What Is Vedanta? An Explanation
is a philosophy taught by the Vedas, the most ancient scriptures of India. Its basic teaching is that our real nature is divine.God is our innermost Self, an underlying reality that exists in every being. Religion is therefore a search for Self, a search for God within. We don't need to be "saved." At worst, we are unaware of our true nature.
All ethics are merely a means to the end of finding God within ourselves. "Right" action is action which brings us nearer to the knowledge of God. "Wrong" action leads us away from that knowledge. Our ideas of "good"and "evil" are therefore only relative values and must not be used as an absolute standard by which we judge others. Each of us has our own problems and our own stage of development. But the goal is the same for all.
"Children of Immortal Bliss , what a sweet, what a hopeful name. Allow me to call you, brethren, by that sweet name, heirs of immortal bliss. The Hindu refuses to call you sinners.You are the children of God, holy and perfect beings. Sinners? It is a sin to call a person so. It is a standing libel on human nature. Come up, O lions, and shake off the delusion that you are sheep. You are souls immortal, spirits free, blessed and eternal."
Sri Ramakrishna said:
"Find God. That is the only purpose in life."
Religion is a matter of experience. Your religion must become a heartfelt realization that your true nature is spiritual, that you are one with the universal spirit. Vedanta stresses the idea of self-effort. It encourages everyone to realize the God within by certain methods, called yogas, which channel the tendencies we already possess. The ideal is to practice a harmonious balance of the four yogas:
is for the person with an emotional nature, the lover. It teaches a devotional relationship with God, since God is love itself.
is the approach to spiritual enlightenment through discrimination and reason. This makes strong use of the powers of the mind. It is the of the philosopher who wants to go beyond the visible universe.
is for the worker. It teaches us how to work in a spirit that will bring peace of mind, and yet harness the natural desire to be productive.
is sometimes called the yoga of meditation. It is the soul of all the yogas. The emphasis here is on controlling the mind through concentration and meditation. Raja yoga is also called the psychological way to union with God.
None of the yogas asks you to give up your reason and put it in the hands of a spiritual teacher or religious leader.
Throughout the centuries, India has produced many great saints and illuminated teachers. One of the greatest of these was Ramakrishna (1836-1886). His intense spirituality attracted a group of young disciples who, on his passing, formed a monastic community, later to be called the Ramakrishna Order of India. One of the young monks, Swami Vivekananda, came to America as the representative to the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago in 1893. His success was so great that for several years he toured the United States lecturing and holding classes. With the help of his brother monks, he started a number of Vedanta Centers in America
There are different approaches as this Sanskrit hymn professes:
As the different streams
Having their sources in different places
All mingle their water in the sea,
So O Lord, the different s which men take,
Through various tendencies,
Various though they appear
Crooked or straight, All lead to thee.
Thus Vedanta teaches respect for all religions.
There are now over 21 Vedanta centers in the United States and over 125 centers throughout the rest of the world. They are under the spiritual guidance of the Ramakrishna Order. Each center in this country is a self-supporting unit with a board of trustees made up mostly of Americans.