Maharaja Shri Shantananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of the North. In a series of conversations spanning nearly 30 years until 1993, he presented Advaita to the School in a straightforward way, readily accessible for the West in this modern age, and covering many aspects of practical life.



What is Advaita philosophy?

Advaita is the clearest and most systematic expression we have found of the common philosophy that lies at the heart of many of the world’s great religions and philosophies. Meaning ‘one without a second’, it is a universal philosophy of great breadth. Its most central tenet is that everyone and everything are in essence the expression of one consciousness, irrespective of geography, race, religion or creed. It can be found not only in the East, where it was first taught, but equally at the heart many of the western philosophical and religious teachings. The Bible and the works of Plato both express this idea in many places. The works of Shakespeare, too, present aspects of Advaita with extraordinary beauty and clarity.

A true appreciation of Advaita allows life to be led more fully and richly, conferring greater freedom on the individual and those around him or her. It is designed to bring out the best in everyone, whatever the part they are playing.

Is it a religion?

No. Advaita does not stand in the place of religion. Rather, as many students in the School of a religious disposition have found, it has the capacity to expand and deepen an understanding of their own religion, whatever it may be. It is equally valuable for, and applicable to, those who practise no religion.

What is its history?

Advaita was first taught by Shankara, one of the greatest figures in Indian philosophy, who lived in the eighth century AD. He never claimed it as his own, rather proclaiming it as an eternal tradition.

The School was introduced to Advaita by a modern exponent, Maharaja Shri Shantananda Saraswati, the Shankaracharya of the North in India. A picture of this remarkable man appears near the top left of this page.

Is Advaita effectively the main subject taught in the School?

Yes, for students who decide they wish to continue their studies in the School for more than 2-3 years. It has been found useful also as a backdrop and reference point to other studies. For example, one result of studying it can be an increase in clarity of mind and observation. As a result, it has helped to promote a flowering of interest among some of the School’s longer term students in other subjects, including art, architecture, astronomy, dance, education, medicine, music, poetry, renaissance studies, Shakespeare, business ethics, Plato, Sanskrit and Vedic mathematics. These are generally carried out in specially formed study groups, or are offered as lectures and workshops to the general public. Click here for more details.

These studies, together with economics and other philosophical lines of enquiry such as Plato, are continually related back to the study and practice of Advaita philosophy as the source of the underlying guiding principles.

Does Advaita form the basis of the Introductory practical philosophy course?

The introductory course is inspired by the principles of Advaita, but the course is quite general, covering a wide range of philosophical ideas throughout the ages. It is designed primarily to arouse and foster a love of wisdom.

How can I find out more about it?

Click here for a fuller exposition of Advaita by the Leader of the School, Donald Lambie, in lecture in the ‘Philosophical Garden’ series.