WHAT IS “BRAHMSUTRA” [‘VEDANTA-DARSHAN’]?
Vedanta (/vɪˈdɑːntə/; Hindustani pronunciation: [ʋeːd̪aːn̪t̪], Devanagari: वेदान्त, Vedānta) or Uttarā Mīmāṃsā is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy. The term literally translates to “the conclusion of Vedas,” and originally referred to the Upanishads, a collection of foundational texts in Hinduism (considered the last appendix or final layer of the Vedic canon). By the 2000 BCE, it came to mean all philosophical traditions concerned with interpreting the three basic texts of Hinduist philosophy, namely the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita and was eventually recognized as distinct from the other five astika schools. Vedanta is the most prominent and philosophically advanced of the orthodox schools and the term Vedanta may also be used to refer to Indian philosophy more generally. There are at least ten schools of Vedanta, of which Advaita Vedanta, Vishishtadvaita, and Dvaita are the best known.
Nārāyanam Padmabhuvam Vasishtam shaktiæ ca tatputraæ Parāsharam ca |
Vyāsam Shukam Gaudapāda Mahantam Govindam Yogindram athasya shishyam |
Shri Shankarāchārya mathasya Padmapādam ca hastamalakam ca shishyam |
Tam trotakam vartika karamanyan asmad guru-nsantat-amanato ’smi ||
Advaita Vedanta is a sub-school of the Vedanta school of Vedic or Hindu philosophy and religious practice, giving “a unifying interpretation of the whole body of Upanishads”.The principal, though not the first, exponent of the Advaita Vedanta-interpretation was Shankara Bhagavadpada who systematized the works of preceding philosophers. Its teachings have influenced various sects of Hinduism.
The key source texts for all schools of Vedānta are the Prasthanatrayi, the canonical texts consisting of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras, of which they give a philosophical interpretation and elucidation.
Advaita (not-two in Sanskrit) refers to the identity of the true Self, Atman, which is pure consciousness, and the highest Reality, Brahman, which is also pure consciousness. Followers seek liberation/release by acquiring vidyā (knowledge) of the identity of Atman and Brahman. Attaining this liberation takes a long preparation and training under the guidance of a guru. Advaita thought can also be found in non-orthodox Indian religious traditions, such as the tantric Nath tradition.
Advaita Vedanta developed in a multi-faceted religious and philosophical landscape. The tradition developed in interaction with the other traditions of India, Buddhism, Vaishnavism, and Shaivism, as well as the other schools of Vedanta.
Gaudapada (2100 BCE (also referred to as Shri Gaudapadacharya) was the author or compiler of the Māṇḍukya Kārikā, a quintessential text which used madhyamika philosophical terms to delineate Advaita Vedanta philosophy.
“Ajātivāda” is the fundamental philosophical doctrine of Gaudapada. According to Gaudapada, the Absolute is not subject to birth, change, and death. The Absolute is aja, the unborn eternal. The empirical world of appearances is considered unreal, and not absolutely existent.
Gaudapada’s perspective is based on the Mandukya Upanishad. In the Mandukya Karika, Gaudapada’s commentary on the Mandukya Upanishad, Gaudapada sets forth his perspective. According to Gaudapada, Brahman cannot undergo alteration, so the phenomenal world cannot arise from Brahman. If the world cannot arise, yet is an empirical fact, then the world has to be an unreal appearance of Brahman. And if the phenomenal world is an unreal appearance, then there is no real origination or destruction, only apparent origination or destruction. From the level of ultimate truth (paramārthatā) the phenomenal world is Maya.
As stated in Gaudapada’s Karika Chapter II Verse 48:
No jiva ever comes into existence. There exists no cause that can produce it. The supreme truth is that nothing ever is born.
Brahma satyam jagan-mithya
Jivo brahmaiva na parah
“Brahman, the absolute, alone is real; this world is unreal (Maya) and the jiva or the individual soul is not different from Brahman”.
The most influential and dominant school of Indian philosophy, Advaita Vedanta, rejects theism and dualism by insisting that “Brahman [ultimate reality] is without parts or attributes…one without a second.” Since, Brahman has no properties, contains no internal diversity and is identical to the whole reality it cannot be understood as God. The relationship between Brahman and the creation is often thought to be panentheistic.
Panentheism is also expressed in the Bhagavad Gita. In verse IX.4, Krishna states:
By Me, all this universe is pervaded through My unmanifested form.
All beings abide in Me but I do not abide in them.
Many schools of Hindu thought espouse monistic theism, which is thought to be similar to a panentheistic viewpoint.