Swami Chinmayananda, disciple of Swami Tapovanam of Uttarkashi and a world-renowned teacher of Advaita-vedanta, seeing the widespread spiritual and social degradation in India, decided to come down from the Himalayas and plant the knowledge of Advaita among the people in cities and towns, for it was Advaita that had brought him fulfilment.
To disseminate this knowledge, he conducted 'Jnana-yajnas' - a series of discourses on the sacred texts. He spread the sublime teachings, bringing a range of texts to the common people - the Upanisads, the Bhagavad- gita and many others, drawing from the knowledge tradition to which Advaita belongs. The first such Yajna was held in December 1951, at a small temple in Pune, Maharashtra. Swamiji's teachings were based on the authority of the Vedas and his direct experience. But he delivered the teachings in English - a near taboo for those times - packaged in wit and a magnetic oratorical style. People flocked to his Yajnas.
Over the next 42 years, Swamiji conducted 576 such Jnana-yajnas and innumerable spiritual camps, reaching millions of people the world over, and authored 97 books. The Bhagavad-gita was the root of his Yajnas, from which grew all other camps and lectures. His text in English on the Bhagavad-gita, called the The Holy Gita, created a revolution of sorts worldwide, and is spoken of as one of history's best translations and commentaries.
Swamiji also established the ‘Sandeepanis' the gurukulas of the Chinmaya Mission, which has enabled the preservation of Vedantic wisdom by creating a lineage of Acaryas.
With this book we invite you to share our joy as we commemorate Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda's birth centenary in the beautiful surroundings of Kolwan. It gives us great pleasure to present Advaitamrtam, a book of Proceedings on The Contribution of Advaita Vedanta to Humanity as well as a collection of papers on Advaita-vedanta, distilled from the ruminations of modern acaryas and scholars who have shared their vast knowledge. Scholars other than those present at this Conference have shared their expertise, making this book a truly delectable array of food-for-thought for academia as well as the interested layperson.
India has been for millennia a repository of an untold wealth of knowledge whose beginnings are lost in the mists of time. Over hundreds of years, profound thinkers in this vast land have sat in contemplation, to bend their mind to fundamental human questions, such as Who am I, What is this world, Where did it all come from? Separated by the then immense geographical distances, they have yet been able to come to remarkably similar conclusions about the nature of the world, the gods, the human, and that singular, Universal Reality termed 'Brahman', whose Light is accessible to all but is accessed in truth by the remarkable few.
It is impossible to list here the names of all the gurus, scholars and acaryas of our past as whose collective heirs we gather here today in all humility. But one person who stands tall among his erudite forebears for having taken Advaita-vedanta to the thirsting common man has been in recent times our beloved Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda. Many here attending this Conference have learnt at his feet, absorbing his thoughts, his learnings, his ways of speech and writing, and are carrying forward his cherished legacy. This Conference is one further step in that direction.
In this Conference we also seek to stop and reflect on how a modern resurgent India can use the profundities of Advaita to improve the people and the environment and reclaim past wisdom while standing firmly in the diversity and equality of the modem world. So you will read and listen to speakers tell us how Advaita works on the individual, helping them in their stages to the Divine, and looping back in the process to create social harmony - provided we can adopt these tenets and adapt our lives to live by them.
The papers presented here cover a vast gamut of topics, from the practical to the academic - the dialectics of Advaita-vedanta, the methods and content of the debates that have ensued as scholars of the different systems proposed and countered multiple viewpoints, and many more. Each of the three days of the Conference has been assigned to one topic, and these papers therefore reflect the Advaitic concepts and thoughts on jiva, jagat and Isvara.
May we all be centred within and welcome the Truth of Advaita in our hearts.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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