Study Hinduism

The Study of Hinduism According to Advaita Vedanta

This is an authentic film on the birth and childhood of Sri Adi Shankaracharya and the fascinating story of the rediscovery of his birthplace, Kalady, by the 33rd Jagadguru of Sringeri. It is 1 hour 21 minutes, presented by Dakshinamnaya Sri Sharada Peetham Sringeri. It is a Sri Shankara Advaita Research Centre Production.


हरी ओम् तत् सत्


Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism is vibrant today largely due to the efforts of
Jagadguru Sri Adi Shankaracharya, the great philosopher saint, who lived
over 1200 years ago. In his brief life of 32 years, he restored the
pristine glory of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy of the Upanishads and
re-established the path through which everyone can experience and become
one with divinity.

Seldom in history has one individual had so much influence on a nation, its
civilization and its religion.

While his achievements are eternal and unforgettable, his birthplace was
forgotten by society for many centuries. In this film, we describe how his
birthplace Kalady was rediscovered by the 33rd Jagadguru of the Sringeri
Sharada Peetham. We will take you on a visual journey of Kalady from the
time of Sri Shankara’s parents, his birth and the miraculous events of his

The film also chronicles the contemporary history of Kalady, including the
various landmarks and temples associated with his life. There are
fascinating interviews with ordinary people, former rulers and spiritual
leaders who are all influenced by this great philosopher. Through beautiful
and heart-stopping images of nature, people and temples, this film provides
an unforgettable experience of what Sri Shankara’s life may have been like,
and how he touched the lives of the Kalady’s residents over the centuries.

Speaking in lucid Sanskrit, Jagadguru Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamiji
enlightens us about the life of Sri Shankaracharya and the 33rd Jagadguru
of Sringeri who rediscovered Kalady. The 33rd Jagadguru instituted the now
internationally observed Shankara Jayanti celebrations and was the
inspiration behind the first ever publication of the complete works of Sri

This documentary film is dedicated to the 33rd Jagadguru of Sringeri. It is
solely due to his untiring efforts that the glory of Kalady and its special
place in the legacy of Sri Shankaracharya has been preserved for the world.

(Released on May 23, 2010 during the centenary celebrations to mark the
consecration of the temples for Sri Shankaracharya and Goddess Sharada at

All Rights Reserved by Sri Sharada Peetham, Sringeri, Karnataka, India.

Pujya Swamiji Dayananda Saraswati answers questions during a satsang. He explains the concept of “God is Love” and answers questions on “Are there good wants?” and “Why seek Self-knowledge?” This is from June 13, 1982. His words, however, are timeless.

Harih OM!

This is an excerpt of a video available from Thinking Allowed.

The Intuition Network, A Thinking Allowed Television Underwriter, presents the following transcript from the series Thinking Allowed, Conversations On the Leading Edge of Knowledge and Discovery, with Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove.


JEFFREY MISHLOVE, Ph.D.: Hello and welcome. I’m Jeffrey Mishlove. Our topic today is “Self-Acceptance” — accepting and understanding our selves, our deep selves. With me is Swami Dayananda, member of the Order of Sanyasins, or spiritual renunciates. Swami Dayananda is the author of several books, including The Value of Values, Who Am I?, and Commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita. He is a teacher of Vedanta, a spiritual tradition that dates back several thousand years to the ancient Vedas and Upanishads of India. Welcome. Swami.


MISHLOVE: It’s a pleasure to be with you. You know, it seems, and you describe as we look at our daily life — normal society, all around us — you’ve suggested that all of our human activities are motivated by the lack of self-acceptance — a search for wholeness, a striving to be something that we think we are not.

DAYANANDA: Yes, that is true. And it is evident in anybody’s pursuit, whether it is an Indian or an American, a man or a woman, a young man or an old man. You see that there is always a struggle on the part of everyone to be different from what I am, from what one is. And so that attempt to be different itself stems from a self-non-acceptance: all is not well with me, and therefore I have to be different. And in order to be different, we try to manipulate situations to our own likes and dislikes, so that we can be acceptable to ourselves. Therefore all the time one seeks self-acceptance. This problem is a fundamental problem; I see it as a fundamental problem. And therefore the solution is only in oneself, and it cannot be elsewhere. Because if I am the problem, because I am not acceptable to myself is the problem, therefore I am the problem. If I am the problem, then nobody else is going to be the solution. So I am the solution. And therefore, if I am the problem, then I should see that I am acceptable to myself. If we can proceed further in this, any positive thinking is not going to help me, because positive thinking is sometimes good, but then the negative thinking is also as valid. What I don’t have is as true as what I have. Therefore if I look at myself with reference to what I don’t have, what I want to have, I’m going to be depressed. Therefore, any amount of change on the part of myself is not going to change me fundamentally, because if I am a limited being in my vision, and any change I bring about, any personal embellishment or external changes I bring about, I’ll see myself still a limited being. It’s simple — like a finite sum plus a finite sum is always a finite sum.

MISHLOVE: In other words, people, when they set goals, say, “If only I had a new suit, everything would be fine. If only I remodeled the house, things would be perfect.”

DAYANANDA: Yes, that’s true. And once you remodel the house, then afterwards something else starts. And so the problem is not exactly what I lack. That I lack is the problem. That I’m wanting is the problem. What I want differs from person to person, so my own upbringing, my own needs, and my own likes and dislikes determine exactly what I want. The problem is that I want, and that problem is not going to be solved by fulfilling of your wants. And so, if I’m a finite person, a limited person, a limited being, wanting, no matter what change I bring about in my life, I’m going to be wanting all the time. Therefore the process of becoming is not going to help me. It’s what I said — a finite sum plus a finite sum is always a finite sum.

MISHLOVE: It sounds like more than a problem. It sounds like what I might call a dilemma; we’re caught in time, in a way. You used the word becoming. We’re always becoming. It seems as if existentially there’s no escape.

DAYANANDA: There’s no escape, therefore either we accept the helplessness, and accept our lot and get along seeking, or we look at ourselves differently. Perhaps there’s only one solution possible. If by a change I’m not going to be different in my own vision, in my own light, in my self-estimation, I’m going to be wanting, perhaps I am looking at myself wrongly. Perhaps I am not wanting at all. I look at myself wrongly, and then try to solve a problem which is not there. Therefore Vedanta is this — that it wants you to look at yourself, reexamine yourself. So you assume a problem, then afterwards you begin solving. That assumption itself is questioned: Am I wanting? So you question that very fundamental notion about myself — am I wanting?

MISHLOVE: Am I really lacking in anything, or is this part of the illusion?

DAYANANDA: Yes. Illusion or erroneous notion, to use a simpler expression. It may be just an error. I may be looking at myself wrongly; I have taken myself for granted. Because I find we have learned over years, in one’s own lifetime, each one has learned to question anything I come to know either perceptually or inferentially, because we have burnt our fingers, having concluded, and then we found our conclusions wrong, and therefore we have become very wary, become cautious, we always take everything with a pinch of salt. And always there is the probability; the concept of probability governs all of our knowledge pursuits, which is very healthy. But when it comes to oneself, everybody takes oneself for granted, because I think that is the only thing which is self-evident, and everything else is evident to me.

