Vedanta literally means: vid – knowlegde, anta – end of. It refers to highest wisdom; all-inclusive view. Vedanta is an ancient philosophy of India from which many schools of Hinduism and Buddhism have evolved. It teaches that our true nature is spiritual and that we may realize this directly through practices such as (1) devotion & worship (Bhakti Yoga), (2) learning & self-inquiry (Jnana Yoga), (3) reflection and meditation (Raja Yoga) and (4) serving God (or Buddha or Truth or Divine Mother, etc.) in mankind (Karma Yoga). These are the “Four Yogas” taught by Swami Vivekananda, as first mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita.
Vedanta respects all religions as paths that lead to the same summit. Only when we reach the top of the mountain do we get the Total View – what Buddha called “Sammaa Ditthi” (in Sanskrit Samyag Drishti). Until then, our various partial views are limited glimpses of a higher reality. Sri Ramakrishna once said, “Put a little of the highest wisdom in your pocket, and go do as you wish.” Revered Swami Sarvagatananda used to say, “Vedanta gives full freedom to each individual to evolve morally and spiritually according to his or her own faith and conviction.”
SRI RAMAKRISHNA: “There are errors in all paths (religions). God to whom the whole world belongs takes care of that. Everyone (selfishly) thinks his watch alone is right, but as a matter of fact, no watch is absolutely right…. As far as possible, correct your watch with the help of a holy person.” (The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna pp. 673, 559)
SRI SARADA DEVI: If you want peace my child, do not (selfishly) look into the faults of others. Rather, face your own faults. Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger.” (Teachings of Sri Sarada Devi pp. viii, 97)
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: “Although a person has not studied a single philosophy; although he does not believe in any God…if the simple power of good actions has brought him to that state where he is ready to give up his life and all else for others, he has arrived at the same point to which the religious person will come through his prayers. All meet at one point – unselfishness.” (Complete Works of Vivekananda I:86)
VEDANTA is UNIVERSAL WISDOM, true in all times and circumstances (like science). Turn the “V” of Vedanta up-side-down and there you have the mountain of life we all have to climb, and the religions are some of the paths to the top. Two important universal truths are:
Higher Power (God, Brahman, Allah, Truth, etc.) exists in and through all.
Treat others as you want to be treated – be unselfish – think of others. Sri Krishna told Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita (6:32, 9): “The best person is one who looks on the pleasure and pain of all beings as he looks on them in himself; who has equal regard for the friend and the foe.”