73 episodes

Swami Tattwamayananda’s class on Srimad Bhagavad Gita is held at the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco (founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1900) on Friday evenings in the First Universal Hindu Temple in the West (founded by Swami Trigunatitananda in 1905). Classes are held on Friday night at 7:30 pm. All are most welcome.

The Srimad Bhagavad Gita is the most important spiritual classic of Hinduism.

Swami Tattwamayananda, currently the Minister of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco, (originally founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1900) served in various centers of the Ramakrishna Order in India as editor, publisher, and teacher of Sanskrit, Advaitic texts such as Sri Shankaracharya's commentaries on the 'Prasthanatraya' (the fundamental Sanskrit texts of Vedanta philosophy), Buddhism and Indian philosophy. He underwent traditional training in Hindu scriptures, Sanskrit, Vedic and Vedantic literature for many years, from his early days. Before coming to the United States in January 2012 he was teaching Sanskrit, Vedantic scriptures and Indian philosophy at the Training center in Belur Math, the institution that trains the monks of the Ramakrishna Order at the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission, Kolkata, India. Apart from his traditional education, the Swami has also received modern University education in English literature, psychology, European history, and Western philosophy. He is frequently invited for lectures on Yoga, Vedanta, and traditional Hindu scriptures and for participating in interfaith dialogues.

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All Original Content © Vedanta Society of Northern California

Bhagavad Gita | The Essence of Vedant‪a‬ Vedanta Society, San Francisco

    • Spirituality
    • 4.6 • 19 Ratings

Swami Tattwamayananda’s class on Srimad Bhagavad Gita is held at the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco (founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1900) on Friday evenings in the First Universal Hindu Temple in the West (founded by Swami Trigunatitananda in 1905). Classes are held on Friday night at 7:30 pm. All are most welcome.

The Srimad Bhagavad Gita is the most important spiritual classic of Hinduism.

Swami Tattwamayananda, currently the Minister of the Vedanta Society of Northern California, San Francisco, (originally founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1900) served in various centers of the Ramakrishna Order in India as editor, publisher, and teacher of Sanskrit, Advaitic texts such as Sri Shankaracharya's commentaries on the 'Prasthanatraya' (the fundamental Sanskrit texts of Vedanta philosophy), Buddhism and Indian philosophy. He underwent traditional training in Hindu scriptures, Sanskrit, Vedic and Vedantic literature for many years, from his early days. Before coming to the United States in January 2012 he was teaching Sanskrit, Vedantic scriptures and Indian philosophy at the Training center in Belur Math, the institution that trains the monks of the Ramakrishna Order at the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Mission, Kolkata, India. Apart from his traditional education, the Swami has also received modern University education in English literature, psychology, European history, and Western philosophy. He is frequently invited for lectures on Yoga, Vedanta, and traditional Hindu scriptures and for participating in interfaith dialogues.

For more:
Web: www.sfvedanta.org
Livestream: https://livestream.com/sfvedanta
Facebook: www.facebook.com/sfvedanta
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/SFVedanta
All Original Content © Vedanta Society of Northern California

