My name is Ted Schmidt and I was born in Elbow Lake, Minnesota in 1965. Throughout my youth, I was very active in sports and played baseball and basketball in high school. I attended the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, where I earned a B. A. degree in English and education. Following my graduation, I taught high school English in southern California for six years, and have been doing the same at a high school in the southern suburbs of Minneapolis, Minnesota since the late 1990’s.
I was initiated into the yogic path upon receiving shaktipat from a famous Indian guru in 1989. For the next twenty years, meditation, chanting, service, and scriptural study served as my fundamental spiritual practices. During this time I avidly studied the non-dual teachings of both Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism as unfolded by the teachers in that tradition.
Having grown up in a Christian culture and yet having felt little nourishment from its brand of spiritual belief and practice, I was also curious about what the true teachings underlying that tradition might be. After some investigation, I ran across Kabbalah (i.e. Jewish mysticism) and discovered that its teachings paralleled the non-dual teachings of the Eastern spiritual traditions. I also dabbled in Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, and the spiritual tradition of a West African tribe called the Dagara. During that time, I became certified as both a yoga teacher and a QiGong instructor/healer and after a two-year study of Dagara shamanism was initiated as an Elder in that tradition. Though each of these paths offered valuable insights into the nature of reality, I was repeatedly drawn back to my practice of Siddha Yoga. I had literally turned my world upside down trying to experience the truth, but the bottom line after all this searching and seeking and kundalini tweaking, however, was that none of it did the trick.
It wasn’t until I met my teacher, James Swartz, and heard the teachings of traditional Vedanta that I finally understood who I am.
Vedanta is the only tradition that I have encountered that offers the complete understanding that constitutes self-knowledge (i.e. Brahma satyam jagan-mithya jivo brahmaiva na’parah — limitless awareness is real; the world is not-real; the individual soul is non-different from limitless awareness) explained in all its aspects and ramifications. No other tradition that I have encountered offers teaching methods (i.e. prakriyas) and practices (i.e. yogas) that so effectively remove ignorance and so clearly reveal self-knowledge. I was hooked. . . .
. . .and then set free.
I teach traditional Vedanta in a non-traditional format. To be clear, the teachings of Vedanta do not belong to me. I am merely a mouthpiece for the tradition. The teachings are handed down from teacher to student in an unbroken chain called the sampradaya. The most important link in this tradition is the sage Adi Shankara, whose brilliant scriptural commentaries and insightful original works served to resolve all the apparent contradictions that existed in the scriptures and render coherent the essential non-dual vision of reality that is the basis of Vedanta.
My teacher is James Swartz, who is world-renowned Vedanta teacher. James (also known as Ramji) has made it his mission to make the teachings of Vedanta available to English-speaking Westerners in way that is accessible and yet in complete alignment with the traditional teachings of Vedanta.
James’ guru was Swami Chinmayananda, founder of the worldwide Chinmaya Mission and one of the foremost teachers of Vedanta in the 20th century. Known as the Pope of India, Swami Chinmayananda was one of the first traditional Vedanta teachers to make translations of and commentaries on the scriptures available in English.
James’ and, hence, my own teaching style has most profoundly influenced by Swami Dayananda, who is James’ guru-brother (i.e. both were disciples of Swami Chinmayananda). Swami Dayananda Saraswati is a contemporary teacher of Vedanta and a scholar in Sanskrit in the tradition of Sankara. Swamiji has been teaching Vedanta in India for more than five decades and around the world since 1976. His deep scholarship and assimilation of Vedanta combined with a subtle appreciation of contemporary problems make him to reach both traditional and modern students. Swami Dayananda has also played an instrumental role in making the teachings and scriptures of Vedanta available in English.
Another influence of particular note is Swami Paramarthananda, who studied under both Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Dayananda. He is a masterful teacher who lives and teaches in Chennai, India.