Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Namarupa : Richard Schechner's notebook on his studies with Krishanamacharya

Thank you to Claudia (and Krishna ) for the heads up on this article from Namarupa.

Here's the teaser/intro that Namarupa provide.

RICHARD SCHECHNER'S NOTEBOOK 42
by Daniel Dale
Photographs by Eddie Stern


It was in the spring of 2009. I had just finished teaching a yoga class at a health club in Manhattan, when a man who had been waiting by the door entered and began to do his own practice. I immediately took note of his uncommon form. He was moving and breathing just as I had seen demonstrated by Srivatsa Ramaswami and A.G. Mohan, two notable students of Krishnamacharya’s. I begged the man’s pardon for interrupting, but asked if he wouldn’t mind my asking where he had learned to practice in such a way.
“I learned in Madras, back in the 70s,” he said. “May I ask, from whom?” I inquired, to which he replied, “You probably haven’t heard of him.” I believe I then said, “Try me.” I was soon glad I had persisted; much to my delight, he said he had studied with “a man named Krishnamacharya.” ... continued online...

And I did. I know of this magazine from an article Ramaswami wrote on his own studies with Krishnamacharya. I highly recommend it, only a couple of pounds/dollars to download an edition with the option of ordering the paper copy if you so wish.

The article on Richard's notebooks blew me away. He studied with Krishnamacharya in the 70's, only for a few months, but at the same time as my own teacher Ramaswami, perhaps they crossed on the stairs going up to Krishnamacharya's room.

So the description of Krishnamacharya, his style of teaching, what he was teaching, was familiar to me from all the stories Ramaswami had told of his 30 odd years with him. And yet here, in Richard's article, is Krishnamacharya teaching in English, and it's as if his teaching has been preserved in wax.


'Richard said K’s teaching methodology consisted of 4 steps. First, he would demonstrate. Then he would dictate the steps verbally and Richard would take notes and/or draw a picture. Then K had Richard do it while he dictated the steps. Lastly, Richard would do it on his own and K would watch without dictating'. p6

So in the article, Richard is flicking through his notebook for the first time in years, it's somehow like hearing a faint echo.... 

We're used to hearing Krishnamacharya 2nd hand, 10th hand, in translation, through a process of Chinese whispers. Ramaswami was taught by him in Tamil I believe, so even here as close to the source as you can now get, there's still a translation to English and a constant revisiting. It's Krishnamacharya but it's also Ramaswami (and perhaps all the better for it). That said I remember towards the end of Ramaswami's TT course seeing a copy of Krishnamacharya's Yogasanagalu, as I flicked through the 120 odd pictures of Krishnamacharya in asana I was struck by the thought, "This is exactly, exactly, what Ramaswami has been teaching us". The postures, the variations, all exactly the same.

With Richard's notebooks, there's such an immediacy,  I can hear Krishnamacharya's voice as if he's talking directly to me and in a sense he is.

"Later, he tells me how to organize my yoga notes for teaching. ‘Each section, yes, standing positions, laying positions, jumping, sitting positions, face up positions, face down.’ But for now, I must keep this book as it is, chronologically.” p22

This by the way is pretty much exactly as Ramaswami organized his book The Complete book of Vinyasa Krama.

And Krishnamacharya's teaching is preserved 'in wax' in another way too. Although he only studied four to five days a week for a couple of months, Richard has continued to practice, alone, for the last thirty years just as Krishnamacharya taught him. In a sense he's not part of the US 'yoga community/lifestyle as we tend to think of it, he's just someone who went to India and continued to practice the yoga he was taught there, just as he learned it. 

How refreshing is that.

It reminds me of how privileged I was to be able to study with Ramaswami, who also  continues to practice and teach just as Krishnamacharya taught him. And how just a couple of days before I read the article I had decided to go back to practicing Vinyasa Krama as Ramaswami had taught me....the article was a confirmation of sorts.

Is this what lineage is all about?

Perhaps I should consider a little teaching, passing on what was passed on to me.

