Holistic Learning

Hansavedas
Our holistic teaching curriculum (gurukulam) bears the name Hansavedas, which is also the name of our sangha and mission. This curriculum is placed first at the top of the seven levels of the Fellowship’s Teachings. Therefore the curriculum is the entry point for most seekers, servers and devotees looking to embrace authentic spirituality by imbibing wisdom teachings, living mindfully and ultimately building a regular practice of meditation. In this teaching platform, leading a life of mindfulness replete with meaningful service to the community is a natural after-effect of the centred lifestyle.

The Sanskrit term Hansavedas bears a specific meaning that embodies the journey to enlightenment through accelerated learning, introspective self-study and meditative revelation. The name personifies that supreme realized being (symbolized as a swan or hansa) who is the knower of consciousness, always self-reposed in the highest wisdom, and who reveals the Veda – the original Sanskrit wisdom.

Traditional Vedic learning is nonlinear and promotes accelerated learning due to a whole-brain approach. The methods have been successfully practised by generations of students to improve memory and lead a life of mindfulness. Children are inspired by whole-brain learning which brings about development of a noble character through improved memory power, emotional maturity, and graduation with values. This balanced learning approach brings about an understanding of conceptual truth (satya) and perceptual truth (ṛta), and ultimately prepares the seeker for mindful service to the community and liberation through meditation.

The Hansavedas teaching curriculum takes the essence of the time-honoured holistic learning methods and provides an authentic resource by integrating the salient thread (sutra) running through diverse aspects of meditative subjects. All essential components that supplement wisdom teachings and meditation, such as celestial music, sublime chanting, sacred art, yogic breathing, yoga-vinyāsa, wellness and mindfulness are integrated in a specific way as per the extant Sanskrit literature and guidance from lineages of meditation adepts. Even though to a mindful server, work is worship, in this paradigm, prayer reflects a subtle expression of inner peace and meditation is the primary form of worship.

The Hansavedas holistic curriculum is primarily offered to the public through direct teachings at our ongoing fellowship services and training classes, workshops and retreats. These fellowships invoke the traditional Vedic method of learning known as shruti or intent listening. The fellowship forum allows for high quality oral transmission and first-hand training. Many of our recordings from these regular services or public events, as well as those selected from our archives, are thereafter made available for online study. This online learning platform is steadily developing into a substantive rendition of original Sanskrit scriptures as a teaching resource in English.

The juxtaposition and interwoven elements of diverse learning bits and pieces, spiralling logic and built-in nonlinearity in our publication stream represent the Hansavedas concept. The teachings are collectively disseminated as a digital learning platform, multimedia.hansavedas.org and the coursework is being structured according to an ancient Sanskrit syllabus. The coursework being built up here online truly reflects the value-based holistic learning system from an authentic root source of indigenous knowledge.



Spiritual Philosophy

Hansadarshin
Our spiritual philosophy curriculum (gurukulam) is known by the Sanskrit name Hansadarshin. This curriculum is placed second out of seven levels of the Teachings tab. These wisdom teachings and their conceptual framework are readily disseminated through our public fellowships and annual retreats attended by hundreds of seekers and devotees. These fellowship-based teachings and adhering affirmations purify the mind when practised, and allow the seeker to grasp the subtler concepts and develop a vision of a spiritual life.

Sanskrit is well known as a root language and for its vast literature. However, the depth of spiritual philosophy contained in its ancient literature is not adequately represented in English or other modern languages. It is a great revelation for a seeker to comprehend how faith and evolution are effortlessly interwoven in the Sanskrit texts whenever they pertain to a deeper philosophical inquiry. It is no less of a discovery to see first-hand how ancient Sanskrit philosophies live on as a universal heritage for humankind, especially as a bridge between science and spirituality.

This indigenous knowledge including its esoteric meditation practices rest upon learning under the guidance of adepts whose lineages can be traced back to Vedic antiquity. The monastic tradition of monks who guide the teachings of this curriculum is based on an inquiry that combines advanced meditation with erudite scholarship using the aphorisms (sutrāṇi) of ancient cardinal philosophical treatises.

Reflection on philosophical tenets and rational analysis are used as part of rigorous training to unfold firm conviction. Arduous meditation is pursued to bring about the understanding of underlying principles. This results in the incontrovertible perception of truth with regard to immutable consciousness, mutable matter and the ‘willpower’ behind creation. Only then the Hansadarshin curriculum is taught and shared with seekers or interested public audiences through loving articulation.

