What does Shravanam (listening to shastra) really mean?



Sri Gurubhyo Namaha

These are quick notes for Brahma Sutra Bhaashya (authored by Sri Shankaracharya) classes that were taught by Swami Paramasukhananda, which I was a student of during 2012-2013. What I feel like recording I record. They are not a substitute for live classes, but done as my cogitation.

  • Prasad.


Shravanam literally means listening or hearing. In the context of Vedanta, the particular literal meaning is for the shishya (student) to listen to the Guru unravelling the Upanishadic teaching about Jiva-Brahma-aikyam, the equality of Atma with Brahman.

A more clarified way to describe Vedanta Shaastra Shravanam is given as follows –

“Shravanam involves pujita vichaarah (पूजित विचारः) – consistent and systematic study of Vedantic scriptures, with a reverential attitude, for a length of time, under the guidance of a competent teacher, i.e., a Shrotriya – one who knows the technique of unfolding the Shaastra (thus has been a shishya before, and has learnt the Mimaamsa technique from his Guru), and a Brahmanishta, i.e., one who has no gap between what he is (he knows and has imbibed his teaching that “I am Brahman”) and what he teaches.” 

When is Shravanam said to be complete? The scriptures say that Shravanam is that which leads to “Vedanta taatparya nirnayah” (The clear understanding of the teaching of the Vedanta). This points us to the goal of Shravanam.

The Acharya elaborates this goal as follows. Shravanam is said to be complete only if the following convictions are reached in the student’s mind conclusively –

  1. The only problem of my life, the cause of all mental suffering, is finitude – apurnataa. “Finitude” is the assumption about oneself that one is lacking in something. The lack may be associated with the body or mind (each body-mind is different and has different capabilities), but it is confused with the Atman when one thinks “I lack”. With this feeling of lack, infact anything we gain is also a problem. This finitude is due to the lack of knowledge of the Atman.
  2. The only solution is the knowledge of my infinitude, Atma jnaanam or Brahma-jnaanam. The Vedanta reveals that I am infinite (Aham Brahma asmi). This is the truth, while the assumption of finitude is just that, an assumption, and not truth.
  3. Any knowledge is through a valid ‘means of knowledge’ or pramaana. Vedanta shaastra is the only pramaanam for Atma-jnaanam. Any other measures, such as meditative experience, kundalini, dvaita-bhakti, etc. do not result in Atma-jnaanam directly. For Atma-jnaanam, Vedanta alone is the means of knowledge.

It may take several lifetimes to achieve at these convictions, and only then learning of Vedanta Shaastra from a Guru becomes fruitful, i.e., Shravanam would be regarded as being complete.




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