    71 - Spiritual and Non-Spiritual Temperaments | Swami Tattwamayananda

    71 - Spiritual and Non-Spiritual Temperaments | Swami Tattwamayananda

    -7th chapter: verses 14, 15, 16. 16th chapter: verses 1, 2, 3, 4
    -The lecture was given by Swami Tattwamayananda on February 19, 2020.
    -14th verse: “Those who take the help of Vidya-maya, they eventually transcend Maya.”
    -Brahman is the only Absolute Reality. Vedanta defines something as real if (1) it remains without change in the past, present and future (2) It is beyond time, space and causation and (3) it remains without change in waking, dream and deep sleep states.
    -The world we live in is a relative reality. It is not absolutely real, but it is not absolutely unreal either.
    -The relativity of the relative world is understood only when we understand the absoluteness of the absolute reality, when we realize the supreme truth. Then we understand that our experiences in this world are relative.
    -In a semi-dark room, we may mistake a rope to be a snake. When we bring light, what we formerly misunderstood to be a snake is now recognized as a rope. As a snake, it is unreal. As rope, it is real.
    -Similarly, a jeevan-mukta, who has transcended the relative, he continues to live in the world. To him, the world as a distinct entity does not exist. He experiences the world as non-distinct from Brahman.
    -In Vedanta, there are two levels. As philosophy, it is at the level of duality. As experience, it is non-dual. Brahma Satyam Jagat Mithya is only an approach to the highest reality from a philosophical level. At the highest experience level, it is Brahma Satyam Jagat Satyam. To reach this highest experience level, we have to meditate on the absoluteness of Brahman, and the relativity of the world.
    -Advaita, as an experience, is silent. Advaitic truth can only be experienced – it cannot be explained. Scriptures only help to remove wrong notions from our mind.
    -In the 15th and 16th verses, Lord Krishna unfolds a unique kind of spiritual psychology illustrating that not everyone in the world is of the same type. He discusses the characteristics of people with negative traits and also of those who are spiritually inclined.
    -15th verse: “Those who do not devote themselves to Me, they are deluded, they commit sinful deeds and belong to the lowest human category, they have no discerning wisdom, they are caught by Maya, and they follow the path of evil-doers.”
    -Verse 4 of 16th chapter provides the characteristics of people with negative temperament. Their six characteristics are: ostentation, arrogance, self-conceit, anger, rudeness and ignorance. Later verses of the chapter provide 18 additional characteristics of such people.
    -16th verse: “People endowed with sattva-guna are of four types. (1) Those who take to spiritual life due to distress (2) those who are aspirants of knowledge (3) Those who want wealth (4) Those who are wise. Among these, the highest type are the wise ones, who understand that God is present in everything, everywhere.
    -Shankaracharya, in his commentary on the 16th verse, explains that the first three categories of people pursue mechanical spiritual practices. Their bhakti is apara-bhakti. The bhakti of the fourth category is the highest - their bhakti is para-bhakti.
    -Verses 1, 2 and 3 of the 16th chapter provide 26 characteristics of people endowed with divine wealth. Examples of such characteristics are fearlessness, purity, interest in scriptures and practice of non-violence.
    -A spiritual seeker should practice friendliness (Maitri) towards fellow spiritual seekers, practice compassion (Karuna) towards those who are less evolved, practice happiness (Mudita) towards those who are more evolved, and practice a filtering attitude (Upeksha) towards those who may shake his faith.
    -We progress in spiritual life by acquiring more and more sattvic qualities. Once we are saturated with sattva-guna, we cannot but turn to the higher reality for all our needs. Any spiritual practice that we do to develop more satt

