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(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Samkara is the most influential philosopher of the Advaita, or nondualistic, school of Vedānta philosophy in India. He was considered the incarnation of the god Śiva. His view is representative of the main teachings of the Upanisads, which do not portray any consistent view of the universe and of reality. Samkara detected a synthesis underlying the Upanisads and insisted on interpreting them in a single coherent manner. He tried to revive the intellectual speculation of the Upanisads through his reaction against the ascetic tendency of Buddhism and the devotional tendencies stressed by the Mimāmsa school. The central position of Samkara’s philosophy is that all is one; only the ultimate principle has any real existence, and everything else is an illusion (māyā). The basic teaching of Advaita Vedānta is that the direct method of realization of Brahman is the path of knowledge, which consists of getting instruction from a teacher, reflecting on its meaning, and meditating on truth with single-minded devotion. For Samkara, philosophical discrimination and renunciation of the unreal are the basic disciplines for the realization of Brahman. Finite humanity can catch a glimpse of Brahman through a personal god, who is the highest manifestation of the infinite.

The self, or ātman, according to Samkara, is pure subject and is never an object of consciousness. It is not a duality; it is different from the phenomenal, the spatial, the temporal, and the sensible. It is assumed to be foundational but it is in no sense a substance. Self is the ever-existent and self-existent first principle. It is not something that is unknown. One must come to the realization that one is Brahman. This is self-knowledge, the knowledge of self being the self of all things. One must realize one’s identity as Brahman, for Brahman is knowledge. Self-knowledge and realization are one and the same. From the level of Brahman, nothing is seen to be real—not the existential self that people view as ego, not the worlds, and not the universes.

According to Advaita Vedānta philosophy, the highest good...

(The entire section is 862 words.)


(Critical Survey of Ethics and Literature)

Aleaz, K. P. The Relevance of Relation in Samkara’s Advaita Vedanta. Delhi: Kant, 1996. This work looks at the concept of relation in Samakara’s philosophy. Includes index.

Deussen, Paul. The System of the Vedanta. Translated by Charles Johnston. Chicago, Ill.: Open Court, 1912.

Hiriyanna, Mysore. The Essentials of Indian Philosophy. London: Allen & Unwin, 1949.

Isaeva, N. V. Shankara and Indian Philosophy. SUNY Series in Religious Studies. Albany: State University of New York, 1993. This volume looks at Samkara and Indian philosophy with an emphasis on religion. Includes index.

Koller, John M. The Indian Way. New York: Macmillan, 1982.

Pande, Govind Chandra. Life and Thought of Sankaracarya. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1994. This biography of Samkara traces his life and examines his work and beliefs. Includes indexes.

Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. Indian Philosophy. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1958.

Sankaranarayanan, S. Sri Sankara: His LIfe, Philosophy, and Relevance to Man in Modern Times. Madras, India: Adyar Library and Research Center, 1995. This volume published by the Theosophical Society looks at Samkara and attempts to relate his philosophy to modern times. Includes index.

Smith, Huston. The Religions of Man. New York: Harper & Row, 1958.