Definition The origin of the Sanskrit word “Vedanta” is Veda + anta. Veda means intuitive knowledge or wisdom. The root verb “vid” means to know. Anta means end, conclusion, essence or a goal. So, Vedanta means the final conclusion as well as the goal of Vedas. There are four Vedas, Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, andAtharvaveda, which are the timeless collections of inspired thoughts and intuitive wisdom. Vedantic wisdom, philosophy and practice are based on three major sources of inspired writings namely, Upanishads, Bhagvad-Gita, and Brahma-Sutra. These three together are known as the foundations of ancient wisdom, Prasthana-trayee. Philosophy of Vedanta It is a perennial philosophy of enlightened life and the practical way of realizing it,sanatana dharma. The universe is an organic whole and has a natural order calledRitam. Every thoughtful human being is wonderstruck by its beauty, complexity, and infinite expressions. One who has understood the truth of being an integral part of this natural order has an intuitive understanding of the ultimate reality within and without oneself, Ritam-bhara prajna. The search is for the fundamental truth, which underlies the flux of all changing phenomena. The author of Kena Upanishad asked: ‘What is that, which being known, everything else becomes known?’ There are two forms of knowledge, a direct, aparoksha, and an indirect, paroksha.The direct knowledge is first-person, immediate and without any reflective thought and recall of memories. The indirect knowledge involves slow deliberate cognition with reflective thought, associations, and reactive memories. Direct knowledge is like eating an ice-cream and experiencing for yourself its taste, flavor, and coolness. Indirect knowledge is like reading a description of an ice-cream, or seeing some one else eat it. The direct intuitive knowledge, prajnanam, is based on personal experience. There is no subject-object duality in the direct experience, aparoksha anubhuti. It is a pre-reflective process. Such a self-inquiry leads one on an inward journey to self, antar-gaman, self-knowledge, atma-jnana, and the self-realization of being, atma-sakshatkar. The essential truth within, satyasya satyam, can be realized from within. It is the pathless path to self. We have to learn to watch the drama of life dispassionately. This includes changes in our surroundings, parisara, our physical body, deha, physiological activities like breathing, shvasana, as well as the mind, manas, and its activities like thinking,vichara, intending, sankalpa, recalling, smruti. We need to learn to stay still and undistracted in the present moment, until we realize the truth of our spontaneous,sahaja, tranquil, shanta, and exhilarating being, ananda. Self-realization springs from within, because the fundamental truth of our existential being is within. It is not outside in the changing phenomena. There is something amazingly beautiful within each one of us – a primal feeling, adi bhavana,of an endless, ananta, spontaneous wonder, vismaya. It is complete in itself, poorna. It lacks nothing. It is the greatest wonder within, which needs to be discovered by our own watchful enquiry. We are an integral part of this incredible natural order,Ritam. We are in nature and nature is within us at every level of our biophysical and mental organization. We should realize this amazing integration in our own heart. This is what Vedanta is all about. The main thesis of Vedanta is that the ultimate reality of the universe, Brahman, and the ultimate reality of a conscious human being, Atman, are two aspects of the same essential truth. Our task is to discover this truth in our own life and appreciate the wonder of this amazing existence, jagat. Brahman: The Ultimate Reality of the Universe The word Brahman is derived from the root verb Bruh, which means to grow, to expand, to surge. It is a ceaseless, spontaneous bursting forth or emerging. It is the primal reality as well as the organizing principle of the universe. Brahman is thereality of the real, satyasya satyam, the source of all existence. This absolute reality of Brahman is truth, satyam, consciousness, jnanam, and infinite, ananta. It is also described as existential, blissful, conscious being, sat-chit-ananda. It is not merely a featureless absolute, but the wholeuniverse is its incredible expression. Chaandogya Upanishad described Brahman as Tajjalan, that, which gives rise to, sustains, and absorbs the universe, tat-ja-li-an. It is the creative matrix of the dynamic universe. Universe is truly a uni-verse, a single poem, a single process. We are an integral part of it. Brahman is not an object of thought or reflection. It is not the result of any human action or creation. It is beyond all possible description. It can only be known intuitively in the core of one’s being. It is the unfathomable ground of the universe, which encompasses every thing in it. Brahman is both transcendent as well as imminent in the universe. It is both the real as well as the realized. The essence of the individual, atman, and the existential totality, brahman, are two aspects of the same truth. Atman: The Ultimate Reality of a Conscious Human Being The word Atman is derived from the verb an ‘to breathe.’ It is the breath of life. It is the essential being of the individual, the self or the soul. Atman persists when the not-self is systematically eliminated from conscious awareness. The not-self includes all objective phenomena like the world, body, mind, intellect and ego. The Atman is the ultimate conscious witness, sakshi. Some vedantins think that Atman is an unborn, aja, and immortal, amar, element, bhaga, in a person. Atman is the essential self-conscious being. It is the foundational reality of an individual being. Atman as Brahman The unity of atman and brahman can only be realized directly and intuitively, within the calm and clear stillness of one’s own being. One can realize the self-renewing, spontaneity of one’s own being. It is the nondual, advaita, experience of the existential singularity, ekatva. That is why this philosophy of vedanta is also known as advaita vedanta. The Individual Self The individual self is called jiva, one who breathes. It is the biological aspect of human individuality. It is also called purusha, the primal person. The individual jivais the doer, karta, as well as enjoyer, bhokta, of various life experiences. It has the biophysical body, deha, the subconscious organizing energy, prana, and conscious mind, manas. The manas is composed of five sensory faculties (hearing, sight, touch, smell & taste), five executive or motor faculties (speech, hands, feet, excretory and generative), and an overall executive intelligence, buddhi. In addition, mind also includes the matrix of memory, chitta, and the sense of I, ahamkar. The four mental elements (manas, chitta, buddhi & ahamkar) together form the inner organ of conscious experience, antah-karana. The Skillful Practice of Vedanta To realize the truth within, we have to become alert and be aware of all that is happening from moment to moment, both within and around us. Such an attitude of being fully and whole-heartedly present in the current moment is called presence, mindfulness, or vipashyana. It is a special orientation, observation, or perspective. It is a unique process of self-absorbing, renewing and staying undistracted every moment. It is like bird-watching, when one is quiet, non-intrusive, passive but totally engrossed in the act of the watchful experience. One’s whole heart and being are still but fully attentive in the moment. It is just watching, listening and eventually just being in the moment. There is no world-teacher; world IS the teacher! World includes all that is happening both within and without. Each living moment can teach us something new, because no two moments are identical. The whole world is a process, which is continuously changing and evolving. One can learn continuously and directly from every change. An awareness of any change is cognition or knowledge. Human body and mind are both the means as well as the receptacle of personal experience, knowledge, and understanding, Shariram adyam khalu dharma sadhanam. In order to notice a change fully, one must be keenly attentive, free, still, silent and present-minded. One has to wake up not only from the day-dreams, but also from the so-called wakefulness. Such an awakened awareness with direct, primal experience,aparoksha-anubhuti has been called the fourth state of consciousness, Turiya. According to vedanta philosophy that is the goal of daily life. When, one is continuously in harmony with the primal, existential being, Adi Purusha, one’s life can be spontaneous, sahaja, effortless, ayatna, selfless, nirahamkar, all-caring,sarvatmaka, and inspring, prajnanam Brahma.