Commentators on Tantras

There are great scholars and practitioners of tantra who have done yeomen service to sAdhaka-varga through their commentaries. While abhinavagupata and bhAskararAya are well-known within and outside tAntric circles, many others remain unknown and under-appreciated. Mark suggested we remember such forgotten commentators and their contributions occasionally and as always, we never ignore a meaningful suggestion.


Well-known as the author of saubhAgya-subhagodaya and dIpikA, the commentary on yoginIhR^idaya, amR^itAnandanAtha was a disciple of puNyAnandanAtha of hAdi sect and flourished in the eleventh century. His other works include ShaT-trimshat tattva saMdoha, traipura siddhAnta prakaraNa, tripurasundarI tantra, tripurasundarI kalpa, chidvilAsa stuti and tippaNi on tripurA sAra-samucchaya of nAgabhaTTa. Of these, I have personally not seen any available manuscript of tripurasundarI kalpa; rest of his works are available scattered through the subcontinent.

brahmAnanda giri

brahmAnanda was the disciple of tripurAnandanAtha and lived in the sixteenth century. He is the author of shAktAnanda taraMgiNI and tArA rahasya. His shiShya is the well-known pUrNAnanda.

gIrvANendra sarasvatI

A disciple of vishveshvara sarasvatI, he authored the encyclopedic prapamchasAra sAra saMgraha based on shrI shankara bhagavatpAda’s prapanchasAra tantra. Some of his well-known disciples include bodhendra sarasvatI (author of advaitabhUShana and a commentary on AchArya’s Atmabodha), nR^isiMhAshrama (author of advaitadIpikA) and rAmendra (author of vaidikAchAra nirNaya).


Well-known as the guru of Raja Ram Mohan Roy, kulAvadhUta hariharAnandanAtha tIrtha authored commentaries on mahAnirvANa tantra an kulArNava tantra (kulArNava prakAsha). He belonged to a village named Palpada in Bengal and was known as nandakumAra vidyAlankAra in his pUrvAshrama.

kAshInAtha bhaTTa

kAshInAtha bhaTTa, known as shivAnandanAtha, lived in Benares during the seventeenth century. A prolific writer, he authored AgamotpattyAdi vaidika tAntrika nirNaya, kApAlika tantra vyavasthA, kAlikA bhakti rasAyana, kR^iShNapUjA taramgiNI, kaulagaja mardana, tantra siddhAnta kaumudI, dakShiNAchAra dIpikA, dakShiNAmUrti kaustubha, mantrachandrikA, yantrachandrikA, vAmAchAra mata khaNDana, vaidika-tAntrika adhikAri nirNaya etc. His commentaries include dIpikA and rahasyArtha sAdhikA on karpUra stava on bhagavatI dakShiNA kAlikA, on durgA saptashatI, gUDhArthAdarsha on jnAnArNava tantra, chakra samketa chandrikA on a portion of yoginI hR^idaya and commentaries on mantra mahodadhi of mahIdhara and shAradAtilaka. Well-known for his siddhis and realization, kAshInAtha displays his extensive knowledge of every branch of tantra in his masterpiece, kaulagaja mardana. I am told that his lineage today considers gopAlasundarI kalpa to be his work as well.

narasiMha Thakkura

Though little is known about him, except that he was the son of one gadAdhara, his works on tArA upAsanA are extremely precious. He is the author of tArA bhakti sudhArNava, tArA panchAnga, tArA paricharyA, tAriNI krama and mahAvidyA prakaraNa.

Premanidhi pantha

Son of umApati and uddyotamati, he was patronized by the rulers of Nepal in the eighteenth century. His works include antaryAga ratna, dIpaprakAsha, commentary on shAradAtilaka named shabdArthachintAmaNi etc. His commentary on the voluminous shaktisangama tantra (of which I have only seen incomplete copies) is truly a treasure.


A dAkshiNAtya brAhmaNa of kAshyapa gotra, he was the prashiShya of the great bhAskararAya and his dIkShA nAma was aparAjitAnandanAtha. His most well-known work is the commentary on parashurAma kalpasUtra called saubhAgya-shubhodaya, also referred to as subhagodaya sometimes.

