On The Path To God Through Knowledge

Essay, Research Paper

on the path to God through knowledge. The basic teaching is that God alone is the all-pervading reality; the individual soul is none other than the universal soul. Shankara was under

no illusions about this world. For this reason, he is able to describe so powerfully the complete transformation of the universe that takes place before the eyes of the illumined seer, when the world

indeed becomes a paradise.

Models of Multiplicity

(From Potter, Advaita Vedanta up to Sankara and His Pupils, pp.


Kinds of diversity:

1.undifferentiated nirguna Brahman vs. God = saguna Brahman

2.one supreme Self (paramatman) vs. many individual selves (jivas)

3.world vs. God and world vs. jivas

Models of diversity:

Rope-snake (Gaudapada, Sankara, Padmapada, et al.)

Pot-space (Gaudapada, Sankara, Suresvara,

Bhamati school, etc.)

Wheel of fire (Gaudapada)

Water and foam (Sankara, et al.)

Sun’s rays, spider’s web, sparks from a fire (Sankara)

Reflection analogies (Sankara, Padmapada, Vivarana school, etc.)

[sun in rippling water, red flower in crystal, facein mirror]

Works by Sankara

Comms. on “Three Starting Points”(prasthana-traya) of Vedanta:

1.(sruti): Commentaries on many Upanisads (Brhadaranyaka, etc.)

2.(smrti): Commentary on the Bhagavadgita

3.(sutra): Commentary on the Brahmasutras (Vedantasutras)

Independent treatise on Vedanta:

Upadesasahasri (”Thousand Teachings”)

[prob. not Vivekacudamani ("Crest Jewel of Discrimination"), etc.]

Other works:

Subcommentary on the Yogasutra (?)

Commentary on a philosophical section in a law

book (?)

[and perhaps others, including hymns?]

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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