Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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Hari OM
Story-day is for cultural exploration, puraanas and parables and finding out about leading lights in spiritual philosophy.

Continuing this month's focus on The Guru, another discourse from Swami Tejomayananda… "Guru-ji".


It is only in Hinduism that we revere the Guru. So great is the reverence that the place of the Guru is considered even higher than that of the Lord himself. This statement being so profound is difficult to accept, and many atheists feel it is an exaggeration.

In the education field, teachers impart the knowledge of various secular subjects and we respect them for it but do not revere them as our Guru. The scriptures pay such high accolades to the Guru that the uninitiated wonder whether the worship of the Guru is an exaggeration. In any stuti or praise, there is always an element of overstatement, but this does not hold good in praise of the Lord, His devotees, a Mahatma and the Guru. Any tributes to them will always fall short of their true import. Would it be an exaggeration to say that the Sun’s light is like the light of countless glowworms?' The light of these glowworms can never match the brilliance of the Sun.

In life, all of us are seeking happiness. Yet why are we all suffering? Is it something we already have and don’t know about? Can it be gained by inference? To know our true nature, which is happiness, none of these means is valid. Only a Guru’s teaching can reveal to us what we are searching for – our true nature! Isn’t it strange that someone has to introduce us to ourselves? That is why, in Dasbodh, Swami Ramdas says, “बहुता दिवसा भेटिले आपणासि आपण (After a long time I have met myself. Till now I had not known myself, nor met myself.)”

A man is called a jantu – a creature crawling here and there seeking momentary joys. The Guru in his infinite compassion teaches this jiiva and makes him realise that he is the Infinite Brahman – Bliss Absolute! For a Guru who teaches this Brahma Vidya, no amount of namaskars can ever be enough. To repay the debt we owe the Guru is a foolish attempt because we can never be free from it!

Let us examine the word Guru and arrive at its connotations. The teachers who teach us secular subjects, or the priests (purohits) who perform samskars like Upanayanam (the holy thread ceremony) are also gurus. In the tradition of the path of devotion (upaasana marg), the guru gives mantra deeksha to the seeker. The highest position is that of a Sadguru, who imparts the knowledge of the Supreme to the jiva who is away from the Lord. In Dasbodh, Swami Ramdas defines the Guru as the one who unites the jiiva with Shiva.

How can we know the Self? The Upanishads say that the Aatman can neither be realised by giving or listening to lectures (pravachan) nor by memorising prayers in praise of God (stotras). ‘He whom This chooses, that man knows (the Atman).' Who is this ‘he whom’ and what is ‘This’? Dualists (Dwaitins) say that ‘that seeker whom the Lord chooses, that seeker knows'. Adi Sankara says, ‘to that saadhaka, who chooses the Aatman alone, the Aatman reveals itself.’

Any seeker wanting either worldly objects or liberation must worship a Man of Realization, but only the disciple, whom the Guru chooses, knows the Aatman. So the seeker prostrates to the Guru, who bestows both worldly prosperity and spiritual freedom – भुक्ति मुक्ति प्रदाता तस्मै श्री गुरवे नमः|/ bhukti bhukti pradaataa cha tasmai shrii gurave namaH.

The Lord, the Guru and the disciple are all the one Reality manifesting in different forms – ईश्वरो गुरुरात्मेति मूर्तिभेद विभागिने|/ iishvaro gurur-aatmeti muurti-bheda vibhaagine.

Whether we say the Lord, the Guru or the seeker chooses is of no consequence. The significant word here is ‘chooses’. We have to choose like Nachiketas – ‘That’ to the exclusion of everything else.

To sum up, we seem to be suffering because of the ignorance of the true Self. This ignorance cannot be removed only through self-effort. The one who introduces me to myself is the Sadguru and any amount in praise of my Sadguru can never be sufficient. A devotee has even said, ‘I don’t consider the Lord as great. To me, the Guru is greater’. This is not to belittle the greatness of the Lord, but to stress the importance of the Guru who indicates the path of the Lord by protecting us from the five looters of samsara – our five sense organs. All that we have to do is surrender to the Guru and pray. His grace is bestowed on the devotee who is completely dependent upon the lotus feet of the Guru – गुरु चरणाम्बुज निर्भर भक्तः|/ guru charanaambuja nirbhara bhaktaH.

