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For other uses, see Vedanta (disambiguation).

Vedanta (IAST, Vedānta, Sanskrit: वेदांत) or Uttara Mīmāṃsā is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy. Primarily the word Vedanta stood for Upanishads; afterwords, its denotation widened to include all thoughts developed out of the Upanishads[1]. Vedanta, its denotation as understood and accepted by its major schools, refers to various philosophical traditions based on the three basic texts of Hindu philosophy, namely the Principal Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.[2][3][4]

Vedanta adopted ideas from other schools of Hinduism such as Yoga and Nyaya,[5][6] and, over time, became the most prominent of the orthodox schools of Hinduism, influencing the diverse traditions within it.[7][8] There are at least ten schools of Vedanta,[9] of which Advaita Vedanta, Vishishtadvaita, Achintya-Bheda-Abheda and Dvaita are the best known.[10]

Etymology and Nomenclature[edit]

Vedanta literally means the end of the Vedas[1]. The Upanishads may be regarded as the end of Vedas in different senses:

  1. The Upanishads were the last literary products of the Vedic period. The literature of this period is broadly classified into three kinds - the Samhitas, the Brahmanas and the Upanishads. The three collectively form the Vedas. The Upanishads discuss the philosophical problems and form the last layer or the end of the Vedas.
  2. In respect of study, the Upanishads were studied the last, during Vanprastha and Sannyasa.
  3. The Upanishads mark the culmination of Vedic thought. [11]

Vedanta is also called Uttara Mīmāṃsā, or the 'latter enquiry' or 'higher enquiry', and is often paired with Purva Mīmāṃsā, the 'former enquiry' or 'primary enquiry'. Pūrva Mimamsa and also Karma Mimamsa, usually simply called Mimamsa, deals with explanations of the Karma-kanda or rituals part of the Vedic mantras (in the Samhita portion of the Vedas) and Brahmanas, while Vedanta deals with the Upanishads or the Jnana-kanda of the Vedas.[12]

The Vedanta school has been historically referred to by various names, states Richard King, with early names of the Vedanta school being Upanishadic ones (Aupanisada), the doctrine of the end of the Vedas (Vedanta-vada), the doctrine of Brahman (Brahma-vada), and named after the doctrine that Brahman is the cause (Brahma-karana-vada).[13]

Three basic texts[edit]

In the current view, the Upanishads, The Bhagavadgita and the Vedanta Sutra constitute the triple basis of Vedanta. All schools of the vedanta propound their philosophy by interpreting these texts, called the Prasthanatrayi, literally, three sources[14].

  1. The Upanishads, known as Upadesha prasthana (injunctive texts), and the Śruti prasthāna (the starting point of revelation)
  2. The Vedanta Sutra or Brahma Sutras, known as Nyaya prasthana or Yukti prasthana (logical text)
  3. The Bhagavad Gita, a part of the Mahabharata, is known as Sadhana prasthana (practical text), and the Smriti prasthāna (the starting point of remembered tradition)

The Upanishads were many in number and developed in the different Vedic schools at different times and places (the names of up to 112 Upanishads have been recorded)[15]. All major commentators have considered twelve to thirteen of these texts as the principle Upanishads.

The problems discussed and solutions offered in the Upanishads presented differences despite a unity of general outlook. The indefiniteness of the teaching of the Upanishads led to a necessity for its systematization. The systematization, in all likelihood, was effected in more than one way; but the only attempt that has survived is represented by the Sutras of Badarayana Vyasa popularly known as Vedanta Sutra or Brahma Sutra[16].

All major Vedantic teachers, like Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, and Madhvacharya, have composed extensive commentaries not only on the Upanishads and Brahma Sutras, but also on the Bhagavad Gita. While it is not typically thought of as a purely Vedantic text, with its syncretism of Samkhya, Yoga, and Upanishadic thought, the Bhagavad Gita has played a strong role in Vedantic thought.[17]


Advaita Vedanta existed prior to Shankara, but found its most influential expounder in him.[18] Of the Vedanta-school before the composition of the Brahma Sutras (400–450 BC[19]) almost nothing is known.[19] Very little also is known of the period between the Brahma Sutras and Shankara (first half of the 8th century BC).[19] Only two writings of this period have survived: the Vākyapadīya, written by Bhartṛhari (second half 5th century[20]), and the Māndūkya-kārikā written by Gaudapada (7th century BC).[19]

Earliest Vedanta[edit]

