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The End of The Vedas: An Overview of Vedanta Darshana

Similar to Mimamsa Darshana (which I wrote about last week), Vedanta Darshana is a summarization based on the understanding and recognition of various universal rules outlined in the Vedic texts, which a strong focus on the relationship between divinity and man.


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The term Vedanta is derived from two Sanskrit words: “Veda” and “Anta.” “Veda” can either be translated as “wisdom,” “science,” “art,” etc., OR it can be seen as a reference to the Vedas themselves. Then, “Anta” means “the end of” or “concluding.”


Vedanta literally means the end or conclusion of the Vedas, which is fitting considering it is the final philosophy system in a set of six. Just as it means, Vedanta concludes and integrates all the content within the Vedas and resulting five philosophies before this one. It also addresses any objections mentioned within the other systems such as Nyaya, Yoga, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and even Buddhism and Jainism. Because of the vastness of these topics, it is also the broadest system of the six Vedic philosophy systems.


Classical Texts of Vedanta

The classical texts for Vedantic philosophy are the Brahma Sutras, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita.

Upanishads

Written around 700-500 BC, the Upanishads discuss the identity of our individual and collective souls. As if you pressed CTRL+F to search all the Vedic texts for content regarding our soul, the Upanishads reveal the same deep truths that we find in the Vedas, but with deeper explanations and elaborations. The Upanishads are typically used as guide for Yogic living.


Brahma Sutras

Written between 500-200BCE, The Brahma Sutras took the philosophical and spiritual concepts of Upanishads and organized them into a system. Consisting of only 555 verses, the Sutras primarily discussed the nature of human and universal existence, including the metaphysical ideologies behind it.


Bhagavad Gita

Written around 400-300 BCE, the Bhagavad Gita is one of many stories contained in a larger text known as the Mahabharata. Literally translating to “Song of the Beloved,” or “divine”, “glorious,” etc., the Bhagavad Gita is a controversial dialogue between a warrior prince and his charioteer as they are headed for war. Questioning leading his people into battle, he asks his charioteer what he should do. The charioteer is Krishna, a yoga master, in disguise, who eventually reveals the true nature of the world- yoga, life, existence, the future, everything. A unique part of the Bhagavad Gita is that it recognizes that there are different approaches to everything, even if it doesn’t make sense to you.


Schools of Vedanta

Because multiple resources (including the three texts above) were used when compiling Vedanta Darshana, there were variances in the beliefs, which resulted in different schools of thought. Despite the conflicting perspectives, they all recognize and agree upon the concepts of Brahma, Samsara, Moksa, and Karma.

The first common belief is the idea of Brahma or Brahman, a divine force, deity, or entity that has the power to create the world.


The next common belief among the schools of Vedanta is Samsara, the idea that our soul reincarnates and is continually reborn on this earth again, and again, and again. These schools also believe that the only way to end this cycle of rebirth is by Moksha, or liberation, which only happens once all of our Karma- both good and bad- has played out.


Karma, as I stated in another article, is not just “what comes around goes around,” where any wrong-doing results in a punishment from the universe. In a less threatening way, Karma is actually the understanding that every action has a reaction. Everything we say, do, and even think, puts tiny ripples of energy into the universe. And just like how if you splash water away from you in the bathtub and it comes right back in another wave, Karma does the same. But not just the “naughty” things we do, also the good! Everything we put out is magnified back to us.


Beyond these fascinating concepts, all the schools of Vedanta also emphasize that the goal of life is to realize and manifest our own divinity, and that this realization is our birthright.

Four Spiritual Paths

Vedanta upholds the idea that all religions teach the same basic truths about divinity, godliness, and our relationships to one another. In fact, thousands of years ago, it was written in the Rig Veda that “Truth is one but Sages call it by various names.” The practice of Vedanta is one of the only philosophies that takes into account the beliefs of every religious system and recognizes the universal truths held within all of them. It goes on to provide four different categories, or paths, that these different practices follow.


These paths are: Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga.


Bhakti Yoga focuses on love for and devotion to the divine/brahman. Rather than attaining liberation through knowledge or action, Bhakti Yoga teaches you to surrender with practices such as prayer, chanting, and meditating to/on that divinity.


On the other hand, Jnana Yoga, can be translated as the path of knowledge because it focuses on attaining wisdom via text, discussion, and thought as the path to enlightenment. It focuses on using reason to discover godliness by learning the difference between truth and untruth.

The third path, Karma Yoga, believes that enlightenment is granted to those who perform good deeds due to the nature of Karma. But, these deeds are done as an offering to the divine and not with expectations of something good in return. They recognize that the results of the actions are out of their control, so they do it just to do it.


Raja Yoga, the final of the four, translates as the royal path because it is often seen in higher regard than the other three. Raja Yoga suggests practicing meditation with the goal of purifying and controlling the mind in efforts to develop an actual relationship with the divine.


It is common to switch between each of the four paths throughout the course of your life or stay loyal to one. The most important part is recognizing that there are many possibilities depending on where you are at in each moment.


So to sum this all up, Vedanta Darshana unifies all of the philosophies by recognizing the underlying truths they all have in common. Vedanta states that the goal of our existence is to reach liberation.



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