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Reservations Contents  

Krishna and Radha
Radha and Krishna

Sanatan Dharma (Eternal Righteousness, or Hinduism) is a way of living above paying lip service. The living matters, the reading very little, unless it is spiritually helpful or fit for an occupation to thrive in and by, so that a family can be sustained and life go on. So, instead of dealing with long books about Hinduism it could work better to find the essential deals and stick to them - to live Vedanta. Well directed deeds above words to think about, in other words. Besides, there is meditation. Good methods are testable, and good method givers are kind and generous in the extreme.

Eternal Dharma for humans is regulated in accordance with four life goals, rendered as wealth, lust, righteousness and freedom. In other words, a well lived life makes very good use of the human body and its opportunities to get calm, advance spiritually, and gain wealth and pleasures by fit and fair means.

"Good and ample food" is at the heart of much here. There is food for the body, and food for thought - or for the mind. Fit scriptures are said to work wonders, but such traditional claims may be extremely exaggerated. However, if the ideas they bring, put one on the doer's path toward freedom, they are also all right. Food for the spirit (soul) is also taken in, during daily, advancing meditation.

Good balance in between. For all who think it is good to reduce killing of animals and not harm badly, there are benefits to be had if a good balance is had between what sort of food is needed, and nice ways of getting and keeping it. Food is essential for survival, and also for the survival of a culture and religious system. In this light, the milk cow is a blessing, and deeply appreciated. Corn products are fine too.

A systematisation of the four intertwining goals of life puts human unfoldment into stages or stratas. Stratified deals are the key to much of present-day Hinduism also. Life is divided into main stages, and social standing (class) likewise. These strata are ideally in step with a person's natural proclivities.

Vedanta is a fold of Sanatan Dharma, and is divided into Vedanta schools. Advaita Vedanta is one of many. All Vedanta schools are grounded in the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahmasutra, although interpretations differ and make for different schools and even different subschools.

Dharma is a key concept. It can be rendered as appropriateness in behaving, dealing, of work and leisure and more. It has to do with balance in the art of living. It is the backbone of forms of Hindu religion, of law, justness or justice, fairness, and similar. It is an old term with many ramifications of meaning. This means that 'Dharma' is translated differently too. There are written big books on Hindu Dharma, where duties for members of different social strata are spelled out, along with punishments for violating laws of various sorts. Such books reveal codes of living operating among some former Hindus: Manu Samhita is one example. The Institutes of Vishnu is another and quite similar law-book that seeks to regulate human life on earth, as presented in a wider perspective.

The clue to many of these deals is: "You live well and take care to develop and get good opportunities to unfold, and avoid repercussions (bad karma)." If you do this well, there will be less suffering in store for you and better conditions, unless something untoward happens later on. For the lack of that certainty one meditates well and often to make the most of life, and hopefully to be Self-realised along that path. That is winning yogic freedom. Good luck!

"Which Vedanta suits me?" I suggest Nimbarka's variant of "duality in nonduality" for the waking hours. Advaita Vedanta holds there is no other . . . (cf. Bose 1940)

Seriously, in "Nonduality-land" it is hard to conceptualise and use words. Maybe you know how - and then you have included things from "duality-in-nonduality" into that.

So: fit for serious thinking: Nimbarka. Fit for going beyond thinking but not beyond experiencing: Advaita - if understood suggestively: The accepted Upanishadic doctrine is that words fail in describing the Ultimate.

This spells out the common practice: Develop the mind and heart and go beyond words and concepts for a spell or longer. You do it in meditation that is fit for it. I practice TM: Many of its research findings so far do not fail me.

Instructions in good and rewarding living will find expressions on another level than that of nonduality - Nimbarka's, for example. Such a Vedanta combination seems good and responsible to me. So to avoid confusion: Meditate into the Real Thing, and live up to It too, by guiding thoughts. If they don't gush forth from within, hope to find good sources otherwise, and a fine guru.

