The highest degree of Vedic education, traditionally reserved for the sannyasis (renunciants), is mastery of the texts known as the Upanisads. The Upanisads teach the philosophy of the Absolute Truth (Brahman) to those seeking liberation from birth and death. Study of the Upanisads is known as vedanta, “the conclusion of the Veda.” The word upanisad means “that which is learned by sitting close to the teacher.” The texts of the Upanisads are extremely difficult to fathom; they are to be understood only under the close guidance of a spiritual master (guru). Because the Upanisads contain many apparently contradictory statements, the great sage Vyasadeva (also known as Vedavyasa, Badarayana, or Dvaipayana) systematized the Upanisadic teachings in the Vedanta-sutra, or Brahma-sutra. Vyasa’s sutras are terse. Without a fuller explanation, their meaning is difficult to grasp. In India there are five main schools of vedanta, each established by an acarya (founder) who explained the sutras in a bhasya (commentary).
Brahman, the Absolute Truth, the goal of vedanta, may be achieved in two ways. One way is by vedanta-darshan, or the philosophical comprehension of the conclusion of the Vedas, as described previously. Another way is by sanatana-dharma, the eternal religion of vedanta. Both darshan and sanatana-dharma are taught in the Bhagavad-gita, spoken by Sri Krishna to His disciple Arjuna 5000 years ago at Kuruksetra.