Vedanta literally means the last section of the Vedas (the sacred books of the Hindus) or it may mean the ultimate knowledge. The Upanishads and the Brahma-Sutras are the basic texts of Vedanta. The Gita which is a part of the epic called Mahabharata, is considered a text containing the principal vedantic points. Vedanta has undergone an evolution during the last four millenniums to become the principal element of what came to be known in course of time as Hinduism. But since the ninth century the Vedanta has increased its amplitude of influence and englobed all the other branches of Hinduism. From the doctrinal point of view, all the paths in Hinduism are but the difference nuances of Vedanta, within respective ritualistic particularities.
Vedanta accepts the laws of karma, reincarnation and kalpa (periodic creation, sustenance and dissolution of the universe). Vedantists hold that the soul is divine (either because of its identity with the Absolute in the advaitic or monistic tradition, or because it is derived from the Eternal in the dvaitic or dualistic tradition). In the language of Swami Vivekananda “the goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy – by one, or more, or all of these – and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.” Rightly has it been pointed out by Mr. J.-C. Demariaux in his book entitled Pour Comprendre l’Hindouisme: The Upanishads have always been a clean success in the West since the first translations in Latin done by the French orientalist A.-H.Anquetil-Duperron(1731-1805). They left an indelible influence on A. Schopenhauer. Historically, as a matter of fact, it is through the Upanishads that Europe has discovered Indian philosophy and wisdom.”