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Welcome to Edwin’s svādhyāya-śālā

On the ongoing request of those outside the academic community, especially yoga practitioners, non-specialists interested in Indian philosophy, general spiritual seekers, and the intellectually curious, Edwin conducts periodic, online studies of primary yoga philosophy texts (svādhyāya), in the mood of making Sanskrit knowledge systems accessible to anyone interested.  The courses are free, and all are welcome to avail of them, but those who have the means and the inclination are welcome in accordance with dharma to voluntarily give an honorarium or donation of their choice, as per tradition (guru dakiṇā), half of which will go to Edwin’s charity in India.

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The next svādhyāya will be a course on the Vedānta Sūtras.

Due to sabbatical travels, the 6 sessions of the course will have to be split between January and March, with no sessions in February.

From the 3 sources of knowledge indicated by Patanjali in I.7 (sense perception, inference and verbal authority), Vedånta occupies itself exclusively with verbal authority – specifically, clarifying and making consistent the often obscure and unsystematic statements of the Upaniṣads (called exegesis in philosophy). Vedānta is mandatory study for most intellectually inclined yogis and bhaktas in traditional India, and lies at the root of all later Hindu spiritualities. Not all of it is of great interest outside of the traditional Vedānta lineages (we will cut out the obscure bits likely to be pedantic), but the word ‘Vedānta‘ gets so bandied about (just as does ‘yoga’ on the High Street as we all know) that anyone with a svādhyāya inclination might wish to get a better grounding of what Vedānta actually entails in its pre-exported (pre-commodified) forms.

Unlike the Bhāgavata Purāṇa or Yoga Sūtras or Gītā, the Vedānta Sūtras do not provide directions that are easily applicable to the spiritual practices of most outsiders (other than for anyone who might follow ancient Jñāna yoga type contemplations) – although Tradition will claim the very study itself is highly purificatory for the mind.  But the course should provide a much clearer sense of the different ways the relationships between  ātman and Brahman and Īśvara are understood by the different schools. Students should gain an understanding as to what exactly is meant by terms like non-dualism (advaita), qualified non-dualism (Viśiṣṭa-advaita), dualism, etc. and how these are read into the Upaniṣads and the Vedānta Sūtras which are derived from them. One will thereby understand the different Vedānta positions held by the great forefathers of Western postural yoga, Krishnamacarya (Viśiṣṭa-advaita) and Śivānanda Swami (advaita).


We will be using Rāmānuja ‘s 12th century commentary as our primary text, since his philosophy  (Viśiṣṭa-advaita) is generally accepted by scholars as closest to that of the Vedānta Sūtras themselves, but we will be seriously engaging Śāṅkara’s 8-9th commentary wherever he espouses classic advaita philosophy so as to get a very clear sense of advaita-Vedānta. Please have a copy of Patrick Olivelle’s Upaniṣads at hand (Oxford Classics):


 Anyway, there’s lots of cool material in the Vedānta Sūtras, as the tentative list of topics for the 6 sessions below should indicate (there’s likely a few more bits and pieces that will get added in).  Beginning January 6th, the sessions will be, as always, Friday 6-8.00 EST pm, followed by questions.


Fri Jan 6th   Session 1.  Chapter I

1-1-21: Introduction to Text and Definition of Brahman as Cause of Creation; sampling of topics and concerns of chapter I (chapter I is mostly engaging Upaniṣadic passages that do not explicitly promote Brahman as Ultimate Cause of Reality).


Fri Jan 13th  Session 2. Chapter II. 

Brahman as cause and effect; reason vs scripture; Brahman and evil/suffering in world; Brahman and its parts; motive for Creation; Brahman and cruelty.


Fri Jan 20st NO WORKSHOP



Fri Jan 27th    Session 3.  Chapter II (cont)

refutation of other schools – focus on the refutation of Yoga, Sāṃkhya and two schools of Buddhism (realists and idealists).


Month of February NO WORKSHOP



Fri March 3rd  Session 4.  Chapter II (cont):

Size of ātman (soul); ātman as agent (i.e. free will); ātman dependent on Īśvara; ātman as part of Brahman; ātmans going and coming from the celestial realms; .


