Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Vedanta - Part 20

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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III – The guru should be established in self-knowledge

The Upaniñad is particular that the guru should have recognized that he is Brahman-ätmä and continue to remain as such. Actually, when the guru is not able to abide in the knowledge, he is considered as an ordinary guru [140]. He is, however, not considered unfit for teaching, as he can teach the çästra on the same lines as he has learnt it from his guru. He is aware as to how his guru handled the difficulties that the disciples had in understanding the text. But, he is not what he is unfolding. His words will not have the ring of infallible truth about them and his exposition may not be insightful. He can teach it only as the knowledge contained in the scriptures, as it has not yet been validated by the recognition of himself as Brahman-ätmä.


The superior guru is obviously the person who has learnt from a guru belonging to the sampradäya and having gained the knowledge is a steadfast jïäné [141]. As he has learnt the çästra systematically and as he is himself the meaning of the words, he is extremely dexterous in handling the pramäëa. He knows how to approach the subject from the angle in which we are trying to look at it and correct our wrong understanding. As he knows adequacy himself, by using ordinary, known words, he can successfully create the context in which the words can show our limitlessness. When he is teaching, both the person and the words disappear and only the meaning remains. There is real upadeça [142]. The whole vision of the çästra is there for us to understand with the result that those of us who are fully qualified are enabled to recognize the self at the time of teaching itself. He is the best that we can have.


Çästra considers the jïäné who has not learnt the çästra according to the sampradäya from a guru as an inferior guru. This is because he does not know the methodology of teaching and will not be able to communicate the knowledge systematically [143]. We may approach him for receiving his blessings and for getting inspired by him but not for being taught.


As for our choosing the guru, since we are not jïänés, we cannot identify a jïäné. And no jïäné will declare that he is one. So, what we can do is to choose a guru belonging to the sampradäya who is devoted to the teaching of Vedänta.


We may now conclude with mantra 1.2.12 of Muëòaka Upaniñad, which puts in a nutshell the entire exposition made so far:[144]


A seeker of Brahman-ätmä should resort to dispassion (renunciation) after examining the worlds acquired through karma, with the help of the understanding that what is not a product (the whole or mokña) cannot be attained through karma. Therefore, to attain knowledge of that (Brahman-ätmä), he must necessarily approach, with samit in hand (that is, with çraddha) a teacher who has learnt the scriptures in accordance with the sampradäya from a guru, and is established in Brahman-ätmä.


The stage is now set for the revelation. As Kaöha Upaniñad says:


Arise (be discriminative). Awake (seek self-knowledge). Having approached the great ones, may you know (the self) [145]


Thus begins in the next chapter the teaching by the guru to the student who is equipped to receive the knowledge. 



[This Chapter is essentially based on the book, Talks on Who am I by Swami Dayananda and talks No 37 and 38 by Swami Dayananda for the TV recorded in the gurukula at Anaikatti in 2003.]

I - The subject-object division

It is possible to divide everything into two distinct categories for the purpose of analysis. When we look at the entire picture, we find that what is unique is ourselves. We are aware of ourselves. We also see, hear, smell, taste, touch, and become aware of other things. Everything that we come to know through them is different from us in that we are the one who are seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching everything else. We constitute the subject and everything else is the object of our knowledge. The latter includes all that is known whether animate or inanimate. Everything that we have known earlier is also the object of our knowledge. Everything that we do not know now but will come to know later will also be the object of our knowledge. If we go to any of the other worlds, which çästra speaks of, they will also be objects of our knowledge [146]. Éçvara will also be an object. Therefore, everything without exception, which is other than the subject, is the object. So, the analysis of both the subject and the object will cover the entire picture. Upaniñads take any one of them as the starting point and analyze. We shall start with the subject.


II - We consider the body to be the subject


In all languages, there are pronouns – “he”, ”she” and “it”. From Éçvara to all persons and animals, the pronouns “he” and “she” are used. For all the others “it” is used. But the pronoun “I” is used nowhere else except for oneself, the subject. I am the only one who is the subject and for everyone, there is at all times only oneself who is available for analysis as the self.


Beginning our enquiry, let us demarcate the subject from the object. All of us are definite that the physical body defines the limit of the subject since we exist in the physical body. If some one touches our physical body, we feel that we are touched. We do not have the I-sense with reference to anything outside the physical body. Every thing up to the skin is "I" and everything beyond the skin is “not-I”. Obviously, the skin of the body is the line of separation between the subject and the object.


It is thus that the physical body determines the lot of I. The condition of the body is the condition of I. The body is tall, fair and fat; I am tall, fair and fat. When the body is born, I am born. The age of the body is the age of I. When the body perishes, I perish. Where the body is, there I am. Body sits here, I sit here. When the body is walking, I am walking. The body is sleeping; I am sleeping. Whatever the body does, that I do.


140. He is called a kevala çrotriya.
141. He is called a çrotriya brahmaniñöha.
142. Ananyaprokte’gatiratra nästi.. When taught by the one who is non-different from the self, there is no misunderstanding about this (self). Kaöha Upaniñad, 2.1.8.
143. He is called a kevala brahmaniñöha.
144. Parékñya lokän karmacidän brähmaëo nirvedamäyännästyakåtaù kåtena |
Tadvijñänärthaà sa gurumeväbhigacchet samitpäëiù çrotriyaà brahmaniñöham ||
145. Uttiñöhata jägrata präpya varännibodhata |Kaöha Upaniñad, 1.3.14.

146. Bhuù is earth; Bhuvaù, Svaù, Mahaù, Janaù, Tapaù, and Satya are the higher lokas and   Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Rasätala, Talätala, Mahätala and Pätäla are the lower lokas. .   

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Page last updated: 28-Aug-2015