Saturday, August 22, 2009

What is Advaita Vedanta? Can it be applied in today’s Practical Life?

Article on Advaita Vedanta is divided into following Q & As


1. What is Advaita Vedanta?

2. Who can practice Advaita Vedanta?

3. Can Advaita be applied in todays’ Practical life? If yes than what are the benefits achieved by practicing Advaita Vedanta?

    a. Psychological benefits

    b. Physical benefits

4. Summary of benefits

5. If we neglect our family and society, how can we live?

6. Bargaining

7. Bribe

8. What is the need to stay detached and live spiritual life?

9. Do Advaita Vedantins believe and respect others spiritual paths like duality, Yog, Karma Kand, tantra etc?



What is Advaita Vedanta?


A + Dvaita = Advaita


Dvaita = Duality,


A-Dvaita = negation of Duality i.e non- duality


Vedanta means the end parts of Vedas, which contains the essence of Vedas.


In advaita Vedanta, one meditates on the SELF and establishes himself in the true nature. Some of them call it meditation on the absolute Brahman. A vedantin does not consider himself different from the God / Atman / Brahman.


Followers of advaita practice meditation on Aum / Om [1,6] or practice Self Enquiry as prescribed by Sri Ramana Maharshi [2]


Who can practice Advaita Vedanta?


Advaita is not for everybody. Emotional characters are generally not suited to practice advaita. Ramana Maharshi in Ramana Gita [3] says that ones who have purified their mind through sadhana (meditation) or by Sattvik Karma in past lives can practice advaita Vedanta. He further says that one who does not give much importance to his body and senses and has no interest in the worldly affairs instead of being surrounded by worldly issues are considered as eligible for Self Enquiry [3].


Shastras says of fours sadhans (qualities) are necessary (Sadhan chatusta Varnana)[4,5,6]

1. Vivek - discrimination between Real and unreal. i.e. only Atman, Brahman is real, everything else is unreal

2. Vairagya - dispassion in society (worldly matters)

3. Shatsampatti (6 values)

    a. Sham – Control over mind

    b. Dam – Control over 5 senses

    c. Uprati – Saturation point (control over mins and saturation brings the saturation of slinging or attachment in any worldly attachment)

    d. Titiskha – To stay neutral in favourable and unfavourable circumstances

    e. Shraddha – Faith in Yourself (I am doing nothing wrong in practicing this path), Guru, God and Shastras.

    f. Samadhan – To stay focused on the practice.

4. Mumukshatva – Burning desire for liberation.


Once you have Vivek and Vairagya along with firm determination for liberation, all other qualities gradually develop within. Regular prayers and surrender to God also help a lot. Being prepared to leave everything for SELF realization is an asset.


Can Advaita be applied in todays’ Practical life? If yes than what are the benefits achieved by practicing Advaita Vedanta?


Yes, Advaita can be definitely applied in today’s practical life. To understand this let us understand the concept and philosophy of Advaita.


In Advaita Vedanta, the followers are instructed to neglect each and every thought expect “who am I” or Aum. Meditator will only give the importance to thoughts relating to Atman. When worldly thoughts pop up or mind tries to create a scene, an alert meditator becomes aware of this and just neglects the thoughts, creations of mind. After some time, the force of thought decreases and one can gradually shift the awareness to the mantra Aum or to Self Enquiry. After regular practice, mind becomes calm and one experiences inexpressible peace – deep silence.


Psychological benefits:


Since, one has the habit of “letting go” things and not giving much importance to worldly issues, even though one is surrendered by issues, they do not influence the mind as much as before. So one stays calm under testing times. This is not achieved in a day, but with regular practice. Surrender to God will remove all the stress, tension, all other negative emotion and also relieves us from the burden of Responsibility.


Advaita teaches one to stop complaining about the life and leave the way God makes us to leave. This develops the attitude and understanding of fellow human beings. One stops blaming others and just accepts he / she with both positive and negative qualities. Tolerance naturally develops within.


Physical benefits:


When day-2-day issues, burden of responsibilities does not influence the advaita mind, mind remains cool and calm. Mind has a definite connection with the body and it highly influences the body. So when mind is fit and strong, all the diseases of mental, emotional origin stay away keeping one physically fit.


When the mind is calm, brain is calm. constant focus on one thought refreshes the brain and makes it stronger. Brain, which was very busy in multitasking, shifts from other frequencies to Alpha waves form -70mV to +30mV in a harmonious sinusoidal waves. This induces harmony in body and pineal and other major glands release peace hormones, which calms down the nervous system. Brain, which was engaged in many activities, can now focus on other activities which were sidetracked like regeneration of cells, which happens in deep sleep, making one fresh and healthy.


Summary of Benefits


Let us summarize the benefits of Advaita Meditation on SELF


1. One develops a habit of “Let-go”.

2. More Control over emotions and mind.

3. Stays Calm under testing times.

4. Stays neutral and unbiased.

5. Accepting each and everybody “as they are” with positive and negative qualities.

6. Tolerance

7. Decreases expectations from others.

8. Uninterrupted divine feeling of Peace and Bliss.

9. Removes orthodoxy and superstition.

10. Makes one broad minded.


This results into a stronger and healthy mind. This will avoid all diseases of mental and emotional origin.


We understand, respect and appreciate advaita philosophy, but we live in the world. If we neglect our family and society, how can we live?


Advaita teaches one to be an observer. It does not say to renounce the world. It teaches one to stay detached and continue to do your day to day activities (like job, business, etc…) In Sri Ramakrishna’s words, stay like mud fish. A Mud fish stays in muddy waters but itself remains clean. Mud does not stick in the skin of Mud fish [7]. One can live in the world as before and be a vedantin. It is practically possible to live an advaita life. Staying detached is much better than clinging to the world and worldly issues which are temporary.


