What is Vedanta?

Vedas, as revealed to ancient sages, called Rishis, are handed down from one generation to another. The first part of the Vedas talks about karma and karma phala, meaning activities and their results. The word phala literally means fruit and like all fruits karma phala is also perishable. Yes, good actions can take one to heaven, but even heaven is perishable.

The last part of Vedas is Vedanta which means end, or essence of the Vedas. It reveals that there is one entity that is not perishable, and that is the essence of your self Рnot what you take yourself to be. The vision that Vedanta unfolds is that the reality of the individual, the world and God is one non-dual consciousness that is timeless and pure. Knowing this, one gets free from all struggles based on a sense of inadequacy. Though preserved in the Veda, the wisdom expounded in Vedanta transcends all religions. 

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Thus, the self, or atma, is the subject matter of Vedanta. Thus, Vedanta is also known as adhyatma vidya, the study of oneself, or Brahma Vidya, the reality of everything – the two are one and the same. The teaching is generally in the form of dialogues between a teacher and a student, in Vedic texts called Upanishads. In Bhagavad Gita, Krshna also reveals the same truth, and so Gita is also a Vedantic text.

The word Vedanta is made up of two words – veda and anta. Anta means end, and Vedanta means the end portion of the Vedas. This term is used for a certain kind of literature found in the Vedas called the Upanishad. The Vedas have two sections. The first section deals with rituals or karma, actions, and dharma, the way of living one’s life. The second section, the Upanishad, deals with gyanam or knowledge. This is Vedanta. Vedanta reveals the nature of the realities of life. It is very important to understand the realities of life because our life is based upon our own conclusions of these realities. This is the pursuit of knowledge. Knowledge is meant to dispel ignorance, and we will discuss how our sorrows or problems in life are the product of ignorance. ¬†Vedanta explains to us that unhappiness is the fundamental human problem with which every human being is battling. Our life is a process of avoiding unhappiness and seeking happiness. How do we fulfill this pursuit? That is what Vedanta teaches us. It shows us how to gain the happiness that we are seeking and how to become free, once and for all, from all unhappiness. Vedanta explains that it is knowledge of the realities of life that becomes the means for achieving the goal.The most valuable lesson that Vedanta teaches is that you already are what you are seeking to be. Each one of us is seeking to be something. I find that there is dissatisfaction with the way I am and an urge to be different from what I am. I am seeking to be pleased with myself, to be free, to be happy. ¬†Vedanta teaches that you are what you seeking to be, that you are already free and happy. Vedanta teaches us to live a life of knowing rather than one of becoming. Usually a person desires to become someone. I am trying to become someone different without understanding what I am. I have concluded that I must become free and limitless without inquiring into what I am. So the most important lesson to learn from Vedanta is not to take things for granted. Instead, we need to inquire into what is, into what I am. Are my conclusions about myself correct or do my conclusions need to be changed in the light of the understanding that Vedanta gives us? So the most important lesson I have learned is about the nature of basic realities, and the dropping of the various notions that I entertain about the world and myself.