The Vedānta Booklist

India’s greatest gift to the world is perhaps Vedānta, the science of reality, which can be hailed as the crown-jewel among the various treasures that our unbroken tradition of over five thousand years has offered. In the wisdom-lineage of the ancient Hindu civilization, four great names that contributed to the siddhānta and the sādhanā—loosely the ‘science’ and the ‘practice’—of Vedānta are, in chronological order, the following: Yājñavalkya, the great ṛṣi; Kṛṣṇa, the Gītācārya; Śaṅkara, the philosopher-reformer; and Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati, the scholar-saint. On average, we have one such genius in a millennium!

The following is a self-sufficient list of works that any sincere seeker of Vedānta must acquaint himself with—and understand in the light of his experience—if he wishes to reap the benefit of the ancient wisdom. The list is divided under four broad categories:

I. A glimpse into human life and emotions

Vedānta can be approached meaningfully only if the student is first capable of feeling intensely the realities of human life – “The pains the immortal spirit must endure. All weakness which impairs, all griefs which bow.” (Matthew Arnold) A life of intense activity is a sine qua non to acquire this feel; sensitizing our interiors with a meditative study of the great epics can greatly assist this process. The experience of an epic, like they say, is the experience of a lifetime. It will therefore be worthwhile to meditate upon the compositions of three great poets – Vālmīki, Vyāsa, and Shakespeare.

  1. The Ayodhya-kāṇḍa of the Rāmāyaṇa is a particularly fine segment of the great epic and must be read in full
  2. For a concise re-telling of the Mahābhārata, the Vacanabhārata (in Kannada) is a reliable source (the same is being translated into English and published on Prekshaa)
  3. Four great tragedies of the bard: Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, and Othello

II. Studying the life of a Jīvanmukta

After having felt the crippling realities of jīvāvasthā, it becomes natural for the student to explore for ways to transcend it. “To be, or not to be,” becomes the question. The time is now ripe for him to turn towards the exalted lives of jīvanmuktas – lives that bring āstikya and śraddhā, hope and faith, in the possibility of such transcendence. The lives of greats like Ramana Maharishi and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa enliven before our mind’s eye the nityotsava and nityaśrī—the endless joy and celebration—that characterise the jīvanmuktāvasthā.

  1. The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna by Mahendranath Gupta (M.) or its equivalent in other Indian languages, notably Vacana-vēda (in Kannada).
  2. Talks with Ramana Maharishi (or Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi)

III. Siddhānta, or the Science of Vedānta

Then comes the occasion to understand the rational basis of the jīvanmukta’s experience, technically called the ‘brāhmī sthithi.’ This is essential to enhance śraddhā and, as importantly, to avoid the dangerous pitfalls of mysticism. No other book brings this understanding better than Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati’s magnum opus in Kannada. This masterpiece includes all the notable ideas of Śaṅkara as well as the primary teachings of the Upaniṣads.

  1. ಪರಮಾರ್ಥ ಚಿಂತಾಮಣಿ (Part 1 and Part 2) by Sri Satchidanandendra Saraswati (Translated into English as The Magic Jewel of Intuition by D B Gangolli)

IV. Sādhanā, or the Practice of Vedānta

Finally, the philosophical implication of the science of Vedānta is to be understood by the student, and for this purpose, it is essential to realize the importance of:
i. svakarma (work that is aligned to one’s temperament)
ii. paramātma-cintanā (meditation upon the Supreme)
iii. vibhūti and rasa (magnificence of the cosmos and aesthetic joy)

D V Gundappa’s classic commentary on the Gītā serves as a wonderful aid to understand the idea of svadharma (karma-yoga). Dr. Ganesh’s remarkable monograph gives insights into the ritualistic meditation on the self (jñāna-yoga). DVG’s booklet on culture will help the student grasp the vital importance of aesthetic experience in cultivating our interiors (vibhūti/bhakti-yoga).

  1. ಶ್ರೀಮದ್ಭಗವದ್ಗೀತಾ ತಾತ್ಪರ್ಯ ಅಥವಾ ಜೀವನಧರ್ಮಯೋಗ by D V Gundappa
  2. ಸಂಧ್ಯಾದರ್ಶನ by Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh
  3. ಸಂಸ್ಕೃತಿ by D V Gundappa (Translated into English as Samskriti (Culture) by S Ramaswamy)

In addition to the above, the student would do well to study three important passages from the Upaniṣads: Yājñavalkya-Maitreyī saṃvāda (Bṛhadāraṇyakopaniṣad, Chapter 2, Section 4), Satyakāma Jābāla prakaraṇa (Chāndogyopaniṣad, Chapter 4, Sections 4-9), and the Īśopaniṣad (verses 9-11).

