Ecstatic Yoga Workbook
EY Philosophy; Vedic/Vedanta
Vedic Philosophy introduction
We do not claim to be Veda Scholars, this is a overview course required by Yoga Alliance for all 200 registered yoga courses.
The word Veda means knowledge, yet not limited to the physical and temporal world, this knowledge includes the eternal nature of the soul.
Vedic literature describes God-Realization as a gradual process of deeper and deeper realizations and love of God. Vedic literature has been passed down through disciplic succession in ancient India of self-realized teachers into philosophical systems.
Vedic philosophy is vast, based on the Vedas, Shastras, Upanishads, Gita, and presently since 1966 the Hare Krishna movement. Vedic philosophy with its roots in Indian philosophy extends back well over 5,000 years. The Vedas were originally a vocal tradition and finally put into written form in the Sanskrit language over 5,000 years ago. Vedic texts are so expansive it is difficult for a person to read all the texts in one lifetime.
Vedic philosophy addresses many questions, covering concepts of God, Soul, humans, animals, reicarnation, purpose of life and the universe as a whole.
Srila Vyasadeva compiled the Vedic literature into material and spiritual knowledge which developed into many tantric texts and main texts including;
-108 Main Upanishads
- Great Mahabharat (Including the Bhagavad-Gita)
-18 Major Puranas (Including Bhagavat Puruna or Srimad-Bhagavatam)
-Vedic Samhita including 20,000 mantras (Rig, Yajur, Sama, and Atharva)
It gets confusing because there are so many texts and philosophies, schools and codes, however, I will do my best to make an understandable outline and more in-depth content on the Vedanta.
The three great bodies of Vedic literature
For the intellectual and priestly classes in ancient India there were four degrees of education in Vedic knowledge that corresponded to the four ashramas. The texts studied in these four degrees of education are called the srutri-sastra, meaning scripture that is to be heard by the Brahmanas.
-Brahmacari or Student ashrama
Included the memorization of the Vedic Sanhita
-Grhastha or Householder ashrama
Mastery of Brahmara portion of the Vedas, family & society
-Vanaprastha or Retired ashrama
Mastery of Aranyaka, complete renunciation
-Sannyasa or Renounced ashrama
Mastery of Upanishads, absolute Truth and liberation of birth and re-birth
Similar to the four vedas was the Smrti-sastra yet was available to non-Brahmanas to study. These came from Chandogya Upanissad 7.1.2 and included extensive historical narrations comprised by the Puranas and Itihasas; This Smrti-sastra means scripture that must be remembered.
This third great body of Vedic literature is "scripture of philosophical disputation."
It includes six philosophical views called Sad-Darshana, traditionally called six schools of thought. Each of the six views or different philosophical perspectives or darshanas are associated with a famous sage who is the author of the view, code or sutra that expresses the sage’s darsana. Vyasa’s Vedanta-sutra carefully examines and judges these six systems of Vedic philosophy as well as others and forms the third great body of Vedic literature
The Nyaya-Sastra six schools or thought.
1. Nyaya: The Philosophy of Logic and Reasoning
2. Vaisesika: Vedic Atomic Theory
3. Sankhya: Nontheistic Dualism, analysis of matter and spirit
4. Yoga: Self-Discipline for Self-Realization
5. Karma-mimamsa: Elevation Through the Performance of Duty
6. Vedanta: The Conclusion of the Vedic revelation, God realization
This philosophy lesson will be on the Vedanta philosophical system of the Nyaya-Sastra of the Vedas.
Vedanta philosophy has been said to be the pursuit of happiness through eternal truths. Vedanta is based on ancient texts dating back over 5,000 years ago, knowledge that is available to all seekers of truth regardless of religion, economic class, or community. Vedanta knowledge aims to promote spiritual and material well-being, honoring peace in action and prosperity for all.
Vedanta is also called Uttara-mimamsa; “The higher deliberation” and brahma-mimamsa; “The Absolute Truth” or “Eternal Path.”
