Shad Darshanas- Six Systems of Hindu Philosophy

6. Uttara  Mimamsa Darshana (Vedanta)
The Uttara (later) Mimamsa school commonly known as  the Vedanta, concentrates on the philosophical  teachings of the Upanishads rather  than on the ritualistic injunctions of the Brahmanas.

While the traditional Vedic 'karma kanda' (ritualistic  components of religion) continued to be practised as propitiatory rites gearing  society to Self-knowledge, more jnaana (knowledge) centered understandings  began to emerge which focused on meditation, self-discipline and spiritual  connectivity rather than on rituals and rites.

Vedanta (meaning  literally the end or the goal of the Vedas) is the essence of all the four Vedas  which are encapsulated in the Upanishads. Vedantic thought drew on Vedic  cosmology, hymns and philosophy.

The first Upanishad, the Brihadaranyaka, appeared as  far back as three and a half thousand years ago. While eleven or so Upanishads  are considered as principal, over a hundred other Upanishads exist. The  Upanishads are acknowledged by scholars and philosophers from both East and  West to be beautiful in poetry and superlatively rich in philosophy. But they  do not form a unified pattern of thought nor do they paint a coherent picture  of the subject.

As  per some, Vedanta is a form of Jnana Yoga out of the four basic yoga practices, the other three being, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga. It deals with the individual who  seeks the path of intellectual analysis or the discrimination of truth and  reality from the untruth and unreal. As per others, it encompasses all the four yogas. Sage Badarayana is the proponent of this philosophy and the author  of the Brahma Sutras based on the Upanishads dealing with this subject.

Brahma Sutras is in the form cryptic Vedantic Aphorisms. They are  also called Vedanta sutras, Sariraka  sutras,Uttaramimamsa sutras or Bhikshu sutras. Badarayana wrote the  Brahmasutras to systemize the teachings of the Upanishads into a coherent  philosophy. The cryptic way in which the aphorisms of the Vedanta sutras are  presented leaves the door wide open for a multitude of interpretations. This  led to a proliferation of Vedanta sub-schools. Each of these interprets the  texts in its own way and has produced its own series of sub-commentaries - all  claiming to be faithful to the parent Brahmasutras. The Acharyas of these  different schools of thought are 1. Sankara 2.Bhaskara 3. Yadavaprakasa 4.  Ramanuja 5.Madhava 6.Nimbarka 7.Srikantha 8.Sripati 9.Vallabha 10.Suka  11.Vijnanabhikshu and 12. Baladeva.

The  concept of Brahman - the Supreme Spirit or the eternal, self existent,  immanent and transcendent Supreme and Ultimate Reality which is the divine  ground of all Being - is central to Vedanta. The concept of God or Ishvara is also advocated. The main difference between these  different sub-schools lies in their portrayal of the interse relationships among the three concepts of Jiva, Jagat and  Jagadishwara. A brief mention is made here about the three popular schools out  of the above twelve.

Advaita Vedanta is probably the best known of all Vedanta schools. Advaita literally means  "not two"; thus this is referred to as a "monistic" or  non-dualistic system, which emphasizes oneness.

Its first great consolidator was Shankaracharya. Continuing the line of  thought of some of the Upanishadic teachers, and also that of his own teacher’s  teacher Gaudapada, Shankara expounded the doctrine  of Advaita - a nondualistic reality.

By analyzing the three states of experience (waking,  dreaming and deep sleep) he exposed the relative nature of the world and  established the supreme truth of the Advaita, the non-dual reality of Brahman  in which atman (the individual soul) and brahman (the ultimate reality) are  identified absolutely. Ishvara or God is seen  as the manifestation of Brahman to human mind under the influence of an  illusionary power called Māyā.

The advaita philosophy is stated in a nutshell in the  famous verse “brahma satyam jagan mithya  jivo brahmaiva naparah” - Brahman alone is real; this world is only an  illusory appearance. The jiva is verily Brahman and is not different from Him.

Subsequent Vedantins debated whether the reality of  Brahman was saguna (with attributes) or nirguna (without  attributes). Belief in the concept of Saguna Brahman gave rise to a proliferation  of devotional attitudes and more widespread worship of Vishnu and Shiva. But Advaita  Vedanta is strictly grounded in a belief that the ultimate truth is Nirguna Brahman. The Vishistadvaita and Dvaita schools believed in Saguna Brahman.

Ramanuja was the  foremost proponent of Saguna Brahman, the concept of Brahman or God, the ultimate power, having  a definite form, name and attributes. He saw Sriman Narayana as the supreme Brahman. He taught that  Ultimate Reality or Brahman had three aspects: Ishvara (Vishnu), Cit (soul) and  Acit (matter). Vishnu is the only independent Reality, while souls and matter  are dependent on Him for their existence although they are also real.

Because of this qualification of the Ultimate Reality,  Ramanuja's system is known as Vishistadvaita or qualified non-dualism i.e.  non-duality of Brahman, the Absolute, but vishista or qualified by cit and acit.  Brahman is  similar to a tree with branches, leaves and fruits. Though the tree is ‘one’, it  has several parts like roots, branches etc., each of them differing from one  another but the tree itself remaining as ‘one’.

Madhva identified Brahman with Vishnu  (Narayana) who is the independent Reality. Prakrti or matter, and the jivas or  souls are entirely dependent on Him although they are co-eval realities. His  view of Reality was purely dualistic and is therefore called Dvaita (dualistic).

Madhva propounds the theory of panchabedas or five  eternal differences between 1. Brhaman and jivas 2. Brahman and prakrti 3.jivas  and prakrti 4. jiva and jiva and 5.various objects of prakrti. He categorizes  jivas into three groups viz. 1. Those who are capable of attaining liberation  2. Those who are purely materialistic craving only for worldly pleasures,  always going through the rounds of birth and death and 3. Sinners who  degenerate into lower births and hell. Jivas get liberation through devotion  and the grace of Vishnu. In the state of liberation the jivas are not only free  from suffering but enjoy positive bliss, while the differences among them  persist.

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