We often hear the word “Vedanta” in yoga or meditation classes. So what is Vedanta, and where does it come from?
Vedanta is a school of thought which takes its teachings from the Upanishads. Upanishads are the forms of the final section of the literature of the Vedas. It draws upon the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras, as well as ideas from yogic philosophy and Nyaya.
Vedanta is derived from two Sanskrit words, Veda meaning knowledge and anta meaning end. In other words, Vedanta can mean the culmination of knowledge. The term can also be used to denote someone who has mastered the original four Vedas. It is the ancient Indian philosophy which answers the fundamental questions of life. Vedanta designs the pursuit of happiness through the logical and systematic exposition of eternal truths. Founded on no individual, It is a system of knowledge discovered by pre-eminent seekers of Truth. Knowledge promotes material and spiritual well-being. Combines dynamic action with mental peace. Instils the higher values of service to provide prosperity and peace to the community. Above all, its philosophy leads one to the ultimate goal of Self-Realisation.
Yogic techniques, such as meditation and asana are ways to help cultivate the contemplative mind, which is necessary to understand this ultimate goal.
What are Vedas?
Vedas are the oldest Hindu sacred texts, considered by many to be the most authoritative of all the texts. They are also the oldest known texts that contain yogic teachings. There are four Vedas, that make up the collection of Vedic literature.
The four Vedas namely are “Rig Veda” (the oldest), “Yajur Veda, “Sama Veda” and “Atharva Veda.” Each Veda contain four types of sections of text:
- The Samhitas – Mantras and hymns for chanting.
- The Arankayas – Details of rituals and ceremonies for the liturgy.
- The Brahmanas – Commentaries on rituals and ceremonies.
- The Upanishads – Discussion of meditation, philosophy and spiritual knowledge.
The word Upanishad can be translated as “to sit close by,” hence this part of Vedic knowledge was usually reserved for students who are more advanced, gathering around their teacher for the higher teachings. As it represents the final teachings of the Veda, Vedanta originally meant the Upanishads. However, nowadays Vedanta is used to describe a system of philosophy based on a study of the Upanishads.
The teachings of Vedanta are mostly found in the texts of the Upanishads, the Brahmas Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. The Upanishads provides the goal, the Bhagavad Gita offers practical advice for getting there, and the Brahma Sutras discuss the nature of human existence and summarizes the teachings of the Upanishads. Other later texts such as the Yoga Vasistha and the Ashtavakra Gita are also considered to be Vedantic in nature, as are the writings of more recent Neo-Vedantist teachers Sri Ramana Maharshi, Swami Vivekananda, and Sri Aurobindo.
The Core Teachings of Vedanta
Vedanta has at least 10 schools, while all vary in interpretations of the literature, they share several core beliefs such as:
- Brahman is eternal, in all beings and the Absolute Truth.
- Knowledge or devotion is superior to action.
- All beings are bound in samsara.
- To be delivered from this cycle of death and rebirth is to achieve liberation.
It is said that the knowledge contained in Vedanta is so perfect that ordinary human intelligence has difficulty understanding it. While the experience of higher states of consciousness is the goal of Vedanta, consciousness must first be raised in order to begin to comprehend it.
Vedanta offers us knowledge of the goal and also the ways in which to achieve it, such as:
- The Six Treasures: the discipline of the mind, discipline of the sense organs, abstaining from worldly longings, endurance, faith, and mental equilibrium
- The Desire for Liberation
Want to learn more about Vedanta?
Join Mahendra for this Kulim Retreat where we will be staying at the Dhyana Ashram know as the temple of self-knowledge. Dhyana Ashram stands as the centre to spread the precious spiritual values of the Vedic scriptures to people who are in search of peace and harmony. The ashram was established by Sri Swami Dayananda Saraswati who is an eminent scholar and an outstanding teacher of the Brahma Vidya, the truth revealed by the Upanishads at the end of the Veda. He belongs to a lineage of traditional teachers who help students to understand Vedanta by creating a proper context to convey complex ideas in simple terms. During the retreat, you will be guided through several Vedanta Meditation classes.