    • 1 hr 10 min
    70 - Transcending Maya | Swami Tattwamayananda

    70 - Transcending Maya | Swami Tattwamayananda

    -7th chapter: verses 14, 15, 16
    -Absolute Reality is the only sat. Vedanta defines something as sat (real) if (1) it remains without change in the past, present and future (2) It is beyond time, space and causation and (3) it remains without change in waking, dream and deep sleep states.
    -One can look at the river in two ways. One way is to look at the momentary changes – waves, high tides, and low tides. Another is to look upon the waves and tides as constituted by the same water that constitutes the river – they emerge, exist and dissolve in the river. The river is the only reality.
    -Similarly, behind all everyday challenges, which come and go, there is one Absolute Reality. Every right-thinking person can experience it. Once we become aware of it, we begin to understand the mystery of life, and can remain calm in the midst of life’s challenges.
    -Maya is the mystery that we experience in daily life, that defies human logic and has no satisfactory answers. For example, we assign permanence to something that we know is inherently impermanent. Maya deludes us into thinking that we are this body, nothing else.
    -All of us experience Maya in our everyday life. It is beyond logical comprehension, cannot be explained in words or cognized with the mind, and is a great mystery. We understand the relativity of maya only when we come out of it. Describing maya within it is impossible.
    -Even those who read many scriptures, who teach these scriptures, who expound the highest philosophy – even such people are sometimes bound by Maya. Transcending Maya is a matter of our own evolution, when our scriptural study also defines our actions.
    -Even an intellectual understanding of Maya and the unreality of sense pleasures, helps us develop a unique spiritual common sense, maturity of outlook and sense of modesty.
    -14th verse: “Those who devote themselves to me, they transcend Maya.”
    -Prapatti is the highest state of a devotee of God. Prapatti means complete surrender and is composed of the following characteristics. (1) Always having a positive outlook in life, full of sattvic qualities such as serenity, wisdom, compassion, and broad mindedness. (2) Rejecting all the opposing qualities such as skepticism and self-doubt. (3) Strong faith that God will protect me. (4) Total self-surrender.
    -Once we transcend Maya, it cannot come back. A spiritually enlightened person, who has transcended Maya, understands momentariness of empirical situations, and won’t be affected by them.
    -When a magician performs magic, only the magician is real. The magic is delusion. If one concentrates on the magician, he will not be deluded by the magic. Similarly, God is the magician and real. By concentrating on Him, we won’t be deluded.
    -When we focus on a higher transcendental ideal, our thoughts get a spiritual orientation. It is called Vidya-maya. It liberates us. Avidya-maya binds us. The purpose of spiritual practices is to turn Avidya-maya into Vidya maya. Swami Vivekananda said: “The world is a gymnasium for us to work out our karmas”.
    -How our mind responds to situations depends on its constitution based on the three gunas. Sattva guna manifests itself as wisdom and serenity. Rajo guna manifests itself as dynamism and ambition. Tamo guna manifests itself as laziness and jealousy.
    -Sri Ramakrishna gives the example of three thieves to explain the three gunas. A person is caught by three thieves. The thief representing tamo-guna wants to kill him. The thief representing rajo-guna wants to bind him. The thief representing sattva-guna takes him to the main road and shows him the way to his home. He refrains from joining him though. Reaching home is like reaching the highest state, which is beyond all three gunas – sattva-guna can only help.
    -15th verse: “Those who do not devote themselves to Me, they are deluded, they commit sinful deeds and b

    • 55 min
    69 - Maya – The Great Wonder| Swami Tattwamayananda

    69 - Maya – The Great Wonder| Swami Tattwamayananda

    -The lecture was given by Swami Tattwamayananda on January 29, 2020.
    -7th chapter: verses 11, 12, 13, 14
    -Lord Krishna first teaches Arjuna to evolve a sense of duty consciousness. Later he teaches him karma yoga – learning to do duty without selfish purpose. This is a matter of one’s evolution. One should first do duty with desires. As he evolves, he will learn to do the same duty without selfish desires, with a refined, healthy ego - he evolves from Sakama Karma to Nishkama Karma.
    -11th verse: “Of the strong, I am their strength that is devoid of desire and attachment. I am that desire in all beings, which is not opposed to Dharma.”
    -The strength of a great person who uses it for the good of others, the genius of a scientist or a poet or a musician who uses it for noble purposes – that transcendental touch is an expression of the divine.
    -12th verse: “Sattva guna, rajo guna and tamo guna – they all proceed from Me. They all exist in Me. But I am not in them.”
    -The Lord is the master of the three gunas. The three gunas constitute the totality of all human experiences, such as changes of mood and temperament.
    -13th and 14th verses discuss Maya. Lord Krishna says that those who devote themselves to Him, the Divine Reality, they are saved from the entanglement of Maya.
    -In life, we encounter situations that defy human logic and have no satisfactory answers. For example, good people may run into difficulties while the opposite kind may have a good time. We may help someone but end up not being in good terms with them. These unknown, unpredictable situations are the manifestations of Maya.
    -Sri Ramakrishna describes two types of Maya. Vidya-Maya, which creates the desire to do good deeds and liberates us. Avidya-Maya, which creates the desire to selfish deeds and binds us.
    -Objects in the world are not maya. Our outlook towards them determines whether we end up in vidya maya or avidya maya. A car used for selfish purposes can bind us in avidya maya. But an ambulance used for noble purposes can liberate us with vidya maya.
    -Maya functions at the level of three gunas. When dominated by sattva guna, it is vidya-maya. When dominated by rajo and tamo guna, it is avidya maya.
    -Sattva guna manifests itself as wisdom and serenity. Rajo guna manifests itself as dynamism and ambition. Tamo guna manifests itself as laziness and jealousy. It is better to have rajo guna than tamo guna, and it is better to have sattva guna than rajo guna. A person with sattva guna can be very active without selfishness and attachment, he connects with higher ideas and develops spiritual common sense.
    -When a magician performs magic, only the magician is real. The magic is delusion. If one concentrates on the magician, he will not be deluded by the magic. Similarly, God is the magician and real. By concentrating on Him, we won’t be deluded.
    -Vedanta defines something as sat (real) if (1) it remains without change in the past, present and future (2) It is beyond time, space and causation and (3) it remains without change in waking, dream and deep sleep states.
    -Maya is composed of two sounds: “Ma”, which negates and “Ya” which is a pronoun and refers to something real. So, it is there, but it is not really there.
    -Maya is not sat. It changes – therefore, it is relative. Maya is not asat either, as it is not Absolutely unreal. It is not a combination of sat and asat either. Only Brahman is sat.
    -Maya is anadi (without a beginning), but not ananta (it is not eternal). These aspects of maya are realized only when we go beyond maya.
    -Maya is neither endowed with parts nor devoid of parts, nor a combination of the two. If it were endowed with parts, it cannot be anadi. If it were devoid of parts, it cannot be the cause of evolution.
    -All of us experience Maya in our everyday life. It is beyond logical comprehension, cannot be explained in