Richard actually says something quite wonderful about lineage, here's a taster, buy the article for this alone

'Richard: Yeah. I mean, these documents also remain, but basically what remains is our students. And that can fetch back very far. I sometimes, in a class, say, okay, let’s say you’re fifty. You are in your vital time. Or, fifty-five. And you teach something really important to a five-year-old. And that five-year- old remembers it. And when that five- year-old gets to be fifty-five, she teaches it to a five-year-old. How far back can this class reach? So, it goes 2000, 1950, 1900, 1850. You know, it takes
twenty people to get back a thousand years'. p17

Love that.

Or get the article/magazine for the clear and precise instructions Krishnamacharya gives Richard on the breath, on certain postures, how he introduces him to pranayama after just a couple of weeks. Of how he invites him to teach, expects him to teach but only one student at a time, two at most. Or for where he recommends 45 minutes practice, an hour at most or for where he tells Richard,

Too many people battle and torture their way through yoga, go too fast.’ p22

But my favourite quote from the article comes right at the end.

"Going over the materials brought 1971 back again, clear as crystal. And K along with it all, his eyes, his delicate way of moving, his strength, his humanity. And the love and respect you and the others have. A great gift.”p25

Thank you Richard for Sharing your notebooks and all at Namupura for sharing them with the rest of us.

You can get this edition of Namarupa HERE

Srivatsa Ramaswami is teaching his 200 hour Vinyasa Krama teacher training, based on his own studies with Krishnamacharya HERE

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Vinyasa Krama is the new 3rd Plus Ramaswami's 200 Hour VK TT course

Well for me anyway.

Had the best practice this morning. Ashtanga rest day so switched to Vinyasa Krama and practiced the Bow and Meditative sequences with some inversions followed by Pranayama and Japa mantra meditation. Caught my heels for the first time in six weeks in Kapo too and really nice pranayama.

Interesting, this is my first long Vinyasa Krama practice in about six weeks, what with the month long, led primary with Sharath project. I've practiced a shorter VK and pranayama practice in the evenings but even this was interrupted by the tictac project, so nice to have a proper practice.

I've missed it. Ashtanga is great, love it, enjoy it, feel fitter and stronger, the detox aspect seems to work but somehow, the last week or two I can't help feeling that I've moved on, Ashtanga's no longer enough.

This is no criticism of Ashtanga, it's a vary personal reaction  but somehow the pranayama, the meditation, the chanting, my whole attitude to anything 'yogic' seem to marry better with Vinyasa Krama.

Perhaps it's just because I began to explore those areas while practicing Vinyasa Krama and associate them with it or maybe it's just that I'm too hot and sweaty after Ashtanga practice and don't like sitting on a sweaty Equa towel for pranayama. I know, I could change, and switch towels but it's more than that, somehow Vinyasa Krama practice seems to flow into pranayama, the longer slower breathing of that approach to asana perhaps. Could be why some Ashtangi's practice pranayama before their practice.

Ramaswami taught that the asana reduces the Raja's, the agitation, restlessness, then you practice pranayama to reduce tamas (eg. lethargy), setting you up perfectly, putting you at your most satvic, for your meditative practice. And It makes sense to me, the asana, pranayama, pratyahara all there to prepare you for a more effective meditation practice, to create the best conditions for concentration. Ashtanga is great for dealing with rajas but does it really put me in the best state for a concentrated, focussed meditation practice? For falling asleep in savasana perhaps but not for meditation. At least not me.

But then of course the argument is that Ashtanga combines everything, it is the meditation practice.

there's something else though, I don't know how else to put it. Ashtanga seems to dominate my practice, my day, I feel less relaxed, less calm,  less.... equanimous.

Also less flexible.

But that's OK it's been an excellent six weeks, sharpened up my primary, had a good detox.

I figure I'll just think of Vinyasa Krama as my 3rd series. Practice Primary on Fridays, 2nd series on Sunday ( for the detox and to keep my hand in) and Vinyasa Krama the rest of the week. I might still take a month of led 2nd to tidy it up, August perhaps. So still going to practice Ashtanga and my even my Vinyasa Krama practice has a kind of loose Ashtanga structure to it, Standing, main body, finishing etc.

Also I want to spend June/July shadowing Ramaswami's Vinyasa krama TT course. I have all my notes and have been wanting to revisit them, so when the course starts in LA I'll do the same asana here at home as I did last year and reread and chant the yoga sutras, Krishnamacharya's Makaranda etc, the pranayama and meditation and perhaps post on it.

