Advaita Vedanta: That Thou Art – (Tat Tvam Asi)

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This is not a teaching on Advaita Vedanta. It is an overview of how it is practiced in the West, and the ways it is practiced effectively or not.

1. SHANKARA

  • Credited with the present formulation of Advaita Vedanta, by distilling and developing the nondual teachings of the old Vedas, like the Upanishads.

2. JNANADEVA

  • Emphasized devotion and love

3. RAMANA MAHARSHI

  • Seemed to follow the view of Shankara. But he was well known for his luminous heart.

4. LINEAGES

  • Different schools and lineages in India, some of them have followers and teachers in the West.

5. POONJAJI AND HIS FOLLOWERS

  • Even though there is emphasis on using mental presentation, intellectual answers to questions, there is more presence of heart and love is frequently experienced by students.

6. ATMANANDA AND HIS WESTERN LINEAGE

  • Atmananda is very different from Ramana, for he was much more a mind teacher. He relied on reason and logic.

7. MIND AND HEART

  • My pointing to heart and mind is not new about Vedanta. It is a split that started shortly after the time of Shankara

8. EXPERIENCE AND AWAKENING

  • I wonder about Advaita teachers teaching to the unprepared, and taking their experiences with them as sufficient. Not all do this, but I see it in most cases. I am saying that one needs a great deal of preparation, by life or by practice, before opening to the nondual to be a lasting awakening.

9. SATSANGS

  • “Traditionally, seekers expected a long and dedicated (though eventually rewarding)
    journey, which might involve studying with a guru for many years. These days,
    people want the answers now, not when their mind is prepared genuinely to
    understand them. Accordingly, teaching styles have developed to try to cater for
    this demand – attempting to convey the essential truth in a two-hour satsang or a
    weekend intensive.” [p. 116. Enlightenment: The Path Through The Jungle, by Dennis
    Waite]

10. FINITE AND INFINITE

  • A basic tenet of Advaita Vedanta is that the ultimate truth is infinite consciousness or being. Reality is always such, but obscured by identifying with the finite mind.

See Other A. H. Almaas Lecture Series Videos:

  1. Nisargadatta Maharaj’s Neglected Teachings
  2. Krishnamurti: His Teaching
  3. Krishnamurti: His Experience

20 thoughts on “Advaita Vedanta: That Thou Art – (Tat Tvam Asi)”

  1. Thanks Hameed. A couple of comments about Jean Klein and his “lineage”: Jean (pronounced the French way, “Zhonn”) lived in France for many years (and died in the U.S.) but was actually from the Bohemia region of what is now Czechoslovakia. He used Atmananda as his teaching model as he resonated with his teaching style, but I don’t believe they ever met.. Jean’s own teacher was a professor at a Sanskrit college in Bangalore. However, after his realization he met a yogi who taught him a Kashmiri style of body yoga that emphasized sensitivity to sensation and energy, and this became a secondary support to this primary teaching style, and continues to be promoted and practiced by some of his own students (e.g. Francis lLucille) and their students (e.g.. Rupert Spira). So there often is a non-conceptual aspect to be found in the direct path, as well as the more philosophical approach, though this is usually only taught on retreats.

    1. Thanks for this note, James,
      I remember hearing that Jean employed some kind of energy or body kind of work. I am glad to hear that his students continue to use it. For it will be a great help for the Atmananda approach, which is more mental..

      Apparently, different teachers give the teaching differently, and some use some form of breathing or energy work, or have some help from others. And some are more heartfelt and personal with their students, something we cannot say about Atmananda himself.

      1. Dear Hameed,
        As an old student of Jean Klein, I will make slight corrections to a few of James’ comments. Jean was actually German by birth – he was born in Berlin. He did spend his childhood in what later became known as Czechoslavakia, but is now known as the Czech Republic. Czechoslavakia split up in 1993. Jean only lived part of his childhood in Bohemia, when he was living in Prague. It was in his earlier than that when he was living in Brno, which is in the area known as Moravia.

        Jean did meet with Atmananda, in person, and he has talked about it. While Atmananda had a big impact on how Jean taught in his dialogue sessions, there were other influences, as can be witnessed if one compares how Jean taught, with others who teach what they call the Direct Path and credit Atmananda as their major influence. Jean had deeply embodied what he had come to, and taught from the heart. He was not a dry Advaitin.

        1. Hi Marie, a few years ago an unknown man in India told me that the teacher of Jean Klein, the professor Sanskrit was a student of Krishna Menon Atmananda. I don’t know if this is correct but it could explain why Jean Klein went after his own awakening to see Atmananda. Do you know more about this? I don’t see Atmananda as a ‘dry’ advaita Vedantin. He even said that devotion, bakthi to the Karana guru is the quickest way to liberation. I think I read that in his Spiritual Discourses. He has written some beautiful devotional poems on the Beloved.

