Philosopher discusses the Vedantic way to achieve purpose and direction in life


Living is a skill that may be learned much like playing an instrument, according to the teachings of Vedantic philosophy.

The more you learn about life and the more you practice the guidelines set down by Vedanta, the more you will live a life of action and peace ultimately reaching the goal of self-realization, it affirms.

Acclaimed speaker Sunandaji Leelaram gave an intimate presentation about Vedanta on June 12 at the Carmel Valley home of Manish and Shital Parikh, devotees of the ancient Indian philosophy.

Leelaram is the daughter-disciple of world-renowned Swami Parthasarathy, founder of the Vedanta Academy, a residential learning center on the outskirts of Mumbai, India. Opened in 1988, it educates young people — from age 15 and up — about the Vedantic philosophy, regardless of their race, culture or religion.

Her talk, “Attachment: An Eclipse on Life,” focused on the negative effects of attachment, whether to wealth, family, religion or ideology, and how critical thinking and intellectual development may combat it.

Before her presentation, Leelaram spoke to this paper about Vedanta’s ancient wisdom in contemporary thought.

“We are spreading the word not because it is ancient, not because it is Indian, but because it is a science of life and living and is little known,” said Leelaram.

It is especially important for young people to gain this knowledge before they enter into the mainstream of their own lives, she added.

“When you go to traditional schools or universities, you learn just about anything and everything, except to live. What I’m doing now is to bring this knowledge, in a little capsule, to the people here in the U.S.,” said Leelaram.

Vedanta is derived from two words: “veda,” or knowledge, and “anta,” the culmination of knowledge.

The path to achieving the Vedantic way of life is simple, practical and logical. It aims to create a stress-free life for devotees by developing a strong intellect through exercising the faculty of questioning and reasoning.

At the residential academy, students receive materials that account for about 1 percent of their instruction, with 99 percent dedicated to self-directed efforts “to reflect on the various methods that we employ to ensure that they have the time to digest and assimilate the knowledge,” Leelaram explained.

Gaining knowledge is not in itself difficult, but bringing about the transformation that creates the conversion — from knowing the philosophy to actually living it — takes time.

“My father has spent over 60 years researching the subject and presenting it into a way that anyone over the age of 15 can understand,” said Leelaram.

Parthasarathy, 89, a former businessman turned eminent modern philosopher, has written many books on Vedanta. He has been featured on the cover of Time Magazine, Forbes and Business Week, and has spoken at several international business schools.

Based on the Vedas — the sacred scriptures of India — Vedanta affirms the oneness of existence, the divinity of the soul and the harmony of religions.

In modern society, it is a common goal to be successful, dynamic and progressive, while also striving to be peaceful, happy and content. “But we see celebrities that seemingly have everything they want, yet they are lost — and on the other hand we see cheerful, happy-go-lucky people who are by no means achievers. It seems idealistic to say, ‘How can you be successful and happy at the same time?’” asked Leelaram rhetorically.

The Vedantic philosophy aims to bring that about, rendering one free from negative emotions while providing clarity of purpose and direction in life.

“You’ve got to investigate it and find out if there is any truth in the statement that this is a whole philosophy that gives you the technique of right action so that you can be successful and at the same time find peace within yourself,” said Leelaram.

As an introduction to Vedanta, Leelaram recommends four books written by Swami Parthasarathy: “The Fall of the Human Intellect,” “The Holocaust of Attachment,” “Governing Business and Relationships,” and “The Eternities: Vedanta Treatise,” famed for being the seminal work on Vedantic philosophy.

There are also classes held by academy alumni in San Diego and Los Angeles and newly introduced e-learning online courses, along with the three-year residential course in India.

To find out more about Vedanta, visit For details about online learning, send an email to