Vedanta (Devanagari: _sa. वेदान्त, "IAST|Vedānta") is a spiritual tradition explained in the Upanishads that is concerned with the self-realisation by which one understands the ultimate nature of reality (Brahman). Vedanta which implies "the end of all knowledge" - by definition is not restricted or confined to one book and there is no sole source for Vedantic philosophy. [cite book | last = Brodd | first = Jefferey | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = World Religions | publisher = Saint Mary's Press | date = 2003 | location = Winona, MN | pages = | url = | doi = | id = | isbn = 978-0-88489-725-5 ] Vedanta is based on immutable spiritual laws that are common to religions and spiritual traditions worldwide. Vedanta as the end of knowledge refers to a state of self-realisation, attainment, or cosmic consciousness. Historically and currently Vedanta is understood as a state of transcendence and not as a concept that can be grasped by the intellect alone.

The word "Vedanta" is a Sanskrit compound word which can be treated as:
* "veda" = "knowledge" + "anta" = "end, conclusion": "the culmination of knowledge" or "appendix to the Veda"
* "veda" = "knowledge" + "anta" = "essence", "core", or "inside": "the essence of the "Vedas". [ [ Vedanta Sutra and the Vedanta by Dr. Subhash C. Sharma ] ] Vedānta is also called Uttara Mimamsa, or the 'latter' or 'higher enquiry', and is often paired with Purva Mimamsa, the 'former enquiry'. Pūrva Mimamsa, usually simply called Mimamsa, deals with explanations of the fire-sacrifices of the Vedic mantras (in the Samhita portion of the Vedas) and Brahmanas, while Vedanta explicates the esoteric teachings of the IAST|Āraṇyakas (the "forest scriptures"), and the Upanishads, composed from ca. the 9th century BC until modern times.


While the traditional Vedic "Karma kānda", [Ghanshyamdas Birla "Alive in Krishna: Living Memories of the Vedic Quest (Patterns of World Spirituality) " (New York: Paragon House, 1986) p. 37. ISBN 0-913-75765-9

According to Birla, Karma Kanda, as it was called, was then in the hands of the priests. This was part of the Vedas, but in the hands of the priests it had assumed an aspect entirely different from the one Vyasa (Krishna) had shown. Sacrificing animals and drinking the juice of the Soma creeper soon became very attractive to the priests and the real purpose of the yajnas, nishkama karma, was lost sight of. Along with the ascendancy of the priests there came into force the teachings of the Sankhyas which advocated Sanyasa. To rescue humanity from both these paths Krishna established the Bhagavata dharma. ] 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 (gnosis)- or knowledge-centered understandings began to emerge. These are mystical streams of Vedic religion that focused on meditation, self-discipline and spiritual connectivity rather than on rituals.

Etymologically, "veda" means "knowledge" and "anta" means "end", so the literal meaning of the term "Vedānta" is "the end of knowledge" or "the ultimate knowledge" or "matter appended to the Veda". In earlier writings, Sanskrit 'Vedānta' 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 considers scriptural evidence, or shabda pramana, as the most authentic means of knowledge, while perception, or pratyakssa, and logical inference, or anumana, are considered to be subordinate (but valid).


The systematization of Vedantic ideas into one coherent treatise was undertaken by Badarayana in the Vedanta Sutra(200 B.C.) Scholars know the Vedānta-sūtra by a variety of names, including (1) Brahma-sūtra, (2) Śārīraka, (3) Vyāsa-sūtra, (4) Bādarāyaṇa-sūtra, (5) Uttara-mīmāṁsā and (6) Vedānta-darśana.Citation
first = S.D.
last = Goswami
author-link = Satsvarupa dasa Goswami
title =Readings in Vedit Literature: The Tradition Speaks for Itself
publisher = []
date = 1976
pages = 240 pages
isbn = 0912776889
] 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. Nearly 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.

ource texts

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 or "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 primary philosophy captured in the Upanishads, that of one absolute reality termed as Brahman is the main principle of Vedanta. The sage Vyasa was one of the major proponents of this philosophy and author of the Brahma Sūtras based on the Upanishads. The concept of Brahman – the Supreme Spirit or the eternal, self existent, immanent and transcedent Supreme and Ultimate Reality which is the divine ground of all Being - is central to most schools of Vedānta. The concept of God or Ishvara is also there, and the Vedantic sub-schools differ mainly in how they identify God with Brahman.

The contents of the Upanishads are often couched in enigmatic language, which has left them open to various interpretetions. Over a period of time, several scholars have interpreted the writings in Upanishads and other scriptures like Brahma Sutras according to their own understanding and the need of their time. There are a total of six important interpretations of these source texts, out of which, three (Advaita Vedanta, Vishishtadvaita and Dvaita) are prominent, both in India and abroad. These Vedantic schools of thought were founded by Shri Adi Shankara, Shri Ramanuja and Shri Madhvacharya, respectively. It should be noted, however, that the Indian pre-Shankara Buddhist writer Bhavya in the Madhyamakahrdaya Karika describes the Vedanta philosophy as "Bhedabheda". Proponents of other Vedantic schools continue to write and develop their ideas as well, although their works are not widely known outside of smaller circles of followers in India.

