Vedanta Philosophy (Gyana Yoga)
The first part of the second chapter deals with this philosophy. The culmination of all Indian spiritual thought and experiences is the Vedanta philosophy. It is the crest-jewel of Indian thought. Vedanta literally means "the end of the vedas". In other words Vedanta is the essence, the highest wisdom of the Vedas. Vedanta is the science and art of living one's life at its highest and best. Vedanta is Gyana Yoga, the path of wisdom where the intellect is used for Self-Realization. It is a bold and independent method of realizing the Self through ratiocination and discrimination. This is a bold and sublime philosophy. Even a little practice can free us from fears, worries, anxieties and anything that disturbs the peace within.
This philosophy was for the first time systematized by the great Indian sage Veda Vyasa. He was a contemporary of Lord Krishna and lived around 3000 BC. He is credited to be the compiler of the 4 Vedas, the author of the 18 Puranas, the author of the Mahabharata epic. He also authored the famous ‘Brahma Sutras' which has become the traditional basis of the Vedanta philosophy. The Vedanta philosophy is based on the three pillars of Hindu philosophical thought — the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma Sutras. The most celebrated teacher of this doctrine in historical times is Adi Shankaracharya who lived in the 9th century AD, and established his Adwaita Vedanta philosophy. Some important ideas in this philosophy are as follows;
Brahman (Nirguna or Trancendental aspect of God)
Brahman is the ultimate reality. Brahman is all pervading, self-illumined, ocean of pure consciousness. Brahman is the source of all existence, from which springs the entire universe of matter and energy, qualified by name and form and limited by time and space. The universe emanates from Brahman, exists in Brahman and return to Brahman on dissolution. Brahman is the only real substance in existence. The existence of the universe of matter and energy is apparently real. It is like the mirage effect in a desert. We see water where it doesn't exists. It is an optical illusion, similarly the universe that we perceive is our mental illusion. What exists is only an ocean of pure consciousness but we perceive it as universe of matter and energy changing with time and space. Some characteristic properties of Brahman are :
Brahman is self - created.
There is no cause that produces Him. He is the causeless cause.
He exists eternally, one without a second.
He is Sat-Chit-Ananda . Existence Absolute, Consciousness Absolute and Bliss Absolute.
He is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient.
He is pure consciousness. Pure consciousness is a vibrationless, motionless, unchanging substance. Brahman or God is this ocean of pure consciousness.
This idea of the Vedanta is difficult to comprehend intellectually. It becomes comprehensible only when one undergoes certain higher experiences. Therefore, in the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna takes up this idea but He says the universe of matter and energy is also a real existence but a lower reality. This idea is easy to comprehend.