Introductory Paras – “The word veda comes from the root vid, to know. The concluding portions of the Vedas are called Upanishads or Vedanta. Vedic literature conveys, in a poetic way, a wide spectrum of metaphysical knowledge. At the most sublime end of the spectrum is Advaita Vedanta, which discusses the nature of the jagat, universe; jivas, living beings; and Brahman. The Muktika Upanishad states: ‘Tileshu tailavat-veda vedantah supratishtitah; as oil is well established in the sesame seeds, so is Vedanta in the Vedas.’1 Advaita Vedanta, as systematized by Acharya Shankara, is a comprehensive science of spirituality, universally realizable and open to rational investigation.
The most important challenge in Advaita Vedanta is to understand the relationship between the Atman and Brahman. A true perception of this relationship can be acquired only by removing the veil of ignorance caused by the upadhis, limiting adjuncts, created by the inscrutable maya. The upadhis manifest as the pancha-koshas, five sheaths, which hide the real nature of the Atman. The realization of the Atman removes all afflictions, brings eternal knowledge, and eradicates the ego, lust, anger, attachment, hatred, and the like. When the upadhis are removed, the distinction between knowledge, knower, and known is dissolved and only the Atman shines as the supreme Existence. According to Advaita Vedanta, the realization of non-duality is the true knowledge of the Atman, or Brahman. Acharya Shankara says: ‘Brahma satyam jaganmithya jivo brahmaiva naparah; Brahman is real, the world is unreal, the jiva is non-different from Brahman.’2
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1. Bridging Religion and Science
2. Upanishads: the science of freedom from bondage
3. Bhagavad Gita in PDF format