VEDANTA, va-dan'ta, which means liter ally the end of the Veda, or knowledge, con stitutes the most impressive • and comprehensive structure of Hindu philosophy. It is not synonymous with Hindu philosophy, as is gen erally supposed, because the Vedanta is only one of the six main schools of Indian thought, one of which, the Vyaya, is for all practical purposes the earliest school of atheistic thought in the world. The subject of Vedanta is theistic thought, based on the texts of the Veda, principally Upanishads. The Upanishads are portions of the Veda, and are recognized to lead to the realization of self ; they constitute the inanakanda, or the part dealing with higher knowledge, while the rest of the Veda, the Brahman and Samhita, is known as the Karmakanda: or the part dealing with rituals. The foundation on which the philosophy has been reared is the Sutras, or the formula: contained in the Vedanta Sutra, Brahma Sutra and the Sariraka Sutra. Vyasa, the author of the Hindu epic Mahabharata is said to be the author of the Sutras.
The Vedanta philosophy itself comprises several schools of thought, all of them, how ever, agreeing on the Veda as the final authority. A knowledge of the history of the philosophy is necessary to comprehend cor rectly the principles enunciated by the sages. The earliest speculative thought of the Hindus is contained in the Upanishads, which are at the same time extremely profound. There are 108 Upanishads; Vedantic thought, however, takes cognizance of but 18, although occasional references are made to some of the rest. In the gradual evolution of Hindu thought, these Upanishads came to a stage when the con clusion was arrived at that there was but one substance or reality, self-created, immutable, imperceptible, all-knowing and external. This is the supreme spirit, the impersonal self, the absolute, aiman, paramdtman, Brahman. The Brahman is Sachchidananda, i.e., life, thought and beatitude. It is life, as imparting life and manifestation to all that is known and.appears to exist. It is thought, as being self-conscious, as giving consciousness to all, making appear all things that do appear.. It is beatitude, as exempt from all the miseries of births and deaths, from evil, pain and sorrow, a beatitude in which there is no distinction between attribute and subject, a beatitude like the repose of dreamless sleep. Brahman is eternally
pure, intelligent and free. It is pure, as free from loves and hates, passionless and un affected by the limitations of form. It is in telligent, as irradiating all things, as illu minating the otherwise dark or unconscious modifications of the sensories and intellects of personal spirits, and as illuminating the objects of these modifications. It is free, as unaffected by the experiences of these spirits, exempt from the implication of the unreal.
Brahman, with all these attributes, had al ready been postulated in the Upanishads. The question of importance then was how to re concile this postulate with existence. It is axiomatic that no speculation or philosophy is possible without admitting the existence of the individual, the universe which comprises every thing else but the individual, and an entity that comprises and regulates all. All religions and philosophies, therefore, discuss the relations and inter-actions of the soul, the world and God. The meaning of existence, the purpose and aim of it, are to be sought in the under standing of the relations between the three known postulates.
All speculation starts with the individual, or individual soul, called iivatman. Therefore, the necessity of reconciling the individual soul with Brahman, which is the one reality, be came imperative. Vedanta philosophy has also accepted from the outset that the soul is personal only in fictitious semblance, only so long as it is implicated in the series of transmigratory states, and is in truth impersonal, one with Brahman, and is in Brahman. As Krishna enunciates in the Bagavad Gita, its apparent and fictitious individuality, and its apparent action and suffering, are the in dividuality, the action and suffering of its illusory adjuncts, the organism and the facul ties. The submergence of all souls into Brahman, the one soul, must be sought after and is the only truth. The true intrition, or the knowledge of Brahman is the sole method by which the parasitic growth of experience is pierced and the realization of self attained.