Brahman is not a thing that can be described or quantified, it is non-dual. Brahman is the Absolute and all-inclusive, nothing exists outside of it.
Only God (Brahman) exists in Reality.
The Upanishads conceive Brahman as the “Ground of all existence” and the ultimate source of all joy or Ananda. One who meditates on the Self, goes within to deeper states of being will identify through realization Brahman and attain Supreme Bliss. Recognizing the Self as the extension of God or Brahman and reflection upon deeper Self as the Source of all joy. The Self being the dearest thing to a person because that is the connection home to the Divine oneness with all.
The term Brahman is derived from the root brh — ‘to grow, to burst forth.’ The derivation suggests gushing forth, bubbling over, ceaseless growth, expansiveness — brhattvam
For Madhva, brahman is the Supreme Being in whom all the good qualities are located in their fullness, (brhanto hy asmin gunah.) Rāmānuja declares that Brahman is Nārāyaṇa — the Ground of Being.
Although Brahman cannot be defined or described, it has an essential nature than can be felt and experienced deeply. There is nothing outside Brahman, it’s essential nature or Svarupa is Sat, or Being, cit or Consciousness and Ananda or bliss
Direct experience is the ultimate test of the teachings of Vedānta.
Self-actualization is a unique trait in the human being, other animals do not possess. They may possess the traits to self preserve and procreate, however self-actualization is solely a human pursuit. The fear of death, suffering and extinction and the desire for immortality, happiness and security are the two most potent drives in human beings. The Classical Darśanas (Schools of Indian Philosophy) all agree that the ultimate goal of philosophy is the extinction of sorrow and suffering (duḥkha) and achievement of immortal and abiding joy and happiness (mukti or mokṣa)
Vedanta comes from the Upanishads and is the conclusion of the Vedic Revelation. The Upanishads are the fourth and final degree of Vedic scholarship and the Upanishads are known as vedanta or conclusion of the veda. The word Upanishads means “That which is learned by sitting close to the teacher.” The texts of the Upanishads are to be learned under guidance of a teacher or guru because the teachings contain many apparent contradictions only to be unraveled by the enlightened guru or teacher.
The Vedānta is based upon 3 scriptural sources know as the Prasthāna Trayam:—
2. Bhagavad Gītā
The great sage Vyasadeva also know as Vedavyasa, Badarayana, & Dvaipayana, systemized the Vedanta-sutra (Or Brahma-sutra) into four chapters.
-Samanyaya; unity of the philosophy of the Upanishads
-Avirodha; dispels apparent contradictions
-Sdhana; describes the means to attain God Realization
-Phala; Indicates the goal of Vedanta
In ancient India there are five main schools or sampradayas of Vedanta, each school led by an acarya who explains or gives commentary or bhasya for the sutras. The five schools separated into two categories impersonal and personal, listed below.
Impersonalist, the Supreme Being is explained in impersonal terms, nameless, formless, eternal, without characteristics.
-Shankara’s; advaita, "nondifference" everything is one
Vedanta Impersonalist qualities of the Divine are:
satyam, jnanam, anantam, Sundaram, anandamayam, amalam: "eternity, knowledge, endlessness, beauty, bliss, perfection." This means that God's form is one of infinite and all-pervasive sublime consciousness.
Shankara maintains in his Vedanta commentary, that the ultimate state is of pure emptiness, void, infinite spaciousness, using the word brahman (the Absolute). Because Shankara argued that all names, forms, qualities, activities and relationships are maya (illusion), even divine names and forms, his philosophy is called mayavada (the doctrine of illusion).
Personalism; in regards to explaining the eternal, absolutism, infinite, and all-loving.
- Ramanuja; visistadvaita, "qualified nondifference."
-Madhva; suddhadvaita, "purified nondifference."
-Nimbarka; dvaita-advaita, "difference-and-identity."
-Vishnusvami; "simultaneous inconceivable oneness and difference."
The first code of the Vedanta-sutra; athato brahma-jijnasa: “Now, therefore, let us inquire into Brahman, the Absolute.
