What is Vedanta?

Vedanta is the source of one of the world’s oldest major living religions, Hinduism. It is based on the philosophical books known as the Upanishads, which form the concluding portions of the ancient Indo-Aryan scriptures, the Vedas. The word “Vedanta” is, in fact, another word for the Upanishads. It means, literally, the end (anta) of the Vedas; it also means the culmination of spiritual knowledge (veda).

The basic teaching of Vedanta is that the essence of all beings and all things–from the blade of grass to the Personal God–is Spirit, infinite and eternal, unchanging and indivisible. Vedanta emphasizes that man in his true nature is this divine Spirit, identical with the inmost being and reality of the universe. There is, in short, but one reality, one being, and, in the words of the Upanishads, “Thou art That.”

The Supreme Reality, Brahman, cannot be described; the most one can say of it is that it is Sat-Chit-Ananda–Absolute Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. Vedanta recognizes, however, that the absolute Brahman becomes manifest in various aspects and forms and is known by various names. In other words, Brahman, or God, is both formless and with form, impersonal and personal, transcendent and immanent.

Vedanta declares that one can realize God in whatever aspect one wishes, and, further, that one can realize him directly and vividly in this life, in this world. Such realization constitutes spiritual freedom and contains in infinite measure the fulfillment of all man’s ideals and aspirations; it is indeed the true purpose of human life.

Vedanta holds that all religions lead to the same goal. Further, Vedanta reveres all great teachers and prophets, such as Sri Krishna, Lord Buddha, and Jesus Christ, and respects their teachings as the same eternal truth adapted to the needs of different times and peoples.

Vedanta teaches that there are various methods by which the individual, in accordance with his temperament, can realize God. The four primary methods, or paths, are jnana yoga, the path of knowledge; bhakti yoga, the path of devotion; karma yoga, the path of selfless action (physical, intellectual, or spiritual service); and raja yoga, the path of concentration. All these paths presuppose a highly moral and self-disciplined life. By following one or more of them under the guidance of a qualified teacher, one can fully and permanently discover the existence of divine Reality as the very essence of oneself and the universe.

Extract from http://www.sfvedanta.org/
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