These lectures on the topic of "Viveka-chudamani"- The Crest-Jewel of Wisdom of Sri Shankaracharya were delivered by Swami Tattwamayananda at the Lake Tahoe Retreat of the Vedanta Society of Northern California (founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1900) on July 14 - 22, 2018.
Introduction to “Viveka-chudamani" - The Crest-Jewel of Spiritual Wisdom
Sri Shankaracharya holds a pre-eminent position among the world's master-minds and spiritual teachers.
'Viveka-chudamani' is one of his introductory treatises (traditionally called 'prakarana-granthas') on Advaita Vedanta and is usually studied and memorized by students who learn Advaita Vedanta according to our old orthodox tradition. Being an original work of Sri Shankara's genius in 581 verses, the wonderful book contains a lucid and poetic exposition of the basic tenets of Advaita Vedanta in the form of a lively dialogue between the Guru and the Sishya (disciple) culminating in the highest Advaitic experience of the disciple. The book deals with topics like the value of human birth ( verses: 2,3,4,), qualifications of the disciple and of an ideal teacher (34, 35), the important disciplines to be practiced (16-19), the seven fundamental questions and their answers dealing with subjects like bondage, liberation, Atman, etc. (51), the instruction of the Upanishad Mahavakya `TATTWAMASI’ (तत्त्वमसि) (242-253), etc. Sri Shankaracharya's work, though a masterly philosophical classic, has a unique practical approach, dynamism, and movement that will not fail to sustain the interest of a serious student of Advaita Vedanta from the beginning to the end.
Before Sri Shankaracharya, the idea of Advaita or Non-Dualistic philosophy existed because it is as old as the Rig Veda itself, but the formulation of a complete and compact philosophical structure, expounding its metaphysics, ontology, cosmology, logic, and epistemology was entirely his contribution.
Considered to be an important preparatory text that should be studied and memorized before one steps into the more difficult works like the bhashyas on the "Prasthanatraya", "Viveka-chudamani" is lucid, simple and exhaustive in its treatment of the fundamental doctrines of Advaita Vedanta.
(The verse numbers indicated in these lecture-series may vary from some other versions of the text).
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.
All Original Content © Vedanta Society of Northern California
9 - Pure Intelligence and Discerning Wisdom: Precious Tools in Spiritual Life | Swami Tattwamayananda
Verses: 16, 18, 51, 375, 424, 472, 517, 518
-The most significant problem in spiritual life is the lack of a discerning mind.
-Dispassion and spiritual awareness are essential in spiritual life, just as two wings are necessary for a bird to fly in the air.
-The problem of spiritual slumber and the need for spiritual awakening
-The need to develop a natural capacity to instinctively avoid wrong associations
-Re-capitulation of the seven questions (verse: 51, class 3)
-Going beyond desire, egotism and mind-functions
-‘Krtartha’(कृतार्थता) and ‘Krtakrtyata’ (कृतकृत्यता) in life
-The disciple's final salutations to the teacher
8 - Maya: Concealment and False Projection | Swami Tattwamayananda
Verses: 145, 142, 143, 138
- King Parikshit's story
- Unexpected traps in spiritual life
- The ocean of worldliness: birth, disease and death
- Controlling the mind and the clear perception of the intellect
- How the supreme realization can be attained through disciplining the mind and purification of the intellect
- Direct realization is the goal of life
7 - The Spiritual Journey from Concept/Idea to Experience | Swami Tattwamayananda
Verses: 320, 325, 326
-Evolution from idea/faith/concept to real experience
-How all delusions vanish with the dawn of Advaitic experience
-Need for constant vigilance and alertness in spiritual life
-The great statement ('Mahavakya'): 'TATTVAMASI' ( तत्त्वमसि) explained
-Analysis of the two 'padarthas' (पदार्थ) : 'tat' (तत्) and 'tvam' (त्वम्)
-Reference to 'Nimi-Navayogi-Samvada (the dialogue between the philosopher king Nimi and Nine Sages from the Bhagavata Purana)
6 - Maya: "How Does It Function?"
Verses: 143, 145, 138, 129, etc.
Questions 1, 2, and 3: "What is bondage?" - Its mystery
-The mystery of Maya. How does it work in our life?
Answer: Concealment of our true nature and false projection.
-The way out of Maya: sadhana-chatushtaya (साधनचतुष्टप, the four spiritual disciplines: Ref: class:2), ‘shravana’ (श्रवण), `manana’ (मनन), `nididhyasana’ (निदिध्यासन) & devotion (bhakti), and eventually, through Moksha.
-Atman, the non-participating witness
-Turning the flashlight into our own mind, being a witness of our own life, our own emotions, thoughts, impulses, attitudes and feelings
-Linking ourselves to the transcendental
-`Satipatthana sutta’ Buddha's discourse on mindfulness
5 - Paramatman, the Witness of the Waking, Dreaming and Deep Sleep States | Swami Tattwamayananda
Verses: 126, 127, 128, Q&A verses: 125, 134
The 6th question: `What is Paramatman?'
Answer: 11 verses beginning with the 127th
-I, the witness of the three states of consciousness is distinct from the five sheaths. ('panchakoshavilakshana' (पञ्चकोशविकलक्षण))
-Atman is the illuminator of all objects - the light of all lights – ‘Jyotisham jyoti’ (ज्योतिषम् ज्योति) (Jyotirbrahmanam - Brhadaranyaka Upanishad)
-The purpose of all spiritual practices, the teacher, the scriptures, etc. is only to remove the obstacles that stand in the way of our spiritual liberation.
-Atman is self-evident.
-Advaita does not reject or deny other paths.
4 - Decoding the Mystery of 'Maya' | Swami Tattwamayananda
Verses: 110, 111, 113.
The 5th question: What is anatman?
Answer to the 5th question continues:
- Analysis of the Non Self (anatman):
- Maya: the beginningless and the indescribable
- Maya: beyond description
- The mystery of creation: the Advaitic perspective:
- The nature of the world and its origin.
Avidya, Sakti, composed of three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas.
Negative theology (Via Negativa) of Advaita Vedanta
The three powers in Maya:
- The power of false projection (vikshepa-sakti (विक्षेपशक्ती))
- The power of concealing the true nature of the reality (avarana-sakti (आवरणशक्ती)).
- Jnana reflected in the sattva-guna, one of the three constituents of Maya.