Swami Chinmayananda envisioned a programme of study for the Vedanta Course, with the twin objectives of developing both the head and the heart of the student. It is in tune with this objective that the two-year, intensive Advaita Vedanta curriculum is standardized. Traditional in its teaching methodology, its exhaustive focus is on ‘Prasthana-trayi’, the primary triad of the Hindu scriptures.
In the light of Shri Adi Shankaracharya’s detailed commentaries, the course of study examines all the major Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Brahma Sutras (chatuhsutri). To aid in their understanding and provide greater depth to their knowledge, students are also taught Sanskrit grammar. Training in Vedic chanting, stotram singing and bhajans are incorporated in the daily routine. To tune the heart to have love for God and devotion to the Guru, students are exposed to an in-depth study of devotional texts and hymns composed by great spiritual masters.
The curriculum includes but is not limited to the following:
- Sanskrit: Students are exposed to basic Paninian grammar through an array of grammar exercises, subhashitas and sutras. On their entrance to Sandeepany, students will undergo an examination to determine their level of understanding of Sanskrit. According to their levels of competence, they will then be assigned the appropriate level – beginner, intermediate or advanced.
- Vedic Chanting: Students will learn the following mantras in the traditional Vedic style of chanting: Medha Suktam, Shri Suktam, Durga Suktam, Purusha Suktam, Narayana Suktam, Vishnu Suktam, Rudram (Laghunyasa, Namakam, Chamakam), Mantrapushpam, Gayatri Mantra, Mahanarayana Upanishad.
- Prakarana Granthas: Essential texts, these analyze and clarify key concepts of Vedanta.
Tattva Bodha, Bhaja Govindam, Atma Bodha, Upadesha Sara, Sadhana Panchakam, and others.
Drg-Drshya Viveka, Vivekachudamani, Vakya Vritti, Panchadashi (selected chapters), Advaita Makaranda, Vedanta Sara, Saddarshanam, Hastamalaka Stotram, Manisha Panchakam, Dakshinamurti Stotram, and others.
- Shrimad Bhagavad Gita: This most sacred dialogue focuses on the practical application of Upanishadic teachings. In other words, it shows us how to live. The text is covered in the second year of the Course, along with the essence of the Shankarabhashya.
- Upanishads: These are the core of Vedanta. The major Upanishads are taught along with Shankarabhashya and study of a few minor Upanishads is taken up in detail as well.
Major Upanishads: Isha, Kena, Katha, Mundaka, Aitareya, Taittiriya, Prashna, Mandukya with Karika, Chandogya (chapters 6-8).
Minor Upanishads: Kaivalya, Amrta Bindu and Shvetashvatara.
- Brahma Sutras (the first 4 adhikaranas): This logic-driven, highly analytical survey of the entire Upanishadic corpus resolves all doubts in the minds of those dedicated to a study of the Upanishads. Hence, it is typically taught at the very end of the course.
- Devotional Texts: Vedanta is beautifully and graphically portrayed through various and varied texts of Bhakti literature. Students study some such texts in detail, and others through selected verses.
These include Shrimad Bhagavatam, Tulsi Ramayana (Ramacharitmanas), Narada Bhakti Sutra, Mukunda Mala, and others.
- Hymns: Students are trained to be proficient in the singing and recitation of several inspiring stotrams. Chinmaya Book of Hymns is the primary resource book, though the course repertoire encompasses many more chants.
The chants include Guru Stotram, Gurvashtakam, Tapovan Shatkam, Ganesha Pancharatnam, Acyutasthakam, Marga-bandhu Stotram, Dakshinamurti Stotram, Vishnu Sahasranam, Lalita Sahasranam, Shiva Sahasranam, and others.