Please elaborate this more, I mean I understand but …




Gita says one should be a Samadarshina (see God in all) but not Samvartina (not to treat each an every body in similar way.


I did not get you.


Let’s take an example.


Suppose, a cow comes to your doorstep. You will feed her with green grass. Then dogs keep barking at cow. Annoyed cow goes away. Now, Dogs are at door step, What will you give? Food like Roti or any thing that dog can eat, but not grass. Dogs leave and a you hear “Narayan Hari”  - a monk is standing at your doorstep. What will you offer him? A stale food? No. First we will invite him to step in our house, give the best food, the one which we have kept for ourselves, touch his feet and give some dakshina (a donation) like a cloth or some money and escort him. Than a mahavat (elephant rider) along with an elephant comes. Now what will you offer? A cloth??? No, some fruits like banana or any other thing that an elephant can digest [8].


NO, since my Guru has taught me to see god in everybody, so all are equal. So I will offer grass to cow, to a dog, to a monk, to an elephant and even to a tiger!!! How foolish.  Give the kind of food that one can digest. Cow can digest Grass and a monk cannot digest grass [8].


So treat one according to his /her mindset.


Another eg:


You have your family. When you look at your son, you become father. When you look at your father, you become son. When you look at your wife, you become a husband. Can you look to your mother with the same eye that you look at your wife?.


So one person, cannot behave in the “SAME” manner within his own family. How can one behave in the same way to others. In Sri Ramakrishna’s words, a mother loves all hers children, but gives the food according to their digestive power. She cannot give heavy food to a month old baby.


The essence is, treat each and everyone according to his / her status, but see God in all. So you cannot override the decision of your boss.




Sri Ramakrishna scolded one of his disciples when he did not care about the quality of vessel thinking that I have surrendered to God. Shopkeeper gave a cracked vessel. Sri Ramakrishna said that the shopkeeper is there to earn money and he did not surrendered to God before dealing with you. You should have checked the vessel and then bought it. One should be practical. [7]


You can definitely bargain and check the quality when shopping, but weather the deal strikes or not, as soon as you leave the premises (shop), just be aware of the mantra or surrender to God or know that I am not the body, mind or intellect. Do not give much importance to the issue.


Just forget and forgive. This is the true leaving.




Another very important thing is; things which our mind gives importance to only disturb us. So one should not try to offer a bribe, but incase somebody insists on this, then you can give him. Yes you can. Since you did not initiate this so your mind will not give undue importance to this issue and it is easy to forget this issue. It is the prakruti (nature) of person X to ask bribe, that’s it, why to change him? God is capable of everything and he will take care of him. So be neutral. Of course, offering a bribe to a Mr. X and initiating such talks (from our side) for marketing and selling our products, does a lot of harm. So DO NOT PRACTICE SUCH THINGS. Do not offer the Bribe, try to avoid it, but if unavoidable, then you can give. Only thing is do not feel the guilt can keep thinking you as a sinner. Just relax, forget the issue, get back to normal life, keeping chanting God’s name.

Now, if somebody does not say directly for a bribe and you understand and realise that he wants bribe … don’t be a fool, you know what to do.


Kindly note that other paths like Karma Kand and Yog give much importance to the moral conduct. This is not meant to Challenge them. Not does this mean to give a licence to do whatever you like to do.


The mental state of the advaita vedantin is to be aware of the Mantra as much as possible. When dealing with any issue, awareness that I am not the body, or the feeling of peace, or feeling of surrender to God / Brahman should be there. After the issue is over, again surrender to God and be neutral. Things which are compulsory cannot be avoided, but optional things like watching late night movies, enjoying late night dinners, etc can be replaced with sattivik activities like meditation, reading shastras, listening to spiritual songs.


Once a man can meditate for 3 hours and excels in spirituality, many issues do not occur in life. God clears the way and helps one to practice spirituality. So do not think of ifs and buts, just go ahead.


What is the need to stay detached and live spiritual life?


Our worldly enjoyment is temporary. When there is no expectation from anyone and when one does not react to the presence / absence and the behaviour of others, peace within does not gets disturbed. One experiences constant peace and bliss and is definitely long lasting then worldly happiness. As one excels in advaita meditation, feeling of peace and bliss stays for a whole day. One definitely needs to live a spiritual life, which is more stable than normal average life.


Do Advaita Vedantins believe and respect others spiritual paths like duality, Yog, Karma Kand, tantra etc?


Definitely. A True vedantin does have any superiority complex or consider other paths as useless. Only thing, which is necessary, is to think that Advaita path suits me the best. Vedantin bends in front of others paths, Gods and Gurus of different paths and sects, but practices only one path i.e. advaita Vedanta. Vedantin stays indifferent to other paths, but does not dis-respect them. Vedantin never quarrels with anybody but prefers to stay neutral and silent [8].




[1] Mandukya Upnishad

[2] “Who am I”, Sat Darshan Chalisi (40 verses on Reality), Self Enquiry – Sri Ramana Maharshi

[3] Sri Ramana Gita Chapter 7 – Eligibility to practical Atmavichar (Self Enquiry)

[4] Tatva Bodh – Adi Shankaracharya

[5] Vivek Choodamani (Chudamani) – Adi Shankaracharya

[6] Bhagawat Gita

[7] Sri Ramakrishnadev – Jivan Charitra in Gujarati, Sri Ramakrishna – The Great Master by Swami Saradananda, Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by M.

[8] A discourse on Bhagawat Gita


Disclaimer: The author has NO intention to hurt, challenge any system or faith.





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