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Vedanta as Fit for Waking Hours

Nimbarka's variant of Vedanta – "duality in nonduality", or Dvaitadvaita – complements Advaita Vedanta a lot. We will go into it. (1)

This is how it is seen: From Brahman, God, issue vibrations. Some may be perceived as sounds if you have ears adjusted to those ranges. Simplified, inwardly sensed sound, shabda, is the sound of Aum, or OM, and its "further sounds" that those who practice manifold variants of yoga tune into by stages, into OM itself. Now, this understanding of Word-Brahman suits the Vedantic view that manifestations have both vibrations and forms – or "names and forms" in the grand web we are inside in waking hours. [7, 8]

Vedanta hinges upon that everything is in the heart's God. How can non-duality be attained and retained if self and nature are distinguished from each other? The intriguing concept of maya as the weaver of a web in and of Brahman, forming a field that we believe to exist as its own reality, points out that the field of life is a manifestation of Brahman. [cf 2, 6]

Vedanta is interpreted in various ways. Apart from its schools of dualism there is Advaita Vedanta, which rejects dualism, and instead concludes "I am Brahman", which should be taken in a loose and not strict sense, since the gist of the teaching is that Brahman is well beyond the sort of classification included in such thinking too: Nonduality suggests Central Unity, and compared to it, intoning "I am Brahman" speaks of a certain infirmity.

There is room for some measure of rugged theism in Vedanta too, upholding the belief that devotion, feeling, (bhakti) itself aids liberation, if well tended to. That may be, but it might lead into frenzy instead. As it is, there is no denying that liberation may be had by silly-looking devotion, may be had without devotion, and also without shows of devotion. Suit yourself. Various yoga paths, margas are devised to accommodate yoga to different personal designs. Some may be more devotional than others, so they get some pointers to help them, too, under headings or specifications like bhakti-yoga. However, it needs to be pointed out that the path of devotion is not what the main Upanishads speak of. Yoga attuned to devotional-minded men and women looks quite like a newcomer in the hoary yoga tradition. [7]

The Vedantic view is that the world that we experience (prakriti, or Nature) is Brahman as known through human mental cognition or perception. The outer world is a deep-set systemic view based on perceptions, based on many factors inside us. There is obviously scope for enlarging and developing perceptions too. However, few perceive how we project the outward world from our minds by deep mental constants and more too. These magical powers include deep projections and the hiding of those projections – dual powers that Adi Shankara posits are at play deep inside. [6]

Life of Ramakrishna

The great Vedanta teaching that the wold is non-dual in essence, is called Advaita. In the world that senses are fit for, there are obviously many. Can the teachings of "there are not many" and "there are many" be reconciled well?

Ramakrishna indicates how it is done: He remained on the beach, so to speak, often dipping into the water, and often talking when on dry land again. In other words, he remained the threshold of absolute consciousness and gently oscillated and bridged the gulf between the Personal and the Impersonal, the immanent and the transcendent aspects of Reality. [Nikhilananda 1974:52]

Dvaitadvaita of Nimbarka

Nimbarka teaches the philosophical side to it in his delicate form of Vedanta. He is known for propagating Dvaitadvaita, duality in unity. Dvaitadvaita is also the name of one of the subschools of Vedanta. According to this school, the jivatman, 'soul', individual spirit is the same as God (in essence) and different from God in the realm of plurality. Hence, the jiva relation inwards may be regarded as of duality from one point of view and of nonduality from another. The latter is the Advaita view of Adi Shankara. [Nimbarka and Dvaitadvaita]

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An Allegory of the Sea

The ancient teacing is that all are moving and living in non-dual Brahman, that is, in non-duality. One who realises it is said to be freed, or saved, like a farmer who is rescued from tilling the soil by going to the sea and thereby saving his soul (jiva).

He may not tell a lot from his experiences at sea if he even comes back again and meets his wife and children and so on. If they have not been at sea themselves, they may not understand much of his imagery, metaphors, allegories – when he tries to tell of his experiences and they have not been to the beach, even. And there we are! There is a risk of being misunderstood. That is why, when a guru tells the world is unreal, illusory, and a dream only, he may look like a sailor who talks big of the ocean, its deeps, its inhabitants, and is thought to be drunk or a liar too. Such things have happened.

What is so obvious that it needs to be pointed out (!) is that if the world is all unreal, everything and everyone within it are unreal too. And such an observation may seeming nullify the guru gambit of teaching that 'the world is a mere dream" and stop there.

