Yes Vedanta unfolds traditional Advaita Vedanta for those who seek to live intelligently and with growing clarity about oneself and the universe…
Who am I? What am I not? How is the universe created? What came first? If reality is without a second (non-dual) – why do I experience many (duality)?
What is the highest purpose of human birth? How to know which decision is most appropriate?
What is the absolute meaning of “Truth”? And through what method do we unmistakably discern truth from falsehood?
What is the relationship between self, world and Awareness (or Consciousness)?
Such questions have already been thoroughly resolved throughout texts of Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Brahma Sutras, Pancadasi, Tattva Bodha, etc.
As result of their irrefutable logic, the answers to above questions can't be negated from any point of view, at any point in time.
Why is this? Because upon inquiry, you'll find they are pointing to the One reality which you always knew about – even now. But haven't yet captured in it's totality due to doubts or distorted notions.
Therefore Vedanta is not making any unverifiable claim or asking you to adhere to blind faith. Nor is it a mystical lineage, philosophical discussion, or a religion.
Vedanta is an observation of WHAT-IS.
Just like Newton didn't create “gravity”. He only discovered what-is on bases of observation and contemplation.
Therefore gravity can't be considered a religion or a philosophy. It's is not owned by any author. It is a non-negatable fact.
It's existence remains independent and true – whether we think of it or not.
In the same way, Vedanta directly points out the one unchanging Truth of everything. Which “you” are not away from.
Thus Vedanta reveals the reality of self, of “I AM”.
And the knowledge which uncovers the truth of self is called self-knowledge (brahmavidya / jnana-yoga). It's purpose is to free oneself from sense of limitation.
Moreover, Vedanta is continued through the guru-disciple lineage (guru-śisya-paramparā). It remains immune to contamination of other schools.
Above all, it's free of personal biases owning to vast literature covering every possible angle of Reality.
Hence the only purpose of Vedanta is to show the qualified student…
THAT knowledge, once known, nothing else remains to be known.
However such knowledge is not always presented in it's entirety.
For example most modern “gurus” will handpick parts they personally understand and stick with that.
But this attitude robs the seeker from hearing the full message. It doesn't address emotions. Bypasses psychology. Skips world of matter. Disregards science.
This leads to inner conflict of contradictions. A disharmony in worldly engagements.
Neo-Advaita is a typical example of handpicking and avoiding the rest.
This results in spiritual bypassing.
A messed-up “Mr Enlightened”. In other words, discounting world duties, dharma, spouse, family, work — while proudly trumpeting “I'm spiritual “.
Is this what a rational, intelligent seeker wants? Self-denial or escapism are qualities of children. Not adults.
Frankly, life transformation requires a detailed investigation into one's thoughts. Discounting nothing.
And this is why devotee needs to be guided through the process of self-inquiry.
Otherwise life circumstances quickly overshadow our realizations. The progress seems to fade into the background.
For this reason, the student needs to stick to the tradition if he or she desires a total spiritual metamorphosis.
What does “traditional” mean?
It means the knowledge is expounded as originally delivered, and how it's supposed to be taught for it to have any effect.
It's important because a proper order is crucial for proper, whole and direct knowledge of oneself.
Else the one existence remains partially assimilated in the mind. A case of superficial intellectualism. Or an enlightened ego.
It's like a person who learns arithmetic, but is never shown addition.
Consequence will be a limited mathematician whose convinced “I figured it out “.
This is EXACTLY the situation with modern non-traditional teachings — disguised as Advaita Vedanta.
Such methodologies are incomplete, yet ironically attracts flocks of followers. How come? Psychology of easy and exciting wins over hard and necessary — any day!
Face it, humans seek the path of least resistance.
And the effect of subscribing to quick-fix techniques is an artificial sense of security and freedom, justified as “spiritual awakening”.
For instance, read the online forums. They're full of stories of “My spiritual awakening”.
But if we follow up with the author years later — still seeking. No significant milestones. The “happy awakened” bubble has burst.
For example once life throws addition onto our mathematician, he or she discovers there is no way of solving the equation.
In fact, nothing is faulty with one's ability or effort.
Instead the problem lies in ignorance of the missing knowledge, which once known and practiced, the equation can be solved.
To emphasize further the significance of sticking to the tradition…
Can a doctor cure the patient's sickness with partial medical knowledge?
Perhaps the patient may be temporarily relieved. Although the disease will inevitably resurface – unless an informed diagnosis is conducted.
In the same way…
Only complete knowledge of Reality can fully and definitively destroy ignorance (intruder of the mind preventing the fullness of self).
This is the purpose of traditional Advaita Vedanta as taught on this website.
Advaita Vedanta (non-duality) declares that you are not who you take yourself to be.
Because of beginingless ignorance and constant attendance and fascination to worldly activities — we never devoted even a single lifetime exclusively to moksha (the forth and final goal of human life, liberation).
When knowledge is firmly assimilated — it liberates the limitless “I” (ātmā) from the wrong identification with the limited body-mind complex.
The methodology is unfolded step-by-step — and each pace is verifiable through your own experience. Thus blind faith is out of the question.
Vedic teachings simply acknowledge and confirm what you already know about yourself — but need clarity to fully capture.
Therefore Vedanta has nothing to do with believing something which can't validated through your own DIRECT experience.
If you've ever climbed a mountain, you'll notice there are many paths at the beginning.
But the higher we go, we notice they converge into fewer safe paths left by previous experienced climbers.
So it's not entirely accurate to say “all paths leads to the top”.
They take a seeker up to a certain point. But only a few remain that are credible for the highest attainment.
And according to Vedas – there are three credible paths for liberation. Two of them converge into jnana-yoga (self-knowledge).