Shaiva criticism of advaita, vishiShTAdvaita and dvaita

shrIpati, in his commentary on the brahmasUtra of bAdarAyaNa, criticizes the siddhAnta-s of shankara, rAmAnuja and madhva to establish his own school of thought based on shaivAgama, dvaitAdvaita. He expresses severe disagreement with shankara’s doctrine of mAyA and the unreality of the world. According to him, if the world is to be assumed to be real only for the purpose of vyavahAra and not pAramArthika, then the doctrine cannot be accepted as true. He disagrees with such a truth that is confined to vyavahAra. He refuses to accept such a truth which is:

1. Only applicable to vyavahAra (gamyatvam)
2. Outside vyavahAra (bAdhita)
3. True as well as untrue
4. The semblance of truth and yet not truth

He rejects that shankara’s philosophy cannot be acceptable to persons seeking salvation and accuses smArta-s of being sarvamatabhraShTa-s:

smArtAn.h sarvamatabhraShTAn.h jaganmithyAtvasAdhakAn.h |
gaNikAchArasampannAn.h pAShaNDAn.h parivarjayet.h ||

He also attacks rAmAnuja, according to who, individual souls are not identical with the paramAtman; they suffer from innate unbelief and not ignorance, while belief or love of Lord (bhakti), not knowledge, is the means of salvation or union with God. He disputes at length the pAncharAtra criticism that the studying of shiva purANa and worshipping shiva according to it, will result in sin, because shiva purANa is tAmasic. This is, he says, an invention of the pracChanna bauddhas (i.e. advaitins or nirvisheShavAdins!) and is groundless. Since vyAsa is the author of both shiva and viShNu purANas, he questions whether the tAmasatva extends to both the purANas or only to the former? If to former only, that position cannot be accepted as true. Then, again, does this tAmasatva extend to vyAsa’s works alone or both to his works and himself? If it applies only to his works and not to himself, then such a position is not logical. If vyAsa, as a sAtvika, authored viShNu purANa, then it is not acceptable that he turned tAmasic to author shiva purANa. In the veda, both Rudra and agni who are treated to be synonymous, have been praised. This being so, even the Vedas which thus praise shiva under these forms of Rudra and agni should be termed tAmasic. This pracChanna bauddha (it is unclear why advaitins are accused of such a prejudice against shiva instead of the vaiShNavas) invention cannot therefore be accepted. It is evident that during shrIpati’s time, completion between hari and hara cults had reached its zenith. The kind of arguments put forward by shrIpati against viShNu and his votaries are indicative of intense feelings of rivalry. shrIpati quotes haraduttAchArya who authored an entire work to establish the superiority of shiva over viShNu, hariharatAratamyam. He was also the author of chaturvedatAtparya samgraha which explains the essence of Vedas as being the adoration of Shiva as the Supreme God. shrIpati, along the lines of haradutta, tries to argue that the upAsanA devatA of gAyatrI is shiva and not viShNu. He seems to however forget that very same Agamas which he quotes as authority declare that panchAkShara is greater than gAyatrI and can alone grant mokSha, thus contradicting his own set of pramANas.

The word pracChanna bauddha was made popular by the at-times crass mAdhva author nArayaNa paNDita. nArayaNa paNDita talks of how shankara adopted the cardinal doctrines of Buddhism to suit his own nirvisheSha advaita theory and remarks that the variation has become known as the pracChanna bauddha theory:

asatpadesansadasadviviktaM mAyAkhyayA saMvR^itimabhyadatta |
brahmApyakhaNDaM bata shunyasiddhyai pracChannabauddho.ayamataH prasiddhaH ||

It is beyond my understanding why shrIpati criticizes advaitins in the context of refuting pAncharAtra. The Atman is anxious to unite with the blissful Brahman, and this, according to shrIpati, is the central subject of vishiShTAdvaita. He rejects this concept as being avaidika and reasons that being both simultaneously vishiShTa and advaita amounts to yukti-virodha (opposed to reasoning). He applies the daNDa-puruSha sambandha nyAya to prove this point. The man who carries a stick in his hand is called by the combined name of Dandi though he and the daNDa he carries are two different objects. Because he is related to the stick as its carrier, he is to be called by this single conjoint name of Dandi, affixing the vishiShTa pratyaya; both are c-related; not separate. An ordinary man who carries no daNDa calls the man who carries one, a Dandi. These two are two different persons and hence advaita is not proved here. The point is thus pressed home that vishiShTAdvaita is against all reason. The ordinary man without a daNDa, the man with daNDa and the daNDa itself are three different objects, and there being no union of the daNDa and the body of the man who carries it, there is no union between them, they are as different as the pillar and man. Thus, vishiShTAdvaita fails to fully explain the visheShaNa and visheShya; nor does it show how they can be compromised.