However, Vedanta offers the explanation. It served Ramakrishna to compare a bit:

  • Dive in the sea of Brahman through meditation.
  • Find shells and pearls on the shore filled with glittering light and a sound one likes to hear. Thus, wisdom and insights are had and may be shared.
  • Talk a lot when on dry land. Buddha did.

That is what many do. But what they tell may be misunderstood, not only by inland farmers, but also by devilish gangs who have got to the beach but not benefitted a lot.

Further, when we hear a tale that looks insubstantial, there is no great hurry to believe it. Instead, ponder or reflect a while and learn the tasks called for to deal with it. That way of dealing with teachings is illustrated in the Chandogya Upanishad, where a god and a demon got the same initial teaching together, but the devil did not grasp all of it, for he fell short when it came to reflecting. What is more, the lessons he taught from then on, made others dumber. The god, however, got successive higher doctrines. It took time, though.

How a Devil Misunderstood an Ancient Teaching

Prajapati said, "In the centre of the castle of Brahman, our own body, there is a small shrine in the form of a lotus-flower, and within can be found a small space. We should find who dwells there, and we should want to know him. . . .

"The little space within the heart is as great as this vast universe. The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun, and the moon, and the stars; fire and lightning and winds are there; and all that now is and all that is not: for the whole universe is in Him and He dwells within our heart." . . .

"The Spirit who is in the body does not grow old and does not die, and no one can ever kill the Spirit who is everlasting. This is the real castle of Brahman wherein dwells all the love of the universe. It is Atman, pure Spirit, beyond sorrow, old age, and death; beyond evil and hunger and thirst. It is Atman whose love is Truth, whose thoughts are Truth. . . .

"All love which is Truth and all thoughts of Truth obey the Atman, the Spirit. And even as here on earth all work done in time ends in time, so in the worlds to come even the good works of the past pass away. Therefore . . . those who leave this world and have found their soul and that love which is Truth, for them there is the liberty of the Spirit, in this world and in the worlds to come."

Atman, the Spirit of man, bridges time and Eternity. Evil or sin cannot cross that bridge . . .

To one who goes over that bridge, in the worlds of the Spirit there is a Light which is everlasting - a Spirit which is pure and which is beyond old age and death; and beyond hunger and thirst and sorrow. This is Atman, the Spirit in man. All the desires of this Spirit are Truth. It is this Spirit that we must find and know: a human must find his or her own Soul. She who has found and knows his Soul has found all the worlds, has achieved all her desires," said Prajapati.

The gods and the devils heard these words and they said: "Come, let us go and find the Atman, let us find the Soul, so that we may gain all our desires!"

Then Indra among the gods and Virochana among the devils went without telling each other to see Prajapati, carrying fuel in their hands as a sign that they wanted to be his pupils.

For thirty-two years they both lived with Prajapati the life of religious students. At the end of that time Prajapati asked them: "Why have you been living the life of religious students?"

Indra and Virochana answered: ". . . You know the Atman, a Spirit which is pure and which is beyond old age and death, and beyond hunger and thirst and sorrow, a Spirit whose desires are Truth and whose thoughts are Truth; and that you say that this Spirit must be found and known, because when he is found all the worlds are found and all desires are obtained. This is why we have been living here as your pupils."

Prajapati said to them, "Go and adorn yourselves and dress in clothes of beauty," said Prajapati, "and look at yourselves in a bowl of water."

They did so and looked again in the bowl of water. "What do you see?" asked Prajapati.

"We see ourselves as we are," they answered, "adomed and dressed in clothes of beauty."

"It is the Immortal beyond all fear," said Prajapati.

Then they left with peace in their hearts.

Prajapati looked at them and said: They have seen but they have not understood. They have not found the Atman, their soul. Their beliefs are not good enough."

Then Virochana went to the devils full of self-satisfaction, and gave them this teaching: "We ourselves are our own bodies, and those must be made happy on earth. It is our bodies that should be in glory, and it is for them that we should have servants. He who makes his body happy, he who for his body has servants, he is well in this world and also in the world to come."

