Introduction to Vedanta

Discussion in 'Vedas' started by Speechless world, Dec 27, 2015.

  1. Speechless world

    Speechless world New Member


    The origin of the Sanskrit word “Vedanta” is Veda + anta. Veda means intuitive knowledge or wisdom. The root verb “vid” means to know. Anta means end, conclusion, essence or a goal. So, Vedanta means the final conclusion as well as the goal of Vedas. There are four Vedas, Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, andAtharvaveda, which are the timeless collections of inspired thoughts and intuitive wisdom. Vedantic wisdom, philosophy and practice are based on three major sources of inspired writings namely, Upanishads, Bhagvad-Gita, and Brahma-Sutra. These three together are known as the foundations of ancient wisdom, Prasthana-trayee.

    Philosophy of Vedanta

    It is a perennial philosophy of enlightened life and the practical way of realizing it,sanatana dharma. The universe is an organic whole and has a natural order calledRitam. Every thoughtful human being is wonderstruck by its beauty, complexity, and infinite expressions. One who has understood the truth of being an integral part of this natural order has an intuitive understanding of the ultimate reality within and without oneself, Ritam-bhara prajna. The search is for the fundamental truth, which underlies the flux of all changing phenomena. The author of Kena Upanishad asked: ‘What is that, which being known, everything else becomes known?’

    There are two forms of knowledge, a direct, aparoksha, and an indirect, paroksha.The direct knowledge is first-person, immediate and without any reflective thought and recall of memories. The indirect knowledge involves slow deliberate cognition with reflective thought, associations, and reactive memories. Direct knowledge is like eating an ice-cream and experiencing for yourself its taste, flavor, and coolness. Indirect knowledge is like reading a description of an ice-cream, or seeing some one else eat it.

    The direct intuitive knowledge, prajnanam, is based on personal experience. There is no subject-object duality in the direct experience, aparoksha anubhuti. It is a pre-reflective process. Such a self-inquiry leads one on an inward journey to self, antar-gaman, self-knowledge, atma-jnana, and the self-realization of being, atma-sakshatkar. The essential truth within, satyasya satyam, can be realized from within. It is the pathless path to self.

    We have to learn to watch the drama of life dispassionately. This includes changes in our surroundings, parisara, our physical body, deha, physiological activities like breathing, shvasana, as well as the mind, manas, and its activities like thinking,vichara, intending, sankalpa, recalling, smruti. We need to learn to stay still and undistracted in the present moment, until we realize the truth of our spontaneous,sahaja, tranquil, shanta, and exhilarating being, ananda.

    Self-realization springs from within, because the fundamental truth of our existential being is within. It is not outside in the changing phenomena. There is something amazingly beautiful within each one of us – a primal feeling, adi bhavana,of an endless, ananta, spontaneous wonder, vismaya. It is complete in itself, poorna. It lacks nothing. It is the greatest wonder within, which needs to be discovered by our own watchful enquiry. We are an integral part of this incredible natural order,Ritam. We are in nature and nature is within us at every level of our biophysical and mental organization. We should realize this amazing integration in our own heart. This is what Vedanta is all about.

    The main thesis of Vedanta is that the ultimate reality of the universe, Brahman, and the ultimate reality of a conscious human being, Atman, are two aspects of the same essential truth. Our task is to discover this truth in our own life and appreciate the wonder of this amazing existence, jagat.

    Brahman: The Ultimate Reality of the Universe

    The word Brahman is derived from the root verb Bruh, which means to grow, to expand, to surge. It is a ceaseless, spontaneous bursting forth or emerging. It is the primal reality as well as the organizing principle of the universe. Brahman is thereality of the real, satyasya satyam, the source of all existence. This absolute reality of Brahman is truth, satyam, consciousness, jnanam, and infinite, ananta. It is also described as existential, blissful, conscious being, sat-chit-ananda. It is not merely a featureless absolute, but the wholeuniverse is its incredible expression. Chaandogya Upanishad described Brahman as Tajjalan, that, which gives rise to, sustains, and absorbs the universe, tat-ja-li-an. It is the creative matrix of the dynamic universe. Universe is truly a uni-verse, a single poem, a single process. We are an integral part of it.

    Brahman is not an object of thought or reflection. It is not the result of any human action or creation. It is beyond all possible description. It can only be known intuitively in the core of one’s being. It is the unfathomable ground of the universe, which encompasses every thing in it. Brahman is both transcendent as well as imminent in the universe. It is both the real as well as the realized. The essence of the individual, atman, and the existential totality, brahman, are two aspects of the same truth.

