The Hindu Tradition in its entirety is essentially based on the Vedas, a term which means Traditional Knowledge and Sacred Science. The various metaphysical and cosmological conceptions of India are elaborations, “points of view”, not at all incompatible, of the one doctrine which is the Vedas, principle and foundation of all derived Branches.
These “points of view” or darsanas, when in agreement with their Vedic principle, cannot contradict one another and, in fact, they complete and explain each other. We should not see in this a sort of “syncretism” because the whole doctrine must be considered as included “in synthesis” in the Vedas right from the beginning, thus forming a coherent and non-systematic whole.
Vedanta, ethimologically “end of the Vedas”, is one of the six darsanas of Hindu spirituality and is based on the teaching of the Upanishads which are an integrant part of the Vedas. The expression “end of the Vedas” must be taken in its double meaning of “conclusion” and “goal”: this because the Upanishads are the final part of the Vedas and because their teaching is the ultimate goal of the entire Traditional Knowledge.
Vedanta is a pure metaphysical doctrine and its fundamental theme is the search for the Absolute-Brahma; thus, Vedanta is Brahmavidya and, in its presentation as Advaita vada or “doctrine of Non-duality”, considers Brahma as the supreme Principle “without a second”, therefore beyond any and all determinations.
Advaita Vedanta is traditional metaphysics and as such refers to that which is “beyond Physics”, beyond Nature and all gross and subtle forms, beyond Substance, the Principial One, the God Person, beyond the subjective and the objective and all possible polarities. This means that Advaita Vedanta leads to the non-qualified Absolute, to the Constant, the Infinite, the Non-Being as the purest sole Being, the Unconditioned, the One-without-a-second. All forms of Pantheism are, therefore, excluded from this doctrine which, being open to unlimited possibilities of conception, cannot be enclosed within the limits of a system: a system, due to its peculiar configuration, is in fact a “close” conception.
In reference to the works translated directly from the Sanskrit the following points are to be mentioned:
– Some of them give us the opportunity to come into contact with the thought of Gaudapada and Shankara, two of the greatest philosopher India has ever had. Gaudapada has expounded in his works the doctrine of non-generation (Ajati vada) or the way of no-support or relation (Asparsa vada); Shankara has codified Advaita Vedanta, the boldest metaphysics known to man.
– Raphael’s commentaries are of the greatest importance for the reader when considering that he has kept to the following criteria:
a) To follow closely the Asparsa and Advaita Tradition to which the texts belong.
b) To present them to the western reader in a way congenial to his type of mind and to his particular reception without for this reason impoverishing, lessening or building a system out of Advaita.
c) To suitably stimulate the reader’s consciousness, as Raphael is a living and active advaitin-asparsin.
– In the traditional conception what counts is the Doctrine and not the individuality presenting it. For this reason Raphael is not expressing personal views about the Doctrine; all his efforts are directed at transmiting the Teaching in a most penetrating way.