Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth (CVV) hosted a three-day international conference titled “Conference on Oneness” from 15th to 17th October 2019 at its Chinmaya Eswar Gurukula, Kochi Campus. Prof. Nagaraj Paturi from the Indic Academy and Dr. Tulasi Kumar Joshi from CVV coordinated the event. The conference predominantly focused on Advaita in the contemporary world with keynote talks and paper presentations by scholars. The conference was unique in that it was designed as a platform for spiritual leaders, traditional scholars and researchers to discuss the principles of Advaita Vedanta from their unique perspectives and fields. Sixty-nine scholars from across the country participated in the conference and discussed the concept of oneness as defined by various disciplines. There were four online presenters as well.

The conference was organised and funded by the Indic Academy and Chinmaya Vishwavidyapeeth.

Summary of the Sessions

Inaugural Session

Swami Advayananda, Trustee CVV and Prof. Shrinivasa Varakhedi, Hon’ble Vice Chancellor of the Kavikulaguru Kalidas Sanskrit University (KKSU) were the Chief Guest and the Guest of Honour respectively.

Following the tradition, the conference was inaugurated with dīpaprajvālanaṁ (lighting of the lamp) and a prayer. The Hon’ble Vice Chancellor of CVV, Prof. Nagaraj Neerchal presided over the session and delivered the presidential address. He welcomed the conference participants and set forth CVV’s aim of bringing Advaita into people’s life.

Shri N. M. Sundar, Executive Secretary of CVV, introduced the dignitaries on the dais. Following this, Prof. Nagaraj Paturi delivered the introductory address. He articulated many “unifications” from Advaita Vedanta particularly referring to the works of Shri Bhagavatpāda Ādi Śaṅkarācārya. He said advaita is very much an integral part of an Indian’s life, and words like māyā and ajñāna are entrenched in Indian vocabulary. India is a country where even from the remotest rural area knows Vedantic concepts in-depth. They sing songs in their rural dialects where words like māyā, mithyā, ajñāna are freely used. He also expressed the speciality of vākyārtha-sadas, wherein real in-depth discussions take place in vākyārtha. The style of presentation of vākyārtha has such rigour that the presenters set out the proposition (pratijñāvākya) and anticipate hypothetical pūrvapakṣa-s to which they give the khaṇḍana (refutation). Scholars counter by bringing their pūrvapakṣa. The presenter is then expected to provide khaṇḍana for these too and finally establish the siddhānta (conclusion).

Prof. Paturi mentioned that while the “Conference on Oneness”  was the first such conference broadly focused on Advaita, the Indic Academy would continue to conduct such conferences periodically to build up the momentum for Advaita as the solution for the world of divisions that we live in. Shri Hari Kiran Vadlamani, Founder, Indic Academy, plans to conduct a global conference on “oneness” involving almost all the countries of the world.

Prof. Shrinivasa Varakhedi, addressed the audience, posing several questions on the meaning of “oneness” and concluded with the following apt verse –

देहबुद्‍ध्या त्वद्दासोऽहं जीवबुद्‍ध्या त्वदंशकः। आत्मबुद्‍ध्या त्वमेवाहम् इति मे निश्चिता मतिः॥ dehabuddhyā tvaddāso’haṁ jīvabuddhyā tvadaṁśakaḥ | ātmabuddhyā tvamevāham iti me niścitā matiḥ.

Swami Advayananda and Prof. Varakhedi launched Prof. K. Sadananda’s book “Journey Beyond: A Non-Dual Approach”.

Swami Advayananda delivered his scholarly keynote address. Swamiji stated that according to the Upaniṣads diversity is accepted but unity is their central message because that is the Truth. He said that oneness is the result of Advaita. He quoted the following mantra from the Iśāvāsyopaniṣad –

“यस्तु सर्वाणि भूतान्यात्मैवाभूद्विजानतः तत्र को मोहः कः शोकः एकत्वमनुपश्यतः॥”

At the end of the inaugural session, Dr. Tulasi Kumar Joshi proposed the vote of thanks.

Technical Sessions

The first technical session was titled “Retrospective of Shankara’s Works” which had four participants. The first paper was presented by an eminent scholar of Advaita Vedanta, Brahmashri Mani Dravid Shastri. His spoke on “Prasthānatrayabhāśyaṁ” and ended his talk with –

“इदमस्ति शास्त्रस्य कारुण्यं यत् शास्त्रं सामान्यमनुष्यमपि क्रमेण सन्मार्गे प्रवर्तयत् स्वेन अज्ञातमपि परमपुरुषार्थं तस्मै सामान्यजनायापि बोधयत् तं जनं परमपुरुषार्थे प्रतिष्ठापयितुम् इच्छति।” (The greatness of śāstra lies in its ability to gradually lead non-specialists towards the right path, make them understand the ultimate end and also firmly establish them there, while itself being unaware of the ultimate ends.)