    Atman: The Ultimate Reality of a Conscious Human Being

    The word Atman is derived from the verb an ‘to breathe.’ It is the breath of life. It is the essential being of the individual, the self or the soul. Atman persists when the not-self is systematically eliminated from conscious awareness. The not-self includes all objective phenomena like the world, body, mind, intellect and ego. The Atman is the ultimate conscious witness, sakshi. Some vedantins think that Atman is an unborn, aja, and immortal, amar, element, bhaga, in a person. Atman is the essential self-conscious being. It is the foundational reality of an individual being.

    Atman as Brahman

    The unity of atman and brahman can only be realized directly and intuitively, within the calm and clear stillness of one’s own being. One can realize the self-renewing, spontaneity of one’s own being. It is the nondual, advaita, experience of the existential singularity, ekatva. That is why this philosophy of vedanta is also known as advaita vedanta.

    The Individual Self

    The individual self is called jiva, one who breathes. It is the biological aspect of human individuality. It is also called purusha, the primal person. The individual jivais the doer, karta, as well as enjoyer, bhokta, of various life experiences. It has the biophysical body, deha, the subconscious organizing energy, prana, and conscious mind, manas. The manas is composed of five sensory faculties (hearing, sight, touch, smell & taste), five executive or motor faculties (speech, hands, feet, excretory and generative), and an overall executive intelligence, buddhi. In addition, mind also includes the matrix of memory, chitta, and the sense of I, ahamkar. The four mental elements (manas, chitta, buddhi & ahamkar) together form the inner organ of conscious experience, antah-karana.

    The Skillful Practice of Vedanta

    To realize the truth within, we have to become alert and be aware of all that is happening from moment to moment, both within and around us. Such an attitude of being fully and whole-heartedly present in the current moment is called presence, mindfulness, or vipashyana. It is a special orientation, observation, or perspective. It is a unique process of self-absorbing, renewing and staying undistracted every moment. It is like bird-watching, when one is quiet, non-intrusive, passive but totally engrossed in the act of the watchful experience. One’s whole heart and being are still but fully attentive in the moment. It is just watching, listening and eventually just being in the moment.

    There is no world-teacher; world IS the teacher! World includes all that is happening both within and without. Each living moment can teach us something new, because no two moments are identical. The whole world is a process, which is continuously changing and evolving. One can learn continuously and directly from every change. An awareness of any change is cognition or knowledge. Human body and mind are both the means as well as the receptacle of personal experience, knowledge, and understanding, Shariram adyam khalu dharma sadhanam.

    In order to notice a change fully, one must be keenly attentive, free, still, silent and present-minded. One has to wake up not only from the day-dreams, but also from the so-called wakefulness. Such an awakened awareness with direct, primal experience,aparoksha-anubhuti has been called the fourth state of consciousness, Turiya. According to vedanta philosophy that is the goal of daily life. When, one is continuously in harmony with the primal, existential being, Adi Purusha, one’s life can be spontaneous, sahaja, effortless, ayatna, selfless, nirahamkar, all-caring,sarvatmaka, and inspring, prajnanam Brahma.
  2. Speechless world

    Speechless world New Member

    The Inward Path to Self-Realization

    An inward, pathless path has been described in many of the Vedantic texts includingPrasthana-trayee, Patanajali’s Yoga-sutra, Adi Shankar-acharya’s Atma-anusandhana,Atma-bodha, Prabhodha-sudhakar, Aparoksha-anubhuti, and Vedanta- sara.

    Patanjali’s eightfold path, Ashtanga Yoga,has been expanded by Adi Shankar-acharya in his Vedanta-sara and Aparokshanubhuti. He describes fifteen specific skills to be learnt for self-realization.