Once the Brahmanas is ready to choose a direct path to God, once they are worn of trying all the rituals and paths to happiness through material gain, being disappointed time and time again due to only temporary satisfaction, then they are ready to inquire into Brahman; Brahma-jijnasa. In this sutra God is seen as an experience all can access. God can be experienced in a positive and powerful way by a human being who properly uses his deeper feelings, senses and mind to inquire about His positive existence beyond matter.
Second code of Vedanta-sutra; janmadyasya-yatah: “He, from whom proceeds the creation, maintenance, dissolution of this universe, is Brahman. ." The universe is full of qualities that emanate from God -- hence God Himself must be full of qualities.
The third code of Vedanta sutra; sastra-yonitvat: "It is revealed in the Vedic scriptures." The universe has form; if God is the origin of the universe, then He must Himself possess both unlimited form and formless creations all orchestrating in perfection. “All pervasive form”
Spirit is the subtlest of energy and on the level of Spirit all form and formless are one. This one Spirit dancing as form and formless can be seen by many perspectives, having it appear different, yet it is only because the perspectives are different. Just as an ocean appears different from a shore than it would a mile under water. Different angles of vision, bring about different perspectives.
Vedanta yogic definition of God; Paramatma
Yoga explanation of God for the Brahman uses the term paramatma, meaning the supersoul who dwells within all hearts. That Divine Principle that lives and breaths within the heart of every living being, inspiring individual souls with knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness.
Vedanta bhakti or pure devotion definition of God; Bhagavan.
Vedanta-sutra 1.1.12 states, anandamaya-bhyasat: "The para brahman (highest God) is anandamaya." Anandamaya means "of the nature of pure bliss." This is a clear reference to God's bhagavan feature, which is all-blissful due to its being the reservoir of unlimited positive transcendental attributes such as beauty, wealth, fame, strength, knowledge and renunciation. Anandamaya in Vedanta is "He whose essential nature is abundant bliss.” or the abundance of ananda or bliss.
The Taittiriya Upanisad (2.7.1) states, raso vai sah, "He is of the nature of sweetness; the soul who realizes Him attains to that divine sweetness."
Vedanta-sutra defines God as He among all beings who alone is simultaneously the operative, material, formal and final causes of the cosmos. As the intelligence behind creation, He is the operative cause; as the source of prakrti and purusa, He is the material cause; as the original transcendental form of which the world is but a shadow, He is the formal cause; as the purpose behind the world, He is the final cause.
Reality is that which is eternal: God and God's svarupa-shakti (spiritual energy). The temporary features of the material world are manifestations of the maya-shakti, not of God Himself.
Brahman/ ātman In the Upaṇiṣads
The Ultimate Reality is sometimes called Brahman (The Immensity), sometimes ātman (The Life force) and sometimes simply Sat (Being).
The purpose of the Vedas and Vedanta, as well as the Upanishads is to share this knowledge to help students become free from transient existence called Duhkha or discontent (Anxiety, stress, fear, depression) by practicing three heads or “Viz.”
-Vidhi-vakya or right behavior & best practices. (Dharma)
-Nishedha-vakya or restraining from harm towards the self and others.
-Siddhārtha-bodha-vākya or proclaiming the highest Truth, the identity of the Jīvatman with the Paramātman — of the individual Self with the Supreme Self.
The function of the first two is to purify the student and make him/her fit to understand and assimilate the third; only in a morally purified mind will Divine Presence be realized, and with that alone can one attain the Highest Knowledge.
Katha Up. 2:24. One who has not desisted from immoral conduct, who is not restrained, nor one without concentration, nor even one whose mind is not still, can know This even though learned beyond compare.
There are four primary mahā-vākyas
Prajnanam Brahma: “Consciousness is Brahman.” This is the Svarupabodha vakya or the nature of Brahman or Self. (Aitareya-Upanishad of Rig Veda.)
Aham Brahma Asmi: “I Am Brahman.” This is the Anusandhana-Vakya or the idea on which the student focus’s his mind. (Brihadaranyaka-Upanishad of Yajur Veda.)
