What Is Vedanta?

IMG_6030Vedanta is composed of two words – veda and anta. Veda means knowledge, anta, the end. It’s the knowledge of reality (self) that ends the search for knowledge.

The Vedas are ancient wisdom texts of the Indian continent, written in Sanskrit, dating back 5,000 plus years. They are among the oldest known spiritual texts.

The first section of each Veda deals with karma or action in the world, the last section explores atma jnanam or self knowledge – who we are and how the world works. The last section of each of the four Vedas, when combined, are known as the Upanishads.

The two primary teaching scriptures of Vedanta are the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. There is a third, the Brahma Sutras, which is for teachers and not necessary for moksha (liberation).

These scriptures can be hard to understand so sages like Adi Shankaracharya (8th century), and Vidyaranya Swami (14th Century) wrote commentaries to support understanding. Seminal commentaries include the Tattva Bodha (Knowledge of the Truth), Vivekachudamani (The Crest Jewel of Wisdom), Aparokshanubhuti (Direct Experience) and the Panchadasi (Exploring Existence, Consciousness and Bliss).

What is the purpose of traditional Vedanta? Happiness! When we understand who we are and how the world works, we can navigate life’s challenges with skill.

While the path is simply laid out by the scriptures, refined over millennia by sages, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

You won’t find instant enlightenment on this path, because our ignorance, in the form of fears and desires, is stubborn. This ignorance, based on past karma, makes us feel limited. This sense of inadequacy then causes us to repetitively chase happiness in objects and experience, leading us further away from the truth.

Vedanta is a path of truth that requires great attention and perseverance.

What is this truth? That we are always whole, complete and good. That we are the happiness we seek. The only thing keeping us from actualizing this knowledge is ignorance. Thus creation gave us Vedanta, a path of knowledge (a code) that removes ignorance, leading to freedom.

What is Self Knowledge? Knowing with total confidence that our happiness is never dependent upon any object or experience. Knowing with absolute conviction that we are never enhanced or diminished by any object or experience. Knowing the difference between what is real – the self, and what is not real, everything I am are aware of.

Who Am I? Sat-chit-ananda, (limitless conscious existence). Tat Tvam Asi – I (the human being) and that (satchitananda)! Do I exist? Yes. Am I conscious? Yes. Am I limitless? Meaning unaffected by objects and experience. Yes but I don’t know this to be true. This is where the logic of the teachings of traditional Vedanta work their magic.

Where to begin? Karma Yoga. Then Self Inquiry.

A note on yoga. Yoga is essential in that it prepares the mind for atma jnanam or self-knowledge. We must steady and purify the mind before we can assimilate the knowledge of who we are.

james-swartz-vedantaVedanta Offerings At True Nature Healing Arts, Carbondale, CO. 

Vedanta – The Big Picture, a seminar w/ Ramji (James Swartz), pictured left. September 15-17. Join us in person or watch livestream during or after the event. Register.

Meditation & Vedanta w/ Eaden, Weds., 7:30pm (new time) and Dharma Talk, A Vedanta Study Group, 1st & 3rd Thursdays, each month @ noon.

All levels of experience welcome. Requirement: deep thirst for understanding and freedom.

This piece is dedicated Angus Graham, who died this past Friday in a car accident at 34. He was a dedicated seeker of knowledge and freedom. It is hard to believe he is no longer here with us in the physical. Great love to you Angus as you journey forth.

“Om asato ma sadgamaya tamaso ma jyotirgamaya mrtyorma amrtam gamaya. Om shanti shanti shanti.

“Lead us from the unreal to the real. Lead us from darkness (ignorance) to light (knowledge). Lead us from death to immortality. Om, peace, peace, peace.”

― Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.3.28

Om, Peace & Gratitude

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