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Vedanta ( Sanskrit , m., वेदान्त, vedānta ) is next to Samkhya one of the most popular directions of Indian philosophy today and literally means: "End of the Veda " d. H. the early Indian text tradition understood as revelation (“Veda” → “knowledge”). The term was first used in the Mundaka Upanishad 3,2,6 and the Bhagavad-Gita , verse 15,15 for the Upanishads at the end of the Vedic literature.

It later became the name of one of the six darshanas , the philosophical systems of Hinduism .

Within Vedanta there are several directions, of which Advaita-Vedanta is the most important today. The importance that Vedanta (and especially Advaita Vedanta) has today within the religious and philosophical traditions of India is partly influenced by discourses that began in Europe at the end of the 18th century. The interpretations of the Indian writings then available in Europe by various authors (especially philosophers and theologians) had a lasting impact on the European image of India. Since the 19th century it has been possible to observe how this discourse has been reinterpreted within religious reform movements and the Indian independence movement.


The study of the Vedas and the observance of the rituals were seen as a prerequisite for the study of the higher knowledge, the Vedanta. Only those who were so purified and belonged to the higher castes were allowed to study the Vedanta. The prescribed preparatory cleansing of the student through Vedic rituals is now often replaced by elements of bhakti yoga .
Already in the Upanishads the central terms Atman (innermost being of the human being) and Brahman (world soul) crystallize. They are identified as a unity in many statements: “This soul (Atman) is Brahman”, “That is you” ( Tat Tvam Asi ), “I am Brahman”. The nature of Brahman is satya ("truth"), jnana ("knowledge"), ananta ("infinity") or ananda ("bliss"). This raises the question of the relationship between the individual souls, jivatman , and paramatman , i.e. H. Brahman, and after the relation of the world of diversity to the one ultimate being. If unity is emphasized again and again in the Upanishads, there are also approaches that ascribe the world its own reality, separate from Brahman. In solving this question, the different Vedanta systems came up.

Forms of Vedanta

Based on the various commentators on the basic texts ( Brahma Sutra , Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita ), several schools of Vedanta emerged. These include, among others: Advaita-Vedanta, Vishishtadvaita-Vedanta, Achintya Bhedabheda, Shuddhadvaita and Dvaita-Vedanta.


Advaita-Vedanta ( Sanskrit , m., अद्वैत वेदान्त, advaita vedānta , advaita = “non-duality”) is a monistic system that reduces the world to a single principle. The best-known scholar of Advaita-Vedanta was Shankara (approx. 788–820 AD). An essential characteristic of Advaita-Vedanta is the essential identity of Atman (individual soul) and Brahman (world soul), hence the name Advaita-Vedanta = “Vedanta of non-duality ”. By overcoming avidya (ignorance) and maya (illusion) man can recognize this truth, free the self from not-self and attain moksha (salvation). Shankara's most important contribution is the development of the concept of Brahman without form and attributes (nirguna) . Therefore sat (pure “being”), cit (pure “consciousness”) and ananda (pure “bliss”) are not attributes qualifying Brahman, but rather they constitute his being. While Shankara also recognizes the value of mystical experiences and bhakti piety, according to him the knowledge of the unity of Atman and Brahman can only be attained through the study of sacred texts. Salvation is only available to the Brahmin caste. Shankara spoke out against Buddhism , as it rejects the revelatory character of the Vedas ( Nastika ).

Representatives of the modern neo-advaita refer entirely to the nondual goal of advaita and try to convey this through experience.


Vishishtadvaita-Vedanta ( Sanskrit , n., विशिष्ताद्वैत वेदान्त, viśiṣtādvaita vedānta , advaita (“non-duality”), vishishta (“modified”)) means something like qualified non-dualism. It says that God exists as the only one, but the plurality of the world remains as a real manifestation of God and is not, as in Shankara's Advaita, an illusion.

The most important representative is Ramanuja (1017–1137 AD), who sees the divine Brahman in everything , for him in Vishnu-Narayana . All properties of creation are real and under the control of God. This can be one despite the existence of all properties, since these cannot exist independently of it. In Ramanuja's system, God ( Narayana ) has two inseparable beings, namely the world and souls. These then relate to him like body and soul. Matter and souls represent the body of God. God be its inhabitant, the control authority, matter and souls subordinate elements, properties.
Ramanuja represents the concept of a personal supreme being, Narayana and divine love is for him the connecting factor between the supreme being and the individual souls. The Vishishtadvaita, along with some related theories, forms an important theoretical basis for Vishnuism , especially Bhakti - Yoga , the path of devotion to God.

The Vishishtadvaita was the first to assert itself against Shankara's Advaita-Vedanta (monism).

Other important representatives were Yāmuna and Nathamuni (823–951 AD).

Achintya Bhedabheda

or also Dvaitadvaita , denotes a school that teaches the simultaneous unity and diversity of truth. The founder of this philosophy is Chaitanya (1486–1533).

This teaching says that both the totality of all souls and the totality of matter ( Prakriti ) are transformations of the energy of the highest truth. As God's energy they are on the one hand identical with him and at the same time forever different from him, "bheda-abheda". This is "achintya" inconceivable. The truth, the “nondual unity in diversity”, is illustrated in Bhagavatapurana 1.2.11: “Those who know
the truth describe the eternal truth, the essence of which is nondual pure knowledge, as Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan, so it is heard.”