The Sanskrit verses and aphorisms selected as the tenets of wisdom are primarily from the cardinal texts of Sāṅkhya, Yoga and Vedānta philosophies. An explanation is provided as to why they are deemed as statements of truth and how they are relevant now. The original revelation of Sanskrit scriptures is expounded upon with some attendant inquiries: Who is foremost among the teachers? Is the original revealer of wisdom teachings limited by time? How are these teachings passed down? Who are the seers or sages who share their profound realization through these cardinal philosophies? How does the exegesis by meditation adepts help us here and now in these modern times?

Here are some other profound inquiries that this Hansadarshin curriculum addresses: What are the primordial causes of creation, if any? Are the seer and the seen distinctly different? Can the knower ever be a knowable? What is consciousness? Are there many conscious entities? Is all matter linked? What part of us is evolving? Is our self-awareness eternal? Have we always been around? What is ego? Who is Ishwara (best English translation is God)? Are there many overlords for multiple universes? Is cultivation of faith connected with overlapping minds? What is sentience? What are the sentient, mutable and conservative principles palpable in evolving matter? Are cognition, mutation and inertness connected with these principles? Where are latent impressions stored? Can matter evolve out of consciousness? Is there unmanifest matter? If so, how does it start evolving through mutation? What is the relationship between mutable matter and unmanifest matter? Does the evolution or mutation entail discrete steps?






AYURVEDIC WELLNESS

Hansamanas
Our Ayurvedic wellness curriculum (gurukulam) is known by the Sanskrit name Hansamanas. This curriculum is placed third among the seven levels of the Teachings tab. Once the concepts and ideas of spiritual philosophy mature to crystallize into a clarity of purpose cushioned by a divine vision of life, personal discipline to attain the goal is taught by implementing of wellness routines. The curriculum disseminates the core teachings on wellness through dedicated workshops and as part of retreats. The focus of these forums is to inform and train participants about principles of healthy and sustainable living based on Ayurveda and Atharvaveda scriptural guidelines.

Hands-on lessons about the principles of Ayurvedic wellness develop the following: how to understand the lifeforce energy (prāna) and its relationship with biorhythms; how to attune to the prānic calendar; how to enhance vitality; an organic soli-lunar diet harmonized to personal mind-body constitution; the role of co-evolution and natural living in mending the mind and body; wholesome meal planning; yogic stretching synchronized with breathing; a lifestyle based on a holistic model of wellbeing. Participants walk away with a new understanding of their journey and how to live in harmony with the environment.

The physical body evolving from a combination of the five elements, namely space, air, fire, water and earthy solids is in general much dependent on the quality of interaction with the environment and food. Therefore, the ability to meditate or concentrate are inherently connected with the seeker’s lifestyle through wellness and wellbeing routines. This curriculum allows a seeker to first embrace the basic spiritual principles and bring about spiritual sensitivity.

A comprehensive workbook with practical guidelines is available at our webstore and makes a good starting reference point for the Hansamanas curriculum. The book inspires seekers to lead a balanced lifestyle by restoring wellness and enhancing vitality. In this book, the content is presented nonlinearly with a spiralling logic in order to reflect the flow of life energy – integrating breathwork, drinkables and edibles within a substantive content that ends with wholesome Ayurvedic recipes.

All the relevant details for a daily discipline towards a meditative lifestyle are captured in a structure that resonates with the goal of this curriculum. Subtle concepts and practical applications of agni (positive ions or fire principle) and soma (negative ions or the principle of subtle nectar in moonlight, mist or microhydrated water) are recurrent themes, and thereby helpful hints are given in the presentation on prānic replenishment and vitality.

The workbook sections have been developed in alignment with the innate urge (ājihirṣabodha) that gives rise to breath, thirst and hunger. This division is due to nourishment in the three forms of air, drinks and edibles; as drawing breath, quenching thirst and satiating hunger are the three ways of replenishing with prāna. The aspirant is able to assimilate how the daily and seasonal cycles that are in synchrony with our breath and heartbeat define the prāna calendar in relation to the local geographical coordinates. An understanding dawns that by adopting a synchronized spiritual discipline that attunes to the inbuilt relationship of prāna with the dynamic soli-lunar calendar, we become more closely connected with the energy coordinates within our bodies and around us. The intention is to guide the seeker to enhance vitality and experience wellbeing.






