Vedānta: The Didactic Learning process

The Vedānta didactic or learning process consists of 3 phases:–

1. Śravana — attentive listening to the teachings (śabda).

Usually there is very little “objective” listening to anything! Our listening is conditioned by 3 factors which should be taken into account by the teacher when instructing the students — all doctrines, rules and regulations are conditioned by:—

· svabhāva — One’s personality and disposition.

· bhūmika — The level of intellectual, academic and spiritual attainment.

· adhikāra — The capacity of each individual for comprehension and insight and the ability to actually put the teachings into practice

These are the “filters of comprehension” through which all teaching passes and the conditioning factors which determine how we ourselves will engage with the teaching.

2. Manana — reflection upon what has been heard.

Reflection using reason and logic must be applied to all the teachings. Nothing should be accepted unexamined.

There are four criteria which are applied to test the validity of the teaching which can be applied to all schools of thought:—

· Satyam — is the teaching logical, rational, reasonable and does it stand up to challenge and debate. Can it be effectively defended from opposing views?

· Śivam — is the teaching universally beneficial? Does it benefit me personally — will I be improved through this teaching? Does it benefit the majority? Does it benefit all beings, sentient and insentient?

· Sundaram — is the teaching aesthetical, does it contribute to culture and to the Arts? Does it create more beauty in the world? Does it enhance people’s lives?

· Śānti — Does the teaching contribute to universal peace and tranquility? Is harmony produced between people and with nature and the other sentient beings?

3. Nididhyāsana — contemplation upon the teachings and their assimilation.

This stage of the process has two aspects: —

· śraddhā[1] — development of conviction that the practice and application of the teaching will lead to the results in mind. This conviction should be grounded on logic and supported by reason. If one is not yet convinced one returns to the afore mentioned processes and to the teacher for further interrogation and clarification.

· Prayojana — the application of the teaching through meditation and practice. The only way to realise the goal is abhyāsa or regular and consistent application and practice.

[1] śaṅkarācārya defines śraddhā as:— śāstrasya guru-vākyasya satya-buddhyavadhāraṇam | sā śraddhā kathitā sadbhir-yayā vastūpalabhyate || Śraddhā is a sound intellectual understanding of the words of the gurus and scriptures whereby tangible goals can be achieved.


Author: Rami Sivan, Priest, Dharma teacher, counsellor, Gov. Advisor (1998-present)

May 1st 2020