But before Indra had returned to the gods he saw the danger of this teaching and he thought: "If our self, our Atman, is the body, and is dressed in clothes of beauty when the body is, and is covered with ornaments when the body is, then when the body is blind the self is blind, and when the body is lame the self is lame; and when the body dies, our self dies. I cannot find any joy in this doctrine."

He therefore went back to Prajapati with fuel in hand as a sign that he wanted to be his pupil.

"Why have you returned?" asked Prajapati. "You went away with peace in your heart."

Indra said what he had come to think in the matter, and Prajapati said, "It is even so," said Prajapati. "I will teach you a higher doctrine after another thirty-two years."

Indra was with Prajapati for another thirty-two years, and then Prajapati said: 'the spirit that wanders in joy in the land of dreams, that is the Atman, that is the Immortal beyond fear: that is Brahman."

Then Indra left with peace in his heart; but before he had returned to the gods he saw the danger of this teaching and therefore went back to Prajapati and let him know what he had been thinking: "Even if in dreams when the body is blind the Atman is not blind, or when the body is lame the Atman is not lame, and indeed does not suffer the limitations of the body, so that when the body is killed the self is not killed; yet in dreams the self may seem to be killed and suffer, and to feel much pain and weep. I cannot find any joy in this doctrine."

"True," said Prajapati. "I will teach you a higher doctrine after another thirty-two years."

Indra was with Prajapati another thirty-two years. And then Prajapati said:

"The spirit who is sleeping without dreams in the silent quietness of deep sleep, that is the Atman, that is the Immortal beyond fear: that is Brahman."

Then Indra left with peace in his heart, but before he had reached the gods he saw the danger of this teaching and went again to Prajapati and said what he had been wondering about: "If a man is in deep sleep without dreams he cannot even say "I am" and he cannot know anything. . . . I cannot find any joy in this doctrine."

"True," said Prajapati. "I will teach you a higher doctrine, the highest that can be taught, in five years."

Indra lived with Prajapati for five more years. Prajapati then said to Indra:

"The body is mortal, it is under the power of death; but it is also the dwelling of Atman, the Spirit of immortal life. The body, the house of the Spirit, is under the power of pleasure and pain; and if a man is ruled by his body [it may not serve him throughout]. But when a man is in the joy of the Spirit, in the Spirit which is ever free, then this man is free from all bondage, the bondage of pleasure and pain.

. . . When the soul is in silent quietness it arises [to] the Spirit Supreme [in a body (shape)] of light. It is the land of infinite liberty where, beyond its mortal body, the Spirit of man is free. There can he laugh and sing of his glory with ethereal women and friends. He enjoys ethereal chariots and forgets the cart of his body on earth. For as a beast is attached to a cart, so on earth the soul is attached to a body.

Know that when the eye looks into space it is the Spirit of man that sees: the eye is only the organ of sight. Likewise, it is the Spirit that feels: he uses the organ of smell. It is the Spirit that speaks: the voice is the organ of speech. It is the Spirit that hears: the ear is the organ of hearing. And when one says "I think," it is the Spirit that thinks: the mind is the organ of thought. It is because of the light of the Spirit that the human mind can see, think, and enjoy this world.

All the gods adore in contemplation the Spirit Supreme. This is why they bask in joy, and find all the worlds and all desires within. The human who on this earth comes to know Atman, his own Self, has all, all the worlds and all joy."

Thus spoke Prajapati.

[Mascaró 1965:120-26, retold, and with added emphasis]

Brahman Faking to Be Many

In a universal consciousness, limited consciousness with its theism and other views- goes through many revolving changes of waking, dreaming and sleeping. These states themselves appear to be individual, but the Mandukya Upanishad states that they are not, and Advaita holds they is Brahman". The one sure principle of Vedanta is Brahman. Further, a self – or I – observes, sets in motion, effects. [5, 1-2, 3-4] (2)

Brahman Manifests as The One

Vedanta's central concerns are related to mankind, and Vedanta teaches they is Brahman, that Brahman is all there is. What am I? the universe? my relationship to it? All is Brahman, is the Vedanta position. Most, at some time in their lives, asked – perhaps felt – such questions, and did not find that answer. It is more than intuitively felt, we are assured. It is to be experienced too. (5)