shrIpati also refutes madhva’s dvaita. It must be remembered however that his own shaiva theory is bhedAbheda, i.e. both bheda and abheda. But he does not agree with the bheda doctrine of madhva however admitting that there is a temporary or transient difference between jIva and Ishvara. The transient difference is, in his view, restricted to the time required for the jIva working out his emancipation after which he becomes Ishvara. He refutes the madhva view that the Creator of the world has bodily lineaments. He sees this as implying that the Creator also has rAga, dveSha, duHkha etc. which is not accordance with the shruti. If Brahman had a bodily form, he would be liable to destruction. He concludes that the vaiShNava and dvaita schools hold views which lead to confusion – rather they confuse themselves.

pratyAnItAH parama bhavatA trAyatAM naH svabhAgA
daityAkrAntaM hR^idayakamalaM tvadgR^ihaM pratyabodhi |
kAlagrastaM kiyadidamaho nAtha shushrUShatAM te
muktisteShAM na hi bahumatA nArasiMhAparaiH kim ||


- Philippe C

kAlachakra (Tib. Dukyi khorlo) means Wheel of Time. This text is not simply an astrological treatise, but a complete system of Tantric teaching and practice belonging to the class of non-dual Anuttara Yoga-Tantra, the highest of the Buddhist Tantras. The kAlachakra teachings operate at three levels.

External kAlachakra deals with the world and external phenomena. It is concerned with the study of the elements of the universe in their dynamic relations; that is, with the interactions of cosmic phenomena and their transformation in time. The Tantra deals with cosmology, chronology and all astrological calculations, and describes the formation and constitution of the universe and the planets, constellations and solar systems. The entire science of Indian Hindu astrology is described, along with its principles and its applications.

Internal kAlachakra deals with internal phenomena, namely the subtle composition of the body of the yogin. It deals with the nature and functions of the subtle channels (nADis), the energy centers (chakras) and the internal winds that circulate in them (prANa), and the essential drops of energy (bindu). The circulation of the vital winds in the channels and the chakras is linked to the cosmic energy of the stars and the planets.

The body is the basis for these subtle structures and is therefore considered a perfect universe, a maNDala, in which our limbs, our organs and chakras are sacred sites or the dwellings of gods. These deities are none other than our internal elements, our passions, our sensory awareness and so on - in other words, the combination of our mental and physical constituents in their original purity. This combination is known as the Diamond Body (vajrakAya).

The first two levels of kAlachakra are concerned with the external universe or macrocosm and the internal universe or microcosm, which are linked by a set of astrological correspondences. In order to reach enlightenment, the yogi must purify his gross perceptions regarding both external and internal.

Alternative kAlachakra describes the methods for purifying our impure perceptions. Before putting these methods into practice, the yogi must receive the transmission of power or initiation from a fully qualified master. He is thus placed in contact with the energy of enlightenment, which is incarnate in the deity kAlachakra. He then devotes himself to practice according to two complimentary systems:

1. In the development or creation stage (kyerim), the practitioner creates a visualization in which the whole environment becomes the maNDala, the pure realm of kAlachakra. He himself becomes the kAlachakra, the central deity of the maNDala, adorned with all of kAlachakra’s divine attributes. He thus purifies his gross perceptions and gradually develops a sacred perception in which all beings, all phenomena, and the world are luminous manifestations of emptiness. At the heart of this practice, the yogi recites the deity’s mantra and thus activates the energy of the deity’s word, from which he is not different.

2. In the perfection stage (dzogrim), continuing to visualize himself as the deity, he practices the yoga of the nADis, prANa and bindu. By means of this practice, he transforms his internal elements and comes to realize the state in bliss and emptiness are united, the mahAmudrA.

The history of kAlachakra and its arrival in Tibet is by no means simple. According to tradition, the root tantra of kAlachakra was taught by the Buddha shAkyamuni himself at the request of Suchandra, the king of Shambala; and it was at the stUpa of dhAnyakaTaka in South India, at the full moon of the third lunar month that the Buddha, then eighty years old, taught this tantra.

King Suchandra, an incarnation of vajrapANi, bodhisattva of enlightened energy, then returned to his kingdom and wrote the first commentary, kAlachakra tantra. Later, the first kulika king of Shambhala, manjushrIkIrti, wrote a condensed commentary, laghu kAlachakra and his son Kulika puNDarIka wrote an expanded commentary, vimalaprabhA. Thus the kAlachakra teachings were spread among the inhabitants of Shambhala.

