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What is Advaita Vedanta
What is AdvaitaVedanta?
A Short Introduciton by James Swartz
Vedanta contends that human beings find themselves limited in many
ways and continually strive to rid themselves of limitation. People pursue
wealth, pleasure, and merit because they believe it will free them from all
manner of physical, temporal and psychological problems. Vedanta
presents freedom from limitation as the most desirable goal of human life.
The Upanishads, the source of Vedanta, say that before this creation was,
the self, limitless being, was. It further says that this self continues to exist
outside of time and is therefore eternal. And it states that no action one can
perform will ‘gain’ this self, even though it is an ever-present reality...
because actions are limited while the self is unlimited. Therefore it is at
odds with Yoga on this issue. The discovery that one is the limitless self is
presented as liberation or enlightenment by Vedanta.
We cannot dismiss the Yoga view completely because untold millions
of truthful persons have ‘experienced’ the self over tens of thousands of
years so we need to look for a reasonable explanation for this phenomenon.
One possible explanation lies in the imprecise use of language. It may be
that ‘the experience of the self’ is actually a shift from the individual’s point
of view to the self’s...in which case it would be more accurate to say that the
self experiences the ego, which is how it actually is. Because the shift is so
subtle and language evolved in the experiential world, it is ill equipped to
describe this shift accurately so it is forced to formulate the new vision in
terms of an ego’s experience of an object.
There is no Advaita Vedanta
The words Advaita Vedanta, like the word Hinduism, are a misnomer
because they imply other Vedantas. The word ‘Advaita’ means non-dual and
implies the concept of duality. Indeed, those who view Vedanta as a school
of thought speak of Dwaita Vedanta, dualistic Vedanta, VishistAdvaita
Vedanta, qualified non-dualism, and even Bhakti Vedanta, devotional
Vedanta. Or they compare it with philosophies or religions that present
The word ‘Advaita’ is not an adjective meant to modify a particular
type of Vedanta but a word that describes the nature of the Self. Keeping in
mind that words are always symbols, although non-dual implies dual, it is
more appropriate to refer to the Self as non-dual than as one since one is a
number that implies two, many, and even zero, nothing. Furthermore, it
would be inappropriate to label Vedanta, which is merely a means of
knowledge, as non-dual because it is in fact a dualistic device operating in a
dualistic situation, one that ironically delivers non-dual knowledge.
The ultimate source of Vedanta’s teachings are the Upanishads,
documents appended to the concluding portion of each Veda. In fact the
word Vedanta is a compound. Veda means knowledge and anta means end.
Although Vedanta is often erroneously accused of being an
intellectual discipline, it operates differently from them because it does not
leave concepts behind in the mind once it has been handled by a teacher. It
uses concepts to destroy false concepts about the nature of the Self. And in
the process both the correct idea and the erroneous idea disappear into the
vision of oneself as the Self. Since the emphasis is on removal of doubt, any
interpretation of a mantra can be applied to remove the doubt, irrespective
of other interpretations. For a given person one interpretation may be
appropriate while the same interpretation may be inappropriate for another
because he or she entertains a different doubt or formulates the doubt in a
different way. Irrespective of the interpretation, Vedanta acts as a means of
knowledge if it removes one’s ignorance of one’s limitless nature.
Advaita is the path to liberation from limitation. Start by understanding what it is: Read the entire article , What is Advaita Vedanta, by James Swartz by clicking here
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