The word Vedanta literally means the end of the Vedas-the Vedas being the scriptures of the Hindus. Sometimes in the West by the Vedas are meant only the hymns and rituals of the Vedas. But at the present time these parts have almost gone out of use, and usually by the word Vedas in India, the Vedanta is meant. All our commentators, when they want to quote a passage from the scriptures, as a rule, quote from the Vedanta, which has another technical name with the commentators-the Srutis. Now, all the books known by the name of the Vedanta were not entirely written after the ritualistic portions of the Vedas. For instance, one of them-the ISa Upanisad-forms the fortieth chapter of the Yajur-Veda, that being one of the oldest parts of the Vedas.
The Vedanta philosophy, as it is generally called at the present day, really comprises all the various sects that now exist in India. Thus there have been various interpretations, and to my mind they have been progressive, beginning with the dualistic or Dvaita and ending with the non-dualistic or Advaita. The word Vedanta literally means the end of the Vedas-the Vedas being the scriptures of the Hindus.' Sometimes in the West by the Vedas are meant only the hymns and rituals of the Vedas. But at the present time these parts have almost gone out of use, and usually by the word Vedas in India, the Vedanta is meant. All our commentators, when they want to quote a passage from the scriptures, as a rule, quote from the Vedanta, which has another technical name with the commentators-the Srutis.2Now, all the books known by the name of the Vedanta were not entirely written after the ritualistic portions of the Vedas. For instance, one of them- the Isa Upanisad-forms the fortieth chapter of the Yajur- veda, that being one of the oldest parts of the Vedas. There are other Upanishads) which form portions of the Brahmanas or ritualistic writings; and the rest of the Upanishads are independent, not comprised in any of the Brahmanas or other parts of the Vedas; but there is no reason to suppose that they were entirely independent of other parts, for, as we well know, many of these have been lost entirely and many of the Brahmanas have become extinct. So, it is quite possible that the independent Upanishads belonged to some Brahmanas, which in course of time fell into disuse, while the Upanishads remained. These Upanishads are also called Forest Books or Aranyakas.
The Vedanta, then, practically forms the scriptures of the Hindus, and all systems of philosophy that are orthodox have to take it as their foundation. Even the Buddhists and Jains, when it suits their purpose, will quote a passage from the Vedanta as authority. All schools of philosophy in India, although they claim to have been based upon the Vedas, took different names for their systems. The last one, the system of Vyasa, took its stand upon the doctrines of the Vedas more than the previous systems did, and made an attempt to harmonize the preceding philosophies, such as the Samkhya and the Nyaya, with the doctrines of the Vedanta. So it is especially called the Vedanta philosophy; and the Sutras or aphorisms of Vyasa are, in modem India, the basis of the Vedanta philosophy. Again, these Sutras of Vyasa have been variously explained by different commentators. In general there are three sorts of commentators" in India now; from their interpretations have arisen three systems of philosophy and sects. One is the dualistic or Dvaita ; a second is the qualified non-dualistic, or Visistadvaita; and a third is the non-dualistic, or Advaita. Of these the dualistic and the qualified non- dualistic include the largest number of the Indian people. The non-dualists are comparatively few in number. Now I will try to lay before you the ideas that are contained in all these three sects ; but before going on, I will make one remark-that these different Vedanta systems have one common psychology, and That is the psychology of the samkhya system. the Samkhya psychology is very much like the psychologies of the Nyaya and Vaisesika systems, differing only in minor particulars.
All the Vedantists agree on three points. They believe in God, in the Vedas as revealed, and in cycles. We have already considered the Vedas. The belief about cycles is as follows: All matters throughout the universe is the outcome of one primal matter called akasa ; and all force, whether gravitation, attraction or repulsion, or life, is the outcome of one primal force called prana. Prana acting on akasa is creating or projecting" the universe. At the beginning of a cycle, akasa is motionless, unmanifested. Then prana begins to act, more and more, creating grosser and grosser forms out of akasa- plants, animals, men, stars, and so on. After an incalculable time this evolution ceases and involution begins, everything being resolved back through finer and finer forms into the original akasa and prana, when a new cycle follows. Now there is something beyond akasa and prana. Both can be resolved into a third thing called mahat-the Cosmic Mind. This Cosmic Mind does not create akasa and prana, but changes itself into them.
We will now take up the beliefs about mind, soul, and God. According to the universally accepted Samkhya psychology, in perception-in the case of vision, for instance-there are, first of all, the instruments of vision, the eyes. Behind the instruments-the eyes-is the organ of vision or indriya-the optic nerve and its centres-which is not the external instrument, but without which the eyes will not see. More still is needed for perception. The mind or manas must come and attach itself to the organ. And besides this, the sensation must be carried to the intellect or buddhi-the determinative, reactive state of the mind. When the reaction comes from buddhi, along with it flashes the external world and egoism. Here then is the will; but everything is not complete. Just as every picture, being composed of successive impulses of light, must be united on something stationary to form a whole, so all the ideas in the mind must be gathered and projected on something that is stationary-relatively to the body and mind-that is, on what is called the Soul or Purusa or atman.
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