Tat tvam Asi: “That Thou Art” This is the upadesa-vakya or the teacher instructs the student of her essential nature. (Chhandogya-Upanishad of Sama Veda.)
Ayam atma Brahma: “This Self is Brahman.” This is the Anubhava-bodha vakya or the inner intuitive experience of the student. (Mandukya-Upanishad of Atharva Veda.)
The Guru instructs the disciple through ‘tat tvam asi,’—Thou art That. The disciple hears it (śravana), considers it deeply and reflects over the idea contained in it (manana), meditates on that idea (nididhyāsana) and enters into a state of realization (samādhi)
The Vedanta-sutra on Creation & Liberation
Vedic logic as satkaryavada: like cause, like effect. By this rule, nothing must come from nothing, and something must come from something. This rule is not a limitation of God's supreme power, rather it is a statement of His power, because it is given by God Himself."
In the second chapter, part one, codes 32-37 discusses the purpose of creation and evil.
It begins by discussing the the motive of the material creation is purely lila or “play” and that God doesn’t have the need nor is he fulfilled by creating a material world. It is the play of His extension, the play of exuberance of spirit to create. God is full of self bliss and has not placed his extensions of self bliss in a world of suffering. This code in the Vedanta explains that jivas or individual souls choose on their own to enter into a material world for the motive of karma; to fulfill material needs residing in the subconscious mind from past lifetimes. God is not responsible for the chooses and fruits of the jivas own work, from the souls mistaken interpretation that it has become divided from God, a souls forgetfulness of God. God is absolute good and offers all his creations His absolute goodness and unconditional love, regardless of karma. Instantly delivering all beings from the material to eternal peace, home in God in pure unending bliss.
In the Vedas the goal of existence is liberation. Jivas are confirmed by all the six darhsanas of Vedic scripture to be fully liberated, non-material, and eternal. Each darshana suggests a means by which the individual soul or jivas can be liberated from material existence. In Vedanta there are two basic explanations of the soul; one by mayavadis and the other by the four personalist schools.
Vedanta Explanations on Liberation;
Mayavadis believe there is only one soul, the supreme soul, God. Plurality of individual souls is an illusion.
Personalists refute the mayavadi view by pointing out that if it were true that God is the only soul, then that would mean that illusion is more powerful than God -- because the so-called One Soul fell under the spell of maya and became the unlimited living entities subject to repeated birth and death.
This is tantamount to saying that there is no Supreme Being at all.
The personalists' version is that although God and the souls share the same spiritual qualities (sat-cid-ananda vigraha, "formed of eternity, knowledge and bliss"), still a difference remains between them. God is vibhu (all-pervading) whereas the souls are anu (infinitesimal). The exact relationship between soul and God is described differently by each of the four personalist schools. These viewpoints are synthesized by the Caitanya school, which gives an example of the sun and sunshine to show how God and the souls share the same qualities in oneness and difference simultaneously. Just as the sunshine is the marginal energy of the sun, so the souls are the marginal (tatastha) shakti of God. As sunshine is made up of unlimited photons (infinitesimal particles of light), God's tatastha-shakti is made up of unlimited infinitesimal spiritual particles, each one an individually conscious personal being.
The soul is called ksetrajna (ksetra = field, jna = knower), because each soul is conscious of his particular field of awareness, i.e. his own body and mind. The soul is like a candle-flame, the limit of his luminescence being the limit of his field of awareness. God is called vyasti-kstrajna and samasti-ksetrajna. As vyasti-ksetrajna, God knows everything about each individual soul's individual existence (i.e. He knows unlimitedly more about the soul than does the soul himself -- for instance, God knows all of the past incarnations of each soul). And as samasti-ksetrajna, God is the knower of all souls at once in their totality.
