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Advaita Vedanta

School of Hindu philosophy; a classic path to spiritual realization / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Advaita Vedanta (/ʌdˈvtə vɛˈdɑːntə/; Sanskrit: अद्वैत वेदान्त, IAST: Advaita Vedānta) is a school of Hindu philosophy and a Hindu sādhanā, a path of spiritual discipline and experience.[note 1] In a narrow sense it refers to the oldest extant scholarly tradition of the orthodox Hindu school Vedānta, written in Sanskrit;[note 2] in a broader sense it refers to a popular, syncretic tradition, blending Vedānta with other traditions and producing works in vernacular.[4]

Adi Shankara, the most prominent exponent of Advaita Vedānta tradition.

The term Advaita (literally "non-secondness", but usually rendered as "nondualism",[5][6] and often equated with monism[note 3]) refers to the idea that Brahman alone is ultimately real, while the transient phenomenal world is an illusory appearance (maya) of Brahman. In this view, jivatman, the experiencing self, is ultimately non-different ("na aparah") from Ātman-Brahman, the highest Self or Reality.[3][7][8][note 4] The jivatman or individual self is a mere reflection or limitation of singular Ātman in a multitude of apparent individual bodies.[9]

In the Advaita tradition, moksha (liberation from suffering and rebirth)[10][11] is attained through recognizing this illusoriness of the phenomenal world and disidentification from the body-mind complex and the notion of 'doership',[note 5] and acquiring vidyā (knowledge)[12] of one's true identity as Atman-Brahman,[13] self-luminous (svayam prakāśa)[note 6] awareness or Witness-consciousness.[14][note 7] Upanishadic statements such as tat tvam asi, "that['s how] you are," destroy the ignorance (avidyā) regarding one's true identity by revealing that (jiv)Ātman is non-different from immortal[note 8] Brahman.[note 4] While the prominent 8th century Vedic scholar and teacher (acharya)[15] Adi Shankara emphasized that, since Brahman is ever-present, Brahman-knowledge is immediate and requires no 'action' or 'doership', that is, striving (to attain) and effort,[16][17][18] the Advaita tradition also prescribes elaborate preparatory practice, including contemplation of the mahavakyas[17][19][20][21][note 9] and accepting yogic samadhi as a means to knowledge, posing a paradox which is also recognized in other spiritual disciplines and traditions.[17][22][note 10]

Advaita Vedānta adapted philosophical concepts from Buddhism, giving them a Vedantic basis and interpretation,[23] and was influenced by, and influenced, various traditions and texts of Indian philosophy.[24][25][26] While Adi Shankara is generally regarded as the most prominent exponent of the Advaita Vedānta tradition,[27] his early influence has been questioned,[28][29][note 9] as his prominence started to take shape only centuries later in the 14th century, with the ascent of Sringeri matha and its jagadguru Vidyaranya (Madhava, 14th cent.) in the Vijayanagara Empire.[note 11] While Shankara did not embrace Yoga,[38] the Advaita Vedānta tradition in medieval times explicitly incorporated elements from the yogic tradition and texts like the Yoga Vasistha and the Bhagavata Purana,[39] culminating in Swami Vivekananda's full embrace and propagation of Yogic samadhi as an Advaita means of knowledge and liberation.[40][41] In the 19th century, due to the influence of Vidyaranya's Sarvadarśanasaṅgraha,[42] the importance of Advaita Vedānta was overemphasized by Western scholarship,[43] and Advaita Vedānta came to be regarded as the paradigmatic example of Hindu spirituality, despite the numerical dominance of theistic Bhakti-oriented religiosity.[44][45][43][note 12] In modern times, Advaita views appear in various Neo-Vedānta movements.[47]