Advaita Vedanta: A Method

Learning Outcome:-

  1. Develop a clear understanding of Advaita Vedanta as a method, and the ramifications of that.
  2. Gain a comprehensive understanding of Advaita epistemology and its role as a key to understanding the vision of the Upanisads.
  3. Connect the epistemology to Advaita ontology and the fulfillment of its soteriological end.

In this course, we will examine the methods (prakriyas) used in the Upanisads to reveal the existence and nature of the non-dual reality.  We will begin with a basic discussion of Advaita epistemology to understand the important claim of the Upanisad that it provides, not just information about the non-dual reality, but the means through which one can directly know it. First, we will undertake a close reading of Sankara’s introduction to the Brahmasutra, and commentary on Taittiriya Upanisad 2.1.1 to establish the core principles of superimposition and negation as well as implicative statements. With these parameters, we will study dialogues in the Mundaka, Taittirya, and Mandukya Upanisads that employ the foundational method of inquiry into cause-effect, and also, the methods of analysis of the levels of our waking experience and analysis of the three states of waking, dream, and sleep. Throughout, we will be connecting what we discover to the soteriological aim of Advaita Vedanta—release from human suffering and the cycle of birth and death.

Required/Elective: Required

Prerequisites: Introduction to Advaita Vedanta

Faculty/Instructor: Swamini Agamananda Saraswati

Quarter Offered: Winter 2020

Area of Study:- Hindu Studies Foundation 

Freedom and Reality: An Introduction to Advaita Vedanta

Learning Outcome:

  1. Effectively analyze the nature of the human problem and the scope of knowledge and action as means (sadhana) for solving it.
  2. Understand Advaita Vedanta’s epistemology and its relevance to the human problem.
  3. Gain clarity on the Advaita view of reality and non-duality.
  4. Learn the prerequisites for the knowledge of Advaita and the means to gain them.
  5. Recognize and analyze the differences between some modern and ancient interpretations of Advaita. and the traditional view of Sankara.

The vision of Advaita Vedanta is that one, non-dual consciousness is the content of you, the world, and the cause of the world. It is both immanent and transcendent and can be known by a human being who has equipped himself/herself with the necessary prerequisites.  This knowledge, contained in the Upanisads, releases the individual from the problem of human suffering. In this course we will explore the nature and substance of this liberating knowledge through key dialogues in some of the major Upanisads, using as a guide the commentary of Sankara, Advaita’s seminal exponent. We will also explore the qualifications required for this knowledge and the prescribed means for acquiring them. In conclusion, we will examine some competing views on Vedanta, including modern interpretations. The course is designed to introduce in a comprehensive but accessible way, the vision of Advaita Vedanta.

Required/Elective: Required

Prerequisites:  Must have completed or been concurrently enrolled in Orientation in Hindu Studies 

Faculty/Instructor: Swamini Agamananda Saraswati

Area of Study: Hindu Studies Foundation 

Start Date: July 17, 2022

End Date: September 18, 2022

Day: Sunday

Time: 09:00 am EST – 12:00 pm EST (6.30 pm IST – 9.30 pm IST)

Quarter Offered: Summer 2022

Introduction to Bhagavadgita

Learning Outcome:-

  1. Gain a comprehensive and consistent overview of the Bhagavad Gita as both a moksha-shastra and a yoga-sastra.
  2. Understand the scope and relevance of the pursuits of knowledge and action in the Bhagavadgita.
  3. Be able to resolve paradoxes and seemingly competing viewpoints in the verses.
  4. Gain clarity on the meaning of moksa, karmayoga, bhakti, and meditation, in the Gita.
  5. Discern some of the paradigms that underlie various interpretations of the Gita.