MISHLOVE: Our culture seems to be imbued with this problem that we now call lack of self-esteem. We all have sort of bad opinions of ourselves.

DAYANANDA: That’s a psychological problem, and that is essentially everybody, whether he is an Indian, in all cultures. So everybody starts with low self-esteem. When you say, “I am a mortal,” that is low self-esteem. Within that “I am a mortal,” within the fact that I am a mortal, that I am subjectively aging, that I am a man of limited knowledge and limited powers, this limitation is centered on oneself, a sense of limitation.

MISHLOVE: Most people would just call that realism.

DAYANANDA: We question that, we question that. That is a fundamental problem, and again, low self-esteem is a problem which is a psychological thing. But then, that time-limited being, of limited knowledge and limited powers, etcetera, which is a reality, which is true, but which is also not true. And that’s what I want to say.

MISHLOVE: The great insight of Vedanta, as I understand it, is that the nature of the self is equivalent to the nature of the universe.

DAYANANDA: Yes, the nature of the universe. In fact the nature of the self is the reality of the universe. And therefore we can say like this: that if you look at the whole situation, two things are really evident. One is, things become evident to you by various means of knowledge
— that I am sitting in front of you because you see me; that I am talking to you because you hear me. Otherwise there is no way of my revealing my distance to you. You have to apply your eyes and your ears to reveal me, and again, inferentially, so we gather a lot of knowledge. Therefore the Swami’s existence becomes evident to you, because you have the means of knowing me. And similarly anything — a particle exists, an electron, if you say it is, that electron is because it is evident to you. You have a means of knowing it. And thus about the existence of the universe and its complexities, etcetera. So all these become evident to you. You are the person to whom these become evident. Even your psychological life becomes evident to you.

MISHLOVE: Becomes an object in my awareness.

DAYANANDA: Becomes an object in your awareness. Suppose you go see a psychiatrist, or someone goes to see a therapist, and then talks about his current problem. Then he traces the problem to the person’s past, his childhood. Then the connection is given, which is again inferentially, so it becomes evident to the person. Therefore, even your psychological life and all memories become evident to you. So in fact your own ignorance, your knowledge, everything becomes evident to you, and you can never say this is or this is not, and that’s what is not. Both these statements you can make; only then they become evident to you. And those statements are as valid as the means of knowledge. How valid is your means of knowledge? And so the statement is not going to be valid if the means of knowledge through which you have come to a statement of a fact, if that itself is defective. Now, in the process tell me, what is it which is self-evident? That is only yourself. You have to be self-evident, and to you things become evident. Therefore the only thing in this universe in this situation is yourself being self-evident, and everything else becoming evident to you — known and unknown things; known things, things that are unknown to you, things that exist, things that don’t exist. This is, this is not; therefore we reduce everything to one word; one word is things that are not evident to you. Only one word, anatma. Anatma means that which is not self-evident, and which becomes evident to you. And atman is self-evident; I am self-evident. What opinion can I have about the self which is not subjecting itself to my observation? And I have umpteen opinions, and I say that I am a limited being, as though the self is observed by you, and then you are making a judgment about it. In fact the self is not available for any opinion; because the blessed thing is self-evident, I make opinions about that, because whatever I am connected with, the self is immediately connected with, like the body or the mind or senses, and nobody else claims that anyway.

MISHLOVE: You seem to be saying, if I can paraphrase you briefly, the opposite of Descartes’ point of view. He said, “I think, therefore I am.”

DAYANANDA: That’s how he started. Literally he didn’t say that. So he started with, “I think that I am.” Then later he concluded, “I am, therefore I think.”

MISHLOVE: That’s what you seem to be saying.

DAYANANDA: That’s what I’m saying. Because if you say, “I think, therefore I am,” suppose I don’t think? Between two thoughts I don’t think anyway, and therefore, between two thoughts I should cease to exist. If I cease to exist after one thought, then who is going to have the next thought? So that’s evidently not true, but it’s nice to begin with, “I think, therefore I am.” In fact the other way it is about, “I am, therefore I think” — what I say, even though I am a self-evident person and I am not available for objectification, and I dare to make judgments about myself, which Vedanta questions. All these judgments are unwarranted, and therefore you have to know yourself differently.

MISHLOVE: This great insight that I am, and that all the universe is contained in that awareness —

DAYANANDA: That is the step we have to now take. Now, once we have the problem settled — I mean, what exactly is the problem? The problem of self-non-acceptance implies a notion about the self which is not acceptable to me. No positive thinking will change it. If that is understood, then the question is, that notion that I am not acceptable to myself because I am a limited being — limited in knowledge, limited in powers, limited in my pervasiveness, limited in time — so this limitation that I cast upon myself, we say it may be wrong. And I proved that it is wrong because you have no way of making an opinion, a judgment, about yourself, because the self is not available for such objectification and opinions.

MISHLOVE: It transcends all attempts at objectifying it.

DAYANANDA: Yes, because it is self-evident. Transcendence does not mean it is not available. It is the only thing which is self-evident, and it doesn’t require to be known in an epistemological sense. It is not something that I have to objectify in order to know, like you are knowing me, that a Swami is sitting here close to me, is because you are seeing me. A similar situation; you don’t reference to the self. Now let’s proceed here. Now, if this is so, then the question is that the universe contains, etcetera; that it contains the universe, etcetera is the thing to be discovered. And that is called the teaching; Vedanta is this teaching — is unfolding about the self. Now, first negating what I am not — with the negation of what I am not, my notions also get negated, because all my notions are point of view, based upon. So what I think that I am, even though I am not — if I say the body is myself, then you can say I am white, I am black, I am man, I am woman, I am old, I am young, I am Caucasian, I am Polynesian, I am Negro. You can have a number of notions. Then again, in this culture you’ve got other things: “I am blonde.” I am blonde means I am equal to the color of the hair. Now, another fellow says, “I am bald.” This is amazing. At least the woman has called the color of the hair, and this fellow doesn’t have the hair, and he says, “I am bald.” So that means I have nonexistent hair; I don’t know what it is. But anyway, these are all notions based upon your own understanding and appreciation of your physical body. The thing is, the body is anatma — that means it is evident to you. If it is evident to you, then how can you say, “This is me”? You can say, “The body is me,” but I am not the body. See, sometimes the equations are funny. Like suppose an actor, A, plays the role of a beggar, B. Then the B is the A; there is no role without the actor. Therefore B is the A. But that doesn’t mean the A must be B. So A is not B. So the body is myself, because I am very much with this body. There must be some reason for it. There is an explainable reason, too; but the body is an observed fact. And similarly — see, if the body is white, the body is white; if it is black, it is black. “I am black” is to take the color of the epidermis, the pigment. When you say, “I am black,” you say, “I am the pigment of the skin.” So that is a funny equation.

MISHLOVE: In other words, as soon as I try and define myself, and say I am this or I am that, whatever my definition is has already become an object in my consciousness, and therefore it cannot really be me. It can only be something that I perceive.

DAYANANDA: Yes, that’s true. So the physical body you perceive, and its attributes you take onto yourself, only because the self is not evident.

MISHLOVE: And that’s a logical error, is what you’re saying.