This should suffice for serious students of Vedānta. Two other works – Art Experience by Prof. M Hiriyanna and Vedanta, or the Science of Reality by K A Krishnaswami Iyer are valuable without doubt, but not obligatory. The same, however, cannot be said of the above nine.

Traditionally, the study of Vedānta meant a thorough examination of the prasthāna-trayī – the principal Upaniṣads (Īśa, Kena, Kaṭha, Praśna, Muṇḍaka, Māṇḍūkya, Taittirīya, Aitareya, Chāndogya, and Bṛhadāraṇyaka), the Brahma-sūtra (of Bādarāyaṇa), and the Bhagavad-gītā. The present list contains all the relevant portions from these foundational treatises.

Om tat sat.

Co-written by Hari Ravikumar

Author(s)

About:

G L Krishna is an Ayurvedic doctor practising in Bengaluru. "Nature he loves and, next to Nature, Art."

About:

Hari is a writer, translator, violinist, and designer with a deep interest in Vedanta, Carnatic music, education pedagogy design, and literature. He has worked on books like The New Bhagavad-Gita, Your Dharma and Mine, Srishti, and Foggy Fool's Farrago.

Prekshaa Publications

Prekṣaṇīyam is an anthology of essays on Indian classical dance and theatre authored by multifaceted scholar and creative genius, Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh. As a master of śāstra, a performing artiste (of the ancient art of Avadhānam), and a cultured rasika, he brings a unique, holistic perspective...

Yaugandharam

इदं किञ्चिद्यामलं काव्यं द्वयोः खण्डकाव्ययोः सङ्कलनरूपम्। रामानुरागानलं हि सीतापरित्यागाल्लक्ष्मणवियोगाच्च श्रीरामेणानुभूतं हृदयसङ्क्षोभं वर्णयति । वात्सल्यगोपालकं तु कदाचिद्भानूपरागसमये घटितं यशोदाश्रीकृष्णयोर्मेलनं वर्णयति । इदम्प्रथमतया संस्कृतसाहित्ये सम्पूर्णं काव्यं...

Vanitakavitotsavah

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Vaiphalyaphalam

इदं खण्डकाव्यमान्तं मालिनीछन्दसोपनिबद्धं विलसति। मेनकाविश्वामित्रयोः समागमः, तत्फलतया शकुन्तलाया जननम्, मातापितृभ्यां त्यक्तस्य शिशोः कण्वमहर्षिणा परिपालनं चेति काव्यस्यास्येतिवृत्तसङ्क्षेपः।

Nipunapraghunakam

इयं रचना दशसु रूपकेष्वन्यतमस्य भाणस्य निदर्शनतामुपैति। एकाङ्करूपकेऽस्मिन् शेखरकनामा चित्रोद्यमलेखकः केनापि हेतुना वियोगम् अनुभवतोश्चित्रलेखामिलिन्दकयोः समागमं सिसाधयिषुः कथामाकाशभाषणरूपेण निर्वहति।

Bharavatarastavah

अस्मिन् स्तोत्रकाव्ये भगवन्तं शिवं कविरभिष्टौति। वसन्ततिलकयोपनिबद्धस्य काव्यस्यास्य कविकृतम् उल्लाघनाभिधं व्याख्यानं च वर्तते।

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the third volume, some character sketches of great literary savants responsible for Kannada renaissance during the first half of the twentieth century. These remarkable...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the second volume, episodes from the lives of remarkable exponents of classical music and dance, traditional storytellers, thespians, and connoisseurs; as well as his...

Karnataka’s celebrated polymath, D V Gundappa brings together in the first volume, episodes from the lives of great writers, poets, literary aficionados, exemplars of public life, literary scholars, noble-hearted common folk, advocates...

Evolution of Mahabharata and Other Writings on the Epic is the English translation of S R Ramaswamy's 1972 Kannada classic 'Mahabharatada Belavanige' along with seven of his essays on the great epic. It tells the riveting...

Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...

Bharatilochana

ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...

Vagarthavismayasvadah

“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...