The next presentation was by Prof. Madhusudana Penna from KKSU who spoke on Prakaraṇa grantha – Ātmabodha. In his talk, he said “आकरग्रन्थेषु तत्र तत्र विविधाभिः युक्तिभिः यः सिद्धान्तः प्रतिपादितः तस्य सरलतया अवगमार्थं प्रकरणग्रन्थाः रचिताः।”

Swami Sharadananda Sarasvati’s paper was titled “Bhaktistuti-s”. He explained the purpose of Bhaktistuti-s like Kashipanchakam, Narmada stotram, Gangastotram etc. He also said that various stotra-s are written for different kinds of Adhikari-s. He ended his talk with this beautiful sentence –

“एवं सगुणसाकारसगुणनिराकारनिर्गुणनिराकारतत्वानां क्रमश उपदेशेन सर्वेषां पारम्पर्येण सकलोपाधिपरित्यागद्वारा परमात्मनि अभेदानुभवप्रापकाणि भवन्ति अद्वैताचार्याणां श्रीमच्छङ्करभगवत्पादानां भाष्यकाराणां स्तोत्रतल्लजानि।”

Prof. Nagaraj Paturi spoke on a unique topic titled, “ज्ञानाभ्यासस्तुतिः”. He divided all the stotram into two categories भक्तिस्तुतिः and ज्ञानाभ्यासस्तुतिः. He said that भक्तिस्तुतिः contains नामगुणरूपलीलासंकीर्तनम् whereas ज्ञानाभ्यासस्तुतिः is purely philosophical work in the form of a stotram.

Themes of the technical sessions:

Session 2 – Conceptual Issues (Parallel)

Session 2 – Advaita in Leadership, Science and Sustainability (Parallel)

Session  3 – Vākyārthasabhā

Session 4 – Advaita, Yoga and Rituals

Session 5 – Rare Books and Rare Exponents of Advaita (Parallel)

Session 5 – Variants of Advaita (Parallel)

Session 6 – Advaita in Arts, Music and Dance

Session 7 – Contemporary Gurus of Advaita (Parallel)

Session 8 – Rare Books and Rare Exponents of Advaita (Parallel)

Session 9 – Advaita in Itihāsa and Purāṇas

Discourse on Laghuvākyavr̥tti

In this conference, Swami Advayananda presented three lectures on the prakaraṇa grantha titled Laghuvākyavr̥tti of Shri Sankaracharya. It was open to all the participants of the conference and was well attended. Swamiji systematically unfolder the logic of Bhagavatpāda Ādi Śaṅkarācāryaji to take seekers to jīvabrahmaikyam.

Cultural Programme

Dr. Duddu Radhika and Dr. Mridula Ashwin presented Carnatic music and Shri Swapnil Chaphekar presented Hindustani music.  Dr. Prabhavathy coordinated the music concert and also presented Carnatic music. At the end of the concert, a Bharatanatyam performance was staged by Dr. Rukmini Vijaykumar.

Valedictory Session

The valedictory session was presided over by Shri Hari Kiran Vadlamani, founder of Indic Academy. He talked about the foundation of Indic Academy. He said that the purpose of the Indic Academy is to bring Indic renaissance. He also mentioned that he has requested the Indian Government to declare Shankara Jayanti as Oneness day.

After his presidential talk, Prof. Nagaraj Paturi summarised the conference and invited the guest of honour, Swami Atmapriyananda, Vice-Chancellor of Ramakrishna Mission and Vivekananda Educational and Research Institute, to address the audience. Swami ji talked about Swami Vivekananda’s life. He said in his speech that Swami Vivekananda had predicted that Advaita Vedanta would be the future philosophy and religion of the rational thinking humanity. Mentioning two shlokas from the fifth chapter of Bhagavad-Gītā he said that the goal of Advaita Vedanta is the welfare of all beings –

योऽन्तःसुखोऽन्तरारामस्तथान्तर्ज्योतिरेव यः।

स योगी ब्रह्मनिर्वाणं ब्रह्मभूतोऽधिगच्छति।।5.24।।

लभन्ते ब्रह्मनिर्वाणमृषयः क्षीणकल्मषाः।

छिन्नद्वैधा यतात्मानः सर्वभूतहिते रताः।।5.25।।

At the end of the session Shri N.M. Sundar extended gratitude to all the dignitaries, participants, students, media, members of the IT Support team and the team from Chinmaya International Foundation (CIF).

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