DAYANANDA: Yes, it’s a logical error.

MISHLOVE: But which we always seem to make. We fall into that error all the time.

DAYANANDA: It’s a perceptual error. It’s a judgmental error. That the body is black is true; perceptually it is true. But the judgment, “I am black” is a judgmental error. Like even, “The sun rises in the eastern sky,” that is true; “Therefore it travels all the time” is an error in judgment. And so here perceptually, that the body is black, that it is weak, that it is fat, is true; but “I am fat” is a judgment. That means I am equating the body, which I objectify, as myself. To proceed further: similarly, if I say, “I am blind,” I equate the eyes as myself. Eyes themselves are available for my perception — that they see, that they don’t see; my ears hear, they don’t hear — and these senses themselves are subject to objectification. And similarly, if I say, “I am restless,” or something, the condition of the mind and myself become one and the same. And again, an observed mind cannot be the basis for a judgment.

MISHLOVE: Even restlessness becomes an object in our consciousness, and therefore can’t really be us.

DAYANANDA: Yes, how can it be? Because if I don’t know the restless mind, then I can’t say I am restless. If I know the restless mind, I cannot say either. I cannot say that I am restless, and therefore the mind is also an observed fact. Memories are another type of thinking, the recollection; we call it chittam. Any doubt, we call it manah; emotion, manah. And then any decision, any deliberate inquiry, like what we are exploring now, it is called buddhi. So that is also available for my perception, and therefore even my ignorance is something that is known to me. Therefore, I cannot say I am ignorant; it is only a point of view. I am ignorant from the point of view of ignorance of what I don’t know.

MISHLOVE: In other words, you could say, “There is ignorance,” rather than, “I am ignorant.”

DAYANANDA: Yes, you can say it, as long as you mean it — “I am ignorant,” with reference to what I don’t know; “I am knowledgeable,” with reference to what I know; “I am a liker,” with reference to what I like; “I am a disliker,” with reference to what I don’t like.” So with reference to what I am, so there exactly is the thing that one has to discover. So this is what we call first negation. So after ignorance, I negate. So in the negation, you are negating the whole universe, really speaking. So ignorance and knowledge, and the objects of ignorance and knowledge, all of them are negated. That’s all the universe is about — what you know and what you don’t know. And therefore what is left out is only a self-evident being, a self-evident person, and that is a conscious person, minus all these appelations, qualifications, added from different standpoints. So I become then a self-evident, conscious being, a self-evident, aware person, and that person is free from gender, and we go one step further, free from number; there is no number.

MISHLOVE: In other words, there is one self, one awareness that permeates all objects, all existence.

DAYANANDA: It must necessarily, that is true, because if I am a conscious being, then I am a conscious person with reference to what I am conscious of. But with reference to myself as I, I become the abstract form of that very conscious being, which is what you say, consciousness, in that I am awareness. As awareness, it has no form, it is not subject to time. I am aware of time; I am aware of space; I am aware of everything in time-space framework. As I as awareness, it has no particular form spatially; therefore it is not limited. Timewise it is not limited, and therefore time is I am there, awareness is; space is, awareness is. The whole universe, whatever you think of, is, awareness is; awareness is, without any of them. Now I can dismiss time; my awareness is. In sleep, time goes; I am not gone. And for a split second, time goes; awareness is. So awareness is the content of time, and awareness is the content of space, the reality of space. Awareness is the reality of the time-space framework and everything that exists in time-space. Therefore you are the only person that is there in this world to be reckoned, and everything else shines after you. We have a nice verse in the Upanishads, if you will permit me to say. It’s in Sanskrit, so it’s nice to remember that. [Recites quotation in Sanskrit.] So there: “The sun does not illumine, the moon doesn’t illumine, much less the stars, not even the flashing blinding lighting, and what will talk of this flame? When you shine, when the eye shines, everything shines after. Because of that shine alone, everything else in its various forms come to light. One shines by itself, and everything else comes to light, or comes to shine, after that. Therefore you are the only self-shining person, and you are the whole, and there is that holy experience whenever you are happy.” Whenever you are happy — suppose I make you happy now. So me and you, both of us become one. And the moment you think, “I wish the Swami came in a suit,” then there is a separation between you and me.

MISHLOVE: So there’s a difference between the intellectual realization of these truths and the ability to maintain and to hold that, to live that awareness.

DAYANANDA: That implies clarity. One good thing about this is, the self is not a matter of memory; therefore you have to get clarity of this vision, and that is what Vedanta is about.

MISHLOVE: And all of the years of study and training that go into that process. Well, Swami Dayananda, it has truly been a joy to share this half hour with you.

DAYANANDA: Thank you. It was nice talking to you.

MISHLOVE: Thank you very much for being with me.

DAYANANDA: Thank you.


This information was found by Prashant Parikh, host of the Bhagavad Gita Study Group on Facebook It originally comes from

While it isn’t necessary to know sanskrit grammar and syntax to learn vedAnta, it is still important to understand some of the basic terminology, as you will see many of these words interspersed in English sentences while studying vedAnta.

The reason is this: language is informed by culture. The Vedic culture evolved in a direction conducive to spiritual growth, and hence these nuances are to be found in the sanskrit language alone. For example, AtmA is *not* the same as ‘soul’, mithyA does not mean ‘false’, ishvara does not mean ‘God’. Furthermore, we often hear buzz words like ‘self-realization’, ‘enlightenment’ etc which honestly don’t make any sense with regards to ‘AtmA jnAnam’.

Another point I would like to raise is that the Indian discourse is inevitably directed in western terms, which is not good, because by doing so we lose out on a great deal of meaning- as they say, lost in translation. Just as some sanskrit words such as ‘yogA’ etc found their way into the English language due to persistent usage, similarly we must continue using the correct sanskrit words to denote vedic ideas, one day we will find that instead of having to compromise on our language, others too will start using the same words we do, and this will not only help our personal understanding of the culture and religion, but also aid in posterity. My suggestion would be to use sanskrit words wherever applicable.

These are about 200 words, I can’t think of any more words you would ever need to know beyond this, unless you wish to take up a vedAnta teaching position. If you are lazy, you can get away with around 30-40 words. Just learn the nouns and you’ll be fine 🙂

