Does This Matter?
Vedanta is important because by understanding it, you
may be able to come closer to self-realization. In fact,
by making the effort to understand it, you are engaging
in Jñana Yoga, the yoga of knowledge, one of
the traditional methods of attaining enlightenment.
see why this is so, you have to examine the idea that
only the atman is aware. This idea is more subtle than
it seems at first glance.
you close your eyes for a moment and try to focus your
attention on your inner self, it will seem easy at first.
You will be immediately aware of feelings, hopes, thoughts,
desires, fears, and a general sense of yourself. This
is the inner you, right?
no. According to Advaita, if you are aware of something,
it isn't really you. The real you (the atman) is the
part that's aware. It's not anything of which you are
those inner objects on which you focused a moment ago.
You were aware of them, weren't you? Even that
feeling of "me" is something of which
you were aware. Well, then, according to Advaita , it can't
be the real you. The real you is the part that is aware,
not anything that you're aware of.
kind of examination is called viveka (discrimination)
in Sanskrit. It is a main component of the traditional
method of Jñana Yoga. If you keep doing it, you
will discover that everything you currently regard as
yourself (including your ego and mind) is not aware.
The awareness in you is different from those things.
can take this still further. Here is an interesting
fact: No matter how hard you try, you can't focus your
attention on the part of you that is aware. If you could,
it would become something of which you are aware.
a strenuous attempt to do this, even though it's impossible,
is a main component of Ramana Maharshi's method of self-inquiry
(vicara in Sanskrit). If you try long enough,
eventually you will become convinced that your ordinary
sense of yourself your ego is not really
you. In fact, you will realize that it's an illusion.
(By the way, don't make the mistake of thinking that
this is all there is to Ramana's method. Seeing that
"you" are an illusion is a wonderful insight,
but it's not self-realization.)
best overviews of Advaita Vedanta that we've seen are
contained in the following books: S.
Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, Volume II; and
S. Dasgupta, A History of Indian Philosophy, Volumes
I and II.
Encyclopedia Britannica contains a good overview
of Advaita Vedanta in the article called "Indian
Philosophy" under the subheading "Vedanta."
(The articles found directly under "Vedanta"
and "Advaita" are not as good.)
you want to read the original philosophical works that
created the Advaitin tradition, you should probably
begin with Sankara. His most important books are Brahma
Sutra Bhasya and his commentaries on various Upanisads.
These books are highly technical and difficult to read.
Some easier books such as Viveka-Chudamani (on
our site here)
and Atmabodhi were also traditionally attributed
to him, but modern scholars have questioned whether
he really wrote them. Probably the best all-around choice,
if you want to try a single book of his, is Upadesa
Advaitan tradition recognizes three textual sources
of special importance: the Upanishads (on our site here),
Brahma Sutra (also known as the Vedanta Sutra),
and Bhagavad Gita
our site here).
addition to technical works of philosophy, the Advaitan
tradition has generated a large number of literary works
that are beautiful, entertaining, and helpful for the
practice of Jñana Yoga. These include Yoga-Vasistha,
Ashtavakra Gita (on our site here),
and Avadhut Gita. (Several other works in
this category are listed below under "Related Pages
on This Site.")
Advaitan tradition has also produced a large number
of books by gurus intended to help other people become
self-realized. The two greatest authors in this category
in recent times are Ramana
Maharshi and Nisargadatta
Maharaj. Several of Ramana's books are on this website.
To find them, as well as other book recommendations,
click here. For
other gurus, including modern Western ones, see the
"Links" section of our page on H.L.
| RELATED PAGES ON THIS SITE
of pages on this site are related to Advaita Vedanta.
Some of the most important ones are:
Philosophy by Dasgupta.
H.L. Poonja (reference
by Ramana Maharshi
Verses on Reality by Ramana Maharshi
Journal of Awakening by Phil Servedio
site also contains an interesting article called The
Question of the Importance of Samadhi in Modern and
Classical Advaita Vedanta by Michael Comans.
website, devoted to the most famous Advaitin of
the twentieth century, has many articles and books.
Two of the great Advaitan monasteries founded by Sankara
have websites: Sri
Sarada Peetham (Sringeri) and Sri
Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham (Kanchipuram).
articles about Advaita , see Darshana,
Dharma (look under philosophy), and Advaita-Vedanta.org.
a modern Western approach to Advaita, and many links,
see Nonduality Salon.
criticisms of Advaita Vedanta from a dualistic Hindu
point of view, search the Web under "Mayavada."
(Mayavada is often used as a derogatory name for Advaita
by its opponents.)
Illustration: Detail from Hide and Seek by Pavel
Tchelitchew, 1940-42, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
page was published on May 12, 2001 and last
revised on March 4, 2004.