Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 11

VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem
D. Venugopal

D. Venugopal is a student of Swami Paramarthananda and a direct disciple of Pujya Swami Dayananda. He has successfully completed the long-term residential course in Vedanta and Sanskrit conducted from May 2002 to July 2005 at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti.




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Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
ISBN: 978-81-7276-457-9
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Pages: 324
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Go to Part 10


I - We have to qualify ourselves to acquire self-knowledge

Our next step is to gain self-knowledge through Vedänta. It is common knowledge that for studying any subject, we need to be qualified for it. In the case of Vedänta, the requirements are far-reaching. Here, the problem consists not only of the inborn ignorance of our nature but also of having a completely mistaken notion of it. We have also based our entire living on that erroneous notion. As such, the error is entrenched in our mind. What Vedänta reveals is that our notion is totally wrong. It says that we are the whole, while we take ourselves to be limited in every respect. Adding further to our problem in understanding, our every day experience appears to confirm only our limitation, which is erroneous. Understanding the self therefore means that our totally erroneous and deep-rooted notion about us, which appears to be validated by our experience, has to be totally given up. To crown our problems, our mind through which we have to know is entirely at variance with our true nature. Our true nature is revealed as attributeless, actionless and changeless, while our mind with its likes and dislikes is invariably engaged with objects and is constantly undergoing change. If we listen to the teaching with such a mind, we would understand the teaching differently from what is really meant and would not be able to identify ourselves with our own real nature. On the other hand, we will consider it as a piece of information and with it we would tend to conceive of a new entity and would want to experience it! So, it is essential to bring our mind to as near our true nature as possible to grasp the teaching. Fortunately, it is possible to do so, since the çästra specifies the necessary qualifications and indicates the methods of acquiring them.


II – The prescribed qualifications

Çästra lists the prescribed qualifications as a group called the four-fold qualification. [56] We have to possess them to be called as an eligible student. [57] The prescribed qualifications are:


• discriminative discernment (viveka);

• freedom from longing (vairägya);

• six-fold accomplishment (ñaöka-sampatti) consisting of resolution of the mind (çama), regulation of the sense organs and the organs of action (dama), regulation of action (uparama), forbearance (titikñä), trust in the çästra and in the guru (çraddhä) and the naturally abiding mind (samädhänam); and

• intense desire for freedom (mumukñutvam).


We may now look into each of them.


III - Discriminative discernment or viveka

The natural tendency of the mind is to be preoccupied with the outside world through the sense organs in pursuit of our objectives [58]. This mental trait is an obstacle to knowing the self, as it is not possible for us to be engaged in the thought of outside objects and to have the vision of the self as well. So, to relieve the mind of its preoccupations, it is necessary for us to arrive at a discriminative understanding of our pursuits to see as to whether we should be engaged in them. Seeking of security, pleasure and puëya [59] are our usual pursuits. Through discernment, we come to know that


• what we seek through our pursuits is actually freedom from the sense of “I am insecure” and “I am unhappy”;

• what we seek to attain is that which cannot be improved upon; in effect, we want to be totally secure and be completely happy;

• what we seek for these purposes are from sources other than ourselves and that all of them are themselves limited and time-bound;

• in addition, what we can obtain from them is restricted by our action, which is limited both in content and duration;

• the limited results that we achieve cannot change us into a totally secure and completely happy person.


We now recognise that


• even after all our efforts, our continuing to feel insecure and unhappy as before is only to be expected ; and that

• if we persist in our present efforts due to lack of discrimination, we would eternally continue to be seekers who will never be fully satisfied; and

• even our reaching the higher world, which is free from sorrow, does not solve our problem, since we can stay there only as long as our puëya lasts.


Thus through reasoning, we recognize that the security that artha gives, the pleasure that käma provides and puëya that dharma confers cannot ever solve our problem. Çästra gives us a telling example. Around a broomstick, we tie an elegant silken string and then a shining golden string. Finally, we garland the broomstick with a dazzling necklace. Despite these decorations, the broomstick continues to remain a broomstick!


If we look beyond the immediate purpose that our usual goals serve, we would find that their ultimate aim is only to make us free from being a wanting person. That is, we do not want to be limited in any way. So, what we are really after is freedom from every limitation, which is mokña. Therefore, our goals are not really four-fold dharma, artha, käma and mokña, but is actually only one of mokña. When we were pursuing that single goal through artha, käma and dharma for puëya, we have been failing to see the lack of connection between the limited means and the unlimited goal. Thus, in our pursuits we have been overlooking a basic error in not matching the means with the end. This reasoning gives rise to the clarity that what is to be pursued by us is not artha, käma and dharma for puëya as we have been doing so far but mokña through the proper means.


Now the fundamental question arises. If any action that we do cannot make us complete, how do we solve our problem? There is one crucial fact that we have not taken into account so far. It is our ignorance about our true nature. Given this self-ignorance, the only possible solution to our problem is that we are already a non-wanting person but are painfully ignorant of it! Vedänta reveals that this is indeed so. So, the only way out of our problem is for us to gain the knowledge of our wholeness, which is unknown to us, through Vedänta.


As Kaöha Upaniñad puts it:


Both the preferable infinite and the pleasurable finite approach the human being. Having considered both of them very clearly, the discriminative person distinguishes them. The discriminative person prefers the infinite to finite. (Only) the indiscriminate one chooses finite for the sake of acquisition and preservation. [60]


The discernment that what is to be pursued is not the temporary and limited through artha, käma and dharma for puëya but the permanent and unlimited through jïäna is called viveka [61]. This understanding is indispensable for the meaningful pursuit of Vedänta.


56.The four-fold qualification is called sädhana-catuñöayam.
57.A qualified student is called adhikäré. Tattva-bodha (Central Chinmaya Mission Trust) by Çaìkaräcärya lists the qualifications at pages 12 - 17.
58. Paräñci khani vyatånat svyambhüstasmätparäìpasyati näntarätman |
Kaçciddhéraù pratyagätmänamaikñadävåttacakñuramåtatvamicchan ||
The Lord destroyed the sense organs (by making them extrovert). Therefore everyone perceives outside, not the inner self. Desiring immortality, a rare discriminative person turns away his eyes (from outside and) sees the inner self. (Kaöha Upaniñad 2.1.1.)

59. The word “dharma” is not used since it can also be pursued for mental growth and not for puëya.
60. Çreyaçca preyaçca manuñyametaù tau saàparétya vivinakti dhéraù|
Çreyo hi dhérobhipreyaso våëéte preyo mando yogakñemäd vånéte|| 1.2.2
61. Ädau nityänityavastuvivekaù parigaëyate. In the beginning, the discriminative understanding between what is eternal and what is time-bound is reckoned clearly. ( Çaìkaräcärya, Vivekacüdämaëi, 19.)


Go to Part 12


Page last updated: 20-Nov-2014