Brahman manifests in time past, time present and time future, but past, present and future are not different in God as Essence, or Essential Unity beyond spatial connections too. It is an elevated state that is not easily explained, and the origin of essential Vedanta. It teaches there is Brahman, and Brahman somehow or trickily manifests in many minds outwardly, in the field of duality. Time itself is of this illusion. What is more, Socrates claimed in the Symposium that love is no more than an intermediary. "Seeing is believing." [7, 6, 3]

Well, tidy and sound instruction may prepare the way and ward off infirmities. Vedanta is of the spirit – the one universal spirit – but not far from great humour, for example Ramakrishna humour, and hardly wards off clownish religion either. People of many a religion may drink from the waters of its great depths. [4]

In Control or Controlled

Can deep mind be controlled? Should it be, in case, and how far is good? To what ends, in case? If controlled, who is the controller, and how wise is he or she? [7] (7)

Nimbarka's Vedanta focuses on Brahman, the Controller and the Controlled. To the degree you are not fully yourself, you are correspondingly controlled too. The reduced stature of individuals, animals, plant life and earth itself, is aligned to an attitude of making use of – or abusing, by reducing degrees of freedom and a measure of inherent native worth somehow. Then you are made use of.

As for Advaita thinking, the idea that each of us is not a separate unit of consciousness, but that only Splendid Unity is, could at times be very hard to find proper outlets for in practical affairs. However, much handed-over moral is rooted in it, or something similar. It forms a good basis for the Golden Rule, "do to others as you would be done to yourself if you are not a masochist and sadist," but there is more to hanker after than that, for example individual development. Besides, there is the observation that being nice to oneself first tends to work well as long as you do not end up being a narcisstist or blunted egotist, whereas the alternative, being kind to others first, could seriously undermine our standing.

Being kind and generous, is that stupid?

To answer the question in the heading: It depends. We could have been too kind and nice to undeserving ones that had better not been helped on and up for their inherent gruesome takes. We need to train and exercise our good judgement to help us and the wider whole (holon) we are inside, for as long as it lasts. The Golden Rule is not sick, but many persons that need help, are not just deprived, but seriously flawed and perhaps unfit for better position. For one thing, they may seriously lack in decent, individual moral, and may lack a fit vision of progress on different levels.

Moreover, power in the hands of stupidity may not work out all right, just as might in the wrong hands is hardly the thing to help un and up. Besides, becoming a victim of greedy ones or blunting selfish jerks that have got help out of their plights, hardly makes you good enough if you have not been swindled, betrayed and such things. Hence, various delicate nuances and switches and additions to the "Be Nice" rules have cropped up in many places on the globe for the sake of good living. It is quite an art.

Philosophically, the Vedana theist Madhva holds a view that animate creatures are ontologically distinct from God, and can suffer if separated from Him. For practical affairs it could work well to be attuned to that overall view. [7]


Well attuned to Madhva's view is the basic concept of Hindu and Buddhist thinking, namely that an inner Law (dharma) is not to be ignored for the well-meaning of heart. Besides, there is the rough, "Accord to His Law or pay the consequences". The idea of Dharma ranges over legal or prescriptive rules, morality and laws of nature as understood in the natural sciences, like physics. Dharma is to be taken as the will of Brahman, and it definitely raises questions about Man's role and free will. Throughout history, many formidable men and women have tried to find out of matters like these, not just Platon. [2]

The Knower

How is the knower of Vedanta and Vedanta's aim known? The saying, "It takes one to know one," applies, but maybe not in all respects, since "You don't have to be ill to be a doctor." [4]

Sankara is the prime exponent of Advaita Vedanta (nonduality), an early medieval master of that dominant form of Vedanta. His stand is that the self may rise from duality-tinged matters into nonduality through rigid disciplines. They serve the developments of deep mind, and deep mind is the self that pervades a lot, if you learn to get into that. [7] (7)

Resolving deep issues

In Vedanta there is also the teaching of many lives: individual men and women live, not one life, but very many, and such life-chains are also determined by how well or badly people have behaved too. More than being polite and classy goes into making progress. Being good at meditation and being handy helps too, being skilled in solving problems and going into a sound environment, among other things. [6] (8)

