6 Schools | 6. Vedanta Philosophy


The Vedanta Philosophy

Also Known as the Uttara Mimāṁsa


Prostrations and adorations to Śrī Vyāsa, the founder of Uttara Mimāṁsa or the Vedanta system of philosophy, Avatara of Lord Vishnu, son of Śrī Parāśara Rishi.

Uttara Mimāṁsa or the Vedanta philosophy of Vyāsa or Badarayana is placed as the last of the six orthodox systems, but, really, it ought to stand first.

The Uttara Mimāṁsa conforms closely to the doctrines propounded in the Upanishads.

The term Vedanta means literally the end or the essence of the Veda:

It contains the doctrines set forth in the closing chapters of the Vedas. The closing chapters of the Vedas are the Upanishads. The Upanishads really form the essence of the Vedas.

The Brahma Sutras of Bhagavan Vyāsa

Śrī Vyāsa wrote the Brahma Sutras or the Vedanta Sutras which explain the doctrine of Brahman.

Brahma Sutras are also known by the name Śarīraka Sutras, because they deal with the embodiment of the Supreme Nirguna Brahman.

Brahma Sutras’ is one of the three books of the Prasthāna Traya, the three authoritative books on Hinduism, the other two being the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita.

Śrī Vyāsa has systematized the principles of Vedanta and removed the apparent contradictions in the doctrines. The Brahma Sutras are 555 in number.

Śrī Śankara, Rāmānuja, Mādhava, Nimbarka, Vallabha, Bhāskara, Yadavaprakasa, Keśava, Nīlakaṇṭha, Baladeva and Vijñāna Bhikshu are the chief commentators on the Brahma Sutras.

Each has commented in his own way and built his own philosophy.

Śrī Vyāsa has criticised the doctrines of the Vaiśeṣika system and the Sānkhya system.

There are four chapters, viz., Samanvayā, Avirodha, Sadhana and Phala.

In the first chapter, an account of the nature of Brahman and of Its relation to the world and the individual soul, is given.

In the second chapter, the rival theories, viz., Sānkhya, Yoga, Vaiśeṣika, etc., are criticised. Suitable answers are given to the objections levelled against this view.

In the third chapter, the means of attaining Brahma-Vidyā are treated.

In the fourth chapter, there is a description of the fruits of Brahma-Vidyā:

There is also a description how the individual soul reaches Brahman through the Devayāna or the path of the Devas, whence there is no return. The characteristics of the Jīvanmukta or liberated soul are also discussed in this chapter.

Each chapter has four parts (Pādas). The Sutras in each part form Adhikaraṇas or topics.

The five Sutras of the first chapter are very important.

The first Sutra is: “Athāto Brahma-Jijñāsā” (Now, therefore, the enquiry into Brahman):

This first aphorism states the object of the whole system in one word, viz., Brahma-Jijñāsā, the desire of knowing Brahman (the Supreme Reality).

The second Sutra is: “Janmadyasya Yataḥ” (Brahman is the Supreme Being from Whom proceed origin, sustenance and dissolution of the world).

The third Sutra is: “Śāstra-Yonitvat” (The scriptures alone are the means of right knowledge. The omniscience of Brahman follows from Its being the source of the scriptures).

The fourth Sutra is: “Tat Tu Samanvayat” (That Brahman is to be known only from the scriptures and not independently by any other means is established, because it is the main purport of all Vedanta texts).

The fifth Sutra is: “Ikshater Na Asabdam” (On account of ‘thinking’, Prakriti or Pradhāna not being first cause). Pradhāna is not based on the scriptures.

The last Sutra of the fourth chapter is: “Anavrittih Sabdat, Anavrittih Sabdat” (There is no return for the released souls, on account of scriptural declaration to that effect).

Brahman, Māyā and Jīva


Brahman, the Absolute, after creating the elements, enters them:

It is the Golden Person in the sun.
It is the Light of the soul.
It is ever pure.
It is Sat-Chid-Ananda, one without a second.
It is Bhuma (infinite, unconditioned).
It dwells in the heart of man.
It is the source of everything.

Brahman is the material cause, as well as the instrumental cause of the universe. Brahman and the universe are not different, just as the jar is not different from clay.