Here are the details of Ramaswami's VK TT course, can't recommend it enough and if you want a second opinion here's Claudia, a card carrying Ashtangi on Ramaswami's 20 hour Yoga Sutra course last week.

Clic on the title below for the link and if you have any questions regarding the course feel free to contact me, email address is under contact me in the About me profile section of the blog.


200-Hour Vinyasa Krama Yoga Teacher Training

event_ramaswamiThe 200-Hour Vinyasa Krama Yoga Teacher Training program, which is registered with Yoga Alliance®, is open to those seeking intense study in the Traditional Yoga as learned from the legendary Yogi Sri T. Krishnamacharya.  Upon completion in the program, participants are eligible for Yoga Alliance® RYT® or E-RYTSM certification.  This 200-hour program, under the direction of Srivatsa Ramaswami, will impart a comprehensive and in-depth grounding to Traditional Yoga as learned from Krishnamacharya.  In the complete Vinyasa Krama series, the entire range of sequences, numbering about 700 with important pranayama, chanting and meditation methods taught by Krishnamacharya, will be explored.

Srivatsa Ramaswami is Krishnamacharya's longest-standing student outside the family. He has mastered Vinyasa Krama, Vedic Chanting, and Yoga Therapy.  He is a registered Yoga Teacher with the Yoga Alliance at the E-RYT500 (500 hour) level. This is the highest level of certification the Yoga Alliance offers. He has studied the classic Yoga texts extensively and has written countless articles, recorded more than 35 cassettes of Sanskrit mantra, and has written two books: Yoga for the Three Stages of Life and Krishnamacharya's Vinyasa Yoga.

General Information 

 Program Location Units Courses Tuition Enrollment
 Begins Jun 6, 2011
 Meets daily
6 Weeks
 Loyola Marymount Univ.
 1 LMU Drive
 Los Angeles, CA 90045
 20.0 YGPX 900.01
 (or individual
 courses)
 $3,300 March, 2011

This teacher training program runs six consecutive weeks in the Summer.  Classes meet in the morning, afternoon and evening daily.  Schedules and tuition are subject to change.  Additional fees may be incurred for housing, books and materials.  Please check the Web site for updates.  Submit an enrollment form for the program via direct mail, or contact LMU Extension at 310.338.1971 to handle your enrollment over the phone.  You can also register for courses individually online.

Following the guidelines outlined by Yoga Alliance® for registered 200-hour teacher training programs, this program qualifies participants to register for the 200-hour credential, as verified by Srivatsa Ramaswami.  This teacher training program may not be applied towards a Yoga Philosophy certificate.

Housing


Shared housing is available for a limited number of students during the program.  Students will be staying the Tendrich Apartments on the LMU campus for 41 nights.  The cost of housing (separate from tuition and related fees) is $1,845.  Students will be assigned two (2) to a room; four (4) to a two-room apartment.  Please contact us directly to make arrangements: 310-338-2799 or email yoga@lmu.edu.  Housing is limited and only open to those who have already registered for the program.  Housing is assigned on a first come, first serve basis.

SCHEDULE

The next cohort begins Monday, June 6, 2011.  Students enrolling in the teacher training are invited to attend a program orientation the evening of Sunday, June 5 prior to the start of class (schedule is listed below).  Students must make sure they are enrolled in 200-Hour Teacher Training (YGPX 900.01), which automatically enrolls in the student in the required courses necessary for the 200 hours.  Please contact the Center with any questions at 310.338.2358.

Student Orientation
Schedule: 
Sunday, June 5, 2010; 3:00 - 6:00 pm

200-Hour Teacher Training
Course Number: YGPX 900.01
Schedule: Monday - Saturday, June 6 - July 15, 2011; 8:30 am - 5:30 pm (holiday exceptions)


Required Courses

Students who do not intend to pursue the 200-Hour Teacher Training are welcome to enroll in one or more of the courses below for their own personal enrichment.  Otherwise, students pursuing the teacher training must enroll in 200-Hour Teacher Training (YGPX 900.01) as listed above.

