Vedanta means “End of the Veda” or the end of knowledge. It relates to the Unity through Brahman stages of development. As this places it several stages ahead of the average person, it is not comprehended as intended by most people.
And yet, there are many teachers and even conferences devoted to Advaita or Non-duality. I spoke at such a conference last fall. Advaita is the approach to Vedanta emphasized by Shankara. I’ve written elsewhere about some of the issues with more common ideas about what nonduality is.
Certainly, some of the stories from the Upanishads are quite beautiful and profound. They can stretch our vision. The Mahavakyas are profound aphorisms too. The Bhagavad Gita is also often associated with Vedanta. But the core text of Vedanta, the Brahma Sutra, is almost impenetrable by the mind.
For example, here is a translation of the opening verses (v1-6):
Now from here the desire to know Brahman.
From which comes the origin of this.
Because it is the womb of scripture.
But that is through it’s unifying nature.
That arises from cognition, but is not opposed to scripture.
It is not to be considered secondary, because of the word Self.
It really helps to understand that the verses are not intellectual arguments in favour of nonduality as is often presented in translations. Shankara’s commentary was, but not the text. There isn’t an obvious logical progression for the mind to follow. Rather it’s better understood as a list of realizations that take place in the process of developing Unity into Brahman.
It’s also useful to keep in mind that the subject is always Brahman, be they saying “this” or “that” or “it”.
For example, the third verse. One of the recognitions is that the verses arise out of That. The Veda is the reverberations of silence itself. We could say the song of creation arises from that to bring creation forth. I speak about that in various ways, such as in Call and Response. I also just wrote on what Veda (scripture) is.
I was recently reminded of an appendix at the back of Maharishi’s translation of the first 6 chapters of the Bhagavad Gita. He lists the 4 qualities needed to understand Vedanta:
Viveka means Discrimination. A clear intellect. Self Realization (CC) brings a resolute intellect that becomes unwavering as it is founded in pure being.
Vairagya means non-attachment. Self Realization shifts one into the non-involved witness, allowing us to more quickly wind down all those places where there is still grasping.
Shatsampatti is the 6 treasures, somewhat like the Yamas of Yoga. Again, these are treasures gained in Self Realization.
Mumukshutva is desire for liberation. Here we have an exception, something that is more typical of the seeker in the approach to realization. Some experience the death of the seeker with awakening and with it, the desire for liberation. However, if the larger picture of the path is known, the desire to continue rises again. This helps bring the attention back to the leading edge of growth.
While the unfolding of further stages of development is a natural process that simply living it will unfold, it helps to have attention on the process. If there is a held concept of being “done”, that can become a barrier much like ego dynamics were prior. One can become attached to the initial awakening.
Many in the “nonduality” community consider Self Realization to be it. They also consider Self Realization to be the subject of nonduality but actually, this is just the platform that will allow nonduality to arise. Realization of the Self is inherently dualistic – we first recognize the Self within as separate from the world. Then we’re capable of discovering it in the world also – due to the above qualities.
In the Unity stage we will know Oneness or Vedanta directly. Then the texts have the real value. In the Conversations with Maharishi books, I’m gradually reading the second volume. This is adapted from tape recordings of the discussions during the translation of the Brahman Sutra that took place in the late ’60’s and early 70’s.
In the first volume, Maharishi notes that people may enjoy the possibilities the Brahma Sutra presents to us but to be careful not to “make a mood of the whole thing.”
As he often noted, knowledge is different in different states [stages] of consciousness. A text focused on an advanced stage will inherently be challenging – rather like reading Calculus when we’ve not yet learned Algebra.
As Unity develops, works like the Brahma Sutra gain real value. It has the potential to trigger recognitions and further the unfolding. But so far, I am yet to see a published translation done by someone who is “qualified.” Maharishi’s work remains unpublished so I’m grateful that at least the Conversations have been published.