[Advaita-l] RE: e-vEdAnta course

Srikrishna Ghadiyaram srikrishna_ghadiyaram at yahoo.com
Wed Nov 12 14:09:43 CST 2003

hariH Om!!

I will write my comments to your mail, along side
yours. Please see below.

As the subject is connected to Chinmaya Mission,
though it is not intended, some organisational details
will come out in the debate. But, please note that it
is incidental.

However, please note that as soon as I received the
information about the eVedanta course, I wrote to the
co-ordinator of the program and I have not heard from
him, not even an acknowledgement. I would not expect
replies, out of their busy schedule; but, this is a
matter of great concern and it deserves attention.
Proper resolution will enhance its chances of its

Just like many of you, I too participate in the
programs of Chinmaya Mission and I am also concerned
that through this course offering the Mission should
not take a wrong turn. But, my commitment is only to
true teachings of Vedanta as expounded by Sankara, and
not to a specific mission which does not totally honor
that great Tradition. In my view, any
commercialisation is a hindrance to its true message.

We are not looking for free service; even if I were to
look for free service, it is ABSOLUTELY appropriate,
as per the tradition of Vedanta. If I am capable, and
if I am satisfied, and if I feel gratitude for the
teaching and if I am motivated that my physical,
mental, financial contributions will serve and enhance
the services offered by the teacher to similar
aspirants, I will donate money, for my own
satisfaction. No teaching of this kind can seek to
collect a minimum fee, in the name of prescribed

(Recently, when I went to a satsang of a modern-style
realised man in USA, or I probably read in his
e-mails, he mentioned, that sadly, as a great
tradition of caring for the sages is not part of
American/western culture, he is struggling to pay his
bills at the age of 75. Then it struck me how true it
is that a Sanyasi can provide service to humanity at
large  because, the society feeds a sanyasi. Ofcourse,
he should not hope to live in a big mission, and be a
president of that, and should be content with true
sadhana. As I read the e-mails from this 75 year old
man, I know he is communicating wisdon.)

Some people like you, who out of their soft corner for
the mission because of long association may not be
able to see the clarity of the sacred purpose of
Vedanta tradition. This is just Maya. You need to see
from the perspective of an ordinary seeker, who is
un-informed of the solutions of Vedanta for his
problems, and out of compassion you should let them
learn, as service to Narayana. It just can not be to
build larger and bigger
Missions/Buildings/Infrastructure etc. If the cart is
placed infront of the horse, it does not go anywhere.

Sri Jaladhar has explained from the perspective of
tradition and Guru-Sishya relationship, and direct
teaching. I am not seeing that as the only trouble.
Sri Jaladhar also clarified that it may be used as an
additional tool to teaching. We can consider that to
be so. But, my primary objection to this vision to run
a 24 e-mail, 1 year certificate course in Vedanta for
$ 350 MINIMUM donation. It is no way different from a
scam Internet University degree/certificate.

More comments, in-line ....

--- Ram Chandran <rchandran at cox.net> wrote:
> Namaskar:
> The question on the relevance of the e-vedanta
> course and the
> appropriateness of charging a fixed fee is quite
> complex. I like the
> approach taken by Sri Vaidya Sundaram and
> Vidyasankar and would like to
> offer my observation on the same line.
> 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. 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. This is
> explained beautifully by
> the Tamil saying of the existence of more than three
> hundred and thirty
> millions of gods (muppathumukkodi).

As I elaborated above, I am not against using a new
technology tool to provide additional help, service to
the seeking masses. (are there masses ??) Use all the
tools and techinques available, but under the strict
rules of Giving-and-Taking_what comes, and not
taking-and-giving (do you see ?) established by this
great tradition of Bharat. Just because you want to
change the technique, Vedanta need not become a 'high
priced' item, there by cutting off millions of people
from even the chance of having an exposure to this
teaching which is not 'yours', and you aspire to build
a mission on your own name, where the original authors
and thinkers have not claimed even a mention. Does the
first lesson recognise and declare that the ideas are
not their own ??? Does it release right to copy-right
?? No, instead it hinders even an honest seeker from
pursuing. I will detail below.

