advaita vedanta philosophy

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are one of the six darshanas of Hindu or Vedic schools and, alongside the Bhagavad Gita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika, are a milestone in the history of Yoga. The book is a set of 195 aphorisms (sutras), which are short, terse phrases designed to be easy to memorize. Though brief, the Yoga Sutras are an enormously influential work that is just as relevant for yoga philosophy and practice today as it was when it was written.

To understand the work’s title, it is necessary to consider the meanings of its two component words. The Sanskrit word Yoga, as used by Patanjali, refers to a state of mind where thoughts and feelings are held in check. Sutra means “thread”. This is a reference to the thread of a mala, upon which (figuratively speaking) the yoga aphorisms that make up the work’s content are strung like beads. For that reason the title is sometimes rendered in English as the Yoga Aphorisms.

The Padma Purana defines a sutra as “A sutra should have few alphabets (alpa-akshara), an unambiguous meaning, be full of essence (sara-yukta), said only after considering all arguments for and against it, infallible and without blemish.”
Traditionally, the most prominent commentary is that of Vyasa, to whose work Vachaspati Misra has contributed an explanation of Vyasa’s commentary

More Info: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali


The Brahma sūtras, also called Vedanta Sūtras, constitute the Nyāya prasthāna, the logical starting point of the Vedānta philosophy (Nyāya = logic/order). No study of Vedānta is considered complete without a close examination of the Prasthāna Traya, the texts that stand as the three starting points.
While the Upanishads (Śruti prasthāna, the starting point of revelation) and the Bhagavad-Gītā (Smriti prasthāna, the starting point of remembered tradition) are the authoritative Vedānta source texts, it is in the Brahma sūtras that the teachings of Vedānta are set forth in a systematic and logical order. The Brahma Sūtras reconcile seemingly contradictory teachings of the various Upanishads, by placing each text in a doctrinal context. The word sūtra means thread, and the Brahma sūtras literally stitch together the various teachings of the Upanishads and the Gītā into a logical and self-consistent whole. However, the Brahma Sūtras are themselves so terse that they are often incomprehensible without the aid of the various commentaries handed down in the main schools of Vedānta thought. The Brahma Sūtras are also known by other names: Vedānta Sūtras, Uttara Mimāmsā-sūtras, Śāriraka Sūtras, Śāriraka Mimāmsā-sūtras and the Bhikshu sūtras.
The Vedānta Sūtras themselves supply ample evidence that at a very early time, i.e. a period before their own final composition, there were differences of opinion among the various interpreters of the Vedānta. Quoted in the Vedānta Sūtras are opinions ascribed to Audulomi, Kārshnāgni, Kāśakŗtsna, Jaimini and Bādari, in addition to Bādarāyaņa.
The Brahma Sūtras consist of 555 aphorisms or sūtras, in 4 chapters (adhyāya), each chapter being divided into 4 quarters (pāda). Each quarter consists of several groups of sūtras called Adhikaraņas or topical sections. An Adhikaraņa usually consists of several sūtras, but some have only one sūtra. The first chapter (Samanvaya: harmony) explains that all the Vedānta texts talk of Brahman, the ultimate reality, which is the goal of life. The second chapter (Avirodha: non-conflict) discusses and refutes the possible objections against Vedānta philosophy. The third chapter (Sādhana: the means) describes the process by which ultimate emancipation can be achieved. The fourth chapter (Phala: the fruit) talks of the state that is achieved in final emancipation.
More Info: Brahma Sutras – The logical basis of Vedanta

Agama Hindu Dharma is the formal name of Hinduism in Indonesia. It is practised by 93% of the population of Bali, but also in Sumatra, Java (especially by the Tenggerese people on the east), Lombok and Kalimantan. Although only about 3% of Indonesian population is officially Hindu, Indonesian beliefs are too complex to classify as belonging to a single world religion. In Java in particular, a substantial number of Muslims follow a non-orthodox, Hindu-influenced form of Islam known as ‘Islam Abangan’ or ‘Islam Kejawèn’, while across the archipelago the Hindu legacy, along with the older mystic traditions, influences popular beliefs.
General beliefs and practices
Practitioners of Agama Hindu Dharma share many common beliefs, which include:
A belief in one supreme being called ‘Ida Sanghyang Widi Wasa’, ‘Sang Hyang Tunggal’, or ‘Sang Hyang Cintya’.
A belief that all of the gods are manifestations of this supreme being. This belief is the same as the belief of Smartism, which also holds that the different forms of God, Vishnu, Siva are different aspects of the same Supreme Being.
A belief in the Trimurti, consisting of:
Brahma, the creator
Wisnu or Vishnu, the preserver
Ciwa or Shiva, the destroyer
A belief in all of the other Hindu gods and goddesses (Dewa and Bharata)
The sacred texts found in Agama Hindu Dharma are the Vedas. Only two of the Vedas reached Bali in the past, and they are the basis of Balinese Hinduism. Other sources of religious information include the Puranas and the Itihasa (mainly Ramayana and the Mahabharata).

