. Schools of Vedanta
. Common features of the three schools
. Goal of Vedanta
. Advaitha Vedanta (Non Dualism)
. The four paths of yoga
. Adi Shankara
. Advaitha Vedanta Sampradaya
. Daiva Parampara
. Rishi Parampara
. Manava Parampara
. Govinda Bhagavatpada
. Adi Shankara
. Four Mathas
Vedanta is one of the six orthodox systems (darshans) of Indian philosophy and it forms the basis of most modern schools of Hinduism. The term ‘Vedanta’ in Sanskrit means conclusion (anta) of the Vedas, it applies to the Upanishads which were the elaborations of the Vedas and to the school that arose out of the study (mimamsa) of the Upanishads.The three fundamental Vedanta texts are the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, all three are called the “Prasthanatrayi’. The Upanishads consist of 108 texts of which twelve or thirteen are major for eg – Brihadaranyaka, Katha, Chandogya, Taittiriya etc. The Brahma Sutras expound the doctrines taught in the Upanishads and the Gita systematically. The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the epic Mahabharata and is a dialogue between Lord Krishna and the Pandava Prince Arjuna with a synthesis of Dharma, Bhakti, Jnana and Karma paths to moksha or liberation.
Schools of Vedanta
The schools of Vedanta were named according to the relation between Atma and Brahman. They were Dvaita, Vishistadvaita and Advaitha.
According to Dvaita, The jivatma was a part of Brahman which means that it was similar but not identical, eg-Man is a servant of God as was emphasized by Madhvacharya. The Vishishtadvaita said that all jivatmas and matter were mutually separate entities and were eternal eg-Man is a spark of God as was emphasized by Ramanujacharya and the Advaitha said that there is no difference eg-Man is identical with Brahman as emphasized by Adi Shankaracharya.
Common Features of the three schools
The three schools had common features –
1. Brahman is the supreme cause of the Universe.
2. The cycle of birth and death leads to bondage.
3. Actions when performed selflessly without hankering for the fruit is the true yoga.
4. Moksha or liberation gives deliverance from the cycle of birth and death.
Goal Of Vedanta
The goal of Vedanta is for the seeker to have direct experience of his true nature and everyone is capable of achieving this goal irrespective of caste, creed, class or gender with sincere and intense effort. It preaches the harmony of religions. The Rigveda states ’Ekam Sat Viprah Bahuda Vadhanti’ (Truth is one, Sages call it by various names)
Advaitha Vedanta(non dualism)
Advaitha which means ‘not two’ refers to the atma which is pure consciousness and the Brahman which is also pure consciousness. It means there is only one supreme reality called Brahman. It is infinite and omnipresent; it is non dual in nature which means there is no place for the world, man or anything else outside Brahman. It transcends all pairs of opposites and descriptions. In comparison with Brahman, the world or jagat is considered to be illusory, very much like a dream. Because of spiritual ignorance or avidya, man has forgotten his true nature and mistakenly believes himself to be an individual with limited capacity.
Although Brahman is beyond description, the saints and sages of ancient India on the basis of their experience declared that it can best be described as Sat-Chit-Ananda.
Sat means pure and absolute existence
Chit means pure and absolute knowledge or consciousness
Ananda means pure and absolute bliss.
Thus our true nature is pure existence, knowledge and bliss. Deep inside therefore within each individual is a longing to break the shackles of limitations and yearn to experience constant joy.
The famous example of a rope being mistaken for a snake is the essence of Advaitha Vedanta where the rope is likened to Brahman while the illusory world is likened to the mistaken impression of the snake. When the light (of knowledge) shines, in a flash the truth is revealed. The power which veils the spiritual truth of the oneness of consciousness is the ‘Maya Shakti”. It makes us believe we are different from the world and other beings. It makes us identify with our bodies which brings pain and suffering into our lives.
The Four Paths Of Yoga
The goal of life according to Advaitha Vedanta is to realize our true nature called Self Realisation. Although the goal is one, the paths to reach it are many depending on the nature and temperaments of people.
The four main paths of yoga are-
- Jnana Yoga-It is the path of knowledge and wisdom. The seeker uses the power of discrimination and will power to cut through the veil of ignorance and unveil the truth. The goal of the seeker is Absolute Truth. People with intellectual and philosophical temperament generally pursue this path.
- Bhakti Yoga-It is the path of love and devotion. The seeker uses all his emotions to generate pure and unconditional love towards the Divine. The goal of the seeker is Pure Love. People with an emotional and loving bent of mind generally pursue this path.
- Karma Yoga-It is the path of selfless service. The seeker does all work without any motive or inclinations towards the fruits of his actions. The goal of the seeker is selfless actions without expectations. People with an active temperament generally pursue this path.
- Raja Yoga-It is the path of self control and mastery. The seeker controlsl his mind through meditation until it becomes one with his own divine nature. The goal of the seeker is perfect mind control. People with a scientific and mystical temperament generally pursue this path.
There are many more yogas practiced but the other two practiced widely are Kundalini Yoga and Hatha Yoga.
The Kundalini Yoga purifies the physical and psychic systems and awakens the cosmic power residing in the Muladhara Chakra at the base of the spine. The spiritual power is then raised to the Consciousness or Crown Chakra which grants liberation to the seeker.
The Hatha Yoga enables the seeker to control his mind through techniques aimed at controlling the physical body and the prana or vital force. It combines the practice of a holistic spiritual lifestyle along with specific healing techniques of the body.
Liberation is attained by acquiring knowledge of the identity of atma and Brahman. This liberation can only be achieved by single minded pursuit at the feet of a guru. The first exponent was Adi Shankara and the main important texts are Bhagavad Geeta, Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras which are called the Prasthanathrayi.
