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Vedanta The End of the Vedas Uttara Mimamsa The Later Exegesis School. Purva Mimamsa Earlier Exegesis School Mimamsa karma-kanda Vedic ritual Uttara Mimamsa Later Exegesis School Vedanta jnana-kanda Upanishads

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The End of the Vedas

Uttara Mimamsa

The Later Exegesis School


Purva Mimamsa Earlier Exegesis School

Mimamsa karma-kanda Vedic ritual

Uttara Mimamsa Later Exegesis School


jnana-kanda Upanishads

Moksha through knowledge of Brahman is the aim rather than following Vedic ritual.


There are many Vedantic schools (sampradayas).

The Advaita Vedanta of Shankaracarya is only the most famous and influential as philosophy.

All schools accept the three foundations:


Brahma Sutra

Bhagavad Gita


Brahma Sutra aka Vedanta Sutra or

Shariraka Sutra “ On the Embodied Self”

Put in its final form around 500 CE.

First systematization of the ideas in the Upanishads and summary of interpretations by many earlier authors, including Badarayana, who is traditionally regarded as the author.


The Brahma Sutra is composed of short, cryptic threads of thought that can be interpreted in various and opposed ways.

Four Chapters of the Brahma Sutra

Coherence of Upanishadic teachings on brahman

2. Critique of non-Vedantic views

3. Means (sadhana) of realizing brahman.

4. Fruits of knowledge. Death and destinies of




At death

the sensory faculties dissolve into





the Self


the subtle body

The Self passes into the heart

then passes into the sushumna nadi


The Self then travels by a ray of light on two paths:

Those with knowledge of brahman on the Northern path, the Way of the Gods, to the sun, light, and liberation.

Those without knowledge on the Southern path, the Way of the Fathers, to the moon and rebirth.


Subtle bodies, the size of a grain of rice, return to earth through ether, smoke, mist, clouds, and rain.

Ingested by animals or humans, they pass into the blood and are conceived with a physical body

Those unfit for the two paths are reborn as plants, insects, and lesser animal forms.


Badarayana rejects the Sankhya dualism of

prakriti and purusha,

and makes consciousness and matter

two modifications of brahman.

parinama: brahman creates the universe by

transforming into it

The self is a part (amsha) of brahman, not separate but also not identical.

bheda abheda vada different/non-different view


In the Brahma Sutra, brahman is the absolute,

unchanging, divine intelligence, but not a

personal deity.

What is the relation between brahman & creation?

What is the relation between brahman & the self?

Is brahman a personal god

or an impersonal absolute?

The Vedantic schools give different answers.



Advaita Shankara

Non-duality Abheda non-difference

Bheda-Abheda Bhaskara


Vishishta-Advaita Ramanuja

“non-duality of the qualified”

Brahman is Vishnu


Dvaita Madhva

Duality Brahman is Vishnu

Dvaita-Advaita Nimbarka

Duality/Non-duality Brahman is Krishna

Shaiva Tantrism Shrikantha

Brahman is Shiva

Shuddha Advaita Vallabha

Pure Non-dualism Brahman is Krishna


Acintya Bheda-Abheda

“Inconceivable Difference and Sameness”

Chaitanya and Baladeva

Brahman is Vishnu the Supreme Personality


Shankara Acarya

Brahmin born in Kerala

8th century CE

Brahma Sutra Bhashya. Commentaries on the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutras, and Gaudapada’s Karikas with its ajativada

(no-birth) doctrine influenced by Mahayana Buddhism.


Advaita Non Duality Radical Monism

Atman is Brahman

All change and plurality is an appearance—

an illusion produced by avidya: cognitive error.

Brahman is real.

The universe is unreal.

The universe is Brahman.

Ramana Maharshi



prajnanam Brahma Aitareya Upanishad

Brahman is Consciousness.

aham Brahma asmi Brhadaranyaka Up.

I am Brahman.

Tat tvam asi Chandogya Up.

That you are.

Ayam atma Brahma Brhadaranyaka Up.

This self is Brahma.


Avidya: The soul identifies itself with the finite body/mind, forgetting it is really only the Atman.

Satchitananda: Sat Cit Ananda

being consciousness bliss

Shankara rejects Sankhya parinama and prakriti (pradhana), at least from the ultimate point of view.


Parinama: real, material, transformation of Brahman into the world.

Vivarta: Creation is only apparent. Effect is mere appearance.

Satkarya-vada of Sankhya: effect pre-exists in the cause.

Satkarana-vada of Shankara: Only the cause exists.


The Two Levels of Being

Paramarthika: Reality brahman

ultimate pure eternal unchanging

Vyavaharika: Appearance

the phenomenal, empirical world of self/object

duality, senses, ordinary persons, and practical

life. Appears real until brahman is realized.

Pratibhashika: Illusion


Adhyasa: superimposition, projection upon the

substrate of brahman of previous experiences and


avarana power of veiling vikshepa distortion


Misidentification of the self with its phenomenal


The self confuses itself with its reflection.


Theory of Limitation avaccheda vada

Upadhi: limitation, karmically determined

conditions of body and mind that limit and distort


When free of upadhis, the self shines forth in its


Projecting separation where there is non like the

space in a pot as distinct from Space.


Reflection Theory pratibimba reflection

The individual self is a reflection of the Atman on the mirror of ignorance.

The moon’s reflections on the water seem to be separate and multiple.

Your reflection in a mirror appears as you and separate. It has empirical reality as pure appearance, but is not you.


