Advaita vedānta darśana
By Swami Harshananda
Man is often described as a rational animal. Once the animal in him is reasonably satisfied by the provision of basic biological and some psychological needs, the rational part gets an opportunity to evolve to higher levels. Philosophy including the metaphysics is one of the highest aspects of this evolution.
Philosophical systems have developed not only as a result of intellectual speculation but also as a result of the mystical intuition--hence they are named as ‘darśana’. Four topics are commonly discussed by darśanas:
- Nature of the physical world, its origin and evolution
- Nature of man and other living beings
- Existence of God, his nature and attributes
- The goal of human life and the way of attaining it
Different standpoints and differing views of these topics of discussion have naturally led to a variety of schools. These schools are broadly divided into two classes:
The former accept the authority of the Vedas whereas the latter do not.
The Vedānta Darśana is the last of the former schools but has gained the most important place among them.
A judicious combination of reasoning and acceptance of the authority of the Vedas as also a long unbroken tradition are responsible for its gaining the pre-eminent place. The basis of the Vedānta Darśana, are the ‘prasthānatraya’ (‘the three great paths’) viz.,
It is the Brahmasutras (also called Vedānta-sutras and Śārīrakasutras) of Bādarāyaṇa-Vyāsa that occupies the key position in all. The sṅtras (aphorisms) being quite terse and often ambiguous have naturally led to widely differing interpretations, resulting in the three well-known systems of Vedānta viz.,
The word ‘Vedānta’ itself means the ‘end or the essence of the Vedas.’ It is the Upaniṣads that mainly comprise the Vedānta since they normally form the last part of the Vedic literature and contain the quintessence of their teachings.
- darśana literally means ‘seeing’
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore