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The word "Vedanta" means three things: (a) the universal basis of all religions, (b) a system of philosophy, and (c) the last or culminating portions of the Vedas. Vedanta Centres of the Ramakrishna Movement consider Vedanta in all these senses. Vedanta gives the spiritual basis or foundation to all the true religions of the world. To do this, it uses Vedanta philosophy, which is universal and embraces all prevalant and new opinions about God, the universe and the living being. Such a universal philosophy is taught in the Upanishads, and these Upanishads are the final portions of the Vedas. Apart from the Upanishads, Vedanta also takes into consideration other important scriptures like the Bhagavadgita and the Brahma Sutras.
Are Vedanta and Yoga different? No, they are not. Yoga is the practical part of Vedanta. The four yogas (Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga) are together called Vedanta. By 'Vedanta' we mean the universal basis of all religions, it includes everything and yoga is an integral part of Vedanta. Vedanta and yoga are non-different in this sense. Yoga leads to union with Purusha or Self, and Vedanta means the same. The word 'Vedanta' is also used to mean one of the six systems of Indian philosophy. Apparently, Yoga too is one of the systems. But, Vedanta as a system includes all the teachings of Yoga. Thus, even as a system of Indian philosophy, Vedanta includes yoga. One more point. Vedanta does not mean merely Advaita Vedanta. Vedanta includes meditation, devotion, service, and all the paths known to humanity, broadly classified into four yogas--Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga. Thus, when we speak of Vedanta, we are speaking of a universal system or way of life, which includes everything.
Sri Ramakrishna spent every second of his two full decades of life to intensely practice all the paths to God. He attained the highest through all the paths and declared that all religions and all paths lead to the same Goal. His personal experiences are testimonies to the truths that the Vedanta philosophy declares that we are one, existence is one, and the goal is to discover this fundamental unity behind the apparent diversity.
VEDANTA FOR BEGINNERS
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The fundamental teachings of Vedanta are expressed in these beautiful words of Swami Vivekananda:
"Each soul is potentially divine.
The goal is to manifest this Divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal.
Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy – by one, or more, or all of these – and be free.
This is the whole of religion.
Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details."
Further, Swami Vivekananda declares these words for the good of all:
"Let every man and woman and child,
without respect of caste or birth, weakness or strength,
hear and learn that behind the strong and the weak, behind the high and the low, behind every one,
there is that Infinite Soul, assuring the infinite possibility and the infinite capacity of all to become great and good.
Let us proclaim to every soul: Uttishtata, Jâgrata--arise, awake, and stop not till the goal is reached."
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