Fri March 10th  Session 5.  Chapter III Miscellaneous

ātmans are not ‘created’; ātman and deep sleep; Rāmānuja’s explanation of advaita friendly verses; Śāṅkara on  Īśvara; renunciation of work; eligibility for liberation; fallen Sannyāsis; child-like innocence; worldly prosperity; Śāṅkara on brahmācarya; eligibility to perform Vedic sacrifice.


Fri March 24th  Session 6.  Chapter IV –

different types of karma; the heart as abode of ātman; celestial guides on the path to liberation; different times, etc., for optimal departure from body; the nature of liberation.

Vedānta Sūtras and commentaries links (34 files)


Śāṅkara I (6 files)

Sankara Bhasya I-1    Intro

Sankara Bhasya I-2     cont. Chapter 1

Sankara Bhasya I-3     Chapter 1 to 1.1.31

Sankara Bhasya I-4      Chapter 1 section II  to 1.3.20

Sankara Bhasya I-5      cont. Chapter 1 section IV to 1.4.23

Sankara Bhasya I-6      cont. Chapter 2 section I to 2.1.2

Śāṅkara II (3 files)

Sankara Bhasya II-1   Chapter 2 section I  to 2.2.15

Sankara Bhasya II-2    cont. Chapter 2 section III to 2.3.15

Sankara Bhasya II-3    cont. Chapter 2 section IV to 2.4. 22


Śāṅkara III (4 files)

Sankara Bhasya III 1   Chapter 3 section I to 3.1. 27- Chapter 3 sction II to 3.3.37

Sankara Bhasya III 2   cont. Chapter 3 section III to 3.3. 42

Sankara Bhasya III 3   cont. Chapter 3 section IV to 3.4. 20

Sankara Bhasya III 4   cont. to 3.4.52


Śāṅkara IV (3 files)

Sankara Bhasya IV 1  Chapter 4  section I -section II to 4.2.16

Sankara Bhasya IV 2   cont. Chapter 4 section III to 4.3.15

Sankara Bhasya IV 3   Chapter 4 section 4 to 4.4.22.

Sankara Bhasya sutras and index   Index and Sutras


Rāmānuja I (9 files)

Ramanuja Bhasya I (1)  Foreword-Intro

Ramanuja Bhasya I (2)  cont. Review of various comm. Chapter 1 section I

Ramanuja Bhasya I (3)  cont. to 1.1.1.

Ramanuja Bhasya I (4)   cont. 1.1.1.

Ramanuja Bhasya I (5)   cont. 1.1.1.

Ramanuja Bhasya I (6)   cont. to 1.1.11

Ramanuja Bhasya I (7)   cont. Chapter 1 section II to 1.2.11.

Ramanuja Bhasya I (8)   cont. Chapter 1 section III to 1.3.31.

Ramanuja Bhasya I (9)    cont.Chapter1 section IV to 1.4.29.



Rāmānuja II (3 files)

Ramanuja Bhasya II (1)  Chapter 2 section I- section II to intro.

Ramanuja Bhasya II (2)  Chapter 2 section II to 2.2.42. section III to 2.3.15.

Ramanuja Bhasya II (3)  cont. Chapter 2 section IV to 2.4.18.


Rāmānuja III (3 files)

Ramanuja Bhasya III 1    Chapter 3 section I -section II to 3.2.39.

Ramanuja Bhasya III (2)  3.2.40. PART II : Chapter 3  section III to 3.3.53.

Ramanuja Bhasya III (3)   cont. Chapter 2 section IV to 3.4.51.


Rāmānuja IV (3 files)

Ramanuja Bhasya IV 1   Chapter 4 section I- section II- section III to 4.3.4.

Ramanuja Bhasya IV (2)  cont. Chapter 4 section IV to 4.4.17.

Ramanuja Bhasya IV (3)   cont. to 4.4.22- Bibliography and Index


Please pass this information along to anyone in your social circles who might be interested.

For information about future yoga svādhyāya sessions please provide your name and email address here.

(For information about workshops organized by yoga studios, see:
Workshops on study of Yoga texts organized by Yoga Studios.)

For previous svādhyāya courses uploaded online, click here.

Edwin’s Charity in India