What is this mysterious land of Shambhala that has caused so much wandering among travelers and esotericists? We shall quote in this connection two eminent masters of the kAlachakra tradition. According to the present Dalai Lama: “Although Shambhala is a spot situated in some part of this planet, it is a place that cannot be seen except by those whose mind and kArmic propensities are pure”. In other words, although one might locate Shambhala somewhere in the north of Asia, it is a sort of Pure Land and reaching it depends on the yogi’s purity of perception. Thus the Third Panchen Lama’s Shambhale Lamyik (Guide to the Road to Shambhala) describes the path as simultaneously physical and spiritual: “He who wishes to go to this land in this corporeal form must be a man possessing the strength of virtue and a knowledge of the Tantras. If this is not the case, he must fear lest the yakShas, nAgas and other wrathful beings of the same sort should kill him on the road. These demons on the road symbolize the emotional defilements and gross passions that present obstacles to our progress.”

For a description of the kingdom of Shambhala, we may turn to Khenpo Kalu Rinpoche: “The country of the deity kAlachakra is located in the north of this world. A great city is located there, the capital, to which are connected 9,600,000 secondary towns. The whole is called Shambhala and is surrounded by snowcapped mountains. In this realm, divinity exists in human form in an uninterrupted line of Kings who turn the wheel of many teachings of the dharma, principally kAlachakra. Thanks to this, innumerable disciples are established on the path to liberation”.

After seven great kings, including Suchandra, the lineage of the Kulika kings was founded. At present, Twenty-first Kulika king reigns in Shambhala, who ascended the throne in 1927. He will be succeeded my Miyi Senge in the year of the Fire Sheep of the seventeenth cycle (2027). It is predicted that under the Twenty-fifth king, Rudra the bearer of the wheel, a great war will break out in the year 2425 of our era between all the negative forces of the planet and the kingdom of Shambhala. The victory of the Kulika king will usher in a new era of prosperity on earth and the teachings of the Buddha will flourish again for eighteen hundred years. At the end of this period, 5104 years after the Buddha’s parinivANa, the teachings will fade. This is the story told of the kingdom of Shambhala and its relations with our world.

An Indian master, Chilupa, set out for the kingdom of Shambhala during the tenth century. On the way, he met an emanation of manjushrI, who gave him the complete transmission of the kAlachakra and its commentaries. On his return, toward 966, kAlachakra was spread in India, Nepal and Kashmir by certain of his disciples, including nAdapAda. It was these Indian masters such as Somanatha the Kashmiri and Atisa who introduced Tantra to Tibet in 1024.

At present there exist in Tibet three lineages of kAlachakra masters. The first, that of Dro, comes from Dro Lotsawa, who translated the Tantra into Tibetan. This lineage has been handed down in the Jonang school, and later in the Kagyu school, until the present day. The second, known as the Tsami tradition, was passed on by the Third Karmapa and the Kagyu school. The third, the Ra tradition, derives from Ra Lotsawa, a Tibetan translator who received the transmission from samantashrIbhadra in Nepal. This lineage was transmitted by Buton Rinchen Drup (1290-1364) and flourishes in Sakya, Geluk and Kagyu schools.

We may add that in our own time, the kAlachakra initiation has been given numerous times all over the world but very few people are able to practice the internal and alternative levels of kAlachakra.

[Harsha: There are numerous accounts of the siddhis possessed by kAlachakra yogins. Vanaratna, a master of kAlachakra from Nepal, is said to have voluntarily discarded his body sitting in a yogic mudrA in 1468 when a shower of flowers and rainbows were witnessed. During his cremation, the entire region of Nepal is said to have been covered by rainbows, an indication of his journey to Shambhala.

As to the history of kAlachakra, scholars trace its roots the Druids of Britain, who were handed this concept down from an older tradition. In essence, with all the maNDalas, sacred geometry, astrology and astronomy, the core of kAlachakra is kuNDalinI yoga, which gives this school the name the teachings of Fire or Agni.

The applications of the kAlachakra has resulted in numerous prophecies which have come true. In 1904, the oracle indicated that Lhasa would be occupied by a foreign power accurately hinting at the attack on the city by the British Military. Downfall of Germany was predicted before the end of the First World War and circulated throughout Tibet as a paper pamphlet, as was also a forecast of the Chinese Revolution in 1911. In 1933, the Dalai Lama confirmed an earlier prophecy by the Tenjyeling Monastery about the forthcoming end of Lamaism in Tibet.