    • 1 hr 3 min
    68 - Everything is an Expression of the Divine Reality | Swami Tattwamayananda

    68 - Everything is an Expression of the Divine Reality | Swami Tattwamayananda

    -The lecture was given by Swami Tattwamayananda on January 22, 2020.
    -7th chapter: verse 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
    -3rd verse: “Among thousands of people, very few strive for a spiritual life. Among those who sincerely strive for spiritual life, very few realize the truth.”
    -Not many people can think beyond the immediate and empirical. Even when some incidents in life make them seek a higher meaning of life, it may not last long due to the effect of Maya. Only a small percentage of people genuinely ask “what lies beyond”, and with that, they begin their spiritual life.
    -4th verse: “My lower prakriti – Apara prakriti or Kshetram - is eightfold. The first five are the subtle dimensions of the five elements: earth, air, water, fire and space. The remaining three are mind, intellect and egoism.”
    -5th verse: “My higher prakriti – para prakriti – is the principle of consciousness by which the entire universe is sustained. Everything is made conscious by the presence of this inner, divine spark.”
    -6th verse: “These two prakritis are the source of all. I am the origin and the dissolution of the universe.”
    -Creator is present in his creation. As we evolve, our understanding of God evolves from a monotheistic God to its highest state as one all-pervading reality, that is present everywhere and in everything. It is the essential totality of the whole universe – everything is an expression of this divine reality.
    -7th verse: “There is nothing beyond Me, and there is nothing distinct from Me. Everything in this world is strung in Me, like jewels on a thread. “
    -Per Shankaracharya, long threads constitute a piece of cloth. The cloth and the threads are not distinct from each other. Without the thread, there is no cloth. Similarly, the creation and creator are the same. It is not a philosophical construct, but a matter of one’s own experience.
    -Everything in this world is able to exist, and the essence of its existence is not distinct from this divine reality that is present everywhere. According to Satkaryavada, the cause and effect are not different – the effect pre-exists in its cause.
    -Everything that we experience and perceive, using our mind and the senses of perception and action – all these constitute the divine reality, which is like an ornament made of jewels strung together on a thread.
    -8th verse: “I am the sapidity in water, I am the radiance in the moon and sun, I am OM – the essence of the Vedas, I am the sound in akasha, I am the manliness in every man and the womanliness in every woman.”
    -9th verse: “I am the sweet fragrance in the earth, I am the brilliance in the fire, I am the life in all beings, and I am the austerity in the ascetics.”
    -10th verse: “I am the eternal seed of all beings, I am the intellect of the intelligent and heroism of the hero.”
    -Every entity in the world has something within it that makes it what it is, and which gives it its identity. That essence in everything is an expression of the same divine reality. The great qualities, found in everyone, which constitute the identity of that person – they are an expression of this divine reality.
    -Even in the greatness of the great, in an empirical sense, there hides within them the seed of their downfall. But great men, who understand the limitations of the empirical, realize that all their powers come from a higher source. That makes them spiritual.
    -11th verse: “Of the strong, I am their strength that is devoid of desire and attachment. I am that desire in all beings, which is not opposed to Dharma.”
    -True strength comes when it is devoid of pride and is enriched by a sense of renunciation and non-attachment.
    -Shankaracharya says in Vivekachudamani that adharmic desires bring one’s destruction. A ball thrown from the top of a staircase won’t stop until it reaches the bottom. Similarly, adhar

