Difference Between Vedanta and Siddhanta Explained
Summary: This essay explains the different meanings of Siddhanta and Vedanta in the context of Hinduism, Yoga, philosophy and spiritual practice.
Siddhi means perfection, accomplishment, full attainment, a settled fact or an indisputable conclusion. It denotes mastery, control, excellence, faultlessness and completeness in some respect. Siddhanta refers to the knowledge, theory, doctrine or the support which leads to that end (antah) or the finality of that accomplishment or perfection.
A person, scholar, sage or seer who reaches that degree of perfection is known as Siddha. The knowledge that flows from him or her is also siddhanta because it embodies that perfection, skill, mastery or accomplishment. What is heard from such enlightened masters is shruti, divine knowledge. Hence, they are considered skillful in perfection or mastery (siddhahasta), and their statements are used as verbal testimony (sabda pramana) in scholarly debates and discussions to settle metaphysical matters such as the nature of life, God or existence.
The attainment of liberation is a siddhi in itself, and the path that leads to it is known as Siddha marga. The words Siddha and Siddhi are more frequently used in Saivism and yogic traditions. The realm of Shiva is also known as Siddhalok or the world where Siddha’s live in bliss in the company of Lord Shiva. The general belief is that the ascetics, who worship Lord Shiva and attain perfection on the path, possess enormous spiritual and magical powers (siddhis) which they usually hide, but which they can use in special circumstances to cure incurable diseases, prolong life or even practice alchemy.
Siddhanta also means the knowledge that becomes self-evident, and flows out of the mind of a person upon attaining that perfection, discrimination or accomplishment. It arises from either logical perfection or discerning wisdom or inner awakening or self-realization. In a general usage, Siddhanta means a spiritual philosophy or doctrine. It cleanses and opens the minds of those who listen to it (shravanam) from an accomplished master (siddha) and contemplates (mananam) upon it.
When a Siddhanta or doctrine is logically argued, proved or conclusively established, it is called raddhantah, an established fact, theory or thesis. In popular usage, engaging in unnecessary and frivolous arguments over trivial matters is characterized as raddhantah. A person who reaches a high degree of mastery or perfection in some branch of knowledge such as astrology, the Vedas or magical rites and rituals, is known as Siddhanti. In many instances, a Brahmin priest who is well versed in Vedic astrology, Panchang (almanac), occult knowledge or rituals is referred to as a Siddhanti.
Vedanta means the end (antah) of the Vedas. The Vedas are four, Rigveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. They are large texts containing hundreds of lengthy hymns, explanatory comments and texts. Each of them is divided into four parts and serve different purposes. In today’s world, one lifetime will not be sufficient to study them fully and master them all.
The end of the Vedas (Vedanta) is a particular reference to the Upanishads, which constitute the end portions of the Vedas. There are hundreds of Upanishads, traditionally attached to the four Vedas. Some of them are considered major Upanishads and some minor Upanishads. Unlike the Samhitas, the Brahmanas and the Aranyakas, which constitute the first three parts of each Veda, the Upanishads were composed at different times in the long history of Hinduism, some as recently as the 17th century. They go by different names according to their subject matter or the composer.
Vedanta also refers to the essential knowledge (jnana), essence (saram) or the wisdom (vidya) contained in the Vedas. The school or the philosophy which represents such knowledge is also known as Vedanta. It is one of the six darshanas (viewpoints or observations) of Hindu philosophy. A person who is well versed in the knowledge of the Vedas or the Upanishads (vedajna) and reaches the end of his intellectual knowing is known as a Vedanti.
There are variations within the school, mainly due to the differences in the manner in which they interpret the nature of God and his relationship with creation and individual souls. The most important sub schools in Vedanta are Advaita (nondualism), dvaita (dualism) and Vishistadvaita (qualified nondualism). Each of Them has a long history, a large body of literature, sub schools and a wide following.
In a spiritual sense, Vedanta is the culmination of the study of the Vedas and of the knowledge gained from it. It is the knowledge which becomes self-evident in the state of self-absorption when one is united seamlessly with the Self and experiences the oneness of creation and the perfection and completeness, which are characteristic of that state (yoga).
Etymologically speaking, as a body of knowledge, Vedanta is a form of Siddhanta (doctrine) only. It arises from the perfection and completeness which one attains by the study of the Vedas, by the practice of Yoga, by the purification of the mind and body and by the cleansing of all the karmas or by earning the grace (kripa) of God. However, as a school of philosophy, Vedanta may contain many siddhantas, (doctrines or established truths).
Suggestions for Further Reading
- Siddhas and Siddha Tradition
- The Idea of Perfection or Siddhi in Hinduism
- A Critical Study of the Chronology of Siddhas
- Vedanta Definition, Purpose and Importance
- Advaita For Practical People
- Holographic Principle and Advaita Vedanta
- Ascetic Traditions and Practices in Hinduism
- Brahman According to Advaita and Dvaita in Hinduism
- Creation in Hinduism As a Transformative Evolutionary process
- Yoga's Best Kept Secrets
- The Yoga Sutras - A Brief Summary by Chapter
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