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Vedanta Overview

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Green Gaia

Veteran Member
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Vedanta (Vedānta) is an important branch of Hindu philosophy and is a form of Jnana Yoga (one of the four basic yoga practices in Hinduism; the others are: Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga), a form of yoga which involves an individual seeking "the path of intellectual analysis or the discrimination of truth and reality."

Roots of Vedanta

All forms of Vedanta are drawn primarily from the Upanishads, a set of philosophical and instructive Vedic scriptures which deal mainly with forms of meditation. "The Upanishads are commentaries on the Vedas, their putative end and essence, and thus known as Vedānta = 'End of the Veda'. They are considered the fundamental essence of all the Vedas and although they form the backbone of Vedanta, portions of Vedantic thought are also derived from some of the earlier Aranyakas.

The three branches of Vedanta best known in the West are Advaita Vedanta, Vishishtadvaita, and Dvaita. Each of these Vedantic divisions was founded by Shri Adishankara, Shri Ramanuja and Shri Madhvacharya, respectively. Also of note, historically, in order for a guru to be considered an acharya or great teacher of a philosophical school of Vedanta, he was required to write commentaries on three important texts in Vedanta, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma Sutras. Accordingly, Adi Sankara, Ramanuja and Shri Madhvacharya have written commentaries on all three canonical texts. The three schools they conceived are the most prevelant, however, proponents of other Vedantic schools continue to write and develop their ideas as well, although their works are not widely known outside of India.

Transition from Vedic to Vedantic religion

While the traditional Vedic 'karma kanda', or ritualistic components of religion, continued to be practiced through the Brahmins as meditative and propitiatory rites to guide society to self-knowledge, more jnana- or knowledge-centered understandings began to emerge. The latter were mystical streams of Vedic religion that focused on meditation, self-discipline and spiritual connectivity rather than on rituals. Etymologically, Veda means "knowledge" and anta "the end", so the literal meaning of the term "Vedanta" equates to, "the end of knowledge" or the "ultimate knowledge." In earlier writings, the Sanskrit 'Vedanta' simply referred to the Upanishads, the most speculative and philosophical of the Vedic texts. However, in the medieval period of Hinduism, the word Vedanta came to mean the school of philosophy that interpreted the Upanishads. Traditional Vedanta considered scriptural evidence, or sabdapramana, as the most authentic means of knowledge, while perception, or pratyaksa, and logical inference, or anumana, were considered to be subordinate.


The systematization of Vedantic ideas into one coherent treatise was undertaken by Badarayana in the Vedanta Sutra, or Brahma Sutra. The cryptic aphorisms of the Vedanta Sutras are open to a variety of interpretations, resulting in the formation of numerous Vedanta schools, each interpreting the texts in its own way and producing its own sub-commentaries claiming to be faithful to the original. Consistent throughout Vedanta, however, is the exhortation that ritual be eschewed in favor of the individual's quest for truth through meditation governed by a loving morality, secure in the knowledge that infinite bliss awaits the seeker. Near all existing sects of Hinduism are directly or indirectly influenced by the thought systems developed by Vedantic thinkers. Hinduism to a great extent owes its survival to the formation of the coherent and logically advanced systems of Vedanta.

Vedanta and science

Advaita Vedanta has influenced modern scientists. Erwin Schrödinger claimed to have been inspired by Vedanta in his discovery of quantum theory. According to his biographer Walter Moore: "The unity and continuity of Vedanta are reflected in the unity and continuity of wave mechanics. In 1925, the world view of physics was a model of a great machine composed of separable interacting material particles. During the next few years, Schrödinger and Werner Heisenberg and their followers created a universe based on superimposed, inseparable waves of probability amplitudes. This new view would be entirely consistent with the Vedantic concept of All in One.". Additionally, Fritjof Capra's book The Tao of Physics is one among several that pursues this viewpoint as it investigates the relationship between modern, particularly quantum, physics and the core philosophies of various Eastern religions, including Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism. Unfortunately, such writings by western authors often run the risk of oversimplifying and ignoring important differences between Eastern religions. For instance, pre-modern Vedantins argued for the existence of an eternal self, or atman, while Buddhists have denied this possibility. But as more and more translations of Vedantic works become available, modern students of the many schools of Vedanta are able make up their own minds regarding the claims of authors like Schrödinger and Capra.
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