It must be noted that though the concept of Shambhala has been adopted by the Buddhists, the oldest kAlachakra texts speak nothing about Buddhism. It is stated clearly that before Buddhism, other prevalent religions were taught in Shambhala and after Buddhism dies, as all religions must, Shambhala will continue to send forth new religious impulses into the world. Shambhala is directly linked to the current of Meru which waxes and wanes with the slow breathing of the cosmos. Sufi initiates also speak of wisdom transmissions from Shambhala into our world and speak of experiential glimpses of this land.

Modern scholars are quick to assert that the Hindu purANas gradually absorbed the popular notion of Shambhala and began to describe Shambhala as the place from which the tenth and final avatAra of Lord viShNu, Kalki will originate. Buddhists have a similar theme and associate Shambhala with raudra-chakrin, an incarnation of Manjushri. Some of the kAlachakra texts even refer to him as kalkin. The Mongolians similarly associate their savior Gesar-Khan with Shambhala. Much before these predictions, the ancient Bon tradition had predicted the appearance of the King of Olmolungring from Shambhala to bring back primordial wisdom to a world steeped in misery and darkness. But a study of the original kAlachakra texts clearly reveals that the kalkin concept was borrowed from Hindu scriptures such as mahAbhArata by the Buddhist tantras. VimalaprabhA even refers to mahAbhArata and kalki-purANa. In fact, the Tibetan rigs ldan mistranslated as Kulika by Westerners is in reality kalkin. It is easy to note thus that the kalkin was already a popular Hindu concept much before the advent of kAlachakra tantra.

kAlachakra tantra is remarkably different in terms of both content, practice and initiation from other yoga-tantras such as the guhyasamAja, hevajra and chakrasamvara. It is also described as the most efficacious tantra in kali yuga. During the generation stage of the kAlachakra practice, there are four steps involved.

1. The kAlachakra maNDala is generated with the kAlachakra and his consort vishvamAtA (the Mother of the Universe) in the center and eight yoginI-s in the inner maNDala. Then the other deities which form the womb of vishvamAtA are generated, laying thus a foundation for attaining the adamantine body of kAlachakra.

2. rAjottama karma: The deities of the maNDala are dissolved into the makuTa of the kAlachakra and regenerated from the garba (womb) of vishvamAtA. The regenerated deities are sanctified through seven initiations and sealed (mudrita) by the dhyAni buddha kulas (vajrasattva and vajradhAtvIshvarI in the guhya chakra, vairochana and tArA in the nAbhi chakra, amitAbha and pandaravAsinI at the phAla chakra, ratnasambhava and mAmakI at the vishuddhi chakra, amoghasiddhi and lochanA at the hrt-chakra and akShobhya and prajnApAramitA at the Crown chakra). This results in the attainment of the adamantine speech of kAlachakra.

3. Bindu yoga: Here the white bodhichitta, melted by the blissful heat, passes from the kAlachakra’s crown to the top of his vajra. This results in the attainment of the mind of kAlachakra.

4. sUkShma yoga: The Bindu is drawn back from the central channel to the crown, to realize emptiness and lay the foundation for the attainment of the transcendent insight of kAlachakra, which is experientially attained in the advancted stages of Completion.

The completion stage involves:

A. pratyAhAra: the vital airs are merged into suShumnA and the luminous form of kAlachakra and vishvamAtA are spontaneously realized in the AjnA chakra.

B. dhyAna: yogin meditates on the empty form of kAlachakra realizing the self as that empty form.

C. prANAyAma: the form of kAlachakra is moved to the nAbhi chakra where vishvamAtA resides as the inner fire. Through specific mantras and chaNDAlI kriyA (tummo or vase breath), the prANa and apAna are brought together and fire is aroused. This fire melts the bodhichitta bindu at the forehead and brings it down the suShumnA causing a rapture of bliss to the yogin.

D. dhAraNa: The white bindu is moved back up through the suShumnA and the yogin attains the non-duality of wisdom and bliss.

E. anumsrti: The yogin generates an empty and luminous form of vishvamAtA at the nAbhi chakra and employes either a real or a bhAvanAtmaka mudrA to generate bliss by stabilizing the shveta bindu at the vajra and the rakta bindu at the sahasrAra.

F. samAdhi: 21,600 drops each of rakta and shveta bindus are accumulated in the suShumnA which completely chop off the vital airs that form the basis of manifest samsAra. The yogin then realizes his state of enlightenment in the emptiness-embodied forms of kAlachakra and vishvamAtA.

