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What is Advaita?
This thirty page pamphlet explains why enlightenment is not a permanent experience of a particular state of consciousness, why it is not a thought-free mind, and why karma does not have to be exhausted for liberation. It debunks many of the major misunderstandings about Vedanta and spiritual life in general – first and foremost the idea that Vedanta is a philosophy or a school of thought. It carefully explains what Vedanta actually is and highlights several of its most important teachings: cause and effect, the Three State analysis, and the five sheaths. It discusses the Self as bliss confusion, the Self as Knowledge confusion, the Self as Energy confusion, and the Multi-Path confusion. And finally it resolves the issue of the "stages of enlightenment".
Tattva Both (Knowledge of Truth)
Tattva Both means "knowledge of Truth". It was written in Sanskrit in the Eighth Century by Adi Shankaracharya. After explaining the qualifications necessary to realize the Self, it deals with the relationship between the individual, the world, and the Self. It explains the technical terms that form the basis of Vedanta. Without understanding the meaning of these words the means of knowledge will not operate.
Vedanta is the path that begins where other paths end. So, although Tattva Both is an introductory text, it requires a mature, discriminating mind. It is particularly useful for someone whose sampling of many paths has produced confusion about enlightenment, the nature of the Self, and the method of Self realization.
Atma Both (Self Knowledge)
A classic Vedantic text written by Adi Shankara in the Eighth Century, it consists of sixty-seven elegant verses on the topic of Self knowledge. This is the text to study when you want to know what comes after spiritual practice. It begins with the verse "I am composing this treatise on Self-Knowledge for those who are purified and peaceful, calm of mind, free of craving, and desirous of liberation." and states that enlightenment is not an experience but the hard and fast understanding "I am limitless ordinary Awareness" that arises when ignorance about the nature of the Self is removed. It then proceeds to logically unfold the fundamental teachings of Vedanta.
Of the one hundred and eight Upanishads, ten are considered to be "major" Upanishads. Of the ten major Upanishads the Mandukya is king. Its twelve mantras lay bare the fundamental structure of the human mind by revealing the nature of the three states of consciousness: waking, dream, and deep sleep. At the same time they prove beyond a doubt that we are not who we think we are – the waking state personality – and indicate who we really are – the invariable Awareness in all three states.
Such is the subtlety of its thought that even careful study of the text or teaching at the feet of a scriptural master would probably not produce the firm and lasting knowledge of oneself as the limitless "I". So many centuries ago a great sage, Gaudapada, added a commentary (karika) and a meditation to the verses to help the seeker realize the Self. In this meditation the three states are symbolized by three sounds, and the the Self, the limitless "I", is referred to as Silence. The commentaries present a simple and powerful technique that permits a meditator to lock on to the "I" and begin the inquiry that leads to Self knowledge.
Narada Bhakti Sutra
This Pauranic text of indeterminate origin is highly revered in India. The actual title, “Narada Bhakti Sutra”, loosely translates as “Narada's Train of Thought on Divine Love". Narada was a celestial musician who flitted between the worlds of the gods and men, waking people up to Love. Although the title makes sense in India, Narada is hardly a household name in the West, hence I have rechistened it "The Gospel of Love".
Although written in the language of experience, The Gospel contends that love of God, knowledge of God, service of God, and experience of God (leading to "merger" with God) are one, placing it firmly in the tradition of nonduality. First it defines Bhakti, devotion, as “intense exclusive love of ‘This'”, meaning the formless Self or "God". Then it describes the benefits of devotion and informs us how to cultivate it and recognize its symptoms. Finally it enumerates the stages of devotional love, from the lowest to the highest.
I have added an introduction and sixty pages of commentary.
The Bhagavad Gita is a scripture on the topic of Self realization. Self realization is the hard and fast understanding that there is only one Self and that it is free of the crippling sense of limitation imposed upon it by a mind conditioned to believe in smallness, incompleteness, separateness, and inadequacy. An individual in whom this nondual vision is established is untouched by existential suffering as he or she looks out through an ever-changing body at an ever-changing world.
Sri Vidyaranya Swami flourished in the Fourteenth Century A.D. He was the guru as well as the Prime Minister of Harihara I and Bukka, the founders of the Vijayanagara Kingdom. He is reputed to be the greatest among post-Sankara Advaitins. He was the head of the Sringeri Sarada Pitha, established by Sri Adi Sankara Bhagavatpada from 1377 to 1386 A.D.
Panchadasi is one of the works attributed to him. This work is so named because it consists of fifteen chapters. It is a comprehensive manual of Advaita Vedanta. The fundamental teachings of Advaita are presented in this work in a clear and lucid manner. It is therefore the best text for the novice who desires to get acquainted with this philosophy. At the same time the work is very profound and is of interest to advanced students of Advaita as well.
NACHEKETAS IN THE HOUSE OF DEATH
At the end of his life, desiring Heaven, Natcheketas' father, a pious man, sacrificed a few of his least valuable possessions.
"When desire ceases to dwell in the Heart, what is mortal is known to be Immortal. Such is the teaching."
Noumena: Consciousness without an Object
The following article assimilates and incorporates the teachings of true teachers I have had the honor to study with, personal experiences of this body-mind, and books I have read. This discourse is nothing more than an exercise for this body-mind to sit and absorb the wisdom imparted to it.
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