Vedanta is the highest teaching of the Vedas, (veda means
knowledge), the ancient Sanskrit scriptures of India. There are
four Vedas the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda, and the
Artharva-Veda, which are comprised of hymns, ritual texts, and
philosophical treaties that are regarded as divine revelation.
Vedanta is considered one of the six darshanas (viewpoints) of
orthodox Hinduism. However, it is not simply a formal instruction
but a revelatory experience of transcendental consciousness.
In 1893, Swami Vivekananda appeared like an Eastern
comet in the Western spiritual sky and made a startling appearance
at the Parliament of Religions at the Chicago Worlds
Fair. With him, he brought news of yoga and Vedanta; since
then, yoga has taken solid root in the Western soil, with an estimated
2 million participants outside India. Vedanta, on the
other hand, has remained relatively unknown.
The Vedas, completed between 1500500 B.C.E, were originally
an oral tradition, later codified in scriptures called the
Upanishads (meaning nearness to wisdom). Of the 108 Upanishads,
created between 900500 B.C.E., some ten out of twelve
books are regarded as the principle ones. The Vedanta, like the
New Testament of the Bible, not only serves as the end of the
Upanishads but the culmination of the scriptures.
Hindu scriptures differ from the sacred writings of other religions
as they go beyond faith in particular deities (regarded
as legal fictions, useful only at certain stages in life) to awareness
of an Absolute, beyond time, space and causality. It is said
the Vedantas two main themes are humanitys true nature as
divine, and this divinity as the aim of human life. The ideas of
the Vedanta also introduce and reflect the traditional yogic
There are three perspectives of Vedanta One is dualistic
(dvaita), the second is nondualistic (advaita), while the third is
qualified nondualistic (vishishtadvaita). The advaita perspective
proclaims there are no individual souls, but all are unified. It
is called nondualistic because it acknowledge[s] only one Spirit,
a single underlying reality beyond which nothing else could
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Nikhilananda, Swami. The Upanishads. 4 vols. London
Phoenix House, 195159; New York RamakrishnaVivekananda
Torwesten, Hans. Vedanta Heart of Hinduism. New York
Grove Weidenfield, 1985.