Himalayan Hansayoga

Hansayogin
Our Himalayan hansayoga curriculum (gurukulam) is known by the Sanskrit name Hansayogin. This curriculum is placed fourth among the seven levels of the Teachings tab. This is a natural progression after daily wellness routines are in place. Then a disciplined practice of breathwork and movement led by breathing can be brought about. The curriculum begins by emphasizing the correct practice of ujjāyi breathing (breath of victory), including how to place hands, how to synchronize the lower abdomen during the inhalation and exhalation, and how to experience the subtle movement sensation of prāna (vital energy).

The second stage of this curriculum focuses on how the flowing movements linking the intermediate postures are superimposed on the ujjāyi breath. Thus these movements are synchronized with inhalation and exhalation. The goal at this stage is to coordinate a practice of yoga-vinyāsa-krama by harmonizing movements with the ujjāyi breathing.

A traditional yoga-nidrā practice is taught to allow deep relaxation through a guided practice of conscious rest. While yoga-nidrā practice brings about quality relaxation by removing emotional disturbances, it is the practice of yoga-vinyāsa that is said to be ideal in removing physical disturbances.

The third stage of this curriculum inspires participants to practise prānāyāma breathing techniques in order to enhance their personal wellbeing. Three systems of prānāyāma breathing techniques, viz. the classical yogasutra-based system, traditional haṭhayoga system and nath system of Trayambaknath, are delineated for the aspirants.

In yoga-vinyāsa, the movements are led by the breath. This is the original style of yoga practice that integrates the prānāyāma stage into the āsana (steady posture) practice. The order that unfolds into a coordinated series is called the krama. This sequence contains the intermediate steps of āsana postures as defining the vinyāsa of the principal āsana. Herein one can think of vinyāsa as literally “one movement into the next” while krama implies “placed in a certain order.” Those intermediate steps are also individual āsana but linked with pauses in the breath to structure the flow into a complete sequence of the principal āsana to which the whole vinyāsa is ascribed. Hence an appropriate name for this style or approach to aṣtāngayoga (well-known eight-limbed yoga of sage Patañjali) is yoga-vinyāsa-krama.

The emotional disturbances and physical disturbances are deemed to be fundamental obstructions in the path of meditation and this is why the five restraints (yama) and five observances (niyama) have been listed as the ‘ten commandments’ for the first two stages of the eight limbs of yoga. These ten vows (sārvabhouma-mahāvratam) then make way for the yoga-nidrā and yoga-vinyāsa related to the next two stages of āsana and prānāyāma of aṣtānga-yoga (eight-limbed yoga).

While practising the basic techniques of yoga-vinyāsa-krama, the breath will rarely become laboured and the pulse rate will not race. Aerobic exercises have their place in building fitness and strengthening the cardiovascular system, but this form of yoga is designed to bring down the breathing rate and reduce the heart rate thus increasing sāttwika tendencies of calmness. This calmness becomes invaluable in developing samāpatti (habitual engrossment upon the object of meditation due to the momentum of practice), thereby allowing mindfulness and steadiness to grip the meditator.





MOUNTAIN PATH

Hansapathin
Our Mountain Path curriculum (gurukulam) is known by the Sanskrit name Hansapathin. This curriculum is placed fifth among the seven levels of the Teachings. The curriculum introduces the tradition of the esoteric Mountain Path of the ancient siddhas, yogis, mystics and monks of Himalaya, who have been carrying out the sutra meditation and higher yoga through their silent retreats in caves and remote mountainous sanctuaries. Esoteric teaching texts and scrolls are interpreted and taught as living wisdom for a modern seeker, and a physically fit aspirant may have the opportunity to embark on a special journey to explore Himalaya. Those who are not able to visit mountainous terrain are urged to practice mindful walks and contemplative reflection in serene nature close to them and then apply relevant tenets in their immediate surroundings. The personal inquiry takes on a deeper meaning in an ambience bereft of worldliness and its distractions.

Hansapathin teachings also develop an understanding of how the three levels of Himalayan terrain have impacted the root tradition: the Shivalik range up to about 9,000 feet, middle Himalaya up to about 18,000 feet which includes many high-altitude pilgrimage centres, and the high Himalaya that has the highest snow-capped peaks including Mount Everest (originally named vyomakuta in Sanskrit). The nath adepts do penance at various altitudes in remote terrain.

Trekking combined with mindful walking adds another dimension of self-discovery for an aspiring meditator. Interested aspirants are able to trek to parts of Uttarakhand and Himachal, and get an opportunity to experience first-hand the mystical ambience of the Himalayan Mountains. They are assisted with their pilgrimage through organized tours, generally with Haridwar as the starting point of the journey. As the name implies, Haridwar is the doorway to God and is a holy pilgrimage centre in India. The idea is to integrate mindful walking, balancing and trekking as part of the meditative ethos. A pilgrim is able to grow into an experience of habituated engrossment (samāpatti) while walking with tenderness along the trails in the footsteps of the great Himalayan masters and adepts. Peace walks amidst breathtaking scenery are often complemented with climbing steep ascents without becoming absent-minded. Such a contemplative walk aids mindfulness.

