I previously wrote that after completing the Chinmaya International Foundation’s “Foundation Level” e-vedanta course”, I was not going to continue with their advanced course but take the Himalayan Academy’s Master Course. I thought it might be useful to give some first impressions of the course, though I have been following it for just over two weeks, so it is a very early impression. I have not even completed my first self-assessment yet!
I ordered the books and the self-assessment PDFs, which are sent via email. When I ordered the books I had thought that they seemed rather expensive, but when they arrived the size, weight and sheer quality of the physical books make them worth the price. They are a delight to hold and read, with high quality paper, colour printing and a binding that will open flat on any page without strain. They are obviously designed to be read and referenced for a long time, and from what I have seen of the content they will be.
The course consists of readings from each book every day. The master course sight says that this will take around twenty minutes, but I like to look things up in the very comprehensive glossary so it usually takes me half an hour. The articles are written in such a way that this is not really necessary because the terms are described in the text, for example:
.. and subsequently to moksha, freedom from rebirth.
The glossary gives a much more comprehensive definition:
moksha: “Liberation.” Release from transmigration, samsara, the round of births and deaths, which occurs after karma has been resolved and nirvikalpa samadhi — realization of the Self, Parashiva — has been attained. Same as mukti. See: jivanmukta, kaivalya, kundalini, nirvikalpa samadhi, Parashiva, raja yoga, videhamukti.
The content of the lessons is not only informative about the Shaiva Siddhanta religion but also spiritually enlightening. The satguru’s teachings have a way of reaching you spiritually; you can see his wisdom and devotion and this stirs your own spirit. I think that each lesson can be followed at different levels, and that when I read the early lessons again after completing the course there will be much more than I first saw. There is an online group for those following the self-assessed course, and from what I have seen of the posts this is interesting and supportive.
In addition to the lessons there are various reference sections to brows through at leisure. I think the sādhana of getting up early, washing, chanting japa and study which were recommended by the Chinmaya course have helped in my following the Master Course. The books do recommend studying at regular times, preferably in the morning, but perhaps the benefits of this are underemphasised.
I have to say that my initial impressions of the course are very favourable. When I finish this course in just under a year’s time I will write again, but so far it is interesting, informative, inspirational, and I am enjoying it.