See also: Vedas, Upanishads, and Darsanas

According to Balasubramanian, the Vedantic philosophy is as old as the Vedas, since the basic ideas of the Vedanta systems are derived from the Vedas.[21] During the Vedic period (1500–600 BC[21]) the Rishis formulated their religio-philosophical and poetical visions, which are further explored in the Upanishads,[22] the jnāna-kānda of the Vedas.[23] The Upanishads do not contain "a rigorous philosophical inquiry identifying the doctrines and formulating the supporting arguments."[24] This philosophical inquiry was performed by the darsanas, the various philosophical schools.[25]

Deutsch and Dalvi point out that in the Indian context, texts "are only part of a tradition which is preserved in its purest form in the oral transmission as it has been going on."[26] The Upanishads form the basic texts, of which Vedanta gives an interpretation.[27]

Bhedabheda and Bādarāyana's Brahma Sutras[edit]

Main article: Brahma Sutras

The Brahma Sutras of Bādarāyana, also called the Vedanta Sutra,[23][note 1] are traditionally ascribed to Bādarāyana,[note 2] and 200 CE.[29] but "are best understood as a group of sutras composed by multiple authors over the course of hundreds of years."[30] They were most likely compiled in the present form around 400–450 CE,[31][30] but "the great part of the Sutra must have been in existence much earlier than that."[31]

The earliest stratum of sutras in the Brahmasutras is concerned with interpretation of the Upanishads, especially the differences between the Chandogya Upanishad, the Brhadanyaka Upanisgad, and the Taittiriya Upanishad.[30] Later additions were concerned with the refutation of rival philosophical schools, especially Samkhya.[30] According to Nakamura and Dasgupta, the Brahmasutras reflect a Bhedabheda point of view,[30] the most influential school of Vedanta before Shankara.[30][note 3]

Bādarāyana was not the first person to systematise the teachings of the Upanishads.[32] He refers to seven Vedantic teachers before him:[32]

From the way in which Bādarāyana cites the views of others it is obvious that the teachings of the Upanishads must have been analyzed and interpreted by quite a few before him and that his systematization of them in 555 sutras arranged in four chapters must have been the last attempt, most probably the best.[32]

The cryptic aphorisms of the Vedanta Sutras are open to a variety of interpretations, resulting in the formation of numerous Vedanta schools, each interpreting the texts in its own way and producing its own sub-commentaries.[33]

Between Brahma Sutras and Shankara[edit]

According to Nakamura, "there must have been an enormous number of other writings turned out in this period, but unfortunately all of them have been scattered or lost and have not come down to us today".[19] In his commentaries, Shankara mentions 99 different predecessors of his Sampradaya.[34] In the beginning of his commentary on the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad Shankara salutes the teachers of the Brahmavidya Sampradaya.[web 1] Pre-Shankara doctrines and sayings can be traced in the works of the later schools, which does give insight into the development of early Vedanta philosophy.[19]

The names of various important early Vedanta thinkers have been listed in the Siddhitraya by Yamunācārya (c. 1050), the Vedārthasamgraha by Rāmānuja (c. 1050–1157), and the Yatīndramatadīpikā by Śrīnivāsa-dāsa.[19] Combined together,[19] at least fourteen thinkers are known to have existed between the composition of the Brahman Sutras and Shankara's lifetime.[19][note 4]

Gaudapada and Shankara[edit]

Main article: Advaita Vedanta

Gaudapada wrote or compiled[35] the Māṇḍukya Kārikā, also known as the Gauḍapāda Kārikā and as the Āgama Śāstra.[note 5] Gaudapda took over the Buddhist doctrines that ultimate reality is pure consciousness (vijñapti-mātra)[9] Gaudapada "wove [both doctrines] into a philosophy of the Mandukaya Upanisad, which was further developed by Shankara".[36]

Adi Shankara (788–820), elaborated on Gaudapada's work, and is considered to be the founder of Advaita Vedanta.[9] It was Shankara who succeeded in reading Gaudapada's mayavada[37][note 6] into Badarayana's Brahma Sutras, "and give it a locus classicus",[37] against the realistic strain of the Brahma Sutras.[37][note 7][note 8] His interpretation, including works ascribed to him, has become the normative interpretation of Advaita Vedanta.[39][37]

Although Shankara is often considered to be the founder of the Advaita Vedanta school, according to Nakamura, comparison of the known teachings of these early Vedantins and Shankara's thought shows that most of the characteristics of Shankara's thought "were advocated by someone before Śankara".[40] Shankara "was the person who synthesized the Advaita-vāda which had previously existed before him".[40] In this synthesis, he was the rejuvenator and defender of ancient learning.[41] He was an unequalled commentator,[41] due to whose efforts and contributions the Advaita Vedanta assumed a dominant position within Indian philosophy.[41]


Main articles: Bhakti and Bhakti movement

Bhedabheda Vedanta schools played an important role in the rise of bhakti, such as Suddhadvaita, founded by Vallabha[42] (1479–1531 CE), Achintya Bheda Abheda, founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1534)[43] and Vishishtadvaita founded by Shri Ramanuja (1017–1137 CE).

