Introduction to Advaita Vedanta
Wednesdays 8:00 - 9:00 PM
Introduction - September 9, 2015
Course Starts September 16, 2015
The study of Vedanta is the study of ourselves. Each and every one of us is searching, knowingly or unknowingly, through all of our thoughts and actions, for happiness and contentment. We also foster deeper, unresolved questions in our hearts such as "who am I", "where do I come from", and "is there a God". Vedanta study helps clarify these and our other deep queries, and in a methodical, step-by-step manner. It demonstrates that I am not this small limited, suffering being, but that which is looking through these eyes and thinking through this mind is no other than the infinite, unchanging, limitless universal consciousness.
In the text Tattva Bodha is written by Sri Adi Guru Sankaracharya, who is considered as the greatest teacher of Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) history has seen. He lovingly answers these and many other questions and introduces aspiring students to the basic principles of Vedanta. This preliminary text is presented in the form of a dialogue between the Guru and the disciple. The disciple asks with genuine eagerness and the Guru answers with patience, depth and precision.
Personally, I am looking forward to this wonderful opportunity of starting a deep and methodical study of Vedanta at our center in Fremont. It will offer a thorough introduction to the principles of Advaita Vedanta, and should be a good stepping stone for those interested in gaining an understanding of and pursuing the path of Self inquiry.
The course will take around 3 to 4 months.
There is no fee for the course. Donations are welcome.
Yoga is a complete system, as it is designed to balance body, energy and mind, it offers tools for coping in a balanced, stress-free way with life, it shows us ways of understanding ourselves deeply, and it helps us find our center. With a little effort and regular practice, one receives many benefits.
This 8-session course includes both practice of yogic techniques and an introduction to meditation practice. Each class consists of one and a half hours of yoga Asana (postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises), relaxation, and meditation theory and practice, guidance in establishing and deepening one's personal yoga and meditation practice, as well as introduction to various aspects of yoga philosophy and their application in our daily lives.
Whoever you are and whatever is your life-style, incorporating some yoga practice into your daily life can do wonders!
Sundays 10:00 - 11:30 AM, Starting August 16, 2015
Sliding scale donation: $80 - 120
Retreat days are a wonderful opportunity for retreating from our daily activities and lives and immersing ourselves in reflective practices. The programs are designed to refresh body and mind and lend inspiration to our spirit. During the program we engage in various aspects of yoga and Vedantic theory and practices - asana, pranayama, relaxation, mantra chanting, positive thinking, meditation and Self-inquiry, the latter being the subtlest and most important, the others prepare the spiritual aspirant for inquiry. In each retreat day, a chosen theme is focused on in order to delve deeper into our understanding of the topic, immerse ourselves in its practice, and gain insight into its application in daily life.
Sunday August 9, 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Meditation is a mysterious ladder which reaches from earth to heaven, from error to truth, from darkness to light, from pain to bliss, from mortality to immortality.
-- Swami Sivananda
We practice meditation as a tool for withdrawing within, letting go of extraneous thoughts and worries, connecting with the Divine, and having a deeper understanding of ourselves. With regular practice, one starts feeling some of the benefits during the practice as well as in daily life. With sincerity and extended practice, “chitta-vishalata” or a feeling of expansion of awareness and an increased feeling of internal balance and clarity are developed. During this retreat day, we’ll introduce three aspects of meditation practice.
The first aspect is dhaarana, or concentration. The practice trains us to have an increased level of subtle concentration. We are used to concentration on grosser, external objects, which are experienced through the senses. In meditation practice, we train ourselves to keep our attention stable on subtler things, such as the breath, mantras and uplifting concepts. Dhaarana helps tackle one of the obstacles on the spiritual path, namely vikshepa or mental restlessness.
The second is focusing on uplifting ideas. Most of our thinking has to do with mundane or “worldly” activities and situations or random thoughts and emotions. In meditation practice, we learn to bring our attention to subtle ideas that expand our vision. One focuses on an ishta devata or deity or an uplifting idea such as light, the expansiveness of the sky or unconditional love. This ideation engages the mind to a greater extent and adds additional dimension to the practice.
Lastly, vicaarana or introspection will be introduced. I have a vague idea about who this is looking out into this big world through my eyes, ears, etc. I know I’m somewhere in here, in this body and mind complex, but cannot put my finger on what and who I actually am. Imagine, we go through our whole lives without knowing this basic fact! With guidance, with a mind less disturbed by external objects and situations, with proper preparation and effort, one starts having a clearer idea about his or her true inner being.
Schedule for the day
8:00 AM Mantra Chanting, Meditation and Talk - "Dhaarana - stabalizing the mental attention".
10:00 AM Yoga Asana and Pranayama class
12:00 PM Vegetarian Brunch
1:30 PM Workshop - "Chitta Vishalata - Expansion of Attention".
3:00 PM Workshop - "Vicarana - Introspection"
4:30 PM Conclusion
- Please pre-register by email
- The program is on a donation basis
The Bhagavad Gita is a conversation between Krishna, who represents our higher nature, the teacher, or God, and Arjuna, an individual like you or me. The discussion takes place on the battlefield, when a large war between cousins is about to start. The battlefield symbolizes our inner struggles as well as the battle of daily life. Arjuna has great difficulties in facing his elders, relatives, and friends in the battle, just as we have a hard time shaking off old habits that have become very near and dear to us, even though they cause us havoc! Krishna leads Arjuna step-by-step through the various aspects of yoga philosophy, giving him tools and encouragement to boldly face the battle, i.e. face the world and himself.
The Bhagavad Gita is the major scripture on yoga philosophy and its application in daily life. The title literally means The Song of God or The Divine Song, and chanting it is quite enchanting. Mahatma Gandhi used to study this scripture on a regular basis, and Albert Einstein claimed that "When I read the Bhagavad Gita and reflect about how God created this universe everything else seems so superfluous."
The philosophy and practical application or the teachings are introduced and discussed in each session.
Sundays 11:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Resuming on June 14th with Chapter 4
Avyaktaadeeni bhootaani vyaktamadhyaani bhaarata
Avyakta nidhanaanyeva tatra kaa paridevanaa.
Beings are unmanifested in their beginning, manifested in their middle state,
O Arjuna, and unmanifested again in their end! What is there to grieve about?
- - Bhagavad Gita II 28