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Is Vedanta a philosophy?

What is the definition of philosophy? According to the Webster's dictionary, philosophy is a rational inquiry upon the principles underlying human conduct and thought, knowledge and the nature of the universe. Philosophy includes several branches: ethics, aesthetics, logic, epistemology and also metaphysics which deals with the first causes or principles and seek to explain the nature of being or reality (ontology) and of the origin and structure of the universe (cosmology).

If one understands 'philosophy' as inquiring into the nature of I and the universe, one can say that Vedanta is a philosophy. However, there are also two major differences between them:

The role of reason, logic and speculation :
The entire western philosophy starting from the Greeks to the modern philosophers is a creation of some great minds who tried to answer some of the fundamental questions of existence by creating a consistent system with extensive use of reasoning. Even though these systems are quite well thought out and answer some questions, they are based on certain assumptions. In the discussion and debate, each one questions the assumptions and basic concepts of the other and negates the validity of each other. This approach has of course its merits, as it develops one’s reasoning capacity through utilizing arguments and counter arguments. It has also contributed to the birth of modern science and its developments. However, the limitation of any philosophy arrived at by reasoning alone is that it is not in any manner conclusive with reference to the truths it is inquiring into. Any system of philosophy is always the object of endless disputes and contentions and that is what constitutes the history of western philosophy!

Vedanta, on the other hand, says that the usual means of knowledge such as perception and perception based inference can give us access to certain laws and principles governing this empirical world. However, these means of knowledge that are used by a knower to know everything other than himself, are not adequate to know the true nature of the knower. This is because, unlike everything else which can be objectified (either through sensory and witness perception or inference), I can never be objectified.

Hence, Vedanta presents itself as a means of knowledge to see the reality of I which otherwise can not be known. Even though Vedanta reveals something that can not be arrived at by logic, it does not mean that reasoning has no role to play. In fact, reason and critical thinking has a major role to play in negating all my wrong notions. This is because if what Vedanta says is contradicted by any other means of knowledge, then it has to be dismissed as not being a valid means of knowledge. Reasoning is also widely used in analyzing the meaning of the sentences of the Upanishads (what philosophy will call hermeneutics) and establishing the common and unique vision that is present all through its texts.

The second difference is with reference to the nature of their understanding: the basic premise of Western philosophy is that human being is inherently limited.
Taking that as a given, some philosophers want to make life acceptable through the revelation of certain philosophical truths about the nature of human existence and the elaboration of a system of ethics (see stoicism and existentialism for example).

However, Vedanta is refuting that basic assumption and tells that I am already limitless; I am the reality of the entire universe. The limitations of human condition are only apparent. This fact about myself has to be seen, understood as such. The commitment of Vedanta is to make me know that I am limitless existence-consciousness that puts an end to my apparent bondage and life of becoming. The final result of this inquiry into myself is absolute freedom from sorrow, death and limitation and not a relative tranquility, peace or wisdom born out of an acceptance of human suffering or mortality.

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Vedanta, the Yoga of Objectivity
In this interview done in Bangkok, Neema explains why we have chosen to call this website, Vedanta, the Yoga
of Objectivity. What is the relationship between objectivity and seeing the reality as it is? What are the different
levels of objectivity we are speaking about?
Listen to audio (3:46 minutes)

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