Integration of various schools[edit]

According to Nicholson, already between the 12th and the 16th century,

... certain thinkers began to treat as a single whole the diverse philosophical teachings of the Upanishads, epics, Puranas, and the schools known retrospectively as the "six systems" (saddarsana) of mainstream Hindu philosophy.[44][note 9]

Both the Indian and the European thinkers who developed the term "Hinduism" in the 19th century were influenced by these philosophers[44] especially Vijnanabhiksu, a Bhedabheda Vedantin.[49] Neo-Vedanta too was inspired by these thinkers.[49]

Vedanta philosophy[edit]

Basic questions[edit]

The schools of Vedānta seek to answer questions about the relation between atman and Brahman, and the relation between Brahman and the world.[2]

The schools of Vedanta are named after the relation they see between atman and Brahman:[9]

  • According to Advaita Vedanta, there is no difference.[9]
  • According to Dvaita the jīvātman is totally different from Brahman. Even though he is similar to brahman, he is not identical.
  • According to Vishishtadvaita, the jīvātman is a part of Brahman, and hence is similar, but not identical.
  • According to Shuddhadvaita, the jīvātman and Brahman are like sparks and fire, Jagat is real and the jīvātman is clouded by nescience (avidya) due to Maya.

Sivananda gives the following explanation:

Madhva said: "Man is the servant of God," and established his Dvaita philosophy. Ramanuja said: "Man is a ray or spark of God," and established his Visishtadvaita philosophy. Sankara said: "Man is identical with Brahman or the Eternal Soul," and established his Kevala Advaita philosophy.[50]

All schools of Vedanta subscribe to the theory of Satkāryavāda,[web 6] which means that the effect is pre-existent in the cause. But there are two different views on the status of the "effect", that is, the world. Most schools of Vedanta,[38][web 6] as well as Samkhya,[web 6] support Parinamavada, the idea that the world is a real transformation (parinama) of Brahman.[38] According to Nicholson, "the Brahma Sutras also espouse the realist Parinamavada position, which appears to have been the view most common among early Vedantins".[38] In contrast to Badarayana, Adi Shankara and Advaita Vedantists hold a different view, Vivartavada, which says that the effect, the world, is merely an unreal (vivarta) transformation of its cause, Brahman:

[A]lthough Brahman seems to undergo a transformation, in fact no real change takes place. The myriad of beings are essentially unreal, as the only real being is Brahman, that ultimate reality which is unborn, unchanging, and entirely without parts.[38]

Common features[edit]

Even though there are many sub-schools of vedantic philosophy, all these schools share some common features, that can be called the vedantic core:[51]

  • Brahman is the supreme cause of the entire universe and is all pervading and eternal, as found in the Prasthanatrayi—The Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.
  • Actions are subordinate to knowledge or devotion. Actions are useful only for preparing the mind for knowledge or devotion; and once this is achieved, selfish actions and their rewards must be renounced.
  • Bondage is subjection to Saṃsāra, the cycle of death and rebirth.
  • Liberation is deliverance from this cycle.

Traditional Vedānta considers scriptural evidence, or shabda pramāna, as the most authentic means of knowledge, while perception, or pratyaksa, and logical inference, or anumana, are considered to be subordinate (but valid).[52][53]

Vedanta rejects ritual in favor of renunciation, which makes Vedanta irreconcileable with Mimamsa.[54]

Schools of Vedanta[edit]

Subschools of Vedanta
4th century CE
Advaita Vedanta
Maṇḍana Miśra)
8th century CE
13th century CE
(Vivekananda & Radhakrishnan)
19th century CE
9th century
11th century
13th century
16th century
(Chaitanya & Jiva)
16th century
A basic classification of the Vedanta theologies.[55][53][56][57]

The contents of the Upanishads are often couched in enigmatic language, which has left them open to various interpretations. Over a period of time, various schools of Vedanta, with different interpretations of the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras arose. There are three,[10] four,[58] five[42] or six[59][note 10] which are prominent:

Proponents of other Vedantic schools continue to write and develop their ideas as well, although their works are not widely known outside of smaller circles of followers in India.


