Advaita Vedanta (Non-dualism) – Definition & Detailed Explanation – Yoga Philosophy Glossary

I. What is Advaita Vedanta?

Advaita Vedanta is a school of Hindu philosophy that emphasizes the non-dual nature of reality. The term “Advaita” means “not two” in Sanskrit, indicating the belief that there is ultimately only one reality, which is Brahman, the ultimate reality or consciousness. This philosophy is based on the teachings of the ancient Indian sage Adi Shankaracharya, who lived in the 8th century CE.

Advaita Vedanta is considered one of the most influential and widely studied schools of Vedanta, which is a branch of Hindu philosophy that interprets the teachings of the Upanishads, the ancient Indian texts that explore the nature of reality and the self. Advaita Vedanta is known for its emphasis on self-realization, the idea that individuals can attain liberation (moksha) by realizing their true nature as identical to Brahman.

II. What are the key concepts of Advaita Vedanta?

One of the key concepts of Advaita Vedanta is the idea of Brahman, the ultimate reality or consciousness that underlies all of existence. According to Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is the only true reality, and everything else is an illusion (maya) that obscures our understanding of this ultimate truth. The goal of Advaita Vedanta is to realize the non-dual nature of Brahman and the self, known as Atman.

Another important concept in Advaita Vedanta is the idea of karma, the law of cause and effect that governs the cycle of birth and rebirth (samsara). According to Advaita Vedanta, individuals are bound by their actions (karma) until they attain liberation (moksha) through self-realization and the dissolution of the ego.

III. How does Advaita Vedanta differ from other schools of Vedanta?

Advaita Vedanta differs from other schools of Vedanta, such as Dvaita (dualistic) and Vishishtadvaita (qualified non-dualistic) Vedanta, in its emphasis on the non-dual nature of reality. While Dvaita Vedanta posits a fundamental distinction between Brahman and the individual self, and Vishishtadvaita Vedanta acknowledges a qualified non-dualism where the individual self is considered a part of Brahman, Advaita Vedanta asserts that there is ultimately no distinction between Brahman and the self.

Another key difference is in the understanding of liberation (moksha). In Advaita Vedanta, liberation is achieved through self-realization and the dissolution of the ego, whereas in Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita Vedanta, liberation is seen as the attainment of a higher state of existence in the presence of God.

IV. What are the main texts of Advaita Vedanta?

Some of the main texts of Advaita Vedanta include the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma Sutras. These texts are considered the foundational scriptures of Hindu philosophy and provide the philosophical basis for the teachings of Advaita Vedanta.

One of the most important texts in Advaita Vedanta is the Vivekachudamani, a philosophical poem attributed to Adi Shankaracharya that explores the nature of reality and the path to self-realization. Other important texts include the Ashtavakra Gita, the Yoga Vasistha, and the works of later Advaita Vedanta philosophers such as Gaudapada and Shankara.

V. How is Advaita Vedanta practiced in modern times?

In modern times, Advaita Vedanta is practiced through a variety of means, including meditation, self-inquiry, and the study of sacred texts. Many followers of Advaita Vedanta seek out spiritual teachers (gurus) who can guide them on the path to self-realization and liberation.

Advaita Vedanta is also practiced through the cultivation of virtues such as compassion, non-attachment, and selflessness. By living a life in accordance with these principles, individuals can gradually overcome the illusion of the ego and realize their true nature as identical to Brahman.

VI. What are some common misconceptions about Advaita Vedanta?

One common misconception about Advaita Vedanta is that it denies the reality of the world and promotes a sense of detachment or indifference towards worldly affairs. In reality, Advaita Vedanta teaches that the world is not separate from Brahman and that individuals can engage with the world while still maintaining a sense of spiritual awareness.

Another misconception is that Advaita Vedanta is a purely intellectual or philosophical pursuit that is inaccessible to the average person. While Advaita Vedanta does involve a rigorous study of philosophy and metaphysics, it is ultimately a practical path to self-realization that can be followed by anyone willing to engage in self-inquiry and spiritual practice.

In conclusion, Advaita Vedanta is a profound and transformative philosophy that offers a path to self-realization and liberation through the realization of the non-dual nature of reality. By studying the key concepts of Advaita Vedanta, understanding its differences from other schools of Vedanta, exploring its main texts, practicing its teachings in modern times, and dispelling common misconceptions, individuals can gain a deeper appreciation for this ancient and timeless tradition.