The Psycho-Physical Jiva (the embodied self)

Gross physical body sthula sharira

Subtle body sukshma sharira

5 sense organs indriyas

5 organs of action karmendriyas (voice, hands,

feet, excretory and

reproductive organs)

Vital breath prana

Intellect buddhi

Ego ahamkara

Sensory mind manas



Shankara accepts the six pramanas of Mimamsa

but only three are important.




No valid means of knowing at the lower

empirical level.


The Jiva is made of projections rather than material evolutes of prakriti.

The Jiva appears because of the failure to discriminate (viveka) the real self from its non-real appearance.

All Selves are identical to Atman untouched by the apparently separate mind-body complexes.


Maya: the empirical world like a magical is illusory but exists.

Maya is anirvacaniya— inexpressible.

It cannot be said to be real or unreal.

It is the the totality of errors caused by avidya.

Shankara insists that maya does not entail subjective idealism.


Two Sub-Schools of Advaita

Bhamati Mandana Misra, Vacaspati Misra

The self is the locus of ignorance (avidya)

Brahman is untouched by maya

Plurality of jivas with their own ignorance

VivaranaPadmapada, Suresvara

Brahman is the locus of ignorance.

Jivas are mere reflections of the Atman.


He resolves the contradiction by the two levels of truth.

Subject-object duality is real

on the phenomenal level.

It is sublated (badha) or transcended as unreal on the ultimate level.

We realize it to be an appearance

within the one consciousness.


The Five Koshas of the Self Taittiriya Upanishad

Anna maya kosha body

Prana maya kosha life energy

Mano maya kosha mind

Vijnana maya kosha


Ananda maya kosha bliss












The Self’s Four Levels of Consciousness

A Waking jagarita

U Dreaming svapna

M Deep Sleep sushupti

AUM Transcendental consciousness


Mandukya Upanishad


Nirguna brahman higher impersonal absolute

Saguna brahman empirical appearance

Ishvara, personal Lord, creator god

on the level of appearance and maya.

Narayana or Vasudeva



prarabdha karma karma in process of manifesting

that cannot be avoided.

samskara latent impression from past lives

vasana habit energy

samnyasa renunciation

upasana worship of saguna deity

image worship puja

nidhidhyasa sustained contemplation on the

Supreme Self by samnyasis,

meditation on OM


Ramanuja 11th -12 century CE in his commentary on the Brahma Sutra,

Shri-Bhashya, strongly criticized Advaita.

He rejected the idea of nirgunabrahman.

Brahman is not an impersonal absolute.

Brahman has personal qualities (saguna).


Ramanuja rejected maya.

The world is not an unreal illusion—a Buddhist idea— that diminishes God’s creativity, power, and grace.

Vishnu is Brahman and is the supreme soul.

The world is his body

Brahman is the soul of the world

just as we inhabit our bodies.


Vishishta Advaita

“Qualified Non-Duality”

“the non-duality of that which is qualified”

The Self is non-different from brahman.

But persons and material things are qualities of brahman like the color red is is a quality of a rose, distinguishable (vishishta) from it, but still interfused with its being.

Individual selves are modes (prakara) of brahman

Brahman is fully present in each part,

but transcends them all.


The best way to know Brahman is the path of devotion (bhakti) and the path of action (karma) rather than the Advaita path of knowledge (jnana)

Upasana Devotional contemplation of the Supreme


Prapatti Liberation is attained by self-surrender to

God’s grace.

Ramanuja was a Shri Vaishnava and combines Vaishnava theology and popular worship of Vishnu with Vedanta.


The Lord as saguna brahman undergoes a real transformation of his body, not an illusory one.


from the subtle to the gross level of manifestation of individual souls and the inanimate material world.

His purity and transcendence are untouched by creation.

Thus Ramanuja rejects Shankara’s satkarana but accepts satkaryavada.


In the interludes between world creations and destructions—

pralaya:the cyclic dissolution of the


—souls and the cosmos rest latently in Vishnu in the subtle form.


Brahman is only saguna


the Lord



his Avatars


Dvaita Vedanta Madhva 13th century CE

Radical Dualism Rejects Advaita monism

Advaitins are deceitful demons.

Uncompromising monotheistic conception of God.

God created the universe (jagat), made of prakriti, and


No Parinama No Vivarta No Maya

God is the efficient, not the material cause of the world.


Selves and the world are fully real, not an illusion.

Souls are eternal but separate and dependent upon God’s grace for their existence and salvation

Souls are plural and God determines their destinies.

The self is not absorbed in Brahman.

Tat tvam asi is not an assertion of identity, but of similarity

of qualities.

Worship is the path to God.

Eternal damnation for the wicked.


Shri Harsha 12th century CE Advaita

Khandanakhandakhadya “ Sweets of Refutation”

Contest between Nyaya and Vedanta as the

fundamental philosophy of Hinduism.

Vedanta wins.

Potter’s “bhaktized Advaita leap philosophy”

Demolishes all the concepts of Mimamsa, Buddhism,

and, especially of Nyaya-Vaisheshika:


Counterattack on Nyaya-Vaisheshika

 No pramanas are valid.

 All categories are indefinable and so unreal:

Being, Cause, Relation, Universals, Time, Space, Numbers, and Qualities are all self-contradictory

 God’s existence cannot be proved

 Perceptual realism is indemonstrable.


All conceptual discrimination falls into vicious infinite regress and is refuted lock, stock, and barrel.

Adoption of Nagarjuna’s prasangika method of negative logic to prove a positive thesis:

Self-luminous Brahman is the only intelligible

non-contradictory reality


Counterattack by New Nyaya of Gangesha (1350 CE)

Technical refinement of Nyaya logic to make it immune to attack.

Rigorous logical formalism similar to Logical Positivism in the 20th century.