          1. Dear John,
            No, I never heard Jean say if his own teacher, Pandit Rao, was a student of Atmananda’s. My recollection of what Jean said was that Panditji (as Jean referred to him) was teaching as a representative of a traditional Advaita Vedanta lineage that traces itself back to Shankara, and that he heard about Atmananda from someone other than Panditji. It is possible that Panditji did meet Atmananda at some point, and took teaching from him, and if so, Panditji would have been a student of his. But it apparently had little to no effect on Panditji’s teaching style, and I think Jean would have told us this, or mentioned it somewhere. Did the man you met in India tell you how he had gotten this information? And do agree with you that Atmananda himself was not a ‘dry’ Advaita Vedantin, though many I’ve met who have studied his teachings, and even teach themselves, come across as very dry. As you indicate, Atmananda emphasized the importance of devotion to the guru, and that is something that most Westerners are not interested in, and even have an allergy towards, with completely understandable reasons, as so many gurus have abused their position and the power that goes with it. Jean Klein wouldn’t allow any devotional expressions to be offered to him. From what I understand, his students who now teach (Francis Lucille and Eric Baret being the preeminent ones) don’t allow that either, nor does Francis’ student Rupert Spira. On the subject of Atmananda’s attitude towards devotion to the guru, Philip Renard writes:

            Atmananda considered a devotional attitude to be a great help. But in an instruction he made it clear that such an attitude is only appropriate towards your own Guru. “That particular Person through whom one had the proud privilege of being enlightened, that is the ONLY FORM which one may adore and do Puja to, to one’s heart’s content, as the person of one’s Guru. It is true that all is the Sat-Guru, but only when the name and form disappear and not otherwise. Therefore the true aspirant should beware of being deluded into any similar devotional advance to any other form, be it of God or of man.” In another statement he reveals how strict and dualistic he was in respect to the student and guru relationship: “A disciple should never bow allegiance to two Gurus at the same time”; to which he added that “accepting more than one guru at a time is even more dangerous than having none at all.”

            From: http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/teachers/krishna_menon_renard.htm

  2. MIND 🧠 AND 🫀HEART!

    Thank you Hameed! 🙏🏼
    Pranam

    Distilled jnana
    Is still jnana.
    Now,
    How can I be still
    Longing for you?

    My Love…

    A faded dull ache!
    A longing grown old and tired.
    A monotonous longing…
    Swollen shut,
    Locked inside a child’s room!

    Yes! I’m looking for my Heart!

    I can’t find it in Love’s Longing.
    It isn’t in the Power of Prayer,
    It’s not in the Suffering of Compassion
    Nor is it in the Duty of Devotion.
    It is not in Enlightenment
    Or, in the Bliss of Being…

    My Heart is lost!

    In the Illusion of Mind…
    It is hidden
    within the Folds of Intellect,
    Wandering in Thought,
    Covered with Words,
    It is buried deep
    inside The Language of Love!

    Thinking…

    In my mind,
    My heart is beating

    In Love…

    The Heart is throbbing
    I-i I-i I-i I-i

    In Truth…

    “They say” It takes Courage
    And, the Wisdom of Knowledge,
    To Leap with Faith
    Across the fathomless Chasms of The Mind
    And endlessly fall…

    Into OneSelf!

    Yes!
    I Am The Heart!
    Dissolving

    In Silence… still in Love!

    ❤️

  3. MIND 🧠 AND🫀HEART!

    Dearest Hameed, 🙏🏼
    Pranam

    This morning I woke up thinking..,
    about Bhagavan Ramana Maharishi, and how, when his Mother was dying, he sat next to Her for almost eight hours. He put his left hand on Her head and his right hand on the right side of Her chest, physically preventing the jiva from escaping back into its self in the Mind, and instead, making it go back down, and enter into its Self in the Heart!

    I thought about MIND 🧠AND🫀HEART,
    The trauma of Enlightenment, and You and Dr Gabor Mate… and more that I can’t sort into words in the moment! .Please forgive my “impeccable me!”

    ❤️

    1. Dear Pranam,
      Ramana definitely had heart. Even thought he emphasized the self beyond all he himself related to others with love.

      He is an example of a nondual teacher who teaches simply the ultimate self, and is not a devotional teaching. But still has heart himself. The method is not heart, even though he talked about the area at the heart and centers around the heart. The important thing is that he embodied heart.

      I can’t say the same about many other Advaita or nondual teachers

  4. Hi Hameed,
    I’ve noticed that some Western Advaita teachers don’t seem to have an understanding of cessation or absolute emptiness. They use logical reasoning to promote the view that there can’t be an absence of awareness, since awareness is the ultimate reality. I’ve watched videos of some of these teachers telling their students that, since they are pure awareness and awareness is eternal, they were never born and will never die.

