Scott Teitsworth has spent a lifetime studying Indian philosophy, the teachings of Sree Narayana Guru and his Advaita Vedanta. Teitsworth, from Portland in the USA, even teaches Advaita and the Bhagavad Gita to Indians.
Teitsworth, who has written books on Indian philosophy, is a disciple of Nitya Chaitanya Yati, a philosopher who was the disciple of Nataraja Guru, who in turn was mentored by Sree Narayana Guru. “I met Sree Narayana Guru through Nitya,” says Teitsworth.
He was first attracted to Indian philosophy when he was 19. “In those days in America, Indian spirituality was all the rage,” he says. Teitsworth, who was raised an agnostic, found Nitya Chaitanya Yati’s teachings on Advaita a transformative experience. “That’s when I realised, ‘Wow, this is what everyone was talking about.’”
Teitsworth has come all the way from Portland to Kochi to attend the Cochin Conference on Metaphysics and Politics. He presented a paper on ‘A Garland of Visions: Narayana Guru’s Darsanamala’ at the conference on Saturday.
What was great about Sree Narayana Guru and his work was that his ideas were not politically naïve, says Teitsworth. “He was concerned with social issues and helping people to live well.” Narayana Guru’s call for equality for women, he says, was one of the many ways in which he transformed society.
Teitsworth and his wife Deborah Buchanan have been conducting regular classes on Bhagavad Gita and Indian philosophy from their home in Portland since the 1970s. Deborah, a poet, was the first foreigner to become the disciple of Nitya Chaitanya Yati and travel with him.
“She used to travel with him. It created a scandal at first. A sanyasi and a young girl travelling together.” Teitsworth too soon became a disciple of the guru’s. “I was looking, and I found him. He was superb. I requested him to be my guru. I didn’t realise how dangerous it was at the time. But I was very fortunate,” he says.
His guru’s teaching methods, he says, were ferocious. The process was long, but rewarding. “It is a slow process of rewiring the brain. It happens gradually. After 25 years, I went through a major change. You could never sell that to anyone.”
While people turn to India for guidance and spirituality, not many have his patience to work at achieving what Indian philosophy promises. “Everybody’s looking for a quick fix. But I’ve never felt like I was working. It was all fun.”
Teitsworth, a self-taught college dropout, has also been involved in editing the works of Nitya Chaitanya Yati and has written books on Indian philosophy.