Advaita Vedânta

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blue-diamond Introduction

Slokas updated
FAQ - advaita
red-diamond History

The guru
A biography
The Sankara
Sankara's date
The daSanAmI
blueball Philosophers

maNDana miSra

redball Philosophy

The upanishads
pUrva mImAm.sA
and vedAnta
advaita vedAnta
Creation and
One vs. Many
bhAmatI and
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May 5, 1999.

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S. Vidyasankar


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Before you start, please take a look at the transliteration key. Do not be put off by capital letters in the middle of words. They are there for a reason.

This site is an attempt at providing an easy and structured online introduction to the philosophy of advaita vedAnta, as taught by SankarAcArya and his followers. It is not meant for religious propaganda. This website represents a serious attempt at exploring philosophical issues in advaita vedAnta, as handled by the leading philosophers themselves, and in the context of their times. At the end, I think it should be obvious that the core of the teaching has a timeless quality to it, making it relevant to all humankind even today.

SankarAcArya is the most important teacher of the advaita school of vedAnta, and his commentaries to the upanishads, the bhagavad-gItA and the brahmasUtras define the parameters of advaita thought. However, it must be remembered that all vedAnta philosophy really goes back to the upanishads, and SankarAcArya is regarded as a pre-eminent teacher who continued the upanishadic tradition. The name SankarAcArya has become a title for the heads of the numerous advaita institutions in India today, because of the great respect and fame associated with it.

The philosophy of advaita, literally non-dualism, is the premier and oldest extant among the vedAnta schools of Indian philosophy. The upanishadic quest is to understand brahman, the source of everything, the Atman, the Self, and the relationship between brahman and Atman. The upanishads explore these issues from different angles. The advaita school teaches a complete essential identity between brahman and Atman. In other vedAntic traditions, the essential relationship between Atman and brahman is understood in different ways.

This website has been organized into four sections, as given in the index on the left. The Introduction section has three pages - one explains the transliteration scheme employed at this site and another has links to sam.skRta Slokas, many of them attributed to Sankara. The advaita vedAnta FAQ page describes various aspects of advaita in brief, and has links to pages at this site and to related sites.

The main material on advaita vedAnta has been organized into three sections, named History, Philosophers and Philosophy. The "History" section deals with SankarAcArya, the issues involved in reckoning his date, the living advaita tradition and related topics. Pre-Sankaran vedAnta, gauDapAda, SankarAcArya, his disciples, maNDana miSra and post-Sankaran advaitins are discussed in appropriate pages under the "Philosophers" section. The "Philosophy" section starts with a brief introduction to various schools of Indian philosophy and a page on the source texts of vedAnta, the upanishads. Philosophical issues in advaita vedAnta are examined in various other pages in this section. More pages on different aspects of advaita vedAnta and its relation to other systems are under construction.


The Supreme Swan: In the background is an artistic rendering of a swan, with the Sanskrit sentence Brahmaiva satyam - Brahman is the only Truth. The swan motif is seen in the seals of many advaita organizations. The figure seen here has been adapted from the official seal of the Sringeri maTha, an ancient and one of the most important centers of advaita vedAnta in India. The swan is a very popular motif in traditional Hindu symbolism. It can be found in oil-lamps used in temples and at shrines in people's homes.

The swan has a special association with advaita vedAnta. The swan is called hamsa in the sam.skRta language. The greatest masters in the advaita tradition are called paramahamsas - the great swans. The word hamsa is a variation of so'ham: I am He, which constitutes the highest realization. There are other equivalences between the swan and the advaitin, that make the swan a particularly apt symbol for advaita vedAnta. The swan stays in water, but its feathers remain dry. Similarly, the advaitin lives in the world, yet strives to remain unaffected by life's ups and downs. In India, the swan is also mythically credited with the ability to separate milk from water. Similarly, the advaitin discriminates the eternal Atman from the non-eternal world. The Atman that is brahman is immanent in the world, just like milk is seemingly inseparably mixed with water, but It can never be truly realized without the nitya-anitya-vastu viveka - right discrimination between the eternal and ephemeral - that is essential for the advaitin. The swan is thus a symbol for the jIvanmukta, who is liberated while still alive in this world, by virtue of having realized Brahman.



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