    1) Self-restraint, Yama is the development of one’s ability to voluntarily quiet one’s sensory-motor activities to reach a level of profound peace, bliss, and spontaneous silence within, shant or tushni bhava. One should also remind oneself that the whole existence is a single reality, Brahman.
    2) Undistracted attentiveness, Niyama is continuous, whole-hearted dwelling on what is happening at the moment, and to stay undistracted from any events of the past and any expectations of the future.
    3) Letting go, Tyaga of all phenomena that can be objectively experienced and reminding oneself that one’s true nature, one’s essence is atman, the ultimate reality within. This object is not mine, Idam na mama.
    4) Inner verbal quiescence, Mounam is being still and totally silent mentally. Such mental silence is spontaneous, sahaj samjna and indescribable,shabda-vivarjit. One should let it happen within oneself. Let it blossom. It is the matrix of all verbal and vocal activity.
    5) Solitude, Vijanah is a quiet personal space, in which there is no intrusion by distracting people or sounds.
    6) Moment of time, Kala can create an arousing mental phenomena or it can take one to a blissful, nondual state in the blink of an eye, nimeshatah.
    7) Steady posture, Asana is the effortless position of the body, in which one can dwell easily on the essential reality, Brahman. This can occur spontaneously, effortlessly, sukhena, and unceasingly, ajastra.
    8) Mental quiescence, Chitta-Bandha is letting the mind come to a natural standstill state.
    9) Bodily equilibrium, Deha-Samya is the collective quietness of the body and mind to realize the truth within.
    10) Expanded, global awareness, Jnanamayi Drishti is an expanded, limitless, nondual awareness when the totality of the experienced world is seen as the quantum reality, Brahman. There is no subject-object differentiation in such an eco-systemic, expanded, global conscious state.
    11) Natural, conscious breathing, Pranayama is awareness of every breath. During inhalation, puraka, one should contemplate, “I am Brahman, the truth within.” During the internal pause, kumbhaka, one should let the mind pacify itself. During exhalation, rechaka, one should think, “This objectively experienced world is not my true being. This self, jiva, is not me, not me. neti, neti.”
    12) Inward self-withdrawal, Pratyaharais withdrawing the wandering mind from all experiential objects, events, and to let it get absorbed in the truth within, Brahman.
    13) Sustained consciousness, Dharana is uninterrupted, conscious awareness of the truth-within, like a continuous stream of oil, akhanda taila-dharavat.
    Meditation, Dhyana is a blissful state, contemplating on the feeling that “I am free, swatantra, and independent, niralamba. I am the truth, theBrahman.
    15) Self-absorptive Integration, Samadhi is an unchanging, nitya,uninterrupted, indescribable, spontaneous, anahata, awareness of the truth. One forgets oneself as an isolated person, jiva. This actualizes the ultimate reality. In this state, the person becomes the truth, Brahman itself, Brahmavid Brahmaiva bhavati. He/she lives an enlightened, inspired, blissful and selfless life naturally, effortlessly.

    Direct Intuitive Experience, Aparoksha-Anubhut

    The following are some of the quotations of wisdom, maha vakyas, from the self-realized, vedic sages, rishis. These are profound expressions about the fundamental nature of a conscious human being and the humanly experienced world:

    1) Sarvam khalu idam Brahma. All this is Brahman, the quantum reality.
    2) Ayam Atma Brahma. This self is Brahman.
    3) Aham Brahma-asmi. I am Brahman.
    4) Tat tvam asi. You are that.

    Adi Shankar-acharya expressed true self-realization, Atma-jnana, from his personal experience and understanding as follows:

    “I am truly Brahman, the ultimate being-in-reality, which is equanimous, sama, serene, shanta, existential, sat, conscious, chit, blissful, ananda, non-changing, nir-vikar, non-formed, nir-akar, flawless, nir-avadya, non-decaying, a-vyaya, healthy, nir-aamaya, beyond appearance, nir-aabhasa, non-wavering, nir-vikalpa, pervasive,atatah, attributeless, nir-guna, restful, nish-kriya, enduring, nitya, steady, a-chyuta, pure, nir-mala, immovable, nish-chala, infinite, anant, sacred, shuddha, non-aging,a-jara, imperishable, amara. I am not the mere appearance of a physical body. This is the true self-knowledge realized by the wise.”

    Finally, there are profoundly meaningful expressions from the Vedantic literature like:

    English Translation of Vedic Quotes

    ॐ (AUM, The Absolute)

    (Absolute: Free from imperfection: Perfect. Perfectly embodying the nature of a thing. Being self-sufficient and free of external references.)


    एकं ज्योतिःबहुधा विभाति I

    One flame (Energy) shines in many ways (Forms).

    असतो मा सद् गमय I

    Guide me from unreal to Real.

    तमसो मा ज्योतिर गमय I

    Guide me from darkness to Light.

    मृत्योः मा अमृतं गमय I

    Guide me from death to Life (immortality).
    ठेविले अनंते तैसेची रहावे

    Let me live the way the Infinite designs.

    चित्ती असो द्यावे समाधान I

    May there be bliss (content) in my heart.

    वाहिल्या उद्वेग दुक्खची केवळ

    Carrying bitter unhappiness only leads to more suffering.

    भोगणे ते फळ संचिताचे I

    We have to experience the consequences of our actions.

    तुका म्हणे घालू तयावरी भार

    Tuka says let us leave this load (suffering) on Him.

    वाहू हा संसार देवापायी I

    Let us devote our life to His service.
    देहो देवालयः प्रोक्तः स जीवः केवलःशिवः

    This body is the temple. The living being is sacred.

