Vedanta, a philosophy and science of the spirit, is as profound and mysterious as India, the country of its origin. Its four yogas of devotion, service, meditation, and knowledge are found in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and the practices of all who seek peace and joy in the oneness that uplifts and unifies us.
When you explore the depth and breadth of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, you realize you've heard these ideas before. And you have.
The more you understand the elegant truth of the Unity of Existence as expressed by Vedantic seers, the more you understand how writers like Thoreau, Eliot and Keats were deeply influenced by its wisdom. You will feel it in the poetry of Whitman, Rumi, Hafiz, and other mystical poets and it will be self-evident in the observations and writings of Plato, Thomas Merton, Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Eckhart Tolle and other influential thinkers.
The Upanishads, Breath of the Eternal, trans. Swami Prabhavananda and Frederick Manchester. Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 1987; New York: Mentor Books, 1975. Excellent translation of the major scripture of India. Clear, helpful introduction. For the general reader, not the scholar.
Adiswarananda, Swami. The Vedanta Way to Peace and Happiness. Woodstock, VT: Skylight Paths Publishing, 2004. A valuable and thoroughgoing reference text for the Vedanta Philosophy.
Hourihan, Paul. Children of Immortal Bliss: A New Perspective on our True Identity Based on the Ancient Vedanta Philosophy of India. Anna Hourihan, ed. Redding, CA: Vedantic Shores Press, 2008. A compelling introduction to the Vedanta philosophy of India, showing how these profound teachings can deepen and enrich our understanding of life and bring us closer to enlightenment.
Vrajaprana, Pravrajika. Vedanta, A Simple Introduction. Hollywood: Vedanta Press. As the title states this is a short, easy-to-read introduction to Vedanta by a Western nun of the Ramakrishna Order. Well-written and clear explanation of Vedanta.
Swami Vivekananda. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama. Any lectures or works by this mystic, a gigantic figure in India's religious history, are valuable. He is the great modern expounder of Vedanta to the West. Individual volumes are also available covering different subjects, such as the following one.
Swami Vivekananda. Vedanta: Voice of Freedom. Swami Chetanananda, ed. St. Louis: Vedanta Society of St. Louis, 1986. A collection of the important letters, speeches and writings on the subject of Vedanta by Swami Vivekananda, the modern interpreter of Vedanta.
Isherwood, Christopher, ed. Vedanta for the Western World and Vedanta for Modern Man. The mystical traditions of three great faiths―Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity―are explored at depth in two richly interesting collections of essays written by many gifted authors. Good advice on meditation.
Easwaran, Eknath, The Upanishads, Translated for the Modern Reader. Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press, 1987, Reprinted 2003. An interesting introduction and translation with commentary.
Prabhavananda, Swami. The Sermon on the Mount According to Vedanta. Hollywood: Vedanta Press. Shows how the illuminations of Vedantic mysticism clarify some of the difficult passages in Christ's famous Sermon. A reverent, discerning, highly spiritual treatment by a Hindu monk.
How to Know God, The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjali. Trans. with a commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. Hollywood: Vedanta Press, 1996. A classic translation of the yoga system. One of the indispensable works for understanding the mysticism of India. Sound, important advice on meditation offered.
The Song of God: Bhagavad-Gita, Trans. with a commentary by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood. Signet Classics, 2002. A companion volume to The Upanishads, Breath of the Eternal. A poetic, evocative translation. Brilliant introduction by Aldous Huxley. The Gita is often called the Gospel of Hinduism.
Swami Tathagatananda. The Journey of the Upanishads to the West. New York: The Vedanta Society of New York, 2002. Well-researched and documented study covering the history of how the Upanishadic ideas and teachings influenced the West from the early times of ancient Greece to the American Transcendentalist movement and into the 20th century in the West.
James, William. Varieties of Religious Experience. First published in 1902. Another indispensable classic, written with literary brilliance and great verve by the famous American psychologist-philosopher. Concentrates primarily on Christian figures.
Reincarnation, an East-West Anthology, ed. Joseph Head and S. L. Cranston. Its expanded version is known as Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery. Either volume is engrossing for the beginner, the advanced student, or the skeptic.
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\ VEDANTA: ANCIENT WISDOM FOR MODERN TIMES by Anna Hourihan
With the beginning of the new millennium we are witnessing more frequent and dramatic instances of Nature’s destructive power. In recent years we experienced the second largest earthquake on record, devastating parts of Southeast Asia with its resulting tsunami. On our own shores, we've seen the deaths, suffering and destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. For many of us these natural catastrophes, as well as manmade disasters, have caused deep reflection on the age-old questions of life. If tens of thousands of lives can be wiped out in an instant, without warning, what does it all mean? Life, as we know it, is so fleeting—why are we even here? Is there anything permanent we can latch onto in this world?
These events bring home the value and relevance of the great mystical teachings of all spiritual traditions, but in particular the Vedanta philosophy of India as set down in the Upanishads. In an impermanent world they speak uncompromisingly of that permanent reality we are all seeking (consciously or not). In Vedanta that Reality is defined as eternal, immortal, unchanging, indivisible, beyond the pairs of opposites and, according to mystics from all traditions, can be directly experienced by us. Moreover, the purpose of life is to realize our identity with that Divine Reality.
The Vedantic principles speak of the unity of all existence, the universality of spiritual truth, and a God that is not distant at all. Although transcendent, It is also immanent—is the indwelling Presence that gives life. These basic truths are becoming more and more part of our thinking. Evidence of this can be seen in the works of many popular spiritual authors such as Eckhart Tolle, Thomas Moore, and Wayne Dyer.
Through scientific studies we find that the interconnectedness of life on our planet is undeniable; and with the current communication advances it is possible to remain connected to the rest of the world. So we can see that modern technology is fostering a global consciousness, and a change in our worldview. For instance, satellite technology enables us to see catastrophes as they are happening. As we watch them unfolding, we can’t help but feel that the destruction is being wrought upon part of our human family.
With this newfound sense of global
interconnectedness, can it be a coincidence that the Vedantic scriptures,
which speak of the oneness of all life, are now accessible to us? It is
our great fortune that we live at a time when these venerable teachings
are available, for not that long ago they were kept hidden in the forests
and mountain caves of India. It would appear that humanity on a larger
scale then ever before is ready to hear these crucial ideas.
For more on the Vedantic philosophy, see Children of Immortal Bliss by Dr. Paul Hourihan, an American, who introduces the principles of the Vedanta in a way that makes these sublime, yet practical teachings accessible to Western readers in particular.
A New Perspective on our True Identity Based on the Ancient Vedanta Philosophy of India
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