Vedanta

Posted: 11.05.2011
Updated on: 19.01.2012

Alias

Vedant, Vedantins

Vedanta

Vedānta (वेदान्त) was originally a word used in Hindu philosophy as a synonym for that part of the Veda texts known also as the Upanishads. The name is a morphophonological form of Veda-anta and means "Veda-end"or "the appendix to the Vedic hymns." It is also speculated that "Vedānta" means "the purpose or goal [end] of the Vedas." By the 8th century CE, the word also came to be used to describe a group of philosophical traditions concerned with the self-realisation by which one understands the ultimate nature of reality (Brahman). Vedanta can also be used as a noun to describe one who has mastered all four of the original Vedas. Vedānta is also called Uttarā Mīmāṃsā, or the 'latter enquiry' or 'higher enquiry', and is often paired with Purva Mīmāṃsā, the 'former enquiry'. Pūrva Mimamsa, usually simply called Mimamsa, deals with explanations of the fire-sacrifices of the Vedic mantras (in the Samhita portion of the Vedas) and Brahmanas, while Vedanta explicates the esoteric teachings of the Āraṇyakas (the "forest scriptures"), and the Upanishads, composed from ca. the 9th century BCE until modern times. Vedanta is not restricted or confined to one book and there is no sole source for Vedāntic philosophy.

  • In earlier writings, Sanskrit 'Vedānta' simply referred to the Upanishads, the most speculative and philosophical of the Vedic texts. However, in the medieval period of Hinduism, the word Vedānta came to mean the school of philosophy that interpreted the Upanishads. Traditional Vedānta considers scriptural evidence, or shabda pramāna, as the most authentic means of knowledge, while perception, or pratyaksa, and logical inference, or anumana, are considered to be subordinate (but valid).
  • The systematization of Vedāntic ideas into one coherent treatise was undertaken by Badarāyana in the Vedānta Sutra which was composed around 200 BCE. The Vedānta-sūtra are known by a variety of names, including
    • Brahma-sūtra,
    • Śārīraka,
    • Vyāsa-sūtra,
    • Bādarāyaṇa-sūtra,
    • Uttara-mīmāṁsā,
    • Vedānta-darśa
  • The cryptic aphorisms of the Vedanta Sutras are open to a variety of interpretations, resulting in the formation of numerous Vedanta schools, each interpreting the texts in its own way and producing its own sub-commentaries. Consistent throughout Vedanta, however, is the exhortation that ritual be eschewed in favor of the individual's quest for truth through meditation governed by a loving morality, secure in the knowledge that infinite bliss awaits the seeker. Nearly all existing sects of Hinduism are directly or indirectly influenced by the thought systems developed by Vedantic thinkers. Hinduism to a great extent owes its survival to the formation of the coherent and logically advanced systems of Vedanta.

References

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