[Advaita-l] structured approach to learning advaita

Ramesh Krishnamurthy rkmurthy at gmail.com
Thu May 26 06:46:25 CDT 2011


This is in response to Sri Rajaram's mail below:

It depends on one's personal situation.

If you are in a position to pursue full time studies for about 4 years you
may consider the programmes at Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Coimbatore or Arsha
Vijnana Gurukulam, Nagpur. The teachers here are sannyasin disciples of
Swami Dayananda Saraswati. The programme provides a solid grounding in
Sanskrit grammar as well as the Prasthanatrayi bhashya-s. As students come
from different parts of India and abroad, they use English as a medium for
communication. However, the grounding in Sanskrit as well as Vedanta is
indeed rigorous; enough for you to be able to read and understand technical
Vedantic texts with as much ease as you would read a newspaper.

Again, if you are in a position to pursue full time studies for several
years and are comfortable with Hindi, you need look no further than Kailas
Ashram at Rishikesh, where you can get a solid grounding in Sanskrit and
Advaita-Vedanta. Depending on your inclinations, you can also pick up other
darshana-s like Nyaya and Sankhya.

If the idea is to pursue studies part time along with a regular professional
career, the options really depend on where you live. As far as I can see,
the Chennai is the only large city with a significant ecosystem (regular
classes, lectures, debates, networks of teachers and students, etc) for
traditional Advaita-Vedanta. There are some teachers in other cities
(Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, etc) but the ecosystems are nowhere as
developed as Chennai. In Chennai, there are several teachers, sannyasin-s as
well as grihastha-s, who take regular classes. Just to mention a few
stalwarts: Swami Paramarthananda, Goda Venkateswara Sastrigal, Krishnamurti
Sastrigal and Mani Dravid Sastrigal. Except Swami Paramarthananda who
teaches in English, most of the teachers in Chennai use Tamil. Some lectures
and almost all debates are conducted in Sanskrit.

If you are not in a position to attend classes, recorded classes/lectures of
several teachers are available. In fact, almost all classes/lectures by
leading teachers are now recorded. However, these will be useful only if (1)
you are able to maintain a regular discipline of listening to them and
reflecting on them, (2) your basics are reasonably secure, (3) you are able
to contact teachers/ advanced students to clear your doubts as and when
needed, and (4) you learn Sanskrit separately.

It is most important to get your basics right, through whatever means. In my
opinion, probably 70-80% of students (who have some seriousness towards
Advaita-Vedanta) falter at this stage as they start on the basis of faulty
assumptions. Without getting the basics right, further study will prove
useless. At best, the student will lose interest and give up. At worst, he
or she will develop misunderstandings which may have negative consequences.
This is an area where most beginners can benefit significantly from some
level of interaction with teachers or advanced students, if not attending
regular classes.

Note: In the above mail, I have used the term "classes" to mean a series of
a teaching sessions expounding a particular text/topic, and meant for
regular students. Apart from regular classes, several teachers also give
standalone lectures and/or participate in debates.

On 24 May 2011 23:22, Rajaram Venkataramani <rajaramvenk at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hare Krishna. I am strong believer in learning through traditional methods
> but it may be difficult for some in modern times. If one wants to develop
> scholarship in advaita philosophy and traditions, what would you suggest is
> the structured approach to do that?

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