By Patrick Horn (“Rishi”)
Swami Vivekananda says, “Do not be frightened by theological terms; if terms frighten you, you are not fit to be philosophers.” The urgent questions of life (who am I? what is this place where I’m born? where is this going? what does this mean?) occurred also to the ancient seers, who did not invent an answer but witnessed a revealed Truth. They recorded their visions in the world’s oldest scriptures, the Vedas, transmitted orally for generations as metrical poetry before the teachings were transferred to writing 6,000-years ago. “Veda” is from the root “vid” meaning “to know.” “Veda” is etymologically related to the Latin word “video” (“I see”) and also the English word “wit” (“intelligence”). It is best translated as “knowledge” or more specifically, “wisdom.”
“Vedanta” means “the end of knowledge” or “the goal of wisdom.” This definition has a literal and figurative meaning, as well as a secondary meaning. First, “Vedanta” is based on the Upanishads, which are literally, “the appendix to the Vedas” and the conclusion of the Vedic hymns, rites, and codes of conduct. Moreover, “Vedanta” is not merely abstract speculation, but “the aim of human life.” Supersensuous realization is beyond intellect and logic and more than an idealistic concept. It is a fact that can be directly experienced under the right conditions and does not contradict reason. Finally, “Vedanta” also refers to a genre of literature that explains, expands, and comments upon this teaching and perception.
Brahman is the material and efficient cause of the physical universe limited by the Law of Cause-and-Effect. It moves from protoplasm to illumined Masters like the Buddha or the Christ. Swamiji says, “Everything in nature begins, as it were, from certain seed, certain rudiments, certain fine forms, and becomes grosser and grosser, and develops, going on that way for a certain time, and then again goes back to that fine form, and subsides… Thus we find that the effect is never different from the cause. It is only that this effect is a reproduction of the cause in a grosser form…. Nothing comes without a cause, and the cause is the effect in another form.” In the cosmic rounds of evolution and involution, mankind is bound by death and rebirth. The apparent body is the manifestation of subtle form and the world of appearance is the image of God. The aim of Vedanta is liberation from the cycles of creation and dissolution. To be absorbed in Absolute Reality is to be perfect. Tat Tvam Asi – Thou Art That!
The map to Delhi is not the same as eating there. A map is necessary, but the map is different than the journey. Similarly, the finger pointing at the moon only shows the way; when you see the moon, you no longer need the finger. Words are fine so far as they notify of a possibility, but the goal is experience. The religious perspective is not mere intellectual assent but the transformation of attitude and a lifestyle in accord with Truth.