Bhedabheda (bheda-abheda), which means "difference and non-difference",[60] existed as early as the 7th century CE,[60] but Bādarāyaṇa’s Brahma Sūtra (c. 4th century CE) may also have been written from a Bhedābheda Vedāntic viewpoint.[60] According to the Bhedābheda Vedānta schools the individual self (jīvātman) is both different and not different from Brahman.[60] Bhakti found a place in later proponents of this school.[60] Major names of this school are Bhāskara (8th-9th century),[60] Rāmānuja’s teacher Yādavaprakāśa,[60] Nimbārka (13th century) who founded the Dvaitadvaita school,[60] Vallabha (1479–1531)[60] who founded Shuddhadvaita,[42] Caitanya (1486–1534) who founded the Achintya Bheda Abheda school,[60][61] and Vijñānabhikṣu (16th century).[60]


Dvaitādvaita was propounded by Nimbārka (13th century), based upon Bhedābheda, which was taught by Bhāskara. According to this school, the jīvātman is at once the same and yet different from Brahman. The jiva relation may be regarded as dvaita from one point of view and advaita from another. In this school, God is visualized as Krishna.[62]



Shuddhadvaita was propounded by Vallabhacharya (1479–1531 CE). This system also identifies Bhakti as the only means of liberation, 'to go to Goloka' (lit., the world of cows; the Sankrit word 'go', 'cow', also means 'star'), through "Pushtimarga" (the path of God's grace). The world is said to be the sport (līlā) of Krishna, who is Sat-Chit-Ananda or, "eternal bliss mind".[62]On the basis of quadruple “Proof Corpus” (pramāna catuṣṭaya) comprising Srutis and Smrutis, Brahmasutra, Gita and Shrimadbhagvata, Vallabhacharya propounded the philosophy of “shuddhadvaita brahmvaad” (pure non-dualism), according to which Maya or the world (jagat) is not unreal (‘jagat mithya’) as in the Advaita of Shankar, but the entire universe is real and is subtly Brahman only. Brahman has created the world without connection with or help from any external agency such as Maya, which itself is his power. Brahman manifests Himself through the world. Srutis say Brahman or Ishvara desired to become many, and he became the multitude of individual souls and the world (jagat).[63] That is how Vallabh’s shuddhadvaita is known as ‘Unmodified transformation’ or ‘Avikṛta Pariṇāmavāda’, while Shankar’s Advaita or Kevaladvaita is known as ‘Vivartavāda’. Vallabha recognises Brahman as the whole and the individual as a ‘part’. The individual soul (Jeeva or jeevatma) and God are in "essence" not different, like sparks and fire. The soul is both a ‘doer’ and ‘enjoyer’. It is atomic in size but it pervades the whole body through its essence of intelligence (like scent of sandalwood, even if it can't be seen). Vallabhacharya says that the Jiva is not Supreme, nor it is Sat-chit-ananda (Existence-knowledge-bliss Absolute) being clouded by the force of nescience (‘avidya’ or Maya ) and is therefore devoid of bliss (ananda).[64]


Founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu[61] (1486–1534). Achintya-Bheda-Abheda represents the philosophy of inconceivable one-ness and difference,[65] in relation to the power creation and creator, (Krishna), svayam bhagavan.[66] and also between God and his energies[67] within the Gaudiya Vaishnava religious tradition. In Sanskrit achintya means 'inconceivable',[65] bheda translates as 'difference', and abheda translates as 'one-ness'. It can be best understood as integration of strict dualist (Dvaita) view of Madhvacharya and qualified monism Vishishtadvaita of Ramanujacharya while rejecting absolute monism Advaita of Adi Sankara.

Advaita Vedānta[edit]


Advaita Vedanta (IAST Advaita Vedānta; Sanskrit: अद्वैत वेदान्त [əd̪ʋait̪ə ʋeːd̪ɑːnt̪ə]) was propounded by Adi Shankara (early 8th century CE) and his grand-guru Gaudapada, who described Ajativada. It is a[68][69][70] sub-school of the Vedānta (literally, end or the goal of the Vedas, Sanskrit) school of Hindu philosophy.[71] In the school of Vedānta, Brahman is the only reality, and the world, as it appears, is illusory. As Brahman is the sole reality, it cannot be said to possess any attributes whatsoever. An illusory power of Brahman called Māyā causes the world to arise. Ignorance of this reality is the cause of all suffering in the world and only upon true knowledge of Brahman can liberation be attained. When a person tries to know Brahman through his mind, due to the influence of Māyā, Brahman appears as God (Ishvara), separate from the world and from the individual. In reality, there is no difference between the individual soul jīvātman (see Atman) and Brahman. Liberation lies in knowing the reality of this non-difference (i.e. a-dvaita, "non-duality"). Thus, the path to liberation is finally only through knowledge (jñāna).[62]