Himalaya has great tracts of wilderness and the environment in many parts is pristine, still free from encroachment. The vastness of the surrounding vistas, the sparkling water in springs and streams, stunning mountain views and rugged terrain help train the mind to be imbued with tranquility. The experience of caves as meditation coves in a rarefied atmosphere brings about thoughtlessness and freedom from internal chatter. Moreover, the exposure to a new ecosystem with many unusual species out of harm’s way nurtures our resolve to live in harmony with other creatures.

The teachings develop an understanding of how snowflakes bearing pure wisdom descend on the mountain tops; and the snow drifts and becomes frozen into ice to store the wisdom as glaciers. Their meltwaters then carry rivulets of knowing to the plains, and thereafter the rivers quench the thirst in the parched plains before merging into the sea. For some, this is more than a metaphor. Our meditation lineages treat the Himalayan Mountains as hallowed high ground close to the celestial source of sacred knowledge. They carried on the tradition which is known as the Mountain Path in Himalaya. The sacred traditions have been thriving since the descent of the rivers Saraswati and Ganga, and are hailed as a repository of indigenous knowledge. Thus the major mountains spanning the entire headwaters of Saraswati and Ganga are adored as the natural heads of different lineages. Each major mountain has its own particular character and has inspired a style of practice or branch within an overall system of meditation hitherto preserved in Himalaya.




Compassionate Mindfulness

Hansadharman
Our Compassionate Mindfulness curriculum (gurukulam) is known by the Sanskrit name Hansadharman. This curriculum is placed sixth among the seven levels of the Teachings. This curriculum develops a clear understanding of important distinguishing concepts; themes such as compassion, kindness, dispassion, noninjury and mindfulness. For example, one learns if striving is necessary when one is mindful and how dispassion with persistent spiritual practice makes way for a compassionate state of being. The teachings on how to let go and how to be present wherever one is make up the core part of this curriculum.

It is assumed that the aspirant has embraced the salient features of the previous five levels of our holistic curriculum. Thus concepts relating to habitual engrossment (samāpatti), states akin to anaesthesia during a meditation session, an exhilarating sensation of subtle energy currents during breathwork, value of the middle path and how meditation gently resolves the issue of right or wrong should feel familiar or achievable to an aspirant.

The twelve pillars of dharma as per Sāṅkhya philosophy, the practical aspects of the ten vows of Yoga philosophy and the contemplative thesis (upāsanā) of Vedānta philosophy are revised and revisited. The balance between dispassion and spirited service is understood to bring about clarity of purpose. Thereafter all salient wisdom teachings on the nature of the mind, memory, moment and mindfulness are taught to establish how mind, ego, and intellect function distinctively, albeit seamlessly in tandem. This is the stage when an aspirant has transformed even healthy skepticism to an understanding of the true nature of things. The aspirant understands how a doubt-free state of mind rooted in a state of compassion enables one to walk with tenderness and exude nonviolence. The body language becomes that of a meditator! Clarity of perception through mindfulness is in the offing.

Through the teachings the aspirant is able to delineate the function of the ten subtle sense organs (five organs of sense perception and five organs of motor action) and understand the meaning of subjugation (pratyāhāra). The prānāyāma practice taught through the Hansayogin curriculum purifies the sense organs while through the Hansapathin and Hansadharman curricula the participant is able to experience pratyāhāra (unstimulated sensory state) and periods of steady ideation (dhāranā), even if only momentarily. One is able to clearly see how the subtle sense organs gather impressions through an extroverted urge which when controlled allows the seeker to break the cycle of pleasure, pain and stupefaction.

This curriculum guides on how mindfulness overrides the relationship between affliction (kleṣa) and the expansion of experience of the world. Egoism is said to be the basis for expanding our experience of the world. Hansadharman teaches us that all worldly experiences ultimately bring suffering! That which brings about suffering and impedes discriminative understanding is then known as affliction. Attachment leading to jealousy, aversion leading to hatred, and the general dread leading to fear of death are said to be subsequent to egoism in the chain of afflictions. Hence the non-striving state of mindfulness is the forerunner of compassion.