While it is not typically thought of as a purely Vedantic text, the Bhagavad Gita has played a strong role in Vedantic thought, what with its representative syncretism of Samkhya, Yoga, and Upanishadic thought. Indeed, it is itself called an "upanishad" and thus, all major Vedantic teachers (like Shankara, Ramanuja, and Madhvacharya) have taken it upon themselves to compose often extensive commentaries not only on the Upanishads and Brahma Sutras, but also on the Gita. In such a manner, Vedantists both old and new have implicitly attested to the Gita's importance to the development of Vedantic thought and practice.Fact|date=September 2007

Sub-schools of Vedanta

Advaita Vedanta

Advaita Vedānta was propounded by Adi Sankara and his grand-guru Gaudapada, who described Ajativada. According to this school of Vedānta, Brahman is the only reality, and the world, as it appears, is illusory. As Brahman is the sole reality, it cannot be said to possess any attributes whatsoever. An illusionary power of Brahman called Māyā causes the world to arise. Ignorance of this reality is the cause of all suffering in the world and only upon true knowledge of Brahman can liberation be attained. When a person tries to know Brahman through his mind, due to the influence of Māyā, Brahman appears as God (Ishvara), separate from the world and from the individual. In reality, there is no difference between the individual soul "jīvātman" (see Atman) and Brahman. Liberation lies in knowing the reality of this non-difference (i.e. a-dvaita, "non-duality"). Thus, the path to liberation is finally only through knowledge ("jñāna"). [ [ Vedanta] on Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia]


Vishishtadvaita was propounded by Ramanuja and says that the "jīvātman" is a part of Brahman, and hence is similar, but not identical. The main difference from Advaita is that in Visishtadvaita, the Brahman is asserted to have attributes, including the individual conscious souls and matter. Brahman, matter and the individual souls are distinct but mutually inseparable entities. This school propounds Bhakti or devotion to God visualized as Vishnu to be the path to liberation. Māyā is seen as the creative power of God. [ [ Vedanta] on Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia]


Dvaita was propounded by Madhva. It is also referred to as tatvavādā - The Philosophy of Reality. It identifies God with Brahman completely, and in turn with Vishnu or his various incarnations like Krishna, Narasimha, Srinivasa etc. In that sense it is also known as sat-vaishNava philosophy to differentiate from the Vishishtadvaita school known by sri-vaishNavism. It regards Brahman, all individual souls ("jīvātman"s) and matter as eternal and mutually separate entities. This school also advocates Bhakti as the route to sAttvic liberation whereas hatred (Dvesha) and indifference towards the Lord will lead to eternal hell and eternal bondage respectively.Liberation according to Dvaita, is the state of attaining maximum joy (or sorrow) which is awarded to individual souls at the end of their sadhana based on the souls' inherent and natural disposition towards good (or evil). In that way, this is the only mainstream Vedantic philosophy that provides a realist solution to the so called problem of evil. The achintya-adbhuta shakti (the immeasurable power) of Lord Vishnu is seen as the efficient cause of the universe and the primordial matter or prakrti is the material cause. Dvaita also propounds that all action is performed by the Lord energising every soul from within, awarding the results to the soul but Himself not affected in the least by the results. [ [ Vedanta] on Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia]


Dvaitādvaita was propounded by Nimbārka, based upon an earlier school called Bhedābheda, which was taught by Bhāskara. According to this school, the "jīvātman" is at once the same as yet different from Brahman. - jiva relation may be regarded as dvaita from one point of view and advaita from another. In this school, God is visualized as Krishna. [ [ Vedanta] on Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia]


Shuddhadvaita propounded by Vallabha. This system also encouraged Bhakti as the only means of liberation to go to Goloka (lit., the world of cows; the Sankrit word 'go', 'cow', also means 'star'). The world is said to be the sport (Leela) of Krishna, who is "Sat-Chit-Ananda". [ [ Vedanta] on Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia]

Achintya Bhedābheda

Achintya Bhedābheda propounded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (Bengal, 1486-1534). This doctrine of inconceivable and simultaneous one-ness and difference this is actually an ancient system of knowledge and devotion to Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. However he has indicated that this sublime gift has been brought to mankind through the kind effort and dedication of an unbroken chain of teachers beginning with the Supreme Lord Himself. In the modern age of science and technology, the pure teachings were broadcast all over the world in the 19th century.Fact|date=May 2008 Some intitutions follow the path of Mahaprabhu, such as ISKCON, Gaudiya math, Sri radharaman achrayas, Srila Atul Krishna goswami ji maharaj, Sri Sribhuti Krishna Goswami Ji maharaj, Sri Pundrik Goswami Ji Maharaj etc.Or|date=May 2008

While Adi Shankara propounded the Smārta denomination,Fact|date=May 2008 all the other above-mentioned acharyas were strongly Vaishnavite in orientation. The Advaita, Vishishtadvaita and Mimamsa (ie, purva-) have their epistemology in common.Fact}]

Purnadvaita or Integral Advaita

According to his followers, Sri Aurobindo, in his "The Life Divine", synthesized all the exant schools of Vedanta and gave a comprehensive resolution integrating cues from the Western metaphysics and modern science. He is said to have restored the umbilical cord of the Vedantic exegesis with the Vedas.

