[Advaita-l] Sadhana?

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Wed Sep 30 19:47:44 CDT 2015

On Sat, 26 Sep 2015, Boris Nikiforov via Advaita-l wrote:

> I have a question on sadhana (the regular spiritual practice) for advaitins.

You've got some great answers already but here is the most important piece 
of advice.  Don't take advice on sadhana from thw Internet.  (Including 
this advice.  Oops :-)

You can get the general outlines yes, but the specific sadhana which is 
most appropriate for you is something to discuss with your guru. 
Strangers by their very nature cannot do a good job.

So please understand the rest of my comments as being general not 

> Back in 1990s, I spent two years in Hare Krsna movement (ISKCON). We
> chanted 16 rounds of japa daily, we followed so called "4 regulative
> principles" (no meat, no alcohol etc.), and studied some books like
> "Bhagavad Gita."

The preliminary form of sadhana is karmayoga which is to perform the karma 
(duties) of your caste, stage in life etc. not for personal gain but with 
a sense of dispassion and as a sacrifice to ishwara as explained in the 
Bhagavadgita.  Obviously this isn't going to apply to a non-Hindu but 
there is also sadharana or universal dharmas which apply to everyone. 
For instance the first two angas of Yoga are yama (restraints) and niyama 

The 5 yamas are
ahimsa - refraining from violence and causing pain to others.
satya - speaking truth
asteya - refraining from theft
brahmacharya - celibacy or atleast for the married, restraint in sexual matters
aparigraha - controlling wants and desires.

The 5 niyamas are

shaucha - cleanliness
santosha - contentment
tapa - a bit hard to translate something like "exertion towards purification"
svadhyaya - study of appropriate shastras and japa.
Ishvara pranidhana - closeness to God i.e. bhakti.

Doing your duty to your wife and children and to your nation is also 
sadharana dharma.

> These days I have a great interest in Advaita, especially Shankaracarya's
> teaching and I read regularly some books in English (Shankara's bhashyas,
> translation of Brahma Sutras by Swami Sivananda, translation of Upainshads
> by Swami Nikhilananda) but I would like to have some sadhana too like japa.
> What is the common traditional sadhana which can be adopted by a white
> married middle aged man like me?

On Sat, 26 Sep 2015, Venkatraghavan S via Advaita-l wrote:

> I would qualify your statement and say that it depends on the level of
> spiritual maturity of the aspirant. Within advaita tradition, mantra japa
> would fall under upAsana, and is an accepted preparatory step required to
> earn the qualifications necessary to commence vedAnta shravaNam, mananam
> and nidhidhyAsanam.

Yes I agree with this.  I would add The things I mentioned above can be 
done for quite utilitarian reasons most of them even by non-religious 
people.  But when they are done as karmayoga when one thinks of them as 
connected to Brahman and that he the doer is not different from Brahman it 
is upasana and that is the next stage of Advaitic sadhana.

The Advaita sadhana proper is shravana - listening to and learning the 
shastras, manana - contemplating their meaning and implication for your 
life and and nidhidhyasana - putting them into practice.

Note Shankaracharya assumes sannyasa at this stage.  Some of the modern 
would-be advaitins try to downplay this but without sannyasa there is no 
moksha.  A layman can perhaps achieve jnana through shravana, manana, and 
nidhidhyasana but the nature of his realization will impel him to take 
sannyasa.  The sage Yajnavalkya is an instance of this type.

But wait, if only the sannyasi is a proper Advaitin what are we doing 
here?  Easily 99% of this list (including myself) do not qualify as 
Advaitins by that criterion.  The answer is that even for one who is not 
capable of assimilating Advaita Vedanta in its entirety it is worth trying 
to do so to the maximum extent possible.  Again karmayoga is the key.

For both the karmayogi and the sannyasi sadhana involves 4 means

viveka - developing the ability to discriminate between the real and unreal.
vairagya - developing a sense of detachment towards the impermanent samsara.
shadupaya - six virtues which are:
     shama - tranquility
     dama - control over the senses
     uparati - lack of desire for worldly goals
     titiksha - The ability to withstand the dualities such as heat and cold etc.
     shraddha - faith in Bhagavan, the guru and the vedantic teachings
     samadhana - control over the disturbances of the mind and emotions.
mumukshatva - the desire for liberation from samsara.

The higher 6 angas of yoga are often used for this though not strictly 
required.  Certainly bhakti is also a valid path.

> I love to do some japa regularly but I
> don't know a mantra I can chant without diksha. Back in ISKCON, I would
> chant "Hare Krsna mantra." Are there any other mantras I could chant
> without a diksha?

On Sat, 26 Sep 2015, Venkatraghavan S via Advaita-l wrote:

> In answer to Sri Boris' question, hare krishna mantrA is a great mantrA and
> if chanted with sincerity and devotion, will greatly advance you in your
> spiritual quest.

The problem with ISKCON is not their choice of mantras but that like all 
the other theistic religions, east and west, they want to take you only 
upto Gods feet and no further.

Shankaracharya did not mention that mantra but He did write a commentary 
on Vishnusahasranama (1000 names of Vishnu from the Mahabharata) and 
reciting the VS is a popular sadhana.  The commentary explains both the 
literary and Vedantic meanings of each name.

On Sat, 26 Sep 2015, Sunil Bhattacharjya via Advaita-l wrote:

> For an advaitin the Mahavakyas are the mantras.

And this is a good example of why you shouldn't take advice on sadhana 
from the Internet.  Unfortunately this is not the first time I have seen 
someone say this.  Using the mahavakyas as mantras is as silly as hoping 
to become a physicist by chanting E=MC^2.

The mahavakyas are the Vedantic teaching in the most concentrated form. 
For the one who is at the highest spiritual level even hearing them once 
is enough to bring liberation.  For the dullard, even repeating it a 
billion times will have no effect.

On Sat, 26 Sep 2015, Anil Aggarwal via Advaita-l wrote:

> Sadhana panchkam commentary at www. Arshabodha.org teaching tab this 
> address all spiritual sadhanas

And this is a different problem.  Sadhanpanchaka is well worth reading but 
it is aimed at a Brahmana audience and not all of its advice will be 
appropriate for you and other parts might need to be modified.

On Sun, 27 Sep 2015, Boris Nikiforov via Advaita-l wrote:

> I understand the importance of the early hours before the dawn. As far 
> as I know, there is a special time, Brahmamuhurta. Wiki says it starts 
> 1h 36mins before sunrise.

There are different measures of time given  for brahmamuhurta but there is 
also a more natural definition.  The time before dawn when stars are still 
visible is the best time.  When the sun is still not risen but there is 
light, is middling and when the center of the solar disc has passed over 
the horizon (the shastraic definition of sunrise) is the comparatively 
worst time.

  Even simple things like this can have issues.  India is closer 
to the equator so sunrise and sunset times are fairly constant throughout 
the year.  At more northerly and southerly latitudes the discrepencies 
between summer and winter times become variable until you get to the polar 
regions where there may be days when there is no proper sunrise or sunset 
at all.

So in all things having a guru who can give you personal guidance is a 

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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