    • 1 hr 8 min
    67 - Jnanam and Vijnanam| Swami Tattwamayananda

    67 - Jnanam and Vijnanam| Swami Tattwamayananda

    -7th chapter: verse 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
    -The lecture was given by Swami Tattwamayananda January 15, 2020.
    -Gita’s eighteen chapters are divided into three sections, each with six chapters. The first section deals with the knowledge of spiritual practice. The second section deals with the knowledge of Bhagavan. The third section deals with knowledge of Atman.
    -Advaitic scholars also treat the three sections as interpretation of the mahavakya: Tat Tvam Asi. First section deals with Tvam. Second section deals with Tat. Third section deals with the unity of jivatma and paramatma. It represents our evolution in understanding of God.
    -1st verse: “With the mind completely intent on Me, taking refuge in Me, learn from Me and know Me in full, without any doubt”
    -2nd verse: Lord Krishna explains Jnanam and Vijnanam. Jnanam is the knowledge of God from books. When that knowledge becomes a reality in our life, because of our own real experience (anubhuti), it is called Vijnanam. Then every thought, word and deed become sacred.
    -In the beginning, there is a line of demarcation between the secular and spiritual. When one progresses, eventually, one reaches a stage where this line is broken, and every secular activity becomes spiritualized. In the beginning, it is “work and worship”. Later it is “work as worship”.
    -Sri Ramakrishna said: A jnani reasons about the world through neti-neti. To a Vijnani, Brahman alone has become everything, and the world is a mansion of mirth. A jnani is like a person who has just heard of milk. A vijnani is like a person who has drunk the milk, enjoyed it and is nourished by it.
    -We cannot choose to be a vijnani – it is not a concept. It is not a matter of choice – rather a matter of where we stand right now and how we evolve. We reach vijnanam through spiritual practices and by going through the stage of jnanam.
    -How does a vijnani live in this world? Even at the highest stage, he falls back to the empirical level and lives like normal people. Whatever he does, it involves a spiritual element. This is seen in great spiritual teachers such as Sri Ramakrishna. Another example is of King Janaka, who lived like a rajarshi.
    -Rajarshi is a person who has the dual qualities of a king (Rajatvam) and a saint (Rishitvam). As a king, he has great prosperity, dynamism and efficiency. As a saint, he has a calm attitude, can see far into things, and understands the limitations and impermanence of his wealth and powers.
    -3rd verse: “Among thousands of people, very few strive for a spiritual life. Among those who sincerely strive for spiritual life, very few realize the truth.”
    -Not many people can think beyond the immediate and empirical. One of the reasons is that most people examine the value of everything by its tangible utility.
    -This verse is similar to one from Dhammapada, which says: “It is very difficult to get human birth. Among them, very few desire to live like a cultured human being. Among them, very few follow the law of dharma. And among them very few reach enlightenment.”
    -Human birth is a golden opportunity. Once we realize that there are many others who will reach the stage of human birth only after many life cycles, it should give us renewed confidence and a different perspective on life.
    -4th verse: “My lower prakriti – Apara prakriti or Kshetram - is eight fold. The first five are the subtle dimensions of the five elements: earth, air, water, fire and space. The remaining three are mind, intellect and egoism.”
    -According to Sankhya philosophy, from prakriti comes mahatattva, then ahamkara, then mind, senses, and the subtle elements.
    -5th verse: “My higher prakriti – para prakriti – is the principle of consciousness by which the entire universe is sustained. Everything is made conscious by the presence of this inner, divine spark.”
    -Creator is present in his creation.

