Guru-Student Tradition in Advaita Vedanta

guru-śisya-paramparā – Self-knowledge passed down from guru to help student dis-identify with false limited “I” of Body-Mind. And reclaim one's truth as Brahman.

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 through prescribed practice and self-inquiry, rather than believed.

Vedānta is a means for revealing the eternal truth of Reality which we miss owning to beginningless ignorance (avidyā). Then we seek for the truth in form of happiness, security and permanence in places where it's not. Just like seeking for the pen everywhere but on your own ear. No amount of effort will reveal it. It can only be pointed out by an ācāryaḥ (teacher) through Vedānta pramāṇa.

Classes are taught according to traditional Vedanta (as originally unfolded and without watering down). Also frequent use of Sanskrit words are employed for sake of strictly preserving the Vedantic Indian tradition.  Mainly because advaita (non-duality/non-dualism) taught in English strips half of the comprehension and appreciation of Oneness. It's one reason why  sincere aspirants aren't getting ahead decades later.

Another reason why sincere spiritual seekers aren't progressing fast enough is because of need to mix schools of various philosophies. Irony is mixing schools prevents Liberation (moksha). Why? It creates contradictions between words and encourages scholarly intellectual understanding (dvaita), rather then abiding in Truth AS the Truth (advaita).

Thus Vedanta establishes a precise vocabulary so student-teacher is on same page at all times. It's an already perfected methodology. Therefore student can feel safe one is not entering a contaminated or corrupted teaching; a genuine concern for seekers.

What's more, being presented multiple schools at once (EG: Neo-Advaita, Buddhism, Western philosophers, Taoism, etc) encourages greed and personal preference based on the already ignorant mind. For example…

Choosing Spirituality BlindI'll take this just because I like it, and reject that just because I dislike it! “. It's basically how children pick. And adult seekers are not exempt from this physiological weakness.

It's as good as a 3 year old being left alone in a candy store. What will happen? Child will innocently pick whatever appeals to his/her personality. Irrespective of whether it's healthy or not.

Eventually the genuine aspirant/seeker tastes all sweets to Enlightenment in the spiritual candy store. And soon discovers none have liberated oneself from the body-mind complex. Still giving validity to false “I”. But at least the person's mind is now pure owning to sādhana. This is when Vedanta teacher comes in the seekers life and helps them fulfill the highest stage of life; mokṣa (freedom from birth-death).

Yes Vedanta

swami-dayananda-paramarthananda-chinmayananda-adi-shankara-advaita-vedanta-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 exists for devotees those who seek Self-Knowledge (parā vidyā / brahmavidyā).

parā vidyā: The higher knowledge by which the immutable and the imperishable Ātman is realized, which brings about the direct realization of the Supreme Reality, the source of All (Brahman).

The student listens to the teaching, reflects on it and ascertains it by one's own self-inquiry (contemplation/meditation).

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

No commitment of attendance or academic qualification is needed. No race, gender, religion or nationality is excluded. Only your sincerity and willingness to pay attention is expected.

Vedanta also positively influences relationships, money, meaning of serving/giving, negotiating and communicating. So it's not just about having clarity of “Who am I?”, but embodying the wisdom and being an example for others of how to live in harmony with the TOTAL. It is student's duty to live and shine the knowledge to inspire others.

Teaching Lineage

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

Both lineages elegantly compliment each other. Former strictly adheres to traditional language as used by Adi Shankara. Later utilizes considerable amount of Sanskrit in all texts, thus demanding intellectual sharpness in all students.

james-swartz-ramj-advaita-vedanta-non-duality-teacherMy first teacher is James Swartz (taught Vedanta for 40+ years and learned from Swami Chinmayananda, Dayananda & Paramarthananda). James is king of cleaning up the spiritual mess constructed 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 Vedānta and protecting the unbroken lineage from being blurred with dysfunctional Western ideas of Oneness. His outspoken courage to pinpoint misleading gurus, saved thousands from looking in unproductive places for meaningful answers.

neema-majmudar-discovervedanta-advaita-vedanta-teacherSecond biggest influence and whom I look up to most is Neema Majmudar, who attended the 3 year course with Swami Dayananda. I've never met any Vedanta teacher who excels her unique ability to practically convert abstract principle of Oneness in Upanishads, into concrete and livable every-day application. I find her teaching speaks to intellectual and emotional personality simultaneously. A rare gift which helps student integrate Vedanta into personality. Neema's shining brilliance is my greatest motivator.

Majority of my day consists of immersive study of Vedantic texts and Sanskrit, as life purpose is solely dedicated to protecting and disseminating the Advaita-Vedanta 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 psychology was love-at-first-sight. A treasure which had to be explored. Idea of becoming better was irresistible. It supported the vision of family's tradition: find a wife, have children and provide them a safe happy home.

Although looking back, exploration was motivated out of lack, insecurity, unworthiness. In other words it was fear driven self-improvement of not having enough. Either way it was suffice reason to quickly master subject of money, which gave way to financial independence.