Brahman develops Itself into the universe for Its own Lila or sporting, without undergoing the least change, and without ceasing to be Itself.

Brahman is without parts, without qualities, without action and emotion, beginningless, endless and immutable. It has no consciousness, such as is denoted by ‘I’ and ‘Thou’. It is the only Reality. Brahman is to the external world what yarn is to cloth, what clay is to jar and what gold is to a gold ring.

Brahman is Pāramārthika Sattā (Absolute Reality). The world is Vyavahārika Sattā (relative reality). The dream object is Prātibhāsika Sattā (apparent reality).


Māyā is the Śaktī (power) of God. It is the Kāraṇa Śarīra (causal body) of God. It hides the real and makes the unreal appear as real. It (Māyā) is neither Sat nor Asat nor Sat-Asat.

[Sat = existence; reality; truth. Asat = opposite of Sat]

Māyā is Anirvacanīya (indescribable).

Māyā has two powers, viz.,

1. The power of veiling or Āvaraṇa Śaktī
2. The power of projecting or Vikṣepa Śaktī.

Man has forgotten his essential divine nature on account of the veiling power of Māyā. This universe is projected owing to the Vikṣepa Śaktī of Māyā.

Jīva — The Five Sheaths (Koṣas)

The Jīva or the individual soul is enclosed within 5 sheaths (Koṣas), which are like the sheaths of an onion. The five sheaths are:—

1. The Food-sheath (Annamāyā Kosa)
2. The Vital sheath (Prāṇamāyā Kosa)
3. The Mental sheath (ManoMāyā Kosa)
4. The Intellectual sheath (VijñānaMāyā Kosa)
5. The Bliss sheath (ĀnandaMāyā Kosa).

The food sheath constitutes the physical body.
The next three sheaths (vital, mental and intellectual) form the subtle body.
The last sheath (bliss) forms the causal body.

The individual soul should transcend all its sheaths through meditation and become one with the Supreme Soul which is beyond the five Koṣas. Then only it will attain liberation or freedom.

Jīva — The Three States of Consciousness

There are three states of consciousness for the individual soul, viz.,

1. The waking state
2. The dreaming state
3. The deep sleep state.

Turīya or the fourth state is the super-conscious state. Turīya is Brahman. Turīya is the silent witness of the three states.

The individual should transcend the first three states and identify himself with the Turīya or the fourth state. Then only he can attain oneness with the Supreme Soul.

Avidya is the causal body of Jīva or the individual soul. The Jīva identifies itself with the body, mind and the senses on account of Avidya:

It has the erroneous notion that the body is the soul, just as one has the wrong notion that the rope is the snake, in the twilight.

The moment the individual soul is freed from the self-imposed ignorance by a proper understanding of the Truth through the Vedanta philosophy, Vichāra (enquiry), reflection and meditation on the Supreme Brahman, all the illusion disappears.

The identity of the Jīvātman (individual soul) and of the entire phenomenal world with the Supreme Soul or Brahman is re-established. The Jīva attains immortality and eternal bliss. It merges itself in Brahman or the Ocean of Bliss.

Badarayana (Vyāsa) believes in Jīvanmukti or Liberation While Living.

Celebrated Vedāntic Formulae

The following are the celebrated formulae of Vedanta:

Ekam Eva Advitiyam – The Reality is One alone without a second.

Brahma Satyam Jagan Mithyā, Jivo Brahmaiva Na Aparah - Brahman only exists truly, the world is false, the individual soul is Brahman only and no other.

Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma – All this is, indeed, Brahman.

Satyam Jñānam Anantam Brahma – Brahman is Truth, Knowledge and Infinity.

Brahmavid Brahmaiva Bhavati – The knower of Brahman becomes Brahman.

Santam, Sivam, Advaitam – Brahman is Peace, Auspiciousness and Non-duality.

Ayam Atma Santah – This Ātman is Silence.

Asango Ayam Purusha – This Purusha is unattached.

Santam, Ajaram, Abhayam, Param – This Brahman is Peace, without old age, Immortal, fearless and Supreme.

May you all understand the truths of Vedanta philosophy.
May you all realise the bliss of oneness.
May you all become Jīvanmuktas while living.