Because the soul is infinitely small, its power of knowledge can be obscured by maya, just as a ray of the sun can be blocked by a cloud. But clouds are created and destroyed by the influence of the sun on the earth's atmosphere. Similarly, maya is always subordinate to God. The individual souls may come under the control of maya, but maya is always under the control of God. The Caitanya school of vedanta teaches that the soul has an eternal function which is to serve God. This service may be rendered directly or indirectly. In direct service, the ecstasy (bhava) of spiritual love shared by soul and God is fully manifest in a transcendental personal relationship called rasa (sweet exchange).
In indirect service, the soul serves God under the illusion of forgetfulness. Under maya, the soul is attracted by forms of matter instead of forms of spirit. He is overwhelmed by emotions such as lust, anger, greed, madness, illusion and envy which are nothing but perverted reflections of spiritual emotions. These emotions impel him to try to control and exploit the material world as if it belonged to him.
The result of the soul's false lordship over matter is endless entanglement in samsara, the cycle of repeated birth and death. The soul is meant to love God, but God grants the soul a minute independence of choice whether to love God or not. Love is voluntary. If God forced the souls to love Him, then "love" as we understand it would have no meaning.
By loving God, the soul automatically attains mukti (liberation); conversely, by not loving God the soul comes under the maya-shakti.
Vedanta and Liberation
Vedanta teaches that liberation is attainable only by knowledge of the Supreme Lord and by His Divine Grace. Though the Yoga-smrti is not atheistic in that it admits the existence of God in several sutras.
Yoga. The adherents of patanjala-yoga cite passages from the Upanisads that praise the practice of yoga to support their claim that the liberation of vedanta can be grasped through the Yoga-smrti (the Patanjala Yoga-sutra and allied writings). But they hold that in order to use Patanjali's philosophy as the key for unlocking the highest meaning of the Veda, the Vedic scriptures should not be interpreted in a literal sense.
Vedanta mentions two kinds of liberation -- jivanmukti and videhamukti.
Jivanmukti is attained even before the demise of the physical body. When the embodied soul dedicates all his activities to God as an offering of love, he is freed from the bondage of karma. After death he attains videhamukti, an eternal situation of devotional service within the realm of svarupa-shakti, the divine energy.
Videhamukti is described in Chandogya Upanisad 8.12.3: "Thus does that serene being, arising from his last body, appear his own form, having come to the highest light by the grace of Supreme Person. The liberated soul moves about there laughing, playing and rejoicing, in the company of women, vehicles and other liberated souls." As Baladeva Vidyabhusana explains in his Govinda-bhasya commentary on Vedanta-sutra, the liberated souls are in threefold union with the Lord:
1) They are in the spiritual realm of God, which is not different from God Himself;
2) By their constant meditation upon Him, God is ever-within their souls, and
3) They are in union of love with the personal form of God that appears before them.
Vedanta-sutra 3.2.23 states, tat avyaktam aha: "The form of brahman is unmanifest, so the scriptures say." The next code adds, api samradhane pratyaksa anumanabhyam: "But even the form of brahman becomes directly visible to one who worships devoutly -- so teach the scriptures" (api = but, samradhane = intense worship, pratyaksa = as directly visible, anumanabhyam = as inferred from scripture).
The mayavadis hold that the form of God is a material symbol imagined by the devotee as a meditational aid. When the devotee attains liberation he realizes that God is formless. But this idea is contradicted by Vedanta-sutra 3.2.16, aha ca tanmatram: "The scriptures declare that the form of the Supreme consists of the very essence of His Self." And furthermore Vedanta-sutra 3.3.36 asserts that within the realm of brahman the devotees see other divine manifestations which appear even as physical objects in a city (antara bhuta gramavat svatmanah: antara = inside, bhuta = physical, gramavat = like a city, svatmanah =to His own, i.e. to His devotees).
The personalist schools of vedanta identify the personal form of God indicated here as the transcendental form of Vishnu or Krishna. The brahma-pura (city within brahman) is identified as the divine realm of Vishnu known as Vaikuntha. This conclusion is corroborated by the Srimad-Bhagavatam, written by Vyasa as his own "natural commentary" on Vedanta-sutra.