Vinyasa Krama I
Course Number:
 HYTX 801.01
Schedule: Monday-Saturday, June 6-11, 2011; 8:30 - 11:00 am
Location:  Burns 239

Chanting Yoga Sutras and Subtle Anatomy
Course Number: 
YGPX 828.01
Schedule:Chanting Yoga Sutras: Saturday, June 11, 18 2011; 12:00-2:30 pm
Subtle Anatomy: Tuesday, July 5, 2011; 8:30-11:30 am, 1:00-3:00 pm
Location:  University Hall 1859

Vinyasa Krama II
Course Number: 
HYTX 802.01
Schedule: Monday-Saturday, June 13-18, 2011; 8:30 - 11:00 am
Location:  Burns 239

Raja Yoga (Yoga Sutra) Studies
Course Number:
 YGPX 820.08
Schedule: Monday - Friday, June 6-17, 2011; 12:30 - 2:30 pm
Location:  University Hall 1859

Pranayama Methods
Course Number:
 YGPX 906.01
Schedule: Monday - Friday, June 6-17, 2011; 3:30 - 5:30 pm
Location:  Burns 239

Anatomy and Physiology
Course Number: 
YGPX 896.02
Schedule: Wednesday-Thursday, July 6-7, 2011; 8:30-11:30pm, 1:00-3:00pm
Guest Instructor: Carl Flowers, MA
Location:  University Hall 1859

Vinyasa Krama III
Course Number: 
HYTX 803.01
Schedule: Monday-Saturday, June 20 - 25, 2011; 8:30 - 11:00 am
Location:  Burns 239

Independence Day (University Holiday)No Classes July 2, 3, 4, 2011

Vinyasa Krama IV
Course Number: 
HYTX 804.01
Schedule: Monday-Friday, June 27 - July 1, 2011; 8:30 - 11:30 am
Location:  Burns 239

Sri T. Krishnamacharyas's Works
Course Number:
 YGPX 904.01
Schedule: Monday - Friday, June 20 - July 1, 2011; 12:30 - 2:30 pm
Location:  University Hall 1859

Mantras and Meditation
Course Number:
 YGPX 855.02
Schedule: Monday - Friday, June 20- July 1, 2011; 3:30 - 5:30 pm
Location:  Burns 239

Yoga Business and Teaching Methodology
Course Number: 
YGPX 860.01
Schedule: Friday-Saturday, July 8 - 9, 2011; 8:30-11:30am, 1:00-3:00pm
Location:  University Hall 1859

Visesha Vinyasas and Vinyasa Krama
Course Number:
 YGPX 907.01
Schedule: Monday-Friday, July 11-15, 2011; 8:30 am - 12:30 pm
Location: TBD

Yoga for the Internal Organs
Course Number: YGPX 880.01
Schedule: Monday-Friday, July 11-15, 2011; 4:00-6:00 pm
Location:  University Hall 1859


INSTRUCTOR

blog_ramaswamiSrivatsa Ramaswami is Krishnamacharya's longest-standing student outside the family. He has mastered Vinyasa Krama, Vedic Chanting, and Yoga Therapy. He has studied the classic Yoga texts extensively and has written countless articles, recorded more than 35 cassettes of Sanskrit mantra, and has written two books: Yoga for the Three Stages of Life and Krishnamacarya's Vinyasa Yoga.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Advaita : Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami- May 2011

Warm May Day Greetings!

200 TT  PROGRAM IN VINYAKRAMA YOGA

My annual  200-Hour Vinyasa Krama Yoga Teacher Training
organized by Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California
(LMU Campus) is scheduled to start on June 6th 2011 and run for 6
weeks. You may look at the course description in the following link
http://www.lmu.edu/pagefactory.aspx?PageID=34949&PageMode=View
Registration is open and here is the link to be used to register for
200-Hour Vinyasa Krama Yoga  Teacher Training

http://registration.xenegrade.com/lmuextension/

For more details please write to  Johanna.Fontanilla  Yoga Coordinator
at
yoga@lmu.edu

310-338-2358

This program is registered with Yoga Alliance as a 200 Hr Teacher
Training Program.

