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Guide to Intelligent Living, Chapter 1 of Pancadasi by Swami Vidyaranya

New Course on Guide to Intelligent Living – an advanced introduction  to Vedanta, based on Chapter 1 of Pancadasi by Swami Vidyaranya.

Applications are now being accepted by Sri Vijay Kapoor for a very special and rare 6 month course on “Guide to Intelligent Living” – an advanced intro to Vedanta. Course will include a verse-by-verse study, Q&A, quizzes, guided meditation and a final essay. There is no charge for the course.

Your action: To attend the course you need to pre-register. To do so, please send an email to Please give a short introduction to yourself. Classroom space is limited. Preference will be given to people who pre-register. If we do not have enough space, recordings – both video and audio – will be made available. Please visit

Some FAQ for this special course.

Q: How can an introductory course on Vedanta help me in living intelligently? I am doing ok and I can figure out how to make course adjustments, as I need to.
A: Yes, we are all doing relatively ok, but only up to a point. Thus, having a successful career, taking care of family and health etc. can be accomplished. But none of panaceas are lasting. Each of us really wants to get to the bottom of what causes problems to begin with and solve the riddle of life – be absolutely free of all problems.

Q: How can total freedom even be a goal? As an experiencer, I have problems – such as many issues and limitations of the body and mind, and the world I deal with is also a constant source of problems. And this continues right up to the end of life. So how can absolute freedom even be possible, let alone be accomplished?
A: The essence of the ancient Vedas, called Vedanta, tells us otherwise. As sanatana dharma, or the timeless wisdom, it teaches that not only does this absolute freedom from problems exist, but it can, and should be accomplished while living, not after death.
Moreover, the goal of achieving freedom from dukkha, or worldly problems can be achieved by learning to live intelligently, keeping the end goal in mind. The goal and the means to achieve the goal are taught in the Bhagavad Gita also (note the refrain at the end of each of the 18 chapters – brahmavidyayam yogashastre – meaning goal and the means.)
Shastras, or Vedic scriptures, point out that in the absence of knowing the goal of freedom, we choose to lead a life of pleasantness, wherever the journey might take us. It is like moving from place to place on a vacation. Instead, if there is an important event, such as reaching a seriously ill close relative in time, one needs to select the fastest route possible, even though it might involve some discomfort, such as the multiple stops.

Q: Ok, I get it. But if unlimited freedom, called moksha, is my goal in life, what do I need to do achieve it.
A: To gain an understanding on what needs to be done, let us first look at the two types of achievement in our lives. One is where the achievement is not yet achieved, or apraptasya prapti. The other is achievement of the already achieved, or praptasya prapti. In the first, doing things is primary, and knowledge is supportive. To reach San Francisco from Fremont, you have to do something, supported of course by knowledge of the direction etc. In the second case, you may already have your keys with you, say in an inner pocket, but may conclude you don’t have it. Here knowing is primary, but your means to searching plays a supportive role.

Q: I can understand that about something I want to achieve, but what does it have to do with my own freedom?
A: It applies there also. It turns out that our nature is total freedom, but I don’t know it – I am confused about who we are.

Q: How can that be? Our personal experience is that we are sometime happy, and at other time not. Isn’t personal experience the ultimate proof?
A: It may not be. Experience is one of two kinds: with or without understanding. The experience of the rising sun remaining the same, the knowledge that it is actually the earth rotating, not the sun rising makes the understanding very different. In the same way, ‘I’ can be understood to be independent of problems, even as the experience changes.

Q: Ok, but how can I gain this knowledge? Can I not just read books to understand this? Why do I have to take a course?
A: Our scriptures are clear and emphatic about it – reading books may help, but ultimately it has to be gained from directly listening to someone who has gone through the process of understanding thoroughly. The reason is that the deep-seated doubts that we have about ourselves cannot be removed just by reading. It requires sustained learning with the help of a knowledgeable person who has himself/herself gone through this transformation.

Q: This being the case, how will this course accomplish a transformation?
A: The course will consist of covering chapter 1, in 65 verses, of the highly acclaimed Vedantic text called Pancadasi. Chapter 1 is a summary of the entire text – including goal of the human life, the means of achieving it, discussion of obstacles along the way, and showing what reaching the goal really means. It should be considered ‘an advanced introduction to Vedanta, or self knowledge’.
The book was authored by Swami Vidyaranya, an eminent scholar in Vedanta and Sanskrit, who lived from 1300 to 1387 AD. Vidyaranya was a kingmaker and patron saint to 3 generations of kings in the Vijayanagara Empire. He later became the 12th Jagadguru of the Sringeri Sarada Pitham. The text is so highly regarded that even today Sringeri Math acaryas prefer this text as an excellent summary of Upanisads.
We will be guided by the commentaries of Swami Maheshananda Giri, who was the head of the Dakshinamurti Math. His explanations, in Hindi, display an unusual wisdom and clarity of thought. Commentaries in other languages may also help.
A booklet consisting of the 65 verses in Sanskrit, word-for-word translation into English, transliterated text for accurate pronunciation, a complete English translation of the verse will be given to each student.
Each 90-minute class will consist of a discourse, Q&A and guided meditation. Some homework and quizzes will be given. The instructions will be in English, with liberal use of Sanskrit words and sentences. There is no charge for the course. Donations for classroom rental fee are always welcome.

Prerequisites: The course is for adults only. College degree (in any field – meant to insure disciplined study) preferred. A mellow, ethical disposition is a plus.

The teacher: Sri Vijay Kapoor has been teaching Vedanta in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1982. He was introduced to Vedanta by Swami Chinmayananda in 1973 and later attended a 2 ½ year course on Vedanta and Sanskrit with Swami Dayananda Saraswati in Piercy. He has two masters’s degrees, one in computer science and the other in business. He worked as an engineer and as a marketing executive for IBM and HP for 35 years. He was chosen by Swami Dayananda as the first secretary of the Arsha Vidya Pitham, and co-founder of the Arsha Vidya Gurululam in Saylorsburg, PA. After retirement in 2000, he founded the Arsha Vidya Center in the Bay Area for the teaching of Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Sanskrit. An estimated 400 people have been his students over the years. Currently about 125 students are actively attending his classes. He is known for an in-depth understanding of the shastras, and the ability to relate to fellow householders.