If the environment is formed and fit for progress of fit humans, it is not degrading them beneath machines and decadence that is ushered in by ever more systemic controls taking over, as in Europe at large. Ancient thinkers and doers in ancient India hammered out and implemented a more or less tactful and growth-helping caste system that became the grid of the society. "Indian society was originally founded on a just system . . . the West could learn much about social justice from an examination of class and law as stated in the tradition of Vedanta," writes Brian Hodgkinson. At least there were loop-holes in it, and not totalitarian control over individuals from Kindergarten and upwards. Hodgkinson finds that the Western world suffers untold confusion in the realm of thought concerning fundamental issues. [8]

Why read about Vedanta? One may want to know something of how other people have spent their lives, their thoughts, activities and attainments. A book on Vedanta may or may not go some way into primary Vedanta texts too, such as the oldest Upanishads. [3]

Is there One, are there Many? In utter Oneness, there is hardly a distinction between One and Many. In the realm of duality, unity or concord is in the realm of the heart, and the heart is the seat of Brahman, we are told.

How can the individual self, the jiva, be distinguished from other putative selves? By going outwards somehow. Just a bit may do. In such states there are many, or "duality in nonduality", dvaitadvaita. By getting elevated again, notions like that disappear, just like tax collectors. They are not perceived in such a state. There are many entertaining stories of this attainment, and also great statements that reflect the highest state, including 'I am Brahman' and 'This Atman (individual self) is Brahman'. [5]

To do practical work, such as teaching art classes, you need to come down not a little, or your elevated mental states may lead into danger. One should be aware of that. [5]

Outward freedom is not always void of conformism and tough external restraints. Inner, great freedom drops the idea – for a while – of having a body and rational mind. Seeing is believing. Next best verification is to study the evidence of the greatest and renowned peakers of Vedanta, like Ramakrishna. And Ramana Maharshi is another renowned Vedantist. [5]

Some words of ancient texts may point in the direction of the truthland deep inside. In such a way Vedanta might be described as wisdom, says Hodgkinson. Yet the truly wise also live what they know. They practise it in their lives, by not conforming too rigidly to Advaita for practical business, for example. More goes into it than that, such as being attuned to the subtlest by living up to great norms and principles that are related to It. So there is wisdom and wisdom. Very practical Vedanta is best learnt from a tradition of gurus, it is held, and for lots of reasons. The fit guru may in turn have been helped on and up by such as study and practice at the feet of his own guru. [2, 3]

We may turn to the deep wisdom of Vedanta to manage proficiently and not flounder in the labyrinths of life in a large array of matters that concern mankind, and ourselves. [8] 

Page references in square brackets above are to The Essence of Vedanta by Brian Hodginson. Book data is furnished below. – Tormod Kinnes

Shankara's teaching and Ramakrishna

Nimbarka appears to have flourished well before Ramanuja, perhaps at the same time as Sankaracharya, or right before him. Nimbarka's philosophical position is known as Dvaitadvaita (duality and nonduality) (above). [WP, "Nimbarka"]

Another Vedanta philosopher, Bhaskara (c. 600s C.E.) accepts the notions of non-duality - the oneness of reality - that Shankara expounds, but contests that the phenomenal universe, the everyday world, is illusory. [WP, "Bhaskara (philosopher)"]

Now, the doctrine that Shankara expounds, is found in the phenomenal world and would be illusory along with it too if true - yet untrue - not good. Another way of saying the same thing is: Shankara's teaching that the world is untrue, is found in the world. If that world were illusory, so would Shankara's teachings be - all of them untrue to fact. So the outer world is real enough - to keep Shankara's teachings in for as long as they last.