hariH om



Acala That which is devoid of movement
Adhishtanam Sub-stratum.  In Advaita Vedanta,  the real entity located in which an unreal thing is perceived
Adhyasa Superimposition. The wrong notion concerning a real entity, attributing to it the nature and characteristics of an unreal thing  and vice versa
Advayam Non-dual . The only Absolute Reality
Agami karma Punya and papa arising from action and thought in the present janma
Ahambrahmasmi “I am Brahman”
Ahamkara Mind cum reflected consciousness
Ajah That which has no birth
Akasa Space
Akhanda caitanyam Undivided, all pervading consciousness
Anadi That which has no origin
Ananda Bliss
Anandamaya kosa Bliss sheath. The ignorance and bliss experienced by a person during deep sleep
Anantam That which is not limited , space-wise, time-wise or entity-wise. The infinite
Anantam That which has no end
Anavastha dosha The fallacy of infinite regress
Anirvacaniyam Unexplainability; Undefinability
Annamaya kosa The physical body
Antahkarana Mind – consisting of Manas, buddhi, ahamkara, and citta
Arthadhyasa Perception of an unreal entity
Asanga Unassociated.; relationless
Asuras Demons
Atma The Consciousness aspect of Brahman’s nature recognized as the witness-consciousness in individual beings.
Avarana sakti Veiling power. The power of Maya by which Maya makes human beings forget their real nature
Avasthatraya viveka Enquiry into one’s real nature by analyzing the states of waking, dream and deep sleep
Avatara Incarnation
Avidya Maya
Ahampratyaya The ‘I’ notion part of the mind,  the changing ‘I’ as the knower, doer etc.
Avidya vritti The mode of the dormant mind  in sushupti registering the non-experiencing state.
Avyakruta Literal meaning is ‘unevolved’. However, it is used as a technical term synonymous with Maya
Avyakta Literal meaning is ‘ unmanifest’. However, it is used as a technical term synonymous with Maya
Avyavaharyam That which is beyond transactions
Ayamatama Brahma “This consciousness which is my real nature is none other than the all pervading consciousness”
Bhashya Commentary on the scriptural text
Bhokata Enjoyer or sufferer
Bhokruttvam The sense that one is an enjoyer or sufferer
Bhrama (1)Erroneous knowledge (2) Illusion
Brahmaa Creator-God.  The creator aspect of Iswara
Brahman The Absolute Reality defined as Existence-Consciousness-Bliss
Brahmana Seeker of knowledge of Brahman; one who has known Brahman
Brahmasatyam jaganmithya Brahman is the Reality; the universe is mithya
Buddhi Faculty of the mind which is of the nature of decision  – also, the reasoning faculty – generally referred to as the intellect
Caitanyam Consciousness
Cidabhasa Reflected  Consciousness
Cit Consciousness
Dama Control of the  sense organs of perception and action
Devas Gods. Deities
Drkdrsya viveka Enquiry into one’s real nature by analysing  the known and the knower
Dwaitam The existence of more than one reality
Golakam The physical part of the sense organs
Guna Attribute
Guru Preceptor
Hiranyagrha (1) Brahmaa , the  God embodying Iswara’s power of  creation power   (2) Cosmic subtle body
Indriya The energy of the sense organs
Iswara Maya cum cidabhasa. Cosmic causal body.
Jagat The universe
Jagrat avastha The waking state
Janma One life span; birth
Jiva Synonym of jivatma
Jivabrama aikyam Identity of the essential nature of Jivatma and Paramatma
Jivanmukta One who has become liberated while living.
Jivanmukti Liberation from Samsara in the current life itself
Jivatma The conglomerate of body, mind and atma
Jnana kanda The latter part of the Veda dealing with Brahman, Jivatmas and jagat
Jnanadhyasa The wrong notion mistaking a real entity to be an unreal thing.
Jnanam (1) Consciousness (2) Knowledge
Jnanendriyas Sense organs of perception – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch
Jnani One who has gained knowledge of one’s identity with Brahman – jivabrama aikyam. The knowledge that one’s real nature is consciousness and that that consciousness is no different from the all pervading consciousness called Brahman
Kamya Karma Action for selfish ends
Karana sarira The causal body – the anandamaya kosa
Karma Action; merit and demerit
Karma kanda The former part of the Veda dealing with rituals
Karma Yoga Purificatory spiritual practices as preparation for study of Jnana kanda
Karmaphalam The enjoyment and suffering  undergone by the jivatma for punya and papa
Karmendriyas Sense organs of action – action through speech, legs, hands, anus and the genitals
Karta Doer
Kartrutvam The sense that one is a doer
Krama mukti Liberation from samsara after going to the abode of Hiranyagarbha by doing Hiranyagarbha or Iswara Upasana and being taught by Hiraanyagarbha himself
Lakshanam Features ; characteristics ; definition.
Laya Dissolution of the universe
Mananam The process of getting doubts clarifies by discussion with the teacher or by one’s own analysis and reasoning
Manas Faculty of mind which is of the nature of indecision or doubt; also the emotional aspect of antahkarana
Manomaya kosa The mind and the five sense organs of perception
Maya Unevolved names and forms resting, as a lower of reality, in Brahman
Mithya That which is experienced but has no real existence of its own
Moksha Liberation from samsara
Mumukshutvam Intense yearning for moksha
Nama roopa Name and form
Nididhyasanam The process of dwelling on the core of the teaching to overcome the habitual identification with the body mind complex
Nimitta karanam Intelligent cause
Nirakara Formless
Niravayava That which has no parts
Nirguna Attributeless
Nirvikalpa Divisionless
Nirvikara Changeless
Nitya Eternal
Pancabhootas The five basic compounds – space, air, fire water and earth
Pancakosa viveka Enquiry into one’s real nature by analyzing the five kosas
Papa Demerit, i.e., in the system of  karma, the debit entry in the ledger, as it were, for bad action or bad thought, to be discharged by imposing  suffering on the jivatma in the same birth or in some future birth.
Paramartika satyam Absolute reality
Paramatma Brahman
Parinama Transformation
Prajnaam Brahma The consciousness which is the nature of the individual is none other than the all pervading consciousness called Brahman
Prakarana grantha Works expounding Sruti
Prakriti Literal meaning is ‘nature’.  However, it  is used as a technical term synonymous with Maya
Prama Right knowledge
Pramanam The instrument of knowing
Pramata The knower
Prameyam The known
Prana The energy that regulates the physiological functions of living beings – five in number – prana, apana, vyana, samana and udana – responsible for functions such as respiration, circulation, digestion,  metabolism, ejection , locomotion, action etc. – generally referred to as ‘vital airs’
Pranamaya kosa The five pranas and the five sense organs of action
Prarabdha karma The quota of punya and papa allotted to be exhausted by enjoyment or suffering in a particular janam
Pratibhasika satyam Subjective reality
Pratyabhinja Recognition.
Pratyagatma When the all pervading consciousness is referred to as the consciousness recognizable by oneself in oneself, it is called Pratyagatma
Punya Merit, i.e., in the system of karma, the credit entry in the ledger, as it were,  for good action or good thought – to be discharged by conferring enjoyment or comfort on the jivatma in the same birth or in some future birth
Purushartha (1) Goals in life – material prosperity called artha, enjoyment called kama, merit gained by observance of one’s duties in accordance with scriptural commandments and prohibitions called dharma and moksha (2) free will
Sadhana catushtaya The four fold discipline qualifying for the study of Jnana kanda, consisting of viveka, vairagya, shatka sampatti, and mumukshutvam
Sadhanas Spiritual practices
Sakshi When the all pervading consciousness is referred as the consciousness that is the source of the reflected consciousness in the mind and is present throughout when mind has one cognition after another , it is called Sakshi
Sama Control or mastery over the mind
Samadhana Single-contended of the mind
Samanvaya Harmonious interpretation of texts – Sastra mentions six criteria – what is said in the beginning, what is said in the end, what is repeated, what is praised or condemned, what accords with logic and what is said to bring benefit.
Samashti Macrocosm
Samsara The cycle of births and deaths, karma and karma phalam punya and papa and  enjoyment and suffering.
Sancita karma The accumulated ‘bundle’ of punya and papa
Santimantra Benedictory verse
Sarvagatam All pervading
Sarvajnah The omniscient
Sarvasaktiman The omnipotent
Sarvatmabhava The sense that one is everything
Sastra Scripture.  Spiritual literature including Sruti, Smriti, Bhashyas, Vartikas, and Prakarana Granthas
Sat (1)Existence; (2) essence
Satyam That which exists in all three periods of time
Shatka Sampatti A  six fold  mental training consisting of sama dama, uparama, tritiksha, sraddha and samadhana
Siddhi Superhuman powers
Siva The God embodying Iswara’s power of  dissolution
Smriti Elaborations based on sruti. E.g., Bhagavat Gita. Literal meaning is memory; remembrance
Sraddha Faith in the teaching of the guru and scriptures
Sravanam Listening to the teaching of Sastra by a guru
Srishti Creation of the universe ; the unfolding of names and forms out of Maya
Sruti Veda, in four compilations – Rg, Yajuh,  Sama and Atharva
Sthiti Maintenance of the universe
Sthoola sarira The physical body – the annamaya kosa
Sukshma sarira The subtle body consisting of the pranamaya, manomaya and vijanamaya kosas
Sushupti The deep sleep state
Sutra Scriptural work in the form aphorisms
Swapna avastha The dreaming state
Swaroopam Intrinsic nature
Tattvamasi “Thou art That”.  The teaching “You, Jivatma are none other than Brahman”
Titiksha Endurance of discomforts, such as heat, cold etc .Equanimity towards the opposites of pleasure and pain. Acceptance of things and situations without grudging or complaint.
Triputi The division of the knower, the known and the knowing instrument or the act of knowing – the pramata, the prameyam and the pramanam
Upadana karanam Material cause
Upadhi The thing from which characteristics are falsely transferred to an entity that is close by
Upahitam The entity to which characteristics of a thing close by are falsely transferred
Upanishad Vedic texts dealing with Brahman, jivatmas and the  jagat
Upanishadic Used as an adjectival form of Upanishad
Uparati Performance of one’s duty towards himself, the parents, teacher, family, society etc., which involves sacrifice as opposed to insistence on rights which involves demands on others
Upasana Spiritual meditation
Vairagya Dispassion – Absence of desire for enjoyment of things of this world as also of other worlds
Vakyam Sentence
Vartika Commentary, in verse form ,on the scriptural text
Vasanas Impressions formed in the mind on account of experiences.
Veda The original Hindu religious scripture
Vedanta Janna kanda consisting of the Upanishads
Vedantic Used as an adjectival for of Vedanta
Videhamukti Dissolution of the sthoola, sukshma and karana sariras of a Jivanmukta when he dies
Vijanamaya kosa The intellect and the five sense organs of perception
Vikshepa sakti Projecting power. The power of Maya that projects the universe of names and forms on Brahman, the sub-stratum of pure Existence and also deludes jivatmas into mistaking the world to be real
Virat Cosmic physical body
Vishnu The God embodying the Iswara’s power of maintenance of the universe
Vivarta karanam The cause that produces effect without undergoing any change.
Viveka Discrimination of the eternal and the ephemeral
Vritti Thought mode
Vyashti Microcosm
Vyavaharika satyam Empirical reality



