IF any philosophy is to be worth the time it takes to examine it, the end result must be to reward its adherent in some appreciable way. Philosophy holds out the promise of a whole range of human values including clarity, comfort, calm, seeing the humour in otherwise troubling situations, understanding the laws that govern our emotions and fortunes, happiness, harmony, inner peace and in some rare cases even spiritual bliss. Just as a tree is to be known by its fruit and the testing of a pudding is in the eating, a philosophy can be evaluated by the degree to which it is capable of improving one's life experience. By this measure the Philosophy of Narayana Guru is to be acknowledged as a treasure for all humankind.
In my own case, I had the advantage of sampling the fruit even before perceiving the tree. Flash back 30 years to my first visit to India. As a young man, recently graduated from one of the most prestigious universities in the United States, I was undergoing something of a severe identity crisis. Having spent my entire life successfully learning how to excel in the role of student, I now felt ill-prepared for living life outside the confines of the artificial world of academia. If truth be told, I was totally fed up with philosophy itself, which at that point I considered to be little else besides vain, sterile hairsplitting and logic-chopping put forward by ineffectual men in 'ivory towers' that had little or no relation to the flesh and blood of actual day-to-day life.
In fact, the underlying purpose of my travelling was to come into more direct contact with the heart and pulse of real life as opposed to abstracted life. Through much misdirection and many an ill-conceived turn lion convoluted to present here but which is narrated in detail in my book Mirror by the Road), I unwittingly landed up at the front gate of the Narayana Gurukula in Varkala, South India. Both literally lost and at a loss, I was greeted and welcomed by a young man named Prasad. He took my hands in his in a gesture of warm welcome and asked me what I needed. Unable to even answer this seemingly simple question, I blurted out something to the effect of my wanting to learn Hatha Yoga. With a gentle tone, he told me that Hatha Yoga was not taught there, but that they did teach about Yoga in its broader sense such as is presented in the Bhagavad Gita. At the time, that meant nothing to me. "Anyway", he said, "you look rather tired and you must be hungry and thirsty. Please come in and stay with us for some time. Whenever you feel refreshed and ready, you can continue your journey."
The Board of Studies of the Mahatma Gandhi University in the Kerala State of India once mooted the idea of introducing the Philosophy of Narayana Guru in its Faculty of Philosophy. But the idea had to be dropped for the reason that no proper book worth using as a textbook was available then on the subject. We in the Narayana Gurukula felt that this lack had to be rectified, and the present book is its outcome.
Academic studies on Vedanta, in the normal course, follow a path much different from the one followed by seekers guided by traditional gurus. What the universities are interested in with respect to Vedanta, as with all other subjects, is the academic correctness of thinking. The method they follow is logical reasoning, which in its turn depends on the law of causality. The extent to which causality is an unquestionable law is a bone of contention amongst academics themselves. The interest of and method relied on by traditional masters are much different. A master is a person who has realised the ultimate meaning of life, making actual life free of all bondages and entanglements. The goal of the seekers who approach such masters is attaining this realisation. Logical reasoning alone is not the only method they resort to. Such reasoning is possible only with regard to things or phenomena observed in nature. The meaning content of the observer or the seeker's own self is never observable, and to that extent is not amenable to logical reasoning. It therefore requires a new method of reasoning, if at all this method could be considered 'reasoning'. Such a method has always been resorted to by all masters all over the world, some consciously and some unconsciously. We, in the present book, have tried our best to clarify this method. Still the students and professors alike may find it difficult to follow it, simply because it is something quite unfamiliar to them. Yet we plead that the philosophy of Narayana Guru, and for that matter the philosophy of any great master, will not yield itself to the students without recourse to this time-honoured method. Academics, in other words, will have to accommodate themselves to this line of thought if their intention is imbibing the real spirit of the philosophy of Narayana Guru.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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