Jn this edition of Vedantasara we have endeavoured to enhance the helpfulness of the publication by providing: (i) diacritical marks for Sanskrit words and names, (ii) a key to their transliteration and pronunciation, and (iii) a thoroughly-revised index.
Vedantasara or the Essence of Vedanta of Sadananda is one of the best and most widely read introductory books in Sanskrit for the study of Vedanta. The public demand for the book has been increasing with the years. The previous edition being soon exhausted, we have brought out this third edition. This edition has been thoroughly revised, a helpful fist of contents, a glossary, and an index have been added. We hope these additional features will make this standard work more popular.
The growing interest in Vedanta, even among people outside the pale of Indian thought is, in a very large measure, due to its freedom from all narrowness. While it does not discard faith, whatever religion or philosophy may inculcate it, it rests ultimately on the light of Reason (Buddhi), a fact which naturally appeals to all rationally inclined minds, in every part of the world. This is the secret of its strength as well as its attraction. Further, its special value lies in the fact that it seeks the fruit of the knowledge of Truth in life, not in any world to come after death. It is the effect of Vedantic knowledge on man’s life here below, that is of the highest consequence to the Vedantist. The teachings therefore lay great emphasis on moral discipline as a sine qua non of even understanding Vedantic truths.
Vedantasara is one of the best known epitomes (Prakarana Granthas) of the philosophy of the Upanisads as taught by Sankaracarya, whose followers are said to number the largest in India. Of this treatise there have been published many good editions and careful translations into English, besides other languages. Ballantyne’s and Jacob’s English renderings are not now much in use. The latest is that of Prof. Hiriyanna of Mysore, a scholarly work. The object of the present undertaking is not to supersede such works, but only to place before the public some of the special features of the excellent commentaries on it, which are not at present accessible to those that do not know Sanskrit. The great popularity of this treatise is indicated not only by the translations, but also by the number of commentaries written on it. 01 these, Subodhini, Balabodhihi, and Vidvanmanoranjini are well known. All these three have been published with the text rendered into Bengali by Mr. Rajendranath Ghosh, to whose valuable introduction we owe much of the information given here regarding the author. The translation as given here was made some years ago and part of it appeared in the Prabuddha Bharata of 1927.
Subodhini was written by Nrsimha Sarasvati of Varanasi; Blabodhini by Apo Deva, the well-known authority on Purva Mimamsa and Vidvanmanoranjini by Rama Tirtha, the Guru of Madhusudana Sarasvati and the disciple of krsna Tirtha who wrote a commentary on Sariksepa sariraka.
Sri Sadananda Yogindra Sarasvati, or, as he is familiarly known, Sadananda, the author, belongs to one of the ten distinguished orders of Sannyasins (monks) of Sankara’s school. The “Sarasvati” order has the reputation of having produced some of the most eminent Vedantic scholars like Madhusudana Sarasvati, author of Advaitasiddlhi, and Brahmananda Sarasvati, author of Brahmanandiyam. Sadnanda’s Guru was Advayananda Sarasvati and his disciple Krsnananda Sarasvati, whose disciple Nrsimha Sarasvati was the author of the commentary. Subodhini, which is said to have been written in the Saka year 1510, or 1588 AD. Sadananda must have therefore lived prior to this date. And the latest author whom he refers to in his Vedãntasara being Vidyäranya, who died in 1386 AD., Sadananda must have lived somewhere about the middle of the 15th century.
Vedantasara or the essence of Vedanta, is but an introduction to standard works such as those of Gaudapada, Sankara, Padmapada, Hastamalaka, Sureshvaracarya, Sarvajnatmamuni Vacaspati Misra, Sri Hara, Citsukhacarya, and vidyaranya, to alt of which the author has made references in his book.
Vedanta is presented in the upanisads and by such authors as are mentioned above in various ways, so as to suit different levels of understanding and different temperamental attitudes among seekers of Truth. This treatise adopts the orthodox method which has always appealed to the largest number. After explaining the kind of moral and mental discipline needed for the pursuit of the highest Truth, the work starts with the Sruti (Vedic) statement that the individual soul and Brahman are identical, as taught by the formula, “Thou art That”. Our not being aware of this Truth is due to an innate “Nescience” or ignorance the nature of which is also explained.
In the exposition of the doctrine of Avidya (ignorance) its universal and individual aspects are dealt with. The world being its effect, an enquiry into the origin and nature of the world is made, wherein the question of the distinction between body and soul is dealt with at some length. Here the theories of other schools, such as Materialism, Atomism, Realism, and Idealism as of the Buddhists, are criticized. The next point considered is the method of interpretation of the Vedic proposition such as “Thou art That” and “I am Brahman”, which is indispensable for a correct understanding of the Sruti or scriptural revelations. But the most important feature of Vedanta consists in putting the knowledge of the Truth to the test in one’s own life. For this purpose logic practices are inculcated. Then comes a description of jivanmukti, that is the life of the enlightened man on earth which is characterized by absolute selflessness and the highest morality.
Apart from the explanations given in the notes of whatever may be found to be difficult of comprehension by the beginner, a few words may be said here with regard to “Maya” or “Avidya”. Avidya or ignorance is generally mistaken for want or negation of knowledge and a passive attitude. But as it had been pointed out in this work, ignorance or “Nescience” is a combination of a negative and a positive, a passive and an active feature. The negative is that which hides the reality from us, and the positive is that which presents the manifold world. Maya in the latter case is called Sakti (power). Mayä and Avidya are generally used synonymously, though Maya is sometimes said to be the ignorance of .Isvara, the creator of this world, and Avidyä to be the ignorance of .Jiva or the individual soul. Avidya is also said to be a comprehensive term including Màya in it. The latter is associated with its effect, the world of name and form. From this standpoint of “cause and effect” Maya is an undoubted fact of experience, which makes us endlessly pursue the cause of phenomena, which cause we never attain. This is the most evident aspect of Mãyã. But the thirst for a “cause” ceases when we attain the Truth or highest knowledge. The one aim of Vedanta, therefore, is the eradication of Maya or Avidyà (ignorance).
Another important point which should be borne in mind is that so long as the knowledge of Brahman is sought with the help of Sruti (Revelation) and Yoga, a Guru or an enlightened teacher is an indispensable necessity. For, in the absence of confirmation by a knower of the Truth, we can never know whether our interpretation’ of the words of sruti is correct, or whether the experiences we gain by Yogic practices have led us aught to the final goal. Hence we find that all those who approach the study of Vedanta in the orthodox way invariably invoke the help and the blessings of the Guru.
This translation aims at being as literal as possible, even at the sacrifice at times of literary grace. The absence of exact equivalents in English has unavoidably resulted in some imperfection But the book is published with the hope that whenever doubts in respect of the translation arise, the totes will help to remove them, and that the original itself will also be of use to the reader in his attempt to get a general grasp of the system, the development of which ‘will ever remain the glory of India and the pursuit of which will be the best means of bringing the greatest happiness to mankind.
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