Another interesting detail I remember, especially because it is almost Saturday as I type this, is the mention of hanumAn in the kAlachakra tantra. During rAudra-chakri’s (a figure which reminds one of the harihara mUrti) final battle against the evil, this king of Shambhala is assisted by rudra and hanumAn! One should remember that hanumAn is considered to be an Immortal and will live on till the final praLaya. The myth in this tantra seems to borrow ideas from rAmAyaNa in how hanumAn assists the ruler of Shambhala. Interestingly, a Western Mystic who is also a close acquaintance and a self-confessed Hindu-agnostic, has had several meditative visions of nrsimha and hanumAn fighting against dark forces in astral realms.]


nAmasmaraNam dhanyopAyam

Eight Steps to Perfection

1. shAktAbhiSheka
2. pUrNAbhiSheka
3. krama-dIkShAbhiSheka
4. sAmrAjyAbhiSheka
5. mahAsAmrAjyAbhiSheka
6. yoga-dIkShAbhiSheka
7. virAja-grahaNAbhiSheka
8. mahAsAmrAjya-medhAbhiSheka

Flavors of Advaita - 1

- by Dennis Waite

The truth of advaita can only ever be one. The very meaning of the word advaita tells us that the purport of any teaching must be the same. Any difference lies solely in the way that this message is transmitted. And any method is valid if it leads to the truth, as pointed out in the siddhAnta-bindu of shrI madhusUdana sarasvatI:

Whatever are the means by which the inner-Self is realized by men, those should be regarded as flawless, and they are endless.

I would like to differentiate five methods of teaching advaita, for the sake of clarity: advaita vedAnta, neo-vedAnta, Direct Path advaita, Neo-advaita and Psuedo-advaita. There is a distinct danger of confusion between the terms Neo-vedAnta and Neo-advaita since these are often used interchangeably.

There is also the danger that these teachings will be seen as some sort of progression, with neo-advaita as the latest, streamlined version of an outmoded, archaic traditional system. If they are seen as equivalent, the neo-advaita is certain to seem more attractive to many Westerners, claiming as it does that no effort is needed and that you (can) have it now. Finally as Greg Goode says, “it often seems that neo-advaita presents its own hard line stance as the type of advaita for those tough and clear enough to take their Whiskey straight, no chasers”.

None of these views is correct, as the reader will hopefully now appreciate. Greg goes on to say:

Every path has its way of presenting itself as an alternative. A traditional way to look at the differences among paths might be in terms of the energy or guNa balances, none more correct or privileged than the others.

Traditional: more inclusive and active, for those who resonate with karma and jnAna yoga, or who have a balance of rajas and sattva, with less tamas.

Direct: more intellectual and less active, for those who resonate with jnAna yoga, or who have lots of sattva, some tamas and less rajas.

Neo: more emotional and less active, for those who resonate with bhakti yoga, or those who have lots of sattva and tamas, and less rajas.

Traditional Advaita

This is regarded as that defined by shankara in his bhAShyas on the upaniShads, the bhagavad gItA and the brahmasUtras (together called the prasthAna traya). Shankara formalized the traditional method around the 8th century AD, according to most modern authorities. Swami sacchidAnandendra, in his very scholarly works, believes that shankara’s essential method depends upon the technique called adhyAropa - apavAda or false attribution followed by subsequent denial. Thus for example, it provisionally teaches such things as the five sheaths of being or the three stages of consciousness. Later however, once the implications have been taken on board, it acknowledges that all such ideas are only part of the superimposition that we make upon the non-dual reality in our ignorance. It describes the two aspects of vyavahAra and paramArtha and recognizes the interim validity, indeed necessity, of talking about people and objects, concepts and practices - even though none of these really exist.

The traditional approach is defined by scriptures, which are claimed to be the ultimate source of the truth. All traditional teachers refer, and invariably defer to them. Traditional advaita recognizes various paths that seekers may follow to help them on their way to enlightenment. Amongst these are the way of action (karma yoga), the way of devotion (bhakti yoga) and the way of knowledge (jnAna yoga).


It refers particularly to advaita as taught by Swami vivekAnanda and his followers. It is argued that Traditonal advaita was, in a sense, watered down and adapted so as to be more palatable to the western temperament, when vivekAnanda brought the message of Ramakrishna to the West in 1893. It aimed to be a philosophy in the sense that it was understood in the West, perhaps equated with a sort of Absolute Idealism, rather than shruti - the unauthored message contained in the scriptures.

