Advaita Vedanta

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Advaita Vedanta[note 1] is a sub-school of the Vedanta[note 2] school of Vedic[1][2][3][4] or Hindu philosophy[5] and religious practice,[web 1] giving "a unifying interpretation of the whole body of Upanishads".[6] The principal, though not the first, exponent of the Advaita Vedanta-interpretation was Shankara Bhagavadpada[7] who systematised the works of preceding philosophers.[8] Its teachings have influenced various sects of Hinduism.[9]

The key source texts for all schools of Vedānta are the Prasthanatrayi, the canonical texts consisting of the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras, of which they give a philosophical interpretation and elucidation.[6]

Advaita (not-two in Sanskrit) refers to the identity of the true Self, Atman, which is pure consciousness[note 3], and the highest Reality, Brahman, which is also pure consciousness.[11][note 4][note 5] Followers seek liberation/release by acquiring vidyā (knowledge)[13] of the identity of Atman and Brahman. Attaining this liberation takes a long preparation and training under the guidance of a guru. Advaita thought can also be found in non-orthodox Indian religious traditions, such as the tantric Nath tradition.

Advaita Vedanta developed in a multi-faceted religious and philosophical landscape. The tradition developed in interaction with the other traditions of India, Buddhism, Vaishnavism and Shaivism, as well as the other schools of Vedanta.

In modern times, due to western Orientalism and Perennialism, and its influence on Indian Neo-Vedanta and Hindu nationalism,[14] Advaita Vedanta has acquired a broad acceptance in Indian culture and beyond as the paradigmatic example of Hindu spirituality,[14] despite the wide popularity of the Shaivite Vishishtadvaita and Dvaitadvaita bhakti traditions, and incorporating teachers such as Ramana Maharshi and Nisargadatta Maharaj despite their eclectic and tantric backgrounds.

Advaita Vedanta existed prior to Shankara, but found its most influential expounder in Shankara.[15]

Of the Vedanta-school before the composition of the Brahma Sutras (400–450 CE[16]) almost nothing is known.[16] Very little also is known of the period between the Brahmansutras and Shankara (first half of the 8th century CE).[16] Only two writings of this period have survived: the Vākyapadīya, written by Bhartṛhari (second half 5th century[17]), and the Māndūkya-kārikā written by Gaudapada (7th century CE).[16]

The Upanishads form the basic texts, of which Vedanta gives an interpretation.[18] The Upanishads don't contain "a rigorous philosophical inquiry identifying the doctrines and formulating the supporting arguments".[19][note 6] This philosophical inquiry was performed by the darsanas, the various philosophical schools.[21] Deutsch and Dalvi point out that in the Indian context texts "are only part of a tradition which is preserved in its purest form in the oral transmission as it has been going on."[22]

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