“Vedanta” is a combination of two words: “Veda” which means “knowledge” and “anta” which means “the end of” or “the goal of.” In this context the “Knowledge” means the knowledge of God as well as the knowledge of our own divine nature. Vedanta, then, is the search for Self-knowledge as well as the search for God.
The most fundamental teaching in Vedanta is that all that exists is divine. Thus every human being is innately divine. And the ultimate goal of life is to manifest this inherent divinity. Divinity is equally present everywhere, but not equally manifest everywhere. So far as human beings are concerned, divinity is most manifest in a spiritually illumined soul.
The Vedas declare that the Divine Truth is one but different illumined sages call the same Truth by different names. This Truth can be reached through different spiritual paths.
Vedanta does not believe in conversion; it believes in inner spiritual transformation of individuals. It only wants to help a willing Hindu to be a better Hindu, a willing Christian to be a better Christian, a willing Buddhist to be a better Buddhist, and so on. Even a person who does not belong to any organized religion or is an atheist can be accommodated by Vedanta to have personal spiritual fulfillment.
The religion of the Aryas (English: Aryans) was not based on any book authored by anyone. Some of their ancestors were able to develop their minds to extraordinary levels of perfection. Such minds are called pure minds. These minds enabled them to know certain truths that were not known to others. The truths they discovered came to be known as Veda or Knowledge. They believed that those truths must have come from the same divine source from which the entire creation had come. For this reason they called those truths Apaurusheya, not man-made. Those truths being of divine origin were considered sacred. Thus the Veda came to be regarded as sacred. Aside from that, any book that reveals what is not ordinarily known is called a scripture (in Sanskrit: Shastra). For this reason the Aryans regarded the Veda as the most sacred scripture. Those thinkers to whom the Apaurusheya truths were revealed are known as Rishis or seers, because they were able to know or see truths unknown to others. At the beginning the Veda was communicated orally by teachers to students. There were no written books. Hundreds of years later a great Aryan sage named Vyasa compiled the sacred truths and created a book. That book also came to be known as the Veda. The Veda is a four-volume book, that’s why it is called in English the Vedas. The highly philosophical part of the Vedic literature consists of the Upanishads. The Upanishads are also called Vedanta.
The teachers of Vedanta are expected to first practice the spiritual disciplines enjoined by the scriptures of Vedanta before teaching or preaching them to others. Their lives are expected to speak more eloquently than their mouths.
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