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Vedanta

From Academic Kids


Veda means "knowledge" and anta "the end", so the literal meaning is "the end of knowledge" or the "ultimate knowledge." It is a branch of Hindu philosophy. It is a system of Jnana Yoga that attempts to guide the individual to enlightenment. It is drawn from the Upanishads, considered the fundamental essence of all the Vedas, and some of the earlier Aranyakas. The three branches of Vedanta best known in the West are Advaita Vedanta, Vishishtadvaita, and Dvaita. Other than Shri Adishankara, Shri Ramanuja and Shri Madhvacharya, the founders of each of the three main Vedantic divisions, important pre-modern Vedantins include Bhaskara, Vallabha, Caitanya, Nimbarka, Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Vacaspati Misra, Suresvara, and Vijnanabhiksu. In the modern period, Advaita Vedantins include Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Sivananda and Sri Ramana Maharshi. Proponents of other Vedantic schools continue to write and develop their ideas as well, although their works are not widely known outside of India.

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.

Contents

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. In earlier writings, the Sanskrit word Vedanta simply referred to the Upanisads, the most speculative and philosophical of the Vedic texts. In the medieval period, the word Vedanta came to mean the school of philosophy that interpreted the Upanisads. 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.

Formalization

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.

See also

External links

Additional References

For non-western sources a good starting point is "Modern Physics and Vedanta" by Swami Jitatmananda , a monk of the Ramakrishna Order. In the preceding title Amaury de Reincourt's "the Eye of Shiva" (New York, William Morrow & Co. 1981), is often cited along with The Dancing Wu Li Masters, by Gary Zukav; The Philosophical Impact of Contemporary Physics by Milic Capek; Mysticism and the New Physics, Michael Talbot; The Cosmic Code, Quantum Physics as the Language of Nature, by Heinz R Pagels; Philosophical Aspects of Modern Science, by C.E.M. Joad; The Holographic Paradigm; David Bohm's Causality and Chance in Modern Physics; Huston Smith's Forgotten Truth: The Primordial Tradition. More scholarly treatments include Theology After Vedanta, by Francis X. Clooney, Sankara and Indian Philosophy, by Natalia Isayeva, A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy, by Hajime Nakamura, and volume III of Karl Potter and Sibajiban Bhattacharyya's Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies.


de:Vedanta fr:Vedanta it:vedanta nl:vedanta pl:Wedanta sv:Vedanta

Topics in Hinduism
Shruti (primary Scriptures): Vedas | Upanishads | Bhagavad Gita | Itihasa (Ramayana & Mahabharata) | Agamas
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