Also, Ramana Maharshi: "Illusion is itself illusory." (in Osborne, 1971:17)

This is a serious issue. Advaita holds many things in the light of an illusoriness doctrine that easily creates conundrums, and is little fit for all who do not reach up to nonduality and what goes along with it, like having lots of hidden enemies. It could be fine to combine the views of nonduality (Advaita) and duality-in-nonduality (Dvaita-Advaita). Ramakrishna (1836-86) did. He told, after he had entered the nondual state and got back from it after three days, that he should remain "on the threshold of absolute consciousness. He gently oscillated and bridged the gulf between the Personal and the Impersonal, the immanent and the transcendent aspects of Reality," writes Swami Nikhilananda (1974:52)

The outer world may seem unreal or be quite unreal to you if you sleep deeply or go into higher yoga states. But as soon as you wake up - alternatively get out of those states, voila! there is the world to teach Advaita (nonduality) in - such as: "The good thing in Vedanta is not to be trapped in words but go beyond them." Shankara says succinctly:

When the Great Reality is not known, the study of the scriptures is fruitless. When the Great Reality is known, the study of the scriptures is also fruitless. [More of Shankara]

With this in mind, one needs to be wary and not get entangled by words in the scriptures. Words and concepts can help "up to a point", though, as food for thought. But as food for the soul we could need inner unification in yoga-meditation. Sound sleep could help a little too.

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866-1949) tells that above one's instinctual, emotional and intellectual sides there is an "acquired personality" as well as one's innate essential nature, which in far too many cases is "primitive, savage and childish, or else simply stupid." In that lies much of the human tragegy. But to remain on the bright side of it: "There is ample room for work that can or should be done in your mind when you can." You can work on your genuineness and self-development by sticking firmly to truths that you find, and start to get your individuality up and going. That is in Gurdjieff's teaching. "In addition to being able to do the ordinary . . . one must find within oneself an attraction toward self-development" toward the "permanent and unchanging "I" (spirit). One step on the way may be to learn the art of observing . . . [Speeth, chap. 3; p. 49, 53, 62; cf also Walker 1973; chap. 6]

If you should feel that the spirit, or settled "I", is a needle in the haystack, you could try to feed it somewhat so that you may sense it in the chest or wherever the "I" is felt. And to repeat the food theme (above): On the mental plane there are good thoughts for keeping up on a good track. Further, within the mind - or in the deep mind - you could meditate to feed your sense of being someone and get refreshed and develop selfhood too. They possibility to give yourself good and ample nourishment on the levels where it is needed a lot, is hopefully within reach.

There are texts to look into for those who like. You could say as a warning: "They did not heed Sankara's helpful words about futile study of scriptures very much." Or maybe they did not know them. Some students fall asleep over textbooks all the same, for a reason. And some tell they fall asleep during meditation too.

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The Essential Vedanta

The scholars Eliot Deutsch and Rohit Dalvi have edited The Essential Vedanta: A New Source Book of Advaita Vedanta (Bloomington, IA: World Wisdom, 2004). The book is basically a second edition of a work by J. A. B. van Buitenen and Deutsch from 1971, with some changes and additions. The late Professor van Buitenen (1928-79) worked primarily with chapters 1-4, and Deutsch with chapters 5-21. They aimed to grasp Advaita Vedanta in terms of cultural history and philosophy.

In the second edition Deutsch and Dalvi include translations of selected Sanskrit writings together with background materials. They have not included material from recent Vedanta exponents like Vivekananda and Aurobindo, since their writings are readily accessible. [Many are online today as well. TK]

Here are titbits:


Vedanta means "the end of the Veda" in the double sense that the Veda has come to an end here and that it has come to a conclusion. "This final portion of the Veda comprises principally the Upanishads, which form the last tier in the monument we call the Veda."

Vedanta is also a tradition which intends to base itself on the Vedanta as explained in the Upanishads. But the Upanishads are not the only foundation of Vedanta. Classical Vedanta recognises the authority of the Upanishads; the Bhagavadgita; and the Brahmasutras. "These sources may appear to be difficult and at times indeed abstruse; but they set up the problems to which Vedanta addresses itself".

Further, "The basic works of the founders of the different Vedanta schools present themselves as commentaries on the traditional sources; while most of their works are original to a high degree . . . nevertheless the philosophers themselves in all honesty present themselves as commentators only." And "It is enough for them to explicate the available truth."

[Deutsch and Dalvi, introducing Part 1] Some texts are basic, such as Chandogya Upanishad, chapter 6, a most influential one:

1. It lays down for Vedanta that the phenomenal world is produced out of a preexistent cause and is non-different from its cause. It says that creation does not emerge as a completely new entity, but preexists in its substantial cause. In this lies the basic and confounding task of Vedanta - intelling just how the changing phenomenal world and Brahman relate to one another. Different schools of Vedanta settle on different explanations.