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

“There seems to be no ENDING to any of this!” I thought. Why is there a constant drive to achieve more? At what point will I no longer feel determined to accomplish and be at peace with what I've already got? In what way will even-more make a difference?

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

self-enquiry-inquiryWhat is this ceaseless yearning for ENDING I'm craving? 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 this “I”. This means the “end” is complete, and the “I” is incomplete. Logical! Because it is always the INCOMPLETE which chases after the COMPLETE – and not the other way around.

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

Aha! Then “I AM” must be referring to mind, since my mind is always asking for something new, meaning it's incomplete at any one moment.

But wait! How can a LIMITED MIND know about an UNLIMITED END? That's impossible! A fish can't know about the entire ocean. Only the ocean can know of the fish.

It's obvious I'm not a fish. Else there would be constant happiness in my small coral-reef world. But fact is, there is a sense of missing something. Which means I already have knowledge of something much BIGGER then this small fish-like body.

Aha! This must mean I am already the ocean, the end. And my small fish-like body and mind is standing in the way of knowing myself as entire ocean.

So this means the MIND must be treated, and not the “I AM”.

Ok now the formula changes: (1) I AM = complete (2) End = treat the mind preventing full knowledge and experience of #1.

This means all the personal development done, added more obstructions over the “I AM”. And since it didn't remove the constant nag of missing something, then what if I do this…

Undo everything I've done!

In short, enquiry was about abiding permanently in my TRUE identity.

From thereon, next 8+ years turned into an exploration of the spiritual to discover how to live complete. Like an innocent infant willing to do anything for however long to taste the candy of a fulfilled self.

Results were…

pursuit-of-spiritual-enlightenment-checklistPilgrimages explored, experts spoken to, certificates in various arts, hundreds of hours reading, breathlessness achieved (through Kriyā Yoga), Ayahuasca, ACIM, Qigong, Chanting names of God, Prayers, Mantras, Zen-type meditations, affirmations, hypnosis, etc…

It was apparent most practices worked, but none provided a PERMANENT remedy. The high wore off days/months later. In any case, still questioning who-what is the true self? Still mesmerized the cryptic words of the scriptures (Vedas, Bible, Kabbalah, Buddhists texts, etc).

What's more, in stage of discovering self, almost every ‘guru' seems convincing and worth listening to. This causes major trust issues. With whom do I stay and put my faith in? Thus I was hopping one saviour to another.

Then as it goes, when the devotee of truth (sādhaka) has demonstrated enough zeal, the right proponent crosses his/her path.

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.

After hearing the Vedānta teachings magnificently expounded by James Swartz, my first official proper guru… I stuck with the program by mere faith that what Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads are saying, must be true. Despite having no way of verifying the Vedic authority to be any better then other systems I've already studied and practiced.

“Stuck with” means unceasingly self-inquiring in light of what's been heard and written during class. Then again re-watching another 100 hours worth of recordings. Writing notes all over again,  contemplating and asking questions. Then again re-watching another 100 hours, pausing every 2-3 min to contemplate for 5-10 minutes on what was said, then writing notes the 3rd time. At least 900 hours went into this process with 300+ pages of notes, within 1 year.

Eventually ignorance of self (who I am NOT) was destroyed and Self-Knowledge firmly and permanently established… without again sporadically confusing “I” (Self) with what I am NOT (Body-Mind-Intellect). 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 confounded spiritual marketplace. But clarity owning to self-evident existence of self, which is ironically the most familiar and ordinary presence known to all humans at all times at any age.

Because ultimate truth is ORDINARY… it is exactly why moksha (liberation) 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. This erroneous assumption arouses all kinds of spiritual pursuits, like…

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! Dismiss everything, just believe in Jesus. Find a tantra-partner to orgasm oneself to God and then prolong that state.

These are normal notions within niche spiritual communities. They likely won't die. Mind's imagination knows no end. We don't have a problem with their methods. Although it becomes damaging when they advertise themselves as the END. Implying a future based result of something extraordinary.

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 to youth, etc.

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 and organically dissolved. 

Understand none of this happens instantaneously as falsely imagined. Proof? Show us one virtuous aspect of life which comes overnight. If nature bypasses a single season, the food chain collapses. Only a greedy mind entertains “I want to bypass!”. It's as good as saying “I'm smarter then God!”.

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.

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 unseen PRIOR EFFORT and BURNING DESIRE for liberation. Whereas majority seekers secretly keep one foot in world and one foot in Liberation, then complain, “this isn't working for me!”.

In reality maturity and mind-purification takes years. Even after gaining Self-Knowledge from guru/teacher… dissatisfaction may still arise from love-issues obtained in childhood from parents, society and friends.

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 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 truly ready for traditional Vedanta. Because it is the last rung of the spiritual ladder.

Perhaps we'll see the rare one in class soon.

Hari Om,
Andre Vas

 

Random pictures of events:

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