    • 1 hr 23 min
    66 - Bhakti - Supreme Devotion to God | Swami Tattwamayananda

    66 - Bhakti - Supreme Devotion to God | Swami Tattwamayananda

    -The lecture was given by Swami Tattwamayananda January 8, 2020.
    -6th chapter: verses 46, 47; 7th chapter: verse 1
    -6th chapter, 46th verse: “This Yogi is superior to the Tapasvi (one who practices extreme asceticism), superior to the Jnani (one who is a mere scholar), and superior to the Karmi (one who follows rituals).”
    -Scriptures, asceticism and rituals have their place in spiritual evolution. However, a seeker should not stop there. He should go beyond. After traveling some distance, he should have genuine inquisitiveness about the higher truth – that’s when his real spiritual journey starts.
    -6th chapter, 47th verse: “Of all the Yogis, the one whose self and mind is always merged in God with shraddha, devotion, love and sweetness – he is the greatest.”
    -The attitude of bhakti (devotion) makes the spiritual journey a sweet and enjoyable experience, even in the midst of difficulties that the seeker may face. Many great mystics had to face difficulties – they were able to withstand them with the love and sweetness of their devotion.
    -Mumukshu is one who aspires to enter the path of Yoga. He starts his journey with Karma Yoga, surrendering the fruits of actions to God. However, such surrender is not easy and can involve effort and strain. Combining karma-yoga with devotion, the mumukshu can turn it into a sweet, enjoyable experience.
    -Both Narada Bhakti Sutra and Shandilya Bhakti Sutra define Bhakti as the “nature of supreme devotion to God”.
    -Sadhana bhakti is the means and sadhya bhakti is the goal.
    -Sadhana bhakti is of two types: (1) Vaidhi bhakti, where the devotee is still evolving and performs daily rituals such as prayers and reading of scriptures. (2) Gauna bhakti, which expresses itself through the three gunas, as sattvic bhakti (serene, contemplative), rajasic bhakti (externally expressive) and tamasic bhakti (crude expression of bhakti).
    -Sadhya bhakti is of two types: (1) Prema bhakti, where the devotee doesn’t feel any strain. Devotion for him is a sweet, enjoyable experience – he transcends time, effort and strain. (2) Para bhakti, where the devotee feels total identification with God.
    -If prema bhakti can be brought to everyday activities, where we can do our work as an offering to God, then that work becomes a means for us to enjoy inner serenity, and to achieve freedom from strain.
    -In the 47th verse, Lord Krishna says that the highest devotee is one who is devoted to God in the most exalted sense of the term - who has reached sadhya bhakti, prema bhakti and para bhakti – where life itself becomes an occasion for celebration, every moment becomes enjoyable, and every thought, word, and deed becomes spiritualized.
    -7th chapter, 1st verse: “With the mind completely intent on Me, taking refuge in Me, learn from Me and know Me in full, without any doubt”
    -“Me” in this verse refers to Brahman in Advaitic tradition - not just one deity, but God as understood and conceived by different traditions. Gita says that irrespective of what path one follows, it leads to the same destination, that is prescribed in Gita itself. Rig Veda says: “Reality is one; sages call it by different names.”
    -Gita’s eighteen chapters are divided into three sections. In the first section, Jnanam means knowledge of spiritual practice. In the second section, Jnanam means the knowledge of Bhagavan. In the third section, Jnanam means Atman.
    -A devotee should see the world as a manifestation of God’s magnificence. With this attitude, he will evolve and ultimately reach a point, where he understands that the world is relative – he will evolve from duality to non-duality.
    -In modern times, it is best to practice karma-yoga, but with a spiritual ideal in mind. It is difficult to practice any of the three yogas – karma yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga – in isolation. They have to be combined. A karma y

    • 1 hr 5 min

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