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The Vedas are the primary texts that comprise Hinduism. They are composed of the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda.
They were revealed to ancient sages in deep meditative states. These hymns hold a spiritual message that, through study and chanting, can result in personal growth and self-realization.
What is Vedanta?
Vedanta is the philosophy of India’s ancient scriptures, the Vedas. Its central teaching is that you are innately divine and that the goal of life is to manifest this divinity. This divinity is present everywhere, but it is most apparent in a spiritually illumined soul. Vedanta also teaches respect and reverence for and acceptance of all religions.
Vedanta consists of a series of philosophical teachings known as the Upanishads that are positioned at the end or summit of the Vedas. It is a system of thought that presents the eternal principles of life and living and programs a lifestyle of mental peace combined with dynamic action in the world. It is also a religious philosophy that affirms the essential non-duality of God, soul, and universe, arguing that the apparent distinctions are a result of names and forms that do not exist from the standpoint of ultimate reality.
It is an abstruse philosophy and requires a dedicated seeker to attain a state of enlightenment where these truths can be assimilated. Vedanta teachers use a variety of practical illustrations to assist students in grasping these lofty concepts, as the finite intellect can never fully comprehend these sublime truths.
Among the various schools of Vedanta, one of the most well-known is Advaita Vedanta, which Sankara founded in the 8th century CE. Advaita argues that Brahman, the foundational reality of all that exists, and Atman, the individual soul, are identical.
In addition to the doctrine of non-duality, Advaita Vedanta advocates bhakti or devotion, which is a form of meditation that involves praying and worshipping. It also emphasizes the importance of selfless service and ethical conduct. It also promotes the study of the Vedas, chanting the glories of God, and practicing yoga and meditation.
There are several important concepts to understand in Vedanta, including the nature of reality, the status of Brahman and Atman, the cause of creation, the process of bondage, means of liberation, states of consciousness, the nature of self-purification, transmigration, and so on. To grasp these ideas, you will need to have a good understanding of Sanskrit. It is advisable to learn at least the basics so you can understand the commentary of your texts and cross-check translations.
Why is Vedanta important?
Vedanta is an essential philosophy because it helps people to understand the nature of reality. It also offers a path to spiritual liberation. The goal of Vedanta is to realize the oneness of the individual self (atman) and the ultimate reality (Brahman).
It is a system of spiritual practice that emphasizes meditation, self-discipline, and spiritual connectivity rather than rituals such as sacrifices and ceremonies. It is also a philosophy that respects other religious traditions and encourages people to learn from them as well. In addition, it promotes the idea of a universal religion and the belief that God is present everywhere.
The central teachings of Vedanta are found in the Upanishads, Brahma Sutras, and Bhagavadgita. These texts are considered the core of Hinduism and form the foundation for its philosophy. The Upanishads are highly philosophical and often challenging to understand, but they contain some of the most essential ideas of Hinduism. The central theme of the Upanishads is that there is a supreme being who created and maintains the universe. This supreme being is eternal, all-powerful, and omnipresent. The Upanishads teach that various names, including Brahman and Atman, know this ultimate reality.
According to Vedanta, the key to gaining knowledge about God is to find a teacher who can help you interpret these texts. The best teachers are sages who have memorized all the Vedas and can explain them to you in a way that makes them relevant to your life. They will also be able to answer any questions you may have about the Vedas.
Vedanta is important because it helps to give meaning and purpose to life. It can also help you to overcome the problems of modern society. It can also help you to find peace and happiness in your life. It can also teach you how to achieve inner peace and love for others.
Vedic knowledge is a living tradition. It is the basis of our eternal Sanatana Dharma and provides a framework for living a morally and spiritually fulfilling life. It is our responsibility to preserve it and pass it on to future generations.
How to learn Vedanta?
Vedanta, if it is properly understood and applied, will liberate the mind of the seeker. It will remove skepticism and doubts about God and the afterlife and give clarity to one’s spiritual life, improve relationships and work performance, make one feel happier and peaceful, and develop the ability to solve problems in life and overcome obstacles. The best way to learn Vedanta is to attend live weekly classes with a qualified teacher; however, we offer free videos of past sessions on our YouTube channel for your convenience.
Ideally, you should find a teacher you trust and with whom you can establish a relationship. A good teacher will motivate you to study, and he or she will be able to explain the deeper meanings of the scriptures in a more understandable way than a book can.
In addition to attending class, there are a number of books that can help you learn Vedanta. A recommended start is the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Other helpful readings include the Upanishads, and the ten principal Hindu texts called the Puranas.
It is also a good idea to study some Sanskrit – even the basics just so that you can read the scriptures yourself and cross-check translations. The more you know Sanskrit, the easier it will be to grasp the deeper meanings of the Vedas and other scriptures.
The fundamental goal of Vedanta is self-realization or Atma-Jnana. The only thing that stands in the way of Atma-Jnana is our identification with the body. This identification leads to fear, egoism, arrogance, and other negative traits. When the ignorance that creates these traits is removed, the seeker will realize his or her essential nature as the pure, ever-free Atman.
Vedanta teaches that the way to remove this ignorance is through selfless service, meditation and worship, and the practice of vichara or discrimination. Only a person who is calm, dispassionate, fearless, large-hearted, and generous and who is free from pride, egoism, arrogance, attachment, jealousy, greed, and hatred can attain this state of Mukti or final emancipation. Those who attempt to study Vedanta without first purifying their hearts will only end up increasing their ignorance and falling into the trap of delusion.
Where to learn Vedanta?
Vedanta combines the two Sanskrit words – veda (knowledge) and anta (end). This ancient philosophy of life and living presents the eternal principles of religion and spirituality. It gives us the key to transcend sorrows and suffering and to attain supreme joy and bliss. It equips you with clarity of intellect to deal with life’s challenges. It also teaches the way to a life of spiritual study and service to humanity.
The teachings of Vedanta are compatible with all religious traditions and are based on the Upanishads, the primary scriptures of Hinduism. Vedanta offers a clear and consistent process to lead you from your apparent self to the authentic Self, and each step of this process is verifiable through your own experience. This makes Vedanta especially appealing to the modern scientific mind.
Swami Vivekananda’s famous lectures on Vedanta have been translated into many languages, and they are a great place to start your Vedantic journey. He presents Vedanta in the most straightforward and lucid way possible. It is a must-read for anyone interested in learning about spirituality and the ultimate goal of human life.
There are several Vedantic schools and centers worldwide that offer classes on Vedanta. These classes are typically a mix of scriptural study, biography, commentary, and philosophical works. Some of these classes also include chanting and meditation. The Ramakrishna Vedanta Society’s courses on Vedanta are based on the Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, The Bhagavad Gita, and the Upanishads. They are offered free of charge and open to all.
Chinmaya Mission founder Swami Chinandananda envisioned a “modern-day gurukula” where spiritual knowledge and scriptural study would be imparted to students who were full-time residents living together with their guru. These students, called sannyasis, were dedicated to the service of mankind and had given up all worldly possessions.
The main goal of these classes was and is Self-realization, the realization that one’s true identity is Atman / Brahman, the impersonal Absolute, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, without any limitation of time, space or objects, and that it is One with the universe – everything is nothing but Brahman / Atman.