[Advaita-l] How to begin studying Advaita Vedanta : post 1 of 3
Jaldhar H. Vyas
jaldhar at braincells.com
Mon Jan 25 16:54:15 CST 2010
On Tue, 19 Jan 2010, chetan nagaraja wrote:
> Is learning sanskrit necessary, for understanding Advaita.
Strictly speaking nothing is absolutely necessary because Brahman is
indewelling in all. But Advaita Vedanta is a practical method for those
who have not understood Brahman as all. Here are some reasons why knowing
some Sanskrit is needed.
1. The obvious fact that the shastras of Advaita Vedanta are written in
Sanskrit. Sure you can use translations but as noted previously,
translations are of varying quality.
2. Sanskrit has united people from vastly different backgrounds. Consider
Shankaracharya was from Kerala. His Guru Govindacharya was from Kashmir
and his Guru Gaudapadacharya was from Bengal. How else could the Advaita
siddhanta pass from one to the other?
3. If you have received this wonderful gift isn't it your responsibility
as part of amity towards all beings to pass it on to others who may also
seek liberation from samsara? Sometimes a word is all it takes to propel
a person from ignorance to sainthood. But if you leave teaching to
"professional" Gurus and Pandits alone, you might miss countless
opportunities to teach others. Remember the Gurus of today were the
shishyas of yesterday and the shishyas of today are the Gurus of tomorrow.
> Is it really necessary to know english to understand physics.
A bad analogy I think. Mathematics is the "language" of physics and all
higher sciences. At this moment I'm taking a course in discrete
mathematics even though I am well past college age because it is necessary
for me to advance in my professional field of Computer Science. All
scientists may not know English very well but you can bet all know
> Have not
> the Japanese invented quite a lot of technology with Japanese itself.
Yes and no. They have invented a lot of technology that uses Japanese but
the underlying code is in the same computer languages such as C++, Java,
Visual Basic, etc. as used in the West or India or anywhere else. And it
should be noted that the syntax of all the languages I mentioned is based
on English. As far as I know there is not one popular computer language
based on a human language other than English.
Sanskrit (its very name means "perfected" or "systematized" is perhaps
best understood as a technical jargon as a natural language. From early
times it had a detailed specification (the ashtadhyayi of Panini)
unmatched anywhere until the late 19th century.
> Acharya Shanakara's "Bhaja Govindam" indicates the false value of
Ah but this is a perfect example.
For those who don't know, the story supposedly behind the composition of
the stotra called Mohamudgara popularly known as Bhaja Govindam after its
refrain is that Shankaracharya was travelling with his shishyas when they
came across an old man sitting under a tree learning Panini.
Spontaneously they composed this stotra teaching Brahmavidya. (The first
12 shlokas are by Shankaracharya himself, the remaining 14 by his
The refrain is:
bhaja govindaM bhaja govindaM bhaja govindaM mUDhamate |
saMprapte sannihite kAle na hi na hi rakShati DukR^i~n karaNe. ||
"Worship Govinda worship Govinda, worship Govinda you fool,
at your time of death you will not be protected by DukR^i~n"
 bhaja means serve, adore, or worship.
 Shankaracharyas Guru was Govinda Bhagavadpada and Govinda is a name of
Krshna Bhagavan. So it is a double meaning: worship God or the Guru.
 This is a sUtra from pANini's dhAtupaTha (the section of grammar that
deals with verbal roots.)
It is a very common misunderstanding of this shloka to take it to mean
that one should not waste time with pointless secular facts and
concentrate on "spirituality."
But as you delve into the context a different picture appears.
Shankaracharya has made his views on vyAkaraNa explicit in the bhashya on
vyakaraNena hi padAdivibhAgashaH R^igvedAdayo GYAyante |
"Vyakarana by breaking up [text] into nouns and verbs etc. is the means of
understanding Rgveda etc."
The person who wrote that could not have been anti-language study. It is
true that Advaita Vedanta recognizes languages power to beguile and
obscure but that is all the _more_ reason to study it well in order to
Back to the grammarian, The problem with DukR^i~n is that it is very
basic. Shankaracharya is telling him, if you have waited till the end of
your days to begin learning the "ABCs" as it were, you have truly wasted
your life. bhakti and bhakta are from the same root as bhaja. We call a
bhakta dasa or servant (of God.) Who is a better servant, the one who
tries to understand and diligently carry out his masters wishes, or the
one who just flatters him? Being the dasa of Govinda requires more than a
DukR^i~n level of knowledge and one should acquire it as soon as possible.
> To know Advaita is different and to Expereince Advaita is
Yes that is true. One can know all kind of facts but without anubhava
(experience) of jnana it means nothing. But at the same time, experience
without understanding is useless. In fact we have glimpses of the
non-dual state all the time (as in i.e. deep sleep.) but mukti or
liberation from samsara only happens when one understands the experience.
This is why an ideal Guru is said to be one who is shrotriya (learned in
shastras) _and_ brahmanishtha (firmly established in Brahman.)
> And finally it does not mean one cannot experience Advaita
> without first knowing it. True knowledge comes through experience.
But you said knowledge and experience are different?
> Hence I
> request the enlightneed ones on this list to explain to people like us who
> find sankrit difficult , the method to experience Advaita.
Assuming you got such an explanation, how would you know if the person was
telling you the truth unless you had the means to verify it for yourself?
The method of experiencing Advaita Vedanta is to systematically seperate
untruth from truth. There is no shortcut I'm afraid.
Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
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