Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 13

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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Go to Part 12

VI - Discipline over actions or uparati

The regulation over our unwarranted outward tendencies becomes complete when we withdraw from all activities that are unconnected with the pursuit of our goal. It marks the culmination of our discriminative capacity. All of us have the tendency to omit what we have to do, do what we need not do, or do something else. Uparati [73] or uparama consists of withdrawal from prohibited actions and engagement in only those actions that require to be done, regardless of whether we like it or not. Through it, we establish our mastery over our likes and dislikes. We succeed in being in charge and in being able to do only that which is to be done. We feel good in having succeeded in reorganizing our inner life.


Uparati has also the meaning of leading the life of a sannyäsé who, in accordance with the çästra, formally gives up all the duties and connections for dedicating himself to the pursuit. The life style of renunciation is ideal for the seeker of jïäna.

II - Forbearance or titiksha

Our internal and external conditions keep changing and they may   affect us adversely. When this happens, we have to identify and isolate the problem and try to solve it. If it is beyond solution, we are neither to retaliate nor to suffer in silence. We have to accept what cannot be changed as inevitable without getting emotionally affected by it. If we keep reacting to the changes that we cannot alter, our mind cannot be tranquil. Suffering without accepting it, on the other hand, produces resentment in the mind. So, forbearance or titikñä [74] to accommodate changes including the opposites becomes an essential qualification. It is easy to acquire it when we realize that we encounter only the result of our own previous actions allotted for experience during this life [75]. Given this understanding we will be able to go through the difficult situations with equanimity and be cheerful.

VIII – Trust in the shastra and in the guru until understanding or shraddha

The further qualification that is necessary until our understanding of the teaching is trust or çraddhä [76]

 in the pramäëa and in the guru who unfolds it. Without it, the clarity about the goal and the mental equanimity that we have achieved will not be of much avail in getting the knowledge.


Even at the outset, we must be clear that through çraddhä we are not being asked to impose unquestioning faith in Vedänta and believe it to be true. There is hardly any need for them, as what Vedänta reveals about the self is a recognizable fact and its teaching is only for revealing this fact for recognition by systematically removing the misunderstanding. Çraddhä or trust is required only to allow this process to take place.


Another fact is that we are not acquiring this knowledge out of academic interest. We value our freedom and we want to learn this for no other purpose than to be free. Since the teaching itself is the means of knowledge, we must have the appropriate attitude towards the teaching and the teacher so that we may get what we want.


Even so, serious doubt about the validity of Vedänta [77] and the correctness of what it reveals [78] will keep on arising, as its revelations appear to be contradicted by our experience. Vedänta declares that we are the unlimited whole (pürëaù) with nothing that is the second to the self (advaita), and that we are abiding happiness (änanda). The questions that naturally arise are: how can we be pürëaù when we are only our body, senses and mind; how can we say that there is nothing which is second to us when right from the time we open our eyes till we go to sleep, the second is right before our eyes and is affecting us; and how can we be änanda when we are only occasionally happy? Also, religions like Buddhism and Jainism totally reject Veda as a means of knowledge. Schools of philosophy like Säìkhya, Yoga, Nyäya, Vaiçeñika and Pürva-mémäàsä [79] even while accepting Veda, differ from the revelations of Vedänta. It is true that the Upaniñads credibly convey its vision and the teaching tradition unfolds it clearly and answers convincingly all the objections raised by the contenders. But çraddhä in Vedänta and in the guru is necessary for us to be open to the teaching for clearing our doubts.Otherwise,we may give up Vedänta offhand without considering what it says.


Actually, when çraddhä towards Vedänta is considered necessary, nothing unusual is demanded of us. We have çraddhä towards the other pramäëas. When we look towards an object, our mind immediately strips itself of all notions, customs, thought, prejudices etc. and we accept it as we see it regardless of whether we like or dislike what we see. Even a scientist does not start by questioning the validity of what he has observed. He proceeds without distrusting his eye and what he has seen. We do not say that he has belief or faith in his eyes and in what he has seen. He just has çraddhä, which is based on the implicit reliability of the means of knowledge. If he did not have it, he would have said that accepting what the eyes see is a blind belief!


