Contributed by Nand Kumar

Vedanta, the Indian philosophical concept of Oneness or Advaita (non-duality), is the essence of Hinduism and the Hindu way of life, otherwise known as Sanatana Dharma (Eternal Religion). Its message is as simple as it is profound. God is within each of us. Our soul is intrinsically divine – pure, immortal and free -- and knowledge of the self is the same as knowledge of God.

According to Vedanta, the primary goal of human existence is to realize our innate divinity. The outer world of objects and vasanas (desires) are nothing but maya (illusion), which is the root cause of all human suffering. It is only through self-realization, looking inward rather than outward, stilling the mind and renouncing worldly desire, that we can achieve liberation in the truest sense and become one with an all-pervading reality that we call Atman. Vedanta asserts that while individual vasanas might take us through different paths in this life as well as future lives, self-realization will come to every one of us in the end, and in the only logical way there is, which is through direct experience.

Vedanta’s spiritual message of self-realization is universal, unhindered by religious dogma or doctrine. The pursuit of self-realization requires no allegiance to any specific school of religious thought; Vedanta accepts all religions as true and regards the deities from different faiths as diverse manifestations of a singular God. Indeed, Vedanta’s appeal lies in the fact that its inward-looking approach to self-realization helps reinforce one’s belief in one’s faith, whatever that might be.