The core approach of Vedanta is to seek the Truth. Along with that, it also strives for a foundation for morality. Satyam (truth), Shivam (goodness) and Sundaram (beauty) are the practical ideals.
In the words of the French Nobel Laureate, Romain Rolland, “The true Vedantic spirit does not start out with a system of preconceived ideas…. each man has been entirely free to search wherever he pleased for the spiritual explanation of the spectacle of the universe.”
Mahatma Gandhi says, “If were asked to define the Hindu creed, I should simply say: Search after Truth through non-violent means. A man may not believe even in God and still call himself a Hindu. Hinduism is a relentless pursuit after Truth.”
There are some Truths within the scope of our senses and the instruments that help us to extend them. Science addresses them very well with the methodology and culture it has evolved. There are some Truths outside the scope of our senses. These cannot be proved or disproved by scientific methods. An example is, “If you do good, you will get good. If you do bad, you will get bad.” There is no way to conduct an experiment to prove or disprove this statement. The pursuit of these Truths is the domain of Vedanta. Sri Sankara says in his commentary to verse 18.66 of Bhagavad Gita, “The validity of the Vedas holds good only in matters concerning the relation between ends and means of Agnihotra, etc., that are not known through direct perception, etc.; the validity of the Vedas lies in revealing what is beyond direct perception.” Thus, the domain of Science and Vedanta are complementary.
Vedanta strives to answer questions like these:
- What is the real nature of individual and the Universe? What is the relationship between them? Is there anything beyond matter?
- Why is there sorrow? Is it possible to be free from sorrow? What is the way?
- How can a person be inspired to follow the path of virtue in the face of extreme trials or temptations?
- How can a person be inspired not to give up in life in the face of a series of failures, directionlessness and despair?
- Is there a purpose to human life? Is there a purpose to mankind as a whole?
- Why should a person lead a moral life? Is it only for the society or is there a personal benefit?
These kinds of questions do not come under the scope of Science. Philosophy provides various options and their relative merits.
Vedanta give some general suggestions and lets you work out the details as you see reasonable. Vedanta is very clear that the concepts are working hypotheses, many of which may have to be changed as you mature. What is reasonable to one person may not be reasonable to another. Depending on where you stand in your maturity, different concepts will sound reasonable to you. You need to pick the one which appeals to you and work based on that hypothesis. As you grow, you will find a different hypothesis more reasonable. It is a journey. Each person has a personal journey.
You get exposed to Vedanta in its entirety. Then identify the concepts that you are able to accept and those you are not able to accept. Design your philosophy of life and spiritual practices based on what you are able to accept. You can keep aside what you are not able to accept as something that is not suitable to you for now.
Everyone lives by certain assumptions. The priorities in life and decisions taken are based on those assumptions. Most of the people are not aware of those assumptions because they have not given much thought to them. Vedanta ensures that you are fully aware of your assumptions. By this, you can lead a more aware and deliberate life. This will make your personal development faster and smoother.
Thus, the whole journey is a search of Truth. You proceed from lower Truth to higher Truth. In the words of Swami Vivekananda, “The soul passing through its different stages goes from truth to truth, and each stage is true; it goes from lower truth to higher truth. This point may be illustrated in the following way. A man is journeying towards the sun and takes a photograph at each step. How different would be the first photograph from the second and still more from the third or the last, when he reaches the real sun! But all these, though differing so widely from each other, are true, only they are made to appear different by the changing conditions of time and space.” (CW I-385)