Vedanta is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy, which means “end of the Vedas”, although The term Vedanta means in Sanskrit the “conclusion” (anta) of the Vedas, the earliest sacred literature of India.
Vedanta reflects ideas that emerged from or were aligned with, the speculations and philosophies contained in the Upanishads, specifically, knowledge and liberation. Vedanta contains many sub-traditions, all of which are based on a joint group of texts called the “Three Sources” (prasthānatrayī): the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras, and the Bhagavad Gita.
The three fundamental Vedanta texts are the Upanishads (the most favored being the longer and older ones such as the Brihadaranyaka, the Chandogya, the Taittiriya, and the Katha); the Brahma-sutras (also called Vedanta-sutras), which are very brief, even one-word interpretations of the doctrine of the Upanishads; and the Bhagavadgita (“Song of the Lord”), which, because of its immense popularity, was drawn upon for support of the doctrines found in the Upanishads.
All Vedanta traditions contain extensive discussions on ontology, soteriology, and epistemology, though there is much disagreement among the various schools. The main traditions of Vedanta are Advaita (non-dualism), Bhedabheda (difference and non-difference), Suddhadvaita (pure non-dualism), Tattvavada (Dvaita) (dualism), and Vishishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism). Modern developments in Vedanta include Neo-Vedanta and the growth of the Swaminarayan Sampradaya.
Most major Vedanta schools, except Advaita Vedanta and Neo-Vedanta, are related to Vaishavism and emphasize devotion (bhakti yoga) to God, understood as being Vishnu, Krishna or a related manifestation. Advaita Vedanta meanwhile, emphasizes jñana (knowledge) and jñana yoga over theistic devotion. While Advaita monism has attracted considerable attention in the West due to the influence of modern Hindus like Swami Vivekananda and Ramana Maharshi, most of the other Vedanta traditions focus on Vaishnava theology.
Texts of Vedanta:
The main Upaniṣads, the Bhagavadgītā, and the Brahma Sūtras are the foundational scriptures in Vedanta. All schools of Vedānta propound their philosophy by interpreting these texts, collectively called the Prasthānatrayī, literally, three sources.
- The Upaniṣads, or Śruti prasthāna; are considered the Sruti, the “heard” (and repeated) foundation of Vedanta.
- The Brahma Sūtras, or Nyaya prasthana / Yukti prasthana; is considered the reason-based foundation of Vedanta.
- The Bhagavadgītā, or Smriti prasthāna; is considered the Smriti (remembered tradition) foundation of Vedanta.
several schools of Vedānta developed, differentiated by their conceptions of the nature of the relationship, and the degree of identity, between the eternal core of the individual self (atman) and the absolute (brahman). Those conceptions range from the non-dualism (Advaita) of the 8th-century philosopher Shankara to the theism (Vishishtadvaita; literally, “Qualified Non-dualism”) of the 11th – 12th-century thinker Ramanuja and the dualism (Dvaita) of the 13th-century thinker Madhva.
The Vedanta schools do, however, hold in common a number of beliefs: the transmigration of the self (samsara) and the desirability of release from the cycle of rebirths; the authority of the Veda on the means of release; that brahman is both the material (upadana) and the instrumental (nimitta) cause of the world; and that the self (atman) is the agent of its own acts (karma) and therefore the recipient of the fruits (Phala), or consequences, of action.
All the Vedanta schools unanimously reject both the non-Vedic, “nay-saying” (nastika) philosophies of Buddhism and Jainism and the conclusions of the other Vedic, “yea-saying” (astika) schools (Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, and, to some extent, the Purva Mimamsa).
The influence of Vedānta on Indian thought has been profound. Although the preponderance of texts by Advaita scholars in the West gave rise to the erroneous impression that Vedanta means Advaita, the non-dualistic Advaita is but one of many Vedanta schools.
Advaita Vedānta is one version of Vedānta. it is nominally a school of Indian philosophy, although, in reality, it is a label for any hermeneutics that attempts to provide a consistent interpretation of the philosophy of the Upaniṣads or, more formally, the canonical summary of the Upaniṣads, Bādarāyaņa’s Brahma Sūtra. Advaita is often translated as “non-dualism” though it literally means “non-secondness.”
Although Śaṅkara is regarded as the promoter of Advaita Vedānta as a distinct school of Indian philosophy, the origins of this school predate Śaṅkara. The existence of an Advaita tradition is acknowledged by Śaṅkara in his commentaries.
The names of Upanṣadic teachers such as Yajñavalkya, Uddalaka, and Bādarāyaņa, the author of the Brahma Sūtra, could be considered as representing the thoughts of early Advaita. The essential philosophy of Advaita is an idealist monism, and is considered to be presented first in the Upaniṣads and consolidated in the Brahma Sūtra by this tradition. According to Advaita metaphysics, Brahman the ultimate, transcendent, and immanent God of the latter Vedas appears as the world because of its creative energy (māyā). The world has no separate existence apart from Brahman.
The experiencing self (jīva) and the transcendental self of the Universe (ātman) are in reality identical (both are Brahman), though the individual self seems different as space within a container seems different from space as such. These cardinal doctrines are represented in the anonymous verse “Brahma Satyam Jagan mithya; jīvo brahmaiva na aparah” (Brahman is alone True, and this world of plurality is an error; the individual self is not different from Brahman).
Plurality is experienced because of error in judgments (mithya) and ignorance (avidya). Knowledge of Brahman removes these errors and causes liberation from the cycle of transmigration and worldly bondage.
Despite their differences, all schools of Vedanta share some common features:
- Vedānta is the pursuit of knowledge into the Brahman and the Ātman.
- The Upaniṣads, the Bhagavadgītā, and the Brahma Sūtras constitute the basis of Vedanta (known as the three canonical sources).
- Scripture (Sruti Śabda) is the main reliable source of knowledge (pramana).
- Brahman – Ishvara (God), exists as the unchanging material cause and instrumental cause of the world. The only exception here is that Dvaita Vedanta does not hold Brahman to be the material cause, but only the efficient cause.
- The self (Ātman or Jiva) is the agent of its own acts (karma) and the recipient of the consequences of these actions.
- Belief in rebirth and the desirability of release from the cycle of rebirths, (mokṣa).
- Rejection of Buddhism and Jainism and conclusions of the other Vedic schools (Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, and, to some extent, the Purva Mimamsa).
Metaphysics In Vedānta:
Vedanta philosophies discuss three fundamental metaphysical categories and the relations between the three.
- Brahman or Ishvara: the ultimate reality
- Ātman or Jivātman: the individual soul, self.
- Prakriti/Jagat: the empirical world, ever-changing physical universe, body, and matter.
What is Vedanta Academy?
Founded by A. Parthasarathy in 1988, Vedanta Academy is a world resource for study, research and dissemination of Vedanta. It offers continual three-year full-time residential courses and youth camps for students as well as corporate seminars and retreats for professionals and businesspersons.
The Academy disseminates knowledge through a scientific program of study and reflection. Encourages a spirit of enquiry. A liberal approach that enables the development of the intellect and not merely providing intelligence on a subject.
The Vedanta Academy offers continual three year full-time residential courses for students from all over the world regardless of race or religion. The curriculum, composed and conducted by Swami Parthasarathy, includes in-depth analysis of a range of texts expounding Vedanta Philosophy.
The study is complemented by select works from English literature and poetry. The course also includes a module for training students in Sanskrit language and verses.
On completion, graduates are awarded a diploma in Vedantic Philosophy. Course schedule With no weekends and vacations, the course is carefully designed to instill disciplines for the body, mind and intellect for comprehensive development of the personality.
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