The stance of Traditional vedAnta is that the teacher unfolds the scriptures so that the student (eventually) gains immediate apprehension of the Truth. In this sense, the shruti are the direct pramANa. There is the sense that Neo-vedAnta, instead, treats the subject as a philosophy that is studied and then the student goes out into the world, applies the knowledge gained and eventually realizes the Truth. The scriptures are then only indirect or even incidental.

Some traditionalists argue that key elements of Advaita have been lost in this process, which now concentrates almost exclusively on jnAna yoga rather than bhakti or karma. For example, Bithika Mukherjee says that in particular the principle of renunciation and the concept of Ananda or bliss have been ignored at the expense of the more intellectual aspects which themselves belong in the realm of mAyA. This might have resulted, she suggests, because traditional adherents were anxious to refute possible accusations that advaita was in some way mystical and also lacked ethical foundation.

James Swartz suggests that another consequence of vivekAnanda’s teaching was that Westerners began to look, through the teachings of advaita, for an enlightenment experience, a concept that does not occur in the pure Traditional Advaita but rather from the various yoga-s that derived from patanjali’s method. Whereas yoga used to be treated as a spiritual practice and preparation, it now became in danger of being pursued as an end in itself.

Before yoga sullied the pure teachings of vedAnta, enlightenment was considered to be the removal of ignorance about the nature of the Self. But with the ascendency of the yoga teachings, enlightenment came to be considered a permanent experience of the Self in contrast to the mundane experiences of everyday life, which obviously can’t be if this is a non-dual reality as the upaniShads claim. It cannot be a permanent experience, first because there is no such thing as a permanent experience and second, it cannot be an experience in a non-dual reality because the subject-object distinction necessary for experience is missing in a non-dual reality. If this is true, then the quest for a permanent enlightenment experience is pointless and what is needed, as traditional vedAnta says, is the knowledge of reality since the craving for experience, including the experience of the Self, is mAyA, the consequence of seeing oneself a doer who is separate from reality.

The reason why vivekAnanda is considered a neo-vedAntin by the traditionalists is because of the way he taught vedAnta. He taught it as a philosophy, as an intellectual discipline. His lectures were lectures. Lecture is not the method of teaching in traditional vedAnta although many who call themselves traditionalists lecture because they are not enlightened or did not learn how to wield the means of knowledge. vedAnta is a pramANa, a means of knowledge. It does not talk about the Self. When you talk about the Self, you inspire bhakti and a desire to know or experience it (yoga). When you teach It directly you reveal it. If it is considered that neo-vedAnta believes that the Self can become enlightened or experience enlightenment, then the views expressed contradict Traditional vedAnta.

It should also be noted that others deny that vivekAnanda is in any way not traditional. Certainly many of his lectures are clearly advaita in the traditional sense. It is possible that some later disciples have emphasized the yoga element of his teaching to the detriment of the advaita.

contd ...

Tranquility and Insight - 3

[Most Buddhist texts reject the different states of samAdhi including the nirvikalpa of the pAtanjala yoga and related darshanas as trance states of absorption and not mapping to true enlightenment. dhyAna, yoga, japa, prANAyAma, maNDala visualizations etc. are utilized as means to attain a state of tranquility but these states of absorption or a state of oneness is rejected by the mAdhyamikas as the state of true freedom or enlightenment. In fact, these states of yogic absorptions are, after a point, considered to a hinderance. The states of tranquility or samAdhi are to be utilized for the purpose of gaining insight, which alone liberates one from samsAra. Like the famous mAdhyamaka rule goes: samsAra is nirvANa, and it is all about perception. The following discussion is helpful is distinguishing Tranquility from Insight - HR]

Identification of the True Nature of Tranquility and Insight

Sandhinirmochana-sUtra states:

He who lives in solitude, settling the mind in inward purity, meditates on aspects of reality previously realized. Such a sentient being continuously draws his mind inward. By so achieving a state of tranquility and the ability to attain that state as many times as possible, one attains the perfect ease of body and mind. This is said to be - dwelling in tranquility.

The same text says:

Having achieved such ease, one should settle in this state, abandoning all thought forms, and then proceed to analyze the focus of contemplative absorption. “Insight” is the process of investigating the totality of contemplative absorption with a view to discerning properly and perfectly the reality of knowledge. It is achieved through the exercise of discrimination, observation, examination, endurance and yearning.