Mahavakya, or “the great sentences”, state the unity of Brahman and Atman. They are four in number and their variations are found in other Upanishads.
1 Prajñānam brahma – Brahman is knowledge – aitareya upanishad – Rig Veda
2. Aham brahmāsmi – I am Brahman – brihadāranyaka upanishad – Yajur Veda
3. Tattvamasi – That thou art – chhandogya upanishad – Sama Veda
4. Ayamātmā brahmā – This Atman is Brahman – mandukya upanishad – Atharva Veda

Adi Shankara’s treatises on the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras are his principal and almost undeniably his own works. Although he mostly adhered to traditional means of commenting on the Brahma Sutra, there are a number of original ideas and arguments. He taught that it was only through direct knowledge of nonduality that one could be enlightened.
Adi Shankara’s opponents accused him of teaching Buddhism in the garb of Hinduism, because his non-dualistic ideals were a bit radical to contemporary Hindu philosophy. However, it may be noted that while the Later Buddhists arrived at a changeless, deathless, absolute truth after their insightful understanding of the unreality of samsara, historically Vedantins never liked this idea. Although Advaita also proposes the theory of Maya, explaining the universe as a “trick of a magician”, Adi Shankara and his followers see this as a consequence of their basic premise that Brahman is real. Their idea of Maya emerges from their belief in the reality of Brahman, rather than the other way around.
Adi Shankara was a peripatetic orthodox Hindu monk who traveled the length and breadth of India. The more enthusiastic followers of the Advaita tradition claim that he was chiefly responsible for “driving the Buddhists away”. Historically the decline of Buddhism in India is known to have taken place long after Adi Shankara or even Kumarila Bhatta (who according to a legend had “driven the Buddhists away” by defeating them in debates), sometime before the Muslim invasion into Afghanistan (earlier Gandhara).
Although today’s followers of Advaita believe Adi Shankara argued against Buddhists in person, a historical source, the Madhaviya Shankara Vijayam, indicates that Adi Shankara sought debates with Mimamsa, Samkhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika and Yoga scholars as keenly as with any Buddhists. In fact his arguments against the Buddhists are quite mild in the Upanishad Bhashyas, while they border on the acrimonious in the Brahma Sutra Bhashya.
The Vishistadvaita and Dvaita schools believe in an ultimately saguna Brahman. They differ passionately with Advaita, and believe that his nirguna Brahman is not different from the Buddhist Sunyata (wholeness or zeroness) — much to the dismay of the Advaita school. A careful study of the Buddhist Sunyata will show that it is in some ways metaphysically similar as Brahman. Whether Adi Shankara agrees with the Buddhists is not very clear from his commentaries on the Upanishads. His arguments against Buddhism in the Brahma Sutra Bhashyas are more a representation of Vedantic traditional debate with Buddhists than a true representation of his own individual belief

Some people claim that in Adi Shankara’s philosophy, there is no place for a personal God (Ishvara), because Ishvara is also described as “false”. He appears as Ishvara because of the curtain of Maya. However, as described earlier, just as the world is true in the pragmatic level, similarly, Ishvara is also pragmatically true. Just as the world is not absolutely false, Ishvara is also not absolutely false. He is the distributor of the fruits of one’s Karma. In order to make the pragmatic life successful, it is very important to believe in God and worship him. In the pragmatic level, whenever we talk about Brahman, we are in fact talking about God. God is the highest knowledge theoretically possible in that level. Devotion (Bhakti) will cancel the effects of bad Karma and will make a person closer to the true knowledge by purifying his mind. Slowly, the difference between the worshipper and the worshipped decreases and upon true knowledge, liberation occurs.

Sādhana Chathushtaya :
Any mumukshu (one seeking moksha) has to have the following four sampattis (qualifications), collectively called Sādhana Chathushtaya Sampatti (the four-fold qualifications):
Nityānitya vastu viveka — The ability (viveka) to correctly discriminate between the real (nitya) substance (Brahman) and the substance that is unreal (anitya).
Ihāmutrārtha phala bhoga vyrāgya — The renunciation (virāga) of enjoyments of objects (artha phala bhoga) in this world (iha) and the other worlds (amutra) like heaven etc.
Sad sampatti — the six-fold qualities of śama (control of the antahkarana), dama (the control of external sense organs), uparati (the refraining from actions; instead concentating on meditation), titiksha (the tolerating of tāpatraya), śraddha (the faith in Guru and Vedas), samādhāna (the concentrating of the mind on God and Guru).
Mumukshutva — The firm conviction that the nature of the world is misery and the intense longing for moksha (release from the cycle of births and deaths).
It has to be noted that advaita vedānta categorically states that moksha is available only to those possessing the above mentioned four-fold qualifications. Thus any seeker wishing to study advaita vedānta from a teacher must possess these.

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