Modern Vedanta

The term "modern Vedanta" is sometimes used to describe the interpretation of Advaita Vedanta given by Swami Vivekananda of the Ramakrishna order of monks. [] He stressed that:

*Although God is the absolute reality, the world has a relative reality. It should therefore not be completely ignored.
*Conditions of abject poverty should be removed; only then will people be able to turn their minds toward God.
*All religions are striving in their way to reach the ultimate truth. Narrow sectarian bickering should therefore be abandoned, and religious tolerance should be practised — between different Hindu denominations, as well as Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.

Vivekananda traveled to the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago in 1893, and became an influential figure in synthesising Eastern and Western thought. He played a major role in the spread of Vedanta to Western nations. His travel to the West was criticised by some orthodox Hindus. His proponents claim that he made Vedanta living, by understanding how it could be applied to the modern world, and by investing it with his own spirit. [] For Vivekananda, Vedanta was not something dry or esoteric, but a living approach to the quest for self-knowledge.

In his interpretation of Advaita (as in Shankara's), there is still a place for Bhakti (devotion). Monks of the Ramakrishna order suggest that it is easier to begin meditation on a personal God with form and qualities, rather than the formless Absolute. Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman are viewed as obverse and reverse of the same coin. []

List of teachers

There have been many teachers of Vedanta in India and other countries over the centuries.Hari Prasad Shastri, D. Krishna Ayyar, Ramana Maharshi, Narayana Guru , Shri Siddharameshwar Maharaj, Sri Ranjit Maharaj, Swami Rama Tirtha, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Sivananda , Swami Krishnananda, Swami Paramananda, Swami Chinmayananda, Swami Sri Lilashahji Maharaj, Shri Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Sri Aurobindo, Shri Swami Tapovan Maharaj, Sengalipuram Muthannaval, Mannarguri periyaval, Paruthiyur Krishna Sastri, Anantarama Dikshitar, Kanchi Mahaswamigal,Swami Ranganathananda were great Vedanta scholars. [ Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati] , Baba Ramdev, Nithyananda Swamigal, Muralidara swamigal, Swami Krsnapriyananda Saraswati, are distinguished, traditional teacher of Vedanta of the present day.

Influence in the West

The influential philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel refers to Indian thought reminiscent of Advaita-Vedanta in his introduction to his "The Phenomenology of Spirit" and in his "Science of Logic". Arthur Schopenhauer was influenced by the Vedas and Upanishads; in his own words: "If the reader has also received the benefit of the Vedas, the access to which by means of the Upanishads is in my eyes the greatest privilege which this still young century (1818) may claim before all previous centuries, if then the reader, I say, has received his initiation in primeval Indian wisdom, and received it with an open heart, he will be prepared in the very best way for hearing what I have to tell him." ("The World as Will and Representation") Among western figures who have been influenced by or have commented on Vedanta are Friedrich Nietzsche, Max Müller, Voltaire, Aldous Huxley, T. S. Eliot, J.B. Priestley, Christopher Isherwood, Romain Rolland, Alan Watts, Eugene Wigner, Arnold Toynbee, Joseph Campbell, Hermann Hesse, Ralph Waldo Emerson [Sachin N. Pradhan, India in the United States: Contribution of India and Indians in the United States of America, Bethesda, MD: SP Press International, Inc., 1996, p 12.] , Henry David ThoreauCitation
first = Carl T.
last = Jackson
author-link = Carl T. Jackson
title = Vedanta And The West
publisher = Indiana University Press
date = 1994
] ,
Will Durant, Nikola Tesla,
Erwin SchrodingerCitation
first = Erwin
last = Schrodinger
author-link = Erwin Schrodinger
title = What is Life? Mind and Matter
publisher = Cambridge University Press
date = 1944
pages = 194 pages
isbn = 0521427088
] and
John Dobson.Fact|date=July 2008


ee also

*Monistic idealism
*Svayam bhagavan

Further reading

* "The Eye of Shiva". New York, William Morrow & Co. 1981. Amaury de Reincourt
*"Forgotten Truth: The Primordial Tradition" by Huston Smith
*"Theology After Vedanta" by Francis X. Clooney
*"Sankara and Indian Philosophy", by Natalia Isayeva
*"A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy" by Hajime Nakamura
*"Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies" and "Vedanta Sutras of Narayana Guru" by Karl Potter and Sibajiban Bhattacharya
*"The Upanishads" by Sri Aurobindo [] . Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry. 1972.
*"Vedanta Treatise- The Eternities" by Swami Parthasarathy []
*"Vedanta: A Simple Introduction" by Pravrajika Vrajaprana []

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