Recently, I was having a discussion about pursuing the study of Vedanta and allied works academically or from a traditional teacher. Definitely there is a range of scholarship found in academic circles. A lot of topics are covered and concepts dealt with. It is fine if the aim is to finish a doctorate, get a job in academics in a university or use it as a base to get into allied fields of study in humanities etc. Whereas, a traditional study in an ashram or gurukulam is much more in depth and definitely brings one closer to the truth. Why is there a difference? Because you're putting your money where your mouth is, rather, you're putting your life into your pursuits. You have given up pursuits of job, family etc. and immersing yourself in the pursuit of the truth.
There was this lady who came to me some years ago wanting to study Vedanta. I asked her ‘Why do you want to study? She had completed a Master's in philosophy and went to the head of department to say that she wanted to work on her doctorate. The Head of Department asked, ‘Why do you want to get a doctorate? ‘ And the lady replied, ‘I want to know the truth’. The Head of Department replied, ‘Then, don't waste your time on a PhD. Study from a traditional teacher.’
Therefore, even if you are not going to an ashram in a full-time pursuit of the truth because of other priorities, you will still benefit a lot from studying with a traditional teacher. I have a great respect for the Head of Department that she discovered the limitation of her academic pursuit and recommended traditional learning. Not everyone can see the limitations of their pursuit. At the same time, if you have other priorities in life, you can study from a traditional teacher, but don't look for an immersive experience in an ashram setup, except in short durations like a retreat. If you're looking for a career, the academic way is the way forward.
The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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