When these teachings are inculcated, one is able to perform actions with a sense of duty. Furthermore, the aspirant masters the art of duty with feelings which entails taking ownership of duties (or projects) but also knowing when to let go. Mindfulness grips to clearly establish the true tenets of service and in the process weakens egoism.






INITIATED MEDITATION

Hansasamvid
Our Initiated Meditation curriculum (gurukulam) is known by the Sanskrit name Hansasamvid. This curriculum is placed seventh due to the curriculum’s focus on personal daily practice of a structured meditation directly learnt from our unbroken lineages of adepts. While other curricula of this system offer guided meditation made available through the online learning platform and through our in person fellowships, the Hansasamvid teachings and meditation techniques are conferred only through initiation from the lineage. The initiation blessings overcome certain shortcomings and nurture deeper yearning. Meditation techniques are taught in a week-long retreat rather than hurriedly over a weekend workshop. The daily schedule of the retreat is carefully structured for maximum reception through silent participation. The initiation-meditation retreats are typically held twice a year covering four meditation paths of the Himalayan Kriyā system, namely KriyāYoga, KriyāVinyāsa, KriyāLaya and KriyāMantra. These Hansasamvid retreats are separate from the Hansayogin workshops and retreats.

The Hansasamvid teachings develop a deeper understanding on how persistent meditative practices are best supported by regular prānāyāma breathwork for introversion of the sense organs, thereby minimizing distractions. The beginning meditator is able to see clearly how the doctrine of self-interest as the valid end of all actions, verily defined as egoism, is in reality geared towards expanding the experience of the world. Naturally, mindfulness even in momentary periods overcomes any exaggerated sense of self-importance prevailing during actions, thereby purifying traces of egotism. The mindful server is able to experience how duty with loving feelings without the expectation of personal gain helps transcend the pangs of egoism and egotism. Furthermore, the meditator sees how motivation for expanding the experience of the world arises from afflictive tendencies. While afflictions and their associated subtle desires are the cause of worldly experiences, they are also the foremost obstacle to one-pointed concentration both in meditation and all-round human excellence. The function of egoism is always connected with ignorance. If egoism is conquered, ignorance loses its grip and discriminative understanding matures. The meditator learns that the hankering for external sources of impressions and visual triggers can be controlled or paused at will.

A deeper understanding of the roots of passion enlightens the aspirant about how dispassion (vairāgya) in its developing stages does not necessarily compromise spiritual enthusiasm (utsāha). A better way dawns that is dispassionate towards worldly allurement which further helps transcend the raw passion for fame and recognition. Through a meditative lifestyle and introspective reflection, one can articulate the right livelihood through better use of natural resources without buckling under the pressure of competition. Here faith in one’s own heart’s intent ultimately assists in finding the right balance where work can become worship. The power of the mended and peaceful mind manifests a higher reality. The Hansasamvid curriculum practice clearly guides towards wise actions that do not stoke the ego! What is needed by the meditator in this curriculum is the firm anchor in a daily practice. Meditation is considered not just as a service to the body (because in deeper meditation, body awareness is transcended); it is definitely the way to be immersed in mindfulness and thereby harness the mental prowess. Dispassion is experienced as relieving oneself from worldly distractions while enhancing the consistency of meditation practice. Dispassion grips the meditator in stages and yet does not take away from the wisely proactive actions or meaningful service. Passion is said to be transcended into compassion for the world through the art of dispassion.

Other higher initiations on Vedāntic aham-graha contemplation based on Upanishadic verses or the rumination on truth-bearing aphorisms as per Sāṅkhya philosophy are offered in a separate curriculum not listed here, requiring deeper personalized study. The intent with this advanced study leading to contemplation or rumination is to fully anchor in Self-enquiry. Herein the aspirant’s inquiry relies upon superseding the regime of wilful actions or techniques that simply mend the mind. Instead, deep meditation practices leading to total arrest of thoughts are invoked that help create an understanding of the roots of willpower through mind control. This tradition is anchored in the deepest understanding of the underlying principles of creation and evolution; and is aptly equipped to resolve burning questions such as: How can free will be a product of human evolution? Is there a clear delineation between mind and ego? Do we attain repose in our intellect and access the inner voice? Is reclaiming tranquility the highest goal in meditation?

Inquiry matures in an ardent meditator through these advanced teachings. For example, this simple group of seven statements hints at the urge of some supreme being with an immense mental prowess as being behind creation: The chain of phenomena is eternal. A phenomenon must have a knower. An unknowable phenomenon is verily impossible. An existent thing never becomes nonexistent. A nonexistent thing cannot come into existence. Nothing can come out of nothing. A real effect arises only from a real cause.