[Advaita-l] RE: e-vEdAnta course

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Nov 12 06:21:45 CST 2003

On Tue, 11 Nov 2003, Ram Chandran wrote:

> We have been participating using thee cyber space Satsangh (Advaita-L and
> Advaitin lists) to learn and understand the virtues of  our scriptures such
> as the Vedas, the Upanishads, Brahmasuutras and Bhagavad Gita and to enhance
> our understanding of  Vedanta. Though we are aware of the pitfalls of
> learning Vedanta through the means of email correspondence, this is not an
> end to our Sadhana.

I notice the sample lesson you reference does not mention any shastras at
all just unspecified "Indian masters"  In fact exactly two Sanskrit words
are mention in the first two lessons.

> The members who participate in the cyber satsangh are at
> different levels of spiritual maturity and they sincerely want to learn from
> each other. Spiritual seekers look for various means of achieving internal
> peace and each one approach it differently.

Fine, but here we are concerned with those who would like to approach it
through Advaita Vedanta.

> This is explained beautifully by
> the Tamil saying of the existence of more than three hundred and thirty
> millions of gods (muppathumukkodi).  The purpose of learning Vedanta to get
> rid of our ignorance and ignorance does exists at all levels. I don't
> believe that Swami Tejomayanandaji has ever claimed that by completing the
> e-mail course, the students can get rid of all their ignorance.

You are right.  What specifically is claiming is "a unique method to study
Vedanta[sic], in the form of easy lessons"  This is the criteria by which
we are measuring the value of this course.

Btw shouldn't even introductory students be informed that Advaita is just
one kind of Vedanta?

> I have
> attended several of Swamiji's lectures on Gita, Vedantic texts and Tulasi
> Ramayan. He is a learned scholar of Vedanta studied under Swami
> Chinmayandaji and Swami Dayanandaji of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam. Swamiji is
> quite brilliant in his exposition and well versed in Sanskrit, Marathi,
> Hindi and English. I happened to down load the trial lesson (available in
> pdf format at  http://www.chinmayamission.com/evedanta/) and  I am quite
> convinced that it will be quite useful for getting a basic understanding of
> Vedanta.

Unfortunately the first two lessons do little to convince me.  But this
proves the point.  There is no way such a rigid framework could meet the
needs of such a wide range of students.

> Now let us try to understand why the Chinmaya Mission wants to charge $350
> for this course and why a certificate is being provided after completing the
> course. No institution in India or in USA can function without public
> support and institutions just like individuals seek several means to collect
> the funds.  I have been an office bearer (voluntary basis without any
> remunaration) of several Insititutions both in India and USA and I am fully
> aware of the difficulties of fund raising to pay the monthly bills which
> include, mortgage, utility and maintenance bills.

Unlike a business, one expects an organization that purports to be
religious to only make money by moral means.  Is it worth selling ones
soul for the sake of mortgage, utility and maintenance bills?  If people
have to bribed into donating with certificates, there are deeper problems
than can be solved with an e-course.

> Almost all of those who
> engaged in running the day to day operation of those institutions are honest
> and do not want to impose burden on the public who provides funds
> voluntarily.  Swami Tejomayanandaji is  fully aware of the pitfalls of
> conducting an e-mail  correspondence course and charging a fee of $350.00.
> What Swamiji is trying to do is to help his devotees who sincerely want to
> learn the basic of Vedanta in their spare time. The right question, one
> should ask, what will Chinmaya Mission do with the funds collected through
> this electronic course.  The Website provides the details including the
> goals of Chinmaya International Foundation established at the birth place of
> Adi Sankara:  Chinmaya International Foundation (CIF),

Again fine.  But are you saying that if the Swami appealed for funds to
his followers explaining why such a foundation is necessary they would not
provide?  He talks in his lesson about how we need to stop thinking about
everything in terms of a profit motive and work from a sense of duty.  Why
not hold prospective students to this standard?

> Several members of this list seem to jump into quick conclusions without
> understanding all the facts.  As Vedantins, we should be broad minded and
> should not judge others using our own yard scale.

Then which yard scale?  If someone came to you on the subway and asked you
for $350 would you "judge them" or just hand it over without a murmur?
God provided us with brains.  Why must religion be the only subject in
which we are not allowed to make use of them?

> The scales of measurement
> do vary and with change in time, we need to be accomodative to the change in
> circumstances.

Ah the old "times have changed" argument.  Sorry but _right_now_ not in
the mythical past, you can get a thorough education in Advaita Vedanta
free of charge and free of hype.

I'll tell you what.  I'll put "my money where my mouth is" so to speak and
offer 28 free email lessons on Advaita Vedanta to anyone who wants them.
No charge, give whatever you think its worth to me or to the charity of
your choice (even CIF :-)

Any takers?

>  I have been associated with Chinmaya Mission and I know they
> serve the community by educating the children and adults on Hindu Culture
> and its rich heritage. I greatly respect Swamiji Tejomayanandaji,  Swami
> Dayananda Saraswati, and the heads of Sankara Mutts for their scholarship
> and wisdom. All these institutions do need funds for their existence and to
> provide their services to the millions of people spread across the globe.
> Let us not try to judge without knowing all the facts.

I'm quite sure Swami Tejomayananda is sincere in what he is doing.  And I
too know many followers of Chinmaya mission who are doing sterling
service.  But that does not excuse them from scrutiny.  As the saying
goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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