    त्यजेत् अज्ञान निर्माल्यं सोऽहं भावेन पूजयेत I

    Let us discard the old flowers of self-ignorance,

    And worship the Self as the Divine.
    अपाणि पादोः अहम् अचिन्त्य शक्तिः

    I am that incomprehensible energy

    That acts without hands or feet,

    पश्यामि अचक्षुः स श्रुणोमि अकर्णः I

    That can see without eyes and hear without ears.

    अहम् विजानामि विविक्त रूपो

    I can comprehend various forms,

    न च अस्ति वेत्ता मम चित् सदाहम I

    But, no one knows me as the timeless awareness.

    तदेजति तन्नैजति तद्दूरे तद वन्तिके

    It moves. It moves not. It is far. It is so close.

    तदन्तरस्य सर्वस्य तदु सर्वस्यास्य बाह्यतः I

    It is within all. It is beyond all.
    स्वल्पापि दीप कणिका बहुलं नाशयेत तमः

    Even a brief spark of light can eliminate dense darkness.

    स्वल्पापि बोधो निबिडं बहुलंनाशयेत्तथा I

    Similarly, even a brief insight (understanding)

    can eliminate deep ignorance.
    अन्तःपूर्णो बहिःपूर्णः पूर्णकुम्भइवार्णवे

    Submerged in an ocean, a pot is full within and without.

    अन्तःशुन्यों बहिःशून्यः शुन्यकुम्भ इवाम्बरे I

    Being in the sky, a pot remains empty within and without.
    पूर्णमदः पूर्णमिदं पूर्णात पूर्णँउदच्यते

    This is whole. That is whole.

    From whole emerges whole.

    पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते I

    Even after the emergence of whole,

    The original (Absolute) remains whole.
    भूः भुवः स्वः तत् सवितुर्वरेण्यम
    भर्गो देवस्यधीमहि धियोयोनः प्रचोदयात् I

    We meditate on that supreme effulgence , Of the radiant Being within,
    The indwelling Guide within all beings. May It inspire our intellect (to realize the Truth).
    श्लोकार्धेन प्रवक्षामि यदुक्तं ग्रन्थसहस्रभिः

    I will declare the essential Truth in half a stanza, which has been elaborated in thousands of books:

    ब्रह्म सत्यम् जगन मिथ्या जीवो ब्रह्मैव नापरः I

    The Absolute is the Truth. The experienced world is (transient) appearance. An individual is none other than the Absolute.

    ब्रम्हैवाहं समः शान्तः सच्चिदानन्द लक्षणः I

    I am truly the Absolute Being-in Reality, Which is equanimous, serene, existential, conscious, blissful,

    निर्विकारो निराकारो निरवद्यो अहम् अव्ययः I

    Non-changing, unformed, flawless, non-dissipating,

    निरामयो निराभासो निर्विकल्पो अहम् आततः I

    Healthy, non-apparent (real), non-wavering, pervasive,

    निर्गुणो निष्क्रियो नित्यो नित्यमुक्तो अहम्अच्युतः I

    Attributeless, restful, enduring, steady,

    निर्मलो निश्चलो अनंतः शुद्धो अहम् अजरो अमरः I

    Pure, immovable, infinite, sacred, non-aging, imperishable.

    नाहं देहो हि असद् रूपो ज्ञानं इति उच्यते बुधैः I

    I am not merely this apparent body. This is the true Self-knowledge expressed by the wise.

    न विज्ञातेः विज्ञातारं विजानीयाः I

    The knower of the knower is not knowable.

    चिन्मात्रोहं सदाशिवः I

    I am the absolute awareness, the absolute goodness.


    अत्र अयं पुरुषः स्वयंज्योतिः भवति I

    In this state, the self becomes Self-Illumined. (It becomes Self-effulgent, a light to self.)

    निर्वात दीप इव I

    Like the unperturbed flame of a lamp.

    आत्मनि संविशति आत्मनांत आत्मानम् I

    Self submerges self into Self.

    आत्मनि एव आत्मना तुष्टः I

    One becomes blissful within oneself.

    तरति शोकं आत्मविद I

    Knower of Self overcomes grief.

    ब्रह्मविद ब्रह्मैव भवति I

    Knower of Brahman becomes Brahman.