Five Capsules of Vedanta as summarized by Swami Paramarthananda.

1. I am of the nature of eternal and all pervading consciousness

2. I am the only source of permanent peace, security & happiness

3. By my mere presence, I give life to the material body, and through the body, I experience the material universe.

4. I am not affected by anything that takes place in the material world and in the material body

5. By forgetting my nature, I convert life into a struggle and by remembering my nature I convert life into a sport / entertainment.

(Seen on a bookmark by @Sathyanarayan)



Hinduism by Swami Dayanandaji (Arsha Vidya Gurukulam)

The name Hindu was given to the people who were following the Vedas and had
a unique religious culture. When some Persians from across the Himalayas
came to North India where the river Sindhu flows, they saw people living a
highly civilized life with a unique religious culture. They called these
people Sindhus. The letter s was pronounced in their language as h, so the
word became Hindu. We are told that that is how we have come to be known as
Hindus. In fact we didn’t have a name. The people were following a body of
knowledge called Veda. Perhaps you have heard about the Vedas. It is
important for you know the names of the Vedas because the Veda is the most
ancient body of knowledge. The Vedas are four in number — Rig Veda, Yajur
Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda. Like the Bible for the Christians, for
the Hindus these are the Bibles. All together they form the scriptures.

Veda in Sanskrit means a body of knowledge. These scriptures form the basis
of the spiritual life of Hindus. The Hindus may not know the content of the
four Vedas because they are voluminous. Your parents may not know them at
all. But they have imbibed the essence of the lifestyle based upon these
four Vedas, the value structure based upon these four Vedas, and certain
attitudes, again, based upon the Vedas. These things are handed over to the
children. This is something very unique, which you must know.

In humanity there are lots of things that are ancient, so ancient that they
cannot be claimed by any given country. For instance, we have the pyramids
in Egypt. Suppose the Egyptian Government chooses to demolish one so that
they can create a housing colony. Do you think humanity will allow that?
Definitely not. Even though the pyramids happen to be within the borders of
Egypt, still, the government of Egypt doesn’t have the right to destroy a
pyramid, because it is too ancient to be claimed by any nation or group of
people. More ancient than the pyramids are the Vedas. Till today, the Veda
is handed over by one generation to another generation orally. You must
know that there are people even today in India who can repeat the entire
Veda, a given Veda, from memory, and it takes them many days. In chanting
the Vedas there is a style, based on intonations, which we call svaras.
That style is retained even today. It is the same as it has always been.
The Vedas are learned from a teacher with whom you sit every day, and learn
and commit to memory a given Veda. It takes twelve years to learn one Veda.
There are a lot of people, even today, who have family names such as
Trivedi, Caturvedi, Dvivedi, that indicate how many Vedas were learned in
that family. Somewhere in the history of the family someone knew three
Vedas, not one, and was given the title Trivedi. Or someone in the family
knew four Vedas so the family name is Caturvedi. Thus the Vedas were
committed to memory and handed over to the next generation of students.
This forms the body of knowledge called the Vedas.

The Vedas belongs to humanity. They are too ancient to be claimed even by
Indians. Most of the religions have beliefs that can be found in the Vedas,
as many would accept. And these Vedas form the basis for the Hindu
religious life. Since what is known as Hindu religion today is based upon
these four Vedas, the religion is a ‘Vedic’ religion or Sanatana dharma.
These Vedas have a view of human destiny, of what exactly one is seeking in
life and wants to accomplish, essentially. This is addressed by the Vedas.
They have a clear vision of what is it that is to be discovered in one’s
life and what it takes to be a mature person. It is a universal vision. It
is something that everyone wants to have, whether the person knows it or
not. This vision can be called a view of life. The Vedas have a view of
life and to achieve the view, the end, they prescribe a way of life. The
way and view of life form the Hindu religion.

