My name is Isaiah “Vishnudeva” Sanders. I started End of Knowledge to make the ancient wisdom of Advaita Vedanta available in straight-forward, contemporary language, especially for those interested in Vedanta but intimidated or bewildered by it’s technical jargon and Hindu context. Why? Because Vedanta changed my life for the better. And I think it can change yours too.
Obligatory Spiritual Biography
My journey to Vedanta started almost by accident. At the time I was an atheist but the unexpected death of a loved one sent me to the local bookstore on a quest for answers to life’s big questions. I came home with a stack of books from various religions and philosophies and started reading them one by one but nothing appealed to me until I came to the last book in the pile, a copy of the Bhagavad Gita translated by Eknath Easwaran (which, at the point, I almost didn’t bother to read!). It immediately spoke to me in a way I couldn’t quite articulate. For someone as intellectually minded as myself, I daresay the words of the Gita felt true.
At the time I already had a meditation practice. But the Eight Point Program laid out by Easwaran in his translation of the Gita inspired me to deepen that practice. And the teachings of the Gita itself gave my practice a much needed context and goal. As such, I consider Easwaran to be my first guru.
Inspired by Easwaran’s teachings, I began regularly attending a Hindu temple to meditate and worship. For the most part, I had no idea what I was doing or what was going on. I needed some help! At first, my presence in the temple was met with either curiosity or polite indifference. But after some time (and a bit of persistence), the temple pujari (priest) could see that I was sincere and he began offering me his guidance and insight. Eventually, he would be the one to perform the ceremony where I symbolically committed to Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) by taking my spiritual name, Vishnudeva. Although we never established a formal relationship, I’ve long since viewed him as my second guru, and at the very least, a valued friend.
While worshipping at the temple I also sought to deepen my understanding of the Hindu scriptures. This is when a fellow temple-goer told me about Chinmaya Mission, an organization that taught Vedanta, something that up until that point in my spiritual journey had only been alluded to in the teachings of Easwaran. Hungry for knowledge, I immediately started attending lectures.
But unlike my experience at the temple I didn’t find anyone to personally guide me or explain things to me. Bewildered by the dazzling array of exotic symbolism, intimidated by the sheer volume of Hindu scriptures and absolutely baffled by the Sanskrit language, I hit a wall. After several years of intense meditation and devotional practice I was tired, frustrated and ready to quit.
Luckily, I didn’t. And shortly thereafter my resilience was rewarded when I came across an American Vedanta teacher who claimed to be a student of Swami Chinmayananda, the very founder of Chinmaya Mission. This teacher, a fellow product of American culture, was able to convey the essential teachings of Vedanta to me in terms I could understand. I enthusiastically asked them to be my guru. They accepted and under their tutelage my spiritual practice blossomed. Eventually, they gave me the opportunity to be a teacher myself. They even gave me a job with their teaching organization.
After working remotely for my teacher for about a year, I prepared to make a cross-country move to be closer to them, possibly even live with them for awhile. They told me that if things worked out I would eventually be handed the reins of their teaching organization. But as the time to move approached, I felt increasingly uncomfortable with the situation, sensing that it wasn’t right for me. So I left my teacher’s employ, fully intending to continue on as their student. But soon after it became clear to me that it would be best for both my spiritual progress and peace of mind to leave their tutelage entirely.
So under my own volition, I dissolved our student-teacher relationship and I have not spoken to them since. Nonetheless, my former teacher’s importance to my spiritual journey cannot be understated. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them and parting ways on the spiritual path can never change that. Besides, the situation had a silver lining: It showed me that a person’s level of realization isn’t always reflected by their level of character. At times when I myself lack character, I am seriously grateful to know that.
Another thing I am grateful for is that my former teacher introduced me to the teachings of Swami Paramarthananda. The Swami’s clear and insightful exposition of Vedanta, along with his impeccable reputation in the Vedanta world, immediately appealed to me. After studying his teachings for some time, I asked him to accept me as a disciple—thankfully, he did. He has been my guru ever since and he has been instrumental in clearing away doubts I didn’t even know that I had, thus chipping away the last bits of ignorance obstructing the recognition of myself as the non-dual, limitless reality that I am. I understand how pretentious saying that may sound but anything I’ve come to realize about myself is really just a credit to Swamiji’s skill as a teacher and the quality of the material he teaches. Bottom line: He helped me a lot and I’m indebted to him.
These days, I try to pay it forward by making Vedanta available to others. No, Swami Paramarthanada didn’t commission me to teach nor do I claim any authority by virtue of being his student. And unlike the Blues Brothers, I am not on a mission from God. I simply teach because I think it’s a worthwhile endeavor (and it doesn’t hurt that I enjoy it too!). So if you’re a sincere seeker of truth, I’m here to help.