Friday, August 11, 2006

Different Vedantic Schools


Prostrations to all.

Today we will try to see the different vedantic schools. Vedanta is a subjectic science and is the science of the knowledge of the ultimate reality of Brahman.

But reality is perceived in different ways by people at different levels. A person might see it in a different way than other another person as per the level he is currently in. As Sankara says in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya, Jnaana or knowledge of the reality is Vasthu Tantra and not karthru tantra meaning that it depends only on Brahman and not on the perceiver. But still as is the mind, so is the perception of the reality limited by the mind. As per Sankara's statement and as per the Upanishads, Brahman is the ultimate non-dual reality of the nature of Existence, Consciousness and Bliss absolute.

The system which propounds that Brahman alone exists and other things are mere illusions in Brahman is called Advaita Vedanta. Advaita means that which is devoid of duality or one alone.

This philosophy can be traced back to Yoga Vasistha which is a teaching to Rama by Vasistha (even though certain later vedantic acharyas claim that this is not that ancient work), the Upanishads, Gita and Brahma Sutra.

But this philosophy of Advaita was clearly expounded by Gaudapada in his karikas on the Mandukya Upanishad. It was further carried on by none other than Adi Sankaracharya through the various bhashyas, prakarana granthas and anusandhaana granthas.

This philosophy of Advaita is really tough to apprehend and even if a person is able to apprehend it, he may not be able to implement it in its full. Thus different other systems of Vedanta started coming each of which was propagated by an acharya and each system claiming that it is the system that is the true interpretation of Vedanta.

Vedanta in general was known through the prasthaana trayas which are Upanishads (10 of which are major ones and have been commented by Adi Sankaracharya), Bhagavad Gita (which is a part of the Mahabharatha) and the Brahma Sutras authored by Veda Vyaasa.

Each system of Vedanta was based on commentaries on the prasthana trayas by respective acharyas.

The below are the main sub schools of Vedanta, their propounders or creators and main commentaries on the same:

1. Advaita Vedanta -- Adi Sankaracharya -- bhashyas on dasha Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutra bhasya called Shaareraka Mimamsa bhashya.
2. Vishista Advaita Vedanta -- Ramanujacharya -- bhashya on Bhagavad Gita, three bhashyas on Brahma Sutra (Vedanta saara which is smallest, Vedanta deepa which is medium and his magnum opus called Sri Bhashya) -- Ramanuja didn't comment on the Upanishads but does deal with meanings of certain upanishad vakyas in his Sri Bhashya -- Ranga ramanuja, a later vishishta advaitin, commented on the Upanishads.
3. Dvaita Vedanta -- Madhvacharya -- bhashyas on major upanishads, gita bhashya and three bhashyas on Brahma Sutra (Nyaaya vivarana, anu bhaashya and a metrical commentary criticising other systems of Vedanta).
4. Bheda abhedha Vedanta -- Bhaskaracharya -- bhashya on the brahma sutra.
5. Dvaita advaita Vedanta -- Nimbarkacharya -- bhashya on the brahma sutra.
6. Shuddha advaita Vedanta -- Vallabhacharya -- bhashya on Bhagavad Gita and brahma sutras (commentary on brahma sutras was not complete and was completed by his son).
7. Achintya bhedha abhedha Vedanta -- Chaitanya Mahaprabhu -- commentary on brahma sutras written by baladeva)

As to the summary of these systems, we will see these in future postings.

Prostrations to all.


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