Philosophy along with renunciation was closely related in this tradition and was the key to liberation. The Advaitha sampradaya is non sectarian; they advocate worship of Shiva and Vishnu equally with all other deities of Hinduism.
Advaitha Vedanta Sampradaya
The Advaitha Vedanta sampradaya begins with the Daiva Parampara, followed by the Rishi Parampara and then the Manava Parampara.
The Daiva parampara
The Rishi Parampara
The Manava Parampara
His four main disciples
Narayana-He is the Vedic Supreme God in his infinite all pervading form. He is considered to be the Para Brahman who pervades all consciousness. He sustains, maintains and preserves the universe having a Universal Form(Vishwa Rupa) which is beyond the ordinary limits of human perception. He is the giver of Moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death in the material world. His supreme abode is considered to be Vaikunta which is a realm of bliss and happiness where liberated souls enjoy bliss for eternity in the company of the Lord.
Brahma-He is the God of creation and is considered to be the father of Manu from whom all human beings are descended. He is said to be the creator of Vedas.
Vasishta- He is one of the Saptarishis and the son (manasputra) of Lord Brahma. He is considered the Guru of the Devas and a Brahmarishi whose teachings to Lord Rama formed the ‘Yoga Vasishta’ and led the way to his enlightenment.
Shakti– He was the son of Vasishta and the second in the Rishi Parampara. He died at an early age.
Parasara-He was the son of Sakti Maharishi and the author of many ancient Indian texts. He was a Rigvedic Maharishi and was considered to be highly learned.
Vyasa– He is also called Veda Vyasa as he classified the Vedas into four parts. He is the author of the Mahabharata and considered to be the scribe of both the Vedas and the Puranas. He is said to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He is one of the seven immortals in Hindu belief. The festival of Guru Purnima is dedicated to him.
Shuka– He was the son of Sage Vyasa and the main narrator of the Bhagavat Puran in which he recites the stories of Krishna to the dying King Parikshit. He was the final member in the Rishi Parampara.
Gaudapada– He was one of the most reputed philosophers of Advaitha Vedanta and was best known for his analytical exposition on the tenets of Advaitha Vedanta and his philosophy was absolute non dualism. His philosophy of non origination with which he established the eternality and non duality of consciousness is most famous. He is considered as the disciple of the legendary sage Shuka.
Govinda Bhagavatpada– He was the disciple of Gaudapada and a famous philosopher. He is mentioned in the Viveka Chudamani and the Shankara Vijayam.
Adi Shankara-Adi Shankara was the disciple of Govinda Bhagavatpada and the most famous sage and philosopher of the Advaitha Vedanta Parampara. He refurbished the scriptures, cleansed the Vedic practices of ritualistic excesses and propagated the core teaching of Vedanta which is Advaita or non dualism to the masses. The crux of Advaita was that Brahman alone is real and the phenomenal world is unreal or an illusion. Through intense practice and the grace of the Guru, ideas of duality and ego can be removed from the minds of man.
While stressing on the sole reality of Brahman, he did not undermine the multiplicity of Gods worshipped in the scriptures or in the presence of a phenomenal world. He advocated the doctrines of bhakti, yoga and karma to enlighten the intellect and purify the heart. This awareness of the Divine was the true meaning of Advaita Vedanta. He wrote commentaries on the various scriptures it is stated before the age of sixteen.
His most famous work has been the Bhaja Govindam, a Sanskrit devotional poem which forms the core of the bhakti philosophy and epitomizes the entire Advaita Vedanta in simple language.
A few of the verses can explain this clearly-
Seek the Lord, seek the Lord,
Seek the Lord, O fool
When the appointed time of your departure comes
Rules of grammar will not save you.
O fool, leave off desire for accumulation of wealth
Create in the mind thoughts about the Ultimate Reality
Whatever you have acquired with your past deeds
With that, satisfy your mind.
Some of the famous statements of Advaita Vedanta are-
Brahma Sathyam Jagat Mithya
(Brahman alone is true, the world is an illusion)
Aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahman)
Tat Twam Asi(That Thou Art))
Adi Shankara founded the four mutts or monasteries which helped in the historical development, revival and spread of the Advaitha Vedanta of which he was the greatest revivalist. The headquarters were Dwarka in the West, Puri in the East, Shringeri in the South and Badri(Jyothi) in the North. Each mutt was headed by one of his main disciples- Padmapada, Hastamalaka, Totaka and Sureshwara.
Padmapada– He was the first head of the Puri Mutt. His exalted Guru bhakti and his philosophical knowledge led to the founding of the Vivarana school of commentaries.
Hastamalaka-He was the first head of the Dwaraka Mutt. He was a highly evolved soul and had an excellent knowledge of Advaitha Vedanta.
Totaka-He was the first head of the Jyotir Mutt. Inspite of not being a scholar initially, his unparalleled love and devotion for the Guru enabled him to be a receiver of his Guru’s grace which transformed him into a brilliant scholar and philosopher.
Sureshwara- He was the first head of the Shringeri Mutt. He was a scholar and a brilliant philosopher.
Adi Shankara founded four mutts in the North, South, East and West each headed by one of his four main disciples. This lineage flourishes even to this day where the four mutts continue the sacred teachings of Adi Shankara and the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta.
Thus Advaitha Vedanta establishes the identity of Advaitha (non dualism), the unity of the Atma and Brahman without attributes. It states that Brahman alone is real, the world is an illusion and through Scriptures, knowledge, reason, experience and spiritual practices, one can realize it.