[Advaita-l] How to begin studying Advaita Vedanta: Post 2 of 3

yajvan yajvan at san.rr.com
Sun Jan 17 17:13:39 CST 2010

hariḥ oṁ



When we say advaita as the philosophical subject, it is  more complete if we say advaita vedānta.

advaita अद्वैत means the following:  a=not + dvaita = duality , duplicity , dualism 
vedānta is veda + anta. Veda is from vid, knowing/knowledge + anta 
anta means end. Hence vedānta means end of the veda, or end of knowledge.  But what does this really imply?  

'anta' means end as mentioned but also means 'limit , boundary , term'. 
Some read then that vedānta is the final chapter, as we come to the end of a book.  A mildly interesting notion, yet there is more to this. 'End' can also mean final, but in the sense it cannot be surpassed.

So if we say  advaita vedānta,  it says  a+dvaita or non-duality is the final ( anta) knowledge (veda).
There is nothing beyond this (anta) this knowing ( veda or vid). But what knowledge?  Surely not
book knowledge as it is fleeting . There is nothing beyond the knowledge of the Self, or brahman.

This implies that knowledge is beyond just words, but direct experience. The most comprehensive
knowledge is that of the written or heard word + the personal, direct experience of that knowledge.
One reads about an banana then tastes it;  the knowledge is now complete in the action of taste ( and
sight, smell, etc).

So , now one must ask , what is considered vedānta, the end of the ved? What are the source books?
Another way of saying this is what is the prāsthana? This word is defined as starting-point , place of origin , source.  For vedānta,  it is considered prāsthana-traya , or the 3 sources or foundations.  They are the
upaniṣads¹ , the bhagavad-gītā ( part of the mahābhārata) and the brahmasūtra-s.  Now some will say
there are more then this... sure , no doubt, but I am talking prāsthana. 
But where are the veda-s?  The upaniṣads are the ved, the end of or culmination of the ved. They sit or are derived/manifest from the ved.

catúr-liṅga  ( 4 marks) of advaita vedānta 

Since we are talking core ideas - we then can say what then are the marks ( liṅga ) of advaita vedānta ?
They are:
1. the non-difference of the individual ātman with the universal brahman or individual being is part
and parcel of Universal Being - there is no difference hence a+dvaiya:   a=not + dvaita = duality , duplicity , dualism.

2. A view or concept our point of view that helps one understand the qualities of pāramārthika ( the Absolute, perfectness, stillness of Being) and vyāvahārika (the relative field of creation that has boundaries - size, shape, beginnings and endings i.e. the world of the senses and measures). 
Well that is a bit advanced do you think for this folder as a topic ?  Perhaps, but let me offer a simple example.
If we are viewing the world from the perspective of the sun , Where is the rising and setting of the sun?. From the Sun's point of view there is none. Yet if we are on this earth, this rising and setting produces day-and-night  and this occurs every 24 hours, it is real and occurs and can be measured.  Yet from the sun's view there is none of this.  Like that,  The Sun is the point of view of pāramārthika, the earth  vyāvahārika - Absolute and relative views of reality, Yet there is just one reality.

3. Avidyā - or ignorance. If all this is indeed brahman, from where can this ignorance be explained? Why is there not the instant view of Reality as being  One without a second or  advitīya  (without a second , sole , unique, matchless) ? The idea of avidyā now comes to the forefront.
This word is a+vid+yā, a=not  + vid = knowledge  + ya here means joining; hence avidyā = the joining of  'not' + ' knowledge'  or ignorance. 

So, in advaita vedānta this ignorance needs to be addressed or understood. Hence we arrive at  māyā-vāda.
That is, the discourse ( vāda) on māyā¹. Many here have heard of this māyā and there is a tendency to get 
A  bit too involved in proving or disproving this notion of māyā. What does an exponent of Reality have to say about this? Lets look to  ādi śaṅkara-ji's offer in his Vivekacūḍāmaṇi ( 111th śloka) regarding this. He says,  It (māyā) is neither real nor unreal nor both. It is neither undifferentiated nor different, nor both. It neither has parts nor is it partless nor both. It is supremely wonderful and of an inexpressible form.

Beyond academics
So while many argue (jalpa¹) these points, they miss the focus of advaita vedānta - the experience of brahman all the time ( 7x24x365) and the appreciation of this experience via the knowledge offered in vedānta

4.  Liberation,  some call jīvanmukti, liberated, free, while living ( in the body). If advaita vedānta is the inquiry
into the Self ( Universal Being, brahman), and this is the core of every being, then the notion is how to make
this a living reality here and now.

Net-net,  advaita vedānta encompasses brahma-vāda , the discourse, understanding and experience of brahman.

>From these 4 points much wisdom unfolds - yet is predicated on the direct personal experience of silence,
of the Being within ( atman, Self, brahman).

The above is offered as a snippet, a brief introduction , a pada ( a step or just a ray of light ). The full sun
needs to blossom on this subject that brings the depth and breath of this profound wisdom.

More can be said in future posts.


End of post 2 of 3 

-----Original Message-----
From: advaita-l-bounces at lists.advaita-vedanta.org [mailto:advaita-l-bounces at lists.advaita-vedanta.org] On Behalf Of Jaldhar H. Vyas
Sent: Sunday, January 17, 2010 1:05 PM
To: A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta
Subject: [Advaita-l] How to begin studying Advaita Vedanta

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 http://faculty.washington.edu/kpotter/xhome.htm

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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