`Acme of the vedas', one of the six orthodox system of Hindu philosophy, founded on the Upanishads and technically classified as Uttara Mimamsa, to distinguish it from the Purva (earlier) Mimamsa of Jaimini-Vedanta was first formulated by the philosopher Badarayana whose extremely pithy and almost unintelligible vedanta-sutra (also called Brahma-sutra) has been subject of numberless commentaries. Some scholars identify him with Vyasa, compiler of Vedas and Mahabharata.
Vedanta claims to be an exposition of the deepest truths of the Vedas, which record the experiences of those who gained knowledge of the highest order through intuition and inspiration. According to Vedanta the object of existence is not release but realization. Man is one with the real. The darkness that conceals one's true nature from one's comprehension. This realization is not obtained through tarka (logic) as stated by Nyaya philosophy, for the laws governing logical enquiry by the limited human intellect can never hope to fathom the nature of the ultimate. Knowledge of the ultimate can only be gained by the direct intuition of inspired sages, and has been so received and recorded in the Upanishads.
Vedanta is uncompromisingly monistic and pantheistic, and its creed is summed up in the mahavakyas, or great sayings of the Upanishads, such as evam evadvitiyam, 'one essence and no other', of the Chhandogya Upanishad only Brahma has existence; he is the ultimate principle, the final reality and the indivisible one. The whole phenomenal world around us, of nature and of man, has merely a phantom existence. It is in fact the result of maya, 'illusion', and lacks reality. Maya is not only a net holding us in thrall, but also a veil concealing form our vision the nature of the True Reality. Ignorance of this leads to the great heresy of avachchheda, `sectionism', or separatedness, a belief that things exist apart from the Absolute. Ignorance is responsible for samsara, the continuous cycle of birth-death-rebirth, which lasts as long as we remain in the toils of the great illusion. The only way to rend the bonds is by realizing the transcendently supreme fact that Brahma is all, and that we too are Brahma. Paramatman (the Supreme Soul) and jivatman (the individual soul) are identical.
Three schools of philosophy have developed from interpretations of the opening verse of the Vedanta-sutra of Badarayana. Now, therefore, enquiry should be made into Brahma', and this Brahma-jijnasa, 'Brahma knowledge', is the whole of Vedanta in a nutshell. The three schools referred to are Advaita (non-dualism) founded by Sankara; Visishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism), founded by Ramanuja, and Dvaita (dualism) founded by Madhya. Sankara is generally held to have given the correct interpretation, and his exposition is regarded as the culmination of the Vedanta system. He turned the Vedanta into the strictest form of monism.