The view of life concerns: What is life? What is the reality you are
seeking? What is God? Is there one? If there is, where is he, or she? What
is this world? How it is related to that Lord? How are you related to the
world, and what are you all about? Once you have a view, then you must
definitely have a way to accomplish that end in view. The view is something
that is entirely distinct and different from the views that many religions
have about human destiny. For instance, the church has a view of life – it
looks upon the individual basically as a helpless person who is a sinner
and born of sin because he is born of parents. Therefore, for the birth to
be sinless it has to immaculate. People born of sin require to be saved and
there are means for that such as confession, etc. If you live your life
according to these means, after death you will go to heaven. So
heaven-going is their view of the purpose of life. Whether it is any form
of Christianity or Islam, going to heaven is the end.

The view of life in Hinduism is entirely different. It is to be
accomplished here, while you are alive. That is why it is so important. It
is something that is connected to your life here. We are not worried about
going to heaven later. We are concerned about making our life here. All
that you have to accomplish as a successful individual, to be able to say,
“I have made it,” is to be done here, and not in the hereafter. It becomes
at once different and meaningful to you. We must know that this is
something unique. The highest thing that a human being can accomplish is to
be accomplished here and now when you are alive and kicking, when your mind
is working and when you are not too old. For this, a clean life style is
given, a life style that will help you to grow into an adult, a mature
adult. That is what we call a religious life. One requires a structure to
grow that implies a personal prayerful life, and also, a social structure.

There is a certain structure that governs your interaction with society,
and when every member of society follow those rules, you have a societal
structure. This is based upon universal moral structures, and within that,
you operate, for your self-growth. Once you are grown up, of course you
have something to discover — the view and way of life which is what we
call Hindu ‘religion’.

There were religions in the world that are non-existent today. In Greece
there was a religion. In the whole of Europe and the Arab countries there
were a number of religions. All those are totally wiped out. All we have
left are monuments and books about them. There are religions today that
were non-existent before — Christianity, Isalm and Buddhism. All these
were founded by some people, so they have a beginning. If you look at the
Vedic religion, you can’t determine when it was non-existent. Maybe it grew
up with humanity. When did physics not exist? When did it come into being?
When you learn to walk it is physics, remember. That you don’t fly, and
that, if you are not careful, you will fall from a tree, is all physics. It
was there even for the cave man. Therefore, physics doesn’t have a
beginning. It has been existing with humanity. It is important to
understand that the Vedic religion was not founded by anybody. That is its
uniqueness. That is why anybody can say, “I am Hindu,” and you have no way
of saying, “No you are not,” because, being a religion that was not founded
by anybody, you don’t need to subscribe to a particular faith. It is based
upon facts that are in the Vedas.

The main vision of Hinduism and the various things advocated by it are for
one’s self- growth. They are universal and anybody can understand them.
That is why I can talk in this country, in Japan, Norway, Brazil etc. and I
will pass. In spite of my funny dress I will pass because this vision has
relevance to your life, your human life. It is not a religion founded by
any one person for a particular group. If at all you call them common
founders we have the Rishis, the ‘ones who know’. These Rishis were the
people to whom this Vedic knowledge was revealed. You can say that it was
revealed or it was discovered, but it is considered to be revealed because
the nature of the knowledge is such that it has to be revealed. The Rishis
form the media through which the Vedic knowledge came to us. That is all we
know. It is too ancient and, at the same time, relevant.

Sometimes things that are ancient are not relevant today. Think of a person
riding a bullock cart on the freeway! They will arrest him. In this country
it is irrelevant. He can’t say, “I love this cart.” Some things may be
relevant in other countries but not here. There are lots of habits that are
irrelevant. Thus, we have grown out of a lot of things, which is but proper
and natural. The stone-age man had tools made of stones. You can’t say, “My
forefathers used these stone tools, therefore I am going to use them.” They
are irrelevant now. They were in a different age. They did not have modern
knowledge and technology, therefore they had to make tools with what was
available then. We have figured out new things and, therefore, we don’t
need to follow our forefathers footsteps in this area. Even though we have
respect for them, we need not follow them. Thus, a number of things that
the forefathers did have become irrelevant today. But a few things survived..

Eating has not become obsolete. It continues to be the same. They also had
minds to deal with. Our problems are not all physical, in fact, most of our
problems are mental. All complexes, concerns, sorrows, depressions, anger,
hatred and jealousy were our forefathers problems and are our problems.
They are not ancient and irrelevant. They would always be there. As long as
the human mind is there, there will be problems. This mind has to be dealt
with. If our forefathers could manage the mind well, those things that
helped them to do that would be applicable even today. Even though we may
present those things in a language that we can understand, we may change
the accent, and perhaps the phrasing, still, the basic principles cannot
change. If they cannot be changed, then we retain them, and if they can be
changed, then we change them. What is applicable today should not be
changed, cannot be changed.

In the Hindu religion as in all other religions there are things that are
optional for you. I can come in this dress or in some other dress also.
This is optional for me. I am a sannyasi, a Hindu monk, and we have certain
traditional colors and robes that we wear. I have respect for the
tradition, so I wear them. But I can change, there is no problem. I can
give up this dress, and in giving it up my knowledge will not suffer any
loss. Please understand this. There are certain things that are essential,
there are some that are important but optional, and there are things that
are non-essential. The non essentials we always drop. Even if you ask
people to retain them, they won’t. You will have this problem at home.
Sometimes your parents will say, “Do this,” and you don’t understand why
you should do it. It does not seem relevant at all. Some things may be
non-essential in your view, but in their view they may be essential. You
need to understand some of these things so that you can make informed
choices about what is important to you. When I talk to you, don’t think
that I am someone who is going to impose ideas on you. Not at all, I am a
teacher. So keep an open mind.

At home you have a certain culture, and when you go out, there is a
different culture. At home there are certain values, and outside the values
are totally different. Therefore, it is always a problem. You can’t own up
your own parents because you can’t understand why they are insisting on
some things that seem opposed to the culture in which you are living day to
day. You feel that they are imposing some irrelevant ideas upon you. To
grow properly, you must understand your parents first. To understand your
parents you must go to the roots. The parents themselves do not know much.
As I told you, they don’t know the Vedas. But, in spite of that,
they have received the Vedic vision and view of life, in a small measure,
from their parents. Do you know why? It is because this is not a founded
religion. It is a view and way of life. There is no pontiff at the top.

In the Hindu religion there is no papacy, diocese, bishops, parish or
congregation. We don’t have that kind of organization. This may be our
weakness, but I say this is our strength. Some think it is a weakness and
that is unfortunate, because it means that they don’t understand our
strength. There is some weakness in the lack of organizational structure,
naturally; anything has its own weakness. But what is viewed as a weakness,
is, in fact, its strength. Its strength lies in the fact that it is not an
organization. If a religion is based on an organization, when the
organization is removed, the whole religion will fall apart. Here, in order
to destroy the Hindu religion you have to destroy every Hindu. Muslims
tried and Christians are still trying, but it is difficult, because Hindu
dharma has no organization. Do you know why it has survived? It is because
it has an intrinsic worth. What is worthy will always endure, because it is
based upon certain facts and realities about life. You have to know this in
order to grow up in a society where alternatives are available.