    ********

YOGA MAKARANDA OF SRI T KRISHNAMACHARYA

Sometime in 2006, I met Lakshmi Ranganathan (one of the first students
of T. K. V. Desikachar) and her daughter Nandini Ranganathan who
showed me a copy of their English translation of my Guru Sri
Krishnamacharya's Yoga Makaranda ( I have  the Tamil translation of
the book for over 45 years and refer to it even today whenever I  want
to just shut up and listen to my Guru, Sri Krishnamacharya).. I
thought the translation was excellent. They gave me a hard copy to
read and said I could share it with anyone who may be interested in
Sri Krishnamacharya's works. In my TT course I have a subject “Sri
Krishnamacharya's works” in which I have included Yoga Makaranda and
this translation was used by the participants of the program who all
loved the book. It was a ten hour program and we went through the
entire text with discussions and demonstrations by the participants. I
understand that this is available as free downloadable file in a few
sites. If you are interested you can find it in the following link.
http://yogashalapdx.com/teachertraining/yogamakg.pdf

  *********

ADVAITA

My teacher Sri Krishnamacharya took considerable pains to teach
the Yoga Sutras to his students. He also wanted his students to study
and be familiar with other orthodox philosophies like Samkhya, and
Vedanta. The several Upanishads, the Gita and Brahma sutra he taught
to explain the rather tricky, involved vedanta philosophy, usually
following the visishta-advaita approach, though he also was adept in
advaita philosophy. He once said in the Brahma Sutra class to the
effect  that while Advaita could be intellectually stimulating it is
visishta advaita that will be emotionally satisfying.

Perhaps the most widely read orthodox Indian Philosophy is Vedanta and
especially the Advaita school. There are tons of material available on
this philosophy and many people interested in vedic thought study this
and gradually become lifelong students of Vedanta. Many long time Hata
Yoga practitioners have  taken up the study of Yoga as a philosophical
system and considerable material is available from both old and
contemporary writers in different languages especially English. And
some among the the yoga practitioners have taken an interest in
studying the vedanta philosophy also especially the advaitic
interpretation. In this however, the published material on Advaita
Vedanta available is so technical and involved that the difficult
subject is made more inaccessible by several portions which are very
technical. Profound and daring, albeit very ancient, this philosophy
stands out among all the vedic philosophies. I thought I could write
very briefly on the basic tenets of this thought process.

There are at least two things we need to have an experience, a subject
and  an object. When you and I sit at a table over a cup of coffee or
a can of beer or a more yogic glass of goat's or cow’s milk, I am the
subject and you are the object and it is the other way from your point
of view. We are two different entities and what does advaita say about
our relationship? Advaita says that there is only one principle , the
observer which is pure consciousness. It implies that there is only
one principle or entity that is pure consciousness that can be termed
as one having “Existance” (satya). Nothing else qualifies to be termed
“It exists“. So the term advaita refers to that one principle that
alone exists. Of course it appears to contradict our experience as we
converse as you and I.

Many Indian philosophies both vedic and non Vedic, endeavor to explain
the absolute beginning (aarambha) of the creation of the universe. The
several puranas have the narration of creation as an essential aspect
of purana. They explain how God created the Universe. There are other
views like those of the Samkhyas and Yogis who say the evolution of
the Universe began with the disequilibrium of the gunas in the
dimensionless  mulaprakriti. They do not see the need for a God to
create the Universe. The vaiseshika philosophy says that the universe
came about by the combination of various atoms of earth,  of water,
etc. and the atoms or paramanus are the basic building blocks of the
Universe. Further all these vedic darsanas are careful to point out
that there is also the individual self that is distinct and different
from the material universe created. Because they suggest two different
principles-- the consciousness and matter-- these philosophies came to
be called dwaita or dualistic. They also differ from the modern
scientific view which says that the universe started by the evolution
from a tiny but hugely dense entity called  singularity, but seems to
imply that individual consciousness is a product of matter and not an
independent entity—contrary to  the vedic philosophies.

