Taking The Mystery Out Of YOGA

By Gretchen Karros


The topic for this month is VEDANTA.

In the April issue of “Healthy Planet” the topic was “Hinduism.”  In it the word “Vedanta” was mentioned at the end of the article. This word comes from the Hindi word “Ved-ante” means “the end of the Vedas” , a reference to the Vedic literature.  There are a few thoughts about this religion that coincides with Hinduism, although these two terms cannot be interchanged. Most philosophers consider Vedanta as one system within Hinduism but actually it comes out of at least six other darshanas, or ways of seeing or viewpoints. It is not necessary to go into these different viewpoints but it is important to note here Patanjali’s Yoga system and Vedanta often are referenced together. Eventually, Vedanta  proved to be the most receptive and universal of all the other schools.

Historically, Vedanta reflects the early writings called the Vedas (1500-800 b.c.); The Upanishads (800 b..c. and after); And the epic poem called the “Bhagavad Gita” (400 b.c. to 400 a.d.)  These three works are the basic body of knowledge in all Hindu religions, not only Vedanta.

Around 800 a.d. (which was about 500 years after Patanjali lived), a man called Shankara was born. He emphasized the idea of Advieta or non-duality to Vedanta and through his efforts, Vedanta became a comprehensive system..

The one person in modern times who opened the hearts and minds of many Americans was Swami Vivkananda, a disciple of a modern spiritual master Ramanakrishna.  These names may be unfamiliar and hard to pronounce but Vedanta would still be known mostly in India if it were not for these two important personages.  Sw. Vivekananda came to Chicago in 1893 to attend and be a part of the First Parliament of Religions. He cut through all the extraneous parts of Hinduism and Vedanta in order to give the universal message of the Santana dharma (eternal religion) to Westerners.

If you would like to know more about Vedanta, we  are fortunate to have a Society here in St. Louis. It is at 205 S. Skinker Blvd., 314-721-5118.