Püjya Swamiji had approved and blessed the two writing projects that I had proposed to do on the completion of the residential course in Vedänta and Sanskrit conducted at the Arsha Vidya Gurukulam, Anaikatti from 2002 to 2005. The first is about the unique place that Pujya Swamiji occupies in the sampradäya. This project was fulfilled through the writing of the book, “Pujya Swamiji Dayananda Saraswati: his uniqueness in the Vedänta Sampradäya”. Pujya Swamiji released it during the Anniversary celebrations of the Gurukulam in November, 2008. It is being reprinted.
The second assignment has been to write a comprehensive text on Vedänta for the use of the students attending Vedänta classes as also to provide a clear and authentic account for those who have a serious interest in it. The present book “Vedänta: the solution to our fundamental problem” is the outcome of this commitment.
Already, the book “Introduction to Vedänta (The Vedic View and Way of Life) by Swami Paramarthananda provides an ideal guide for the beginner. What this book seeks, is to be the next level of reading. Nevertheless, the book does not assume any knowledge of Vedänta on the part of the reader and deals with the subject right from the beginning. Care has been taken to make the narrative as easy and smooth as possible. Citations from the original source have been given in the footnote. The book closely follows the method of unfolding of the vision by Pujya Swamiji and his illustrious disciple, Swami Paramarthananda.
Being a disciple of Pujya Swamiji, Swami Paramarthananda, Swami Siddhabodhananda and Swamini Pramananda has been a great blessing. They teach with great love. I owe to them whatever knowledge I have of Vedänta. But for them, this book would never have been written. I am ever indebted to them.
I am especially beholden to Swami Siddhabodhananda. He has been kind enough to go through the entire typescript and make the necessary corrections.
I must express my gratitude to Shri D. Natarajan, my brother, Mrs. Lakshmi Muthusamy, my gurubehan and Shri V. Sunderam of Bangalore for willingly rendering me the help that I sought of them. Along with my batch mates, I am indebted to Shri Kesav, Shri Michael and Shri Kayesh for making available to us the audio recording of the classes of our gurus. I am also grateful to my friend, Shri J. Veeraraghavan for enabling the book to reach a wider audience.
Finally, the person who has been and continues to be a source of emotional and intellectual sustenance is Shrimati Vijayalakshmi, my wife. Having attended the long-term course, she has also contributed to the writing of this book. She has been keen that the book should be readable and be easy to understand.
In conclusion, I seek the blessings of Éçvara and our gurus so that the book may be of some benefit to its readers.
Asmadäcäryaparyantäà vande guruparamparäm
Auspiciously beginning with Éçvara, with the teacher Çaìkara in the middle, I worship the progression of teachers extending up to my teacher.
The title, “Vedänta, the solution to our fundamental problem”, will immediately raise the following questions in the mind of the readers. The first is, “What exactly is Vedänta? The others are, “What is considered to be our basic problem and how does Vedänta solve it?” While the entire book addresses these questions, they can also be briefly answered. Veda is a body of revealed knowledge handed down by teaching through countless generations to us. The latter portion of Veda is singled out as Vedänta owing to the uniqueness of its subject matter, which is self-knowledge. What self-knowledge can solve is self-ignorance and self-ignorance is the cause of our primary problem of insecurity and unhappiness.
The fact that all of us are only occasionally happy indicates that we have a problem that is basic in nature. Generally, we handle the specific difficulties that we encounter to the best of our understanding and ability with different degrees of success. It is only when we are deeply affected that we want to go into the root of the entire matter impersonally. Arjuna, the celebrated vanquisher of enemies in the epic Mahäbhärata, is the typical example. He goes to Kurukñetra all set to win the battle within the clan. But, in the middle of the battlefield, he develops serious doubts as to whether it was the solution and forthwith converts his friend Kåñëa who is driving his war-chariot into a guru and seeks knowledge from him then and there. What Kåñëa teaches him is essentially Vedänta. Arjuna is lucky since he stumbles upon the most competent guru for getting the right knowledge to solve his problem. But, when we are similarly affected, it is very difficult for us to know that Vedänta is the correct pursuit, as many alternatives seem to be available to reach the basic truth. Not many of us also know about Vedänta and only very few of us are aware of its astounding usefulness here and now.
Vedänta is entirely different from the various schools of thought and philosophy. It is revealed knowledge, which states that we have converted our life into a constant struggle for gaining security and happiness only because we have erroneously judged ourselves as individuals with limitations. It reveals that we are already without limitations, which is what we want to be. The seeker is the sought. The problem is one of self-disowning self-ignorance. Therefore, the solution can only be self-knowledge. No other tradition tells us this. They say that we will be saved if we follow their prescribed methods. Vedänta, on the other hand, says that our true nature does not leave anything to be desired and that all that we require to be free is to know this recognizable fact without an iota of doubt and abide in it. No mysticism is involved in knowing it. It is the instant solution like switching on the light to be free from darkness. It affirms that sorrow has no legitimate existence. This is the reason why Kåñëa begins his teaching to Arjuna with the statement that his grief is unwarranted.
This body of revealed knowledge has always been existing as a living tradition handed down through teaching from one generation to the next in India. It has survived many centuries of suppression only because of its intrinsic worth. Being knowledge, it belongs to no one group of people. If any other tradition says, "You are the whole," it is also Vedänta, regardless of what it is called and in which language it is. As knowledge, it is communicable by anyone who has correctly learnt it in full from a competent guru. So, it is not necessary that only an Indian should teach it. Again, as knowledge, it is available to anyone who is a qualified seeker. Its wisdom belongs to humanity. It is Indian only in the sense that India happens to enjoy the privilege of nurturing it.
Along with the knowledge, the method of communicating the fact, “You are the whole“, for our recognition has also been handed down by the tradition. This teaching tradition is called sampradäya. The guru who imparts the knowledge would himself have been taught by his guru by using this evolved method. In this lineage of gurus, Çaìkaräcärya occupies a special place since he is totally identified with the sampradäya and has left behind this legacy in the written form. His commentaries are not only the earliest that are available but are also extremely thorough in providing the teaching in full. In our times, Pujya Swamiji Dayananda Saraswati of Rishikesh has been unfolding this very vision in English. He has also created a number of teachers by formulating a course strictly according to the sampradäya and establishing gurukulams and teaching it to the resident disciples. He is a teacher par excellence and is unique1 . Among his disciples, Swami Paramarthananda is very illustrious. So, for fulfilling its purpose, this book attempts to present the traditional teaching of Vedänta as maintained by these great gurus.
Go to Part 2