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Who Am I? Exploring Vedanta

Major Teachings of Advaita Vedanta

The core of the teaching of Advaita Vedanta is that God, the Universe and the Individual are not separate but one only, without a second substance. A summary of this can be found in one of the great aphorisms of Vedanta offered by Shankaracharya. He said this:

"I will say in half a verse, what is said in millions of scriptures;

Brahman is the truth
The World is Unreal
The individual Soul is Truly Brahman and nothing Else."

Brahma Satya. Jagan Mithya. Jivo Brahmaiva Naparaha

Very loosely translated, this states:

  • Brahma Satya: Brahman, or God, is the ultimate enduring reality; true, meaning always existing. Brahman is also called the Self, and has the characteristics of Sat, Chit and Ananda… Eternal, Conscious and Full of Bliss. Sat is that which stays forever and is permanent.

  • Jagan Mithya: The world is Mithya…literally incorrectly, or improperly (understood). That is we assume it is real… but it is not utterly real, not is it totally unreal. It doesn’t stay forever. It exists as an experience of only a finite period of time, fleeting. The only permanence is Brahman, in this ever-changing world.

    The appearance of the world is like a person in the dark who sees a shape and assumes it’s a snake. However, once he has seen clearly, the idea that it is a snake disappears. He has superimposed the idea of a snake onto a rope, as we superimpose the idea of the world onto Brahman. (adhyaropa) Another analogy is like ornaments made of gold, or pots made of clay. When the pot is broken, the clay still remains.

  • Jivo Brahmaiva Naparaha: The individual is not different at all from Brahman, God. The analogy used here is like a king and a farmer, who appear different because of the outer trappings, however; remove the outer and they are both just people.

Read a contemporary quote

In short, Vedanta goes right to the heart of the troubles of our modern world, and it did so over 1000 years ago. We fail to recognize our true nature, and through the differences we mistakenly create, we experience suffering. One of my favorite quotes from the Upanishads says:

"As long as there is duality, one sees another, one hears another, one speaks to another, one smells another, one thinks of another, one knows another. But when everything is dissolved in the Self, then who is there to be seen by whom; who is there to be smelt by whom; who is there to be heard by whom, who is there to be spoken to by whom, who is there to be thought of by whom, who is there to be known by whom? … By whom shall the Knower be Known?(1)

The essential teaching of Advaita Vedanta is that the way to end the suffering we experience, and attain unending bliss, regardless of outer circumstances, is to know the oneness that is at the heart of the universe. And Advaita Vedanta offers a systematic path with which to achieve this highest purpose of life.

Additional Reading:
Differences between "Advaita" and "Advaita Vedanta"

Next: Path of Vedanta

(1) Breath of the Eternal pg 145-146

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Who am I? Exploring Vedanta


My personal experience

Origins and Definitions

Teachings of Vedanta

Path of Vedanta

Practice of Discrimination

Results of the Practice

Devotion and Grace

Recommended Reading