The first verse of Srimad-Bhagavatam begins with the phrase om namo bhagavate vasudevaya janmadyasya yatah, which means "I offer my respectful obeisances to Bhagavan Vasudeva (Krishna), the source of everything."
Vyasa employs the words janmadyasya yatah, which comprise the second sutra of the Vedanta-sutra, in the first verse of the Srimad-Bhagavatam to establish that Krishna is brahman, the Absolute Truth. This is clear testimony of the author's own conclusion about the ultimate goal of all Vedic knowledge.
Vedanta-sutra 4.1.6. The Lord God in form draws the design of the material universe from His personal nonmaterial form, which is the source of everything. The form of the Lord may be meditated upon in this way as long as the soul is embodied in matter. As mentioned, the mayavadis believe that meditation upon the form of the Lord is to be given up when the soul is at last freed of matter. But Vedanta-sutra 4.1.12 states, aprayanat tatrapi hi drstam: "scripture reveals that worship of the form of the Lord should be done up to liberation (aprayanat) and even thereafter (tatrapi)." Baladeva Vidyabhusana writes in his commentary, "The liberated souls are irresistibly drawn to worship the Lord because He is so beautiful and attractive. The force of His beauty compels adoration.
The second and third chapters of Vedanta-sutra go to considerable length in pointing out the fallacies and shortcomings of these competing philosophies. Nyaya. The followers of Gautama (i.e. the nyaya philosophers) are rejected as being aparigrahah, "they who do not accept the Veda," because they rely on logic rather than on scriptural testimony in defending their theories.
Unaided logic has no power to describe the beginning of all things, which is the purpose of vedanta. Where the senses fail in perceiving the source, logic must resort to guesswork.
Atomic Vedanta Theories
The opinion of atams is varying amongst the Veda and Vedanta theories. Some say that atoms are the eternal and only material cause of the universe. Others say the atoms are ultimately temporary and unreal. Others say the atoms are ultimately thoughts. Others say that the void behind the atoms is the only reality. Others say the atoms are simultaneously real and unreal.
From Vaisesika philosophy they believe atoms are eternal and indivisible, possess form and other qualities, and are spherical.
They state four kinds of atoms. During the cosmic dissolution, before the creation, they are dormant. At the time of creation, impelled by the invisible fate (adrsta-karma) of the souls, the atoms begin to vibrate and then combine into dyads (molecules of two atoms each). Three dyads combine into triads, and four triads combine into quaternary molecules. In this way larger and larger molecular structures are formed that comprise the stuff of the manifest universe.
Atoms, therefore, are the immediate material cause of creation; their initial movement and combination into dyads is the remote material cause. The operative cause is adrsta-karma. The Lord is the destroyer of the material manifestation. He nullifies the connecting force that joins the atoms and thus dissolves the cosmic creation.
Vaisesika states that during dissolution, the souls lie dormant without possessing any intelligence. The dormant souls, being inert, are in no way superior to the atoms. Though the vaisesikas do say that the will of the Lord is the starting point of creation because He awakens the adrsta-karmas, yet, this still does not explain the motion of the atoms and their subsequent combination.
In a temporary material universe vaisesikas assert material relationship between atoms are "eternal and inherent" which appears contradictory.
Contradictions between Vedanta and Vedas
Vedanta says that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the material cause. Vedanta philosophy asserts that the Lord and He alone is the cause of creation.
Vedanta many times points to the individual soul and God as one. However, this contradicts many positions in the Vedas, for instance Svetasvatara Upanisad 4.6-7, wherein the body is compared to a tree and the soul and Supersoul are compared to two birds within the tree.
Some question Vedanta philosophy being based on the Veda because of these contradictions. However, even in the Veda philosophies and texts some assert onenesss with the Lord God and his creations and some say the Lord God is different from His potencies.
Because some Vedic statements assert the oneness of the Lord and His energies and others assert the difference, both viewpoints must be accepted, understood and explained by a true Vedic philosopher.
As previously stated we are not Veda scholars, Veda texts and philosophies cannot be all studied in one lifetime, so we are touching upon just a few philosophies from the Vedanta