THE TEACHING OF VEDANTA
In some context or other, we constantly come across or hear the word "Vedanta". When any person's conversation becomes a little above the average standard or has the tinge of a sermon, we say " You are talking Vedanta". In the Gita, the Lord says that He is the origin of Vedanta. Literally, Vedanta means the end or the concluding portion of the Veda. In any well-written essay, the writer will indicate the subject matter at the beginning and record his conclusions at the end. Therefore, any intelligent person, by reading the Upakrama (beginning and conclusion) of a thesis, will get any idea of what is about. Similarly, if we take any section of the Veda and read its beginning and its end, we will be able to grasp what that section deals with.
The constitution of any country and its laws are limited by time and place - kaala and desa. But the vedas are the eternal laws or Sanatana Dharma. That is why when a person asserts a position taken up by him, though a different view is possible, we say, "Are your words the words of the Veda?" Isvara is Veda Swaroopi or embodiment of the vedas, and one of the Veda Mantra says that Maheswara dwells at the beginning and the end of the Veda.
Yo vedaadau swarah prakto vedantecha pratishtitah.
The Vedas frequently use the expression idam, atha, tat and etat. Idam refers to that which is near, atha to that which is not so proximate, and tat to that which is distant. In this context, it is worthwhile noting the existence of an affinity between the various languages of the word, a fact which we can understand when we examine the root or origin of some of the words. Without entering into philological or other controversies, it can be stated that in the distant past one culture and one civilisation prevailed throughout the world. While that old culture decayed and disappeared, or gave birth to a new culture and a new civilisation in some parts of the world, they continued to exist and flourish in other parts of the world. That culture and civilisation go by the name of Sanatana Dharma. There is evidence to show that the Mitra cult, Maitra-Varuna referred to in the Vedas, prevailed in certain parts of Europe before the advent of Christianity. In some Far Eastern countries, though the rulers are Muslim, Observances prescribed in the Hindu Sastras for coronation are followed when a ruler is put on the throne. Counting from the month of March or Chaitra, the first month according to Hindus, it will be seen that September is the seventh month, October the eighth month, November the ninth month, and December the tenth month. For days of the week, the names of planets used in India are adopted in other parts of the world also.
This is a small disgression. Now coming back to the subject, it should be realised that the expression tat occurring in the Vedas refers to Isvara. The Vedantic tatvam is the realisation of the swaroopa of Iswara, or the Ultimate Reality. The plain meaning of tatvam is truth or reality. The secrete of understanding this reality is contained in the world tat-tvam, the realisation of tat or That as tvam or yourself. The jnana-mudra, or the sign of the hand with the tips of the right thumb and the index finger meeting, is an indication that Tat which appears to be distant is within oneself. When we look at the horizon, we get a feeling that at a distant point, the earth and the sky are meeting. Suppose we decide to proceed to that meeting point. As we go on walking, the supposed meeting point goes on receding further and further and ultimately we will find ourselves back at the point from where we started. In other words, the point from which we originally looked at the distant meeting point on the horizon is also the point where the earth and the sky meet.
There is an interesting story of a young woman who decided to marry only the greatest person on earth, though her parents had selected a bridegroom for her. She fixed the king as per object and when she approached him for requesting him to take her as his wife, she thought that a Sanyasi to whom the kind paid homage must be greater than the king. Thereupon she left off the king and when after the Sanyasi. So the story goes on and ultimately she came to the starting point and married a common man, who turned out to be none other than the person whom her parents had selected.
While Tat is a Ultimate Reality, the Upanishads proclaim that idam, or that which is in our proximity, cannot exist without a root or origin - Nedam amoolam bhavishyati. A tree sprouts from the earth, is sustained by the earth, and is finally absorbed by the earth when it decays. All the things we perceive with the aid of our five senses are connoted by idam. The perceiver within us is the origin of the things perceived. As the same electricity shines in different colours and with varying brilliance according to the colour, size and powers of the bulbs, so too the same Isvara is within all of us and looks through the window of our mind at all things without, which are rooted in Him. The origin of diam is jnana and that janan, though apparently confined to the mind of individuals, is full and all-pervasive. The root of all things with life, whether stationary or moving , is in that all-pervasive janana, which is the Tat of the Vedanta. That is what the following verse in the Gita also tells us :
Avibhaktam cha bhooteshu
Vibhaktamivacha stthitam; Bhoota-bhartru cha tat jneyam
Grasishnu prabhavishnu cha
The Tat or That which is the Ultimate Reality achieved through jnana, must be understoo9d as the Protector, Destroyer or Consumer, and the Creator of all bhootas (elements like air, water and fire, and all beings, moving and stationary), who appears divided between these elements and beings, though He is invisible. This Tat is seen at the end of the Vedas, and we realise that all-pervading Truth or God by contemplating on a seeming part of that Truth. This is known as Isvara dhyaanam or devotion for or contemplation of a particular manifestation of God and is a process of learning to be ready to receive with both hands the fruit of janana and Bhakti when the time is ripe for the fruit to fall, namely, the Divine grace to descend.