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Contemporary Classics in Vedanta




Vedanta Online

This issue features "Universal Values for the World Conscience" by Shelley Brown

Vedanta Glossary
of Sanskrit and Bengali words, with guide to English pronunciation


Vedanta, India’s most ancient religion and philosophy, became a renewed spiritual force with the advent of Sri Ramakrishna (1836–86), Swami Vivekananda (1863–1902), and Sri Sarada Devi (1854–1926) on the cusp of a new age.

Vedanta is based on the Vedas, the sacred scriptures of Hinduism; specifically, it is based on the sublime philosophical teachings of the Upanishads that appear at the end of Vedas. These spiritual principles, eternal verities, have been realized by sages throughout the ages and are as true today as they were thousands of years ago.

Spiritual consciousness is One and Truth is universal: these are the core concepts of Vedanta’s all-embracing ideals.

Vedanta emphasizes three basic principles:

• The divinity of all conscious beings
• The need to manifest that divinity in all expressions of human endeavor
• The harmony of religions

In other words, the individual soul (Atman) is identical with God (Brahman); the goal of human life is to realize and express that inherent divinity; and all religions lead to the same God-consciousness.


What is it, though, about the universal teachings of Vedanta that can light the fire of God-realization in modern hearts? How do these philosophical precepts become the basis for an intense, transformative, and lifelong commitment to spiritual practice?

Many devotees, now old-timers in the movement, first came to Vedanta in the 1950s when the “second generation” of monks (swamis) were sent to the West; the swamis themselves had been initiated and trained by the monastic disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, and Sri Sarada Devi (Sri Ramakrishna’s spiritual consort, also called Holy Mother). The Vedanta movement gained momentum as they imparted Vedanta’s perennial wisdom as practical teachings, spiritually fresh and intense.

These monks, among them Swamis Nikhilananda, Ashokananda, Aseshananda, Akhilananda, Prabhavananda, and Satprakashananda, expanded the work of the Vedanta centers and became, in their own right, highly respected spiritual teachers.

The current generation of swamis in the West continue the sacred tradition of teaching the practice of Vedanta with purity, integrity, and selflessness at the centers of the Ramakrishna Order.



Swami Vivekananda taught what he called “practical Vedanta.” It is spiritualizing everyday life to develop, and then to firmly establish, a higher state of consciousness.

The ordinary mind, thinking ordinary thoughts, is far away from the numinous experience of God-consciousness.

The practice of elevating the mind requires persistent effort and a lifetime of patience. The practice needs to be constant, with attention to thoughts, emotions, and actions as they occur in every waking moment; it isn’t enough to pray regularly in a church or temple, or to meditate for an hour or two every day.

The practice consists of four yogas, each a path well suited to a particular temperament; but, as it were, a four-lane highway to God-consciousness when practiced together through the combined mastery of thoughts, feelings, actions, and concentration.

    Jnana Yoga, the path of knowledge, is reasoning with discrimination. It uses the power of thought to unravel the outer layers of body, mind, and ego in order to find the source of all knowledge—the Self—within.

    Bhakti Yoga, the path of love, is intense feeling for the Divine as the Beloved, and for others as manifestations of the Divine.

    Karma Yoga, the path of work, is action performed as egoless service, unmotivated by the need for recognition, rewards, or any personal gain.
    Raja Yoga, the path of meditation, is focused concentration—bringing the dispersed and conflicted mind into a state of calm, one-pointed attention in order to perceive the divine Self within. The ability to stay focused is essential to every aspect of spiritual practice, and, indeed, to the success of any human endeavor.

These yogic practices, however difficult, gradually bring joy as the mind comes under control and the loving expansion of the heart brings with it the realization of infinite bliss and power within.

A FEW BASIC BOOKS (Published by the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center in New York City)

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by M (Mahendranath Gupta), translated and with an introduction by Swami Nikhilananda

Vivekananda: The Yogas and Other Works by Swami Nikhilananda

Holy Mother by Swami Nikhilananda

The Bhagavad Gita, translated by Swami Nikhilananda

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