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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: TBD

End Date: TBD

Day: TBD

Time: TBD

Quarter Offered: TBD

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: Winter 2021

Area of Study:- Hindu Studies Foundation 

Start Date:-  January 9th, 2021

End Date:-  March 21st, 2021

Day:- Saturday & Sunday

Time:- 03:00 pm EST – 04:30 pm EST

Orientation to Hindu Studies

An overview and insight into the design of the curriculum offered by the Hindu University of America. A survey of 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. The course – orientation to Hindu studies- will include reflections and perspectives on these core concepts, using selected readings from source texts such as the Vedas, Upaniṣhads, Sutras, Itihaasa, Bhagavad-Gītā, Purāṇas and Dharma-Śhāstras. The Hindu world-view 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 and survival of the fittest. The distinction between a discourse of knowledge and a discourse of power will be drawn out. 

In this course students will be able to: 

  1. Explore various options and trajectories available within the Hindu Studies Program
  2. Distinguish the central ideas and concepts that constitute the Foundations of Hindu Dharma; Reflect on the Hindu Studies Foundations area.
  3. Inquire into and evaluate different elective areas of study and Courses offered: Sanskrit Studies, Texts and Traditions, History and Method, Post-Colonial Hindu studies, and Conflict and Peace studies.
  4. Distinguish between pathways towards a deep study of Hindu thought, or towards deep engagement with western thought from a Hindu perspective
  5. Discover and Create customized pathways for engagement with the Hindu Studies curricula

Area of Study: Hindu Studies Foundations

Prerequisites: This course is a recommended prerequisite for all students who wish to enter into the Graduate program.

Faculty/Instructor:  Kalyan Viswanathan (along with others) 

Day:- Every Thursday

Start Date:- January 14, 2021

End Date:- March 25, 2021

Time:- 09:00 pm EST -10:00 pm EST

Quarter: Winter 2021

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