Vedanta - literally "end (or culmination) of the Vedas". The three most important sources for Vedanta are Upanishads (mystical commentaries on the Vedas), Brahma Sutra and Bhagavad Gita.
The original philosophophical text of the Vedanta, the Brahma Sutras of Badarayana, is purportedly a condensation and systematisation of Upanishadic wisdom, is so concise and abbreviated as to be completely incomprehensible. This ambiguity allowed a huge number of schools and subschools to develop, each ome based on commentaries on the Upanishads, Brahma sutras, Gita, and other authoritative texts. Different interpretations of the fundamental texts of Vedanta have given rise to three main schools:
Vedanta generally deals with four topics:
But these are explained quite differently according to the metaphysical slant of the particular school.
Vedanta covers a tremendously wide range of metaphysical positions; the three most important (but by no means the only!) being the Non-dual Monism or Advaita Vedanta of Shankara (traditionally 8th-9th century; some scholars suggest a century earlier), the Qualified (or modified) Monism or Vishishtadvaita Vedanta of Ramanuja (11th-12th century), and the Dualism or Dvaita Vedanta of Mahdva (13th century). As the titles indicate, only the first is an absolute or true monism, seeing reality as totally unitary, and identifying all things with the Absolute (Brahman). The second teaches a multi-plicity or plurality within unity, in that souls and matter are considered "the body" of God (Brahman), but not identical with his essence; and the third teaches the Judaeo-Christian idea of a Personal God (Bhagavan) totally separate from souls and from the cosmos
Of all the Vedantic teachers, it was Shankara whose ideas were and still are tremen-dously influential, and most of the modern-day Indian Gurus to the West follow his metaphysics. Shankara's monistic philosophy: God, matter and souls have qualified reality but are ultimately un-real, and only the Absolute Brahman is real; is known as Advaita Vedanta (literally (and misleadingly): "non-dual Vedic commentary"). It very quickly became established as the mainstream Hindu philosophy, although it was frequently challenged by rival Vedantists. Ramanuja's theology, although little known in the West, had a very strong effect upon the development of Vaishnavite thought in India. And Mahdva, through a succession of followers such as Vallabha and the 16th Century saint Chaitanya, influenced popular Vaishvanite culture, including A.C. Prabupada Bhaktivedanta, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement. But in spite of those rival theologies, most Indian Gurus to the West follow Shankara's Advaita Vedanta, and it is in fact is still the standard philosophy of the Hindu intellectual. Some Gurus, such as Swami Muktananda, founder of the "Siddha Yoga" movement, tempered Shankara's extreme other-worldliness with Kashmir Shaivism which, although equally monistic, affirms the reality, rather than the unreality, of the world
According to the Advaita school, Brahman alone is Real, the one without a second, and that same Ultimate Reality is identical with one's true self (atman), and transcends all forms (nirguna - without qualities). Although this world has emanated from Brahman and will return to It at the end of creation,m, it possesses only relative reality. The entire universe is simply an appearance; albeit one that is objectively real to one who has not attained to Brahman. Brahman, which is infinite being, consciousness, and bliss (sacchidananda) is the sole reality. Both God (Ishvara), the World (Prakriti or Maya), and the individual souls (Jivatma) are all ultimately of the same nature, which is Brahman, The difference between them is only apparent, brought about by Ajnana or metaphysical ignorance. Liberation (Moksha) involves realising that one's real nature, the Atman, is identical with Brahman. LIberation is therefore an act of Knowledge rather than an Act of Devotion. In this respect Advaita differs from the two other main Vedantic schools.
Visishtadvaita teaches that Brahman, who is also called Isvara ("Lord") is not impersonal but a personality endowed with all the superior qualities like knowledge, power and love. There is a multiplicity of Jivas (Souls), which are identical with one another, though separate from one another and from Brahman. This world, which is of the nature of insentient Prakriti, is different from both Brahman and from the Jivas. However individual souls (Jivas) and the universe (praki) exist eternally as the body of God, who is Spirit or Soul in relation to them. They are therefore fully under His control. God, souls and matter together form an inseparable unity, but there is still that distinction between them. Liberation (Moksha) is obtained through devotion to Isvara. It is only by His grace that Moksha can be secured.
The Dvaita system is similar to Visishtadvaita. However, it carries the differences still further and affirms duality instead of unity. Brahman is Hari or Visnu. He has a transcendental form, and manifests on Earth in the form of Avatars (Incarnations). There are an infinite number of souls (cit), which are each point-like. Matter (acit) is real but non-conscious. Reality is defined as a five-fold distinction - between God and souls, God and matter, souls and souls, souls and matter, and material objects. The cause of bondage is the Will of the Supreme and the ignorance of the soul. Liberation is primarily through Bhakti (devotion to God). Liberated souls never lose their individuality, they are only released from the bondage of samsara.
The following Links and annoitated comments are by Saurav:
The following are free resources of Vedantic teachings:
Exhaustive collection of hindu scriptures
http://www.ramakrishnavivekananda.info/ - Complete works of Swami Vivekananda, his biography and The Gospel of Ramakrishna
www.sriramakrishnamath.org You can buy books at very reasonable rates here [a fraction of what it costs at vedanta.com]
Unlike most guru sites, the ramakrishna mission has reasonably good e-commerce site facilities; Accepts credits cards, and delievers all around the world, and the rates are absolutely great.
Excellent general Vedantic site
Another vedantic site
The Divine Life Society - Books by Swami Sivananda
Books by Swami Krishnananda: http://www.swami-krishnananda.org/books_3.html
Swami Rama Tirtha [complete works volume 1]:
Swami Rama Chandra:
Book on theory of karma:
Good collection of articles in the Vedanta Kesari magazine:
Swami Rama Tirtha, one of the lesser known, but excellent vedanta teachers of the last century:
Swami Sivananda founder Divine Life Society:
Prabhupara's [founder ISKCON] commentary of the Bhagavad Geeta is replete with errors and distortions, although it is the world bestseller and most easily available. The commentary of Shankara or any of those published by the Ramakrishna Mission are the accurate ones.
A small site on Mirabai....the great woman devotee of Krishna
The official website of Swami Krishnananda.
"Here you will find ebooks and articles as well as audios and videos on yoga, meditation, philosophy, scriptural texts and related subjects for spiritual seekers of Truth who wish to attain Self-realization and remain in the state of God-consciousness."
the books available online or you can order them at what appears to be a very reasonable price
Vedanta - wikipedia