This is a country of choices. When you have too many choices you must have
a better understanding so that you can choose appropriately. Having choices
means that we have to learn how to choose responsibly and intelligently,
and for that we have to be informed.

Everything is open to choice. Two fellows shared a ranch. Each one bought a
horse, and they decided that an identification mark was needed to
distinguish them. One said, “I will paint my horse with red ink, and you
paint yours with blue.” It was done, and they could tell which horse
belonged to whom. Fine, but the rain came and washed off the paint. So one
fellow said, “Why don’t I cut the mane off my horse and you leave yours
uncut? “After some time, the mane grew and they had the same problem,
“Which is my horse?” Then they cut the hair on the tail of one horse, but
that also grew. They got vexed with the problem. So one fellow said, “Why
don’t we solve the problem this way. Let us say that the brown horse is
yours and the white is mine!” This is what was available originally. When
you have choices you must know how to choose. When you are driving and come
to a crossroad, you have choose whether to go left or right. When you get
onto the freeway, you must know which exit you have to take, otherwise you
will be going in the opposite direction. Since you are growing up in a
society of choices you are better off, I tell you, but you have to be
informed. If you are informed, you are better off than children growing up
in India who don’t have as many choices. So you have to know what is what.
That is what you are trying to do at the gurukulam. You are trying to
understand what exactly is the basic structure of the Hindu religion, what
are its values, what is universal and special there, and what is its unique
vision. All this you must necessarily know; there is no choice in this.
Since you happen to be born in a given family, you must know where your
parents came from, what their values are, and what their vision is all
about. They themselves may not know and may not be able to explain it,
because for them it is way of life. For them it is easy; for you it is not.
They didn’t have any choice, but you have. They just grew up with certain
values. Here you have choices, so you have got to know and choose
responsibly. That is the difference between a person growing up in India
and a person growing up here. That is the reason why in this religion,
being not an organized religion, every individual has to know his or her
religion. You have to learn by first imbibing it from your parents, and
later, you imbibe more from a teacher.

In Hinduism the teachers, called gurus, play an important role because you
have to learn only from an individual. There is no organization to fulfill
that function. From the rishis, the four Vedas have come down to us. The
rishis themselves received the four Vedas from the Lord, they say. This
body of knowledge, thus, has come down to us. What we are going to see is
nothing but what the Vedas say in essence. The essence you should know.

The four Vedas are supported by a number of other books. The Ramayana and
Mahabharata are called itihasa, while the Vedas are scriptures. Itihasa
means how it was, iti ha asa; iti thus; ha verily, indeed asa, was. The
Ramayana and Mahabharataa are based on historical facts, and therefore,
they will have a skeletal historical background. Based on those historical
facts, a lot of things were poetically expressed, like the rakshasa Ravana
in the Ramayanaa having ten heads. This is imaginary, but it has a meaning.
It is not meant to be understood literally. Suppose a thought occurs in one
head, like a thought of a mango, and all the other nine heads think of a
mango. If this is so, then nine heads are useless. You only need one. You
should have surgery to get rid of the extra nine. You can’t even walk into
a house, so naturally, it is better to get rid of the extra nine heads.
Otherwise, you have to have nine shampoos, nine towelings; you’ll have nine
headaches! It is a problem. But suppose they think different – one head
says “Grab Sita,” the other says, “No,” another says, “You can grab her, or
you need not grab her.” If you have ten heads, with each one saying one
thing or the other, then what will you have? Ravanaa. That is the meaning
there. Valmiki pictured Ravana as a person who had conflicting ideas, good
and bad, right and wrong. He constantly had this problem. So who is a
Ravana? Anybody who has conflicting ideas all the time, is never able to
judge and proceed, is a Ravana. That person is likened to a person with ten
heads. That is all what Ravana was. That is purely poetry. But there was a
person named Ravana who had that nature. Thus, there is a lot of poetry,
and there is a skeletal fact also. Because there are some basic facts that
are historical, it is called itihasa. If it is purely imagination then it
is called puranaa. The Ramayana and Mahabharata are itihasa, historical,
but there is a lot of imagination involved to make them poetic works. In
these works you will find a lot of stories that you cannot believe, but
they are not any different from Star Wars. You have to understand some of
them because behind them there is a lot of meaning. They are composed in a
language that is meant to make you think. Thus, we have the two supporting
scriptures called itihasas and eighteen puranas. They are supporting
scriptures to the Vedas, and illustrate and elaborate what the Vedas say.
These scriptures form the basis of the Hindu religion.

Though the name Hindu was given by somebody from Persia, as we saw in the
beginning, we accept it. We are stuck with a name that is a product of the
language limitations of somebody. But then, the Sanskrit language is such a
thing that even in this we can find a meaning. The word him (which becomes
hin when followed by d according to grammar rules) in Hindu means
falsehood, and du is one who condemns. Thus, a Hindu is one who condemns
falsehood. Expressed positively, the one who pursues truth is called a
Hindu. It is a good word; it is in keeping with what we are talking about.
Therefore, for a Hindu truth is important. It is a fact, a truth, that is
most important in our religion. What is truth, what is the truth of
everything, what is the truth of life? Anyone who condemns untruth, one who
wants to discover the truth is a Hindu. It is view and a way of life.

An interview with Swami Dayananda Saraswati by Andrew Cohen, reprinted in part, with generous permission from EnlightenNext Magazine.

Pujya Swamiji Dayananda Saraswati


It is a unique characteristic of Advaita Vedanta that most of its prominent modern figures, those who stand out as radiant examples of the power and glory of Absolute realization, generally seem to have had little, if any, formal traditional training. Ramana Maharshi, for instance, probably the most universally recognized teacher of Advaita in the twentieth century, was spontaneously enlightened at the age of sixteen with no prior spiritual practice or study. The fiery Advaita master and author of I Am That, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, realized the Absolute after only three years with his guru. And in speaking with a number of contemporary Advaita teachers for this issue, we were intrigued to find that one thing almost all of these individuals have in common is a striking independence from the monastic orders, teaching systems and sacred texts of the very tradition from which their teachings spring.

But Advaita Vedanta is, in fact, a 1,300-year-old tradition that traces its roots even further back to the Upanishads, a collection of divinely inspired scriptures over 2,500 years old. Embodying the Hindu philosophy of nonduality, which holds that only the one Absolute, undivided Self is ultimately real, Advaita has several monastic orders, a rich body of literature and a long history of formal philosophical discourse. Given that our own exploration of Advaita for this issue of WIE had exposed us to such a diverse array of contemporary teachers and teachings, we had grown increasingly curious about what someone classically trained in the traditional methods and doctrine would have to say in response to our questions. It was our quest for such a traditionalist that ultimately landed us in the jungle of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, at the ashram of Swami Dayananda Saraswati.

Swami Dayananda is, by his own description, a traditional teacher of Advaita Vedanta. A close disciple of the widely respected late Vedanta teacher Swami Chinmayananda, he began teaching over thirty years ago after a disciplined spiritual search that included both intensive study of the classical scriptures and several years on retreat in the Himalayan foothills. In that time, he has gained an illustrious reputation both in India and abroad as a fierce upholder of the tradition. He has published twenty-one books, including several translations of and commentaries on the traditional texts, and has established three ashrams (two in India and one in the United States) where his intensive courses in Vedanta are taught year-round.