Reason is, since ignorance of “I” is the fundamental problem – the only solution is knowledge which removes that very ignorance.
What opposes lack-of-knowledge (ignorance)? Knowledge.
For example to remove ignorance of “Sanskrit language” – what use will path of yoga asana, prayers, worship and bhakti have?
Only gaining and assimilating the knowledge of the language will solve the problem. Common sense.
Same applies to moksha (liberation).
And jñāna-yoga is specifically intended to remove false notions or erroneous knowledge of “I AM”.
Subsequently, the seeker ascertains the interconnectedness of everything.
However before we can enter university, we first undergo a prior elementary stage of preparation.
In Vedas, this preparation is meant to purify and sharpen your intellect, emotions, quality of actions and concentration.
It leads to a perfected human being who is integrated. His or her head and heart are shaking hands in cheerful agreement.
It's important because only an integrated person can hold the vision that all that is here is One without a second.
Hence there is no opportunity for jumping into the highest knowledge, without a proper warm-up. No-one can cheat the Cause of the universe.
The only 3 paths are (each is explained in Bhagavad Gita CH12):
- Jnana Yoga: Path of Knowledge. All major Upanishads expound this subject matter. So does Bhagavad Gita (CH7 & 9).
- Upasana Yoga: Path of meditation through concentration.
- This has 2 levels:
- Level 1: Practices which involve mental concentration. Includes:
- Aṣṭānga-yoga (Yoga Patanjali Sutras)
- Raja Yoga:
- This path was popularized by the Vivekananda in 1900's for the skeptical Americans in those times who had no exposure to Indian culture.
- It's only taught by the Ramakrishna Order. No other Advaita school teaches it because it's not part of the Vedas.
- Raja Yoga is basically a branded version of Ashtanga Yoga from Patanjali Yoga Sutras.
- Yogananda / Lahiri Mahasaya's “Kriya Yoga” also fits in this category.
- Kriyā-yoga. (EG: Yogananda)
- Level 2: Once the concentration is extended and mind refined through Level 1, then the mind naturally dwells more often in thoughts of divinity. Just like when person recovers after a serious accident, one's thoughts tend to gravity towards the meaning of life.
- At this level, the aspirant's only goal in life is God. Meaning there's still a subtle seperation between myself and the final reality (Brahman). This seperation is only removed in jnana-yoga.
- Level 1: Practices which involve mental concentration. Includes:
- This has 2 levels:
- Karma Yoga: Path of devotion through physical actions. Explained entirely in Bhagavad Gita, CH3.
Please note, it's strictly incorrect to say Bhakti-yoga is another path. This indicates lack of scriptural knowledge.
Word “bhakti-yoga” is specifically the title of Bhagavad Gita CH12, and is name given to encompass the practice of all 3 sadhanas above.
Therefore if anyone claims to be teaching “Bhakti Yoga” — then either (1) all 3 sadhanas are being discussed, or (2) teacher is misakingly taking bhakti-yoga as an independent path to liberation.
Finally, what's important to understand is all paths lead to jnana-yoga. Which removes beginningless ignorance that “I” am a seperate individual from the Whole. So it's leads to moksha (liberation/enlightenment).
What's the logic for this? The problem is ignorance. The only principle that opposes ignorance is knowledge.
For exmaple, to learn to cook, one removes cooking ignorance through cooking knowledge. Same applies to removing ignorance-of-self through self-knowledge.
Thus all otehr paths only prepare the mind.
Meaning spiritual progress without support of jñāna-yoga will only lead to ongoing temporary spiritual experiences. The spiritual world is filled with this mistake in various degrees. Ongoingly attributing time-bound experiences, as if, they're the final.
So knowing what you now know – next step is to begin studying and practicing the 3 paths in proper order – which is the sole purpose of Bhagavad Gītā.
Vedānta comprises of three primary texts, known as the triple canon (prasthāna trayī). They form the foundation of Vedānta:
Upaniṣads (Śruti / Heard)
There are ten principal Upanishads which include:
- Bṛhadāraṇyaka (Brihadaranyaka)
- Chandogya (Chāndogya)
- Isha (Īṣa)
- Katha (Kaṭhopaniṣad)
- Prashna (Praśna)
- Mandukya (Māṇḍūkya-Upaniṣad)
- Mundaka (Muṇḍaka)
- Taittiriya (Taittirīya)
Bhagavad Gita (Smṛti / Remembered)
Bhagavad Gita is the essence of the Upanishads that teaches how to realize the highest – while living in the world. It consists of 700 verses across 18 chapters and is part of the Indian epic Mahabharata.
If the Upaniṣads (highest truths) be represented by cows, then Gītā would be the milk of the cows (essence of the truths) extracted by Kṛṣṇa (supreme inner Self; Ātman) for the benefit of Arjuna (individual ignorant self believing is apart from the Whole) – who is unsure of the right path in midst of the battle of Kurukṣetra (struggle of life).
Brahma Sutras (Nyāya or Logic)
Brahma Sutras (Vedanta Sutras) is the philosophical treatise of Vedanta that systematically lays out the philosophy of the Upanishads. It consists of 555 aphorisms across 4 chapters. It should be studied along with the commentary of Shankaracharya for a deep and comprehensive understanding of Advaita (Non-Dual) Vedanta.
There are many commentaries (prakarana grantha) written by some of the greatest Vedanta philosophers, like Adi Shankara and Swami Vidyaranya. Both contributed to clarifying many verses and principles from Main Texts above. They include:
- Advaita Makaranda
- Aparokshanubhuti (Aparokṣānubhūtiḥ)
- Atma Bodha
- Panchadasi (Pañcadaśī)
- Tattva Bodha
- Vedanta Dindima
Few more Vedantic classics:
Om Tat Sat
– Bhagavad Gita 17.23