    I have personally experienced cessation, and for me it was the most profound and liberating experience in my life. So I can’t help thinking that those teachers are missing something fundamental, and misguiding their students. But I know that in the view of totality, all teachings are equally valid. Maybe I’m not understanding their perspective?

    1. Hi Adur,
      Most teachers of Advaita Vedanta are not aware of the experience of cessation of consciousness, that the Buddha called cessation of perception and sensation. So with their students they cannot acknowledge it or deal with it. I imagine some must have encountered it.

      It is true that cessation is not the nondual state. And no teaching says it is where you reside. But it is a momentous step towards living in realization. It is the most complete ego death.

      I think many of the Advaita teachers believe that what is meant is the cessation of nondual cosmic consciousness when people talk of cessation of consciousness. What actually goes through cessation is the individual consciousness, not cosmic or boundless consciousness.. But again, the same nondual. teachers do not have the concept of individual consciousness. So they have no way to understand or respond to questions about cessation.

      They might have the experience of their ego self dissolving in cosmic consciousness, and this is the only way they understand cessation. But for cessation to mean no experience of any kind will seem foreign to them, and they hence believe it not possible.

      I have found it to be actually a good entry into the nondual kind of realization. And a good way to dissolve the ego in a final and complete way, instead of simply transcending it..

  5. Hi Hameed. Thank you for your talk. Here’s my question.
    I am puzzled by the “is” in Atman is Brahman. In Advaita–or at least in the Western versions I know of– Atman seems completely swallowed up by Brahman. I’m not sure it is anything at all. On the other hand, in looking for the early Vedanta story of the two birds, one Jiva, the other Atman, I found this: “The second bird is the Paramatman, an aspect of God who accompanies every living being in the heart while she remains in the material world. He is the support of all beings and is beyond sensual pleasure. ” Can you comment on this. Thank you.
    Nancy

    1. Hi Nancy
      Nice story about the two birds. Actually, many of the Jnana yogas talk about atman, as the first major step towards realizing the absolute. They usually see it as a point of light or concentrated presence. Nisargadatta Maharaj talked about the point of light as the “I am” that is to be realized, which opens the door to the realization of the absolute. So obviously, some of the Advaita teachings are aware of it. Hard to miss it in most teachings, but many might not recognize it or its significance.

      Jiva is usually the soul or individual consciousness, and atman is the center of Jiva, usually in the heart. Spiritual self knowledge begins with I am. When it is the point of light it is true realization of presence, which is why it is a direct entry into the nondual ground.

      The atman, as the point of light and presence, is beyond sensual pleasures and pains. It is actually the reflection of the absolute or Nirguna Brahman in the soul or individual consciousness. This is actually how Nisargadatta experienced it.

  6. Dear Hameed, Thank you for these talks and all of your increasingly public teachings. I would like to ask if you have a view on Poonjaji’s sending out students he regarded as “leeches” with the impression that they were awakened? Was this for his personal convenience, the furtherance of his teaching, or both? Ive read Nisargadatta berating students he thought weren’t getting it after many years and sending them away, but not by giving them experiences that might lead them to claim that they were authorized to teach.

    1. Good question, Ethan,
      the way Godman writes his interview with Poonjaji sounds like it is for his convenience. Because he calls them leeches.

      It is difficult to imagine this is the only reason. This story here is partly questionable because he had given permission for some of his Western disciples to teach. It will be morally wrong for him to send somebody to teach if he believed they did not get the teaching.

      So I think the statement about leeches must be a partial answer to Godman’s question. At least that how I take it.

  7. Aloha Hameed,

    That you for this lecture series. Like so much of what is offered through the Ridhwan school I am grateful for this resource that exposes so much insight and inquiry in an open ended, never ending way.

    I notice that in this series so far there is the question of how does a teaching reach a student and in what way and appears to me to looks particularly toward the participation of the heart. So I’m curious if the series is laid out in a sequential way ending with Dogen and look forward to how you may be impacted through the heart in his teachings.

    For me their is a clear and certain presence of heart in Dogen’s way expressed by pointing directly to it while not pointing directly to it.

    Thanks again.

    Appreciatively,
    George

  8. Aloha, George,
    It is astute of you to see the series as having a logical progression. This will become obvious when I talk about Dogen’s teachings.

    It is not exactly about heart, its presence or absence. But about what is realized.

  9. Hello All–
    I just watched this presentation on Advaita Vedanta. On a personal level, it spoke to me about the importance of reawakening those devotional practices that I have used in the past. On some level, I had abandoned those practices as my realization of nonduality has deepened over a number of years. However, it feels as though I have lost the path of the heart to some extent and need to revisit my devotional practices in order to go deeper on the path. Prior to watching the presentation, I had viewed some of those practices as “going backwards,” but I now see that I am missing the important ways that such practices continue to help me to develop.

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