Vedanta Philosophy: History, Schools & Significance

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Vedanta Philosophy

Vedanta philosophy has deep roots in ancient Hindu scriptures. It is a profound and comprehensive school of thought that encompasses various principles, beliefs, and practices. This philosophy primarily aims to bring out the ultimate nature of reality, the self and the relationship between the two. In this article, we will delve into the different aspects of Vedanta philosophy including its schools and defining features.

What is Vedanta Philosophy?

Vedanta philosophy is derived from the Sanskrit words “Veda” (knowledge) and “anta” (end or conclusion) which signifies the culmination and essence of Vedic wisdom. Vedanta philosophy is considered the final chapter of the Vedas, the ancient texts of wisdom and spiritual teachings in Hinduism. Rooted in the Upanishads, the mystical and philosophical portions of the Vedas, Vedanta philosophy seeks to answer fundamental questions about the nature of existence, consciousness and the interplay between the individual self and the supreme reality. 

Also Read – Types of Vedas: Important Features & Details

Origin of Vedanta Philosophy

The Vedanta refers to the Conclusion of the Veda. It also referred to the elaboration of Vedas i.e. the Upanishads and one of the schools that evolved from the study was Mimamsa. Since the school also is a byproduct of Mimamsa thus, Vedanta philosophy is also called Vedanta Mimamsa.

The origin of the Vedanta is believed to have been discovered from the old teachings of Yajnavalkya and from the commentary of the ancient teacher Gaudapada on the Mandukya Upanishad. The oldest traceable study of Vedanta and Upanishads can be derived from the Badarayana’s Vedanta Sutra of the 5th century BC. It answered and discussed the knowledge of Brahman, how to get this knowledge and the benefits of liberation from the materialistic world.

Apart from these sources, the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita are the primary sources of the school of philosophy. The three schools are popularly called the Triple Foundation towards the path of Emancipation (Pristine tray).

Vedanta Manuscript in Telugu

The Schools of Vedanta Philosophy

The school of Vedanta philosophy emerged coinciding with the Vaishnavism and Shaivism groups of Hinduism. The Vedanta philosophy can further be divided into three sub-categories of school. The common belief of these sub-schools was the Vedas were the infallible source for addressing the metaphysical facts of absolute reality by Shabda Praman (Verbal Witness). The major Sub-Schools of Vedanta are – 

1. Advaita Vedanta or Nondualism

Advaita Vedanta or non-dualistic Vedanta is one of the major schools within Vedanta philosophy. It was propounded by the renowned sage Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century CE. According to Advaita Vedanta, the true nature of reality is non-dualistic, where the individual self (Atman) and the ultimate reality (Brahman) are fundamentally one and the same. This school emphasizes the importance of self-realization and the direct experience of this underlying oneness.

2. Dvaita Vedanta or Dualism

Dvaita Vedanta or dualistic Vedanta was formulated by the philosopher Madhvacharya in the 13th century CE. Unlike Advaita Vedanta, Dvaita Vedanta positions a clear distinction between the individual self and the supreme reality. It suggests that the individual souls (Jivas) and the supreme deity (Vishnu) exist as separate entities. The relationship between the individual and the divine is characterized by devotion and surrender. They believe that there are endless realities not just one. Even after emancipation, a soul is unique and distinct from the Brahman.

3. Visishtadvaita Vedanta or Qualified Nondualism

Visishtadvaita Vedanta also known as qualified non-dualistic Vedanta, was expounded by the philosopher Ramanujacharya in the 11th century CE. According to this school of thought, the individual self(Cit)  and the supreme reality (Ishvara) are distinct, but there is also a third factor,  nature (acit),  these three share an inseparable relationship. The world is considered a manifestation of Brahman, and liberation is attained through devotion, knowledge, and self-surrender to the divine. The spirit after liberation joins the Brahamn and remains eternally attaining Moksha i.e. liberation for forever.

There are other schools of Vedanta philosophy were –

  1. Dvaita Advaita – It was established by Nimbarka in the 11th Century.
  2. Shuddha Advaita – According to Shankara, Krishna is the only reality.
  3. Achintya Bheda-Abheda- Chaitanya Mahaprabhu popularised this philosophy in the 5th century.

Also Read –  Vedic Period: A Sacred Chapter of Indian History

Features of Vedanta Philosophy

  1. Scriptural Authority: Vedanta philosophy derives its principles and teachings from the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and other ancient Hindu scriptures. These texts offer immense insights into the nature of reality, consciousness and the path to spiritual liberation.
  2. Monism and Dualism: Vedanta philosophy encompasses both non-dualistic and dualistic perspectives, accommodating different levels of spiritual understanding and aspiration. It provides a comprehensive framework that caters to the needs and inclinations of diverse seekers.
  3. Self-Inquiry and Self-Realization: Central to Vedanta philosophy is the practice of self-inquiry, or “Who am I?” This introspective investigation encourages individuals to look beyond the limited identification with the body and mind and realize their true nature as the eternal self (Atman).
  4. Liberation (Moksha): Vedanta philosophy emphasizes the attainment of liberation (Moksha) as the ultimate goal of human life. It teaches that liberation is not merely escaping the cycle of birth and death but experiencing eternal bliss and unity with the divine.
  5. Unity in Diversity: Vedanta philosophy acknowledges the unity underlying the diversity of religious paths and practices. It recognizes that different individuals may resonate with distinct approaches while still seeking the same ultimate truth.

In conclusion, Vedanta philosophy is a school that serves as a guiding light, churning the path and giving insights into the nature of reality, self and the path to spiritual liberation. Its various schools, including Advaita Vedanta, Dvaita Vedanta, and Visishtadvaita Vedanta, provide diverse perspectives and approaches to understanding the ultimate truth. By delving into the essence of Vedanta philosophy, one can embark on a transformative journey of self-discovery and spiritual awakening.

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