Advaita as the name implies indicates that there is only one principle
and none else . That principle is pure non changing(sat)
consciousness(chit) which they call Brahman. How do they explain the
existence of the evolved Universe? Since there is only one principle
which itself does not undergo any change with time (avakasa) or place
(akasa) the evolved universe is not real but only an illusion and not
independent. When we attempt to find out the beginning of the
evolution we go back from the present. The classic examples of the
chicken and the egg or the seed and the tree are mentioned to indicate
the impossibility of finding out the beginning of the evolution. One
school of advaitins says that since the chicken-egg phenomenon
involves an unending chain of changes the beginning of which can not
be determined , so the very exercise of finding out how the universe
started (Aaramba vaada) is futile and all views about  how the
universe began are  wrong. In fact, accordingly, the several theories
about the beginning of the Universe cancel one another. The
impossibility of finding the absolute beginning also could open the
possibility that there is no real beginning and that the evolution of
the universe itself is not real- the world is not rock solid as we
see- and at best it is virtual. They assert that there was no real
creation. Gaudapada in his commentary of Mandukya Upanishad states
“nobody is ever born”

In this context I remember a movie I saw when I was young (I was
hardly sixty at that time). In the mystery movie, the young detective
was trying to find out who murdered “Victim X”. After two years of
painstaking investigations (and two hours of my painful viewing) the
detective is unable to find the killer, only because “Victim X” did
not die in the first place. Our detective started with a wrong
premise. I have been trying like crazy for 72 years to understand how
the world was created, poring over orthodox and contemporary
dissertations on the origin of te Universe and now some Advaitin says
that I can not find it because the world was never really created.

Advaita also asserts that a non-changing pure consciousness can not
produce a 'real' material world nor can a non-conscious prakriti,
paramanus or singularity  produce non-changing consciousness which is
the nature of our true self. So in our dualistic world the advaitin's
view is that only the consciousness is real while the persistent world
is unreal. In this context one may consider the statement of Einstein,
“Reality is merely an illusion albeit is a persistent one”. Reality
here  refers to the universe which we experience as real.
And advaita rubbishes the general perception that the Universe was
really created (sat karya), a universal, taken- for-granted view

The advaitins give several examples to explain the 'virtuality' of the
observed universe. They compare it to the space that we see in a
mirror; though the space that we see in the mirror may be considered
to be within the two dimensional mirror surface, it appears to be
outside (beyond and behind) of it. The other example is that of the
dream experience. In the dream, the space, the objects and the other
beings and even our own dream self can be considered to be taking
place within the dreamer's head but they all appear to be real and
outside, during the dream state . The third example they give is that
of the work of a magician who is able to create an illusion of space
and objects. At a higher level is the world created by Siddha yogis.
There is a story of sage Viswamitra creating an illusory heaven to
accommodate one of his disciples, King Trisanku. And the Lord who
created this virtual ‘universe of illusion’ is the most consummate
magician of all.

The Brahman, the only one existing-- the advaita--, is pictured as
even smaller than an atom (anoraneeyan) but is immensely dense
consciousness (prajnana ghana). Within it, due to the inexplicable
Maya the beginning less universe appears, only appears, to evolve and
exist and persist. Further even though the universe is within the
Brahman, it appears to be outside it. And that is the grand illusion.

There is an interesting episode about Lord Krishna as a toddler.
Krishan was a purna ‘avatar’ or complete incarnation of Para Brahman
or the supreme being. He was raised by his foster parents Yasodha and
Nandan in Gokulam. One day he was playing and his mother saw him
taking some dirt from the floor and putting it in his mouth. Concerned
the mother lifted him and asked him if he put dirt into his mouth.
Without opening his mouth the child  shook his head. The mother now
more concerned asked him to open his mouth. The child opened the mouth
wide and lo and behold! Yasodha saw the entire Universe in his mouth.
She had a bird’s eye view, rather an  eagle’s eye view (or a google
view) of the Universe including her holding the open mouthed divine
child in her arms. She realized that the child was para brahman (the
supreme being). The entire universe was within Him even as He appeared
as a child,  within the vast universe, like all of us. The Lord says
in the Bhagavadgita  “Everything is in Me but I am not in everything”