On Guru Purnima, we prostrate to the entire Guru Parampara from Adi Sadashiv to our own Guru. This day is also known as Vyaasa Purnima, dedicated to Veda Vyaasa, the propounder of the Vaidic Dharma. Bhagavan Veda Vyaasa is a karaka Purusha. He compiled the Vedas, Itihasaas and wrote the Puranas. Without him, there would have been no scriptures and these were elaborated and commented upon by Bhagavan Sri Sankara. To this great Guru Parampara, we offer our prostrations.

Seeing God

Hari OM
'Freedays' are the 'gather our thoughts' days; Q&As; a general review of the week so far…

This little vid clip of Swami Advayananda responding to a question about the phrase 'Hari Om' is succinct and engaging. Swami-ji was aachaarya for the 15th batch at Sandeepany Sadhanalaya and is the head of CIF - Chinmaya International Foundation.

Listen, Think, Relate

Hari OM
'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.

We now explore the Sri Adi Shankara text, "SadaachaaraH". To obtain your own copy, click here.

Antaranga saadhana - inner fine-tuning. If we are to hit a bullseye on a target some distance away, we need first to have a bow, then an arrow, we must know how to maintain them for optimum performance, we must have practiced regularly so that we are familiar with the tools and we must have a focus on that distant mark which is unwavering. The saadhana chatushtaya are the tools provided for us to prepare and adjust our focus. What is to be added?

vedaNtE> ïv[< kuyaRNmnn< caeppiÄiÉ>,
Yaaegena_ysn< inty< ttae dzRnmatmn>.17.
vedaantaiH shravanam kuryaan-mananam chopapattibhiH,
Yogenaabhyasanam nityam tato darshanamaatmanaH ||17||
One should listen to the Upanishads and do reflection with rational analysis.
Practice is to be done always with yoga. Then there arises the vision of the Self.

First; attend discourses and satsangs.

Second; the three basic requirements of the shishya who is intent on moksha; shravanam, mananam and nididhyaasanam. Listen with intent and focus, committing to memory and imbibing as much as one can from the teacher as to the nuance and balance of the texts. Here we are told that the Upanishads are the ones to be paying attention to.  Later, when sitting alone, ponder deeply and meaningfully on what has been read, heard and discussed in the discourse.

Third; practice. Nothing of any value in life is ever achieved without continual attempts to improve one's skills in any given field. This takes regular and dedicated effort. Only through this can one hope to become at all proficient. In the case of the Vedantin, the aim is to attain Realisation of Self.

Why the Upanishads? There are many, but even if one only reads the ten or eleven which have been much discussed by all the great masters, and that too in the correct order, it will be found that each lifts one up a rung, spiritually speaking. All of life's experience can be found in them and the methods of rising above samsaara, of returning to Om, are to be found in these texts. As to the 'rational analysis'; Vedanta doesn't want sheep and blind followers. Realisation doesn't just arrive nor can it be given. It is something to be worked for. Each must do this for themselves. That too, it must be done in the manner described within the shaastra itself; with a clear mind, quiet mind, questing mind. A mind tamed from rampaging thoughts. It is a scientific approach to spirituality. Test and retest each theory until one has become settled that the ancient teachings are as fresh today as they ever were, as applicable as they ever were and as needed today as they ever were.

The 'yoga' referred to in this case, then, is nididhyaasanam. Meditation takes practice. To remove the distractions - the obstacles - of indulgences, false logic, fancies and nonsense. To absent the thoughts and sit in the inner emptiness of oneself is to be open to rising to communion with the Greater Self. The body becomes nothing, the world is nothing. Self alone Is.