Vishishtadvaita was propounded by Rāmānuja (1017–1137 CE) and says that the jīvātman is a part of Brahman, and hence is similar, but not identical. The main difference from Advaita is that in Visishtadvaita, the Brahman is asserted to have attributes (Saguna brahman), including the individual conscious souls and matter. Brahman, matter and the individual souls are distinct but mutually inseparable entities. This school propounds Bhakti or devotion to God visualized as Vishnu to be the path to liberation. Māyā is seen as the creative power of God.[62][note 11]


Dvaita was propounded by Madhwāchārya (1199–1278 CE). It is also referred to as tatvavādā - The Philosophy of Reality. It identifies God with Brahman completely, and in turn with Vishnu or his various incarnations like Krishna, Narasimha, Srinivāsa etc. In that sense it is also known as sat-vaishnava philosophy to differentiate from the Vishishtadvaita school known by sri-vaishnavism. It regards Brahman, all individual souls (jīvātmans) and matter as eternal and mutually separate entities. This school also advocates Bhakti as the route to sattvic liberation whereas hatred (Dvesha)-literally 'twoness') and indifference towards the Lord will lead to eternal hell and eternal bondage respectively. Liberation is the state of attaining maximum joy or sorrow, which is awarded to individual souls (at the end of their sādhana), based on the souls' inherent and natural disposition towards good or evil. The achintya-adbhuta shakti (the immeasurable power) of Lord Vishnu is seen as the efficient cause of the universe and the primordial matter or prakrti is the material cause. Dvaita also propounds that all action is performed by the Lord energizing every soul from within, awarding the results to the soul but Himself not affected in the least by the results.[62]


Neo-Vedanta is a modern interpretation of Vedanta, with a liberal attitude toward the Vedas.[73] It reconciles dualism and non-dualism,[74] and rejects the "universal illusionism"[75] of Shankara, despite its reference for classical Advaita Vedanta:

Ramakrsna, Svami Vivekananda, and Aurobindo (I also include M.K. Gandhi) have been labeled "neo-Vedantists," a philosophy that rejects the Advaitins' claim that the world is illusory. Aurobindo, in his The Life Divine, declares that he has moved from Sankara's "universal illusionism" to his own "universal realism" (2005: 432), defined as metaphysical realism in the European philosophical sense of the term.[75]

Mohandas Gandhi endorsed the Jain concept of Anekantavada,[76] the notion that truth and reality are perceived differently from diverse points of view, and that no single point of view is the complete truth.[77][78] This concept embraces the perspectives of both Vedānta which, according to Jainism, "recognizes substances but not process", and Buddhism, which "recognizes process but not substance". Jainism, on the other hand, pays equal attention to both substance (dravya) and process (paryaya).[79]

Neo-Vedanta developed in the 19th century, in interaction with and response to colonialism.[73] With the onset of the British Raj, the colonialisation of India by the British, there also started a Hindu renaissance in the 19th century, which profoundly changed the understanding of Hinduism in both India and the west.[80] Western orientalist searched for the "essence" of the Indian religions, discerning this in the Vedas,[81] and meanwhile creating the notion of "Hinduism" as a unified body of religious praxis[82] and the popular picture of 'mystical India'.[82][80]

This idea of a Vedic essence was taken over by the Hindu reformers, together with the ideas of Universalism and Perennialism, the idea that all religions share a common mystic ground.[83] The Brahmo Samaj, who was supported for a while by the Unitarian Church,[84] played an essential role in the introduction and spread of this new understanding of Hinduism.[85] Vedanta came to be regarded as the essence of Hinduism, and Advaita Vedanta came to be regarded as "then paradigmatic example of the mystical nature of the Hindu religion".[86]

A major proponent in the popularisation of this Universalist and Perennialist interpretation of Advaita Vedanta was Vivekananda,[87] who played a major role in the revival of Hinduism,[88] and the spread of Advaita Vedanta to the west via the Vedanta Society, the international arm of Ramakrishna Order. His interpretation of Advaita Vedanta has been called "Neo-Vedanta".[89] The popular understanding of Hinduism has been dominated by this neo-Vedanta,[82][note 12] in which mysticism,[82] Aryan origins and the unity of Hinduism[90] have been emphasised.[91][92][93][82]

These notions also served well for the Hindu nationalists, who further popularised this notion of Advaita Vedanta as the pinnacle of Indian religions.[94] It "provided an opportunity for the construction of a nationalist ideology that could unite Hindus in their struggle against colonial oppression".[95]


