[Advaita-l] How to begin studying Advaita Vedanta : post 1 of 3
sunil_bhattacharjya at yahoo.com
Tue Jan 26 11:00:16 CST 2010
Here is a digression, which I hope you will allow. Govindacharya is from Kashmir. This is news to me and I do not contest this. I understand that Bhartrihari was Govindacharya's son and that Bhartrihari spent his last days in Gangawar. I also understand that one of the sons of Govindacharya ruled in Ujjain. Can you kindly let me know if you have any information on these two things related to Govindacharya?
Sunil K. Bhattacharjya
--- On Mon, 1/25/10, Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com> wrote:
From: Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>
Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] How to begin studying Advaita Vedanta : post 1 of 3
To: "A discussion group for Advaita Vedanta" <advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org>
Date: Monday, January 25, 2010, 2:54 PM
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 mathematics.
> 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 shishyas.)
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 Chandogyopanishad 7.1.2
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 tame it.
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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