Swami Vishnudevananda Giri is a spiritual teacher in a tradition of Advaita Vedanta and yoga, a sadhu, realized master-jnani, a philosopher, theologian, writer, pilgrim-traveler who has disciples all over the world – in Russia, Ukraine, USA, Europe, India and Nepal.
What is Advaita?
Advaita is a doctrine of the Hinduism tradition – Sanatana Dharma, transmitted to us by the Saints, Upanishads, Dattatreya, Vasishtha, Shankaracharya. Advaita Vedanta was systematized by the Holy Shankaracharya a thousand years ago. However, in reality, this is not a teaching, as we imagine it, not a philosophy, but a source of divine essence. It is not connected to a nation, religion, country, time, or individuals.
It is a unified divine Source of Being, a pure luminous consciousness filled with an infinite energy of creation. In Hinduism it is called Brahma, in the Christian religions – God-father, in Taoism – DAO. This unified divine consciousness is independent of nation, religion or culture. This is the source of consciousness to which we will return after liberation and it is impossible to describe. It can be understood by following the learning process taught by a spiritual teacher in his tradition.
Which flavor does the Advaita teaching take on through your form, and the way you teach?
In our tradition, Advaita Vedanta is the doctrine of the Northern Himalayan lineage emanating from the author and folder of the Vedas Sri Vyasa Deva received from the god Brahma.
Then she passed over to his disciple Shuka, from Shuka to Gaudapada, from Gaudapada to Govindapada, from Govindapada to Shankaracharya, and from Shankaracharya to the Order of Juna-Akhara, this teaching came to us.
However, the essence of advaita’s spiritual practice is the satsang of a guru and the mediation of the three main principles – Shravana, Manana, and Nididhyasana. During the Shravana the Guru explains the sacred texts and teaches the students the nondual states – “Aham Brahmasmi”, “Tat Tvam Asi”. During the Manana, Guru helps the student explain the meaning of these affirmations and gather their own meditative experiences so that the student is sure of the correctness of the condition. When the student has internalized this state, the third principle follows – Nididhyasana. Nididhyasana means – continuous contemplation of the Absolute.
Standing, sitting, lying down, walking, eating, working and talking, the student must remain in the tranquility of the nondual Brahman. In the course of such tranquility, there are 16 stages or 7 stages of development of the lands of wisdom. The movement on the way to liberation runs through these stages. At each level, the disciple is blessed by his personal deity, and the spiritual teacher helps to correct his practice. As you move through these stages, the student gradually goes through various levels of liberation.
Salokya-mukti means to find the living monastery of his personal deity.
Samipya-mukti means to be beside his deity. Sarupya-mukti means to have the same form and energy as the deity. Sayujya-mukti means, in the nondual light of consciousness, to rise in infinite consciousness. Sarsti-mukti means to attain the same powers as the deity, such as the power of the Creator of a universe. Movement through these five types of Mukti means developmental progress not only in Advaita Vedanta but also in other traditions, such as in Shaiva-Siddhanth. These types of Mukti are the same in all traditions, but for Advaita, rising (sayujya-mukti) is one of the most important levels of liberation we seek.
The spiritual practice consists of a daily practice of yoga in the morning (Sandhya-Upasana), mantra (Japa), daily rituals, puja, worship, everyday walking in tranquility, meditation, the study of the sacred texts, daily evening meditation and evening service, and also deeper practices the student performs at bedtime.
All these practices have only one purpose: to reach the nondual Sahaja state – the presence of Brahman. If the yogi manages to achieve a nondual contemplative presence, he no longer needs external practices or methods, he goes to the Anupayana or non-meditation level. Regardless of whether he practices them, his practice is only to look at a nondual Brahman and meditate on Mahamvakya Aham Brahmasmi.
Swami was born in 1967 in USSR. At the age of 6 he started his spiritual practice on his own, relying on his intuitive memory. At the age of 19 he accepted Sanatana Dharma as his way and religion.
He took several retreats, making yoga tapasya (ascesis). During his last retreat in 1993-1995 he realized samadhi and attained an enlightenment.
Swami Vishnudevananda Giri is an author of over 90 books and a multitude of articles and sketches on the theory and practice of Yoga and Tantra. He conducts research in theoretically difficult areas of philosophy such as prophecy, game theory, manipulation of reality, and common roots of Vedic civilization among the Aryans. Swami read several thousands of lectures about philosophy of Yoga, Vedanta and Tantra, about metaphysics and mythology of Sanatana Dharma.
In 2010 during Kumbha Mela Festival in Haridwar Swami Vishnudevananda Giri gained Mahamandaleshwar status in a Hindu monastic order Juna Akhara founded by Sri Adi Shanakaracharya. Mahamandaleshwar is a high title and it is a sign of high spiritual recognition. It also means Vishnudevananda’s outstanding achievements in the dissemination of Sanatana Dharma and Advaita Vedanta philosophy. The Initiation was headed by a member of the World Council of Religious Leaders at the United Nations, a spiritual leader (Acharya-Mahamandaleshwar) in Juna Akhara — Swami Avdeshanand Giri. Swamiji is the founder of the advanced yoga education center: the Yoga Monastery-Academy (or Advaita-Yoga Ashram) which propagates a unique system of study and practice. He teaches jnana, raja, bhakti, karma, kundalini and Laya Yoga, annutara tantra of siddhas. He is also a founder of the Worldwide Community of Sanatana Dharma, with followers in the CIS and around the world. According to BBC Swami Vishnudevananda Giri enters the top 3 most influential Hindu sannyasis (monks) among Europeans.