The Vedanta school has had a historic and central influence on Hinduism, states Nakamura:[7]

The prevalence of Vedanta thought is found not only in philosophical writings but also in various forms of (Hindu) literature, such as the epics, lyric poetry, drama and so forth. What is especially worthy of attention is that the Hindu religious sects, the common faith of the Indian populace, looked to Vedanta philosophy for the theoretical foundations for their theology. The influence of Vedanta is prominent in the sacred literatures of Hinduism, such as the various Puranas, Samhitas, Agamas and Tantras. Many commentaries on the fundamental scripture of Vedanta, the Brahmasutra, were written by the founders or leading scholars of the various sects of Hinduism, and they are transmitted to this day as documents indispensable in the respective sectarian traditions. The majority of the traditional and conservative scholars in India today, called Pandits, are students of Vedanta, and an overwhelming number belong to the lineage of Shankara – five-sixths of all Pandits, according to some authorities.

— Hajime Nakamura (2004), A History of Early Vedānta Philosophy, Volume 2[7]

Frithjof Schuon summarizes the influence of Vedanta on Hinduism as, "The Vedanta contained in the Upanishads, then formulated in the Brahma Sutra, and finally commented and explained by Shankara, is an invaluable key for discovering the deepest meaning of all the religious doctrines and for realizing that the Sanatana Dharma secretly penetrates all the forms of traditional spirituality.[96][97] Gavin Flood states, "the most influential school of theology in India has been Vedanta, exerting enormous influence on all religious traditions and becoming the central ideology of the Hindu renaissance in the nineteenth century. It has become the philosophical paradigm of Hinduism par excellence."[8]

Lucian Blaga has often used the concepts Marele Anonim (‘the Great Anonymous’) and cenzura transcendentă (‘the transcendental censorship’) in his philosophy. He was influenced by Śaṅkara’s concepts of Brahman (‘God’) and māyā (‘illusion’).[98] In Śaṅkarācārya, Brahman is understood as nirguna Brahman (‘God without attributes’), whilst Īśvara is saguna Brahman (God with attributes). Louis Renou underlines that Brahman is superior to Īśvara, while Olivier Lacombe writes that Brahman is Īśvara’s superlative.[99] Brahman is different than Greek Zeus, as well as than Christian or Jewish God, than Muslim Allah, because he is transpersonal.[100] Māyā is a fundamental concept in Vedanta. It has several meanings and it has often been translated as ‘illusion’. According to L. Thomas O’Neil, māyā signifies ‘measuring the immeasurable’.[101]

Comparison to Western philosophies[edit]

Similarities between Vedanta and Western philosophical traditions have been discussed by many authorities. Due to the colonisation of Asia by the western world, since the late 18th century an exchange of ideas has been taking place between the western world and Asia, which also influenced western religiosity.[102] In 1785 appeared the first western translation of a Sanskrit-text.[103] It marked the growing interest in the Indian culture and languages.[104] The first translation of Upanishads appeared in two parts in 1801 and 1802,[104] which influenced Arthur Schopenhauer, who called them "the consolation of my life".[105][note 13] Schopenhauer drew explicit parallels between his philosophy, as set out in 'The World as Will and Representation',[106] and that of the Vedanta philosophy ascribed to Vasya in the work of Sir William Jones.[107] Early translations also appeared in other European languages.[108]

In the 20th century, comparisons between Advaita, western philosophy, and science took a high flight. Brian David Josephson, Welsh physicist, and Nobel Prize laureate says:[109]

The Vedanta and the Sankhya hold the key to the laws of the mind and thought process which are co-related to the Quantum Field, i.e. the operation and distribution of particles at atomic and molecular levels.


Max Müller, in his lectures, noted the striking similarities between Vedanta and the system of Spinoza, saying

[T]he Brahman, as conceived in the Upanishads and defined by Sankara, is clearly the same as Spinoza's 'Substantia'."[110]

Helena Blavatsky, a founder of the Theosophical Society, also compared Spinoza's religious thought to Vedanta, writing in an unfinished essay

As to Spinoza’s Deity—natura naturans—conceived in his attributes simply and alone; and the same Deity—as natura naturata or as conceived in the endless series of modifications or correlations, the direct outflowing results from the properties of these attributes, it is the Vedantic Deity pure and simple.[111]

The 19th-century German Sanskritist Theodore Goldstücker was one of the early figures to notice the similarities between the religious conceptions of the Vedanta and those of the Dutch Jewish philosopher Baruch Spinoza, writing that Spinoza's thought was

