Thursdays, February 20th - March 12th
The goal of oneness or nonduality is common to many spiritual traditions, but what is it, where is it, and who is it for? How can we even experience nonduality if it transcends subject-object relationships? This course unfolds the nature of nonduality through the traditional teaching methods of Advaita Vedānta. Advaita Vedānta inherited the wisdom of the Bhagavadgītā and the Upaniṣads—the world’s most ancient source of nonduality. The tradition provides a phenomenal methodology of self-inquiry to recognize that the immediate foundation of your self-experience is in fact nondual, unlimited, and the very source of happiness you seek.
This module provides an overview of nonduality, explains the importance of Advaita Vedānta in the history of Indian spirituality/philosophy, and orients students to the proper way of engaging the Upaniṣads. The Upaniṣads are not “scriptures” in the common sense of that term, nor texts dealing with theory and practice; but are rather a direct means of knowledge to see one’s intrinsic nature as nondual. We will also explore our means and ends towards happiness, and why what we actually seek is freedom (mokṣa) from limitation.
Unlike some systems of nonduality, traditional Advaita Vedānta does not dismiss the importance of yoga, meditation, devotion, and ethical practices. This module explains their importance and limitations, and then explores the Bhagavadgītā’s yoga of making life a prayerful offering in order to cultivate equanimity, acceptance, and compassion.
Understanding consciousness is the heart of Vedānta’s nonduality. This module explores how the Upaniṣads map our minds and bodies through metaphysical models, and then employ this embodied metaphysics to discover pure consciousness—the intrinsic presence witnessing all experience. These methods comprise the core of Advaita’s contemplative practices. We will further explore why this consciousness is the basis of wholeness and love.
Can the world of multiplicity be real if reality is ultimately nondual? Our final module analyzes the nature of the world and how it exists dependently on nondual existence. We will then learn how this existence is numerically identical to consciousness through the “great sentences” of the Upaniṣads like “you are that” (tat tvam asi). With this knowledge one can then abide in the fullness of nonduality and gradually integrate nondual wisdom into their emotional and intersubjective lives.
Neil Dalal is Associate Professor of South Asian Philosophy and Religious Thought at the University of Alberta, where he teaches in both the Philosophy Department and Religious Studies Program. He received his PhD in Asian Cultures and Languages from the University of Texas at Austin where he specialized in Sanskrit and Indian philosophy, and an MA in East-West Psychology from the California Institute of Integral Studies. Dalal’s interests explore philosophy of mind, contemplative psychologies, and meditation practices found in classical South Asian Yoga systems. He grounds this research in classical Sanskrit texts and commentaries as well as their living traditions. Dalal’s current research focuses on the intersections of contemplative practices, textual study, and embodiment in Advaita Vedānta. He is the co-director of Gurukulam (The Orchard/Sony Pictures), a sensory-ethnographic study of a contemporary Advaita Vedānta community, co-editor of Asian Perspectives on Animal Ethics (Routledge Press), and has published articles in venues such as the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Journal of Indian Philosophy, and Journal of Hindu Studies. Dalal is also a teacher within the traditional lineage of Śaṅkarācārya’s Advaita Vedānta. He spent several years living a monastic lifestyle in India while studying under the direct guidance of the renowned Advaita Vedāntin, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, who gave him permission to teach in 2002.
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