[Advaita-l] How to begin studying Advaita Vedanta

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Sun Jan 17 15:04:53 CST 2010

Re: [Advaita-l] New members
On Mon, 11 Jan 2010, Michael Shepherd wrote:

> Jaldhar
> In the absence of an index for this site -- though new members could pursue
> much through the existing system -- what would be you personal
> recommendations for study of Advaita Vedanta other than the obvious -- to
> find the apppropriate guru, or just to read Adi Shankara's chief writings ?
> Any book or online info that stands out for you ?

One should begin by getting atleast a little bit familiar with Sanskrit. 
I freely admit that mastery of the subject is hard work but even basic 
knowledge reaps great profits.  As we often see on the list, translations 
can be inaccurate.  Even if the translator is diligent (and alas not all 
of them are.) it can be hard to capture all of the nuances of a Vedantic 
concept in another language.  If you know some some Sanskrit you will be 
better able to assess the quality of a translation.  Probably the most 
easily available book is "Teach Yourself Sanskrit" by Michael Coulson, 
McGraw-Hill, ISBN: 978-0071468527

You will also need a dictionary. I suggest V.S. Apte's "The Student's 
Sanskrit-English Dictionary", Motilal Banarsidass, 81-208-0044-1

To get a handle on the history of Advaita Vedanta (Including the 
controversies that have recently preoccupied the list) I recommend "The 
Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies", edited by Potter et al., It has two 
volumes of interest, "Volume III: Advaita Vedanta Up to Samkara and His 
Pupils" and "Volume XI: Advaita Vedanta from 800 to 1200".  (a third 
volume is planned covering 1200 to the present.)  There is a bibliography 
volume but a more uptodate bibliography is maintained online at 

For shastras, I have previously mentioned the 10 volume "Complete Works of 
Shankaracharya" published by Samata Books (http://www.samatabooks.com/) as 
being the canonical collection of Shankaracharya's works but it is 
Sanskrit only. The most readily available and generally good quality 
translations are those published by the Ramakrishna Mission.

As for online resources, why www.advaita-vedanta.org of course!

These recommendations are for learning the "facts" of Advaita Vedanta. 
But moksha comes from "experience" not facts alone.  For that one should 
find a guru.  It is not something you can get from books or the Internet.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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