Dr. Durga Prasada Rao Chilakamarthi
1. THE MEANING OF VEDANTA
Vedanta philosophy -- the philosophy based on the concluding portion of the Vedas, i.e., Upanishads -- occupied a prominent place among the orthodox systems of Indian philosophy.
In fact Vedanta means The Upanishads only. Since Brahma-Sutras are a logical interpretation of the Upanishads and Bhagavad-Gita is the essence of the Upanishads these three are considered to be the basis for Vedanta Philosophy. Hence, the Vedanta system is built mainly upon the literary tripod of the Upanishads, the Brahma sutras and the Bhagavad-Gita which are known as Prasthanatraya.
2. THE SUPREMACY OF VEDANTA DARSANA
1. This Vedanta Darshana is said to be the best of all Darshanas because it explains admirably the nature of soul and serves as the beacon light of human life.
Moreover, it satisfies the human aspiration of getting rid of worldly entanglements and attaining salvation. Sankaracharya expounds the superiority of Vedanta darshana over the other philosophies.
According to Sankaracharya, the exponents of other systems tried to advance their own theories basing upon arguments which for the most part are illogical and inconsistent.
>For example, materialists assert that Atma is mere living body and its existence is transitory.
>Another school of materialism holds that Indriyas giving us worldly knowledge shall be called Atma.
>Still another school of materialists declares that 'mind' being the important medium of knowledge is Atman.
> Buddhists declare that “Intellect” which distinguishes the mental images is Atman.
> Vaiseshikas argue that Atman is the positive doer ( karta) who is the author of virtue and vice and the ruler in the body apart from gross senses and mind.
>Sankhyas opine that Atman can never be karta , but a mere Bhokta, enjoyer of virtue and vice.
>Yogis declare that there is a divine Lord who is Atma as he is the creator, protector and destroyer.
>Advaitins say that the core of the all being (Sat) is Atman.
Hence to realize the Self, one should study the Vedanta darshana which reveals the uniqueness of Atman, identical with Brahman the Universal Self
3. BASIC TREATISES OF VEDANTADARSANA
1. THE UPANISHADS.
Upanishads, stress the need for Jnana for the purpose of emancipation. Also, the realization of Atman becomes possible through listening to the Upanishads, reasoning and contemplation.
आत्मा वाsरे द्रष्टव्य: श्रोतव्यो मन्तव्यो निदिध्यासितव्य:
( बृहदारण्यक उपनिषद् २/४/५)
Upanishads are for listening, Brahma sutras for reasoning and Bhagavad-Gita is for contemplation.
Upanishads are to be learnt from a guru sitting at his feet. Upanishads are not for the work-a-day world but they formulate a firm ground for the evolution of humanity into divinity.
Upanishads are also intended to convey high morals and supreme self-restraint for the purpose of achieving the highest human goal, i.e., self-realization. Though there are over a hundred Upanishads, only ten are considered highly significant.
Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka.
Badarayana was the author of Brahma sutras.
In the Sutras, Vedanta is explained logically. They consist of 555 sutras and they are grouped into 4 Adhyayas, each one being further divided into 4 padas.
Adhyaya I Pada II Pada III Pada IV Pada Total
I Adhyaya 31 + 32 + 43 + 28 = 134
II Adhyaya 37 + 45 + 53 + 22 = 157
III Adhyaya 27 + 41 + 66 + 52 = 186
IV Adhyaya 19 + 21 + 16 + 22 = 78
Among the three prasthanas--the Gita prasthana enjoys the greatest importance. It is the essence of all the Upanishads. The puranas personify Krishna as the milk drawer, the Upanishads as milch cattle and the Gita as the milch. Continuing the simile, the puranas liken Arjuna to the tender calf and the milk consumer to supreme intellect.
सर्वोपनिषदो गाव: दोग्धा गोपालनन्दन:
पार्थो वत्स: सुधीर्भोक्ता दुग्धं गीतामृतं महत्
Though the Gita was part of the Mahabharata , it has a uniquely independent status. Our tradition went to the extent of saying that Vedavyasa wrote the Mahabharata to unfold the philosophy of the Gita to the seekers of Jnana just as a medicine is covered with sugar to enable one to swallow it. The Gita begins with the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna and teaches practical wisdom. It paves the way for transformation from humanity to divinity. The Gita can be treated as a very treasure house of solutions for the problems of humanity, both physical as well as Meta – physical. Moreover, it is not sectarian and does not belong to any particular outfit. Though the Bhagavad-Gita preaches many philosophical concepts, its central idea is believed to be the concept of Advaita and the following sloka supports this view’
पार्थाय प्रतिबोधितां भगवता नारायणेन स्वयं
व्यासेन ग्रथितां पुराणमुनिना मध्ये महाभारतम् |
मम्ब ! त्वामनुसन्दधामि भगवद्गीते भवद्वेषिणीम् ||
( Taught by the blessed Narayana Himself to Arjuna, compiled by Vyasa, the ancient seer, and part and parcel of the Mahabharata , Oh Mother, Oh Mahabharata, the eighteen-chapter verse, the bestower of non-dualism , the destroyer of the cycle of births and deaths, I salute thee)
4. ORIGIN OF VEDANTADARSHANA
Badarayana was not the actual founder of this system because the ideas already existed in the Upanishads. His role consisted only in systematizing the philosophy of the Upanishads in his Sutras. He strung the flowers of Sutras in to a garland.वेदान्तवाक्यकुसुमग्रथनार्थत्वात् सूत्राणाम्
He succeeded in establishing the unity of the teachings of the Upanishads
5. SCHOOLS OF VEDANTA-DARSANA
1. Sankaracharya(A.D 788-820A.D) – kevaladvaita
2. Bhaskara( 1000A.D) Bhedabheda
3. Ramanujacharya ( 1140A.D) Vishistadvaita
4. Madhvacharya (1238A.D) Dvaita
5. Nimbarka ( 2nd half of 13century) Dvaitadvaita
6. Srikantha ( 1270A.D) Shaiva vishistadvaita
7. Sripati ( 1400A.D) Virasaivavishishtadvaita
8. Sri Vallabhacharya (A.D1479-1544A.D) Shuddhadvaita
9. Vijnanabhikshu( 1600A.D) Avibhagadvaita
10. Baladeva (1725A.D) Achintyabhedabheda
6. The greatness of Advaita Vedanta:
The greatness of Advaita Vedanta consists of एकं सत् विप्रा: बहुधा वदन्ति (Ekam sadvprah bahudha vadanti ) – The Truth is one explained differently. Sankaracharya commented on all the three Prashtanas and established Advaita. The essence of Advaita is summarized in the following line:
ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्या जीवो ब्रह्मैव नाsपर:
(Brahma satyam jaganmithya
jivo brahmaiva naparah)
Which means Brahman is the only reality and the world is unreal and jiva is no other than Brahman.
(To be continued..)