I, as I know myself, wrapped in this maya (maya=that which really is
not: the trickster), even though I am within the supreme
consciousness, the individual I, as part of the Universe  appear to be
outside of it, engulfing It, the Brahman. And consequently the supreme
consciousness, Brahman, appears to be within this physical me as the
Atman or the individual Self  ,in my heart cave (dahara). Now, though
I am in It , It (Brahman) appears to be within me as my Self or Atman.
The Upanishads tell us the means of finding It, within each one of us.
The pancha maya model is one such vidya or practice by which each one
can find the self within oneself, within the five kosas. It is an
exercise by which one knows the only real principle that exists, the
Brahman, the pure consciousness as one‘s self or Atman. The Self that
resides in my heart lotus (dahara) and the Self that you, sitting
across the coffee table , find in your heart lotus are one and the
same, the same  Brahman. That is advaita. Advaita does not mean all
the varied objects like you and I are one and the same, but the Self
within us are one and the same, even as they appear to be distinct and
different, shrouded by illusion.

There is a considerable amount of source material available on this
advaita pilosophy. The ten major Upanishads are the main source
followed by the Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavat Gita. In the Upanishads
the Vedanta philosophy is presented succinctly through anecdotes,
dissertations and dialogues between parent and offspring, teacher and
pupil, spouse and spouse, God and devotee, saint and sinner and friend
and friend. The advaitic interpretation is chiefly presented by Sri
Sankara through detailed commentaries on these major Upanishads,
Bhagavat Gita and also the Brahma Sutras. Sankara and some of his
pupils have also written several easily accessible texts on advaita
called prakrana granthas, like Atma bodha, Vivekachudamani and others.
Many of his works with some translations are available online. The
Upanishads themselves explain the philosophy in detail from several
viewpoints answering multitude of questions that may arise in the
followers’ mind. Several vidyas or dissertations help to have a clear
understanding of this old, unusual philosophy. They also contain some
very pithy statements which are used as mantras or memory aids and are
tellingly direct. Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahman), Pragnyanam Brahma
( Absolute consciousness in Brahman), tat tvam asi (You are That, the
Brahman) ayam atma brahma (this individual Self is Brahman) are the
most famous. Further there are other equally powerful statements like
Brahma satyam, Jagan mitya (Brahman is real/ existence, the Universe
is myth --mythya--illusion). Jiva brahmaiva na aparah (The individual
Self is definitely Brahman and none other).

What is the benefit of this kind of inquiry, especially to the
majority of us who muddle  through life rising with the tide and
rolling with the punches? The advaitins say that knowing the truth
about ourselves and the Universe is essential and they aver that this
is the truth. Truth should be known whether it is sweet, bitter or
insipid. Once we know the truth about ourselves and the universe
around us our interaction with the outside world  could drastically
change. The Yogis say that the external world ,predominantly, is a
constant source of threefold sorrow (duhkha). So say the Samkhyas. But
the advaitin goes a step further and says that to a discerning mind
the external world is not only a source of duhkha (barring individual
variations, look at the enormity of the threefold collective duhkha in
the world–self created, caused by other beings and by nature's fury)
but is itself an illusion. How much importance do I give to the dream
experience during dream time and then when I wake up? One tends to
shrug off the dream experience as 'just a dream' on waking up.
Likewise when my mind after study, contemplation and determination
finds that the world after all is virtual like a dream, I may not take
my transient worldly life with so much anxiety, expectation and
remorse as I seem to be doing all my life. An enormous amount of
psychological burden that I unnecessarily carry may be taken off my
mind then, and make me peaceful, hopefully. Furthermore, the thought
or realization that I am the non-changing majestic reality, the one
and only eternal Brahman, is just cool!!

   ****

Advaita Pranayama

While slowly inhaling meditate that the  virtual external world is
being withdrawn into the source, the Brahman in one’s heart. Next
during the breath holding (antah Kambhatka) meditate on the fact that
the Universe is within the Brahman and has no independent real
existence. Then while doing the exhalation meditate that the
illusionary universe is being renounced. And in Bahya  Kambhaka the
meditation is on the pure Brahman that alone exists as advaita.--
based  on Sankara’s work and Tejobindu Upanishad

      *****
A Sanskrit prayer

Death without distress
Life without dependence
Grant me, Oh! compassionate Lord Sambhu (Siva)
In Thee are established  all.

    ***

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Sincerely
Srivatsa Ramaswami

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