The situation that would arise if we refuse to trust the pramäëa will be clear from the following episode. A person who was born blind undergoes a surgical procedure that would enable him to see. After performing the operation successfully, the doctor is confident that the person would now be able to see. After removing the bandages, the doctor eagerly asks him to open his eyes. But, without opening his eyes, he says, “Doctor, I will open my eyes only when you prove that I can see. Otherwise I do not want to take a chance on such a disappointing experience”. What can the doctor do now?  He is being asked to prove that the man’s eyes are capable of sight and that they are a means of perceptual knowledge to him. How can he do that? Any means of knowledge is self-proving. He can only say: “The operation has been successful and there is no reason why your eyes should not perceive. Now it is for you to use your eyes and tell us whether your eyes are able to see.” Even if the doctor forces the man’s eyes open, the only proof that the patient will be able to see is the sight registered by his eyes themselves. It is the same with the pramäëa. What we need to do is to allow it to do its job and see whether it works. And Vedänta is safe to try since the falsity of the notion we have about ourselves will be seen through by us with the help of the çästra [80] and the guru [81].


We should have çraddhä not only towards the pramäëa but also towards the guru who becomes the pramäëa by unfolding it. The guru becomes very important, as it is the teaching tradition that holds the key for unlocking the meaning of the çästra. Even if we feel that a statement from the guru is not found in the çästra, he is not to be dismissed since he is rooted in the sampradäya and knows the purport of the text as also the tradition of teaching it. He can deliver the goods only when we trust his teaching and unconditionally expose ourselves to it.


This does not mean that we are to swallow whatever the guru says without any thinking. What we are required to do is to be receptive to the knowledge that is being imparted to us without any mental reservation. While doing so, if we find that certain areas are not acceptable, we have to isolate the problem and seek clarification from the guru to find out as to what is inadequate in our understanding [82]. This is the reason why the revelation in the Upaniñads and in Bhagavadgétä is in the form of a dialogue between the disciple and the guru.


When the mind is fully receptive and when there is unwavering trust in the competence of the guru, our I-sense is held under check and our buddhi is, as if, taken over by the pramäëa which is unfolded by the guru. In this impersonal state, our intellect, which is capable of knowing, receives it [83]. This is called surrender. We lose nothing in such surrender as it only means that we are having the proper attitude to the pramäëa and the guru so that the pramäëa may prove itself to us. It is very fruitful since çästra is categorical that “the person with çraddhä shall get the knowledge and will soon attain supreme peace” [84].


73.Uparati kaù? What is uparati? Svadharmänuñöhänameva| Strict observance of one’s own duty. (Çaìkaräcärya, Tattva-bodha, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, p. 15.)
74.Titikñä kä? What is titikñä? Sitoñëasukhaduùkhädisahiñëutvam| The endurance of heat and cold, pleasure and pain etc. (Çaìkaräcärya, Tattva-bodha, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, p. 15.)
75. This is called prärabdha-karma.
76. Çraddhä kédåçé ? Guruvedäntaväkyädiñu viçväsaù çraddhä| What is the nature of çraddhä? Trust in the words of the guru and in the scriptures is çraddhä. (Çaìkaräcärya, Tattva-bodha, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, p. 16.)
77.This is called pramäëa asambhävanä.
78.This is called prameya asambhavanä..
79. Säìkhya, Yoga, Nyäya, Vaiçeñika and Pürva-mémäàsä are respectively propounded by Kapila, Patañjali, Gautama, Kaëäda and Jaimini.
There is attachment and aversion with reference to every sense object. May one not come under the spell of these two because they are one’s enemies..
80.Çästra, in the context of self-knowledge, means the Upaniñads, Bhagavad-gétä, Brahma-sütra and commentaries (bhäñyam) of Saìkaräcärya thereon and second order commentaries (värttikä) and recognized explanatory texts (prakaraëa granthas).
81. Swami Dayananda, Gita Home Study, Volume 1, p 20.
82.  Tadviddhi praëipätena paripraçnena sevayä|Understand that (which is to be known) by prostrating, by asking proper questions (and) by service. Bhagavadgétä 4.34..
83.Swami Dayananda - Talks on Upadeça Säram, pp. 99 – 100.
84. Çraddhävän-labhate jñänaà, tatparaù saàyatendriyaù |
   Jñänaà labdhvä paräà çäntimacireëädhigacchati || Bhagavadgétä 4.39.
   One who has trust (in the çästra and in the words of the teacher), who is committed to that (knowledge) and who is master of one’s senses gains the knowledge. Having gained the knowledge, one immediately gains absolute peace.

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Page last updated: 19-Jan-2015