... so exact a representation of the ideas of the Vedanta, that we might have suspected its founder to have borrowed the fundamental principles of his system from the Hindus, did his biography not satisfy us that he was wholly unacquainted with their doctrines [...] comparing the fundamental ideas of both we should have no difficulty in proving that, had Spinoza been a Hindu, his system would in all probability mark a last phase of the Vedanta philosophy.[112][113]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Vedānta-sūtra are known by a variety of names, including (1) Brahma-sūtra, (2) Śārīraka, (3) Vyāsa-sūtra, (4) Bādarāyaṇa-sūtra, (5) Uttara-mīmāṁsā and (6) Vedānta-darśana.[28]
  2. ^ Estimates of the date of Bādarāyana's lifetime differ between 200 BCE
  3. ^ Nicholson: "Numerous Indologists, including Surendranath Dasgupta, Paul hacker, Hajime Nakamura, and Mysore Hiriyanna, have described Bhedabheda as the most influential school of Vedanta before Sankara."[30]
  4. ^ Bhartŗhari (c. 450–500), Upavarsa (c. 450–500), Bodhāyana (c. 500), Tanka (Brahmānandin) (c. 500–550), Dravida (c. 550), Bhartŗprapañca (c. 550), Śabarasvāmin (c. 550), Bhartŗmitra (c. 550–600), Śrivatsānka (c. 600), Sundarapāndya (c. 600), Brahmadatta (c. 600–700), Gaudapada (c. 640–690), Govinda (c. 670–720), Mandanamiśra (c. 670–750).[19]
  5. ^ Nakamura notes that there are contradictions in doctrine between the four chapters.[35]
  6. ^ The term "mayavada" is still being used, in a critical way, by the Hare Krshnas. See [web 2] [web 3] [web 4] [web 5]
  7. ^ Nicholson: "The Brahmasutras themselves espouse the realist Parinamavada position, which appears to have been the view most common among early Vedantins."[38]
  8. ^ B.N.K. Sharma: "[H]ow difficult he himself found the task of making the Sutras yield a Monism of his conception, is proved by the artificiality and parenthetical irrelevance of his comments in many places, where he seeks to go against the spirit and letter of the Sutras and their natural drift of arguments and dialectic [...] he was fighting with all his might and ingenuity against a long line of realistic commentaries."[37]
  9. ^ The tendency of "a blurring of philosophical distinctions" has also been noted by Burley.[45] Lorenzen locates the origins of a distinct Hindu identity in the interaction between Muslims and Hindus,[46] and a process of "mutual self-definition with a contrasting Muslim other",[47] which started well before 1800.[48]
  10. ^ Sivananda also mentions Meykandar and the Shaiva Siddhanta philosophy.[10]
  11. ^ Sri Lakshmi Visishtadvaita was propounded by Sri Srinivasa Deekshitulu (950 A.D.). It is primarily related to Vaikhanasa School of thought (based on Taittiriya Aranyaka) based on Badarayana Sariraka Sutras. It is strictly followed by the original priests of the celebrated ancient Tirumala Hill Shrine even to this day. It proposes that Brahman can be in sakala and nishkala forms. To meditate on the nishkala aspect of Brahman, the starting point is sakala (with attributes). This school propounds 'Archana' (Worship), supplemented by 'Jnana' (knowledge) and 'Bhakti' (devotion) to be the path to liberation. In this school of thought the ultimate Brahman is Lord Vishnu along with goddess Lakshmi. Lord Vishnu must be worshipped along with Goddess Lakshmi. Tirumala Kshetram is one of the best examples of the implementation of the 'Sri Lakshmi Visishtadvaitam'.[72]
  12. ^ Also called neo-Hinduism[82]
  13. ^ And called his poodle "Atman".[105]


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  2. ^ a b Raju 1992, p. 176-177.
  3. ^ NV Isaeva (1992), Shankara and Indian Philosophy, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0-7914-1281-7, page 35 with footnote 30
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  9. ^ a b c d e Raju 1992, p. 177.
  10. ^ a b c Sivananda 1993, p. 217.
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  12. ^ Sharma, Chandradhar (2009). A Critical Summary of Indian Philosphy. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd. p. 211. ISBN 978-81-208-0365-7. 
  13. ^ King 1995, p. 268 with note 2.
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  26. ^ deutsch 2004, p. 95.
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  28. ^ Goswāmi, S.D. (1976), Readings in Vedic Literature: The Tradition Speaks for Itself, [1], pp. 240 pages, ISBN 0-912776-88-9  External link in |publisher= (help)
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  30. ^ a b c d e f g h Nicholson 2010, p. 26.
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  32. ^ a b c Balasubramanian 2000, p. xxxiii.
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  34. ^ Roodurmum 2002.
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  41. ^ a b c Nakamura 2004, p. 679.
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  45. ^ Burley 2007, p. 34.
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  66. ^ Kaviraja year unknown.
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Published sources[edit]

