Vedanta is expressed in the mahavakhyas (great sentences) of the Upanishads as: “Tat twam asi” – “thou art that;” “Aham brahma asmi”- “I am the self.” Vedanta says, “O little man! Do not identify yourself with this perishable body. Give up “I-ness’ and ‘mine-ness’! Do not hate your neighbour or brother. Do not try to exploit him – he is your own self. There is a common self or common consciousness in all. This is the same in a king and a peasant, in an ant and a dog, in a man and a woman, in a cobbler and a scavenger. This is the real immortal entity. Mind is the dividing principle. It tempts and deludes. Kill this mischievous mind. Control the indriyas (senses) which drag you out to the external objects. Fix the mind in the source. Rise above body and mind. Eradicate desires. Learn to discriminate the real from the unreal. Identify yourself with this immortal, non-dual, self-existent, self-luminous essence. Behold the one self in all. See the one in many. All miseries will come to an end.”
Vedanta speaks of the one atman or Brahman or self who exists in the past, the present and the future, who has no beginning, middle and end, who is the support for everything, who is the embodiment of wisdom, peace and bliss. The seers of the upanishads have expressed their realisation in glowing terms. They have given out their inner experiences after long research and mighty struggle. All these have been collected in the form of the Upanishads. This constitutes the subject of vedanta philosophy.
Although vedanta is the direct royal road that takes one to the goal, it should not be prescribed for all in a wholesale manner. There are four types of aspirants. They are the karmic (active) type, the bhakti (devotional) type, the mystic type and the rational type. Karma yoga should be prescribed for people of karmic tendencies – for the busy and active men who have mala (impurities) in the mind; bhakti yoga for men of devotional temperament in whom the emotional element predominates; raja yoga for men of mystic temperament; vedanta yoga for men of reason and will – for people of intellectual temperament.
Vicara (enquiry, “Who am I?”) can only benefit that aspirant who is free from impurity and tossing of the mind, who is endowed with bold understanding, gigantic and tremendous will, sharp, subtle intellect and the four means. It is certainly not meant for all – it is meant for the select few only who can really understand and realise the full significance or import of vedanta and reap the fruits.