[Advaita-l] Structured approach in studying Advaita.

Shyam shyam_md at yahoo.com
Fri May 27 20:45:39 CDT 2011

While certainly every one is entitled to his or her own formula for what a 
structured approach to advaita is, IMHO one thing that is best avoided is 
starting with the Brahmasutra - it is a very lengthy and terse text with nuanced 
subteleties best reserved for handling, if one so desires, once a thorough 
grounding in advaita is already accomplished. 

With regards to the original question, my advice would be -  do not really treat 
this, in the beginning, and as a metter of fact even sunsequently, as an 
approach to advaita per se - but rather structure it as an approach to a 
spiritual way of life itself. 

A "dry" consumption of advaita-related material may prove to be non-beneficial, 
and even potentially harmful, unless it is ensconced in a framework of spiritual 
living, however rudimentary the latter may be or may seem initially.

And from this standpoint, I dont think there would be any difference of 
opinion amongst any astika that the Bhagwad Gita is the best place to start, and 
(in my opinion) can well be the only place to end.

Starting from an understanding of how to approach one's life and in what spirit 
to understand one's duties and place in society, performance of nitya karmas, 
developing an attitude of reverential devotion to the Supreme Purusha, 
graduating on to an awe-inspiring appreciation of the Supreme not only as the 
Creator but as verily the Creation itself, with every part and parcel of the 
sarvam being His Vibhuti Alone, being Vasudeva Himself, and finally culminating 
in the advaita jnAna then - that in the Brahmic explanse of this sarvam is 
annihilated my phantom sense of separation and individuality - thereby paving 
the way for the final surrender of the now-ripened tremulos ego - this type opf 
a progressive step-by-step journey is made magically simple by the mellifluous 
words of Bhagwan Krishna as relayed to us by Bhagwan Vyasa. It is a complete 
shastra, and the perfect guide as it were for any aspirant of spiritual bent. 

Once a thorough, and preferably repetetive, study of this text is exhaustively 
complete, hopefully under the guidance of a traditional Guru, all that remains 
is to enable the knowledge undoubtedly already gained, to be steadied akin to 
steadying a capricious  flame into a flickerless luminescence. That is achieved 
by repeated process of manana and nidhidhyasana which is where, now, a thorough 
study of all the Upanishads, and other prakarana granthas plays an important 
role. In agreeing with Acharya Sada-ji, I would say that if one wants some 
roadmap in this regard - I would consider 2 choices  - a short initiation can be 
the tattvabodha - a much longer and more thorough initiation would be the 

And subsequent to that one can take up one Upanishad at a time, perhaps 
interspersed with other prakarna granthas. Any Upanishad is best approached as 
Shri Ramesh-ji suggested by a continuous and uninterrupted series of classes 
from one's Guru. I dont think there is much to choose in terms of which 
Upanishad to start with or any order to follow - my personal recommendation for 
a beginner might be the Kathopanishad - but as long as one is in the safe hands 
of the Guru any one may be taken-up - the only exception being the Mandukya 
which is one Upanishad I would certainly NOT recommend as the very first 
Upanishad for study. 

I humbly disagree with those friends who well-meaningly insist on a thorough 
grounding in Sanskrit upfront - I do not consider it indispensible or even vital 
to gaining knowledge of advaita. If the goal is to become a teacher, or a 
well-versed scholar, or perhaps enjoy reading rare texts of Masters which have 
yet to be translated or even enjoy the beauty of the original prose - it is 
certainly useful, but if self-knowledge is the only goal for study - as it 
should be - I dont see any need whatsoever for a thorough study of Sanskrit. 

Also if I may sound a humble word of caution it would be to not get caught up - 
any more than out of an cursory and peripheral interest - in the various 
arguments of other schools of Vedanta or even other (purvapaksha) philosophies 
such as Buddhism, or even the different schools of advaita itself such as 
Vivarna/Bhamati, etc until and unless one really feels an enormous comfort level 
with the siddhanta, the subject matter, which of course, can only accrue after 
years of study of the vedanta - when premature it taxes the brain needlessly in 
entanglements that are ultimately of little benefit for a seeker's academic and 
more importantly spiritual growth.

Best wishes
Hari OM

----- Original Message ----
From: Srikanta Narayanaswami <srikanta.narayanaswami at yahoo.com>
To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
Sent: Fri, May 27, 2011 7:36:35 AM
Subject: [Advaita-l] Structured approach in studying Advaita.

I think the best structured approach is outlined in Shankara's Brahma sutra 
Bhashya.Starting with the 'Adhyasa Bhashya"Shankara has raised the 
"Purvapaksha',thye objections from various schools of thought like 
Mimamsa,Bhedhabhedha vadins,parinamavadins,Jnana-karma samuchaya vadins,the 
Nyaya,Vaisheshika,Sankhya,yoga,the various types of Buddhism has been clearly 
outlined in the bhashya on Brahmasutra bhashya of Shankara.One can get 
counterreferences from the books of these schools of philosophy for clarity.I 
think this is the best approach for studying the Advaita Vedanta,which is the 
only structured approach.

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