Followers of this philosophy see the concentrated teaching in the verse: The absolute truth is nondual and yet it is simultaneously referred to as

  • Brahman , the all-pervading and unqualified spiritual energy.
  • Paramatma , the Oversoul which accompanies every Atman and is present in all things in a transcendent form.
  • Bhagavan , the supreme Lord himself, whodwellsbeyond the manifested Prakriti in his eternal realm of Vaikuntha .


Shuddhadvaita, the philosophy of pure nonduality, was founded by Vallabha (1479–1531), a contemporary of Chaitanya. He rejects Shankara's Mayan teaching, according to which the universe and individuality are mere illusions. For him the whole world is God's energy and despite the constant change real. Like other Vishnuit philosophers, he distinguishes between God, matter and individual souls.

Vallabha elevated the Bhagavatapurana to the position of a highly authoritative writing. His systematic work Tattvadipa , which deals with the teachings of the Bhagavatapurana, illustrates his philosophy of Shuddhadvaita : Krishna creates the Jivas (souls), creates the universe and enjoys everything. The purpose of the existence of God and souls is nothing other than to please and enjoy one another. Radha is the love of Krishna made form .
The Vallabhas School is known for its devotion to Radha and Krishna as the supreme divine couple.

The Vallabha School is now a strong religious movement that is said to have millions of followers, especially in northern India.


Dvaita-Vedanta ( Sanskrit , m., द्वैत वेदान्त, dvaita vedānta , dvaita = "duality", "duality") was founded by the philosopher Madhva (1199–1278). The term Dvaita-Vedānta means: "Vedanta of duality". According to this, the Atman is eternally separated from Brahman and not identical as in Advaita-Vedanta.

Instead, all people are individuals ( jivas ), each of whom has its own mind. The equation of the soul of God, on the one hand, and the souls of individuals, on the other, undermines the absolute authority of God, who alone is the Supreme Brahman , and on whose grace alone it depends. Worship ( puja ) and believing submission to a higher being ( Bhakti-Yoga ) are pointless if this higher being is identical with the (own) soul .

The Dvaita-Vedanta was further developed by Jayatirtha (1356-1388) and Vyasaraya (1478-1589). The followers of the religion taught by Madhva are most strongly represented today in the Indian state of Karnataka .

See also


  • Paul Deussen : The system of the Vedânta ... Brockhaus, Leipzig 1883.
  • Paul Deussen: The Sûtra's of the Vedânta or the Shârîraka-Mîmânsâ of the Bâdarâyana together with the complete commentary of the Shânkara. Translated from Sanskrit. Brockhaus, Leipzig 1887.
  • Eliot Deutsch: Advaita Vedanta - A Philosophical Reconstruction. University of Hawaii Press, 1986, ISBN 0-8248-0271-3 .
  • Gavin Flood: An introdiction to Hinduism. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1996.
  • Erich Frauwallner : History of Indian Philosophy. Otto Müller Verlag, Salzburg 1953.
  • Helmuth von Glasenapp : Vedānta and Buddhism (= treatises of the Academy of Sciences and Literature. Humanities and social science class. Born 1950, Volume 11). Verlag der Wissenschaft und der Literatur in Mainz (commissioned by Franz Steiner Verlag, Wiesbaden).
  • Rewati Raman Pandey: Scientific Temper and Advaita Vedanta. Sureshonmesh Prakashan, Varanasi 1991.
  • Raphael: Advaita Vedanta. The way of non-duality. J. Kamphausen Verlag, Bielefeld 2006, ISBN 3-933496-36-5 .
  • Raphael: Tat Tvam Asi - That's you . v. Beate Schleep. Kamphausen, Bielefeld 2000, ISBN 3-933496-48-9 .
  • Arvind Sharma: The Philosophy of Religion and Advaita Vedānta: A Comparative Study in Religion and Reason. Pennsylvania State University, University Park 2008, ISBN 978-0-271-02832-3 .
  • Sthaneshwar Timalsina: Consciousness in Indian Philosophy: The Advaita doctrine of 'awareness only'. Routledge, New York 2009, ISBN 978-0-415-77677-6 .

Web links

References and comments

  1. Georg Feuerstein: The Yoga Tradition. History, literature, philosophy & practice. Yoga Verlag, Wiggensbach 2009, ISBN 978-3-935001-06-9 , p. 40 f.
  2. Richard King: "Mystic Hinduism". Vedanta and the politics of representation. In: Ders .: Orientalism and Religion. Postcolonial Theory, India and 'The Mystic East'. Routledge, London 1999, pp. 118-142.
  3. Flood 1996, p. 239.
  4. Flood 1996, p. 239.
  5. Flood 1996, p. 239.
  6. Flood 1996, p. 241.
  7. Flood 1996, p. 242.
  8. Flood 1996, p. 240.
  9. ↑ Summarized from Klaus K. Klostermaier: Hinduism - A Short History. 2000, ISBN 1-85168-213-9 , pp. 111-114.