>  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. 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. 

We are not discussing about Swami Tejomayananda's
credentials here. Your/other's repeated mention of
such points will only ascribe incorrect motives
against me or others who are against your views. So,
let us not side-step the issue at hand.

>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.

I am not even debating if the material will serve its
purpose or not. By the way, is there an objective
statement in the lesson 1, about the purpose and scope
of the 24 e-mail course. What does it promise to
accomplish ? I thought, the traditional teaching
always stressed a few points such as  objective,
means, their connection etc. before starting any work.
Without those clear statements, do you claim a course
to have been well planned ??

> 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.

Moral is, do not build infracture with huge mortgages,
unless the patrons can afford it. Not the other way.

> 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.

Who wants an organisation ? Providing a service
necessitates infrastructure at some point, not the
other way; (recently one Chinmaya Center sold raffle
tickets of $ 100 for building fund. The leaflet says,
that Swami Tejomayananda RELUCTANTLY approved it, as
ONE TIME only. I do not know who approved that all the
adresses of the patrons in other areas be made
available to this raffle-team for this purpose. Do you
see. ?) you have an organisation first and then start
service. You provide service to the needy. This is
what people mean by 'placing a cart before the horse'.
Tall statements like "no one wants to impose burden"
etc., do not go to the heart of the problem. If no one
wants, let them not go that route. Why compromise and
do things in pain ?

>  Swami Tejomayanandaji is  fully aware
> of the pitfalls of
> conducting an e-mail  correspondence course and
> charging a fee of $350.00.

Did you directly discuss with him ? (as you are
referring in affirimative) Did you ask him what
efforts were made to correct the pit falls ? I do not
know if there was a referrendum from mission centers
around the world asking if this course for $ 350 will
be popular. Atleast I did not hear about it before the
e-mail came. Ofcourse, I am not any volunteer of the
mission. But, I did not over-hear in my circles. Did
they consider how many in the US will be willing to
pay $ 350 or even how many can afford $ 350 for this
one-of-the-many spiritual and religious pursuits the
same people are committed to ? Knowing fully well how
an un-informed seeker will be reluctant to pay-up $
350 to a vedanta course, whose out come is totally
uncertain, there should have been a more sympathetic
consideration of fee structure.

> 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), established in 1989,
> is a research centre for the advanced study of
> Sanskrit and Indology. It is
> a cross-cultural forum for the exchange of
> knowledge. 

Why should I care about your futuristic plans. As a
sincere seeker if I want to read this material and
want my wife to read the mails, I need to pay $ 700
(in addition to what I do already). Are you kidding
... Or do you want me to be dishonest ? Any good piece
of information, I tend to share with my friends, with
a hope that it will enrich their life. But, what the
Mission is asking here is too much. I can  not do good
to others without defeating the goals of the mission
or having a double standard. Just to quote an example,
when friends ask me for audio cassettes of Vedantic
lectures, I readily lend them for very -long periods,
but tell them that if they need to copy, they must pay
the original organisation. On moral grounds they
agree. I guess, I am not damaging those organisations
that way.

>Pujya Gurudev Swami
> Chinmayananda visualized CIF as a bridge between the
> East and the West,
> science and spirituality and between the pundit and
> the public. 

Did Swami Chinmayananda visualise the $ 350 course ? I
was told a story that in the initial days of Swami
Chinmayananda, in Madras one generous person came
forward to donate Rs, 10,000 for some building, then
Swami Chinmayananda refused that money and asked that
Rs. 10,000 to be raised from 1000 people with Rs 10
per head or so. (my numbers could be wrong). Where is
that spirit in this $ 350 couse ? Did the course open
up the opportunity to millions of people who truly
need this teaching ? Instead it became a sectarian,
cult based plan. Are you bridging the East and West
out of this eVedanta course, as envisaged by Swami
Chinmayananda ? 

