Vedanta is one of the six major philosophies that have evolved from the teachings of the Vedas. The Vedas are a collection of ancient Indian scriptures, the oldest religious writings that exist in the world.
Vedanta teaches that man’s real nature is divine, and that the aim of human life is to realize that divinity through selfless work, devotion to God, control of the inner forces, and discrimination between the real and the unreal.
It recognizes that Truth is one and accepts all religions, properly understood, as valid means of realizing the truth. It is unapologetically pro-science, although it recognizes the limits of what can be tested and explained by the scientific method.
Religion is a way of life rather than a set of dogmas, and Vedanta places great importance on actually experiencing the truth for ourselves. Through spiritual practice we try to establish contact with the divine reality and then manifest that divinity in all our actions.
Vedanta is the foundation of many currents of religious thought, and it serves as a sort of philosophical algebra in which all religious truths can be expressed.
Vedanta teaches four broad paths that appeal to the different aspects of our personality:
The path of knowledge (jnana yoga). Through study, deep thought and analysis of our own nature, we try to discover what we really are.
The path of love (bhakti yoga). Through love and surrender to God, we attempt to become united with Him.
The path of work (karma yoga). Through unselfish work, we attempt to expand the heart to include all beings.
The path of meditation (raja yoga). Through concentration and meditation, we attempt to bring our mind under control and discover the truth which is beyond the mind.
An individual uses one or more of these paths to connect with God and realize his higher nature.
This brief overview was put together by American Vedanta and borrows liberally from the Vedanta introductions offered by the Vivekananda Vedanta Society of Chicago and Vedanta Society Berkeley.