In simple words:

Tranquility is one-pointed concentration.
Insight is analytical comprehension.

sUtrAlamkAra states:

The mind settled in its purity
Is in a tranquil state.
Analysis of this state
Is Insight.

Vasubandhu comments on this verse thus: The mind resting in harmony through meditational absorption is in tranquility. Analysis of this state causes insight. Without meditational absorption, there cannot be tranquility and insight. Such is the description of the two states.

In general, tranquility is achieved by fixing the mind upon any object so as to maintain it without distraction. Insight is characterized as wisdom that analyses the reality of knowledge. Tranquility is achieved by focussing the mind on an object and maintaining it in that state until finally it is channelled into one stream of attention and evenness. Insight is attained through a general and detailed examination of reality and the systematic application of intellectual discrimination.

Focussing the mind on its ineffable essence and on images of reality, one maintains an awareness free from judgements and distractions. With a delight in all mental mages, one focuses the mind on the mark of inner absorption, maintains it, and channels it into a stream of attention and quietude. These methods produce a state of tranquility free from judgements and distractions. When one appreciates all images of meditation, which range from fixing the mind upon the marks of inward meditational trance and sustaining an absorption to intensely consolidating it into one stream and achieving meditational trance, this is called Tranquility.

Insight, on the other hand, is attained when a meditator, having achieved tranquility, now contemplates the various aspects of the mind and analyzes properly and perfectly its conditioned and unconditioned realities.

Concerning the mental images of tranquility and insight, tranquility is non-conceptual. It simply focuses on any given object without duality. Insight is the sublime perception that examines the nature of the mind.

Tranquility is a non-conceptual perception of phenomena that discerns neither their extent nor their exact nature. Insight is a conceptual perception of phenomena that discerns their extent and exact nature.

Tranquility is so called because, having pacified distractions, one focusses always on an inward image joyfully, naturally, and without interruptions while maintaining perfect ease of mind. Insight is that which examines the nature of that tranquil state so long as it remains.

There are three aspects of Insight:

1. That which originates from conceptual judgement: it originates from the analysis of a perceived image of contemplative absorption.
2. That which is attained through perfect inquiry: it arises from the intellectual investigation of the unknown aspects of the mind.
3. That which is achieved through analytical examination: it arises from perfect analysis of the mental aspects of reality, which the intellect has understood in all its subtleties.

Insight differentiates systematically and fully all things with respect to their apparent and true nature. It also examines fully and perfectly duality and non-duality. This investigation remedies harmful and dualistic tendencies. Not only does insight deliver one from the wrong course, but it also directs the mind to focus on the right path.

Insight is said to consist of four stages:

1. That which differentiates all aspects of reality.
2. That which differentiates absolute reality.
3. The examination of the concept of duality.
4. The understanding of that duality.

The mind must rest in tranquility during all this.

How does one differentiate the reality of all phenomena?

1. A crystal-clear analysis, keen intellectual perception or a purifying mental image that eliminates distortions.
2. Differentiation of the nature of reality as it is.
3. A complete intellectual examination that must occur when the mind clings to duality.
4. Perfect examination that results when one perceives reality perfectly.

Insight may be determined through six methods of investigating the nature of the mind:

1. Reality
2. Substance
3. Characteristics
4. Spatial dimensions
5. Time
6. Dialectical process

Most doctrinal treatises related to the sUtras that the tranquility should be attained first and insight afterward:

Mastery of the preceding principle results
In the realization of the succeeding principles.
The former is inferior and coarse,
The latter superior and subtle.

Knowing that insight arises from tranquility
And clears the defilements of the mind,
One should first achieve tranquility.

contd ...


Sangitakalanidhi Padmavibhushan Smt. D K Pattammal patti is undoubtedly our most adored personality of Carnatic Music, closely followed by Sangitakalanidhi Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. We have had the privilege of being acquainted with both these great personalities and Patti has always succeeded in touching our hearts with her Simplicity, Devotion and Dedication to Her art. She has seldom failed to evoke tears of joy, be it through her music or words. She may also be regarded as our Guru in a sense as she taught us the Kriti shrIguruguha tAraya Ashu mAm in less than thirty minutes. The last words she told us were these, along with her characteristic child-like smile: "We both are doing the same! You access nAda through japa and I through samgIta. And both of us have the highest regards for shrI dIkshitar. It's so nice". Patti's music is a sure way to establish one's contact with the Divine.

Malkauns Meets Hindola