>CIF is
> located at the birthplace of Adi Sankaracharya at
> Veliyanad in Kerala, which
> is about 30 Kms from the city of Ernakulam.
> Originally known as the Melpazur
> Mana, and named by Pujya Gurudev as Adi Sankara
> Nilayam, this is the home of
> Aryamba, the holy mother of Sri Sankara. Set in
> Kerala's lush green and
> sylvan beauty, amidst sacred shrines and water
> ponds, Adi Sankara Nilayam
> has an ambience that is at once academic and
> spiritual.

All these details are irrelevant to the point of
discussion. Kanchi Matha also put some Sankara stambha
there I guess. Similarly, Kanchi swami travelled to
Kashmir and put water in some river. People and
organisations do various displays of integration. Let
us not lose the main topic getting caught in unrelated

> Several members of this list seem to jump into quick
> conclusions without
> understanding all the facts.  

How can you presume, that others do not know the facts

>As Vedantins, we
> should be broad minded and
> should not judge others using our own yard scale.

Any judgment happens with our own yard sticks. But,
this yard stick has sastric authenticity and centuries
of following. What merit does your yard stick have, if
you ignore your personal justification ?

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

Similarly, for higher and nobler results, yard sticks
are also higher and nobler. You can not pass on your
'yard stick' of running secular/social/charitable
trusts like red-cross for that matter, or even
community based temples, to a spiritual organisation.
I am apalled, that the great duty on the shoulders of
Chinmaya Mission which is undoubtedly one of the most
widely spread and one of the richest of such missions,
has been mis-managed and compromised. What hope does
the humanity have if this thrives ? if service is
subverted for the spread of the name and fame of a
particular mission, to boast of its tall achievements
and future visions. You want to build for future
generations neglecting the present day generations and
their ambitions. Alas !!
>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. 

By the way, it is not free. You know also how many
parents reluctantly pay $ 300 for the Balavihar ? What
percentage of parents are sponor members if they do
not have 2 children going to Balavihar is also to be
seen. If the tax benefit of that $ 500 is cut off, how
many will give $ 500 is also to be considered. (By the
way I give $ 500 for one child). We know it is good
for the community. (There are countless problems in
the Balavihar system. No one asked me !! In the San
Francisco bay area there are atleast 3 other
non_chinamya-mission organised bala vihar. Do you
think all those chose to go there, because they did
not know about Chinmaya Misison Bala Vihar. It is
because we do not want to change our ways.)

I told my brother in India about Bala Vihar, and he
said, he can not afford to pay money for Balavihar in
India. (I do not know if they charge in India). I am,
in a way, sick of this service to rich and elite
educated masses in India, which is advocated by the
Mission. My heart aches how may more poor families are
neglected, uninformed people. Chinmaya Mission does
not seem to take that as a true service.

>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.

As I said above, do not assume that I/others  do not
know the facts. Ofcourse, you may be better informed
than me.

> Finally, these are only my observations based on my
> understanding and they
> are subject to errors and require necessary
> correections and additions.  I
> hope my observation help all of us to provide a more
> sympathetic evaluation
> on the purpose and intent of the electronic course
> on basic vedanta. As
> Vedantins, we are obligated to use our
> 'discriminating intellect' and avoid
> judging others using an inappropriate yardstick!
> warmest regards,
> Ram Chandran

Needless to say that what all is my views, and I am
not seeking anyone's approval for that. But, I know
heart-of-hearts that this does not serve the purpose
of Vedanta. But, I certainly want the community to
know the other side of the coin.

Om Namo Narayanaya !!


> "Sundaram, Vaidya (MED)" <Vaidya.Sundaram at
> med.ge.com> wrote:
> >  In my opinion, paying for the course is no
> different from going to the
> >store and buying a book. Especially, when you can
> ask questions in return,
> >and get answers, unlike in a book. The knowledge is
> priceless, accepted.
> >That should not mean that it should not be
> structured or terms set for its
> >access. It's human tendency to value something more
> only when you have to
> >part with something else. Especially money. In
> olden days, one had to wait
> >for the teacher to accept you as a valid disciple
> to ask the question. You
> >can end up waiting 10 years to ask one question.
> None of us today are
> >qualified (or even ready!) for that level of
> discipline.
> _______________________________________________
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