  • Balasubramanian, R. (2000), Introduction. In: Chattopadhyana (gen.ed.), "History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization. Volume II Part 2: Advaita Vedanta", Delhi: Centre for Studies in Civilizations 
  • Burch, George Bosworth (1964), "Seven-Valued Logic in Jain Philosophy", International Philosophical Quarterly, Bronx, NY, IV (1): 68–93, ISSN 0019-0365 
  • Burley, Mikel (2007), Classical Samkhya and Yoga: An Indian Metaphysics of Experience, Taylor & Francis 
  • Dense, Christian D. Von (1999), Philosophers and Religious Leaders, Greenwood Publishing Group 
  • Deutsch, Eliot; Dalvi, Rohit (2004), The Essential Vedanta: A New Source Book of Advaita Vedanta, World Wisdom, Inc. 
  • Doniger, Wendy (2010), The Hindus: An Alternative History, Oxford University Press 
  • Dundas, Paul (2004), Tara Sethia, ed., Ahimsā, Anekānta, and Jaininsm, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ, ISBN 81-208-2036-3 
  • Gier, Nicholas F. (2012). "Overreaching to be different: A critique of Rajiv Malhotra's Being Different". International Journal of Hindu Studies. Springer Netherlands. 16 (3): 259–285. doi:10.1007/s11407-012-9127-x. ISSN 1022-4556. 
  • Gupta, Ravi M. (2007), Caitanya Vaisnava Vedanta of Jiva Gosvami's Catursutri tika, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-40548-3 
  • Johnston, Charles (2014), The Vedanta Philosophy of Sankaracharya, Kshetra Books 
  • Jones, Constance; Ryan, James D. (2006), Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Infobase Publishing 
  • Jouhki, Jukka (2006), "Orientalism and India" (PDF), J@RGONIA 8/2006 
  • Kaviraja, K.G. (n.d.), Sri Caitanya-caritamrita. Bengali text, translation, and commentary by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust 
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  • King, Richard (1999), Orientalism and Religion: Post-Colonial Theory, India and "The Mystic East", Routledge 
  • King, Richard (2002), Orientalism and Religion: Post-Colonial Theory, India and "The Mystic East", Taylor & Francis e-Library 
  • Koller, John (2004), (ed.) Tara Sethia, ed., Ahimsā, Anekānta, and Jaininsm, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publ, ISBN 81-208-2036-3 
  • Koller, John M. (2013), "Shankara", in Meister, Chad; Copan, Paul, Routledge Companion to Philosophy of Religion, Routledge 
  • Lorenzen, David N. (2006), Who Invented Hinduism: Essays on Religion in History, Yoda Press 
  • Muesse, Mark W. (2011), The Hindu Traditions: A Concise Introduction, Fortress Press 
  • Mukerji, Mādhava Bithika (1983), Neo-Vedanta and Modernity, Ashutosh Prakashan Sansthan 
  • Nakamura, Hajime (1990), A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy. Part One, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited 
  • Nakamura, Hajime (2004), A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy. Part Two, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited 
  • Nicholson, Andrew J. (2010), Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History, Columbia University Press 
  • Pandey, S. L. (2000), Pre-Sankara Advaita. In: Chattopadhyana (gen.ed.), "History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization. Volume II Part 2: Advaita Vedanta", Delhi: Centre for Studies in Civilizations 
  • Panicker, P.L. John (2006), Gandhi on Pluralism and Communalism, ISPCK 
  • Prabhupada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami (1972), Bhagavad-gita as it is, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust Los Angeles, California 
  • Puligandla, Ramakrishna (1997), Fundamentals of Indian Philosophy, New Delhi: D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd. 
  • Raju, P. T. (1992), The Philosophical Traditions of India, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited 
  • Renard, Philip (2010), Non-Dualisme. De directe bevrijdingsweg, Cothen: Uitgeverij Juwelenschip 
  • Roodurmum, Pulasth Soobah (2002), Bhāmatī and Vivaraṇa Schools of Advaita Vedānta: A Critical Approach, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited 
  • Sharma, B. N. Krishnamurti (2000), History of the Dvaita School of Vedānta and Its Literature: From the Earliest Beginnings to Our Own Times, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers 
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  • Sooklal, Anil (1993), "The Neo-Vedanta Philosophy of Swami Vivekananda" (PDF), Nidan, 5, 1993 


Further reading[edit]