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Lectures on Vedanta

Nondualist Vedanta theology as propounded by Sri Shankara (four lectures)

Professor M Narasimhachary
1 May 2002

This is a course of four lectures on the Nondualist (Advaita) Vedanta theological system as propounded by Sri Sankara, the 8th century CE Hindu theologian. The aim is to focus on the contribution of Sankara to Vedanta theology in general and to Nondualist Vedanta in particular. Theistic Vedanta, articulated by later Vedanta theologians such as Ramanuja, Madhva, and Vallabha, cannot be fully understood without a proper understanding of the works of Sankara.

Related: Hindu Theology, Vedanta

Hindu non-dualism (advaita) in theory and practice (eight lectures)

Dr Godavarisha Mishra
16 Oct 2003

A series of eight lectures

Related: Hindu Theology, Vedanta

Sankara's Upadesa Sahasri

Dr Godavarisha Mishra
20 Oct 2003

Related: Hindu Theology, Vedanta

Madhvacarya's mitigated monotheism

Wahlstrom Lecture
Dr Deepak Sarma
31 Oct 2003

In this lecture Dr Sarma will examine the distinguishing characteristics of Madhva Vedanta, a school of Hindu theism that was developed in the 13th century by Madhvacraya. He will explore, in particular, the kind of God that Madhvacarya envisioned.

Related: Hindu Theology, Vaisnava, Vedanta

The dvaita-advaita controversy

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor K. Maheswaran Nair
27 Jan 2005

K. Maheswaran Nair (Professor, Department of Sanskrit, University of Kerala)

Related: Hindu Theology, Vaisnava, Vedanta

Advaita: Vedantic and materialistic

Majewski Lecture
Professor K. Maheswaran Nair
8 Feb 2005

K. Maheswaran Nair (Professor, Department of Sanskrit, University of Kerala)

Related: Vedanta

Advaita views on consciousness

OCHS consciousness seminar
Jean-Marie Schmitt
22 Feb 2005

Related: Consciousness, Vedanta

Advaita Vedanta and the Kerala renaissance of the 19th century

Professor K. Maheswaran Nair
24 Feb 2005

Related: Modern India, Vedanta

Advaita-tattvam (delivered in Sanskrit)

Shivdasani Lecture
Professor K. Maheswaran Nair
7 Mar 2005

Related: Sanskrit, Vedanta

Semantic history of Vedanta and its implications for the study of Indian philosophy

Shivdasani Seminar
Professor Ashok Aklujkar
28 Apr 2005

Related: Philosophy, Upanisads, Vedanta

The adequacy of language: Re-evaluating Shankara's understanding of the Veda

Majewski Lecture
Dr J. S. Hirst
2 Mar 2006

If ultimate reality is beyond language, how can language comprise the only valid method of acquiring knowledge of it? And if no language whatsoever can describe ultimate reality, what guarantee could there be that what Vedic language purports to disclose is anything other than a chimera?

These are problems that lie at the heart of Shankara's Advaita Vedanta, but occur, in different guises, in a wide range of religious traditions. They are problems which raise questions about text and interpretation, about 'revelation' and the ways in which language is held to work. They require us to reflect on how we know what we know. They challenge us to define in what senses, if any, the ultimate may be said to be ineffable.
In this lecture, I shall re-examine the work of the famous Indian non-dual commentator, Shankara (c.700 A.D.), who held that ultimate reality (brahman) is beyond language and who frankly admitted that the Veda has no authority once brahman is known. I shall, however, challenge interpretations of his work which assume that language is inadequate to its task and so locate knowledge of the ineffable either in some kind of mystical experience or in the secondary or poetic use of language. I shall argue that, in Shankara's view, the language of the Upanishadic Vedic texts is precisely adequate to its task, given the epistemological and hermeneutical strategies the Veda provides for the Advaitin commentator to deploy.

Related: Veda, Vedanta

The place of devotion and grace in Shankara's soteriology

Graduate Seminar
Jean-Marie Schmitt
8 May 2006

Related: Hindu Theology, Vedanta

How much of yoga did Shankara accept in his formulation of Advaita Vedanta

Shivdasani Seminar
Professor T.S. Rukmani
11 May 2007

Shankara opposes the dualistic Yoga as much as the Samkhya in his Brahmasutrabhasya and other works. But one clearly sees that his opposition does not extend to the methodology of Yoga. He generally speaks favourably of yogic practices and even accepts the siddhis of Yoga. Sankara mentions the threefold sravana, manana and nididhyasana as of paramount importance for brahman-realization. While sravana is translated as hearing and studying the relevant sacred texts and manana as reflection on what one has learnt from the texts, nididhyasana is usually translated as samadhi as well as dhyana. Samadhi and dhyana are already well defined terms in yoga philosophy and one struggles to find a proper understanding of the word nididhyasana in Advaita Vedanta. Sankara tries to define nididhyasana but is not able to convincingly point out the distinction between dhyana/samadhi and nididhyasana. It is this difficulty that makes one, like Sadananda, the author of the Vedantasutras, define nididhyasana in a two-fold manner as savikalpaka and nirvikalpaka samadhi, and blur the difference between yogic samadhi and Advaita Vedanta nididhyasana. This paper discusses these various issues.

Related: Vedanta, Yoga

Hindu Theology: Session Two - The Vedanta commentarial tradition 1

Professor Gavin Flood
4 Feb 2010

The course will present an account of the Vedānta commentarial tradition and discuss detailed readings of key texts. We will begin with Śaṅkara’s commentary on the Brahma-sūtra 1.1.1 and his advaita interpretation.

Reading: Śaṅkara Brahma-sūtra bhāṣya translated by Swami Gambhirananda (Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1983).

Related: Hindu Theology, Vedanta

Hindu Theology: Session Three - The Vedanta commentarial tradition 2

Professor Gavin Flood
11 Feb 2010

We will continue our inquiry into the Vedānta with an examination of Rāmānuja’s commentary on the same text. We will begin to understand the nature of the commentarial tradition as a discussion about the nature of truth across the centuries and the different theological positions developed through history. We will also examine a section from Rāmānuja’s Vedāntasāra.

Reading: Rāmānuja, The Vedāntasūtras with the Commentary of Rāmaṇuja translated by G. Thibauty, Sacred Books of the East Series (MLBD: Delhi, 1976).

Related: Hindu Theology, Vedanta

Negative Flashes of Neti Neti and Realisation of Brahman

Shivdasani Lecture
Dr Diwakar Acharya
22 Feb 2010

The Mūrtāmūrtabrāhmaṇa (II.3) of the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad introduces the néti néti formula and explains it. From Sanskrit commentaries we can gather that this formula was traditionally interpreted in two ways. The second of them, the one adopted by Śaṅkara, has become the favourite of most of the modern translations; the first interpretation has not attracted the attention of a modern scholar.

On the other hand, a very competent scholar like Geldner (1928) has made an exception and interpreted the formula in an extra-ingenious way, as double negation, which was never considered in the tradition. This interpretation has now been revived in Slaje 2009. This asks us to re-examine the issue, and I will do so in my lecture by rereading the related portions of the Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad.

Related: Upanisads, Veda, Vedanta

Transforming Traditions 3: Innovation in the Theology of Madhusudana Sarasvati

Transforming Traditions Series
Dr Sanjukta Gupta
13 Feb 2012

Related: Hindu Theology, Vedanta