    (Brahman: Absolute Blissful-Conscious-Being-Existence-Energy.)
  3. Speechless world

    Speechless world New Member

    Suggested Reading


    1) Jean Le Mee and Ingbert Gruttner: Hymns from the Rig-Veda, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1975

    2) Antonio T. de Nicolas: Meditations through the Rig Veda: Four Dimensional Man, Shambhala, Boulder and London, 1978

    3) Devi Chand: The Yajur Veda, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, New Delhi 1994

    4) Ganapati, SV: Sama Veda, Motilal Banarasidass Publishers, Delhi, 1992

    5) Devi Chand: The Atharva Veda, Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, New Delhi, 1980


    6) Radhkrishnan, S: The Principal Upanishads, Harper Collins Publishers, New Delhi, 1994

    7) Mahadevan, TMP: Upanishads, Arnold-Heinemann Publishers, New Delhi, 1975

    8) Swami Madhavananda: Minor Upanishads, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1980

    9) Deshmukh, VD: Turiya: The Fourth State of Consciousness and the STEP Model of Self-Consciousness, Journal of Interdisciplinary Crossroads, vol. 1, no. 3 (Dec 2004) pp. 551-560


    10) Swami Swarupananda: Shrimad Bhagvad Gita, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1967

    11) Radhkrishnan, S: The Bhagavadgita, Harper Collins Publishers, New Delhi, 2004

    12) Antonio T. de Nicolas: The Bhagavad Gita: The ethics of Decision Making, Nicolas-Hays, Berwick, Maine, 1990

    Brahma-sutra and Vedanta

    13) Swami Ghabhirananda: Brahma-Sutra Bhasya of Shankaracharya, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1996

    14) Swami Tattwananda: The Quintessence of Vedanta, Sri Ramakrishna Advaita Ashram, Kalady, 1991

    15) Swami Nikhilananda: Vedantasara or The Essence of Vedanta of Sadananda Yogindra, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1978

    16) Swami Vimuktananda: Aparokshanubhuti or Self-Realization, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1966

    17) Parthasarathy, A: Atma-Bodha: Knowledge of Self, Vedanta Life Institute, Mumbai, 1986

    18) Samvid: Prabodha-Sudhakara: The Nectar Ocean of Enlightenment, Samata Books, Madras, 1987

    19) Swami Tejomayananda: Tattva-Bodhah of Sri Adi Shankaracharya, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, Mumbai, 2002

    20) Swami Madhavananda: Vivekchudamani of Sri Shankaracharya, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1970

    21) Swami Jagadananda: Upadesh-Sahasri of Sri Shankaracharya, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras, 1970

    22) Swami Ashokananda: Avadhuta Gita: Song of the Free, Sri Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Madras,1981

    23) Bhagwat, LB: Sri Jnanadeva’s Amrutanubhava with Changadeva Pasashthi, Samata Books & Sri Mira Trust, Chennai, 1997

    24) Huxley A: The Perennial Philosophy, Harper Collins Publishers, 2004


    25) Trevor Leggett: Shankara on the Yoga-Sutras, Motilal Banarasidass Publishers, Delhi, 1992

    26) Taimni, IK: The Science of Yoga: The Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali, The Theosophical Publishing House, Wheaton, Illinois, 1961

    27) Deshmukh, VD: Presence: The Key to Mental Excellence, Jacksonville, Florida, 1990

    28) Jaideva Singh: Vijnana-Bhairava or Divine Consciousness, Motilal Banarasidass Publishers, Delhi, 1999

    29) Akers, BD: The Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika of Svatmarama,, Woodstock, New York, 2002


    30) Nagendra, HR: Pranayama: The Art and Science, Vivekananda Kendra Yoga Prakashana, Bangalore, 1998

    31) Swami Ramdev: Pranayama: Its Philosophy & Practice, Divya Prakashan, Hardwar, India, 2005

    32) Swami Kuvalayananda: Pranayama, Popular Prakashan, Mumbai, 1966

    Meditation & Consciousness

    33) Swami Paramananda: Silence as Yoga, Vedanta Centre, Cohasset, Mass. 1974

    34) Bhikkhu Bodhi: In the Buddha’s Words, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2005

    35) Bhante Henepola Gunaratana: Mindfulness in Plain English, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2002

    36) Rosenberg L: Breath by Breath: The Liberating Practice of Insight Meditation, Shambhala, Boston, 1999

    37) Krishnamurti, J: The Meditative Mind, Krishnamurti Foundation of America, Ojai, California, 1989

    38) Deshmukh, VD: Neuroscience of Meditation, TSW Holistic Health & Medicine (2006) 1, 275-289

    39) Siegel DJ: The Mindful Brain: Reflection and Attunement in the Cultivation of Well-Being, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2007

    40) Zelazo PD, Moscovitch M, & Thompson E (Eds): The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness, Cambridge University Press, 2007

    Written By - Vinod D. Deshmukh
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 27, 2015

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