The non-dual vision presented in the Gita has its origin in the Upanishads, where it is revealed through a teacher-student dialogue. Consistent with this, the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita are delivered through a dialogue between Lord Krishna and Arjuna. Unlike the Upanisads, the Gita discusses at length the participants in this dialogue. The Gita also goes much further than the Upanisads in expanding the discussion of the philosophical teachings, approaching them from a variety of perspectives, sometimes precipitated by a question from Arjuna. Its uniqueness, however, lies in its elaboration of the necessary conditions for understanding its core teaching, and the means, including Ashtanga Yoga, for creating those conditions.  Our inquiry into the vision of the Bhagavad Gita presented in this course is based on the commentary of Sankara, the principal exponent of non-duality, advaita. Sankara’s is the earliest extant commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, and arguably the most consistent, as will be demonstrated in the course of our study through an examination of paradoxical verses. As we proceed, we will also gain a clear understanding of the meaning of moksha, karma yoga, bhakti, and meditation, as presented in the Gita. And throughout the course, we will see, over the shoulders of Arjuna, the relevance of the teachings of the Gita to our lives today.

Required/Elective: Required

Prerequisites: Admission to the program of study/Must have completed Orientation to Hindu Studies or Concurrently enrolled in OTHS.

Faculty/Instructor: Swamini Agamananda Saraswati

Quarter Offered: Fall 2021

Area of Study:- Hindu Studies Foundation 

Start Date:- October 9, 2021

End Date:-  December 19, 2021

Day:- Saturday & Sunday

Time:- 03:00 pm EST – 04:30 pm EST

Orientation to Hindu Studies

Course Content:

This course will offer a preliminary reflection on the central themes and ideas of Hinduism leading to an understanding of the common foundations of the great variety of traditions and practices within the umbrella of Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism. It will survey the central ideas of Hinduism – covering an Ontology of key Sanskrit terms and the principal ideas that are central to the cosmology, practice, and expressions of Sanatana Dharma. It will include reflections and perspectives on these core concepts, using selected readings from source texts such as the Vedas, Upanishads, Itihaasa, Bhagavad-Gita and Puranas. But it is not a Hinduism 101 course!
The course will also review the complex challenges that arise at the confluence of Hindu and western thought. The Hindu worldview based on Dharma with its emphasis on duties and responsibilities and sustainability of life will be contrasted with contemporary ideologies and their focus on rights and privileges, competition, exploiter-exploited binary, and survival of the fittest. The distinction between a discourse of knowledge and a discourse of power will be drawn out, as two alternate paradigms. Through this, the course will develop an overview and insight into the design of the curriculum offered by the Hindu University of America i.e., the context, and the paradigm that informs that design. It will examine the impact of colonial
discourse on postcolonial Hindu experience and leave students with the pressing urgency of intellectual decolonization. And as it distinguishes between colonial perspectives that constitute the received knowledge on Hinduism, from the lived reality of Hindus, it will present the significance and importance of Hindu studies today, in a deeply moving, inspiring and transformative way.

Course Learning Objectives:
In this course students will be able to:
a) Explore alternate paradigms, various options and trajectories available within the Hindu Studies Program
b) Distinguish the central ideas and concepts that constitute the Foundations of Hindu Dharma
c) Evaluate different elective areas of study and Courses offered: Sanskrit Studies, Texts and Traditions, Yoga Studies, History and Method, Post-Colonial Hindu studies and Conflict and Peace studies.
d) Distinguish between pathways towards a deep study of Hindu thought, or towards deep engagement with western thought from a Hindu perspective
e) Discover and Create pathways for engagement with the Hindu Studies curricula

Class Structure:
There will be a minimum of 1.5 contact hours with one or more faculty every week. The class is structured in a way that promotes discussion and debate based on self-study and reflection each week. While the content being discussed in each class will be concluded within 90 minutes, the discussion time will be free format, and can continue for an additional 30 minutes. During the course, students will be required to submit one short essay. They need not be academic quality papers – but should be based on students' self-reflection on what they have learnt and assimilated so far, and what has touched and inspired them deeply.

Area of Study: Hindu Studies Foundation

Program: Certificate Program in Hindu Studies (C.P.H.S), Community Education Program (C.E.P), Doctor of Philosophy in Hindu Studies, Master of Arts in Hindu Studies (M.A.H.S)

Required/ Elective: This course is a prerequisite for admission into Masters’ and Doctoral program in Hindu Studies. It is also a required Core course for the Certificate Program in Hindu Studies.

Prerequisites: None.

Faculty: Mr. Kalyan Viswanathan(along with others)

Time: 09:00 pm EST – 10:30 pm EST

Start Date: October 14, 2022

End Date: December 23, 2022

Day: Friday

Quarter Offered: Fall 2022