Adventures in Advaita Vedanta, the philosophy and science of spirit. We are one you and I; are you curious why?..


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Vedantic Library

Hari OM
'Text-days' are for delving into the words and theory of Advaita Vedanta.

Building on the discussion on Vedas and Upanishads from last week, let us look a bit further at the scope of literature in the Sanskrit scriptural library.

Vedanta, itself, means 'the end of knowledge'. It refers to the gaining of all book and experiential knowledge, beyond which no further learning is required. The ultimate texts for this are the Upanishads. The Vedas look at the physical manifestation of religious practice and aspects of life, offering the best methodologies for running day-to-day activity. Whilst these are seen as written texts now and have been for some centuries, the fact is they existed before they were physically recorded. The tradition is an oral one. This is why so much of the writings are in metric form - even the prose. Also, Sanskrit itself is a formulaic language which lends itself to memorisation. It is considered that while the existing ancients texts (held mostly on palm leaf sheets) might be dated back some five to six thousand years, the teachings themselves may be as much as double that.

The other factor with the Vedas and the Upanishads, in particular, is that they are considered as 'Shruti' - heard words. That indicates that the Rsis make no ownership of the wisdom and that it came to them during their deep meditation. Their part was only to sort it and pass the knowledge on. In this sense, these scriptures are considered to have the authority of 'God'.

In addition to Shruti, there are the texts known as 'smRti' - remembered words. These have known authors and originators. The wisdom imparted in the telling of the smRti texts may originate from the Shruti but have been rendered into stories which are manageable for we lowly humans to digest. This is the case with many of the Bible's 'histories' and parables. They contain characters and heroes and such like. Included under this label are sub-headings such as the Dharma-shaastras (guidance on living and its duties), the puraanas (describing cosmology, the place of the deities and such like), and the itihaasas ('histories' - the Mahaabhaarata and the Ramaayana are central, but a few of the puraanas fall into this category).

Thus we find that there is always something which is accessible, depending on where we are in our understanding of spirit, how we relate to the Higher and how capable we are to take on the principles of Vedanta. The rip-roaring tales of the Mahaabhaarata and Ramaayana are as good as any Bollywood movie could provide and therefore highly popular. They can be taken at their melodramatic, soap-opera level and people can identify with the situations as well as respond to the solutions. However, the tales have multi-layered depths, and even those who are very advanced in their spiritual path can still enjoy and see the Higher meaning which travels within them.

Within the Mahaabhaarata are the chapters known as the Bhagavad Gita. So powerful is the wisdom contained there, it is held up as a beacon text on its own. Contained within its 18 chapters are the very essence of Upanishadic teaching. A summary of it will be given next week.

For saadhana today, look up the Ramaayana, obtain a copy for yourself. There are two versions. The Valmiki prose and the Tulsidas version called the Ramcharitmanas which is more 'musical'.

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Hari OM
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