Surrounded by rainforest about thirty miles outside Coimbatore, Swami Dayananda’s newest ashram, Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, is a sprawling complex of halls and dormitories capable of accommodating approximately three hundred people. At the time of our visit there were about one hundred students in residence for a three-year course, including thirty or so Westerners, many of whom, we learned, had left behind successful careers in order to attend. In addition to hosting these longer, residential courses, the ashram also receives many distinguished short-term visitors including, we were told, some of India’s biggest movie stars and political leaders, the former President of India among them.

During our first day there we had an opportunity to sit in on some of Swami Dayananda’s classes, and when we did, it became apparent to us that, in his desire to perpetuate the tradition, what Swami Dayananda has established is not the contemplative retreat environment one might expect to find at the ashram of an Indian guru, but rather a sort of spiritual academy, its goal being first and foremost the acquisition of knowledge about Vedanta. Students’ days are spent in the classroom, seated on the floor behind short wooden desks, listening to Swami Dayananda read from the ancient Sanskrit texts, pausing after each verse to give often elaborate commentary. When students are not in class or engaged in their ashram duties, they are either studying independently or meeting with Swami Dayananda, who in addition to teaching three long classes each day makes himself available between classes for less formal discussions.

What we found most intriguing about Swami Dayananda’s intensely scholastic approach was its unusual lack of emphasis on spiritual practice. The only formal practice period at the ashram is thirty minutes of meditation in the morning. We would soon learn that spiritual practices have no significant place in the program for one simple reason: to Swami Dayananda, they are essentially irrelevant to the path. The one thing that is relevant, he feels, is study—sincere study of the sacred texts of Vedanta.

According to Swami Dayananda, most contemporary exponents of Advaita Vedanta are seriously misguided in their approach. He feels that in overemphasizing the pursuit of transcendent experience, they have missed the entire point of the ancient teachings. In traditional Advaita Vedanta, he asserts, it is held that sacred scripture itself is the only reliable means to clear away ignorance and reveal direct knowledge of the Absolute. He writes: “Just as the eyes are the direct means to know color and form, Vedanta is the direct means . . . to know one’s true nature and resolve confusions regarding Atma [the Self].” It is therefore only by applying ourselves to a disciplined study of the revealed words of the great sages, he feels, that we can attain the knowledge that will liberate us from delusion.

Fueled by his conviction in the supreme efficacy of scriptural study, Swami Dayananda is unabashed in his criticism of “mystics” who say that the way to enlightenment is through spiritual experience alone. In fact, both in his writings and in one of our dialogues with him, he even went so far as to express doubt about the realization of the widely revered but unschooled modern sage Ramana Maharshi—adding that there may be millions of Indian householders with a similar level of attainment!

While such statements initially took us by surprise, we would later discover through dialogues with a number of leading Western Advaita scholars that similar sentiments are held by many Advaita traditionalists. Even one of the living Shankaracharyas—the head of one of the four monastic institutions allegedly established by Advaita’s founder, Shankara—also denies the validity of Ramana’s attainment, apparently for the simple reason that someone who wasn’t formally trained in Vedanta couldn’t possibly be fully enlightened!

Our visit to Swami Dayananda’s ashram turned out to be a fascinating education. Over the course of our three-day stay, we met formally with Swami Dayananda four times for what turned out to be a wide-ranging series of dialogues. During that time, what had begun as an ashram curiosity—a small group of Westerners with an American spiritual teacher who had come to interview their guru—rapidly escalated into one of the most talked about and well-attended events at the ashram. From our second session onward, the meeting room was overflowing out the door as disciples crowded in to listen to the discussion. And between meetings, we regularly found ourselves in conversation with students eager both to discuss points that had arisen in the interview and to suggest questions for the next round.

Throughout the sessions, Swami Dayananda revealed himself to be every bit the traditionalist we had expected, sharing in his answers to our questions his comprehensive understanding of both the tradition itself and the subtleties of Advaita philosophy. Yet while we left his ashram in many respects much clearer about the history and doctrines of the Advaita tradition, our visit had also raised some fascinating questions. Wasn’t it intriguing, we found ourselves asking as our taxi made its way back to the airport, that within a tradition dedicated to the profound and radical realization of the Absolute, there are learned and devoted authorities who feel compelled to distance themselves from the powerfully realized mystics to whom many of that tradition’s own followers look for inspiration? If, in so doing, they are upholding the “purity” of the tradition, what does that mean about the nature of enlightenment, to which the Advaita path is intended to lead?

Ramana Maharshi said, “No learning or knowledge of scriptures is necessary to know the Self, as no man requires a mirror to see himself.” Swami Dayananda, on the other hand, had just told us that “we have no means of knowledge for the direct understanding of Self-realization, and therefore Vedanta is the means of knowledge that has to be employed for that purpose. No other means of knowledge will work.”

What is enlightenment? Is it simply a shift in understanding that can be brought about, as Swami Dayananda insists, entirely through the study of sacred texts? Or is it, as some of the most radiant examples of this powerful teaching have proclaimed, the world-shattering revelation of a mystery that lies forever beyond the mind?

–Craig Hamilton

To read the full article, including the interview with Pujya Swamiji Dayananda Saraswati, proceed to EnlightenNext magazine.

Pujya Swamiji Dayananda Saraswati discusses Chapter 7, verses 20 and 21 from the Bhagavad Gita.

Click here to read the commentary on these verses.

‎12-Fold Disciplines for Hindus

1. Daiva Yajna – Regular worship of god.

2. Vishaya Bhoga Yajna – Converting all interactions into worship; whatever
we give is an offering and whatever we take is a prasada or an offering to
lord within us.

3. Dhama Yajna – Discipline of sense organs.

4. Sama Yajna – Mastery of mind (We should lead the mind, not the other way

5. Dravya Yajna – Charity itself is a Yajnam.

6. Tapo Yajna – This refers to penance or control & moderation in
everything (Any excess indulgence is a sign of weakness).

7. Yoga Yajna – Practicing Ashtanga Yoga & asanas for physical & mental

8. Swadyaya Yajna – Parayanam of scriptures (with or even without the
knowledge of meanings).

9. Jnana Yajna (2 types) – Spiritual knowledge on Self which is the highest
form of Yajna and

10. Apara Vidyas – Other disciplines or knowledge which will aid the above – knowledge on subsidiary limbs of Veda (Veda Angani). For example, knowledge of language like Sanskrit, etc.

11. Pranayama Yajna – Practice of pranayama (if done as a spiritual
discipline with mantras & Lord’s name).

12. Aahara Niyama Yajna – discipline in eating (it is preferable to have
Saatvik Ahara as it also helps controls the mind)

– from teachings by Swami Paramarthanandaji (with thanks and blessings to Prashant Parikh for sharing this)

Swami Paramarthananda, a disciple of Pujya Swamiji Dayananda Saraswati, gave a talk on February 20, 2012, which was Sivaratri. The topic was “Bhakti and Success.”

There are more talks by Swami Paramarthananda available on the Vedanta Vidyarthi Sangha website.

Harih OM!