2. It teaches that "You are That," and thereby "lays down that there is an identity (however to be understood) between the Brahman and the individual self". Adi Shankara understood it to mean there is no difference between the consciousness of the individual self and the consciousness that is Brahman.

3. It is quoted several times in the Brahmasútras, which adduces its evidence in 1. 1. 5 ff. to prove that the universal cause is conscious, and in 2. 1. 14 to prove that the produced world is non-different from Brahman. Different commentaries on 2. 1. 14 will state their opinions - whether this non-difference signifies a complete non-dualism (Shankara), a difference-non-difference (Bhaskara), or a non-difference in a differentiated supreme (Ramanuja). From different understandings of this matter we have three main Vedanta schools.

Two Chandogya sayings

"The Existent was here in the beginning, alone and without a second. It willed, 'I may be much, let me multiply.'"

"The very fineness which ensouls all this world, is the true one, is the soul. You are that. [Abr.]"


Vedanta for Westerners, Vedanta for the soul, Literature  

Bose, Roma, tr. Vedanta-Parijata-Saurabha of Nimbarka and Vedanta-Kaustubha of Srinivasa (Commentaries on the Brahma-Sutras). Vols 1-3. Calcutta: Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1940.

Chatterjee, Satischandra, and Dhirendramohan Datta. An Introduction to Indian Philosophy. 7th ed. Calcutta: University of Calcutta, 1968 (or Rupa Publications, New Delhi 2007, etc.)

Deussen, Paul. Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Vols 1-2. Varanasi: Banarsidass, 1980.

Deussen, Paul. The System of the Vedanta. Tr. Charles Johnston. Chicago IL: The Open Court Publishing, 1912.

Deutsch, Eliot, and Rohit Dalvi, eds. The Essential Vedanta: A New Source Book of Advaita Vedanta. Bloomington, IA: World Wisdom, 2004.

Hodgkinson, Brian. The Essence of Vedanta. London: Arcturus, 2006.

Hourihan, Anna, ed, and Paul Hourihan. Children of Immortal Bliss: A New Perspective on Our True Identity based on the Ancient Vedanta Philosophy of India. Redding, CA: Vedantic Shores Press, 2008.

Mascaró, Juan, tr. Buddha's Teachings. London: Penguin, 1995. — [Dhammapada]

Mascaró, Juan, tr. The Bhagavad Gita. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962.

Mascaró, Juan, tr. The Upanishads. London: Penguin Books, 1965.

Mason, Paul. Guru Dev as presented by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 3. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009.

Mason, Paul. The Biography of Guru Dev: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 2. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009.

Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. Drg-Drsya Viveka: An Inquiry into the Nature of the 'Seer' and the 'Seen'. Mysore: Sri Ramakrishna Asrama, 1931.

Nikhilananda, Swami. tr. The Gospel of Ramakrishna. Abr. ed. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda. New York, 1974.

Potter, Karl H., general ed. Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies. Vol. 3: Advaita Vedanta up to Samkara and His Pupils. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1981.

Prabhavananda, Swami, and Christopher Isherwood, trs. How To Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. New York: The New American Library/Mentor, 1953.

Shriver, LB Trusty. The Sweet Teachings of the Blessed Sankaracarya Swami Brahmananda Saraswati. Tr. and contr. Cynthia Ann Humes. Raleigh, NC:, 2013. — Professor Humes has supplied the annotations.

Sivananda, Swami. Ethics of the Bhagavad Gita. 3rd ed. Shivanandanagar, Uttarakhand: The Divine Life Society, 2009.

Sivananda, Swami. Vedanta for Beginners. 3rd ed. Shivanandanagar, Uttarakhand: The Divine Life Society, 1996.

Speeth, Kathleen Riordan. The Gurdjieff Work. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher / Putnam, 1989.

Venkataramanan, S., tr. Select Works of Sri Sankaracharya: Samskrit Text and English Translation. Madras: G. A. Natesan, 1921.

Walker, Kenneth, A Study of Gurdjieff's Teaching. Reprint ed. London: Jonathan Cape, 1973.

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