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 in Bhagavan's manifesation. Only a greedy mind entertains “I want to bypass!”. It's as good as saying “I can outsmart God!”.

For this reason, only further unceasing self-inquiry (nididhyasana) – and continued study of śāstra (vedic scriptures) can remove subtle doubts preventing fruits of self-knowledge. In fact this work continues until one's last breath.

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”.

In reality 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 saṃskārās (habitual/unconscious impressions).

Thus we need to cultivate patience with ourselves. Mokṣa (liberation) is not like winning the lottery and such false ideas are nowhere mentioned in Vedic literature.

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


Yes Vedanta purpose is to educate the student's mind in light of the highest knowledge, called brahma-vidya or simply Advaita Vedanta.

Such knowledge leads to aparokṣa-jñānam. Meaning, directly assimilated self-knowledge which destroys beginingless ignorance and ceases cycle of birth-death. Also called mokṣa.

Thus the whole vision of the eternal śāstra is complete.

In reality, rare are ready for traditional Vedanta. It's the last rung of the spiritual ladder.

Perhaps we'll see the rare one coming to class.

Hari Om,
Andre Vas

 

Random pictures of events:

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